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The Untold Truth Of Mythic Quest

"Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet" was one of the earliest offerings on Apple's streaming platform, Apple TV+. The show was co-created by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz, who are among the creative forces behind the hit FX series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

"Mythic Quest" is a workplace sitcom set in the fictional offices of the world's most popular online role-playing game. McElhenney stars as the game's creative director, Ian Grimm (pronounced "eye-un"), and he's joined by an exciting cast of comedic actors, including some familiar faces from "Sunny."

The first season of "Mythic Quest" was a big success among audiences and critics. Shooting for Season 2 was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but through the dedication of its production team, "Mythic Quest" was able to start a bombastic second season with only minor delays.

The story behind "Mythic Quest" is one of top-notch creatives working their hardest to create quality television. Here's a look at how the show was developed.

Ubisoft approached Rob McElhenney

Rob McElhenney had no intentions of creating a new show about a video game company. In an interview with IGN, McElhenney detailed how the gaming company Ubisoft initially approached him with the idea. Not a gamer himself, McElhenney was reluctant to take on the project.

That all changed when Ubisoft invited McElhenney to visit their headquarters in Montreal. Within minutes of walking around the office, he could see that Ubisoft was a workplace just like any other, and he knew how to bring the drama in the office to light on TV.

Ubisoft produces "Mythic Quest" along with Lionsgate and 3 Arts Entertainment. The gaming company creates all of the animation for the show's video game. As he told IGN, McElhenney felt it was important that the company in his show was producing an MMORPG because it "involved a community of people who were playing" and provided "constant iteration to the gaming experience" which could supply the show with plenty of new plot points. The first season focuses on the team at "Mythic Quest" launching a new expansion for the game called "Raven's Banquet".

Apple ordered Mythic Quest direct-to-series

After Ubisoft, Lionsgate, and 3 Arts Entertainment were able to get producers on board for their idea, they needed to find a venue for the new show. At the time, Apple was putting the pieces in place to launch their very own streaming platform. The tech giant knew that they were playing catch-up in the world of video content — Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon were all established streaming powerhouses, with hundreds of shows and movies under their banners. Apple's entertainment team reportedly blew past their billion-dollar budget securing its first round of content.

Apple quickly took notice of the Ubisoft venture that had some of the big names behind "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" attached to it. In August of 2018, they ordered the as-yet untitled show, direct-to-series. Apple TV+ launched just over a year later, in November of 2019. "Mythic Quest" wasn't available on the platform on day one, but it was one of Apple's earliest offerings — the first season premiered in its entirety in February of 2020.

A reunion of Always Sunny producers

"Mythic Quest" has a lot of creative energy behind it. The show has a lengthy list of producers who represent the multiple companies backing the endeavor. Michael Rotenberg and Nicholas Frenkel work as producers on behalf of 3 Arts Entertainment. Jason Altman, Danielle Kreinik, and Gérard Guillemot all represent Ubisoft's stake in the show. Apple's entertainment team also provides support and filming equipment. 

About half of the production team behind "Mythic Quest" reunited from their work on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." The show's three co-creators, Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz, all worked on FX's sitcom together. McElhenney and Day also run RCG Productions, one of the companies putting their weight behind "Mythic Quest." They are joined by another "Sunny" regular, David Hornsby. Along with McElhenney, Hornsby acts in the show, playing the executive producer of the "Mythic Quest" game.

Casting Mythic Quest

From the beginning, "Mythic Quest" had Rob McElhenney as a leading man. McElhenney took on the role of Ian Grimm, creative director of the in-show game "Mythic Quest." He and the team just needed to cast the rest of their fictional game studio's employees.

McElhenney and Megan Ganz have said the most challenging role to cast was Poppy Li, the lead engineer of "Mythic Quest." When Charlotte Nicdao read for the role, she brought an energy the producers loved but that didn't quite line up with the character on the page. The co-creators decided to scrap what they'd originally planned and build the character around Nicdao and the chemistry she had with McElhenney.

By early 2019, the show had found the rest of its main cast. Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham joined as the game's writer, C.W. Longbottom. "Community" star Danny Pudi was brought on as Brad, chief of monetization. Imani Hakim and Ashly Burch took on the role of two game testers. David Hornsby would work double-duty as a producer on the show and acting as the game's executive producer. His disarmingly aggressive assistant would be played by Jessie Ennis, previously seen on "Better Call Saul" and "Veep".

Mythic Quest's first season success

Before the first season of "Mythic Quest" reached audiences, it had clearly already won over the people at Apple. Two weeks before the "Mythic Quest" premiere in January of 2020, Apple renewed the show for a second season. The show's team quickly got to work on Season 2, though they (like everyone else) were soon interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That February, all nine episodes of "Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet" premiered on Apple TV+. The show was praised for being accessible to non-gamers, and the back half of the season received particularly good reviews. A look at the series' Rotten Tomatoes scores shows a consensus that the show struggled on an episode-by-episode level, but overall critics and audiences alike enjoyed what the "Mythic Quest" team had brought them. Apple could mark the show as a success, and anticipation for the second season was high.

A Dark Quiet Death

The standout episode from "Mythic Quest" Season 1 was undoubtedly "A Dark Quiet Death." The episode pulled away from the main cast of the show to focus on a husband and wife game developer duo. Doc (played by Jake Johnson) and Bean (Cristin Milioti) create an indie horror game that explodes into the mainstream through the '90s and early aughts.

The episode was directed by Rob McElhenney and written by his sister, Katie McElhenney. It's more-or-less an encapsulation of the thematic elements that make "Mythic Quest" so compelling. As the titular game at the center of "A Dark Quiet Death" becomes more and more popular, Doc and Bean are at odds with how to respond to the success, and they slowly begin to drift apart.

McElhenney told Forbes that the goal with the episode was to create something outside of the show's characters that "felt like it was thematically infused with the DNA of the rest of the season." He said that he believes the episode represents what "Mythic Quest" is really about. "'Is anybody gonna care about the success or failure of a video game?' No. I don't believe so ... What you care about is the birth and death of a relationship."

Mythic Quest: Quarantine & Everlight

Two special "Mythic Quest" episodes were released between Seasons 1 and 2, both dealing directly with the COVID-19 pandemic. The first, "Quarantine," showed how the "Mythic Quest" studio handled working with each other and developing their game remotely. The second, "Everlight," focused on the studio's transition back into daily office life.

It's a good thing fans had those specials to tide them over, because the pandemic shut down production of "Mythic Quest" Season 2. McElhenney told Vulture that he and Ganz wanted to do a quarantine episode "just to get people back to work." The episode was shot entirely on iPhones (McElhenney requested 40 of them from Apple) and incredibly, the "Mythic Quest" team finished it in three weeks. "Quarantine" debuted on May 22, 2020 to rave reviews.

"Everlight" followed on April 16, 2021, just three weeks before the premiere of Season 2. Speaking with Variety, McElhenney explained how the episode was meant to be a "cinematic experience" that brought the characters back together in the "Mythic Quest" office. The episode was actually shot in the middle of the second season's production, at a time when it was safer to have large groups together on set. It features the voice of Anthony Hopkins, who recorded his lines over the phone from his home in Los Angeles.

COVID complications hit Mythic Quest

The COVID-19 pandemic reared its head just as production of "Mythic Quest" Season 2 was getting underway. Like a sizable portion of the world, the show initially shut down and sent everyone home. That shutdown led to the "Quarantine" episode, but shortly after that, "Mythic Quest" was able to resume work on Season 2.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the set of "Mythic Quest" had even more COVID complications than most other film and TV productions. In November of 2020, a COVID outbreak at the CBS Studio Center shut down "Mythic Quest" and two other shows for about a week. Less than a month later, "Mythic Quest" shut down again.

Variety reported that McElhenney made the decision to pause production on December 4th as a new outbreak at the CBS Radford lot infected "Mythic Quest" crew members. Los Angeles County health officials linked 12 cases to "Mythic Quest" alone. McElhenney reportedly angered some crew members when he issued a seemingly tone-deaf memo stating the show's set was "one of the safest places you can be outside of your homes."

He later acknowledged that there were "one, possibly two" cases of transmission on set, saying, "A lot of this was really unfortunate, but we were just doing our best."

Season 2 rewrites

COVID-19 forced McElhenney and Ganz to rewrite nearly everything they'd planned for Season 2. In an interview with Deadline, Ganz explained that in their original plan, the first episode of Season 2 would feature the "Mythic Quest" team "all going to E3, which then didn't happen." In light of the world's situation, she and McElhenney "had to majorly rethink things."

Specifically, the show had to make some specific changes around F. Murray Abraham's character. Because of Abraham's age, he was at a higher risk from COVID-19. On a virtual Television Critics Association press tour panel promoting "Mythic Quest," McElhenney said he "did not want to be known as the person who got F. Murray Abraham very, very ill." In the early episodes of Season 2, Abraham's character C.W. Longbottom is continuing to work from home. Of the decision, Abraham said, "It gave them an opportunity to laugh at my incompetence with computers, let's not forget that."

Longbottom makes a triumphant return to the camera in the latter half of the season. His scenes have only one or two other people on camera, which McElhenney says was a purposeful decision made to keep the actor as safe as possible.

Season 2 rollout

Apple premiered the nine-episode second season of "Mythic Quest" in May of 2021. With the world of "Mythic Quest" having fully been established, Season 2 spends more time delving into the inner lives of the show's characters. Megan Ganz has said that during the process of rewriting the season, the show's actors came into the writers room to help build scenes around their characters. "Mythic Quest" had previously experimented with this strategy — Ashly Burch, who plays game tester Rachel, has writing credits on the first season's seventh episode, "Permadeath," and the special episode "Everlight".

McElhenney is particularly invested in exploring his characters. He may be known for "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," in which basically every character is a despicable archetype of one kind or another, but he's taking a different approach with "Mythic Quest." Speaking with Polygon, McElhenney said that the goal with Season 2 is to show that "there is no person who is wholly one thing." Season 2 has episodes dedicated to fostering empathy for its characters, like cutthroat Brad and behind-the-times C.W. Longbottom, who would otherwise be easy targets for scorn.