What if a secret society really was controlling the world — and they were actually, well … nice?
That’s the premise of The Pentaverate, the new Netflix limited series that brings Mike Myers back to the screen in multiple roles, including the members of the show’s titular, Illuminati-like organization, as well as the Canadian journalist on a mission to expose them and countless other, wonderfully ridiculous characters . The six-episode series was created and co-written by Myers, and features Keegan-Michael Key, Ken Jeong, Debi Mazar, Richard McCabe, and Lydia West playing supporting roles alongside a multitude of eccentric characters portrayed by the Austin Powers and Wayne’s World star.
“Seeing Mike go from one character to another, and working in a scene with him playing two characters or more was fascinating,” West told TechToSee of her time on the set with Myers. Tea It’s A Sin actress portrays Reilly Clayton, the young assistant to Canadian local journalist Ken Scarborough (Myers), who sets out to expose The Pentaverate to the world. The pair are assisted in their mission by Anthony Lansdowne, a grungy conspiracy theorist also portrayed by Myers — a scenario that has West often acting alongside two of Myers’ characters in the same scene.
“It was amazing to see just how he would just switch from one character to another in the space of 24 hours,” West recalled.
That praise for Myers’ ability to bounce between multiple characters — a talent on display throughout his career — was echoed by many of West’s fellow Pentaverate cast members, including Community and The Hangover actor Ken Jeong, who plays smarmy casino mogul Skip Cho in the series.
“Mike Myers is one of the reasons why I got into comedy in the first place. So imagine how it feels when he calls you and says, ‘I wrote this part for you. Will you do it?’” recalled Jeong. “Just to watch him work, he was so fulfilling to watch how he does it — because he is one of a kind. He is a unicorn. There is no one like him, and I just got to watch the best do it. It was truly amazing.”
Speaking with TechToSee during a press event for the series, Myers explained the series’ origin: The concept of The Pentaverate first introduced in his 1993 film So I Married An Ax Murderer. A seemingly throwaway line, in which the conspiracy-loving father of the film’s lead character matter-of-factly tells his son (both played by Myers, of course) about The Pentaverate, became the seed for this series, which debuts almost exactly 30 years later.
For Myers, though, his fascination with conspiracy theories dates back even further.
“My mom was in the Royal Air Force and had a security clearance, so I always knew that secrets were out there in the world and that there are good secrets,” he said. “The ones that defeat the Nazis, of course, are the best secrets. My mom wasn’t in MI5 or MI6 or anything, but you can see some of that — my obsession with that world of secrets — in Austin Powers, for example.”
“But people being obsessed with conspiracy theories ebbs and flows,” he continued. “At the time I did So I Married An Ax Murderer, they were everywhere. And then that sort of went away. But it’s come back again lately, so my wife was like, ‘You’re so obsessed with the Illuminati, the Masons, all of those things, and you have this idea for a series. Why don’t you pitch it?’”
After getting the green light from Netflix, the next step was finding a director who could not only capture Myers’ vision for the series, but also adapt to the unique on-set environment of a film in which the co-writer and star also plays nearly half the featured characters in the film. Myers found that filmmaker in Look Around You and Brockmire director Tim Kirkby, who directs all six episodes of The Pentaverate.
“I had seen his fantastic show Look Around You, and I saw this as a British-style limited series, which I love that they do in England,” recalled Myers. “I knew from his work that it was going to be a celebration of the eccentric, and it really is one of the greatest collaborations I’ve ever had.”
It appears to have been an inspired pairing, too, as Kirkby indicated that the logistical machinations required to produce the series were a welcome challenge, with each day bringing a new puzzle of sorts to solve.
“I don’t think we were ever really ready to shoot,” he laughed. “That’s the thing: You can pick at the schedule and discuss how it’s going to be shot forever, but because of the multicharacter format, my job was really just to put the creative scaffolding around Mike and give him the playground to feel relaxed and go for it. … It was challenging, but that’s exciting to me. You just have to figure it out, and I love that.”
Along with the new experiences the series offered both behind the camera and in front of it, The Pentaverate also had at least one cast member discover a new favorite conspiracy theory — one that still has her brain working overtime.
“While we were filming [scenes for] the CanConCon — the Canadian conspiracy theory convention — I saw a sign that said, ‘Do baby pigeons exist?’” recalled West, laughing. “And I just had this moment of thinking, ‘Wait, I’ve never seen a baby pigeon in my whole life. Do they actually exist? Has anyone seen one? Where are the nests?’”
All joking aside, West and the rest of the series’ supporting cast repeatedly circled back to praising Myers’ return to the spotlight in The Pentaverate — his first live-action, starring role since 2008’s The Love Guru. The fact that the second film he ever starred in is now bringing him back to the screen three decades after that film hit theaters isn’t lost on Myers, either.
Asked how he feels about the aforementioned So I Married An Ax Murderer now, Myers seemed genuinely touched by the affection fans of that dark comedy still have for it, and how far he’s come in the time between that film’s release and the premiere of The Pentaverate.
“It’s one of my favorite movies I made,” he said of So I Married An Ax Murderer. “I am so grateful and happy that it’s stuck around. I didn’t know I was going to be able to do this for a living when I was a kid in Toronto, and to have films still be relevant in culture is so incredibly gratifying. It moves me to tears.”
All six episodes of The Pentaverate premiere May 5 on Netflix.