“That’s three partners dead this week. It’s fucking Tuesday!”
When Josh Margolin ’11 and Quinn Beswick decided to collaborate on a web series, the concept they devised was nothing if not brutally blunt. Officer Ron Robinson, played by Margolin himself, is People Magazine’s “#1 Cop in America,” but he has one major problem: Every time he gets assigned a partner, they end up dying tragically, and often hilariously. Thus the series title, “New Partner.”
The headline in People reads, “Superstar Cop and Dead Partner Save 100 Kids!” and features a picture of Ron holding his partner in his arms, screaming in agony and more than a little exasperation at the inevitability of his situation. Indeed, “New Partner’s” first scene sets the tone for the series as Ron screams “fuck!” over and over again while cradling various detectives, their only crime being joining forces with a cop who will stop at nothing to bring justice to the streets.
Margolin and producer Charlie Alderman ’11 are hard at work in Los Angeles writing episodes of “New Partner” and plotting their domination of the television industry. Though they are now accustomed to the rigors of show business, they arrived in the industry by way of two very different paths, both of which were influenced by their time at Wesleyan.
“I was an English major very happily,” Alderman said. “I did not know I wanted to be involved in movies until deep into the second half of college. My thesis advisor was Sean McCann, who was terrific and incredibly helpful. He ripped up and tore apart ideas of mine [during] senior year and we literally corresponded every single day. Although I can’t draw a parallel between that experience and what I’m doing now, it set a standard for how hard I would have to work if I wanted to do creative work well.”
Margolin, who wanted to write and direct from his teens, found similar academic and creative support at Wesleyan, albeit in a different department.
“I came about it differently because I knew I’ve wanted to do this since maybe middle school or early high school,” Margolin said. “I transferred to [Wesleyan] as a sophomore and ended up majoring in theater and learned a ton about acting and directing through that program. Two people that I worked with who were really helpful to me were David Jaffe, my advisor, and Yuri Kordonsky. David and Yuri were very influential and memorable presences on campus.”
When asked about the inspiration behind “Partner,” Margolin noted that while the concept is blunt, it is nothing if not a unique and satirical take on an old comedic bit.
“I wrote ‘New Partner’ with my longtime buddy [Beswick],” Margolin said. “The initial conception was just an idea that we thought was really funny, which was about a cop whose partners keep getting killed and then every episode he would get a new partner and that partner would be murdered. We thought it was a simple but very fun and original concept that would lend itself well to a sustainable web series. It plays on such a familiar trope in the cop drama and could be so episodic in a fun way because it was a web series.”
“New Partner” immediately draws the viewer in with its light tone. Even through the grisly deaths of each of Ron’s partners, the show never takes an overly dark turn or strays from its blithe roots. One cannot help but love Ron, who Margolin and Beswick build as a blundering idiot with a certain boyish charm and enthusiasm. Anyone who’s been in a position of continuous failure can relate to Ron’s struggles.
Margolin approaches his job with genuine enthusiasm and seems to relish an opportunity to succeed in an industry long considered excellent at breaking down writers’ souls. When Margolin considered who would produce his series, he immediately called in fellow classmate Alderman. The two have known each other since college, but their partnership is relatively new.
“We knew each other peripherally at [Wesleyan],” Margolin said.
Though Margolin previously acted in two shows Alderman produced (“Chloe & Zoe” and “This Old Thing”), and Alderman was a fan of a Margolin’s webseries “Boychicks,” “New Partner” marks their first true collaboration.
“We’re totally post-college bros!” Alderman said.
Along with co-producer James Gallagher and Beswick, the crew turned “New Partner” into a real team effort.
“We all weighed in on different elements of the series and revised as a gang,” Margolin said.
One crucial decision they had to make was who would play the lead role of Officer Ron Robinson.
“It’s interesting because, weirdly enough, it’s something that I’ve done pretty frequently, written something that I’ve ended up being in as well,” Margolin said. “It wasn’t something I was overly conscious of while writing but would become more relevant in later drafts. I was thinking, ‘Well, okay, if I was doing this what would be the most comfortable way for me to approach this joke?’”
But when the group needed to consider possibilities for guest stars who would play Ron’s unlucky partner each episode, the more challenging deliberations began. One impressive aspect of the execution of “New Partner” is Margolin and Beswick’s ability to land guests who are often far more established then the creators themselves. One especially prestigious guest is Wayne Knight of “Seinfeld” fame, who plays Frankie Coppola, a distant relative of Francis Ford Coppola and a screenwriter following Ron around on the job in order to glean some wisdom about the detective lifestyle. Coppola pries open the layer of sensitivity behind Robinson’s bravado and peers deep into his soul.
Of course, just as the pair begins to bond, Coppola meets his demise in a disastrous gun accident. It is at this point in each episode, when Ron and his new partner reach a focal point in their relationship—teetering on bromance, or in the case of the third episode, true love—that things take a turn south.
Who would be their dream guest star, though? Margolin, for his part, went straight to the top of the comedic food chain.
“I feel like we got to say someone like Will Ferrell,” Margolin said. “But that’s a leap.”
As “New Partner” gains traction online, Margolin and Alderman are contemplating how they will use their web series as a springboard for future success.
“Basically after we gave the series to a few industry people we went out on some meetings with production companies, including a major cable channel, and we expected that they would want us to make more episodes of the series under their banner,” Alderman said. “It turned out that they all wanted to know what we were doing next. They didn’t want ‘New Partner,’ they wanted us to pitch them new ideas.”
If anything, the meetings were a reminder of the strange and convoluted path from self-produced online content to film and television.
“If any kid on campus is reading this and you make a web series that gets someone’s attention, have that next project ready,” Alderman said. “The web series infrastructure is a strange one. You just can’t make money. If you’re writing episodic web content you should be doing it with the intention of moving to another medium.”
Though “New Partner,” and the web series format in general, might seem like a stepping stone to more lucrative and fully realized work, Alderman and Margolin are focused on writing more episodes. Simultaneously, they will hone concepts that, they hope, will one day land them attention from major production companies. If “New Partner” is any indication, the duo is ready to take its brand of deliberate and buoyant humor to another, bigger screen.