Ken Marino and June Diane Raphael Talk About ‘Burning Love’

Ken Marino directs and stars in the web series Burning Love which features a cast of well-known comedic actors including Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Ken Jeong, Adam Scott, Michael Ian Black, and Paul Scheer. Putting in cameos in this hysterical spoof of The Bachelor are Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller, with Stiller executive producing through his Red Hour company.

The web series finds Marino playing Mark Orlando, a fireman who is faced with having to choose between 16 beautiful women vying for his affection. The lovely ladies who are chosen to remain in the competition receive Mark’s ‘hose’ during a special ceremony held at the conclusion of each episode.

Teaming up with one of his potential love interests from the series, June Diane Raphael, Marino discussed the cast, how the length of each episode was determined, and whether we might be treated to a sequel.

Inside Burning Love with Ken Marino and June Diane Raphael

Why were you interested in doing a digital series?

Ken Marino:  “It just felt like the way to get this done the fastest and the easiest way would be to write up a pitch, shoot like a sizzle reel, and then try to sell it to the web because we just felt that was the quickest way to get a greenlight on it and to shoot it.. We knew that the sacrifice was you’re not going to get paid a lot but you’re going to have a lot of creative freedom and a lot of control over it. So that

was kind of the main reason we did it.”

June Diane Raphael:  “Most of the people believed in the 90-second trailer or however long that was, this short little trailer they shot.”

Ken Marino:  “That was basically our pilot. We shot a sizzle reel like a one day.”

That you directed?

Ken Marino:  “Yeah. It was basically like a long teaser trailer for the season.  So we shot that, and then that was our calling card to all these companies. And then that’s when Yahoo bought it, and then we wrote a whole season – or Erica [Oyama] wrote it.”

Was it a tough sale or did Yahoo jump on board right away?

Ken Marino:  “As soon as they saw the sizzle reel, it was a very easy sale.”

June Diane Raphael: “And as soon as that I was in it…”

Ken Marino: “Right. As soon as they saw that June was in it, they were like, ‘Sold.'”

It’s a no-brainer.

Ken Marino:  “It is what it is. You’re not full of yourself, or anything like that. Those are the facts.”

June Diane Raphael: “No, I just think it’s important for people to know.”

The script is really smart, but this group likes to improvise.

Ken Marino:  “The script was really, really funny and smart. Erica Oyama, my wife, wrote it. And, you know, when you hire comedians who a lot of them their specialty is improv, it would be silly not to then get the text and then kind of play with it.  But I would say a lot of what’s in there is scripted and then yeah, there are fun little magical moments that you can only get when you’re shooting that an actor comes up with, or two actors when they’re just talking to each other. That definitely happened on set as well.”

June Diane Raphael: “Although I do feel because we were shooting so quickly in just eight days…”

Ken Marino: “We actually shot an extra ninth day because we couldn’t get some people for some of the jokes and so we had to kind of schedule it separately.”

June Diane Raphael: ” Yeah, because it was such a condensed production schedule and Erica Oyama’s script was so good already, and the jokes were so strong, there was some improvising, but not all, all that much. There didn’t need to be. It was making what was already good, just having fun with it, but the script already came in so strong.”

Ken Marino: “There are scenes where it was just the visual of somebody leaving and we would shoot people talking. So, yeah, you would get stuff.”

Is it difficult to direct yourself?

Ken Marino:  “No, I like it. I like it because I know what I want to get and I’ve been doing it enough to not get in my own head about like, ‘Is that a good idea? Is that a bad idea?’   There’s a freedom to directing yourself because you’re like, ‘Well, I’m not going to look stupid in front of the director – I am the director.’ There’s also shorthand where I don’t have to go up to myself and be like, ‘Okay, so, what we’re really going for is maybe just bring it down 20%.’ I can really just make those adjustments on the fly throughout.”

June Diane Raphael:  “You were giving yourself a lot of positive feedback along the way, though.”

Ken Marino: “I was giving myself an enormous amount of positive feedback, but I feel like I deserved it.”

How far could you actually push the humor for an online? Is there much that we didn’t see?

June Diane Raphael:   “No. I mean I think there was stuff shot obviously that didn’t make it in for time, but I don’t know if that was because of content.”

Ken Marino: “Anything if it was funny and it was tonally right, then it stayed in. If it was too dark or too mean-spirited…and basically it was Erica and I gauging that.  I tend to sometimes do stuff that’s a little maybe sometimes it gets too juvenile or too fratboy or whatever.  I would pull those things out because that’s not the tone of the piece. Or it would just be like jokes in poor taste. They were funny, but for this show we were like, ‘It’s not right,’ so we would pull them out.”

Why do you think there aren’t more web series such as this? It worked – people like watching it at their own convenience.

Ken Marino: “I think it’s hard to find shows on the web and then we got very lucky with Yahoo because Yahoo is this gigantic company that was  totally behind it. We were with Red Hour and Abominable – that’s [Ben]  Stiller’s company and John Stern’s company – and everybody was completely behind it and pushing it, and so when you have somebody like Ben Stiller doing a cameo in it and Jennifer Aniston and different people like that, that helps get exposure. I think people do it because it’s a great place creatively, but you’re not going to make a living doing web series. It’s something you have to bounce back and forth between doing.”

June Diane Raphael: “If I may, I think a lot of the women who signed on to do it for those eight days, Ken and Erica have an amazing reputation and are friends with. Most of us knew each other and were friends that worked together before on so many things we loved to do, so the idea of coming to work to play with your friends for eight days is very enticing.”

Ken Marino: “And actors just want to have a good time and have fun and do fun characters. The one nice thing about the internet or this type of show is sometimes you’re very busy and you’re juggling a lot of things, but if you can come in for four days and shoot something, most actors that I know and are friends with, they’re like, ‘Hell yeah, I’ll come in.’ And the ones that don’t, that say ‘no’ to me are dead to me.”

I do have one complaint about the series. It’s too short. I would have liked to have seen longer episodes.

Ken Marino:  “You know what’s funny, when we shot it, the thing was nobody has the attention span… The mantra, the thing that I kept hearing was like have it be five minute episodes because nobody has the attention span to watch something longer on the internet. And when we got it and I started editing it, I was like, ‘Guys, there’s absolutely no way this can be five minutes.'”

“If you’re trying to create the tone of a show like that, the magic of it is those little moments in between and like the drawn out drama. We condensed that a lot, but like the hose ceremony alone could be 15 minutes, you know?”

June Diane Raphael: “And there are certain characters who you are watching and you really want to see them play through and kind of breathe a little bit. You could never have done that in five minutes.”

Ken Marino: “So, what was nice is we’re doing probably 8-10 minute episodes. That’s what it is now.”

15 minutes would have been great.

Ken Marino:  “Well, you know, we have the footage to do it. Maybe with success of this show, we’ll have the opportunity to go back in and do a longer version for somebody else.”

Why is the lead character a firefighter?

Ken Marino: “My wife thought it was a good title and a good character.”

June Diane Raphael: “We feel like these guys are always… I mean that’s the joke with the Bachelorette series is that if any man has that amount of time to take off from a job to shoot for six to eight weeks, they are not making any sort of money.  This is not somebody you would ever want to end up with.”

Ken Marino:  “It used to be like they were millionaires.”

June Diane Raphael: “Not anymore.”

Ken Marino: “Now they’re just like dudes, guys with abs.”

Given that Mark’s a firefighter, was there ever any thought given to having him wear a mustache?

Ken Marino:  “Mustaches on those shows don’t really pop up that often.”

But a lot of firefighters do have them.

Ken Marino:  “They do, but there are a lot of… I mean, I’m going to push back and say there are a lot of firefighters without mustaches and Mark was based on those guys.”

Have you heard anything from real firefighters regarding the series?

Ken Marino: “I haven’t spoken to any firefighters about it. [Laughing] I mean, when I did my research, of course, my six months of intensive research on firefighters, I didn’t tell them what I was doing.”

June Diane Raphael:  “How do you think that Mark got the go-ahead to take that amount of time off from the station?”

Ken Marino:  “He left a note. ‘I’ll be right back., I’ve got to do a couple of things to do.'”

Is there one character you wish you could have featured more?

June Diane Raphael: [Staring at Ken] “That’s a good question.”

Ken Marino: “There were so many talented women on the show, it’s hard to say. I mean, June…I feel like we played her out, we played out her character.”

June Diane Raphael: “I get it, though, because you want the other girls to feel okay and feel like they’re [important]. I get why he did that.”

Ken Marino:  “You know what was crazy is I agree, I think you could have done four hours of content. The girls are so cool. I mean like June’s character, like everyone, even though we had such a small amount of time, all the women got their moment to shine. I feel like my wife and I did a decent job of at least giving everybody their moment, and then every woman in it came to play because they were all super wonderful.”

June Diane Raphael:  “And I do feel like behind the scenes it’s probably the opposite of what goes on in The Bachelor house because the girls – we were all together in one room – could not have had more fun, could not have loved each other more, in fact couldn’t have been more supportive of everyone. The exact opposite of what you find on that show.”

Ken Marino:  “June’s character, Lexi’s character, crazy Lexi, I wish there was more Malin [Akerman]. I wish there was more Kristen Bell, you know? I mean all of them, there were so many characters. Agnes, my God, I wish we could have done more with Agnes.”

What do you have planned for the sequel?

Ken Marino: “We’re hoping to do a Bachelorette follow-up and we will see if that comes to fruition.”

Will you be in it?

June Diane Raphael: “I don’t know. We shall see.”

Will you be directing the sequel?

Ken Marino: “Yes, I will be directing.”

And will you just be behind the scenes this time? Will we have to do without your firefighter uniform?

Ken Marino: “You know, Erica has not written it. We’ve talked about it. Mark may show up to give advice. Maybe not. We’ll see what happens.”

June Diane Raphael: “Sage advice.”