Reprising his role as Channel 4 News Team sportscaster Champ Kind in the sequel “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” actor David Koechner admits working opposite Will Ferrell again was a tough assignment, especially since there were times on the set where he couldn’t stop laughing. During our interview, Koechner, 51, talked about how he kept it together during improvisation with the cast and what he’s going to do the morning he wakes up and there isn’t a newspaper for him to read.
(Singing) Kiko, Kiko, coconuts. Kiko, Kiko, yeeeaaah!
(Laughs) How’s it going, man?
Great, how are you?
I’m doing well. Thanks for taking the time out to talk.
Thanks for having me!
It’s been nine years since we’ve seen the Channel 4 News team. How has Champ Kind changed over that time?
I would say that Champ Kind does not evolve. He survives.
(Laughs) So, no evolution whatsoever?
None. None! As time and culture moves on, you could almost say he regresses. He doesn’t move. He falls further back on the evolutionary scale.
That would make a really cool evolutionary chart – one where Champ is pictured like five or six times and every image looks exactly the same.
(Laughs) Or one where Champ just shrinks back into a beetle.
Was it easy for you to get back into this character after so long? Is there some kind of mindset you have to get into or is it part of your DNA like it seems to be with Will Ferrell?
It’s kind of like riding a bike. I’m so fortunate to [director] Adam [McKay] and Will for being such gifted writers. You really don’t have to think about it. Open the script and there it is. Wow. Champ’s light pops right back out.
So, Will has been promoting this movie really hard over the last few months in character. It reminds me of how Sacha Baron Cohen sold “Borat.” What’s been your favorite Will Ferrell appearance since he’s been on this tour?
Well, I haven’t been able to see everything, but I’m amazed at what he does. Recently, we were in Australia and Will did a show called “The Project” as Ron and it is one of the most beautifully sublime performances I’ve ever witnessed. It’s was just incredible. He continues to inspire.
One of the recent headlines about Will was that Emerson College renamed their Communications School after Ron Burgundy for one day. What venue do you think Champ would like to see named in his honor? Maybe a sports stadium or arena?
(Laughs) He would like that, but it’s more likely that he would get a tombstone. (Laughs) Or how about this: The stoop of a building of no renowned.
Something else Will did was an entire newscast in character in North Dakota. Do you think you would have it in you to do a whole sports show on your own as Champ? Were you able to develop that natural sportscaster swagger over the years?
Oh, sure. I’m not sure anyone would welcome that, but I certainly would.
I thought Champ might be a little jealous that Ron is getting invited to sports shows. He was just on ESPN the other day interviewing Peyton Manning. I thought Champ was the sports guy.
Oh, no. Champ is not jealous. He’s envious of any time anyone spends with Ron.
Well, maybe 30 years down the road we will see Ron and Champ living together happily in a little cottage somewhere in the wilderness.
Champ would hope so. Champ, I think, always keep that light on. There’s a lamp burning inside his heart for Ron. There’s no question about that.
With so many budget concerns on this sequel over the years, this movie almost didn’t happen. Was there a point sometime over the last four or five years where you really thought it was over and started putting the idea behind you?
To be honest, I don’t think in those terms. There is no upside to wasting your energy hoping. There are only things that are possible. So, I was always open to the possibility. I try not to focus on “what ifs.”
Did these characters in “Anchorman 2” change at all in terms of what the actors have done in their careers over the last decade? I mean, Steve Carell is a lot more famous than he was back in 2004, so did he demand more lines in this one?
It was a really balanced script. I don’t think Adam and Will really looked at it in terms of who gets what. They look at it and think about what the best story is we can tell and what is the most comedy we can get. That’s what the thrust is. This movie is more than an hour and a half long and I guarantee we have enough material for a three-hour movie. So, there’s beautiful stuff to be witnessed in the future on DVD – maybe an alternative cut or whatever they decide to come up with.
So Steve was not a prima donna is what you are saying?
(Laughs) It’s not in his DNA. He is one of the most gracious and kind gentlemen I have ever met.
In this sequel, we get to see the guys experiencing the next phase in media and trying to get a handle on how things are changing. We seem to be in that kind of transformation now with more cable news shows and the fact that newspapers are dying. How do you get your news? Do you just get online like everyone else or do you need something in your hands to read?
I will say I find that reading the newspaper is highly satisfying. I try and make time for it every day, but if I don’t have time I probably just digest the news like most people do: online or on a mobile device or on television.
How will you react when you wake up in a few years and there isn’t a newspaper for you to pick up and read?
I will sob uncontrollably in public and as people keep asking me what’s wrong, I’ll just keep whimpering, “News! The news!”
How many times a day are you asked to say “Whammy” and what percentage of people do you placate and do it?
Oh, I’m OK with it. It doesn’t bother me at all. I invite it. It’s a joy.
We get to see how much improv the cast does for the first film in some of the outtakes and DVD extras. Did you get to do the same here? How does improvisation actually work with someone like Will Ferrell?
(Laughs) The way Adam and Will designed the filming of the movie is that we’ll cover the script and stuff and when they know they have a couple of good takes they just keep rolling. Adam has a microphone behind the monitor in the director’s chair and there are speakers in the front so he just throws around alternate ideas and all kinds of dialogue. When you’re on a McKay/Ferrell set you’re just invited to play. It’s a really fun atmosphere. Everyone is really professional and focused to make sure we get what we need. To be honest, there were only a couple of days where we all lost it and couldn’t go on. One of our last scenes in particular was very hard for us to hold it together. I don’t know if it was because we realized it was the last scene the four of us were going to do together, but it was really, really hard.
How do you pull it together when that happens? Do you have a trick?
Well, there is a scene in the film where Ron addresses Brick (Steve Carell) in harsh tones. So, from the shooting side, I was sitting next to Brick. The way Will did it just devastated me! I could not hold on! So, I really had to play some mind games with myself and think of different difficult situations my children have been in so I wouldn’t laugh. You don’t want to blow a take. So you do have to give yourself some devices to hang in there. It’s like not wanting to laugh in church.