I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a Q&A interview with the writers and Co-EP of the hit NBC show, The Mysteries of Laura. I’ve been a huge fan of Debra Messing since I first saw her on an episode of Seinfeld, and of course through Ned and Stacey, Will & Grace and my beloved SMASH, so it was a no-brainer that I would watch this show, and no doubt that I would love it.
Here’s a little about the show: Debra, stars as Laura Diamond, a brilliant NYPD homicide detective who balances her “Columbo” day job with a crazy family life that includes two unruly twin boys and a soon-to-be ex-husband – also a cop – who just can’t seem to sign the divorce papers. Between cleaning up after her boys and cleaning up the streets, she’d be the first to admit she has her “hot mess” moments in this hilariously authentic look at what it really means to be a “working mom” today. Somehow she makes it all work with the help of her sexy and understanding partner. For Laura, every day is a high-wire balancing act.
You can download full episodes of the show on the official Mysteries of Laura site.
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. 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.
Dianna Ranere (that’s me): I was wondering is it easier to write for a drama or comedy (the show is considered a dramedy, and both Margaret and Laura Putney were both involved in an improv group)?
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. We’re into every moment. It only comes in where it occurs organically. So I think I like it better.
Did you guys take any experiences from your own life of your children to use for this show?
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, so they are a constant source of inspiration. 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. 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: 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 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 and to turn it into art or comedy or relatable drama, is medicine. 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.
— Writers of Laura (@WritersofLaura) March 20, 2015
How do you guys juggle being a mom and working in Hollywood? What’s that like?
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. 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.
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. here 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 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: 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: 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.”
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.
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.
In Hollywood, we used to only see the perfect housewives and perfect mothers like Donna Reed. We’re finally seeing real moms and real parents like in this series, that don’t have everything together. 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. 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 hair style.
And I’m really hoping the Donna Reed days don’t come back because as classic as 50’s television was, 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.
I think we need to see parents of all sort of types across the spectrum that encompasses parents of all forms, and people who are finding solutions that aren’t the same. I think the first step is sort of voting with our viewership, because that’s what makes people sit up and take notice. 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 the networks will listen.
Laura Putney: I would add it’s not just the 50’s and Donna Reed. You could bring that forward, because I’m just thinking of the shows that I sort of grew up with and it was Mrs. Cosby of the Cosby Show or Little House on the Prairie – all the way through the 70’s and the 80’s. 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’re failing because there’s an unrealistic ideal that’s been set up.
Margaret Easley: 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.
I love how your show approaches the single mother’s story as sexy and reclaiming her sexuality. What can we look forward to in that regard?
Amanda Green: Well you can certainly look for a lot. I mean I think that without giving major spoilers away 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 – 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.
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? Laura and Jake 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: 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.
The Mysteries of Laura returns with all new episodes tonight, March 25 at 8/7 Central on NBC.
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