Kevin James' new Netflix series, The Crew, landed on the streaming service on Monday and provided a different view of NASCAR. The show, created in partnership with racing's governing body, highlights the goofier side of Cup Series racing and features a talented cast of actors — though Freddie Stroma (Bridgerton, Pitch Perfect) has the difficult task of keeping a straight face amid the constant stream of jokes.
Speaking with PopCulture.com and other members of the media, Stroma detailed his time on The Crew. He jokingly called NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney a "showoff" due to his acting ability and confidence on set during a cameo appearance. Stroma also talked about his character's goofy lines, which go hand in hand with the decent amount of improvisation on set, making it hard for Stroma to keep a straight face.
"I didn't keep a straight face a lot of the time," Stroma said during a roundtable interview. "A lot of the time, the cast would ... they were just really funny. Kevin would just come out with these different insults, and each take would be a different one. I tried to hold a straight face just long enough for the cut to go out."
Throughout the first season of The Crew, Stroma has several lines where he has to act like he is a few laps shy of a complete race. Whether he is tasting fake steak made out of mushrooms, talking about an Abraham Lincoln-shaped cloud, or showing up to work dressed like a young farmer, Stroma has some of the show's goofiest moments — some of which were in the script while others were created in the spur of the moment.
"We got to improv as well," Stroma continued. "We would just try out a bunch of different things, and then different writers would come up and try out new things. It was pretty fluid. It was really difficult to keep a straight face a lot of the time, usually not because of what I was doing."
The actor provided an example in the form of co-star Dan Ahdoot, who plays Amir. He knew that one specific line made Stroma laugh, so he would repeat it while continuing to stare until Stroma ultimately broke character.
The Crew premiered on Netflix on Monday, the day after the Daytona 500. James and Stroma play two of the show's main roles while partnering with Jillian Mueller, Gary Anthony Williams, Dan Ahdoot, and Sarah Stiles among others to tell a different NASCAR story. The show also features Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) and Bruce McGill (Rizzoli & Isles) in guest roles.