My little sister had an imaginary friend growing up called Keekoin the Frog. We would have to set the table for Keekoin and actually talk to him/her all the time. I smile thinking back because it was such an innocent and cute thing for a child to do. My sister was committed to Keekoin and she always felt happy and safe when “Keekoin” was around. By the time my sister went off to kindergarten, Keekoin had started to fade away… and now, he/she is just a fun memory for us as a family.
As I think about it now, none of my kids have ever had imaginary friends.
But they do exist and they are something that so many kids have and encounter throughout their lives.
So… the second I heard about the new ABC show Imaginary Mary, I thought about my little sister. The show is about a workaholic adult woman, whose imaginary friend from childhood comes back to her, but ends up being more of a troublemaker than a great companion. The premise of the show was so unique, so different, so outrageous, so like nothing out there… and I was immediately intrigued! Not to mention it stars Jenna Elfman, who is a favorite of mine!
While in Los Angeles for my Beauty and the Beast press trip, I had the amazing opportunity to get a sneak peek of Imaginary Mary AND enjoy a Q&A sessions with my fellow bloggers with Jenna Elfman (“Alice”), Stephen Schneider (“Ben”) and Executive Producers David Guarascio & Doug Robinson!!
Imaginary Mary is funny, fresh, heart-warming and witty. I’m a TV watcher, I love good TV, especially since at night when I’m winding down from my day of work and 5 kids, I just want to watch something that’s going to make me laugh. Imaginary Mary is THAT show that is going to do that for you. I sat watching and really was captivated. I love the characters. You immediately fall in love with the character Ben, played by Stephen Schneider. He’s adorable and cute and the kind of guy you want as a boyfriend. You are drawn to Alice, played by Jenna Elfman because she’s corky and adorable and someone you’re rooting for, you want her to find love and all good things. The dynamic of the kids in the show is fantastic, too. The kids add fun and sensibility… and many single/divorced parent out there are going to relate with the “how do we make this work” mixture of kids and new relationships. But then add Mary… and now you just have a homerun. Mary is that friend that tells you how it is, and you love her anyway. It really is such a brilliant way to tell a story and dive into the characters with her as the “main” draw. You’re going to love this show and I have a feeling it’s going to be a very big hit!
On a personal note, after interviewing Jenna and Stephen… I’m rooting 110% for the show! They are so happy and proud to be part of it, so I really hope that everyone loves it as much as I did because it’s that kinda good and entertaining!
As Jenna, Stephen, David and Doug sat with us to answer questions, you could immediately feel their excitement for the show. It was really fun to watch because this is a NEW show and you can tell they are really committed to it. We kicked off asking how the show came to be.
Doug explained to us, “I had a meeting with an animator named Patrick Osborne who won the Academy Award for a short film called Feast and he was sort of just doing his victory tour. We were sitting down talking and I said, ‘do you have any ideas that you wanna do in television?’ And he said, ‘I’ve always wanted to do a show about somebody who has an imaginary friend.’ I produced the Goldbergs with Adam Goldberg and there’s no one in touch with his inner child more than Adam, so I was like that’s the perfect guy. Adam is busy running a show, so he said, I know the exact story that we should do, and David was a writer on The Goldbergs, and we’ve both known him for a long time… and a lot of this mirrors David’s life, so we brought David in, and that’s sort of where, where it all came together.” It was very interesting to hear that Imaginary Mary mirrors David’s life! To see him there smiling and laughing along with the story, it’s very cool. Again, like I said before, so different. I mean, nobody is doing anything for family TV based around Imaginary friends.
The funny part was hearing Jenna tell us that she told her agents she didn’t want to do anymore TV! She was done with it and just not wanting to go back… until she heard that Imaginary Mary would be on ABC! And then, as she shared with us, she read the script. “I read it and went, oh, that’s just so interesting because I love that there’s the romantic part as the leading lady, and then there’s the fish out of water aspect with the kids because she’s just has no point of reference for dealing with children at all, and has no plan for it. She has a negative point of reference of child-rearing. And then she’s super accomplished; she’s a woman on her own, which I liked, and then as an actor dealing with comedy, I have to now also deal with something that doesn’t exist but that I see, but that they don’t see, and then do physical comedy, and fish out of water, and it was just like, oh my god, that’s, a lot of balls to juggle. And I felt like I can take that on, and it felt like the next new level of challenge for me. And then everyone involved is so great, it was really hard to say no to. I just couldn’t find a reason not to do it, so that’s how I came into it.”
And thank goodness because she’s PHENOMENAL in it!
Stephen was so funny because he’s a new dad in real life, but on the show he’s a dad of 3! He’s the perfect other half for Jenna on the show. I mean, PERFECT! Their chemistry is just beautiful and you really believe these 2 characters! “It was a very cool challenge to have- to be able to, to have the insanity of juggling three children. I mean, kids are crazy and just one is a lot, but imagining having to deal with three? I thought it would be a fun experience to basically get me to get a vasectomy! That’s where I’m going after this!” He was hilarious, very funny! But mostly, it was just really interesting to hear why everyone signed no for this show. “I thought the writing was incredible. When I read it, I just thought it was really funny and it was grounded in a great way, yet it had this really different interesting element and it’s fun to be a part of something that’s new and this has never been done as a network comedy before where there’s an animated character.”
As Jenna Elfman fans, we were all captivated by her. She seems to have it all. We were anxious to find out how she balances it all. She smiled, “On Saturdays, I would just wanna face plant and I had to be a mom, so I would just sort of bring them into bed with me for the five hours of the day [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] and stay in bed, and then I’m like, yeah, I’ve gotta get out and do stuff! And then I had to learn my lines for the next week. And so it was really challenging. That was super intense. So I don’t always do it great, I’m tired, and then I have to keep it together and not be cranky with them, and then sometimes I’m cranky, and then I feel horrible, and then I go take a nap if I can- I mean it’s the thing we all do. It’s just like everyday is like the little sliders on the equalizing board, you know? And you’ve gotta just try to keep it all above the make/break mark.” Her honesty was so refreshing and real and raw. Every mom in the audience was nodding her head in agreement.
And then Stephen talked about balancing and he had us all wrapped up! What a GUY! “Anybody that works in this industry has to often sacrifice a tremendous amount of time over an extended period. My wife who is in Vancouver with our daughter, she’s like the unsung hero for this for me because she was with my daughter all day long- had no friends; was literally walking up to people on the street being like, ‘You have a baby. I have a kid, too.’ [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] … When I was home, I mean, I felt- I was wracked with guilt and was just giving every ounce I had to be with my daughter and it’s a hard- it’s a struggle, you know? I mean, this is what I think- why moms are incredible and are willing to make these sacrifices for the good of all the family. And I just kept reminding myself, this is for her, at the end of the day, and for our family.” Talk about the coolest guy ever!
One interesting thing for me is always hearing about what the actors and actresses want from their show. “Laughter, and joy and entertainment, and feeling better about the lives they’re living. That’s all, personally, I just wanna make people have relief, you know? Like, we’re all in this together. We know how hard it is. Like, life’s freakin’ hard and I want people to watch the show and, like, what you guys, that laughter- me sitting here listening to you guys laugh and react, that’s everything to me. That’s why I do it because it, it removes you from the stresses of life for that moment. And in those moments, you rehabilitate a little more life juice to go on, and that’s all I want to do for people.” YES. YES. AND YES.
We were excited to talk about the character of Mary. We asked Doug and David about the character – who came up with the design and how did they decide on what the character would look like?
They both chimed in on this one! Doug started, “Our co-creator, Patrick Osborne, who’s also an animator, he really came up with the design and sort of just worked with us about what she would look like, and he wanted to do something that was loveable-looking particularly because an important part of Mary’s character is that she’s not always saying the right thing, so to speak. She is a defender of Alice’s independent streak and her sort of like feminist side, so to speak. So we felt like we could get away with Mary saying more of what she shouldn’t say if- the cuter she looked, really.” David shared, too, “We completely changed her between the pilot and the series. We, we redesigned her just because we found that certain things worked, and certain things didn’t work, and we sort of just made her rounder and cuter, and just kept refining her the whole time. It was great.”
She really is the cutest thing! And I love how they made the connection in that the cuter she is, the more she can get away with saying things! So funny! So smart!
OK – and then the BIG question… how does the acting work with Mary (voiced by Rachel Dratch)?
David shared, “We have a person when we did the pilot, Shawn Levy actually would jump on a table and act out Mary, or jump up on a barstool and a lot of energy of Mary is sort of baked into Shawn’s DNA. It was really great to see. He brought so much energy to the character and Jenna and Shawn just rift together really well. Shawn would be down there dancing in the bar scene; it was fantastic, and we just like to blackmail him with the footage every once in a while! It was great to watch and sort of evolved- it became a process that – the hardest part – believe it or not was actually finding the voice of Mary. It took a really long time, and we just read a lot of people; we listened to a lot of people blind, and when we listened to Rachel Dratch, we didn’t know it was Rachel. We just sort of were listening to people, and watching into the picture, and then that all came together, that one.”
So amazingly interesting!!
I’m telling you, TUNE IN and check out the Imaginary Mary! You will love it and just find so much humor in it, I promise! Tuesday nights at 9:30PM/ET on ABC!! TONIGHT!!!!!!
Disclosure: This was a Disney Press Trip. All travel was covered.