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'So much story' for cult comedy reboot

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Actor Michael Cera of Arrested Development.

DEREK MORTENSEN / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Actor Michael Cera of Arrested Development.

TORONTO -- A tight-lipped Michael Cera is willing to offer only two measly crumbs to Arrested Development fans clamouring for details on the long-awaited revival: Buster and his remaining appendages survive that second seal attack and the Maeby/George-Michael saga continues.

But devoted followers will have to catch the Netflix rebirth this weekend to learn the big surprises, says the laid-back Canuck co-star, who adds that his favourite storyline involves an "amazingly bizarre" plot for Will Arnett's misguided magician character, G.O.B.

"There's so much story for every character," a frizzy-headed Cera said during a recent promotional stop in Toronto.

It all picks up six years after the short-lived series went off the air, with the original sprawling cast including Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Tony Hale and David Cross back for 15 more episodes centred on the woe-begotten Bluth family.

So far, creator Mitch Hurwitz has been surprisingly effective at keeping plot details under wraps while nevertheless stoking the ardour of faithful fans, whose lingering devotion years after the sitcom's demise spurred Netflix to attempt a reboot.

Cera, whose character George-Michael is now in college, says it was strange to be back on set again after so much time apart.

"It was surreal, and it was emotional, overwhelming. Especially the first time we were all together -- which was only basically twice," he says, noting that most of his first day was spent shooting with Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth -- George-Michael's father and the dysfunctional family's (mostly) level-headed conciliator.

"I was 14 when we started, so being 24 (now) and being around these people and not having to go and do school in between takes and being able to hang out and relate on a different level with everyone and watching them all go back into their characters in a scene where we were all together, watching all the characters watching everyone find their characters again, it was really bizarre and special."

This time around, Cera also got to sit in the writers' room and help craft the new escapades -- a dream come true for the wannabe scribe who kept his comedy chops sharp with online gags for funnyordie and Burning Love.

He says Hurwitz invited to him hang out in the writers' room a year before production started, just to get a feel for things. Cera ended up staying much longer.

"It was such a generous thing to offer and just to be in there for a day was a huge treat for me," says Cera, who springboarded from 2006's Arrested Development finale to a string of big screen leading roles including 2007's Juno and Superbad, 2008's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

"I grew up working on this show and those guys in the writers room were always 'The Guys,' you know. They were the coolest guys and it seemed like the coolest job and so it was a very cool thing for him to have offered me. And then I went in for a day and he extended the invitation to come back in the next day. And I kept coming in every day that week and at the end of the week he said, 'I want to put you on the staff.'"

By this time, Hurwitz and his crew had already been plotting the story for several months so Cera says he can't lay claim to specific plot lines.

But from the moment he jumped into the fray, he was impressed with the ambitious scope of this unofficial fourth season.

"I came in and looked at this wall that looked like a murder investigation -- just cue cards (all over) the wall and yarn," he recalls.

This batch of episodes won't play out like a traditional broadcast series, says Cera, noting it follows an anthology-like format that is particularly suited to on-demand online streaming.

Because the entire gang couldn't be wrangled at one time, each episode tells the story from a different character's point of view, tracing the adventures of a particular Bluth over the last several years, with other characters popping in and out in their own parallel storyline.

Cera says the episodes work together to trace a cohesive story arc but also refer to each other in a complicated web that demands repeated viewing.

"I think you would want to watch them in order the first time because there is a story arc," he says of the episodes, also intended to serve as a set-up for a still-hoped-for feature-length movie.

"But then I think you could go back and rewatch the whole show and you would have all this new information that would make new jokes make sense. You would see something in episode 1 that would seem like a perfectly sensible line and then after seeing the whole series you would go back and realize there's a whole other layer of comedy."

While Cera has begun diversifying his healthy movie career with ever-more avant-garde fare, he says he's happy to be mainly known for playing the sweet-natured George-Michael.

"It's something I'm very proud to have been a part of," he says.

All 15 new episodes of Arrested Development will be released Sunday on Netflix.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2013 D5

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Updated on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 10:36 AM CDT: adds fact box

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