‘Friends From College’ Creators Talk Weddings, Sarah Chalke and Season Two (Exclusive)

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Back with a second season on Netflix, Friends From College follows the intertwined stories of six friends -- all Harvard alums -- living in New York City as they navigate the ups and downs of complicated romances, unsatisfying career choices and where they find themselves in their early 40s. Drawing comparisons to The Bill Chill and St. Elmo’s Fire, the ensemble dramedy was created and produced by Nicholas Stoller -- famous for directing Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek and the Neighbors films -- and his wife, Francesca Delbanco, who spoke with ET about keeping these friends together in season two. 

The first season, which premiered last summer, saw married couple Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) and Lisa (Cobie Smulders) moving to New York, where the rest of their friends -- Sam (Annie Parisse), Nick (Nat Faxon), Max (Fred Savage) and Marianne (Jae Suh Park) -- have settled into their own lives. The pair’s return sets off a course of unexpected interactions and events, with Ethan reigniting an on-and-off affair with Sam, who is now married to Jon (Greg Germann), and Lisa struggling to get pregnant. Eventually, all the secrets, lies and resentments unfold at Jon’s birthday party, leaving a once tight-knit group of friends at odds with each other. 

“We definitely painted ourselves into a corner,” Delbanco says, revealing the writers’ room was tasked with coming up with a compelling reason that would reunite these friends despite unresolved feelings -- “something bigger than their petty grievances,” she continues, adding: “We came up with a wedding or a funeral and a funeral just seemed like too much of a bummer for a season.” 

Instead, much of the catalyst for these friends coming back together a year later is Max’s upcoming wedding to boyfriend Felix (Billy Eichner), which includes an engagement party, a bachelor weekend and, of course, the ceremony itself, which closes out season two in hilarious fashion. In addition to forced confrontations, Sarah Chalke and Zack Robidas join the cast as love interests this season for Nick and Lisa, respectively, adding new wrinkles to possible reconciliations and happy reunions. 

“It’s so fun to get to have new characters,” Deblanco says of adding Chalke and Robidas to the mix of the main ensemble. “It’s very hard to work in additional characters, in a certain way.” Speaking specifically of Chalke, who plays “a weird, cold, waspy” woman named Merrill, the creators had nothing but praise for her performance and have hopes to bring her back if they get a season three. “We had this idea of what that character would be and Sarah was the only person who nailed it,” Stoller adds. 

While the series initially drew inspiration from Delbanco and Stoller’s real-life college friends and post-college experiences, by the end of season one “the characters are who they are and we can’t necessarily incorporate from our own lives,” Deblanco says, while Stoller reveals that little moments here and there were pulled directly from friends’ real-life anecdotes, like the scene involving Lisa seeing a child outside of a store and thinking she’s lost. While trying to take care of the young girl, her family returns to admonish Lisa. “The baby thing came from a friend of ours,” he says.

It’s one of those laugh-out-loud moments that balance out the unexpected emotions that come with watching the series, which deftly balances the comedy and drama up until the final episode. “I hope people laugh a lot and feel surprised they’re emotionally invested in these characters,” Stoller says of audiences watching the show. “That’s always been the goal of everything I’ve ever done and that’s the goal with this as well.”

Friends From College season two starts streaming Friday, Jan. 11 on Netflix.

 

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