“The League” creators Jeff and Jackie Schaffer can’t believe their luck when it comes to the number of athletes who are begging to appear on their hit FX show. “People we cannot have ever imagined would have approached us to be on the show are now coming to us to say they want to be on the show,” says Jackie. “So we feel like the players must have embraced it or that wouldn’t be happening.”
Professional athletes aren’t the only ones who have embraced the show which centers on a group of men whose fantasy football league is at the center of their lives and friendship. The stars of the show include some very familiar faces that audiences will recognize immediately. According to Jackie, “Every person that we got was the first person that we wanted for the role.”
Those lucky catches include stand-up comics Nick Kroll as the weasely Ruxin; Jon Lajoie as the space cadet and ladies’ man Taco; and Paul Scheer as Andre, the winner of last year’s league. Also in the cast is actor/writer/director Mark Duplass who plays Pete, possibly the only sane member of the group. What makes the show and cast so entertaining is that Jeff and Jackie prefer a non-scripted style of performance for their actors. “That’s the beauty of the semi-improvised nature of the show,” Jeff points out. “It’s ‘Hey, here’s a funny script,’ then we’ve got these amazingly, amazingly talented performers that are bringing so much to the characters in every scene.”
Season Two premiered on September 16 with a guest appearance by Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver Chad Ochocinco who chaperones the group through their fantasy draft in Las Vegas. This season will have many more guest stars including the Cleveland Browns’ Josh Cribbs, the Baltimore Ravens Terrell Suggs, as well as FantasyGuru.com’s John Hansen and Adam Caplan. According to the creators, Hansen and Caplan might have been the guests the cast and crew were most excited to have on set. “The Fantasy Guru did come on set and he was the prettiest girl at the dance,” Jeff jokes. “Everybody on our show from the cast to the hair and make-up girls are in [fantasy] leagues. So they were just getting bombarded with questions from the minute they walked in.”
Jeff and Jackie admit that they draw a lot of the show’s stories from real life. “The challenge,” Jeff says, “to make this particularly interesting to an audiences was to make it as relatable as possible. That meant taking stories from our own fantasy leagues and blowing them up with our characters. Everybody recognizes someone on the show. The go ‘I have a Ruxin’ or ‘My league has an Andre who is never going to win.’” That sense of familiarity is why the show connects so well not only to sports fans but to anyone with a group of obnoxious friends.