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Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt on What Drew Them to Amazon Spoof Series ‘Comrade Detective’

Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a number of Romanian actors get together to make a television show. It almost sounds like the beginning of joke, and in a way, it is. Confused? We’ll explain.

Tatum, Gordon-Levitt, and their on-screen counterparts, Florin Piersic Jr. and Corneliu Ulici, premiered their new Amazon series, “Comrade Detective,” Thursday evening at the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood.

The series is a spoof of classic ’80s cop shows, but with a twist: it takes place in Communist Romania with an entirely Romanian cast. English overdubs are provided by Tatum, Gordon-Levitt, and an eclectic collection of other American actors, including Jenny Slate, Nick Offerman, Jason Mantzoukas, and Chloë Sevigny.

Writer and executive producer Alessandro Tanaka said the inspiration for the series came from his appreciation of 1980s films like “Red Dawn” and “Rocky IV.” “These movies that are like Hollywood entertainment, but also had this fiercely anti-Soviet propaganda angle to them,” he said. “We just thought well, what if we did a show that had the same sort of tropes and the same sort of action and that stuff, but it was behind the Iron Curtain, and it was fiercely pro-Communist?”

The producers shot the show in Romania and brought it to A24 and Tatum’s Free Association before selling it to Amazon. They emphasized how lucky they were that everyone who heard the pitch for “Comrade Detective” seemed to love it, including a wish list of actors like Fred Armisen, Daniel Craig, Mahershala Ali, and Kim Basinger, who also provide minor voiceovers.

Tatum, who said he enjoyed the concept as a reversal of the films he watched as a kid, brought longtime friend Gordon-Levitt on board. The two watched the show and recorded the voiceovers together, and Gordon-Levitt said he was surprised by the intensity of stars Ulici and Piersic.

“The actor that I was dubbing over, he gave this fantastic performance,”Gordon-Levitt said. “I walked in the first day thinking we were going to be making a spoof, and as soon as I saw the first scene between these two guys I was like ‘Oh no, no, no, these guys brought it, I guess I have to, too,’ which was a nice challenge. Actually, I think made it more fun.”

Although the series is billed as a comedy, it’s filmed as a real Romanian cop show, and Gordon-Levitt said he thinks audiences will be able to appreciate the series on multiple levels.

“There’s actually quite a lot of thoughtful satire in there about what it means to have a national identity, how propaganda works, how we often think we are always right and the bad guys are always wrong,” Gordon-Levitt said.

Tatum said he enjoyed watching the show so much without the English voiceovers that he lobbied Amazon to make the original version available to watch globally as well — it will air without voiceovers in Romania.

“Comrade Detective” is available to Amazon Prime subscribers in select markets on Friday.

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