Actor Dan Amerman may not be a pop star in real life, but he does a bang up job portraying one in season four of Arrested Development. Full disclosure: Amerman, a.k.a. Mark Cherry, a.k.a. the singer who brings GOB Bluth into his entourage, is a good friend of mine. He was kind enough to invite me over to his Studio City apartment so that we could nerd out over the show, discuss his experience and, naturally, dig into some YA fiction.
I just watched Arrested yesterday. Loved it. You were great. How did you score the role?
I had just played [an a cappella singer from Andy Bernard’s alma mater] on The Office, which was cast by the same person, Allison Jones. Arrested wasn’t having auditions because the scripts were so secret that they didn’t want to give people pages to audition with. So they were kind of just reaching out to people they already knew and trusted that could show up and do the job. And they needed a pop star who could sing and I think Allison knew that I still had long, flowy hair and that I could sing. I just got a call one day out of the blue that I’d been offered a role on Arrested. And you know, it’s my favorite show. I was like, “What do you mean? I didn’t audition for this.” And my agents were like, “We know. They just called.” The night I found out, I was tutoring a kid for the SATs. So I had to go back to the tutoring session and be like “Uh so, x+3=y-5” and act like nothing really, really awesome or exciting happened.
As a fan of the show, who were you the most intimidated or excited to work with?
I was pretty excited for Will Arnett/GOB. My college roommates and I were all obsessed with the show and would quote it all of the time. And my one roommate’s name was Michael, and you know how when GOB sees Jason Bateman’s character he’s like, [in Will Arnett voice] “Michael”? Literally every time we’d see our roommate Michael we’d be like [in Will Arnett voice] “Michael.” Just like that.
Did it get old?
Um . . . I don’t think so . . .
But did your roommate —
Oh yeah, he was furious. He transferred schools.
You are NOT friends on Facebook.
Right. [Laughs] It was one of those things when I found out I was doing [the show], I called him and was like, “Remember when we watched this show together for all of these years?” I was so amped to actually see those characters in real life.
Of course. So your character “Mark Cherry” — who did you draw from?
I think it’s sort of a mix of Justin Bieber, a little bit of the One Direction guys, but I think a lot of that came from the costuming. The script was pretty under wraps, so it wasn’t like I had the script for weeks ahead of time, preparing some character. A lot of [the character] was done in conversations with Mitch, and soI basically showed up, got the scenes I was doing that day, went into wardrobe, and saw that they were giving me crazy scarves. They had a big thing with every scene showing me in a different scarf . . .
Did you get to keep a scarf as a souvenir?
No, I didn’t get to keep any of the scarves. But also, I was nervous to like, request things because I was just so glad to be there. I didn’t want to be like, “Also, um, you know the soap in my trailer . . .? Can I snag a couple of bars for my apartment?” I didn’t want to step on any toes.
Did you ever dream of being a pop star growing up?
I loved ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, and some of the more obscure boy bands like O-Town and BBMak, and Savage Garden. Me and my two best friends in elementary school would hang out in my backyard and have sing off things. I loved pop stuff and even now, I like One Direction. I don’t want to but I do. It’s super fun to sing along with. I got a little bit of [the pop star treatment] when I was in a college a cappella group because we’d do a lot of international touring and go to middle schools and they’d like, scream and want our autographs. I have several hundred Japanese middle schooler Facebook friends.
Wait until those girls get ahold of Arrested Development. They’re going to lose their minds. Did you get to improvise on the show?
Yeah, we’d have the script and we’d do a couple of takes until we felt like we got it. Between each take, Mitch would come up and pitch new jokes and pitch new things between each take, so they were writing on the fly. And then after a few takes of that, we would just do a ten minute improv-fest. Mitch would be like, “Just go, go crazy with it.” Also, Will Arnett and David Cross, who were the two actors I worked with the most, are genius improvisers. They would mix it up and every time it would be super different. And mostly, it was just me trying to keep up with them and not ruin the magic they were making.
I don’t know how you didn’t break.
It was impossible. Okay, you know [that scene] after we all got stung by bees? So, we were all passed out in my character’s mansion, and Will Arnett literally went for ten minutes, just going up to each passed out person, doing his rambling thing, like, “We’re friends now, we’re friends!” And the rehearsal footage of David Cross rehearsing for the Fantastic Four musical, when he’s teaching the dancing? That’s all improvised. He went for like 15 minutes. It was mind-blowing.
I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I would’ve been so nervous!
The original cast knew how excited people were to be a part of the show, so they went out of their way to be really nice and welcoming. And everyone was so excited to be back working on the show, so there was this sense of “coming home.” It just made everyone feel comfortable.
Ugh, that’s the best. Okay, I can’t help but notice that you have a ton of books all over your living room. What are you reading right now?
I’m obsessed with the Divergent trilogy. I love any book that paints a picture of this exciting world where [the protagonist] thinks she’s a nobody but then gets a call saying that she’s The One, or special. Like Harry Potter and Hunger Games. You know, the “I’m just a normal kid living my normal life, but turns out I’m something more and then I get to go into this new world and explore it” thing. I love that stuff.
Did you ever think maybe you would get “the call” one day?
I thought there was a chance that I’d get invited to Hogwarts for a good 15 years.
So . . . to this day?
[Laughs] And when I read the books in like, middle school, I’d try focus really hard and try to levitate stuff. Maybe I was the only person who did that.
No, I think it’s common. I wanted that Hogwarts letter.
Maybe that’s part of the reason I wanted to be an actor or a performer. It’s the chance to do and be those things. I’m not a pop star, but I can act like one for a little bit and think, “Oh, that’s what Harry Styles goes through”.
I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to do this. I know you’re a busy guy.
It’s been a real pleasure being here . . . in my own apartment [Laughs].
This is not amateur hour, this is pro hour. This is the Masters. Put on my green jacket.
And walk into the sunshine.
They wear green jackets, right? Or yellow jackets?
They’re not bugs.
No, they don’t sting you.
Follow Dan on Twitter at @DanielAmerman for jokes and general awesomeness! And catch season four of Arrested Development on Netflix!