Not every show can take concepts as primal as sex and murder and combine them into a Thriller-modeled music video performed by an up-and-coming, fresh-out-of-prison, white, gay rapper — but then again, not all shows are Chozen.
From creator Grant Dekernion and the voice of Saturday Night Live comedian Bobby Moynihan comes Chozen, the new FX animated series from the creative brains behind Archer, Eastbound and Down and more. Despite sharing common style and themes with those shows, Chozen stands out as its own unique and unexpected entity. But how did it start? How did Dekernion arrive at the idea to tell Chozen’s story? And, just as importantly, where did the idea for “Murder, Sex” come from?
Putting aside that last question (some mysteries are best left unsolved), Dekernion at least explained the origin of Chozen during a recent conference call with reporters. “I had always wanted to do a show. I knew I wanted to do a show involving music and the struggle to be a musician, and I’ve loved hip-hop my whole life,” he said. “I also wanted to create a character that I’d never seen before on TV, and I think Chozen fits that bill.”
“I think there’s a lot of interesting things you have with Chozen,” he continued. “Here’s a guy who’s coming out of jail. Here’s a guy who’s trying to get his life back. To me, it’s like a delayed coming of age story. I thought that would be a fun way to kind of get into a type of story that’s been told a few times, but in a different way.”
Dekernion first envisioned the character of Chozen, but it’s Moynihan who brings him to life. The SNL performer said he has little trouble relating to Chozen, considering how much they have in common on a personal level: “I’m actually a gay white rapper cartoon in real life, so it just worked out really good.”
Jokes aside, Moynihan said he was hooked as soon as he heard the show’s premise. “I [didn’t] want to do anything more in my life than this,” he said. “I know it sounds weird to say, but it’s a voice I’ve been doing all of my life maybe. I feel like I know a lot of people that sound like Chozen, and when I saw the drawing and read Grant’s script, the character was so well-defined already that all I had to do was come in, talk, and have a good time. I felt like it was something I had inside me already.”
Even though he’s at the heart of the series, Chozen is far from the show’s only notable character, and Moynihan is far from the show’s only notable star. Rap icon Method Man plays a key role as a star named Phantasm, for instance. “He’s been very collaborative,” said Dekernion. “He’s always open to throwing in his own flavor and switching things around and just in general making them better.”
Other cast members include Michael Peña and Nick Swardson as some of Chozen’s oldest friends. “They’re guys he’s known since grammar school,” Dekernion said of the members of Chozen’s social circle. “There are all buddies of his from the neighborhood, and as the season goes on, we kind of see a little bit more of them and their formation. They’ve known each other forever, and when he gets out of jail, they just pick back up where they left off.”
Another key character is Chozen’s sister, Tracy (voiced by Kathryn Hahn), who takes Chozen in when he’s released from prison. “Their relationship is one of my favorite parts of the show,” said Dekernion. “She has this kind of animal living with her that she has to deal with, and she’s a pretty responsible, pretty sharp gal. But it’s obvious there’s love there. Well, it’s not obvious he appreciates everything she does, but I think he does.”
With the comedy and story having firm roots in character, both Dekernion and Moynihan don’t feel that they’re telling a controversial tale. “It feels like, to me, a story about a guy and his friends — and he happens to be a gay white rapper,” said Moynihan. “I feel like 20 years ago you’d be like, ‘Who is this guy?’ But I feel like there’s probably 100 Chozens running around this New York City block I’m on right now. There are a lot of people like Chozen who are just living their lives. It’s not really that crazy of a thing anymore.”
“I think that just because of the nature of the character and the way he goes about certain things, it could hit people in a certain way,” added Dekernion. “But that’s nothing intentional that we do from our end.”
Dekernion and Moynihan’s confidence in the concept of the show was only further strengthened by support from FX. “They’re known for taking chances, and doing programming that’s unique and groundbreaking,” said Dekernion. “We went [to FX] with high hopes and our high hopes were met. They were very excited and very invested, and we were really fortunate in finding a home on the place where I think the show has the greatest chance to make an impact.”
But what kind of impact does Dekernion want the show to make on its audience? “I just hope they have some laughs,” he said. “I hope they connect with the characters. I hope they can laugh. I hope they can kind of invest in the struggles and wins and losses of all these great people we have on the show, and that they’ll just kind of jump on for the ride.”
“It’s not like Family Guy, which is just joke after joke,” added Moynihan. “[Chozen] is more of a story about this guy’s life. I hope that people want to see where he goes in his life, and I hope they continue to watch it so they can find out.”
Chozen premieres on FX on January 13 at 10:30 PM ET/PT.