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Erik Swann

Unstable’s John Owen Lowe And Sian Clifford Reveal How Co-Star Fred Armisen Humorously Made Them Break Character While Filming

Sian Clifford and John Owen Lowe

Spoilers for Netflix’s Unstable lie ahead, so read at your own risk.

Unstable, one of the most recent releases from Netflix’s 2023 TV schedule, generates a good number of laughs, thanks in great part to its capable cast. Rob Lowe leaves the charge, with others like his son and co-star John Owen Lowe and Sian Clifford also hitting some solid punchlines. Between the humorous actors and the funny situations that the show puts them in (like Lowe’s nude scene), it seems all but certain that some stars would break character during some takes. John Owen and Clifford confirmed that was indeed the case and, as they explained, castmate Fred Armisen was greatly responsible for them getting the giggles amid production.

The workplace comedy sees Fred Armisen play the role of Leslie, a quirky therapist brought in by the board of Ellis Dragon’s (Rob Lowe) company to help him process the death of his wife. However, things take an unexpected turn when Ellis kidnaps Leslie so that he doesn’t report his eccentric behavior to his business partners. But in time, the two forge a friendship, with Ellis counseling Leslie on the marital problems he’s having with his own spouse. With this, the two roommates become something of an odd couple, to Jackson’s annoyance.

Given the circumstances surrounding his character, the Saturday Night Live alum gets a number of very funny moments. So it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that his name cropped up when I asked John Owen Lowe and Sian Clifford about the moments at which they broke character amid filming. Lowe noted that just about all of his scenes with the comedian were tough to get through, but there’s one moment in particular that stands out for him the most:

I would say pretty much every scene with Fred Armisen was very difficult for me to keep a straight face. But specifically, the one that comes to mind is, there's a scene where – I won't give anything away for the plot. But as he's exiting scene, he just very casually slides his hand over and takes my breakfast bagel that I haven't eaten yet and just walks off with it. [That] wasn't in the script and doesn't sound like that funny of a setup. But he was just milking it so hard that he would like, stick his hand in front of my face and then kind of like, shake the plate in front of my mouth in a way that made no sense and was completely detracted to what was going on. Our director came to me at one point [while] shooting that and was like, ‘Hey, man, I know we're having fun, but I don't have a single usable take right now. So you gotta just try and keep a straight face.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Should we really be surprised that the entertainer managed to get a lot of laughs out of his co-stars? I mean, his comedic exploits are practically the stuff of legend at this point. In addition to working on SNL for 11 years, he also headlined the acclaimed comedy Portlandia and Documentary Now! Of course, he’s also guest-starred on a slew of shows, from 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Bob’s Burgers and Schmigadoon! Netflix subscription holders also recently got to see him play Uncle Fester on the hit show Wednesday

Sian Clifford has a lot of respect for Fred Armisen and, based on her own experience, the star was nothing but giving. She, too, recalled not being able to control her laughing while performing with him and, at the same time, she remembered a scene that didn’t involve Armisen, which kept her chuckling:

I mean, same, there was a scene with Fred again, where we were both, I think, a bit starstruck, but also he was just so funny. And he's so committed in every scene, and it's really, really hard when someone is just like, so present and so just like, giving it everything and doing something absolutely ridiculous. So that was for me, that was just, like, hilarious. There's also a scene in the cryo freezer that was tough for us to get through for a lot of reasons because of sound, because of noisy, noisy jackets. And also because it was just… [the production designers] created a tiny space. I didn't have to squeeze between other humans, but yeah, that was a really, really fun day but a tough one to film, I think, for the crew.

There are plenty of humorous moments – like the freezer sequence – that can be found in Unstable and, given the staging of that particular moment, I can see why the stars would’ve had a tough time not breaking. As for Fred Armisen’s Leslie, he ends up remaining with the Dragon family by the end of the season. So if the show ends up scoring a second season, there’s a strong possibility that viewers will see more of Armisen and his shenanigans.

You can stream Unstable on Netflix now and, after you’ve done so, you can check CinemaBlend’s 2023 TV schedule for info on other shows headed your way this year.

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