The ABC comedy series Suburgatory is back for Season 2, as 16-year-old Tessa (Jane Levy) returns to the over-manicured lawns of suburban Chatswin and her single father George (Jeremy Sisto), after having spent the summer in Manhattan with her grandmother. With George and Dallas (Cheryl Hines) now a couple, and her mother (played by Malin Akerman) making a reappearance, things are about to get very interesting for Tessa. From show creator Emily Kapnek, the show also stars Alan Tudyk, Rex Lee, Carly Chaikin, Allie Grant, Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Jane Levy talked about how Suburgatory was her first pilot audition, how scary it was to go from a supporting role on the Showtime series Shameless to a lead role, what fans can expect from Season 2, how she’s enjoyed getting to play the more dramatic moments this season, that she’s become more confident in her comedy, how Tessa’s relationship with Ryan (Parker Young) will evolve, and what’s been the most fun aspect of being involved with the show. She also talked about what she looks for in a movie role, and how she hopes fans of the original will give the Evil Dead remake a chance. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
JANE LEVY: It was just pilot season, and it was the first one I had read. It was my first pilot audition.
Were there any initial shocks, in going from doing a supporting role on Shameless to being one of the leads on the show, or was it what you expected it to be?
LEVY: It definitely was really scary. There was just so much basic technical stuff that I didn’t know, and I’d only been in front of the camera a couple of times for Shameless. But, I was surrounded by a really great cast who helped me through it ‘cause they’re good people. I also just watched them do what they do and learned pretty quickly, I think.
Did it seem any easier, going back to it this season, now that you know what to expect?
LEVY: Yeah. I was kind of nervous about that, actually, just taking six months off. But, when I get there, the first table read was very easy to slip back in.
What can you say to tease fans about what they can expect from Season 2 and how soon after the events of the finale things will pick back up?
LEVY: Season 2 starts with Tessa having spent the summer in Manhattan with her grandmother, and she’s coming back to Chatswin. That’s how Season 2 starts. And Tessa’s mother is a big part of the beginning of the season. Tessa is, all of a sudden, interested in ways that she never was before, in finding out who her mother is and maybe even meeting her. And you will meet her mother this season.
Will there be flashbacks as to what she was doing with her grandmother?
LEVY: Yes, a little bit. There will be a little bit of flashbacks. There will not be much information about where her mother has been, for all this time. Tessa is not quite ready for all that information. But, you will see a little bit of her time in New York.
What did you think when you found out that Malin Akerman would be playing your mother? Were you relieved that it was somebody who is as comedy fearless as she’s proven to be?
LEVY: Yeah, I was really, really excited. I actually don’t think there could have been a better choice. We were honored to have her. She was great to have on the set, as a person, and she’s obviously a wonderful actress. She hit this perfect note with the mother, where you love her. You want to hate her, but you do love her. But, there is something slightly off about her. She made the character pretty interesting. I think the audience will enjoy watching it.
What kind of a dynamic will Tessa and her mother have? Will being around her mother change how Tessa acts?
LEVY: It’s not really that kind of relationship yet. It’s just brand new. There isn’t really any relationship.
How will her mother being around affect her relationship with her father?
LEVY: I think, in the end, it will actually make them closer. At first, Tessa is nervous to hurt George’s feelings, and George is nervous that Tessa’s going to have hurt feelings. They fight a little bit because it’s a touchy subject, but I think, in the end, it’s going to bring them closer and Tessa is going to realize how much she loves her dad and what a great dad she has.
Were you always interested in seeing what that relationship between Tessa and her mother would be like?
LEVY: I didn’t actually think about it that much because the script said, “Tessa doesn’t think about it.” And then, they brought it back, at the end of last season, and I started thinking about it, more and more. While working on the stuff for the second season, it’s pretty interesting. The show is pretty funny and has a lot of jokes, so it’s great to be able to have some hard stuff. I enjoyed playing it.
Does this kind of humor come naturally for you, or has comedy been a bit of an adjustment?
LEVY: It’s been both. I think that I can improv. It was not that hard for me to do, but there’s also stuff that you learn. Basically, what you learn is how to be comfortable and trust yourself. I think that’s what comedy is, ultimately. You just have to get more confident. And Tessa is not necessarily the comedian of the show.
How has it been to take this journey with Jeremy Sisto and develop the relationship between your characters?
LEVY: Jeremy and I really like each other and we have fun when we work together, and that comes across on screen. He’s a great actor. I don’t think we ever sat down and were like, “How are we going to create this interesting relationship?” It was organic. When we started working together, that’s what came out of it. And of course, it starts with the writing. It’s just a lot of fun. I know that sounds so simple, but it is.
LEVY: Yeah! Right now, in Season 2, it’s a little different because he’s dating Dallas (Cheryl Hines). There, I said it. And Tessa is okay with it. The last season, that was definitely fun to do. This year, she’s happy for her dad and Dallas.
How will the relationship between Tessa and Ryan (Parker Young) be now?
LEVY: Their relationship is a funny one. He’s so likable, even though he’s a big dumb-dumb. But, the audience seems to really root for us together. Tessa is a little bit judgmental sometimes, but at the same time, I think there’s a side of Tessa that’s extremely compassionate and thoughtful and sweet. She sees the goodness in people, and I think she sees the goodness in Ryan and she does find that attractive. That relationship is gonna blossom this season.
Now that you’ve spent some time on the show, are you enjoying the luxury of getting to discover a character, over a longer period of time, as opposed to telling a self-contained story in a film, or do you enjoy doing both?
LEVY: I enjoy doing both. The whole thing about doing TV is that you never know what’s going to happen. You just have to go with it and go with the flow. With a film, there’s a beginning and an end. With TV, you have no idea where the end is, and there’s a lot of freedom in that.
LEVY: It’s really different. I’m actually not supposed to talk about it at all, but I will say that it’s a different story and I hope they give it a chance.
Do you want to continue to balance the show with films, during hiatus?
LEVY: Definitely! If I only did the TV show, I’d probably not be the happiest girl. I love the show, but I’m an actor and I want to work on different things. TV lasts for so much of the year that you’re just aching to play a different part, so I need that. And I love movies so much that I want to be a part of as many as I can.
What do you look for, in a film role? Do you purposely look for stuff that very different from the show?
LEVY: I think with my last decision, that was a lot of it, not just with the character but my experience. It was about, “What haven’t I done, and would that be cool to learn about?” I think that may be the biggest thing. I think about the project itself and making it and wonder, “Would I enjoy that? What would I learn? Is it interesting to me?” I’m pretty open to a lot of different stuff. But, with the last decision, what I found most attractive was that it was the polar opposite of what I had been doing for seven months, and was nothing I had ever done before. That was the reason I did it.
LEVY: It used to bug me, but I think I’ve gotten used to it because I haven’t thought about it for a long time. You just become confident enough with your character that you know what she’s doing. I think the directors that come in, trust us to do that. I feel trusted by the directors that come onto the set. I don’t think that they ever try to tell me to do something that my character wouldn’t do. So, I don’t mind it. You get to meet a bunch of new people, and every show is a little bit different because it’s someone else orchestrating it. That’s cool.
What has been the most fun about getting to play Tessa for two seasons now?
LEVY: I think she’s a pretty dynamic character, and I get to do a whole range of things. In the first episode, I’m playing guitar and singing. I’m not very good, but I did that. Last season, there was a dance. I got to do this retarded dance and make a fool of myself. I got to dress up as Dallas and talk like her. On a television show, there’s so much I get to do. I got to ride a Vespa with a poodle and a baby bjorn on my baby, with Carly [Chaikin] behind me. I get to do a lot of fun stuff. I think that might be my favorite part.
LEVY: It definitely wasn’t anything specific. It was just instinct. It was just what I wanted to do. I think I thought I would be good at it, so I wanted to try it.
Was there a moment for you, when you realized that you’d like to make a career out of it?
LEVY: No. From the beginning, I was always like, “That’s what I want to do for a living.” I wanted to do something fun for a living. I didn’t want to do something not fun. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it. In the beginning, it was, “How great! I love my job! Hopefully, I get to do this forever.”
Suburgatory airs on Wednesday nights on ABC, and you can learn more about the show at www.abc.go.com/shows/suburgatory.