Ben Stiller, ‘Severance’ Team on Dream Season 2 Castings and How “Music Dance Experience” Almost Didn’t Make The Cut

Apple TV+ breakout hit Severance left the waffles behind and celebrated its 14 Emmy nominations on Sunday at Nobu, where the streamer hosted an oceanside For Your Consideration event with some of the cast and crew.

The show, which follows a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives, has quickly become known for the quirky underground world and reward system it has created, as executive producers Ben Stiller and Dan Erickson point to the “Waffle Party” and “Music Dance Experience” as two aspects that they’ve gotten a particular reaction to from fans.

“I love the reaction when people say like, ‘That’s not what I thought a waffle party would be,’” Stiller told The Hollywood Reporter at the event. “I never had a preconception of what a waffle party actually is — I guess it would involve eating waffles and I guess they exist on some level, but in my mind it’s hard to be surprised at what the waffle party is. You’ve never actually seen a real waffle party; this is always what a waffle party has been is what they don’t understand, in the world of the show.”

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The multi-colored Music Dance Experience, accompanied by Tramell Tillman’s smooth moves, has become another signature, though Erickson admitted it almost didn’t make it to screen.

“That’s the scene that I tried multiple times to cut in the scripting phase,” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know that we need this’ and then the second that it was shot and Tramell started moving I was like, ‘Well I was wrong, I was as wrong as I possibly could have been on this point.’”

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Erickson and Stiller are currently developing the show’s second season, and after such a star-studded debut, have some big hopes for future castings.

“For me there are a lot, people like Christopher Guest I kind of imagine ‘Wow that would be amazing if someday he might be a part of the show,’ ” Stiller said. “It’s fun when you have a show like this where it allows for people to maybe come in for an episode or two but also fit into the world of Severance.” Erickson, on the other hand, is hoping to pitch Barack Obama at the Emmys, where the former president is up for outstanding narrator of Netflix docuseries Our Great National Parks.

“If he is [there] I’m going to see if he wants a role on this show,” the creator said. “I think he’d be really good, he’d bring some gravitas.” Co-star Jen Tullock said, for her part, “If we could get [Barbra] Streisand to come around, I’d pretty much give you every American dollar I’ve got in my bank account.”

The producers also commented on choosing the name “Lumon” for the mysterious severance-endorsing company, when in fact there are several real-life companies with that same name, including the tech company Lumen that has naming rights to the Seattle Seahawks stadium.

“This is not some weird flex I’m doing against the Seahawks, I love my home team,” said Erickson, who is from Washington and said the stadium was renamed after production on the show was already underway. “I’m not trying to say that their company is evil or anything like that, it’s just a really weird coincidence. I don’t think we’ve heard from them or anything because it’s an “o” instead of an “e,” which I think makes it OK.”

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Stiller explained that productions require legal clearance to use the name of any (even fictional) company, and “I thought we had cleared the name Lumon, but then there’s two or three companies called Lumon. People send pictures of ‘Hey, I’m at Lumon.’ We changed the spelling at one point from what it originally was, I think we might have even changed the name, but I guess it’s impossible to have a totally original name.”

Inside the event, Kumail Nanjiani joined Stiller, Erickson, Tullock, casting director Rachel Tenner and set decorator Andrew Baseman for a Q&A, during which Nanjiani and Stiller got into a discussion about auditioning. Nanjiani remembered bombing in front of a major director, as Stiller revealed, “I tanked my third callback for My Cousin Vinny to play the friend. It still bothers me.”

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