THE FACT that Party Down managed to return to TV after more than a decade away is kind of a miracle in and of itself. The fact that the show managed to bring back—just about—it’s entire cast, including stars Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, and Megan Mullally, is perhaps even more impressive.
But, unfortunately for Party Down fans, those words “just about” do mean someone was unable to return. And that’s Lizzy Caplan, who in the original two seasons of the show played the dry-witted aspiring comedy star Casey Klein, whose generally good vibe and will-they-won’t-they relationship with Henry Pollard (Scott) both existed firmly within the heart of the show.
Party Down continues on for Season 3. Caplan’s Casey is not present, and instead a new character—a movie producer played by Jennifer Garner—steps in as a new romantic interest for Henry. And while there’s hope that Casey could return at some point, even in a potential Season Finale cameo, there’s good reason as to why Caplan wasn’t able to make it work for the majority of the revival season.
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Why isn’t Lizzy Caplan in Party Down Season 3?
While Party Down has an in-universe explanation for why Casey Klein isn’t in the show (more on that below), the reason why actress Lizzy Caplan isn’t in the show is pretty simple: scheduling. Caplan was unavailable for Party Down due to conflicts with the timing related to her role in last year’s Fleishman is in Trouble.
“We felt really fortunate to get as many of the cast members as we did; sadly Lizzy was not one of them,” co-creator Rob Thomas said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Thomas added that the people behind the show questioned whether or not it could even be executed without Caplan’s presence, but figured that the window they got—making it work with Scott’s Severance schedule and just before Lynch was about to star in Funny Girl on Broadway—was as good a chance as they were going to get.
“Listen, we get it,” Hansen joked with the Times. “She had a job, whatever. I mean, I personally turned down a Marvel movie to do Party Down.”
“If I think about it for too long, I start to cry,” Caplan told The New York Times in an e-mail. She clearly still feels strongly about the show, as the Times story pointed out that she sent cupcakes to the story’s photoshoot, and added a hopeful comment around a (fingers crossed!) fourth season: “You better believe I’m not missing that one,” she wrote.
The hope for the future is mutual. “How the Casey–Henry relationship would evolve was going to be a large part of the third season before we found out that Lizzy couldn’t do it,” Thomas told Wired. “We were looking forward to playing out those beats, so hope springs eternal that we’ll get to do more someday.”
How does Party Down Season 3 explain Casey’s absence?
While Party Down‘s original two-season run ends with Casey’s dream of becoming a famous comedic actress dashed in heartbreaking fashion—she booked a role in a Judd Apatow movie, only for her scene to eventually be cut—Season 3 lets us know that in the last decade plus, Casey did wind up making it. But just not in the way she probably imagined.
In Episode 1 of Season 3, where Party Down is working an event that their old colleague Kyle (Ryan Hansen) hired them for to celebrate his landing a major superhero role (as the fictional “Nitromancer”), it’s mentioned that Casey was at one point a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
However, a tabloid entertainment news report that Henry sees on TV implies that Casey has since moved on from her SNL days, and now stars on a procedural crime show called The Stabilizer, where she’s the show’s sidekick and potentially dating the star. and she blew up from it. Roman (Martin Starr) remarks that she “made it big doing quips and zingers on some dumb show for Boomer fascists,” though it’s unclear if he’s referring to the creatively-stale procedural show, or is being particularly hard on Saturday Night Live. Either way—Casey’s doing OK! And maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see her in the Party Down-iverse again in the future.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.