Angie Tribeca’s Hayes MacArthur On Season 3, Guest Stars, And Normalizing Absurdity

TBS’ absurd police satire Angie Tribeca is back, so we hit the beat with Hayes MacArthur about the precinct’s latest exploits.

Angie Tribeca is an unassuming parody of police procedurals. It roared out of the gates with some of the most outrageous visual gags on the medium when it debuted in 2016. The show managed to slowly refine its voice and storytelling ability, and it has evolved into something just as silly, but now even more layered in its third season

A serial killer on the loose effectively ups the stakes this year. This season also happens to be a big year for Jay Giels (played effortlessly by Hayes MacArthur), Angie’s partner, who is experiencing a number of changes. We had the chance to get in the police car with Hayes MacArthur to talk about the craziest cases of this year, the show’s gradual evolution, and the fragile state of Geils and Tribeca’s relationship.

DEN OF GEEK: Geils is such a good foil to Angie and you operate so well in this exaggerated world. This show has a funny way of staying static, but tell us what’s going on with Jay this season.

HAYES MACARTHUR: So this season, in terms of his relationship with Angie, Jay and Tribeca end up hitting some relationship bumps and go through a break-up. Spoiler alert! I don’t know if people really watch our show because it’s serialized, so I feel fine giving our secrets away. But yes, we break up this year and Geils wants to become a Lieutenant, so part of what we track from episode to episode is him trying to pass all of these different Lieutenant tests that Atkins has laid out for him, while Angie is kind of supporting him, but also being a lone wolf and solving crimes on her own. She’s not interested in rising up the ladder of the police department, she just wants to do the work. 

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That’s interesting to hear because all of that Lieutenant material is great, but to hear that it’s a runner through the season is even better. That’s a nice dimension to add to your character. Also that Atkins is helping you, rather than against the promotion.

Yeah, we started doing stuff in season two that became more of a connective tissue between episodes. We were tracking more and it felt more serialized—whether it was case stuff, or the characters’ relationships—but now we’ve got a whole serial killer Silence of the Lambs arc going on in season three. That’s kind of just one of the ways in which the show has hit its stride. It’s been so useful to figure out that the best way to tell these stories is to have an individual crime each week, but then also track these larger stories.

I love that this is a show where quite literally anything can happen. There’s a very elastic reality in play. Is that a lot more appealing to get to mess around with than some comedy that is grounded?

Well that’s always been the fun part of the show, getting to treat it like it’s a drama. It started in this Zucker Brothers, Airplane sort of world. The nit shifted a bit to lampoon all of those shows like CSI: Miami and NCIS. But now I think we’re starting to do our own thing where we’re still making fun of those conventions but then also playing in this weird Angie Tribeca world that can change on a dime. Actually, what the whole show is doing is that it’s really just normalizing absurdity. We’ve been doing it for two seasons already, so we’re ahead of the curve. We’re just taking the weird things that happen and treat them like every day occurrences. 

Well on the topic of that, three seasons in, do you still find yourself getting surprised by this show? Does this year get even crazier?

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Well we go and solve a crime in space this season. What feels kind of like an endless mine allows us all of these different places to go. We keep the same cast, the same conventions, but then have so many different worlds to dip into. So we solved a crime in space this year, and when we were talking about it, we were like, “This is crazy! Can we really go into an anti-gravity ship and do crime in outer space?” And the writers responded, “Oh yeah, this is based on a real episode of CSI: Miami.” There’s just so much content from those shows and such a trove of crazy episodes to pull from. 

Then there’s also just some really creative visual stuff that goes down this season. We have an episode that’s shot like a film noir. They were doing really cool in-camera stuff, like with lenses that couldn’t pull focus from back then, so the camera would have to be manually moved to reach a focal point. I just think that everything from the cinematography to the writing of the show explores these different genres in exciting ways. 

Along the same lines, it seems like the characters in the show travel a lot more this season, whether it’s going to Miami, New Orleans, outer space. Story-wise, what location would you like to see the show go to if you had your say?

Oh man, I was just thinking how fun it would be to be in the world of the Muppets. If we had to go solve a crime—because you know, we did a ventriloquist episode in season one where Angie had to go undercover as a dummy. So we can pop into those worlds, and we can pop out of them. Like for our Miami episode, all we did was put plastic flamingos on yards. We were making fun of going to Miami.

We see that there is a New Orleans equivalent of Atkins that’s out there. Do you think there’s a Geils equivalent out there in some other city that the team will have to work with in time?

One of the really fun things about season three was seeing all of the different characters that Jerry [Jere Burns] got to do. He was playing different versions of himself. In season one there’s a joke that he has a twin brother, so I think the idea was just to ramp that up this season. Jerry is such a specific and brilliant actor that he would treat each of these characters with different accents, outfits, quirks, but are all still a version of Atkins. Those were some of the times on set where it was the hardest not to laugh. 

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You mentioned that this season brings a serial killer into the mix and you adopt a bit more of a serialized story arc. Talk a little about all of that. 

Well after season two, Angie becomes obsessed. She gets obsessed with catching criminals and tracking these larger storylines. She goes off on her own and is kind of a renegade in that way. She does that in season two with James Franco’s character and trying to take down this political scandal. It’s the same thing in this season with Chris Pine’s character, who’s doing a Hannibal Lecter thing. He’s mentoring Angie to catch this serial killer that the show has been tracking. So it’s fun to dig into these bigger storylines because they really help flesh out the rest of the show. 

Are there any particular directions that you’d like to see things go with Giels? Obviously there is all the Lieutenant stuff, but beyond that.

Well the Lieutenant stuff is exciting, but the fun part of this show is really getting to keep everything the same. Because we do do stuff that’s so bizarre and crazy, those relationships in the police station need to stay the same. They’re the one thing that the audience can get grounded to and return to so there’s a jumping off point every week.

So even if Giels does become a Lieutenant at the end of this season, it’s not like he’ll be replacing Atkins or anything. He’ll just be a Lieutenant, but doing the exact same stuff. 

Yeah, it would only service it for the scenes where it’s needed. it’s like playing a video game where you just press the reset button. 

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This show is just so funny and it really makes me laugh like nothing else on TV. Do you have a favorite gag or scene from the show?

It’s so funny because every time we read something on the page, I’ll be like, “That’s wild. How are we going to pull that off?” But then it’s always so amazing to actually see it get done. In that space episode this season, we do a bunch of anti-gravity stuff that I don’t think has been done before. Rob Huebel plays this sort of futurist Elon Musk type of character there. That was one of the wildest ones we did because we had never been in that world before.

And of course, anything with animals! We had so many animals on the show this year, which is always just such an exciting day on set. We’ll have a monkey, obviously Jagger the dog with Lieutenant Hoffman, we’ve had giant lizards, penguins, tigers…

Something that really made me laugh from this season is that ridiculous “It’s a trap!” joke with Admiral Ackbar in the court room. And you actually have Admiral Ackbar in there. it’s unbelievable. 

It’s really funny that you mention that joke because the guy in the Ackbar suit is Ira Ungerleider, our showrunner!

That’s even funnier! If you could play any other character on the show, who would it be?

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You know, I love when Alfred Molina comes in and plays our mad scientist, Dr. Edelweiss. He gives information, but always has a new gag whenever he comes in. Like one season he’s dealing with all of these shady business deals. Or in another one he’s got a different handicap each week. I’d pick him. 

In season two’s premiere, before Angie gets out of her coma, we see that Giels was partners with Jon Hamm’s character. Any chance we could get a flashback episode down the road that’s just their adventures together? 

That’s really funny. I would love to see that. I loved that day he came in because I equated it to having LeBron James on your team and then not giving him the ball. We have him there for that one gag, and he gets such a huge setup for a big arc through the season, and then he just gets fired and walks out.

Lastly, is there a particular scene or moment from this season that you’re especially excited for people to see?

Well one of the wildest episodes we did is when Michelle Dockery came on to play a robot, a la Westworld. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s at a time when Geils and Tribeca’s relationship is strained, so there may or may not be a physical relation that takes place with this robot. But that was definitely one of the trippier scenes to film. 

Angie Tribeca’s third season premieres on TBS on April 10th at 10:30 p.m.