By Barb Oates
You know that awkward, unnerving feeling when your company announces a new CEO? No matter where you sit on that corporate ladder, you just never know if your job is secure. NBC’s new laugher American Auto pokes fun at that terrifying transition along with all the kookiness of corporate culture.
Creator Justin Spitzer follows up his successful Superstore, hilariously touching on hot topics companies typically try to stay clear of. SNL‘s Ana Gasteyer portrays Katherine, the brash new CEO of Detroit’s Payne Motors, who doesn’t know a thing about cars (heck, the lady can’t even drive!) but relies heavily on her eccentric team of executives. Coming from a Big Pharma background, Katherine fumbles at almost every turn trying to save face and keep the business alive. Harriet Dyer, Jon Barinholtz, Humphrey Ker, Michael B. Washington, Tye White and X Mayo costar with Gasteyer.
NBC will re-air a preview of American Auto‘s second episode, “White Van,” this Tuesday, Dec. 28. In that installment, Gasteyer’s Katherine deals with the PR fallout of a serial killer driving a Payne, while Jack (White) tries to figure out his role in the company. The series will then begin airing new episodes regularly on Tuesdays starting with the third episode on Jan. 4.
Ahead of that, we caught up with Gasteyer to talk about American Auto:
What excited you about playing Katherine?
Ana Gasteyer: What I love from a comedic standpoint is any time that somebody has to save face. She wants money, and she’s very clear about the fact that she doesn’t have particularly strong moral fibers. But she at the same time really wants to succeed, and she doesn’t want people to see her as a failure. So, it’s super fun just to play that balance all the time on the show.
Katherine previously led a Big Pharma company, so what, if anything, is she good at?
I definitely think she’s very comfortable with authority, very comfortable with leading. CEOs are kind of ADD by nature, so you have to split tasks at an incredible pace and rate. I think she’s probably pretty good at that at the end of the day. But she is in over her head; she does not know anything about cars, and that is a little bit of an overstep on her part.
Can you give us a tease to an upcoming episode [this month] that you really like?
I feel like the show is about Americans being really bad about being good. Just trying to do the right thing, but not really effectively, because they are too conflicted by everything from greed to selfishness. And Episode 5 (Jan. 18) really, really, really gets right in the middle of that conversation about how companies put their money where their mouth is in terms of social causes and things like that. It’s really fun.
Are you a car person?
I live in New York City, so by nature I just find cars annoying here. I’d much prefer to take the subway. It’s faster and it’s just more efficient, and I have more time to get stuff done. And I hate sitting in the back of a taxi or an Uber almost more than anything in the world because I get carsick. We own a car, but again, because I live in New York, it’s just something you forget about. So, I’m terrible. I don’t really know the details.
Do you know how to drive?
I do know how to drive, and I actually know how to drive stick, which I think is a dying breed. I learned to drive in the ’80s, and my mom always wanted me to drive stick so that I could get out of any unpleasant situation if my boyfriend was drunk or something and I had to drive myself home.