Alison Brie and Aaron Paul Talk Hilariously Sad Fifth Season of ‘BoJack Horseman’

BoJack Horseman” captures the times like no other show. Full of angst, despair and hilarious dark comedy, the animated dramedy now returns to Netflix for a fifth season. Still a wanderer with a broken soul, Hollywood star BoJack (Will Arnett) is now cast in a cop show titled “Philbert.” It could be his big comeback, if he can keep it together and banish the ghosts from his past. But everyone is haunted in this show, including Diane (Alison Brie), who returns with a new haircut and life following her divorce from Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins). BoJack’s ex and agent, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), still feels a maternal pull and ponders adopting a baby. The only person who seems to be surprisingly stable is (for now) Todd (Aaron Paul), BoJack’s bum turned roommate, who now runs an advertising firm. But when the asexual Todd makes a sex robot for a friend, his creation gets out of control and is named CEO.

Knowing full well it can get away in animation with what few live action shows could ever pull off, “BoJack Horseman” is a strange and sharp hybrid where satire mingles with deep drama. Animals and humans coexist in a Los Angeles that is a mirror reflection of this shallow, depressed yet exhilarating city. In season five creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg jabs at modern culture, while telling universal stories about how life is never perfect and we all carry scars and memories. Diane leaves for Vietnam to try and reconnect with her roots, but realizes it won’t be so simple to leave her baggage behind. BoJack finds renewed success, but is so unhappy with himself he dives back into drugs. When Diane discovers an incident between BoJack and a former co-star’s daughter in New Mexico, which fans will remember from season two, she has to face disappointment and anger with someone she loves. It is possibly the most profound statement on a TV show in the wake of the #Me Too movement.

Alison Brie, Aaron Paul and one of the show’s key directors, Mike Hollingsworth, recently spoke with Entertainment Voice on the mixture of wild creativity and drama that defines “BoJack Horseman.”

“I feel like ‘BoJack’ could go on forever,” said Brie. “This is a show that’s kind of sneaky. We fly under the radar but it’s already kind of a cult classic. We’ve got a great fan base. It’s so fun to watch, it’s a show you can rewatch. It has the longevity where as you wait for the next season you can go back and watch it again.” For Brie what makes the show special is its mixture of fun and depth. “There’s so much depth to the characters, there’s a lot of heavy shit going on.” Indeed, in this season Diane is alone again after her divorce, putting on a strong face by taking a job rewriting “Philbert” to make it less misogynist. “We say every that it gets darker and darker. I think the emotional reality of the show is the most surprising, because it’s animated and there are these hybrid animal humans walking around. We’re also parodying Hollywood. Every time I’m in the recording booth I’m doing some deep monologue to BoJack about human existence, and so it forces me to self-reflect more than what I would expect in an animated job.”

Brie acknowledges that Waksberg and team usually give her freedom in the booth to improvise, but the character is so set it’s best to sometimes stick to who Diane is. “They also throw at me some random characters to voice in some episodes, so that gives me more space to try out new things.” But when it comes to Diane, who this season is even more self-reflective and lost, Brie likes to examine her similarities and differences with the role. “Diane is maybe the character that I’ve played that’s the most different from myself. Her general nature is a lot more cynical than I am. But maybe I do sort of connect with how she gets passionate about something but then her mind can get changed very quickly, so then she goes so hard in the other direction. We’ve seen it happen with her opinion about guns, and things like that. So that I can kind of relate to, setting a moral compass for yourself, and being easily swayed by a convincing person.”

“It’s getting funny, it’s getting depressing. It’s probably our most depressing season yet,” is how Aaron Paul describes the season with a sly grin. “I mean that in the best way possible. There’s a lot that’s happening. It’s a fun ride, and some very light moments.” Paul himself is staying very busy, with another show, “The Path,” premiering in Hulu on January. “‘The Path’ is done, I’ve also got a movie, ‘American Woman,’ which premiered at TIFF. Things are good. I’ve also got a little 7-month old.” Paul is quite content with fatherhood, even as he works on a show as darkly comic as “BoJack.” “This show is everything Raphael promised us all. When he approached me with this gig, it was just a six or seven page spec. But it really painted the world of ‘BoJack.’ It’s so creative, and yet kind of sad, and that’s part of what I find so thrilling about it, that spectrum of emotion through a very intelligent story.”

Making it come alive is director Mike Hollingsworth, who helps shape and form Waksberg’s melancholic scripts into visual feasts in an L.A. populated by talking animals, surreal satire and other elements. “As much as Raphael works on the story, myself and Production Designer Lisa Hanawalt really work on the art. Not only do we go to great pains to make sure the characters look as great as possible, but we have jokes in every book spine and every billboard in Los Angeles, everything has jokes on it.” Hollingsworth is aware Los Angeles offers an eclectic buffet of inspiration for animation, yet he and the team find inspiration in surprising places. “I consider myself the animal guy on the show. I have a deep knowledge and deep love of animals. There’s a scene this season where Todd’s girlfriend is fighting with her sister, and they’re both axolotls, which is an endangered amphibian from Mexico City. They were worshipped by the Aztecs, and also eaten. But they can regenerate their limbs, so there’s this great scene where the sisters are fighting and one sister pulls off the other’s arms and starts beating her with them.” It is indeed one of the season’s great, rowdy moments, in particular because Todd’s axolotl girlfriend is also asexual, yet her very sexually active family can’t fathom such an existence. “You just have to dig deeper,” says Hollingsworth when it comes to seeking inspiration. “The first season there were a lot of jokes about how cheetahs are fast and giraffes are tall, and this season I just said, ‘ok, no more giraffe jokes.’”

BoJack Horseman” season five premieres Sept. 14 on Netflix.