Having seemingly realized that bastardizing a beloved IP and insulting your potential audience is not a winning strategy for endearing one’s work to the public, the cast and creator of HBO Max’s Velma have attempted to claim that their mean-spirited take on Scooby-Doo was born from their own love for both the original Mystery Gang and the medium of animation.
The co-conspirators in the murder of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears most beloved Hanna-Barbera creation put forth their respective defenses during a recent interview regarding the series given to TV Insider.
Met at the interview’s onset by the most embarrassingly gushing praise from TV Insider’s Damian Holbrook over how “joke packed” he found each episode of Velma to be, series star Mindy Kaling opined, “I think that’s something that we really loved about animated shows.”
“Charlie and I are such huge fans,” said the actress. “What’s so impressive about [series creator and regular Kaling collaborator Charlie Grandy] and his staff is that, to do a show that’s that funny but also has a real mystery – there’s a serial murderer in the show – is really impressive to pack into a half-hour show.”
From there, Holbrook raised the topic of the series race-swapping Velma from a white to Indian, to which Kaling – who herself regularly promoted the show by boasting about the orange-sweatered sleuth’s new heritage – dismissed, “It’s interesting. Her identity is a big part of what people have been talking about before they’ve seen the show, but it’s not a big part of her story-telling and her life.”
“This is a character, she’s so iconic, and the original series is so amazing, and we have a really diverse cast, but it’s not a show that’s sort of hinged on their identity,” she added.
Likewise, Grandy himself tried to claim that “it was a dream” to work on such a classic IP as Scooby-Doo because “the fun of an origin story i sthat we all know where they end up, so it’s about, “Okay, where can we start them?””
“Then, in terms of just sort of terms of the mystery, I always wanted to do a season-long mystery, and so to kind of figure that out and work backwards and where you plant that information and how it can come out in a comedic series was difficult, but it’s really, really fun,” said the series creator.
“That’s the fun, the tension of it,” he continued. “The characters all stem from this original idea of…they’re all so comfortable with each other. They’re in a van all the time they don’t really bicker, so it’s like, how do you get that comfortable with people? You have to go through just a lot of s–t to get to that point, so it’s fun to show what that is.”
Asked next whether the scripts overload of pop-culture references and supposed ‘jokes’ were the result of the writing team’s efforts or Kaling’s own comedy stylings, the actress admitted, “I did zero improvisation, the scripts are just so tightly scripted. It didn’t need it.”
“What I love about the character is that she has these razor-sharp feminist observations about being a young woman in that way where you’re like “I wish I could’ve been, or said that thing, or encapsulated the moment like she did or Daphne did or some of the other female characters,” Kaling opined, “But it’s all Charlie and the staff. ”
Offering his own thoughts on stepping into the shoes of such an iconic character, Shaggy – sorry, Norville – voice actor Sam Richardson recalled to Holbrook, “I just love Scooby-Doo, and I loved all the characters so much. I grew up watching them.”
“I know fans love to have problems with things, so I was excited to get into that realm,” he joked, making reference to how he was playing, in his words, “a sober black Shaggy”.
Yet, despite this supposed love for the original team and their adventures, an anecdote given by Fred voice actor Glenn Howerton would suggest otherwise.
Speaking to his approach towards voicing the butt of the series’ tired ‘white people bad’ line of humor, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia co-creator explained that he sought “wanted to make him a little more immature, a little more petulant, you know, sound a little more like a high school kid.”
“The way I interpreted the character was completely driven by the scripts that I got handed,” said Howerton. “‘What do they seem to be going for here? Let me lean into that.’ He’s clearly an entitled, petulant kid, who’s somewhat clueless – everyone described him almost like an ‘innocent bully’.”
“You know, he’s like a bully, but he’s completely unaware of how offensive the things are that he’s saying,” further described the actor. “In his mind, he’s super nice, but he says and does awful things, so that was a funny thing to lean into.”
New episodes of Velma can be caught every Thursday on HBO Max.