After “Chernobyl,” Craig Mazin expanded his creative partnerships, which required him to move offices in Old Town Pasadena to accommodate a growing staff. In addition to only being “essentially 13 minutes from my house,” Mazin says he likes that pocket of town because of the older architecture that often includes exposed brick. “It’s funky, and I don’t know how to write in a normal space,” he says. Not only does he work on scripts in the space, but he also tapes the “Scriptnotes” podcast there. “Things don’t really inspire me. I get inspired by ideas or people or puzzles,” he says.
NOT-SO-HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH
Greeting visitors proudly upon entering the office is an almost life-size, weather-worn Soviet version of Mickey Mouse that “Chernobyl” production designer Luke Hull commissioned for the HBO limited series. Inspired by a real-life photo the production team saw of a little Soviet boy standing next to one of these statues, Mazin was interested in using the imagery to punctuate that “even in a society where the Western world was demonized, they wanted a Mickey Mouse.” The other reason they put it in the show, he says, is because “there is something weirdly sad about the abandoned things there,” and such a statue is a less cliche, “unobviously sad thing: a Mickey Mouse that will be forever alone; there will be no children standing beside it.” This is one of only two set pieces from the show that Mazin kept; the other is the recreated piece of the control board with the AZ-5 button that ultimately triggered the nuclear explosion.
Mazin doesn’t consider himself a sentimentalist. In fact, he says, he has spent more time in his life “thinking about what’s ahead” than hanging onto things from his past. But, as he’s gotten older, he’s been trying to find “small but meaningful” things from his younger days to save. Enter the Apple IIe and Franklin Ace 1000 computers he keeps stacked on a shelf across from his desk, perfectly in his eye-line. They evoke the memory of traveling with his dad into Manhattan when he was 12 years old to buy the Franklin Ace 1000 (because it was the “cheaper, rip-off” of the Apple). “I used that thing constantly,” he says. “I taught myself to program, and I would play games on it, and I would get magazines and learn tricks.” Although his original device is long gone, Mazin found one on eBay not too long ago for the low, low price of “$1 and about $20 in shipping” and knew he just had to have it.
A father of two, Mazin has a photo of his daughter set as his phone’s wallpaper, but he keeps a physical copy of a photo of him and his son, Jack, on his desk. The photo, which his wife took, captures father and son wearing raincoats and stopped on the sidewalk with their heads tilted to marvel at something hidden in the frame. “It wasn’t anything we posed,” he says. “What strikes me is how we are exactly the same. It just drives home how we replicate ourselves. I feel like, as we look to connect to things in the past, with kids we’re already connected to the future.”
BOY’S BEST FRIEND
Mazin’s childhood dog was a beagle named Woofie, whom he calls his “first love.” He doesn’t remember why he cemented Woofie’s paw in plaster of Paris, but he is certainly glad he did, as he keeps that memento in a prime position on his desk but often also finds himself picking it up and just holding it. “I’m naturally a Marie Kondo person. Before Marie Kondo came along, I was just the guy throwing shit out, but it’s funny because that’s one of the things that I always know where it is,” he says.
KEEPING COMEDY ROOTS CLOSE
Working with David Zucker (of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker aka ZAZ) on “Scary Movie 3” and “Scary Movie 4” is still a highlight of Mazin’s career, as he was a big fan of movies “Airplane!” and “Top Secret!” (both of which Zucker co-wrote and co-directed). Zucker had a large bulletin board in his office that opens outward to reveal more bulletin boards inside, and when he was moving offices he just planned to put it in storage, but Mazin asked if he could have it instead. “It’s the bulletin board, that they used dating back, I think, to ‘Airplane!’ but certainly to ‘Naked Gun.’ It’s just a bulletin board to them, but to me it’s film history.”