What if two of NBC’s hit comedy sitcoms, The Office and Superstore, had a baby? It would be without a doubt American Auto, the network’s newest workplace comedy. The show, which obviously revolves around the American auto industry and makes light of it, features some true workplace disfunction and terrible ideas for manufacturing vehicles. We spoke with two of the stars of the show all about it.
American Auto follows the employees of the fictional Detroit-based Payne Motors and the company’s blatantly obvious struggles following the hiring of a new CEO who knows absolutely nothing about cars. Cassius Life caught up with X Mayo (Dori) and Michael Benjamin Washington (Cyrus), and we chopped it up about having awful whips, working with horrible bosses, and their favorite moment from season one so far.
Step into the interview below.
Cassius Life: Episode one immediately sets the tone for this show, mainly because of that monstrosity of a vehicle you guys made. I just want to know, in real life, have you guys ever dealt with the lemon or haven’t had a bad car experience?
X Mayo: Oh yes. Oh my God. My first car, only the driver’s side, and the back right passenger side worked. So if anybody in my passenger seat next to the driver or the one in the back left had to use the restroom, I had to get out, or they had to climb through the back. And also the back part… What is it called? Whatever holds up the back of the car, fell. So I was often driving just on a car. It was bad. But baby, I got to A to B and sometimes C. She held me down for two years.
Oh yes. Oh my God. My first car, only the driver’s side, and the back right passenger side worked. So if anybody in my passenger seat next to the driver or the one in the back left had to use the restroom, I had to get out, or they had to climb through the back.
Cassius Life: It’s important. That’s all that matters. That’s all that matters.
Michael Benjamin Washington: For me. I got an Audi when I got my first NBC series 10 years ago, and I got rear-ended three times, back to back, by someone texting and driving, when I got it out of the collision shop. It still pisses me off because I remember that collision shop right off of the one-on-one. And I would pass that NBC tower and be like, “Damn it, if I just saved that money and kept that little hoopty I had, this wouldn’t have happened.” But I’m here.
CL: Now, Catherine, brilliantly played by Ana Gasteyer, bless her heart, tries to run that company, but she has no idea what she’s doing. Was there ever a time, working a regular job where you worked with a boss or CEO or supervisor who had no idea what they were doing?
XM: Yes. I worked at Starbucks, and I want to say they didn’t know what they’re doing in regards to customer service. So I think to be a boss, you really have to encompass not only the mechanics of how the job is done and how the format works, but you need to know people. And so this person was just not someone who was kind, they didn’t know customers. They didn’t know the fact that we f**k up their order, they should get it for free, and we’re going to give them a free bagel. And so, oftentimes she would get upset with me, but when we would have secret shoppers, we were always number one. I would always get glowing reviews. Passengers would come in and request me to make their coffee. So she would fill some type of way, but at the end of the day, she had to give me my flowers because I was like, “You don’t know people.”
MBW: When I was 14, I had my first job… Well, 15, my first job was at Old Navy, folding denim and-
XM: Me too, Michael.
MBW: Was it really?
XM: Shut the f**k up. That was my first job.
MBW: We’ll bond about that in a minute.
MBW: But our store manager came from Chili’s. So they came from a food industry into a retail business, and they had no clue how to manage people that weren’t in a kitchen. So I’m not too unfamiliar with the Catherine’s of the world.
For me, it was between X and I, we had a tricky episode about race, and we both questioned the writing, and we were vocal about it, and we were very proud of ourselves and our showrunners for stepping up to it. So in order to overcompensate, I very rarely improvise. But in this one, I felt a need to just start quoting A Raisin in the Sun, and X looks at me, he’s like, “Michael, every take, I want a different quote from A Raisin in the Sun.”
CL: We feel you on that. There are so many hilarious moments in this show. Do you guys personally have any favorite moments you would like to share? Which moments stand out to you the most?
XM: I think I told Michael this in another interview, but I will say it again because it truly is my favorite. When we were on the earnings call, and the episode ends, and she’s just like, “Yeah, we can do it for 10,000 a week.” And Michael said, “Oh, oh, oh.” It’s just, that’s just Black people, sometimes it’s just an echo. Sometimes it’s a grunt. Sometimes it’s an eye roll. Sometimes it’s just a finger to be like, hilarious. It’s so good. That’s one of my favorite moments.
MBW: For me, it was between X and I, we had a tricky episode about race, and we both questioned the writing, and we were vocal about it, and we were very proud of ourselves and our showrunners for stepping up to it. So in order to overcompensate, I very rarely improvise. But in this one, I felt a need to just start quoting A Raisin in the Sun, and X looks at me, he’s like, “Michael, every take, I want a different quote from A Raisin in the Sun.” And I was like, “Damn it, damn it. I couldn’t think of anything once she challenged me to that.” But I committed to that Sidney Poitier line reading. I don’t know if it made it in, but for clearance and trademark reasons, but I was very proud of us that day. And I improvised very well as Sidney Poitier’s-
XM: Oh my God, he killed it. And also, in that episode, Michael is eating the whole time. So he’s eating and doing it. He was like, “Man, can’t live by bread alone,” or whatever the line was. He’s just like f***ing going, and because he’s such a good thespian, he’s so committed that it’s so funny. Oh, I really pray it makes it, or at least a blooper reel or something.
XM: It’s so good.
MBW: That was a good day.
American Auto airs on Tuesday 8/7 central, followed by Grand Crew at 8:30.
Photo: NBC / American Auto