The new ABC series Super Fun Night, premiering on October 2nd, is an outrageous new comedy about what happens when you decide to live life outside your comfort zone. Junior attorney Kimmie Boubier (Rebel Wilson) and her two best friends and roommates (Liz Lapira, Lauren Ash) have lived a sheltered life where, instead of going out on the weekends, they’ve had a standing date every Friday night. As her life unexpectedly starts to open up, Kimmie convinces her friends that life isn’t just for the pretty and the popular, and that it’s time for them to put themselves out there.
While at the ABC portion of the TCA Press Tour, show star/creator/co-executive producer/writer Rebel Wilson and executive producer Conan O’Brien talked about how they came to be working together, that the scenes are inspired by real life, why the decision was made for Kimmie to be American, how they’re finding a balance with the humor to keep the character likeable, and how the series has changed since it was a multi-cam comedy at CBS. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
REBEL WILSON: It is, especially filming that scene where I got my clothes ripped off. It was zero degrees, when we filmed that. That’s why I wear Spanx underneath.
Conan, what made you want to get involved with this show?
CONAN O’BRIEN: The joy and the love. It happened very organically for me. Rebel was on the show as a guest, and as a lot of you know, it will be 20 years on the air for me, and with three guests a night, that works out to about 8 billion guests. And very rarely, but occasionally, someone’s on the show who I haven’t met before, and it’s a revelation. So, Rebel was on the show and she was hilarious, and when the show was over, I walked over to the executive producer, Jeff Ross, and just said, “I want her back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. She’s absolutely fantastic!” That led to me doing a little research. Someone got me a copy of a show that Rebel had done, called Bogan Pride, and I loved it. What I saw was a television star. She is vulnerable and fearless. She’s absolutely one of the most likeable performers I’ve seen, in a long career in television. So, we had a meeting, and we started talking.
WILSON: And he offered to put out, if I went with his production.
O’BRIEN: Yes, I did. And then, I couldn’t perform. And then I realized she hates me, as much as other women in my life hate me, and thought this could really work. So, we started talking about the show. She had this idea, and I just loved everything about it. That’s how it all got started.
Rebel, do the scenes come from your past, or things that happened to you?
WILSON: Yeah. The original concept of the show is that I used to do this thing with my sister Liberty, called Friday Night Fun Night. She worked at a candy factory, at the time, and she would just bring home the off-cuts from the candy factory, and we’d sit at home, on the couch, eating and watching DVDs. And I started to think that maybe there’s more fun than this, even though I did think it was really fun. So, I strategically tried to go out into the world and force myself into these social situations, and that’s where all the true stories come from, in the show.
Why did you want to do an American accent on this show, instead of just using your own Australian accent?
WILSON: My American accent is really, really good. I started out in the theater, doing all different characters with all different accents. When I first came to America, I thought I would be playing American, all the time. It was just weird how it worked out that I played more international characters, and I played Australian a lot. So, when I had the opportunity to do this TV show in America, and the concept was three girls who live in Manhattan, who had known each other since they were 13 or 14 years of age, I just really thought that I had to make this character American.
Conan, with this show, how are you balancing things that might be cruel and avoiding making the character so trod upon that it’s difficult to have fun with her?
O’BRIEN: I think great comedians know the balance, inherently. They know where it is. You think about the situations that Lucille Ball put herself in, through all her best work. Think of the situations that Tina Fey put herself in, in all of her work. They’re brilliant because they understand where that line is themselves. It’s not my place, it’s not John Riggi’s place, and it’s no one at ABC’s place to tell Rebel where that line is. It’s up to Rebel. She just knows what she’s doing, so she has an unerring ability to hit that balance. You sometimes cringe when you see her going through something embarrassing, but she’s so winning and she’s so likeable, and you root for her so much that you’re in this with her. And when she survives and actually achieves her goal, it’s exciting. It’s exciting for me to watch. I guess it can be exciting for all of Rebel’s fans to watch. So, when you have a great comedian, you let them tell you. You don’t tell them.
WILSON: I’m always pitching the saddest storylines, where I get punched in the face. The purpose of the show, to me, is to really inspire girls, who don’t think they’re cool and popular or pretty, to get out there and have fun and exciting lives, too. I think, in order to do that, you need to present a very realistic version of what it’s like to be a girl who looks like me and is not the coolest. Kimmie gets broken up with by one dude because he says,
“You’re too fat. I don’t like it anymore.” So, there are some very sad storylines coming down the pipe, but I think we have to present that so we can then present the wins for my character, which are awesome. It’s far more gratifying, I think.
Rebel, in a town like Hollywood, you’re never perfect enough, no matter what you do or say. What has your journey in Hollywood been like?
WILSON: When I first came to America, the second day here, I went into William Morris Endeavor for a meeting and I was like, “Yeah, I’m from Australia and I do comedy.” I think that one of the reasons they signed me is because I wasn’t like any other girl here. I don’t know why that is. Maybe girls don’t get encouraged. The ones who get encouraged to move to Hollywood are the prettiest ones in their hometown of Iowa, or something, and they get encouraged to move here. Whereas for me, where I come from in the western suburbs of Sydney, no one ever thought professional actors would come from there. Even my own family was like, “No one would want you on a show.” So, I came here, but then what I found was that, even though it was hard to get that first job and I was going into auditions for really big directors and thinking I was nailing it, no one was really willing to cast me until the geniuses of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig. I was in there, improvising so hard that they couldn’t ignore it. I didn’t get the role that I went for – which was the role that Melissa McCarthy got – but they liked me so much that they added me in. It took people who have the power to say yes to pull the trigger for me, here in America. And since then, it’s been easier because I’m not like anybody else out there, with my skills and abilities and looks. Now, I think it’s easier because I’m more distinctive.
This was originally developed at CBS as a multi-cam comedy, but it didn’t get picked up there, so you brought it over to ABC. What did you learn from the CBS experience that you apply to being at ABC now?
WILSON: That I should have put out.
O’BRIEN: I actually far prefer the show in single-camera, and was thrilled when I heard that we were going to get the opportunity to do this in single-camera. I think all of us were feeling this is really what we always wanted it to be.
WILSON: And then, there was that pay raise, as well.
O’BRIEN: All the work that I had watched Rebel do had been in single-camera and in film. For comedians, it can often give you much more control. You can set the shots. This show can be very broad. But, what I love most about Rebel, next to her vulnerability, is her range. She can take the big swings with the physical comedy, but then she makes these small little faces that are caught brilliantly in single-camera. I could watch those, all day. So, I think it’s a much better format and I think it gives the audience a lot more.
Rebel, does the single-cam also gives you a lot more leeway to improvise?
WILSON: Usually, with movies, my stuff is 80% improvised. I think in the pilot, because pilots go through such development, it was only about 20% improvised. I really wanted to bring what I do in the movies to TV, so with every single scene, we’ll also be doing improvised versions.
What does Conan bring to the show for you?
WILSON: One day, when we were filming the pilot, I called him up and was like, “It’s really hard, working over 10 hours a day. What should I do?” And then, Conan gave me really good advice. He said, “Start drinking.” He gives really smart advice to get me through the day.
O’BRIEN: My job with Rebel is to do everything in my power to let Rebel be Rebel, and clear interference if there’s interference. I’ve said to her, from the very beginning, “If there’s anything that’s getting between you and your ability to do this the way you want to do it, call me.” That’s when I’ll step in and be effective.
WILSON: He’s given us some good notes. He doesn’t like coincidences.
O’BRIEN: I don’t like insane coincidences. What I want is a show that gives you the pure Rebel – vulnerable, natural, extremely funny, very much herself and very honest. They’ve assembled an amazing team. My job, most of the time, is to stay out of the way. If I hear or sense, or if Rebel senses, that there’s a problem, she knows how to pick up her phone.
Super Fun Night premieres on ABC on October 2nd.