Originally, David Wain was merely supposed to lay down some quick sample dialogue for a demo pilot an animator friend was working on. "I thought I was just doing a favor," Wain recalls. Four seasons later, though, he's still voicing The Warden on Adult Swim's classically weird animated series Superjail!, about a prison in another dimension where the line between inmate and officer — and reality and fantasy — gets a little blurry sometimes. Season 4 premieres Sunday, June 15 at 11:45/10:45c on Cartoon Network, so Wain took time out from breaking the next season of Adult Swim's live-action Childrens Hospital, where he's an executive producer and sometime actor (he's played himself and a character called "Rabbi Jewey McJewJew"), to talk Superjail! and the myriad other projects he's involved in. (Stay tuned for an exclusive clip of the mercurial Warden in action below the interview.)
TV Guide Magazine: Given that you're a writer and director yourself, do you ever find yourself offering more than just line readings for Superjail!?
David Wain: I've contributed within the box of what I'm doing. The truth is I love the fact that reading's the only thing I'm involved in, because with other things, I sort of oversee every aspect from beginning to end. This is great because I just come in, I am this character, and I deliver with all my gusto what this character has to do. But [the producers] are the ones doing all the figuring out and plotting and visuals, so it's fun to just come in and do my one little piece. I'll give little suggestions, little improvs along the way, but it's really their vision.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you have a favorite little bit that's made the cut?
Wain: Well, whenever they ask me to sing, I love that. I'm a big frustrated in-the-shower singer. I feel like I've done every reading that's possible on that show — I'm always screaming or getting hit or falling, there's every kind of effort. And sometimes at the end of a recording session they'll just say, "Okay, now we just need seven screams to last us through the middle of the season. Now cry. Now shriek."
TV Guide Magazine: Voiceover work doesn't necessarily take that long, but how do you juggle everything — Childrens Hospital, Newsreaders, all your feature film work?
Wain: It's incredibly, incredibly hard. And Superjail! is a great example. There was a time, I was in Atlanta, shooting Wanderlust, and I would go to a recording studio to do lines from 6-7 a.m. and then go right to set to shoot the movie. I do a lot of that kind of thing. But these are high-class problems to have — I don't sweat it too much. There's a lot of shifting gears during the day, like, "Oh, this project," "Oh, that project."
At the same time, changing gears suits me anyway, because I can get bored doing the same thing. I'm sort of the classic ADD personality: I love sitting by myself with my computer and trying to figure out a thorny problem with a script for a day, but then on the next day going to set and trying to figure out how to organize 100 people into an army, and another day I'm in an edit room with five people.
TV Guide Magazine: Where are you guys in planning the next season of Childrens?
Wain: We're in the process of trying to complete work on 14 episode scripts. Childrens Hospital is a very hard show to make, because even though episodes are only a quarter of an hour long, we try to pack in as much plot and dense jokes as you would into an hourlong, and in each episode we kind of reinvent the show as well. So it's a lot of work, but it's fun work.
TV Guide Magazine: Will we be seeing Rabbi Jewey McJewJew?
Wain: The Rabbi will be returning in at least one or two episodes!
TV Guide Magazine: You've popped up as a director for other comedies, like New Girl. Are there other current shows you'd like to get involved in?
Wain: You know, I think I might direct an episode of this show A to Z, coming up on NBC. So that's exciting. And I did a pilot this last season for NBC called Old Soul, produced by Amy Poehler and with Natasha Lyonne, which was a really wonderful, amazing experience, but they unfortunately didn't pick it up.
TV Guide Magazine: That's a bummer, that sounds like a good group.
Wain: It was disappointing.
TV Guide Magazine: Though these days there are all sorts of other possible platforms.
Wain: I do love that there's so many venues and so many places to do things, that there's a continually growing appetite for different kinds of programming and different media. So it's a good time to be exploring.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of, there are all these rumors of you and Netflix possibly turning Wet Hot American Summer into a series.
Wain: I can't comment on that. [Laughs]