Tim Meadows mixes live-action, animation in FOX’s ‘Son of Zorn’

September 22, 2023 | (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — When D.C. folks hear the name “Zorn,” they recall former Washington Redskins football coach Jim Zorn, who left after a 12-20 record.

But Tim Meadows said his new TV show “Son of Zorn” doesn’t mess around with Jim.

“It is not about Jim Zorn, I guarantee it,” Meadows told WTOP, laughing at the connection. “Not the same guy. This guy’s a barbarian. I don’t know about Jim Zorn. No Jim Zorn, I promise.”

Still, the FOX comedy is taking full advantage of having NFL Opening Sunday as its lead-in, premiering at 8:30 p.m. after the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants square off at 4:25 p.m.

“We come on after a doubleheader football game, so it will be exciting,” Meadows said. “I love football, so I’ll be watching the game and our show.”

The premise is fascinating, blending live-action with animation for an off-the-wall comedy.

“Zorn (Jason Sudeikis) is a conqueror, this warlord in Zephyria, an all-animated country in the South Pacific,” Meadows said. “He had been married to a live-action person and had a son with this woman, who is played by Cheryl Hines. They got divorced and he moved back to Zephyria, but he realizes he wants to reconnect with his son and his ex-wife, so he moves back to Orange County and takes a job.”

Twenty-eight years after Robert Zemeckis mixed live-action Hollywood with Toontown animation in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988), the humans in “Zorn” are well aware of their cartoon peers.

“We know that this country Zephyria exists,” Meadows said. “We’re not surprised when we see these animated characters walking around the streets of Orange County. We all know they exist, but we don’t see them all the time. Their culture is completely different from ours, so it’s like this fish-out-of-water story line, but it’s also about family, trying to reconnect, and father-and-son relationships.”

Meadows gets the juicy role of the live-action “other man.”

“I play the fiancee of Cheryl Hines,” Meadows said. “Zorn thinks it’s going to be really easy to win back his ex-wife’s love, but he soon realizes that she really is in love with this character that I play. My character is the exact opposite of Zorn. I’m not a fighter, I like to talk my problems through, I’m a little bit wimpy, but I become a father figure to Alan (Johnny Pemberton), his son, and his ex-wife loves me.”

This bizarre love triangle pits Meadows and Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) against the always hilarious Sudeikis, a kindred spirit that Meadows met during a return trip to “Saturday Night Live.”

“When I went to ‘Saturday Night Live’ to visit, I sort of hung around one Thursday at a rewrite meeting and sat in … and threw out ideas and stuff and Jason and I hit it off,” Meadows said. “We would keep in touch here and there after that. So, when the opportunity came up to work on this show with him, I jumped at it because I really do like him as a person as well as a performer,” he said.

While Sudeikis was a “SNL” regular from 2003-2013, Meadows had his own hilarious run from 1991-2000, after catching Lorne Michaels’ eye alongside Chris Farley at Second City in Chicago.

“‘Saturday Night Live’ came to see me perform at Second City over a couple of years,” Meadows said. “They were really coming to see Farley. He was the standout performer in our cast. They kept coming to see him, but I was in a lot of scenes with Chris because we were good friends and we improvised and wrote scenes together. So they brought me to New York to meet Lorne Michaels.”

What started as a writing gig suddenly became a lot more.

“I just met with him. I didn’t audition or do anything,” Meadows said. “I think in the beginning they just wanted me to come on as a writer. Then halfway between the time that they offered the job and the time I got to New York, they said they also wanted me to be on camera. So I got away with not auditioning, which was great, ’cause I don’t think I would have got the job if I had to audition.”

From that point on, Meadows’ life was forever changed.

“It was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me,” he said. “I thought getting hired at Second City’s main stage was big, and then that happened with ‘SNL’ and it was just mind-blowing. It took me a while to believe it was happening and accept that it was my life. I just felt like I had pulled one over on everybody. I was like, ‘I fooled them! They’ll never know it’s just me, Tim Meadows!'”

The rest of us are grateful that he “fooled them,” sparking a decade of memorable characters, most notably his sexier-than-thou “Ladies’ Man” Leon Phelps, who got his own 2000 movie.

“People love the Ladies Man character,” he said. “It’s one of my most proud contributions to comedy.”

So how would the Ladies Man describe “Zorn?”

“Listen, ‘Son of Zorn’ is an animated show, which I love. I love cartoons so much,” Meadows said in his signature lisping voice. “I just wish it was sexier. That’s the only thing I can say about the Zorn.”

Turns out, the Ladies Man has a thing for animated ladies.

“If I had my choice of animated characters that I would like to [romance] it would be Veronica and Betty from the Archie Comics,” he said. “They are drawn so beautifully. I would actually like to have them both at the same time, if that could be arranged. I don’t know if you can talk to somebody?”

For now, Meadows will have to stick with a live-action Hines in “Son of Zorn.”

“You’ve never seen anything like it,” Meadows said of the show. “It’s a completely different type of show. It’s funny. It has a heart. It’s weird. It’s alternative. It’s edgy. I just want people to watch; I think they’re gonna love it.”

Listen to the full conversation with Tim Meadows below:

September 22, 2023 | (Jason Fraley)
September 22, 2023 | (Jason Fraley)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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