The Behind the Scenes Drama Behind Adult Swim’s Decker: Unclassified

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The Behind the Scenes Drama Behind Adult Swim&#8217;s <i>Decker: Unclassified</i>

After several seasons as a successful action-adventure web series, Decker moves to the big time—or at least to a bigger screen—as it finally gets a slot in the Adult Swim TV lineup, airing at midnight on June 17. Paste had a chance recently to attend a press day at the offices of Abso Lutely Productions in Los Angeles to chat about Decker: Unclassified. What we didn’t know at the outset, however, was that we’d be interviewing stars Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington—in character—which made for an interesting, challenging and hilarious conversation.

For the uninitiated, the kitschy B-movie unfolds in short installments, following the politically right-leaning Agent Jack Decker (Heidecker) as he kicks terrorists’ butts and foils plots against the U.S., which is led by ineffective POTUS Jason Davidson (Joe Estevez). Joining Decker’s fight against terror is codebreaker extraordinaire Agent Jonathan Kington (Gregg Turkington). Yes, the “special effects” and dialogue are cheesy, and the plots are laughable, but that’s exactly the point.

To get even more meta, Decker was created by Heidecker’s alter ego/character Tim Heidecker, the conservative host of the online movie discussion/review show On Cinema (co-hosted by Gregg Turkington’s stylized version of himself). Sick of Hollywood’s liberal slant, Heidecker, the character, wanted an outlet to bring his vision of ‘Merica to the masses—and Decker was born.

We caught on quickly that it wasn’t going to be an ordinary interview when we asked the duo a simple (but loaded) first question, asking for a clarification on which season starts on Adult Swim. Heidecker believes it’s the third, and Turkington says it’s the fourth. Heidecker proclaims, “For the record, Season 1 was Decker: Classified; Season 2 was Decker: Port of Call: Hawaii; Season 3 will be…”

“Was Decker vs. Dracula,” Turkington interjects as Heidecker laughs mockingly.

It seems that the two haven’t quite repaired the rift that developed over last season’s Dracula endeavor, when Heidecker put the Decker franchise in Turkington’s hands in order to pursue other artistic pursuits, like playing with his band Dekkar. To put it mildly, Turkington’s and Heidecker’s creative visions didn’t mesh on the Dracula season.

“It was an aborted season, but it was the most popular in terms of critical acclaim and ratings,” explains Turkington. “We had 20 episodes scripted out for Decker vs. Dracula plus a two-hour finale. And he pulled the plug on the whole thing before we completed them. So I’m just left with these unfilled scripts. James Dean’s [yes, that James Dean] upset because this was going to be his entry back into the world of acting. Now he’s sitting around with nothing to do.”

“I apologize for the confusion. It’s not my fault. He’s been asked a million times to get on the same page as everybody else. It’s season 3,” Heidecker says. “Decker vs. Dracula, you could say, is Season 1 of that show, which didn’t work out and that’s the end of that show.”

After the icy start to the interview, we play along, but avoid any questions about a controversial Decker German franchise, instead asking if the duo changed anything to prepare for airing on television. Heidecker addresses the question and also discusses the recent passing of his (fictitious) baby son: “Well, we were given a much bigger budget because my son Tom Cruise [Heidecker] Jr. passed away,” and then sort-of clarifies, “We weren’t given a big budget because he passed away, but because he passed away, there was a sum of money that came because of his death…because of malpractice, essentially, and life insurance we had out on him. Term life insurance. And it paid out big.

“And I used that money to create the Tom Cruise Jr. Memorial Arts Fund. It really gave us the flexibility and the purchase power to go out there and make a much bigger show in scope and ambition.”

Despite the behind-the-scenes upheaval and the three-ish seasons of backstories, Heidecker says that new viewers needn’t worry about diving right into Decker. “This season is meant to be an entry point for people that might not be familiar with the show, so you do not have to come having to have watched all the other seasons. It helps, and we certainly encourage you to, but we’re trying to entertain, we’re trying to educate, we’re trying to remind our audience that the threat of global domestic terrorism is real.”

Adds Turkington, “[We’re also] trying to pay tribute to the movie greats, guys like Humphrey Bogart and women like Lauren Bacall. These kind of characters really defined the silver screen as it stood back then, and we’re trying to bring that back into the current day so that new generations understand movies like Casablanca and From Here to Eternity.

“Shut up about old movies. No one cares about old movies,” Heidecker spits back, continuing the more acerbic Siskel and Ebert tone of On Cinema. “I’m trying to talk to you about what the core principles of the show are, conservative principles, about saving our country from…by the way, our country is going down the tubes. It’s going to hell, and one thing we can remind ourselves, as we look at Jack Decker as a beacon of hope or as inspiration, that he is there to provide the light, to shine the light, show the way. If we believe in the principles of small government, we believe in the principles of strong military…”

At this point in the interview, Turkington begins to talk about Agent Kington’s mad code-cracking skills, which come into play in the Adult Swim premiere, but Heidecker continues with the political rant. “Keeping the enemy at bay is important for us. And then we also have a chance to look at someone like Davidson, who represents the Washington cabal, the elite, who are do-nothings, they’re know nothings. I like to call them the ‘know nothings, do nothings.’ And of course, there isn’t a real President Davidson, but does he exist in the form of somebody like Obama or Jimmy Carter, the Clintons? Of course…and he represents the ineptitude and the incapable …”

“You’re reading too much into it. It’s basically a popcorn sort of show,” Turkington interjects. “You got your car crashes, your boat chases, your water skis.” After a few more minutes of back-and-forth arguing, there’s an awkward silence.

We bring up politics again—and Decker’s similar agenda to a presumptive presidential nominee—because at this point, the whole interview can’t possibly get more off-the-rails, right? Heidecker looks deep in thought and says, “I haven’t officially done it, on the record…who’s this with? You’re with Paste? I’m trying to think if I’m going to give you this exclusive….let me make a quick call about that.”

He steps to the other side of his office, which is still in earshot of the rolling tape recorder on the coffee table. While we ask Turkington to elaborate on Kington’s way with codes, Heidecker’s “chatting on the phone” about possibly announcing a presidential endorsement. With one ear on each interviewee, we can hear Heidecker asking whether to release the news on Paste or The Washington Times. When he returns to the table, he says, “I’ve decided I’m not using the opportunity here with you to announce my endorsement. I’m not officially endorsing anybody at this time.” Adds Turkington: “I’m endorsing the idea that we get more Bond movies out there on the screen.”

While we’re a little disappointed about the lack of an official announcement, we still have the whole conversation on tape. Heidecker (and Decker) will probably blame this unsanctioned release as the maneuverings of the liberal media, but he never said it was off-the-record, so we’ve posted the endorsement below. Regardless if you agree with his politics or not, it’ll be worth your while to tune into Decker: Unclassified, not only for the laughs, but also to watch Agent Decker keep America safe and help make America great again.

Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or “Instagram”: