In his new comedy series Making History, Adam Pally discovers that escaping the mundane is simple when you have a time machine. As Dan, a college facilities manager, he routinely goes back to 1775, where he has a girlfriend ( Leighton Meester) and easily impresses townspeople with song lyrics and lines from 21st-century blockbusters.
When the cameras aren’t rolling, the actor, known for hilarious roles on Happy Endings and The Mindy Project, is only looking toward the future. We sat down with the star, 34, and learned why his new gig is like a crash course in history and what his children think of his comedy skills.
Did you ever study history? No, I’m the worst student ever. It’s kind of fun to get the scripts and see that I’m going to be learning history along with everyone watching. [If something was historically inaccurate] I could never be confident enough that I would be right to point it out.
If you could go back to any point in your life, which would it be? It would be fun to be 19 again and sailing through life. But I’m really lucky and I really like where I am right now. It’s nice to be a dad [to Cole, 5, and GG, 3].
Do your kids think you’re funny? I think so. I’m not like Patch Adams, but I think they think I’m funny.
In the show, you go back in time and are able to charm Leighton’s character by singing Celine Dion songs. Are you one for grand gestures in your own life? I’m trying to think of a big gift or something that I once bought. I think asking my wife [Daniella Liben] to marry me is the biggest. That was good but it wasn’t very impressive, it was in an elevator.
Would your wife say that you’re like any of your characters? Probably not. I would think there is a little of me in all of them. But I think she would say that I’m a little more laidback than most of my characters tend to be.
Why do you think Making History is timely? I think if you are at all interested in what’s going on with American politics, then this show is very pertinent at the moment. As we explore the way the country was founded, we’re kind of looking at the way it hopefully doesn’t fall apart. So if you’re at all interested in what’s going on, I think you’re going to find this show really spot on.
Your character, Peter, recently returned to The Mindy Project. Did you watch the show before you were on it? My wife was a big fan and she brought it to my attention. So I watched it with her sometimes. Then when I was on it regularly, I watched religiously because I’m a narcissist.
How did you and Mindy Kaling first meet? [Laughs] I first met Mindy in New York forever ago. She was doing a play downtown called Matt & Ben. But I met her again when I started on her show. I met her and was thrown right away into working with her. She was nervous that I looked too young [in character] so she changed my wardrobe. I was like, “Oh, she’s amazing. She’s in control of everything.” It’s cool.
Let’s talk about Happy Endings. Did you realize the show had such a devoted following while you were making it? I think we didn’t know really until Vulture Fest [where the cast reunited for a panel discussion]. It was just this amazing experience, and it felt like three years of learning how to be in this. I don’t think anyone thought anything of it. And then, over years since it’s been streaming it’s taken on a life of its own. I’m so thankful that I got to be a part of something like that.
How do you feel when you look back on your experience? For me, it’s personal. I made five lifelong best friends, and now I’m intertwined in their lives. I talk to them every week, daily. I’m having dinner tonight with Damon Sr. [Damon Wayans Jr. was part of the Happy Endings cast], who is an idol of mine from my childhood but now is my best friend’s dad. To me, it’s another family I get to have which I think will never go away, until Zach [Zachary Knighton] dies. He’ll be the first one to go.
Do you think any of them will appear on Making History ? Hopefully all of them! I would hope. I hope all of them.