TORONTO — Will Arnett says playing a character struggling with sobriety has been “cathartic.”
The Arrested Development star took on a more sombre role with his latest venture, Flaked, a half-hour Netflix series that he admits turned out much darker than he initially envisioned.
Arnett drew on his own experiences with alcoholism for the streaming serial, which he sums up as “neither comedy nor drama in the sense that the world isn’t like that. We are all things at all times.”
“It’s a very personal story,” says Arnett, who co-created and co-wrote the project with Mark Chappell, and stars as Chip.
“Part of it is Chip’s relationship with his sobriety, and really that’s about his relationship with his true self — with who he is and is he being honest with himself?”
That’s not to say there aren’t laughs, says Arnett.
When Chip is not trying to inspire fellow addicts at Alcoholics Anonymous, he’s trading barbs with a neurotic best friend (played by David Sullivan) and a kooky neighbourhood pal (played by George Basil).
It’s a delicate mix of tone that Arnett says was not easy to master.
“It’s been an interesting process and it’s been difficult,” Arnett says of exercising more creative control for this venture, adding he plans to direct if a second season is ordered.
“All of that is like this kind of very combustible material that is packed into a bullet of comedy, if you will. Because we wanted it, on the surface, to be constantly moving and the dialogue to be kind of quick and the guys to be kind of quick-witted with each other and with other people, so that you feel like if they ever stopped moving that the whole thing will fall apart.”
At the core are big questions “that we all deal with.”
“I’ve been obsessed for a while with that idea of authenticity and initially the character of Chip was kind of like an essay on what I disliked in other people who did that — who were inauthentic with me,” says the Toronto-bred comic, who has spoken of battling alcohol abuse in his 20s.
“Inevitably some of your own stuff starts making it onto the page and it becomes uncomfortable and you’re kind of like forced to face things that you potentially dislike about yourself.”
“Flaked” premieres Friday on Netflix.