Tom Arnold is on the phone to talk about his upcoming series – and the ongoing industrial dispute in Hollywood.
Arnold plays a manipulative, sleazy producer in the film Mockumentary comedy Underdeveloped, premiering September 8 on free streamer Tubi.
“On Friday [Aug. 18] I will strike with the “Roseanne” authors. “We all meet at the old studio,” said Arnold, 64, who not only wrote for and appeared on ABC series Roseanne, which premiered in 1988, but was also married to series star Roseanne Barr from 1990 to 1994. “When I moved here [to LA] In 1988 I began writing for Roseanne. When I got here there was a writers strike so I really had to work hard because I wasn’t in the guild yet.
“I will see many friends in the picket line [Friday] from the Midwest that I brought to Roseanne to write.”
Arnold is free to express himself and publish Underdeveloped under special permission for Star’s independently produced series Brian A Metcalf and co-star Thomas Ian Nicholas (“American Pie”), who is also an executive producer. The show was filmed last December.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “I think the union’s strategy is that we show what these independent, small groups are going to pay and hopefully put more pressure on the larger studios.
“We just want to figure out the streaming stuff [on the SAG-AFTRA side]; “Studios have been reluctant to tell us how many people are watching their shows,” he said. “Some of these studio executives say, ‘That guy’s the devil.’ That guy over at Discovery [David Zaslav] has earned $500 million in recent years and a guy like [ABC’s] Bob Iger, who I’ve known since he started — he’d always come over and try to help me get Roseanne out of the house like, “What’s the plan?” — He’s known to be a good guy, but he sounds terrible when he says on CNBC, “Well, this is the worst time they could strike.”
“He makes $100 million a year [with an incentive bonus]‘ Arnold said. “We’re aware of that… and if things are so bad, why is he getting $100 million a year?
“I feel good that we have good people negotiating … and I’m also grateful that the higher earners in our unions are involved,” he said. “These are people who aren’t wealthy film studio bosses, but they don’t have to worry and that’s what we have to do – look after the new people and the people who are struggling and sometimes we have to sacrifice bring… hopefully.” This will all be resolved appropriately and we will all meet in the middle.
“I’m a single father – my kids are 7 and 10 – and I have four ex-wives, so I’ll have to work forever.”
“Underdeveloped” is Arnold’s entry into the mockumentary format. He plays Ralph, a studio boss who reluctantly hires his brother-in-law, Stan (Metcalf) – who has no experience but plenty of enthusiasm – to run one of the studio’s smaller divisions. Ralph sets Stan up with Joe (Anderson), who expected to get the job… and who harbors a huge resentment.
The cast of the ensemble comedy also includes David Koechner, Mark Pellegrino, David Henrie, Kelly Arjen (also executive producer), Samm Levine, Lulu Jovovich and Shelley Regner.
“Ralph is a big personality,” Arnold said. “He’s a bit like the big film and television studio bosses in real life – very seedy and a little bit greedy, and you can see that in the structure of the show.
“Greed is a big thing [in ‘Underdeveloped’] and there are some bosses who are despicable people,” he said. “Ralph believes it’s far better to recognize someone for their work than to pay them. It’s like, “You’re going to call the shots; You will not be paid as if you are in charge, but with the prestige that is in charge.
“I think a lot of bosses in a lot of places are trying to sell people that, ‘You don’t get the money or the title, but you’re going to be my guy.'”
Tom Arnold will also star in Lifetime’s upcoming (August 31) film trilogy, As Luck Would Have It, alongside Jackèe Harry and Mea Wilkerson.