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Interview with Playing House creators Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair

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Lennon Parham (left) and Jessica St. Clair are the co-creators and stars of USA Network’s first original comedy, Playing House. They recently sat down with us to fill us in on how one of television’s most charming shows came to be, and what is in store for the show’s sophomore season. Check out the interview below, and tune in for season two of Playing House on Tuesday, August 4th at 10/9c on USA!

Season one was all about preparing for Baby Charlotte’s arrival. Now that Emma is established and Charlotte is here, what can we expect in season 2?

Lennon: You can expect more of the hijinks that you came to know and love from Season 1 with all of the returning cast members: Jane Kaczmarek, Lindsay Sloane, Ian Roberts, Marissa Jaret-Winokur, Sandy Martin, Brad Morris, Keegan-Michael Key, plus the hard hitting comedy that you knew and the heart. 

Jessica: And a hard-hitting line of comedy guest stars like Jack McBrayer, Rob Riggle, Stephanie Weir, Pamela Adlon, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, The Sklar Brothers (Randy and Jason), plus Darius Rucker…

Lennon: …and we wrap it all up in a bow with Kenny fucking Loggins. But now that the baby is here you’re gonna get to see the fantasy of what it’s like to raise a baby with your best friend.

We left off with Mark leaving Emma and breaking hers and all of our hearts in the process. PLEASE tell me we will see more of Mark in season two, and if so, what’s in store for him?

Lennon: We’re definitely going to see more Mark. We love Keegan. He’s in a lot of this season and we take him on a real roller-coaster.

Jessica: He will be wearing both a tuxedo and a trash bag for an entire episode. 

Let’s keep talking about Mark for a second. It’s no secret that Keegan Michael Key is hilarious, talented, awesome and as many other wonderful adjectives as you can think of. How did he come to play our favorite cop?

Jessica: Keegan and I met when we played husband and wife in Jill Soloway’s (creator of Transparent) movie Afternoon Delight and we fell in love. We are essentially the same human being but in different bodies and when Lennon and I had the opportunity to write this show, we asked Keegan, as a favor, to do the pilot, never thinking he would actually be able to do the season since he’s so busy being best friends with President Obama. But, he loved the show so much and he loved getting to pal around with good ol’ Lennon and I that he did us the enormous favor of doing the show and he has become one of our favorite character’s to write for.

USA is a network known for dramas. What does it mean to you to be able to say that your show is USA’s first original comedy?

Lennon: We’re proud to be a part of USA. They’re extremely good at supporting their artist’s voices and I think we’ve been able to deliver them something that fits perfectly on their network.

How would you say Playing House is different from other comedies on television right now?

JessicaWe set out to depict a realistic female friendship and to really show how much women have each other’s backs and support the crap out of each other. We always wanted to do a comedy that was really hard-hitting comedy because we come from the UCB (Upright Citizen’s Brigade), and comedy comes first. But, we also wanted to do a show where people care about the characters and you can follow them, much like great shows like Friends and Cheers, you actually care about the relationships and where they end up, so we like to do a combination of those two things.

Shifting back to the characters- let’s focus on Bird Bones. She’s got some issues, but- well- they’re hilarious. Was she inspired by anyone you know, or was she an entirely original idea?

Lennon: Bird Bones was loosely based on women we’ve come across who are not part of a “girlfriend unit.”  

Jessica: Those bizarre girls who do not have other girlfriends. Who literally say that their husband or their boyfriend is their best friend and that’s it.

Lennon: I say that my husband is my best friend, but I also have girls that are my best friends. We’ve both experienced these types of girls and it’s extremely awkward to try and pal around with them because most women connect by sharing their flaws and women like that appear to have no flaws.

Jessica: And what we love about the story of Bird Bones is that, by the end of the episode we realize that she is just as flawed as we are. So then we’re able to connect. And in Season 2, you get to see even more of that side of Bird Bones and she’s even more…. 

Lennon: Bird-bones-ien.

Jessica: Yeah, she’s even Bones-ier than ever.

I think the same question stands for Bosephus- how does a redneck alter ego come to fruition like that?

Lennon: It’s just in me. There’s just really no other way around it.

Jessica: She tried to get Bosephus in our first show, Best Friends Forever, on NBC and we did break the story and then said, “Nobody will allow us to do this…”

Lennon: It wasn’t even a full story, it was just the tag.

Jessica: Yeah, it was just the tag. And then first season of Playing House, Bosephus came back to life, much like Freddy Krueger… he never dies. And we said, “What the hell, let’s do it.” It might have been because I was ten months pregnant that I agreed to it.

Lennon: Best decision you ever made besides getting knocked up.

Jessica: Something a lot of people don’t know is that Bosephus is extremely rude to me.

Lennon: Everybody knows that.

Jessica: No, no… I mean, when you are playing Bosephus, you are very rude to me… and hurtful.

Lennon: That’s not true. I’m only rude to you in the takes.

Jessica: No, no. Everything about your persona changes.

Lennon: It’s hurtful because maybe it’s a little more pointed than I normally am. 

Jessica: A little more truthful, a little more aggressive.

Lennon: But I also tell you how much I like your curves, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about…

Having seen “Playing House Live!” on YouTube, we know that the cast is comprised of improv experts. What percentage of what we see is scripted, and what percentage is improvised?

Jessica: Well, we improvise to write the scripts, so everything is essentially improvised at some point.

Lennon: Sometimes if a writer wants to take a pass at a scene without us improvising, they can do that. Like, the Bird Bones b-story line, we did not improvise.

Jessica: Right. But because most of our writers are improvisers, it always comes from an improv place. And then, on the day, when we’re shooting, we always do a couple takes where people can add their own things. And when it comes to someone like Keegan or Zach or Brad, they bring such a talent for improvising that we would be fools not to use everything that comes out of their mouth.

I know for me- the scene that made me laugh the hardest was the final scene of Spaghetti and Meatballs. What scene from season one made you laugh the hardest?

Lennon: I love the scene where I yell out “Rhode Island is a tiny state!” as Bosephus, because I was genuinely pissing off Jessica during that scene.

Jessica: I was so angry.

Lennon: Oh, no… you know what is the funniest one is the car seat scene.

Jessica: Oh yeah! We were literally dying.

Lennon: We couldn’t keep a straight face during that scene.

Jessica: When Keegan fucks that car seat—really fast and like a hamster—that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever experienced.

We’re in a day and age where it only takes a little to offend a lot. What- in your opinion- is the secret to effective comedy nowadays?

Jessica: If something is dirty or edgy in our show it’s never because we’re trying to be edgy. At the UCB we learned that everything has to be grounded in a certain reality so we never are gratuitous in the way we do comedy—it all should come from a real place.

Lennon: Yeah, we just do what we think is funny.

Jessica: And it hasn’t offended our mothers yet.

Lennon: That’s not true.

Jessica: Well, they haven’t said it.

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