“#Joel McHale enters ‘The Twilight Zone’ as a scientist”
June 26, 2020 | 5:21pm
In the Season 2 episode, “8,” — co-starring Nadia Hilker (“The 100”) and Brandon Jay McLaren (“UnREAL”), McHale plays Dr. Orson Rudd, leading a team of explorers who discover a new species of highly intelligent octopus-like creatures.
And, in typical “Twilight Zone” fashion, the mission does not go as planned.
“[A large] number of people on the set said, ‘I won’t eat octopus ever again,’” says McHale, 48. “I wanted the episode to be a whole series! I did research a bunch of stuff about octopuses — they’re probably the smartest animal in the sea.”
His appearance on “The Twilight Zone” adds to McHale’s growing list of credits outside of the comic arena. While he’s best-known for playing Jeff Winger on NBC sitcom “Community” (2009-2015) — and for hosting “The Soup” (2004-2015) — he’s also guest-starred on the FX biker drama “Sons of Anarchy” and on The CW’s “Stargirl.”
“I just kind of call them like I see them,” he says. “When I get [a role], if something comes up that’s really cool or just kind of appeals to me, I’ll go after it. I know that my access point into the business was comedy — thank God that somebody allowed me to do it! But I’ve done a ton of serious plays, and a bunch of [serious] guest stars here and there.”
He reserves his highest praise for Jordan Peele, who used Rod Serling’s classic CBS “Twilight Zone” series as a road map for his CBS All Access reboot. (Peele introduces each episode a la Serling.)
“It’s just so cool that I get to be a part of this incredible franchise,” McHale says. “I jumped at the chance.”
While he was born long after the original series went off the air, McHale says he grew up watching reruns. “Much like the original ‘Star Trek,’ it’s one of the greatest TV shows ever made,” he says. “Rod Serling changed television forever.”
And, speaking of change, he says his role on “Community” is what he’s most recognized for, now that it’s streaming on Netflix.
“It really shows you how ubiquitous Netflix is, the number of people who are like ‘Hey I just discovered that show!,’ ” he says. “I knew when we were making it that it was good. That sounds arrogant, but between the script and the cast — I knew at the time I was in something good.”
In addition to “The Twilight Zone,” McHale is also co-hosting a podcast with Ken Jeong called “The Darkest Timeline” and he’s still set to host the ABC game show “Card Sharks,” though they’re still working out the logistics in light of the pandemic shutdown.
“I feel like I have the heart of a hummingbird, so I can’t sit down for long,” he says. “I’m always in motion.
“When I start relaxing, that’s when I panic.”
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