Like many sequels, Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted 2 faces the challenge of trying to keep the follow-up from repeating the original, something the writer-director joked about and co-writer Wellesley Wild said the Ted 2 writing team was “very concerned” about.
“Most sequels, especially comedy sequels kind of play the same card over and over,” Wild told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet ahead of the Ted 2 world premiere in New York Wednesday night.
Fellow writer Alec Sulkin added that the fear of the second film just being more of the same from the MacFarlane-voiced foul-mouthed bear and his human friend John (Mark Wahlberg) quickly disappeared when they started outlining the story.
“We realized if anything there’s much more of a story to this one than there was to the first one,” Sulkin told THR. “The first one was just kind of getting to know these characters and hopefully liking them. This one, though, with the story, we felt we really had something to kind of hang all the jokes around.”
Even though the sequel features a few callbacks to the first film, Sulkin notes that ones that seemed to close too what they’d already done weren’t popular.
“In a comedy sequel it seems somewhat inevitable you’re going to want to do some of the things that people responded to the first time. But I think we found that audiences are a little more savvy. We actually had some scenes in this movie that were almost repeats of some of the scenes in the first movie and the audiences didn’t like them in the test screenings so we took ’em out,” he said.
MacFarlane insists that with Ted 2, “We tried to tell a completely different story that was in no way reminiscent of the original.”
“The characters are the same, the relationships are the same — we introduced a few new ones,” he says. “But overall we just wanted to separate the narrative from the original one and create something of a new experience with the spirit of the first one.”
Returning cast member Jessica Barth, who plays Ted’s wife Tami-Lynn, said she knew the sequel would be a new story when she read the script.
“Seth sent me the script and I read it and I was so excited that Tami-Lynn had more to do but I was more excited that it was tackling issues that we’re dealing with today like civil rights and the rights to marry whoever you love, whoever you choose to marry,” Barth said.
New cast members Amanda Seyfried and Morgan Freeman both told THR that working with MacFarlane made them want to sign on to the franchise, with Freeman adding that he also seized the opportunity to work with Wahlberg.
“If I have a chance to work with him, I’m going to jump at it,” Freeman said of Wahlberg. “This was one of my chances. I’ll have more now, I’m sure, that I’ve worked with him…This kind of thing is just so much fun to do.”
And while the raunchy comedy is a bit of a departure for Seyfried, she wasn’t concerned about venturing into new territory.
“I’m always looking for the opportunity to different things. That’s the whole point of being an actor is disappearing,” the Mean Girls alum said. “Comedy’s my favorite. For whatever reason I just haven’t gotten to do a lot of them.”
In addition to Seyfried and Freeman, the Ted sequel features several cameos, including one, teased in trailers, from Tom Brady. The scene, in which Ted and John try to obtain a sperm sample from the Patriots QB as Ted looks to find a donor so he and Tami-Lynn can start a family, was shot well before DeflateGate made Brady’s balls a punchline. In the wake of the scandal, Patriots fan Sulkin snuck in a joke alluding to the controversy and its giggle-inducing puns.
“When the scandal was going on I was incredibly pissed off about how Brady was being portrayed but it was an opportunity to update some of the jokes around his scene and I think we took good advantage of that,” Sulkin said. “We have a line where John tells Tom, ‘I think your balls are perfect,’ which sort of fits with the crudeness of the movie in general and the situation. I was excited about that. I was excited honestly to put in something in favor of Tom.”
Ted 2‘s producers and writers all expressed hope for a third Ted outing but remained cautious, with producer Jason Clark saying, “Let’s see how this weekend goes and we’ll take it from there.”
Sulkin also said they wanted to make sure they would be able to keep the franchise fresh, referencing another raunchy series that he thinks faltered with each new installment.
“The Hangover kind of suffered a little because the second one wasn’t as strong as the first one so the third one suffered,” he said. “Ultimately decisions [about how many more Ted films there will be] are made way above my level and we’re going to keep a close eye on everything and realistically what the response is to this from the fans.”
Ted narrator Patrick Stewart, who’s appeared in several franchise installments, knows the qualities of a successful sequel.
“Bigger, better, more expensive,” he said.