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Patton Oswalt: Why ‘A.P. Bio’ Is Unlike Other High School Shows (Exclusive)

Patton Oswalt A.P. BIO
Patton Oswalt as Principal Durbin in ‘A.P. BIO.’ Maarten de Boer/NBC

It’s not always sunny in A.P. Bio class. In the new NBC comedy, Glenn Howerton plays Jack Griffin, a former Harvard philosophy professor who returns to his hometown to teach. But instead of teaching life lessons to his students, he’s more concerned about seeking revenge on his nemesis Miles (Tom Bennett) and ignoring his responsibilities.

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Patton Oswalt also stars as Principal Durbin, who has the unfortunate pleasure to deal with the new faculty member.

“I think I base him a little bit on the vice principal of the high school that I went to,” the 49-year-old exclusively tells Us Weekly of his character. “This guy kind of had a very fly sense of humor about the limits that were put on him in terms of money and influence. Because he did care about his job but it’s like they are making it so that it seems like I only care so much because they will only let me do so much. I kind of have that because he knows this is a public school and they only have so many funds and there is only so much that I can do. But I need to keep this professor around.”

“Yes, it’s for selfish reasons,” he adds of Durbin’s motives. “I want the bragging rights of having a Harvard professor at my school, but having a Harvard professor means that my school gets more funds, the kids do better. He’s petty for very, very noble reasons.”

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Halfway through responding, Oswalt proved just how different kids and adults can be when he went silent — by accident. “Hello? I’m here! Oh my God, I’m holding the phone and I accidentally muted you with my jaw. I’m so embarrassed right now,” he says. “That’s the crap I was just talking about! A 20-something would know how not to mute an interviewer on the phone. I just proved my own point by being an idiot. Please add that. Please add that to the interview.”

Oswalt believes that the series — created by Saturday Night Live alum Mike O’Brien — “really subverts” from the standard high school show.

Glenn Howerton Patton Oswalt A.P. BIO
Glenn Howerton as Jack and Patton Oswalt as Principal Durbin in ‘A.P. BIO.’ Ron Batzdorff/NBC

“The ones who are motivated on the show are the students. They are the ones who have a plan, they know what they want out of life. The adults are a little bit confused and petty. Weirdly enough that’s kind of what I’m seeing with this so-called millennial generation who are way more motivated and aware of what’s happening in the world more often than the older generation,” he explains. “The show plays a lot of that for some very big laughs.”

As for how he would describe the freshman show in three words? “They are going to sound cryptic but they actually map up to what’s coming for my character,” he says. “Heartbreak, blood and insomnia.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Blood. No mute button problem on that question!

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For more, read the rest of his Q&A below:

Us Weekly: What’s the dynamic like between you and Glenn on set?

Patton Oswalt: We are both big comedy nerds. [Glenn on] It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — it’s a level of comedy knowledge and then messing around with that level of knowledge. That’s what I’ve always been drawn to in comedy. My character will say something so dumb and he is such a comedic actor. Glenn knows when it’s funny when to actually not say something and just react to what I just did and go, ‘Oh my God, what is wrong with you?’ Rather than try to shove another joke in there. But that’s just because he’s so good at this. Having someone like that in a scene to work with is very relaxing and very energizing.

US: Is there an experience from your school days that you would want written into the show?

PO: Maybe something that a student went through. I’ve had some very awkward crushes when I was in high school so maybe I could work one of those in. The casting of the show is incredible and they just found the most amazing people. So I’m thinking more like what could a student do if he has an awkward crush and what my and Glenn’s characters can do to help him. [It would] end up being insanely unhelpful and I think it would be hilarious. Like thinking that they are doing all of this deep Stand By Me student-teacher stuff and it’s just making things 10 times worse.

US: How would you describe yourself in high school?

PO: I was part of a pack of like class clowns. I wasn’t the class clown. Because there was a whole bunch of us. That was kind of my scene.

US: What was your best subject?

PO: I guess English. I liked to read and I liked to write. Anything creative and non-linear and non-logical.

US: Did you ever take A.P. Bio?

PO: No! Science was never my thing. I was terrible at science. I was so bad. I wish I could say that I did but no I barely, barely crawled by doing science.

A.P. Bio premieres Thursday, February 1, on NBC at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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