[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Dave Season 3]
Before the Dave Season 3 finale dropped on Hulu, Crumpa’s Steve Weintraub spoke with co-creator, co-writer, producer, and star Dave Burd, and in-series Dave’s hype man and real-life rapper, GaTa about the final episode and those insane cameos. Both have been with the FX show, co-created with Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm), since Episode 1, and their dynamic is unshakeable (due in large part to GaTa’s unconditional support), providing the comedy series with laugh-out-loud hysterics and moments of surprising gravity. As Season 3 comes to a close, we find out how names like Academy Award-winner Brad Pitt, Drake, and so many others, fit into “Lil Dicky’s” rise to stardom.
Since the first season, Dave has followed the titular rapper’s trajectory to fame, from LD’s YouTube breakout to Season 3’s Looking for Love tour. The show naturally makes creative, episodic choices while telling a story fairly parallel to the real Burd’s success story, and is packed with celebrity cameos that stun season after season in a very meta, “Dave just got rejeted by Doja Cat” kind of way. Season 3 took us across the country, from his hometown origins to the Met Gala, and all the bumps in the road in between, and culminated in a star-studded spectacular, that leaves us wondering where we’re going to go next with Dave, GaTa, Mike (Andrew Santino), Elz (Travis Bennett), Emma (Christine Ko), and Ally (Taylor Misiak).
In their interview, which you can watch or read below, Burd addresses Dave’s confounding Robyn (Chloe Bennet) choice, writing music for the series, and the ever-present themes that drive Dave’s hunger for success. They talk about GaTa’s audition for the part written specifically for him, and GaTa explains that they have a “real great friendship, like real dynamic energies, always vibing,” and that’s why their onscreen chemistry is totally unique to this show, adding that “everything is real.” As far as that epic Season 3 finale, Burd reveals how he got “iconic pillars of entertainment” to guest star on the show, and why each of them represent so much more than a flashy cameo, and where that will take us into Season 4.
Crumpa: I want to start with, I’m a huge fan of the show. I really want to thank you guys for a fantastic season, and congrats on being Mr. McAdams.
DAVE BURD: Oh, thank you, thank you. I appreciate that, it took a lot of hard work.
Dave, I definitely have to ask, are you and Robyn over?
BURD: You know, we write one season at a time, but it certainly feels like, you know, I had a choice to make at the end and I made the other choice. I think it’s really cool in a season where it’s like I’m looking for love the whole time, and I think deep down there’s kind of these dual interweaving themes of love and validation and fame, and they interweave, and there’s so much overlap between the two, and even between the quest for both for my character. The interesting thing about the ending is you think this experience with the stalker and Brad Pitt has made you maybe totally rethink everything, and, “I now know what’s important in life and I’m gonna go for love and Robyn,” and it’s a huge mislead. And the reality is that it’s like, “I still need all this validation, and still irks me that I can’t get to a guy like Drake.” Then I clearly don’t even fully love myself yet, and until you actually love yourself, you can’t really take anyone along that ride with you, you know what I mean? So I think on the one hand, it could be like he abandoned Robyn in love for being famous and cool and rich, but I also view it as like, there’s a self-awareness of not stringing someone along until the person is ready.
GaTa, I can see that you are a sneaker head, and this is not in my list of questions, but in an emergency, there’s a fire, what’s the pair or two that you’re grabbing to absolutely save?
GATA: I’m gonna grab the Jordan 1 Breds, and I’m gonna grab a running pair of a New Balance, that’s all I need.
Got it, I can see in the lower left, there’s some shoes that I admire. So I read – and obviously I could be wrong – that you auditioned to be GaTa, even though the character was based on you. Is that true, and what was that like?
GATA: Oh, that’s definitely true. A lot of people don’t know that, but I like to say that because it’s the real story. At the same time it was challenging, but I knew I had it, but I was also nervous because it was my first time acting. But Dave was just telling me, like, “Yo, this is the procedure. We gotta go through this. FX, you know, you gotta audition, this is protocol,” he’s like, “But you gonna get it though. I’m telling you,” he’s like, “I’m banking on you.” So when I did it, it was just like, “Alright, boom.”
BURD: I didn’t make GaTa come into the casting office and go in front of the blue thing. Me and GaTa shot like a proof of concept scene with both of us in it, you know what I mean? They had never seen GaTa, so it’s hard to be like, “Take my word for it…” so we just had to get some footage of me and GaTa on camera. But I mean, as soon as I shot that footage, and I haven’t deleted it, it’s on my computer – my computer is always out of hard drive space–
GATA: You got it just in case you need it.
BURD: I can’t delete it because it’s too historic. So I keep this old proof of concept of me and GaTa walking down the street talking, me and GaTa in the studio talking was important footage.
I’m gonna tell you something; recently, they’ve invented this thing called external hard drives [laughs].
BURD: I get all these hard drives, and then I lose them, and I hide them, and then I forget where I hid them.
I totally get it. One of the things that I love about the show is the way you two interact, and I know obviously it’s all scripted, but how much after the script are you two riffing to find more dialogue, and how much is it literally what’s on the page?
GATA: Oh, well, if you wanna be honest, we definitely be riffing, man. I’ll be watching the show and I’ll watch episodes, and then I’ll be looking at the scene after and be soaking it in, and I’ll be like, “Damn, none of that was on the paper.” So that’s the beauty of it, man, me and Dave got a real great friendship, like real dynamic energies, always vibing. So when we on camera, man, it’s just organic. It’ll be like, “Alright, this is what the scene is about, but we need you guys to do this.” If you look back on some of the scenes, man, it’s just beautiful, man. I’ll be watching the show and I just be thinking, like, “Damn, none of that was on paper.”
We have the scene blocked out, but we just deliver every time, man, because I really love this guy, he loves me, and we just trying to always be great. You know, after every take, he’s the first person I ask, like, “So how was it?” You know, skip past the whole director, the camera angle, all that I put to him because I know it’s his show and I know what he wants to put out there for the world. So yeah, man, everything is real.
BURD: We always say– I say a few things; one, the scripted version is just one version, and we capture that to an extent. We’re not, like, going off on tangents that are just irrelevant, that aren’t about the scene. It’s like, if me and GaTa have to react to someone pulling a crossbow on us, for example, yes, there are words on paper that we could say, but really, it’s just like, “You’re scared, this person has a crossbow, be GaTa in this moment and be scared,” and usually the outcome is better. It’s just more naturalistic when people are really living in the moments of scenes and it’s not just the same lines over and over again and we’re tuning each other out and just waiting for our cue to talk next. You actually have to listen to what he’s gonna say because it could– One of my favorite parts of the season is in Episode 9 when I say, “I’m not a dirtbag like you, GaTa, I don’t cheat,” and he says, “Man, I was cheating out the gate. I had girls in fifth grade doing my homework,” or something like that. I wasn’t expecting that, and then my reaction, which was used in the show, was like, “That’s, like, so cool to say,” and that was me in that moment being like, “That was cool.” I think moments like that, if we had scripted that it just wouldn’t have come through. You can really feel my surprise in that moment, and it makes everything kind of cooler.
Oh, 100%. I definitely have to talk about the fact that this season has had an insane amount of guest stars, but you leveled up with the finale. Was Brad Pitt a fan? Did Drake know that you’ve been building towards Drake? How did these things happen?
BURD: Look, people are asking me, like, “How did you get all these people?” And it’s like, really, I hate to say it, but– I don’t hate to say it, I’m honored to say it: they just love the show. I think it speaks to the greatness of the show that it doesn’t take a lot of insane maneuvering to get these people to do it. They all just independently – Drake, Rachel McAdams, Brad Pitt – watch the show, they love the show, they watch all the episodes. I had run-ins with Drake and he talks my ear off in a really positive way about how big of a fan he is of the show and how it’s one of the more important shows of our generation. And Brad Pitt, I heard that he liked it, too. I had never met him, and I took that knowledge of the fact that, “Oh, Brad loves the show,” [and] I figured, “Maybe there’s a shot here.” I sent a really thought-out email that took days to write, and got a really cool email back, and he was in. Rachel McAdams, same deal; she watches the show with her husband, and they love it.
They’re not just, like, random celebrity, “I want you in this because you’re cool!” Each of them are kind of representative of the main themes of what the show is all about, as far as Rachel McAdams is like, you know, our generation’s dream woman. She’s anchored some of the more important romantic pieces of cinema for my entire generation. Brad Pitt is the preeminent representation of movie star, Hollywood, he’s like the biggest icon, I think, of our time as far as cinema, and Drake is obviously that of music and hip-hop, you know what I mean? And so, for the themes that we’re going for, I feel like all these characters aren’t just coming in and being like, “Hey.” They’re just representing the top of those major thematic temples. When I’m working with Brad Pitt and I’m giving him direction and I’m seeing him trust me the way he must trust, like, a Tarantino, or you know what I mean? It just is very validating for me as a filmmaker to get that type of trust from these iconic pillars of entertainment, so it’s very rewarding to get them onboard, and then also to not have to do anything crazy to get them beyond just having made a show that they all really love and respect.
The “Mr. McAdams” song is really good and the music you guys are doing each week is really good, and I’m so curious how early on are you writing this music for these episodes? Because there’s that balance of figuring out, “Well, are we going to get this person for this episode? Oh, I got to do the music…” All of that that has to come together.
BURD: I took a lot of risks this season, and a lot of people in my writers’ room were like, “Man, I hope that you’re right that these people are just gonna say yes.” People thought I was really– even in the writers’ room, they were like, “What are we doing writing this entire episode around Brad Pitt without having ever communicated with him at all?” I just believed, and I was rewarded for my belief, and yeah, it’s a chicken and egg thing. In between seasons, I’m always working on music. Sometimes I’ll make a song that wasn’t written for the show, but I’m just like, “Man, this scene needs a good rap. This scene needs a romantic song,” and sometimes I’m like, “Oh, this song I did like a year ago really could work.” Obviously, the verse that I wrote when I wrote it, not thinking of the TV show, doesn’t work as well as if I rewrote the verse and made it about, like, Robyn, you know what I mean? And made it about more of the specific themes of the season. So it’s a total chicken and egg thing, and everything varies.
I’m fortunate enough… In between the seasons, I’m working my ass off on music, and a lot of times it’s not all for naught in the sense that, even though my fans are obviously craving an album, – and of course, I wish I could deliver that and I’m working as hard as I can – there is a fortunate reality to this whole thing that the show is about a rapper and I can take a lot of music that I made independent of the show and get it into the show in an organic way.
GaTa, what is it like when you’re in a scene with Brad? I’ve done some interviews, and I’ve sat across from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise, and there’s a moment where you’re sitting across from them, and you’re like, “Fuck.” So I’m just curious, what’s it like when you’re in a scene with Brad, and how much are you thinking?, “Oh, I’ve really got to deliver?”
GATA: Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of pressure, but number one, first and foremost, it’s a blessing. Then number two, you gotta question yourself, and think, like, “Dang, am I that good?” Like, “I gotta scene with Brad Pitt!” So it makes you feel like, “Okay, I gotta be on my A-game,” you know? You gotta really be focused, you know what I’m saying? But, you really just gotta soak it in and really appreciate it. Like, I did the scene, and then right now it’s just basically started to hit me, like, “Yeah, I really got a scene with Brad Pitt.” You know how people run up on George Clooney, and they’ll be like, “So George Clooney, how was it, man, working with Brad?” They could ask GaTa, “How was it working with Brad?” now. So I just feel like I’m in that level of conversation, and I owe it all to my brother, LD, man. It’s just a great feeling, man. Even when I be around LD, I just be thinking, like, “Man, this is amazing, man.” So it’s gonna be something I definitely remember forever. It’s gonna be something that’s gonna help my career, and I appreciate you, LD. Thanks, man, that was dope.
BURD: Of course. And let me just say, as the guy who edits the footage and sees all the takes and the dailies, even watching GaTa in between takes, like his excitement level, he was so happy. I could see it. And Brad honestly did that to the entire crew. When he was on set you could just feel it; everyone was walking with such a sense of purpose, and I really feel like, you know, there’s a lot of people that go into making this show, and I think everybody at their core loves storytelling and loves cinema, and they’ve been working for years in this industry, working on things. And when you’re working on something that has, like, the biggest star in the world at it on your set, it really instilled a sense of purpose, and I think everyone was challenged to be like, “We gotta bring our absolute A-game for Brad.”
The thing about this season is, you’ve raised the bar so high in terms of guest stars, and everything about the season was so good. Where do you go in the next season? Have you already started thinking about it?
BURD: I understand the question, but I am not concerned because, yes, I have thoughts, I’ve been thinking about it… I feel like even though it’s different scales every time, after Season 1, I felt like, “Man, what a finale,” like, “Where do we go from here? How do we beat them?” And I remember when we made the Season 2 finale, I was like, “Man, we’re up against the shadow of the Season 1 finale, how are we gonna top what we did?” And then this season is the same deal. It’s like, we’ve set such a precedent for season finales being like these epic conclusions of the whole season in a dramatic, unpredictable way, and we topped it again.
Yes, we have Brad Pitt, Drake, Rachel McAdams, they are the absolute mountain top of what they represent for the industry, but it’s not all about celebrities. There are plenty of other celebrities that have not been in the show that are at their own respective mountain tops that I would love to get in the show, and I have a lot of really great ideas for where to go next.
I’m just going to say, and I really mean it sincerely, I love the show and I really appreciate what you guys do and I wish you nothing but the best.
BURD: Thank you, and give a shout-out to Tania, the woman, the stalker, because she killed that episode. I know that Drake and Brad… but she was like a force.
Listen, it doesn’t work without an antagonist. I love the finale, and again, love the season. I could keep going, but I’m just going say good luck with the rest of your interviews.
BURD: Thank you, and put it all on the written piece! I appreciate you as always.
All three seasons of Dave are available to stream on Hulu.