GQ: Okay, Arrested Development. What was that like to get everyone back together after all those years of talking about it and fans clamoring for it?
Jason Bateman: It was something that, every month or two since the end of the show, there would be an update about the progress [about some kind of reunion]. So it wasn’t that big of a shock when it happened, because it always seemed like it was a half a year from happening anyway. But when we did finally all come together on the set, it was pretty neat. I just don’t know how many examples there are of that—where people get to come back and do a reunion-type situation and have it not be a bit of a Hail Mary, careerwise. That show launched a lot of our careers and everyone is doing great, so to come back together while things are going well is really a fortunate situation. Everybody had to be big boys about not making it financially impossible.
GQ: What else can you tell me about the show? The entire Internet wants to know.
Jason Bateman: The last line of the last episode of Arrested Development was Ron Howard saying to Maeby—she’s pitching him a show about her family at Imagine—and he says to her, “No, I don’t see it as a series. Maybe a movie!” And then the screen goes black. That’s it. So Mitch [Hurwitz, the show’s creator] was always planning on writing a movie. Every time he went to start a movie script, there was so much work to be done just to fill the audience in on where the family had been since the end of the show, and to also initiate the uninitiated about who these characters are. So he thought: The only way to tell a story of this size is to do the first act in episodes. So it’s really a hybrid distribution of one big story. The episodes are simply act 1, and the movie will have act 2 and act 3 in it. So one does not work without the other.
GQ: So there are stories in the episodes that won’t resolve until the movie?
Jason Bateman: There are many, many questions that these episodes ask that only the movie will answer. And there are many stories where the loop is closed inside the episodes. But the overall story, the bigger story, once you see the movie you will see that “oh, this story started with those fourteen episodes,” because the action in these fourteen episodes happens simultaneously. Each character has their own episode. There’s a Michael episode, a Gob episode, a Lindsay episode, a Maeby episode. And the action across the episodes is happening simultaneously. If I’m driving down the street in my episode and Gob’s going down the sidewalk on his Segway, you could stop my episode, go into his episode, and follow him and see where he’s going.
It’s not exactly like a Choose Your Own Adventure type of thing, but Mitch has written these episodes exclusively for the distribution platform and format of Netflix, knowing that they were all going to be released, like an album, on the same day. So certain clues are revealed to you based on the order in which you watch them. There will be an order that is suggested, but because part of the fun of what he does is so dense and multilayered—I mean, if you could see the writers’ room before we started shooting—the cards and literally the strings of yarn, different colored characters where plotlines and index cards are matched to this one, and then there’s an entire other room that is the movie. It looks like A Beautiful Mind.