The streaming series is a workplace comedy with stars including Rob McElhenney, Charlotte Nicdao, Danny Pudi and F. Murray Abraham, playing strong personalities clashing in a dysfunctional video game developer’s office.
It’s funny, smart and very bingeable.
But the idea for the series came not from the mind of a writer or even a TV network executive. It came from a video game company. Specifically, Ubisoft, the people behind games including Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and the Tom Clancy titles.
Ubisoft approached McElhenney, one of the stars, writers and co-creators of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and asked him if he would be interested in writing a TV show about the gaming space.
“I was resistant at first,” McElhenney told news.com.au. “Just because everything I’d seen that was being done in that space was oftentimes kind of cruel and mean-spirited and certainly not engaging with the community in a way that felt realistic to me.
“And so they said, ‘Why don’t you come to the studio and meet some of the developers and see what you think’. I went up there and I think within 15 minutes I realised that we had something that could potentially be special.”
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McElhenney admitted that the concept of working on a series that originated from a brand was something that “terrified” him and his co-creators Megan Ganz and Charlie Day – “We don’t want to make a commercial for Ubisoft, we don’t want to make a commercial for Ubisoft games.”
To that end, there are no obvious Ubisoft integrations in Mythic Quest – which would bump for viewers – other than references to the fictional workplace’s Montreal corporate bosses (Ubisoft has a large Montreal studio).
McElhenney said he, Ganz and Day also emphasised to Ubisoft that they weren’t going to bury the negative aspects of the industry like gender disparity or the toxicity that exists within the fan community. And they didn’t – the third episode revolves around online Nazis while a later episode highlights the lack of women working in gaming.
“We said, ‘If we do the show, we need to present those as much as we present the more positive aspects,’ and they told us they would never censor anything we do, asking only that we make it as authentic as possible.”
One of the things McElhenney, Day and Ganz did was to divide the writers’ room in two. On one side were the gamers or people who have worked in game development, and on the other were people who did not care about games at all.
“That way we could appeal to different kinds of audiences, and if you’re someone who has never played a video game in your life you can still watch the show and recognise people, and if you were an avid gamer, or somebody in the community, that it feels authentic for them. We’re not pandering to either side.”
McElhenney’s character in Mythic Quest, which has already been renewed for a second season, is a narcissistic, self-styled visionary game creator named Ian Grimm (pronounced Iron Grimm).
“I was trying to think of annoying names, and of course he would refuse to accept that his name is Ian and makes people call him Iron,” McElhenney said.
He wasn’t always sure he was going to play Ian.
“I don’t want to just write for myself, and I wanted to make sure that if we were going to do this that I didn’t want to limit it by saying, ‘Well, I can’t perform this,’ and so therefore the show’s going to suffer,” he said.
“I also just don’t mind being a jerk and I think a lot of people don’t like being jerks on TV, but I find it to be so fun.”
One character who did change after it was cast was the female lead, Poppy Li, played by Australian comedic actor Charlotte Nicdao.
Nicdao, who has appeared on Get Krack!n, Please Like Me and viral sensation Content, was a week out from leaving Los Angeles to return to Australia, when she was asked to audition for the show.
“I had to push my ticket home five times,” she told news.com.au. “Every time I was about to return, I would get a call from the casting director asking if I could stay one more week. Eventually it became clear I wasn’t going home.
“I originally went in for a different character but then I was cast as Poppy, and they were really collaborative in the way that they developed that character for me, which was really exciting because I don’t think that it always happens that way.
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“There are elements of my physical goofiness that they couldn’t escape. My face and body are just all over the place. I’m glad they allowed me to put that into the character.”
Nicdao’s expressiveness is no more evident than when a scene calls for her and McElhenney’s characters to don unflattering motion-capture skin-tight suits and you can just see on screen she is having an absolute ball playing the fool.
And the writers let Nicdao keep her Australian character and origins – at one point Poppy gleefully contributes that “sex pest” is a particularly cutting insult in Australia. True.
McElhenney said they were about to cast Nicdao for another role and had problems casting Poppy.
“Poppy is just as much of an egomaniac and narcissist as Ian,” McElhenney said. “There’s an interesting quality that some people have, that no matter how much of a dick they are on camera, you still find a way to love them. And Charlotte has that quality.
“To think now, that there was ever anybody else that might have played that role is insane.”
Nicdao said Mythic Quest was the first time she had played such a central role in a project and that it was “super scary” to come into.
“I felt like there was a lot to mess up if I messed it up,” she said.
“I haven’t had the opportunity before to play a character that’s as aggressive, or perhaps mean, as Poppy is. It’s quite delicious to be a bit of an arsehole. I found more and more enjoyment in being selfish and egotistical as season one went on.
“Hmmm, I don’t know if I can say that.”
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet season one is streaming now on Apple TV+
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