Mommy Katie: Q&A With the Writers from Mysteries of Laura on NBC

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Q&A With the Writers from Mysteries of Laura on NBC

NBC UNIVERSAL – The Mysteries of Laura
March 20, 2015
12:00 pm CT

Operator:               Our first question comes from the line of Rebecca Fry from My Spartan Life. Please go ahead.

Rebecca Fry:         Yes. When it came to having Debra Messing, did you know you wanted her or did she audition for the role?

Amanda Green:     Debra Messing does not need to audition for anything. She is, as you probably all know, so iconic and so present. I mean she was a dream. We just felt completely lucky that she was willing to do this show; not the other way around.

Kelly Fernandez:   That was Amanda Green.

Amanda Green:     Oh, sorry. Amanda forgets to identify herself. But the great thing I’ll say about having Debra is that she is herself a mom. And having a mom play the part of Laura is just so key, because I’m not saying an actress who isn’t a mother couldn’t handle the role, but Debra brings her own valid, grounded experiences as a parent - as a single parent - to this part. And she’s just awesome.

Laura Putney:        Yes. I think she’s willing to touch some things that would otherwise be considered third rail. This is Laura Putney by the way. You know if you don’t have your own kids, sometimes it can be hard to have that sort of - a bit of an edgy approach to child rearing.

Amanda Green:     What Laura is saying is that moms make poop jokes.

Laura Putney:        Yes. And we, you know, sort of - she’s just been there with the mom fails that we do on the show. And, you know, she gets - she brings a level of experience to it that I think it would be harder for an actress who’s not a mom to do.

Rebecca Fry:         Thank you.

Amanda Green:     You’re welcome. Great question.

Operator:               Our next question comes from the line of Dianna Ranere with FSM Blogs. Please go ahead.

Dianna Ranere:     Hi. I was wondering, because you all are writers and I was reading that both you - two of you come from like an improv background. And the show is kind of a dramedy, which I love because it’s not all serious stuff, and Debra Messing is funny.

                              Is it easier to write for just a straight up drama - let me try that again - comedy or drama? Yes, there’s the comedy. So is it easier to write for a dramedy because you can kind of throw both in there? Or is it easier to write for a drama or a comedy?

Margaret Easley:   This is Margaret Easley. I will say that having the improv background, it just sort of brings comedy to every moment we write. We are huge procedural fans. So writing a great procedural script, and then finding the comedy that organically comes out of that is a thrill.

                              It’s, I think, easier than writing straight comedy actually because you’re creating a world and a gritty story, and then finding the humor that comes out of that.

Laura Putney:        You don’t have to force the comedy. This is Laura. We’re into every moment. It only comes in where it occurs organically. So I think I like it better.

Dianna Ranere:     Thank you.

Amanda Green:     Thank you.

Operator:               Our next question comes from the line of Iris Barreto with Fangirlish. Please go ahead.

Iris Barreto:           Hi. I wanted to say I love the twins on the show. They’re so cute and adorable, and, you know, a little bit of trouble. But so I wanted to know, did you guys take any experiences from your own life of your children to use for this show - for any of the scenes?

Amanda Green:     I think your question could probably be paraphrased as did we take anything today of our children. It’s pretty constant and chronic, and between the three of us we have seven kids.

Iris Barreto:           Oh.

Amanda Green:     Yes. And so they are a constant source of inspiration, of - I mean we’d be talking about them even if we didn’t have the twins to write for because that’s what we talk about, right, as human beings, as mothers - what our kids do. It drives us crazy. It’s adorable. It’s ridiculous. It’s aggravating. It’s why we get up in the morning - why I got up at 5:00 this morning because my daughter just doesn’t get daylight savings time yet.

                              But yes, it’s - a lot of what the twins do and have done, I mean often comes as we’re creating a scene straight from what one of our children did today.

Margaret Easley:   That was Amanda by the way. This is Margaret. And I will say that in the time we’ve been writing this, there’s been a great turn in my life where I’m at home, at the end of my tether, almost sobbing. And then that little voice in my head goes, “oh, I can totally bring this into the writer’s room.” It’s been a good thing for my parenting.

Amanda Green:     I think - this is Amanda again. I think, and I bet you all know this in your own writing, is to be able to take the crises of our daily life with our children as - or with our mom’s help - and to turn it into art or comedy or relatable drama, is medicine.

                              You know, as Margaret was just saying, it redeems those moments where otherwise you’d be saying that’s it, put me in a straitjacket and ship me off because I can’t take another minute, into knowing that you can share that experience and that vulnerability through this show with lots of other moms. And that’s fantastic.

Laura Putney:        Especially as it creeps towards the end of the school year, and I keep remembering that the mommy blogger that went - that did the “you should have seen us in September.” We had it together. It’s one of my favorite blog posts that went around - was it last year or the year before last?

                              So man, and I - that is definitely coming into play now as we are creeping towards the end of the school year.

Iris Barreto:           Thank you so much for that answer - those answers. They were perfect.

Amanda Green:     Thank you.

Operator:               Our next question comes from the lines of Tara Settembre from Huffington Post. Please go ahead.

Tara Settembre:     Hi. You’ve had some interesting guest stars. Are there any more funny appearances coming up, or any particular stars you’d like to see on your show?

Amanda Green:     Oh wow, that’s a great question. I’m just trying to think of what we can tell you. I think there’s definitely some fun coming up.

Laura Putney:        We’re not sure what we can say. We’ve got a great mom coming up.

Amanda Green:     Yes. Let’s say, I’m just trying to think of - you know what? You’ve caught me at the end of - all of us - at the end of - we’ve just finished writing the 22nd episode. And I for the life of me can’t remember what we’ve shot, what we haven’t shot, what we’ve written, what we haven’t written, what we’ve released.

                              And gosh, I can’t remember what we’ve - what casting has been announced yet. What we’re trying to say is stay tuned. You will be pleased.

Tara Settembre:     Okay, great. And PS, I’m a mom of twin boys, so I like the twin boys.

Margaret Easley:   I’m so sorry.

Tara Settembre:     Thank you.

Amanda Green:     Well and that’s, you know, it’s always great to hear from moms and dads too, you know? But who - just understand that, you know, that’s what we’re trying to do with this show is to make a show that is honest to the experiences we’re all having. Whatever the job it is we do, whether we’re a cop like Laura or a blogger or a writer or we work at Wal-Mart or, you know, we drive a truck or a school bus or whatever that, you know, we’re all making the same juggle.

                              And we’re just so excited that not only do we get to write this character, but that it connects for everybody else.

Laura Putney:        I’ve had so many - this is Laura. I’ve had so many moms ask me, did you base that on my kids? Because we’re all there, you know? It’s just - and I have to say yes, yours and mine and, you know, my across the street neighbor and the kids at school, yes.

Operator:               Our next question comes from the line of Deirdre Kaye with Please go ahead.

Deirdre Kaye:       Hey ladies. So my question is, we know kind of how Laura juggles being a mom and working. But how do you guys juggle being a mom and working in Hollywood? What’s that like?

Margaret Easley:   This is Margaret. I don’t do it very well. So I’m going to turn it over to the other two.

Laura Putney:        Wow, how do we do it? You know, I mean I don’t think there’s anything anymore - any different or more glamorous about being a working mom wherever you work. It is always going to be hard. The hours are always going to be long.

                              And we’d like to think about it as, you know, basically we’re all always failing someone. You can be a hero at work or you can be a hero at home. You usually can’t be both. And Hollywood is no different from any other workplace, except that most other workplaces have to give you things like maternity leave, which we don’t get. But don’t get me started on that rant. That’s for a different call.

                              But I think that the hardest thing - and it is not true of this show - is that usually if you are a working mom on the staff of a TV show in Hollywood, you’re usually alone. It is not a business - writing - where there are a lot of people who are working moms.

                              There are a lot of younger women. There are women whose kids are grown. But working moms are definitely in the minority. And the fantastic thing about this show is that instead of working moms being a stigma, it’s a positive.

                              And this is an atmosphere - I mean not only do we three have kids, lots of the men on this show who are writers are dads. And, you know, we’re all actively involved in our children’s lives and parenting lives. And Jeff Rake is an amazing show runner who actually supports that.

                              And he says, you know, you’ve got - I left early on, yesterday, day before for a parent teacher conference. And I wasn’t sneaking out in shame. I had the support of my show runner, which was amazing. But he pops out for his own parent teacher conferences too. So you don’t feel like okay, you know, this is - I’m stealing time from the show.

                              It’s like we are - and I think that the others among us are picking up the slack, wherever that happens. Okay, so that you can go to your kid’s talent show, you know, for an hour, which is what I was doing yesterday. Then, you know, in that case Margaret was covering for me.

                              And Margaret and I are partners, and that helps too because we are - we’re a team. We count as one writer. So in that sense, that really helps for the mommy balance that we always have. We can have a presence in the office where one of us can be out doing mom stuff. So that’s just another piece of our juggling act, I would say.

Margaret Easley:   This is Margaret again. I’m going to weigh in on my bad parenting and juggling. To me it’s - going off of what Laura said - it’s the micro and macro support of the - to me it’s been the mom community. I mean here in the office, Amanda, Laura and I will bring in bags of clothes for each other.

Laura Putney:        It’s true.

Margaret Easley:   All my kids are wearing Amanda’s and Laura’s kids’ clothes. And, you know, I think it’s a great support group. And we’ll come in and share stories in the morning.

                              And then outside of that, yesterday things went long. Both of my kids got picked up after school by their friends’ parents. So, you know, I just - I sent up the bat signal and some other families rushed into to help.

                              So I think as Amanda said, there is a universal - whether it’s Hollywood or not - you have your village, no matter how small or big it is. And that just makes the whole experience so much better and easier.

Amanda Green:     Yes. And this is Amanda again. I will just say one last time as clearly as possible, as a mom, working on this show is the best thing ever because being a mom here is an asset. It’s not a negative. It’s not an, “oh, she’s a mom. Should we hire her? She’s probably going to leave early for a parent teacher conference or, you know, have to call in sick because her kid, you know, got strep.”

                              And that is actually - having that experience, having that juggle, having that insanity is actually an asset. And as everyone knows, you know, if you’re not living it, you’re not bringing it to the table every day.

Laura Putney:        Right. This is Laura. In the episode where Laura is charged with doing the school carnival booth for her class...

Amanda Green:     Hello, that was a source of - yes, much of that felt that to be our life.

Laura Putney:        We have a lot to bring to this table. Our pitches were pages long. And I remember specifically on that occasion it was like, you know what? Let’s just get the moms in the room. And here are our stories. And come up with, you know, the arc of that.

                              So Amanda said, it’s like - it’s something we bring to the table for this show. It’s an asset. And I think that shows up in the show.

Deirdre Kaye:       All right, perfect. Thank you guys so much.

Amanda Green:     Thank you.

Operator:               And our next question comes from the line of Dusty Bastian with Please go ahead.

Dusty Bastian:      Hi ladies. Many women including myself can definitely relate to Laura. And I love that you guys make her character not able to always do it so perfectly. It’s more relatable. Is there someone in particular that in the beginning inspired her character? Or is it more of a collective of your own lives?

Amanda Green:     Well I don’t know if you know this - this is Amanda - but the show is based on an incredibly popular and successful show in Spain called “Los Misterios de Laura” - literally “the Mysteries of Laura.” And, you know, Laura is played in that very much the same way as our Laura is - as a mom who struggles to find the balance between work and family.

                              Our stories are all independent. We’re not really adapting the individual episodes of the Spanish show. But we certainly fell in love with the character, you know, flawed, human, struggling - but always despite her sometimes cynicism, always ultimately persevering and successful, both as a parent and as a police officer.

                              But I think once, you know, beyond the original character, again we all just turn back to our own lives and our own wealth of funny, sad, tragic, pathetic parenting stories.

Laura Putney:        And yes - this is Laura. I think Debra brings a lot of that to the table too, and had a lot to do with shaping this character, you know, I think as a mom. This is very much who she is, you know? She is very much like this.

                              Yes. And I mean for example, you know, one of the things that we often talk about is, you know, what’s Laura going to pull out of her purse? You know it might be a gun. It might be a juice box. It might be a ninja. And that is something we can all relate to, being moms and having those bags that seem to contain a ridiculous amount of stuff - most of which has nothing with to do with life.

                              But Debra right, you know, plays right into that. You know there was an episode earlier in the season where Billy’s character gets injured. And she reaches into her purse and pulls out a maxi pad and slaps it on his injury. Because, you know, we all know there’s one of those in the bottom of the bag somewhere.

Amanda Green:     And that was Debra’s idea, you know, that, you know, maxi pad - sure, I’ve got one of those in the bag. Don’t we all? And it’s such - it’s always a source of the humor and the fun of the show.

                              Margaret and I had a Twitter war the other day about what’s happening - what we have in our purses. And we just kept pulling out things and taking a picture and posting it on Twitter. And as the objects got - and it was totally just absolutely real life - whatever we happened to have in our purse that day. And I think I won that with a stick on moustache.

Margaret Easley:   Yes, you did. That would do it. You don’t know why you have that. I have no idea to this day why I had this - probably still in there.

Amanda Green:     What I love is I did pull out the other day - out of my bag in a work setting - a pair of my daughter’s size 4T underpants, which were in my purse because, you know, accidents happen. It was Thursday. I hadn’t been running around with her since Sunday. But hey, maybe I’d need them for something else, you know?

Margaret Easley:   This is Margaret. I was on a production call and I pulled out a pirate telescope, which proved very useful for nothing.

Amanda Green:     Yes.

Margaret Easley:   And I was in - to bring these two scenes of the maxi pad in the purse together - I was in synagogue in a very quiet moment with my six year old son. And I gave him, you know, some - my wallet to pull things out so he could just be calm and quiet. And I thought I was doing - I was like patting myself on the back.

                              He was such a model of good behavior, until he pulls out of my wallet a tampon and holds it up high. And I have no idea he’s behind - he’s like sort of behind me. And he’s like - oh boy - holding it up above his head - mommy, what’s this? You heard it here folks. It’s going in a script.

Amanda Green:     That’s right - coming to your TV screen very soon.

Operator:               Our next question comes from the line of Kim Ritter with 2 Kids and a Coupon. Please go ahead.

Kim Ritter:            In Hollywood we used to only see the perfect housewives and perfect mothers like Donna Reed. And we’re finally now seeing, you know, real moms and real parents like in this series. Do you, you know, don’t have everything together - that are real life. Do you see this trend continuing in entertainment?

Amanda Green:     I sure hope so.

Margaret Easley:   Yes.

Amanda Green:     You know I mean I really, really hope so. Because I think and, you know, the audience proves it out. There are a lot of women out there who need to see themselves reflected in media. And it’s not just moms. It’s everything. I mean the amazing boom in diversity on TV screens speaks to the need of all of us to see ourselves reflected, not just, you know, one race, one ethnicity, one dress size, one, you know, hair style.

                              And I’m really hoping the Donna Reed days don’t come back because as classic as, you know, 50s television was, you know, shows like that make 99% of the population feel bad about themselves because their house isn’t clean, because their hair isn’t done, because they don’t fit into a size 2 dress without triple Spanx.

                              And I think we need to see parents of all sort of types across the spectrum that, you know, that encompasses, you know, parents of all forms, and people who are finding solutions that aren’t the same. And I think, you know, the first step is sort of voting with our viewership, because that’s what makes people sit up and take notice.

                              You know if people are watching Debra Messing play a working mom with chaos and paint chips and, you know, schmutz on her blouse or spit up, that sends a signal that this is a new way of looking at motherhood and, you know, the networks will listen.

Laura Putney:        And I - this is Laura - I would add it’s not just the 50s and Donna Reed. You could bring that forward, you know, because I’m just thinking of the shows that I sort of grew up with. And it was, you know, Mrs. Cosby of the Cosby Show or, you know, Little House on the Prairie - went all the way through the 70s and the 80s.

                              We’re just now I think coming as you suggest in your question to the notion that that’s not real. But those characters and that ideal of motherhood is in the back of our minds. And it does make us critical of ourselves, and feel like we, you know, that we’re failing because there’s an unrealistic ideal that’s been set up.

                              And so I totally agree. I hope it doesn’t go back to, you know, shift back to a more idealized version of motherhood because I don’t think it’s good to have that in your head and to be judging yourself all the time and feeling like you’re not doing it right.

Margaret Easley:   And this is Margaret.

Kim Ritter:            Okay, thank you.

Margaret Easley:   Oh, I have more. You’ve unleashed a beast when you talk about - this is Margaret. I just wanted to say I think we are all of a community. I think social media has been a huge part in changing that. There’s such an instant access to what’s real and painful and relatable.

                              And what you guys are putting out there and what we’re trying to put there is a more universal, real approach and view and vision of motherhood. So I think we’re all in this together. Now I’m done.

Kim Ritter:            Thanks.

Margaret Easley:   Can I ask a question? Is that weird? I’m just kidding.

Operator:               We do have one more question now.

Margaret Easley:   Yay!

Operator:               It’s coming from the line of Deb Rox with BlogHer. Please go ahead.

Deb Rox:               Thanks. I was trying to ring in. Because why don’t we end it with sex? I was...

Group:                   Yes.

Deb Rox:               I love how your show approaches the single mother’s story as sexy and as reclaiming her sexual agency and relationships, both as she looks back and as she looks forward and as she manages all of that. So I’d love to hear you guys talk about how you break that story and that part of her character as writers, and what we can look for in that theme.

Amanda Green:     Well you can certainly look for a lot. I mean I think that without giving major spoilers away, you know, one of the things that we really wanted to make sure was a part of Laura’s journey was exactly what you said - reclaiming her sexuality.

                              From the littlest things like feeling good and sexual and adult in her body which we all know is not always like overnight after you have kids - especially twins - that, you know, to see her also reclaiming after divorce, the idea that she’s entitled to love and happiness with an adult partner as well as with her kids.

                              And, you know, as a woman who is divorced herself - not from the father of my children, but previously - I, you know, I think a lot about how hard it was for me without kids to risk getting out there, to risk dating again, to risk starting over. And I think we’re all very sensitive to wanting to show Laura three dimensionally.

                              But it’s not enough to show her as a mom who’s struggling after divorce, but as a woman. And I think what we can say is that, you know, she’s going to take some major steps in the last five episodes which you guys haven’t seen yet, as she moves towards really embracing what she wants, but not without some pitfalls, you know?

                              And there’s a lot of big questions like when do you introduce a new partner to your children? When is it okay for that partner to stay overnight? How does your ex feel about a partner spending the night or spending more time or spending summer vacation with your kids?

                              And, you know, Laura and Jake by the way are going to encounter these questions and more. And we’re really excited to have that mature, adult, honest look at the complexity of dating after divorce.

Laura Putney:        Yes - this is Laura. I’m really excited about the last six I think episodes that haven’t aired yet in terms of Laura’s relationships. I think that’s a big piece you have to look forward to, going on her journey with her.

                              And you’d asked about the room and how we break those stories about Laura’s sex life. And I’d say we spend, you know, as much time and attention on that as any part of this show. I think that’s a real - that’s a driver of what this show is about. And it’s a, you know, it’s equally important as her relationship with her kids, is her, you know, relationship with her - as herself - as a sexual person out in the world dating again. And who she’s with or not with is as important as anything else about the show.

Amanda Green:     And what’s interesting - this is Amanda again - is that we struggle in the writer’s room with the same issues that women and men struggle with when they’re getting back into the marketplace. Like when should Laura have sex? Is she a first date kind of girl? Is she not for a month kind of girl?

                              And what goes into making that decision, and how hard it is? And what’s interesting is the debates that we have around the table in the writer’s room, are the debates that we also have as human beings inside our own heads, you know?

                              What’s too soon? What’s too fast? What’s too slow? What’s too prudish? What’s too promiscuous? And all the - we try to ask ourselves the questions that we believe the character would be asking herself. And also to bring them, you know, to normalize the questions.

                              I mean Laura talks about, you know, a Hitachi magic wand. That’s in her sexuality. And without, you know, I’m still waiting for the scene where the kids find the vibrator in the bedside table. Maybe if we get a season two - but to say all this is okay. The questions are okay. The doubts are okay. The insecurities are okay. And all the solutions and the searching for the solutions is okay. It’s messy but it’s okay.

Margaret Easley:   Right.

Operator:               And we have no further questions on the phone line.

Margaret Easley:   Awesome.

Amanda Green:     Thank you so much.

Laura Putney:        Thanks for your time ladies.

Kelly Fernandez:   Thanks everyone for joining today’s call, especially Amanda, Margaret and Laura. You guys were great. And everyone, don’t forget to tune in to The Mysteries of Laura which returns with all new episodes on March 25 at 8/7 Central on NBC.

                              Thank you guys. Have a great day.

Amanda Green:     Thanks.

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Janet W. said...

My husband doesn't like this show, but I actually enjoy it! I think the writing is pretty funny and I love the mom humor in it.