Jaime Pressly and Mimi Kennedy discuss their part of the ‘Mom’ universe

04.30.15 2 years ago

CBS

Jaime Pressly and Mimi Kennedy have both had good “Mom” news since I talked with them on the set of the CBS comedy in March.

At the time, Pressly was still a “Mom” guest star, but the “My Name Is Earl” Emmy winner seemed very open to getting to be a regular part of the action.

In March, it was announced that Pressly will, indeed, be a regular next season, continuing to chart the journey of wealthy divorcee Jill, who has made several trips to rehab this year.

And at the time, Kennedy was unsure what was happening with Marjorie's cancer, an important Season 1 plotline that was ignored for the first chunk of Season 2.

In recent episodes, it was finally been revealed that Marjorie has been continuing with treatment and that she's now cancer-free.

I held my interviews with Pressly and Kennedy a little long and so there were large conversational chunks about Pressly's future on the show and Marjorie's ambiguous health that have become superfluous or redundant or irrelevant or something. 

Still, as “Mom” reaches the end of its terrific second season on Thursday (April 30), I wanted to run the interviews. I loved a lot of the things Pressly said about the strong women in the cast, as well as her insights into the never-ending single-cam/multi-cam debate. I also thought Kennedy had right insights into the core emotional dynamics in “Mom” and I also enjoyed the discussion at the end about the thought process in selecting Emmy submission episodes. 

Thurday's finale, fortunately, is a good showcase for both Pressly and Kennedy. We see more sides to Jill's ongoing living situation with Octavia Spencer's Regina and we spend more time with Marjorie and her loving cats. It is, in general, quite a fine episode and a dark-but-nimble illustration of the show's evolution.

Click through for my slightly trimmed Jaime Pressly interview on Page 1 and my slightly trimmed Mimi Kennedy interview on Page 2…

JAIME PRESSLY

HitFix: Had you worked with Octavia before at any point?

Jaime Pressly: No but I knew her. We”re both from the South and so we all in this business, most of us know each other somehow.

HitFix: So you guys were able to find a rapport?

Jaime Pressly: These women here it”s very rare that you find such a wealth of talent in women all on one set. I”m really happy to be and honored to be a part of it, because not only are these women all extremely talented as individuals, we”re all very supportive of each other. And it”s nice to see strong, smart, talented women support each other and not go against each other. And we all work beautifully together and love being together and it”s a really loving teamwork atmosphere here.

HitFix: Is that the kind of thing that you can sense immediately when you get onto a set like this?

Jaime Pressly: Yeah, I mean I knew Allison a little bit before and Anna as well. But we all just kind of hit it off right away when we started working together in what, July. And then when Octavia came back it was just kind of like old buddies. It”s like we”ve all known each other for years. It”s great. It”s very organic.

HitFix: The past few years you've mixed it up, you did a single cam, a bit of multi-cam. Do you have a preference honestly or is it just the material regardless?

Jaime Pressly: It”s the material really. And you know a lot of times when it comes to pilots, for instance, there”ll be a really great pilot script but then you don”t know where the rest of it”s – like it kind of begins and ends there. It”s very difficult to have a successful series that can continue to capture and captivate an audience and keep people interested. Because the story, you”ve got to be able to continue to tell this story. I love multi-cam obviously because I love the format. My son”s name is Desi, named after the man who created the format. 

HitFix: I had not known that.

Jaime Pressly: He and the DP of “The Lucy Show” created the format.

HitFix: I knew that part, but I didn”t know your son”s name was Desi.

Jaime Pressly: Oh, my son. Oh yes, yes. So obviously I love the format. It”s my favorite because I love getting the immediate response from the audience and it gives us this upper hand where before it airs we know it”s funny, because we got to test it in front of an audience and if a joke didn”t work the writers can change it. We get to change it. So that”s really a huge benefit as far as from multi format. But single camera gives you the ability to tell more story because you don”t have to wait for laughs. And when you only have 20 to 22 minutes to tell the story it can be very difficult,, especially when you”re holding for laughs, you know. So you”ve got to have a really tight script with which any Chuck Lorre show, you don”t have to worry about the scripts are always perfect. But when it comes to single, you know, like for instance doing “Earl,” we never questioned our scripts. They showed up hilarious. Greg Garcia and all of our writers were such geniuses when it came to that world that Earl and everybody lived in. It kind of just was very organic from the get-go. That was one of the greatest experiences of all of our lives, everybody that was a part of that. And it”s really hard because you want to go back to work. If you”re gonna do single camera, me being a parent in real life, it”s very important that I”m not away from my son all the time. I want to be there. And if you”re doing single camera you spend a large majority of your day on set as opposed to multi where you have this really great schedule where I can go pick him up from school and you only have really one long day. So if I”m gonna do single, it”s got to be with a really great group of people that I care about, an easygoing set where everybody”s happy. Because going to a set where people are miserable, there”s nothing worse than spending 15 hours a day, you know what I mean, doing that. 

HitFix: Obviously you”re not going to say what you”ve been looking at but do you have a sense of sort of what this spring people are looking at in terms of single-cam, multi-cam?

Jaime Pressly: I do but, you know, it”s hard because there”s like what – 55 networks or something and 111 shows they”re casting for? I say this all the time. You know there was a day when people who did film who would never touch television and I”ve always like to do both but I prefer television because it gives you more of an opportunity to dive into a character and find out where it goes. And a lot of times after you finish a film you go, “Wait, now I get the character,” and you want to go back and redo it but you can”t. You have this like little amount of time to get it right. And with television you get to grow with the character, you get to, first of all you get to be in everybody”s homes every week as opposed to in theaters once a year. It”s way more productive in that we shoot more pages a day than …. For instance “I Love You, Man” there was a scene where there were eight women in it and we shot for 15 hours for one scene. Fifteen hours on a single camera show would be eight pages, you know what I mean? The one scene was only two pages long. For me I like to be productive. I like to keep it moving and fresh and especially with comedy. And so, you know, that”s essentially what television is doing now. It”s like shooting mini films every week. Just not taking so damn long to do it.

HitFix: And it even feels like that in multi-cam like this?

Jaime Pressly: Multi-cam you don”t feel that way. Single camera television you do of course.

HitFix: Because this is like shooting a play every week.

Jaime Pressly: It is and it”s awesome because it”s acting in its purest form. You”re in front of an audience. It”s very raw and you”re very vulnerable and it can be nerve wracking but it”s also amazing because the audience is right there. They”re not that far away. And it”s nice to have the automatic response and just that energy that you get from the audience. It”s an adrenalin rush.

HitFix: Well I was talking to Mimi and she was saying that to some degree on a show like this that has the dramatic beats you have to learn maybe not to go for the laugh as much in the say way that you might on a different multi-cam. Have you felt that way as well that on this particular show there”s less, I don”t know, playing to the audience for approval?

Jaime Pressly: Well here”s the thing. Growing up, you know, my agent said something to me that I thought was quite brilliant recently. He said, “When we grew up television was for kids and film was for adults. And nowadays television is for adults and film is for kids.” And it”s very true because remember “Cheers.”

HitFix: Of course.

Jaime Pressly: I mean “Golden Girls.” “Friends.” “Frasier.” There”s so many. Even “Will and Grace.” I mean “The Cosby Show.” They all had moments that were heavy at times because they were touching on real life topics and that”s what you want a show to be about. You want it to be relatable so that people want to watch it and they get it and they understand it. And I think if everything”s funny all the time that gets old because nothing is funny all the time and perfect all the time. I mean that would be great. I think what”s great about this in this format and a Chuck Lorre show is that you can hit something really heavy and come out of it really funny. He”s not afraid, which I love, to end a comedy on a heavy note without having an upbeat. This particular episode, it ends in a heavy beat. Like I get choked up when we”re filming the show almost every week because there”s so many really real great moments that happen in real life that are hard. And that”s what the show”s about.

HitFix: I feel like with a lot of those shows that you mentioned, the older shows they would do the Very Special Episode in which somebody”s alcoholic uncle showed up and they had to deal with alcoholism for a week. And I like that this show sort of has the ability to do that on a weekly basis. It doesn”t have to be a very special episode.

Jaime Pressly: It”s not taboo anymore to talk about AA or any of these things. I think it”s very courageous that they can make light out of the heavy and that they”re talking about something that”s very real and relatable to so many people. I”m a big fan of pushing the envelope and this isn”t the '50s anymore. We should be able to talk about stuff. And again it”s really incredible to have this cast and such an incredible cast of women – strong all of them, and talented and funny. It”s very difficult to find a bunch of women that can be funny and serious, heavy at the same time. That”s hard. And then have them all get along. That”s unheard of, you know.

HitFix: Certainly you hear the sitcom stories about the cases where that didn”t happen.

Jaime Pressly: You hear all kinds of stories whether it”s sitcom, film or single camera, you know, television. It”s rare.

[My chat with Mimi Kennedy is on Page 2…]

MIMI KENNEDY

HitFix: When you signed on for this how much of a sense did you sort of have of what the overall tone of the show was? What did you sort of think you were signing on for and what has it sort of evolved into around you do you think?

Mimi Kennedy: The first I heard of it was that there had been auditions for a role that I didn”t audition for. And someone in the room said, “Mimi Kennedy would give us a better performance than what we”ve seen,” because I had worked on “Dharma & Greg.” So Chuck and some others knew me. So then I was asked, “Do you want to do this?” As an actress it was music to my ears. I was gonna do it no matter what. I knew it was going to be good writing. I think I did look at it and I went, “Love it, love it”  I”m trying to think of what Marjorie”s business was the first time I ever did her. I think reference to her cats, you know, I knew who I was. A crazy old cat lady who was in AA. And I loved it. And I thought it was about repair and recovery, at least when I would be. I was in it because they knew me because of AA. So I thought that, plus wanting your mother was such an important psychological thing that this show was just gonna go there, because people want that. And I remember even saying to Peter Roth, “This is going to be a big hit. People want this.” And he went, “I hope you”re right.” But as a girl who loved her mother who is now, you know, not on the planet. I like to see those mother-daughter hugs and I love that it”s a struggle. I have a daughter, it was a struggle with my mother. Mother-daughter”s hard. But you add dysfunction that”s parent to that and then you add a program that tells you how to repair your relationships? And that”s what I thought it would be.

HitFix: Did you have sort of any worries about sort of treating the recovery process with respect sort of that it was going to do, that it was going to have the right tone I guess toward it?

Mimi Kennedy: I knew it was going to be treated with respect because the show was called “Mom” and I figured that that meant that this team, Chuck Lorre”s team that”s been writing shows about men and sex and all these other things, I just figure we”re down to it now. That”s the primal relationship. John Lennon – you”re too young to remember but, you know, his life was all about that scream because he lost his mother early. So I thought that it had rails that it probably wasn”t gonna go off of unless, of course, everything, anything can happen. It”s show business. But I figured it really had strong rails and I thought it”s like when you really get down to what the core thing is. That”s how I thought about it.

HitFix: You said there”s the cat lady aspect which is sort of more broadly comedic but then you had serious drama that you were playing last season.

Mimi Kennedy: I always love that. The more pain that”s referenced or implied, the deeper the laugh can be because the laughter heals the pain. So you”ve got to have the pain and then you have the laugh. But I will say this differs from other sitcoms I”ve done in that even when there”s an audience here and the audience wants to laugh and I”m an actress so I like that audience because that”s saying, “We love you.” Their laughter says, “We love you.” And sometimes I mustn”t. That”s my little addiction. And sometimes I”ve got to give that up because it”s not good for the process. And I love that I think. There”s something inherent in this project that is like a teaching moment for the whole world but it”s like also show business, so that”s how I feel. I feel as if it really has this strong huge center, “Mom,” the concept, the person in everybody”s life. We wouldn”t be here without mothers. It couldn”t be more basic. And if there”s pain in it and then you”ve got to laugh about it and my sense has been from the beginning from the minute I came to the set. Plus look at the cast. I mean Allison Janney is amazing and Anna Faris was a revelation to me. Of course my children, kids who are 30, you know, they”re in their 30s. They love Anna Faris. So I knew right away it was something amazing, the cast.

HitFix: Well as you say when you”re doing comedy and you”re doing it in front of an audience you get the laughter. That”s the response that you know you”ve got it right. When you”re doing drama in front of an audience that”s expecting comedy, is there any sort of signal, any response?

Mimi Kennedy: There is a signal. This is really new and we”re doing something without the audience this week. But the way I”m thinking about it now is like the Philharmonic. Chuck and Jamie Widdoes, our director, we”ve got the musical score. We”ve got the script. Now it”s gonna be conducted. There”s a lot of different ways and emphases you can do with Beethoven or something. And what I have noticed is, for me as an actress, that this is new territory because I find the writers so funny, just painfully funny. And for a lot of times I had a wonderful character-thing where guilty porn, man-porn was the thing, and they were throwing lines in that were making me just Allison and I could cry it was so funny. And then as the season goes on… Sitcoms are now allowed to have a through line, you know. I”ve been in the business since what, '78? And I remember when I was playing moms of kids and they would repeat a trope, four weeks away. And I go, “Wait a minute. This kid made a big borrow last time you just borrowed money for something. He never paid it back and what did he get?” And they would go, “If our audience is thinking about that we”re in trouble.” And I always used to think, “I”m a television watcher and I am thinking about that. We love the characters you”re creating. We think they”re real. We”re tuning in. Find them. We remember what happened in them and when you forget or tell us it wasn”t important that makes us think 'Oh, I was a fool to care.'” And it was always it was like aversion therapy. After a while you turn off. But this just helps you go deeper. So then what do you do with this screamingly funny situation character”s dialogue. And you have to watch the conductor. You know you”ve got your French horn in front of you, you”ve got one eye on the music and another eye on your conductor and you”re trying to play with the other orchestra and it”s exciting. It”s exciting. I like it. I like it a lot. It”s different than many other four-camera shows I”ve done.

[We speculate for a bit about her character's cancer, which was unmentioned on the show at the time.]

HitFix: How were the cats to work with?

Mimi Kennedy: I”ve got allergy pills upstairs in my room and it says For Cat Work right on it.

HitFix: How bad?

Mimi Kennedy: Not bad at all. Not bad at all. If I touch them and pet them and then go near my face after a while I”ll start sniffling. And there was one time I stayed at somebody”s house and they didn”t tell me they had a cat. They thought just by taking it out of the room it would be okay so it was in the basement and I didn”t known about it. But it had slept on that pillow for its whole life. I woke up with asthma in the middle of the night. I go what? But no, and I developed a cat allergy late in life when I was pregnant so it may be hormonally induced and I might not still have it bit I take it prophylactically. I love the little cats.

HitFix: So they”re well enough behaved. They don”t ruin things?

Mimi Kennedy: They”re beautifully behaved and I love – I”m a dog person but lately I thought it would be so nice to have a little kitten. But instead I have a part where I get to play with the cats. I didn”t know there were cat wranglers, did you?

HitFix: Oh sure, sure.

Mimi Kennedy: And they buzz them.

HitFix: That I didn”t know and that”s a little disturbing.

Mimi Kennedy: It doesn”t hurt them. They don”t taser them. No, no cats are harmed in the filming.

HitFix: I was going to say someone has to handle them, you know.

Mimi Kennedy: Yeah it was just like telling them to get off this cushion and go get your food now. I think it”s a noise actually. I think it”s a buzzing noise that they respond to.

HitFix: What is the different energy that comes when you're working with Jaime and Octavia, beyond Anna and Allison?

Mimi Kennedy: Well I don”t have any statues on my shelf so we”re… With Octavia. I told her yesterday, “Every day that I come to work and I”m working, I”m working with you is kind of a mind-blowing thing for me.” That”s pretty good. I figure I made it. And Jamie”s wonderful. She”s just wonderful.

HitFix: And she”s got her Emmy, too.

Mimi Kennedy: Yeah, I”m working with people with…

HitFix: Not nearly as many as Allison but…

Mimi Kennedy: A lot of statues. Yeah, that”s true. It”s true.

HitFix: Did Allison bring her Emmy – well the Emmy that she got for this show not to be confused with…

Mimi Kennedy: They have mercifully kept them so that I don”t even glimpse when I”m going by the door and think, “Why, why not me?” [She laughs.] No, I”ve had a rich, full life I think. Acting at this point on a sitcom is just, of course one always hopes but I didn”t set my cap for this one. And I did some wonderful movies, you know. I had a lot of activity in politics for a while because “Dharma & Greg” gave me a cushion upon which I could – a magic carpet ride so to speak. And then I did some wonderful movies for Armando Iannucci and then Woody Allen. So, you know, hey.

HitFix: Not bad.

Mimi Kennedy: Not bad. And I thought this is great. And then next thing you know.

HitFix: Also you need to make sure that if the cancer is going to come back you”ve got to make sure it comes back for like a three-episode good meaty arc.

Mimi Kennedy: Oh they”ll give me a meaty arc. Are you kidding me. Oh man, I”ll be crawling across the rug.

HitFix: Just make sure you get your Emmy Episode. That”s all.

Mimi Kennedy: Exactly. Exactly. 

HitFix: And request it exactly like that.

Mimi Kennedy: Exactly. It was interesting because for the guest star, you know I was a guest star at first and then I had to decide about coming back or not. And I thought if I come back as a guest star then I”m gonna be constantly going up for pilots and going up, you know, because…

HitFix: You”ve got to work.

Mimi Kennedy: I”ve got to work. And then work begets work so people will start going, “Oh, she was on that. Let”s get her for the thing that we want to contract her for.” And I was much more interested in this show just as storytelling. So I”m on as a regular now so gosh darn. And they did give me a guest star Emmy episode with the chemo. And interestingly when I went up for it I submitted the road episode because that was where we saw a side of Marjorie that I think has really settled in, which is her background from prison and as a heroin addict. When she walked up, it wasn”t in that episode but I walked up to the biggest bull in the yard and I beat the crap out of her. When I was in prison I did not need a gang because I just decided who runs it. Well don”t mess with me. And I don”t know. It feels like that”s a piece of her that they”re using in the mix. It was a little further into the Marjorieness and so that”s what I did.

HitFix: There”s a thought process that you went through in the submission choice, though.

Mimi Kennedy: Yeah. So you think I clearly should have submitted the chemo episode?

HitFix: Look, I also thought that Allison should have submitted the relapse episode last year and clearly that blew up in her face. 

Mimi Kennedy: Well I would like you to call me up next time and tell me what should I submit.

HitFix: It”s obviously tough because you”re a comedy series. How dramatic an episode do you want to choose? Do you want to choose an episode where you get to make funnies or be dramatic?

Mimi Kennedy: I would definitely want to choose the dramatic episode and I loved that. But that”s really interesting that for some reason I guess maybe I – yeah I might have gotten nominated if I”d had the chemo episode.

HitFix: You can”t dwell on it.

Mimi Kennedy: I can”t dwell – I can”t dwell!

The “Mom” finale airs on Thursday, April 30 at 9 p.m. on CBS.

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