That said, the fact that Early’s work is only now finding its way into the mainstream is a downright shame. The gay actor-comedian, 28, has been eliciting howls on the national stand-up circuit for years. He’s also brought his signature wit to television in “Broad City” and “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” and stole scenes on the big screen with small roles in “Other People” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.”
But it’s “Search Party,” TBS’s binge-worthy new series, that’s giving Early his well-deserved breakout. The 10-episode comedy-thriller, which premiered Nov. 21 and is available for streaming in its entirety, skewers the type of Brooklyn-dwelling millennial culture of HBO’s “Girls” and tips its hat to the scares of “Stranger Things” while weaving in “Serial”-style suspense. In the show, the Tennessee native stars as Elliott, a sassy, self-involved New York fashion plate-turned-charity founder who, along with three friends, finds himself entangled in the mysterious disappearance of a college classmate he barely knew.
Watch a clip of Early in “Search Party” and continue reading below.
Even though Early has a field day delivering Elliott’s cheeky one-liners and eye rolls, he sees the role as a departure from his previous work. “I like to play very nervous characters who can’t string a sentence together, or who are always trying to control the moment, because it’s very easy for me to access,” Early, who described himself as “very nervous” in his offscreen life, told The Huffington Post. “Elliott is extremely confident, especially when he’s around his friends. He’s not afraid to have a sour opinion about things, and I just found that extremely liberating — to play someone who’s not constantly trying to maintain a facade.”
It would be easy to dismiss the character as the show’s comic relief — the tried-and-true, classic sitcom “gay sidekick,” if you will — in the first few episodes of “Search Party.” But Elliott’s dark side emerges in the show’s final episodes, and the revelation is so deplorable, it’s amazing that his boyfriend, Marc (played by Jeffery Self), and pals Dory (Alia Shawkat), Drew (John Reynolds) and Portia (Meredith Hagner) don’t disown him on the spot.
Acknowledging that Elliott “does some things that are purely for his image and not for the good of others,” Early sees the character’s less-than-savory attributes as a way of keeping him grounded in reality. “He has this really great philosophy, which is that lying and playing dirty is the only way to exist in the world. It’s just a part of being alive,” he said. “If you think you can be totally pure and totally good in your quest for meaning, then you’re naive.”
With “Search Party” riding a wave of buzz, Early hopes fans will also take the time to check out a lesser-known Netflix series, “The Characters,” released in March. He wrote and starred in a “Characters” episode, and said it’s the project he’s most proud of to date. Having written his own stand-up material for years, he relished being involved behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera.
Early told HuffPost he has no qualms about continuing to represent queer lives on stage and on screen. That dedication, in part, nabbed him a spot on this year’s the OUT 100, Out magazine’s annual list of the 100 most compelling LGBTQ people in the world. And whether or not a second season of “Search Party” gets the green light, however, Early vowed to “keep daring” himself moving forward. “All I can do is stay true to my own sensibility,” he said, “and stay away from projects that I feel are not helpful to the queer community.”
It’s safe to say we’ll be watching!