By Fred Topel
At the Television Critics Association panel for the CBS sitcom Mom starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney, series creator Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory) joked that he wanted to do a show about vampires but it had already been done before revealing how he actually came up with this new show. “Mom sprang from a desire on my part to finish something that I tried on a couple of occasions and failed to do successfully, which is to tell a story about a woman starting her life over again and redemption and all those really funny premises for a sitcom. And I tried it many years ago on Grace Under Fire, and I left that show after a year because…well…just because,” explained Lorre.
“I tried it again with Cybill and… But this is a story that’s very meaningful to me because it’s about starting your life over again, repairing the damage you’ve done. Nothing to do with me personally, but fixing the mistakes you’ve made in the past, restoring relationships, getting another start. Very much a story of Los Angeles in a way, even though it’s not set there, because we all get this is the city of second chances or I think it was – I may have missed fifth or sixth chances,” said Lorre. “But I approached Eddie [Gorodetsky] last August about doing this and we spent about two months failing miserably at it, getting absolutely nowhere. And we were about ready to give it up, and then Eddie had the very good idea to invite Gemma [Baker] into the process. Gemma’s been a writer on Two and a Half Men for the last couple years, and she saved us. She helped us open the story up. And then in December we sent it to Anna, and she said yes, which made it a series.”
The Plot: “Mom is a comedy from executive producer Chuck Lorre starring Anna Faris as a newly sober single mom raising two children in a world full of temptations and pitfalls, and multiple Emmy Award winner Allison Janney as her critical, estranged mother. Christy is a waitress at a posh Napa Valley establishment who is four months clean and doing her best to be a good mom and overcome a history of questionable choices. Her sobriety is tested when her recovering alcoholic mom Bonnie reappears, chock-full of passive-aggressive insights into Christy’s many mistakes. Bonnie joins Christy’s already complicated circle of relationships: her handsome, married boss – and lover – Gabriel; the restaurant’s hot-tempered chef, Rudy; her pretty, 16-going-on-25-year-old daughter, Violet; her sweet but overly honest son, Roscoe; her irresponsible ex and Roscoe’s father, Baxter; and Violet’s clueless boyfriend, Luke. Christy tries to remain positive as she pursues her new path in life, but she faces an uphill battle, surrounded by a dubious support system – and a copious amount of dysfunction.”
Faris’ and her husband Chris Pratt are now both balancing the duties of being new parents, working on feature films, and handling roles in television series (Pratt’s a regular on Parks and Recreation). And during the TCA event, I had the opportunity to sit down with Faris and find out more about juggling her time demands, her character, and Mom.
Anna Faris Mom Interview
Were you ever a waitress?
Anna Faris: “Yes.”
How good were you or bad were you?
Anna Faris: “I was so bad. I was a waitress at a senior citizen home so there’s two options. There’s like, ‘You can have the fish and chips or you can have the grilled chicken with no sodium.’ I was so bad. One time I walked back into the kitchen and I looked at my notepad and all I had done was just made little waves on the paper so I had to go back, take the order again. [Laughing] Luckily they were elderly, so maybe they didn’t remember.”
How do you relate to a 16 year old?
Anna Faris: “It’s really interesting. You know, both Bonnie [played by Janney] and my character, Christy, had their children as teenagers. There’s a little bit of sort of dreams left unfulfilled, but making the pilot I realized this lady is so great. She’s so lovely, but I did realize like I don’t know what 16 girls are like anymore. I have no idea. She’s a mystery to me.”
Did it give you lots of insight into the fact that you’re going to have one eventually?
Anna Faris: “Oh geez, I don’t think so.”
How are you balancing acting with motherhood?
Anna Faris: “I think that’s been one of the blessings of this job, being in town. My parents are down a lot. My baby is their only grandchild, so I’m sure they’re just doting on him right now, spoiling him, giving him chocolate cake or whatever my mom is doing.”
Is Chris a hands-on daddy?
Anna Faris: “He is. He is in London right now.”
What’s he doing?
Anna Faris: “Shooting a Marvel movie called Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Can we talk about his makeover for a second? When he tweeted that picture – what was that about?
Anna Faris: “Yeah, he had a crazy…he’s been working really hard. He’s on a crazy diet and he looks amazing. But I tell you what, life isn’t quite as much fun.”
Do you prefer the old Chris or the new Chris?
Anna Faris: [Laughing] “Someplace in between, just like so he can go out and have a couple beers.”
What was your biggest bit of butting heads you had with your own mom? Was there a conflict that you guys kind of kept coming back to it?
Anna Faris: “There is a couple things. My mom is like Allison’s mom in a sense that she is a total…she’s very conservative, although she hates when I say that because she’s very liberal politically. That’s what she always wants me to say, but socially conservative. I grew up sort of in a bubble a little bit. When I did the first Scary Movie, it really broke her in quickly. There were a couple of moments where I was like, ‘Mom, you have to go to the bathroom right now. Go to the bathroom right now. Go to the bathroom right now.’
She’s so amazing, but she worries all the time. Like this morning she was worried about my garbage disposal sanitation. Worried that I wasn’t eating enough granola. Worried that I’m not wearing sunblock. Worried about anything you could possibly worry about. It’s like Mom, I guess.”
Has the show relieved a little pressure of feeling like you need to be a perfect mom yourself?
Anna Faris: “I don’t know. What I’ve learned about being a mom is that there’s, even though my baby is only 11 months, so much guilt. You just can’t escape the guilt. I think that’s a lifelong thing, apparently.”
Are your folks still in Seattle?
Anna Faris: “They live in Seattle, yeah.”
Did they try to talk you out of this kind of career?
Anna Faris: “No, that is kind of the amazing thing about my parents. When I decided to not pursue acting because it seemed impractical, they were kind of disappointed. That’s proud parents. They’re so sweet. Yeah, which is really kind of amazing. It was a gift.”
Are you finding components of your mom that you used to find annoying, are you seeing yourself turning into a little bit of that mentality?
Anna Faris: “A little bit. Although I do feel myself pushing back. My mom wants to baby-proof everything. I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know mom. Not everything.'”
You were saying before that you were becoming known as ‘spoof girl.’ Did you actually worry about that? That that was going to follow you and you were never going to break out of that?
Anna Faris: “Yeah, definitely. I felt so lucky to be a part of those movies, but I couldn’t get auditions for anything dramatic for a long time. My first, sort of, it was a comedic role, but in Lost in Translation I really had to fight for that role. I auditioned for it about nine months before they actually gave me the role.”
Do you have any time to promote Meatballs? Do you even have time to go to the premiere, with how busy you are working on this show and being a mom?
Anna Faris: “Yes, I think I will go to the premiere. But the next couple months will be a little intense for me, but I think with Chris being gone it’s really good for me to be busy.”
How is it for him though because with the new baby at home and he’s away, it must be so hard for him? How’s he dealing with it?
Anna Faris: “We Skype. That’s all you can do. I did go to visit him and I brought my baby to London, which I hope I don’t have to do again.”
How was traveling with him?
Anna Faris: “He was really good, but the thing is that you just don’t sleep. In the situation we had, I had to hold him pretty much the entire flight. You’re trying to stuff a sandwich in your mouth or whatever. Anyway…”
What did Chris tell you about doing a series? Did he give you advice about it?
Anna Faris: “We talk a lot about our characters. He’ll give me advice sort of on how to deliver a joke or what I can adjust and things like that. His isn’t multi-camera, so it’s a little different.”
Are you looking forward to the schedule being a little bit more secure because it is on the stage?
Anna Faris: “I think all actors who, when you’re making films or one-hours, you really are working 14-15 hours a day so your life gets tidal waved. It’s really hard to have any kind of personal life. It’s amazing. But I also love the thrill of recording live. It was so terrifying, but kind of amazing. It felt like, you know there’s no second chance, even though there sort of technically is, but the pressure is on to get it right. That is really exciting because you get kind of lazy sometimes with film. ‘I don’t know, let’s break for lunch.'”
Where do you shoot this?
Anna Faris: “At Warner Brothers, yeah.”
Is that convenient for you?
Anna Faris: “Sort of. It’s one of those things where I’m only like four miles away, but it’s somehow it’s like a 45 minute drive.”
What show was in your stage before?
Anna Faris: “Never a multi-camera. It’s kind of exciting. They had to reconfigure everything to make it. Maybe, I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
Chuck Lorre has got a history of great shows written for women. Why do you think he’s so good at getting these shows to work with the female leads?
Anna Faris: “Well, I think he’s really fascinated by people but women especially. I haven’t actually talked at length with him about it, but I’m really honored that he is making a show about two messy women. It’s really exciting.”
What did your mom think of the show? What did she say after she watched it?
Anna Faris: “She loved it but I did give her some wine before.”
Mom premieres on CBS on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 9:30pm.
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