Press Tour: ‘Suburgatory’ welcomes new character, makes cuts

Fans of “Suburgatory” are likely thrilled that the show, which has long been on the bubble for ABC, is returning for season three. But the show won’t be exactly the same, according to executive producer Emily Kapnek. Though the Shays will be welcoming a foster son to their home, there are two character we’ll be seeing much less of — Noah (Alan Tudyk) and Ryan (Parker Young). 

When asked about Tudyk, star Jeremy Sisto (George) joked, “Who?” But Kapnek had a more serious response.  

“We have him for three episodes this season,” she said of Tudyk, whose character will be in a mental institution. “We scaled back a little.” 

Season three also promises a return to season one’s themes — though with a twist. Kapnek said, “I wouldn’t say we reevaluated the show. In season one, George has an us against them reality. Season two was about assimilating. Having the same point of view throughout wouldn’t have been interesting to watch. I think we earned the return to us against them. Chatswin became the scapegoat for the problems [George and Tessa] have with each other,” though now the duo will find it harder to distance themselves from the neighbors now that they all know each other a little better.  

Kapnek promised that, while some cast members will be largely absent, that has afforded the production new freedoms. “We delve deeper into their backstories,” said Kapnek. “e get to meet George’s family and Dallas’ family… [and] we get to focus on existing characters. It was a fun challenge. I think everyone feels really good about this season.

While star Cheryl Hines (Dallas) admitted to being happy about the show’s time slot ([Wednesday at eight-thirty] is a good time for us,” she said), Kapnek admitted that “the scheduling stuff was hard,” though ABC President of Entertainment Paul Lee has been “incredibly supportive.” 

Some fans might have been disappointed with the fractious nature of season two, and Kapnek admitted, “It was kind of polarizing. I can tell you, as someone who grew up with divorced parents and was generous enough to give that gift to my own son, you do tend to put the parent who isn’t around on a pedestal,” she said in reference to Tessa’s break with George. 

“The abandonment was always there, but it wasn’t until season 2 that mom comes back into the equation and plays an active role in Tessa’s life,” Sisto said. “You’ve experienced it with them, so it’s much deeper.”

As for Dalia, the monotone character may be flip-flopping when it comes to dating. “One thing we liked is it didn’t matter to her at all,” said co-executive producer Andrew Guest. “We’ll find her sex life takes an interesting turn this season in terms of what she’s looking for. 

“I’s just how Dalia is,” said Carly Chalkin (Dalia). “She wants to hook up with someone; if it’s a girl it’s a girl, if it’s a guy it’s a guy.”

“There’s a real sadness underneath,” Sisto said of the Dalia character. “She’s a girl who has an awful father and who is very lost. She comes off as a spoiled brat, but there are much different issues than that. She became attached to George, and when Dallas dumps George, which was completely hurtful, it was hurtful to her daughter too. She’s ridiculous, but there’s an undercurrent.”

Hines also talked about Dallas’ arc this season. “I know it seems like she got everything she wanted, George and the house with the leather walls, but speaking to the writing of the show, it’s a complicated situation… there’s one thing that’s not feeling right, and Dallas is sort of searching for who she is without a man in her life. [The break-up] was a sad moment. Nobody wants to walk away from Jeremy Sisto. This season Dallas is, she’s mad at George because she broke up with him but she doesn’t want to see him with anyone else, and she actually hires a matchmaker, and the matchmaker tells Dallas needs to want a date with herself.”

Sisto added, “I think Dallas is having a real identity crisis this season. I want to know who the real Dallas is.”

“You’re gonna get a glimpse under the make-up,” Hines promised. 

In addition to digger deeper into the core cast of charters, “We have a new addition to the cast this year,” said Kapnek. “We have a foster son that shows up in the Shay home.”

“We have to fill the void that Lisa is still creating by being in our home,” Ana Gasteyer (Sheila Shay) joked. 

“I think it’s fun for Fred to have a little boy again,” added Chris Parnell (Fred Shay).

As far as the exit of Young to “Enlistaed,” Kapnek admitted, “We can’t have a million regulars on our show. With Parker, we were well aware we couldn’t have him locked up. We had carved out three episodes early on, and ‘Enlisted’ was really great about letting us borrow him…There were so many storylines we wanted to do, and we wanted to keep our hooks in him. The three episodes we have [with him] are pretty satisfying.”

Back to the Shays’ foster son, Guest said, “We came across these sad stories about foster fairs, which are almost like a puppy show… I think he’s a cypher for a little while. Sheila and Fred want to see what they want, and Lisa sees what she wants.” 

As for poor, unappreciated Lisa, Allie Grant said of her character’s inability to get recognition from her parents, “There’s almost a ‘Fight Club’ element to the Shays. You just can’t get out.” 

Finally, a question was lobbed at Jane Levy (Tessa) via Siso. Levy, who was out of the country, had joked via video message that she could use mind control to take over Sisto’s body to answer questions. “I’m on an ashram right now,” Sisto said. “Jeremy Sisto is so good to work with… she’s here in spirit. Wait, I’m her!”