Chris Lilley is at it again. The creator of cult hit Summer Heights High is bringing his zany brand of Sacha Baron Cohen-esque funny back to HBO with Angry Boys (premiering Sunday, Jan. 1 at 10/9c), his third mockumentary-style series starring — who else? — Chris Lilley.
The sometimes off-color comedy — which earlier this year completed its run in Australia — examines the relationships between Nathan and Daniel, twin brothers previously seen in Lilley’s first series, We Can Be Heroes, and the motley crew of folks they admire most. Per usual, the multihyphenate plays just about everyone involved, including both boys and the four people they consider heroes.
Here, Lilley tells TVLine what fans can expect from his latest offering, why it’s different (in a good way) from his Summer Heights High, and what’s next for the always-evolving funnyman. (Hint: Some familiar faces — ahem, J’aime — might be involved.)
TVLINE | Tell us non-Australians a little about Angry Boys.
It’s a mockumentary comedy series about two boys who live on a farm, and their respective heroes. It’s similar in style to [my last show] Summer Heights High, but in this one I play six characters instead of three. This is also set on a much bigger scale, as I play a rapper in L.A., a manager in Japan and a few more people in Australia.
TVLINE | Angry Boys is different from what we’ve seen you do in the past. What inspired this series?
After Summer Heights High, I wanted to do something with Daniel and Nathan, the characters I’d had in my first series, We Can Be Heroes. I really liked them and wanted to base something around that, so I came up with the idea of following them and the heroes that are featured in the posters on their wall. That in turn allowed me to jump into those posters and head to L.A. and Tokyo and all of the places these characters are located.
TVLINE | Given that you play all of these people, do you have any personal favorites?
There’s a hip-hop star the boys love named S.mouse, and I had to create some backstory for him with music videos and things. That’s something I haven’t done before in previous series, so it was a lot of fun.
TVLINE | It must be said: He seems directly drawn from a certain Taylor Swift-interrupting rapper. Did you use real-life people as inspiration for S.mouse?
I definitely derive inspiration from things like that. I did research a lot of different artists and studied what goes on — but not anyone in particular. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Angry Boys is very funny, but there are lots of poignant, sad moments throughout. How did you find that perfect balance?
It’s not like I sat down and decided that this is the series where people are going to cry; it was more instinctive. I was more interested in the drama of these people’s lives. And [based on the response of Australian audiences], I think people appreciated that. It’s also a nice difference than the stuff I’ve done in previous series. It’s nice that viewers become invested in these characters enough to care. Why do something predictable? After Summer Heights High, people knew exactly what they wanted from me. They thought they knew what I did, as far as bringing characters back and setting the shows at different institutions, and those expectations were kind of annoying. I wanted to do something for me and make it fun for the audience as well. Certainly, it’s the one series I’ve been quite emotional about, and having that connection is really cool.
TVLINE | This is your third mockumentary-style series. What is it that keeps you coming back to that specific genre?
There’s a lot of stuff you can’t do in a mockumentary because you have to stay within certain [believable] parameters, and I like that structure. I feel comfortable writing in that way and it gives the audience a framework so they know what they’re getting. It’s a funny idea that people are being documented and are conscious about being on camera, and then you can juxtapose that with the fly-on-the-wall stuff where you capture real moments.
TVLINE | You also stick with playing multiple characters in your shows. Any particular reason?
It’s just become the thing that I do, I guess. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and it came to life as an adult. It’s what I’m known for and what I like.
TVLINE | So, what’s next for Chris Lilley? Working on any new shows?
Yes, I’m working on something new and I’m excited about it. It’s going to be in a similar style with me playing the different characters. I’m also keen on bringing back some old characters from past projects.
TVLINE | Speaking of, Summer Heights High has developed quite the following here in the states and fans seem to be wanting more. Any chance we’ll see a revival of some sort down the road?
Yeah, I love those characters. Mr. G has been with me for a long, long time — even back to when I did standup — so by the end of Summer Heights High I was ready to put him to rest. But now I love the idea of all three of them coming back and I plan to do so. And I think after Angry Boys, people will want those characters to come back, too, so… [Laughs] It’s a cool situation.
Will you be hanging out with HBO’s Angry Boys this Sunday night?