After 15-1/2 seasons, Fox‘s Family Guy finally took viewers to the one place the show has resisted going since it premiered in 1999: the mind of Stewie Griffin. But on the occasion of their 300th episode, the Seth MacFarlane series enlisted the help of none other than Sir Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings) to analyze the lovable tyrant. Over the course of the nearly episode-long session, Stewie – sent to Dr. Pritchfield’s (McKellen) office after pushing a classmate down the stairs – opens up about his sexuality, his accent and his fear of being alone.
And then there’s that ending. A game-changer in many ways for the series (and a good time to mention that there will be spoilers ahead).
Entertainment Weekly had the opportunity to speak with Family Guy writer Gary Janetti and executive producer Alec Sulkin about ‘Send in Stewie, Please’: how the episode came to be; what MacFarlane thought about revealing Stewie’s “real” voice; the issues behind reveling Stewie’s sexuality; and why that ending is different from others things Stewie’s done in the past:
● On his reasons behind pitching such an intimate Stewie-centered episode at this point in the show’s run”
“I’ve always wanted to go deeper with Stewie. I’ve always wanted to write a really long monologue for Stewie, and it never naturally happened. I had just worked with Ian McKellen in London on the show Vicious, and I wanted to bring him in. I thought, ‘Well, what better way than to do a therapy session? It’s just Stewie talking to Ian for a half hour, where he can just talk to somebody in a way that he has never talked to somebody before.’” – Janetti
● Once he made the decision to reveal Stewie’s “real” voice, his biggest concern: would Family Guy creator MacFarlane give him the greenlight, considering MacFarlane has voiced the character from the beginning:
“I didn’t know if Seth would go for it, [but] when he read it, it was hilarious, because he instantly read that voice that he does in the episode, which is this normal kid voice, and it’s very disarming. It felt very true. I didn’t want to do anything unless it felt true to the character because I’m very protective over him. Like all kids can, when you feel like you’re an outcast, and you feel like you don’t fit in any place, you construct a bit of a façade to protect yourself from the world. His is just extraordinarily sophisticated. What would that mean if he felt like he could release it and be more authentic — and himself? Does he want to?” – Janetti
● On making the decision not to reveal Stewie’s sexuality, the writer and executive producer believe Stewie’s state of confusion lends itself to endless storyline possibilities:
“When we were talking about this early on, there was a lot of talk like, ‘Do we write something where Stewie comes out? Is that what this episode is going to be?’ And then we all decided it would be more interesting to leave that door open for many interpretations. I think the way that Gary does it is much more interesting, and leaves us with many more places to go, so we don’t always have to lean in on a Stewie-is-gay joke.” – Sulkin
“The intention for Stewie is never to come out as gay or not gay. He will be forever in this state of confusion, as you would be when you’re that age. Ultimately, it’s more interesting to dig deeper than that.” – Janetti
● At the end of the episode, Stewie makes the decision to not save Dr. Pritchfield’s life by giving him his medication: a shocking ending that forces viewers – and the character himself – to view Stewie in a different, darker light:
“It’s one of the most terrible things he’s done because it’s more methodical. It’s more real. He actually cared about this man who helped him. I wanted him to do something terrible, because he chooses the way out that’s a bit fearful. It’s what he knows. It’s the Stewie that we all know. He’s not ready to give that up, and he doesn’t want anybody to know his secret.” – Janetti
● But while we’v gotten used to Stewie’s acts of ultra-violence for nearly twenty years now, there’s something about this act that sticks with us – and Stewie, as the episode ends with him in bed but unable to sleep as his guilt continues to haunt him. For Janetti, it was important that the viewers see – and Stewie feels – the consequences of his actions:
“I wanted us to see perhaps for the very first time that he’s seeing a consequence to his actions, and things are much more complicated than he initially thought. When it happens in the moment, and Dr. Pritchfield says, ‘You will regret this, it will be something that stays with you,’ he’s actually even thinking of Stewie, not himself. He knows that he will somehow suffer for having done this. And Stewie’s like, ‘You don’t know me. That’s not going to be an issue for me.’ And we agree with that as an audience. But to see him at night later, he’s very troubled. He won’t even tell Brian. But I think it’s an inkling of his real conscience of what he did — and wishing he didn’t do it. The ambivalence with which it ends I felt was important. I think it’s just more interesting to me — and it makes him more interesting.”