From co-creator Chuck Lorre, the new CBS comedy series Mom (premiering on September 23rd) is an irreverent and outrageous take on true family love and dysfunction. Newly sober single mom Christy (Anna Faris) struggles to raise two children in a world full of temptations and pitfalls that test her sobriety, along with her formerly estranged mother (Allison Janney), who is all too eager to give her opinion about her daughter’s many mistakes.
While at the CBS portion of the TCA Press Tour, actress Anna Faris and executive producer Chuck Lorre talked about what made this TV series appealing, playing a character with a normal IQ and perspective, the discovery process for a new show, the roles Justin Long and Octavia Spencer will be playing, and how difficult it is to sustain an acting career in such a competitive business. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
ANNA FARIS: I had a son, so I was thinking, “Maybe I’ll just let my husband work, and I’ll laze around and sit by the pool.” That’s a half-truth. I wasn’t necessarily ready to get back to work yet. I had different priorities. What happened was that the day this script came to me, I was in the middle of reading another movie script that was a two-page role. I had left this script on the kitchen counter, and my husband picked it up and read the first page, and he said, “Whatever you’re doing, put it down right now. This is you!” And it felt like that. Every once in awhile, you get fortunate enough to play a role that feels like Cinderella’s shoe, and this felt like that. She’s so dimensional. She’s a mess, which is very much like me. And it’s a story about relationships and character. That format was really appealing to me. I’ve played a lot of one-dimensional characters, in my career, that haven’t been so bright, so it was very fulfilling. I knew, right away, that I really wanted to do it. And with Chuck being a part of it, how can you be in better hands?
Were you actively looking to play somebody who has a normal IQ and a normal perspective, and who also happened to be funny?
FARIS: Playing those one-dimensional characters is actually really difficult because you’re not dealing with somebody you would ever really know. I don’t think anybody here could imagine actually knowing Cindy Campbell from Scary Movies. So, in a way, your job is so much easier when you’re playing a person that you really understand and that seems very relatable. I think I was coming to a place in my career where I was like, “I’d like to do something a little more rewarding.”
Chuck, this pilot has a lot going on within it, with multiple locations that could be the setting for individual shows. How is the balance between the restaurant, the home and the recovery story going to play out, in the future?
LORRE: I think that’s a discovery process. That’s the terrifying and wonderful part about getting picked up to series. You get to develop the stories and talk about the characters, and find out where the heart of the series is. Having written a couple of scripts, this is very much a home-based show. It’s a relationship-driven show. But, the work area is very much a part of Christy’s life, and it’s got an impact on everything she does. Her problems go everywhere, as well as her solutions.
What does co-creator Gemma Baker bring to the show?
LORRE: In about a half-hour, sitting and talking about what we were trying to do, Gemma said, “Put her disasters behind her,” and then the angels were singing and the clouds parted. By having the character of Christy have the nightmare of her life, for the most part, being in the rearview mirror, it allowed us to explore this character, in a way that we could have children in the show. We can root for her, and we’re not worried about the children. We know that all of her efforts are entirely focused on redeeming the relationship with her kids, redeeming the relationship with the people at work, and reclaiming her life. So, that was a real pivotal moment, in the development of the idea.
Chuck, you really have a comedy empire at CBS, with four shows that show no sign of ebbing. How do you pace yourself?
LORRE: The good news is that the writers on Two and a Half Men, for the most part, have been there nine or 10 years. It’s a great staff. Jim Patterson and Don Reo are writing and running that show, and I get to jump in and make them unhappy, occasionally. But for the most part, it’s running beautifully. This is a brand-new baby. It requires a great deal of love and care. So, I go where I’m most needed.
Will this show have any decent adult men on it?
LORRE: That’s a great question. There is going to be a love interest in Christy’s life, played by Justin Long, and we’re real excited about that. That’s going to come up in the first few episodes. And poor bastard doesn’t know what he’s in for, but he is going to be her first shot at a meaningful relationship, in this new chapter of her life. And Octavia Spencer is coming to the show, in the fifth episode. She’s playing a woman who, as it turns out, has bigger problems than Christy, which gives Christy perspective.
FARIS: I did come to realize that getting your first job is hard, but it’s not nearly as hard as getting your seventh job. That is hard. That’s when you really have to prove it to people. My journey was a little bit interesting because I had never done comedy. I grew up in Seattle and did theater up there. Then, I came to town and got Scary Movie, but as incredible as that experience was, it was difficult to re-identify myself as something other than a spoof-movie gal. I also feel fortunate that I ended up doing comedy because it’s so much fun. I know that’s a vague answer, but you just have to really pedal yourself around town and attempt to not get too discouraged. There is also a different kind of challenge for women, as they graduate into their 30s. It’s hard. There isn’t as much work. You’re suddenly the aunt, or something. So, it’s a process.
Will your mother watch the show?
FARIS: I don’t know. But, she’s really supportive. She’ll say, “Oh, you were so good!” She is the very typical mom. She would never be able to see the similarities between Bonnie and Christy, and how it’s like all mother-daughter relationships.
Chuck, have you noticed that it’s getting easier to cast for TV roles now?
LORRE: One thing that’s happened, over the last few years, is that TV has gotten more credibility, as a good place for actors to work. The magnificent Nikki Valko has been my casting director since Dharma & Greg. And when we sent her the script in December, she emailed me a response that had two words on it, and they were “Anna Faris.” There was no list. That was it. She read the script, and she came right back with that. We’ve been very fortunate to have a great casting director who’s guided us through this process.
FARIS: Nikki was like, “She’s a mess. Hire her!”
Mom premieres on CBS on September 23rd.