‘Work in Progress’ Creator & Star Abby McEnany on Depicting Queer Life | In Studio


– Hi, I’m Abby McEnany, and I’m in studio with
the Hollywood Reporter. (upbeat music) – So, Abby, it’s been a year now since “Work In Progress” was at Sundance. – Right, yeah, we actually, we got, we found out we got into Sundance the Monday of Thanksgiving last year, and then Sundance was, I think, the last week of January
of this year, yeah. – Right, so, how does it feel to finally be debuting the show to a wider audience? – It’s, I mean, somebody
reached out to me today, like “Hey, how are you doing?” and I always say, like “I’m so grateful, “I’m terrified, I’m excited.” It’s amazing. I still don’t believe
it’s happening, you know, ’cause I’ve never, like, you know, worked on a professional
thing like TV before, and I just look around and I’m just really really grateful, and I legit can’t believe it. (laughs) – How did it go? I mean at first you said you’re kinda filming a television
show for the first time, and you’re, you know, in every scene, you’re the star of the show. – I have to say, so we were so lucky that we were able to write,
film, and do post-production, everything’s in Chigaco, and I think I really am pretty, very open about how inexperienced and
new I am to all of this, and the crew that we had on set, like, I mean, some of the
best people in the world, and I’d be like “I don’t
know what I’m doing,” and they would teach me, you know? They’re like, I don’t know,
I just learned so much, and it was really, I felt
so well taken care of, not only by Tim and Lily, but my fellow actors, some who have been my dear
friends for a long long time, and then the crew was
just amazing as well, I mean, it went as well as
it could, I think, you know? – What was it like to collaborate with Lily Wachouski and Tim Mason and how did they
collaborate with your show? – Right, so, well, Tim and I, we wrote the pilot and
co-created the pilot together. So we wrote it and filmed it last year, and submitted it to Sundance, and that was, that was just us. Now, coincidentally, like, Lily and I have been friends in Chicago for about 3 1/2 years. I know their partner, I’ve known their partner, Mickey, for several, several years, over 20 years, and um, now Lily was sorta like
“What are you working on?” and I told her, and I had sent her a clip, she was like “Wow, cool,” and then, funnily enough, our executive producers
that signed on with us work with Circle of Confusion, and Lily is represented
by Circle of Confusion, and so it was, all this stuff happened, it was very kismet, like, worked together and so once we started, she signed on and was like
“Yeah, this sounds fun, “I’ll executive produce,”
and that’s awesome, and then the three of us co-wrote the rest of the seven episodes together. – So tell me a little bit about collaborating with Julia Sweeney, having Julia Sweeney on the show is kind of an important part of the plot. – It is, it is. I gotta say, she is phenomenal. She is a great human being, and, of course, hilarious, and so, she’s been generous with us from the, from the get-go. We reached out to her, we had written her into our pilot, and we were about to shoot, and we’re like “Well, we’d
better get in touch with her.” (laughter) So, and she was living
in Chicago at the time, and she was working on her, uh, she was workshopping a solo
show that she was doing called “Older and Wider” at Second City, and Tim and I had both worked
with Second City before, and he reached out to
one of the producers, who reached out to Julia
and sent the therapist clip and something else that Tim
had written and directed, and she wrote back right away, and we met her, she’s like “I’ll do anything for the show, “I’ll do the lighting,
I’ll do makeup, whatever!” and she’s been incredibly
giving and generous, and willing to talk about stuff. – So in the show you have
a very frank conversation about your love interest,
played by Theo Germaine, gorgeous Theo Germaine, so you and your friends have this kind of frank conversation, and there’s a lot of kind of gender mis-identity and confusion. – [Theo] I’m a trans man. – [Abby] They haven’t been out with an attractive trans man in ever, so. – Um, are you a little concerned about how Twitter is going to react – Yeah, I’m-
– To a show that will discuss that? – Well it’s funny ’cause I’m not nervous about any reaction of our subject matter. I think, I think people
might see that scene and be like “Oh it’s offensive
because of the misgendering.” I’m not, I mean honestly, whatever happens about if people, like, they don’t wanna see a show about an old woman, a
fat woman, a queer woman, like whatever, I don’t care about that. I think what’s important, like, we wanted to show
that it’s not just like, when I met my real ex-boyfriend,
Alex, who is lovely, you know, I did misgender him as the hottest baby dyke
on the face of the planet, and then when he told
me he was a trans man I was like “Okay,” and it didn’t, so that thing in the pilot,
that’s just like “Okay,” it wasn’t something like “Oh God,” but it was sort of, people like to, they don’t understand stuff, right? And I learned, and like,
still learning and whatever. So we wanted to show that it’s not like “Oh, everybody’s on board right away,” because that’s not reality, and just show that kind of learning curve. I don’t know. Yeah, I mean, so a friend of mine a
couple, we were at brunch, and she was like “Are you ready “for people to say you got stuff wrong?” I’m like “Yeah, I’m sure we did,” right? And also there’s no way
you’re gonna please everybody and I’m telling a story
from my point of view, and I’m just trying to be as
genuine and real as possible, and be open, like, people who stop listening
and trying to be better, it’s like “What are you doing?” – Let’s talk a little bit about anger in comedy. – Ooh, I’m interested to see what comes next in that question. – Do you think there’s a double standard between men and women when it comes to expressing
their anger in comedy? – I think in life, I mean I don’t know if it
would be different in comedy. I think, you know, a woman’s angry and they’re standing up for themselves, or unruly, and not a
team player, and a bitch, and like, demanding, and we expect, it’s like, and you know, you get shut to the side or whatever, and then if men are angry, they’re like, everybody’s like trying to get in line, and like “Oh, he’s so strong,
he’s making things,” right? – You know, after Hannah
Gadsby’s Netflix special, there was a conversation to be had about self-depreciating humor and what it means to people. What were the conversations
being had within your circles? – They, I mean, we didn’t have
any conversations about that, ’cause like, you know, I
did that storytelling show, and it was like real-life stories. Hannah Gadsby is a hero of mine, and “Nanette” was groundbreaking, I looked up the clip where she talks about how she won’t do that to herself anymore, and I was like “Wow, that’s so powerful,” and I’m not there, right? Like I think that is a goal, right, to not put myself down. I think it’s how I’ve survived this long and I know, it’s like, you know? And she says it so
beautifully, and powerfully, and it’s just like, I mean, so many times during that special I was like chills, tears, and also brilliantly
funny and honest and raw. I’m not there, it would be lovely, it’s like one of those things. I don’t see myself ever
getting there, but it’s a goal. – You know, for queer folk who may be seeing themselves
onscreen for the first time, what do you hope that they get out of it? I feel like you kind of
already answered that. – I think, yeah, I mean, you know, we really wanted to show,
like, what queer life is, and the queer life that
I see and that Lily sees, that, like, in our communities. We wanted to show, like, I think in a lot of shows,
and again, not all shows, like I’m never saying
we’re breaking ground, I mean I hope, whatever, I’m never gonna be that person, but I would say in a lot of shows it’s like “Oh, if you
have a queer character,” it’s like “Oh, it’s a queer character,” but we don’t see a lot of queer, or trans, or like gender non-conforming folks as your Lyft driver, or as your barista, your bartender, your waiter, you know, in the background, like, Lily was like “It’s very important “that we people are set,” and what people see with queer folks, and trans folks, and gender
non-conforming folks, ’cause that’s what our life is, it’s not just the three, like, it’s not just me, Theo,
and Celeste, right, who play queers that are like, you know, it’s like everybody. – So last question to you, Abby. It’s been so lovely having you here. – It’s so, I really can’t believe it, thank you so much. – So I ask this to a lot of film-makers. If you could hand-deliver a
copy of your work to one person, who would it be? – Um, okay, so I have
this thing about, like, celebrities, or actors, or
writers that I really admire, you know, and I kind of
never want to meet them because it’s scary, like
what if they’re a jerk, or they think I’m an asshole? Understandably. So I will answer, and this
sounds a little schmaltzy, but my mum, who died 2005, and a lot of this has been, my dad’s alive, and it’s so fun, like
a lot of it I’m like, it’s so great that, I think, for, like, I dunno, for this year, he’s like “Oh, she can afford insurance, “she can pay her rent, “I don’t have to worry
about it, you know?” It’s been so great, and I’ll say, I was like “Dad.” He listened to this radio thing I did. I was like “Did you hear me call you out “about how I was excited “that you knew that I
could pay for my insurance “and not on my credit card?” So I think my mum, and a lot of this has been, I think I was talking to
my sisters and my dad, and it’s like that, to me, has been sad, that she wasn’t,
she didn’t see it happen, but boy, she believed in me, and that is a gift you can’t, you can’t surpass that gift, – That’s wonderful.
– Right, to have that, so. ♪ I will never be ♪ In this, ah, I’m struggling. Queer dyke, and that is my identity. ♪ Dirt-free ♪ My life is harder than anybody else’s! (door creaks) (Abby gasps) Thanks for this opportunity.
– Absolutely. – It’s so nice to talk to you. – It’s nice to talk to you too
– Thanks. – “Work in Progress” is on Showtime. (logo swooshes)

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