TAGGED AS: Set visit
Lisa Edelstein, who plays Abby McCarthy on Bravo’s first-ever scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, was surprised by the initial press about her new series. After seeing a couple of teasers, a variety of outlets had described GGTD as a show about a couple who splits up after the husband cheats on the wife. This is not really what GGTD is about — which is just one of a few things about the show which may surprise you.
Here’s what Rotten Tomatoes learned during a set visit to Bravo’s new dramedy, which stars Edelstein (House), Janeane Garofalo (Mystery Men), Paul Adelstein (Scandal), Necar Zadegan (Rake), Patrick Heusinger (Gossip Girl), and Beau Garrett (Criminal Minds).
Adelstein, who plays Abby’s soon-to-be-ex-husband Jake, said the title can be very misleading.
“It’s a three dimensional view of relationships,” Adelstein told Rotten Tomatoes. “Abby is certainly the lead character, but in order for Abby to be three-dimensional, she needs to be flawed as well. She is an equal partner in the dissolution of that marriage. It’s not like Jake is the bad guy and Abby is the good guy. And that makes it deep and interesting and also really funny. I think guys are going to be surprised by how even-handed it is.”
Marti Noxon, GGTD‘s creator and showrunner, thinks that male viewers will be pleasantly surprised. “For men, there’s going to be a lot of stuff where they go, ‘Oh, they’re not just seeing the woman’s point of view; they’re seeing it from the men’s side too.’ It’s never simple. Plus, there are a lot of beautiful women doing a lot of really funny stuff and some really sexy scenes too.”
“I’ve worked on a lot of shows that are heavily male in terms of the cast and no one’s ever asked me why men would watch that show,” said Necar Zadegan, who plays the show’s high-powered divorce attorney, Delia. “But now that I’m working on this show, a lot of people are like, ‘Well, why would men be interested in this show?’ When the storytelling is good, the stories are relatable. Period. I think that our writers have made the story-lines real. It’s surprisingly deep, the places they go, with their questions about relationships.”
Although it figures prominently — perhaps most outrageously with Janeane Garofalo’s character, Lila — divorce serves more as the template for telling the stories of Abby and her friends.
“I feel pretty strongly that there’s not enough discussion in the culture about feminist topics,” said Noxon. “I don’t want to sound stuffy, but we’re able to touch on a lot of that. There’s also not enough in the culture about sexual politics in general. My thesis statement for the show is pretty bald in the second episode, which is less about divorce and more about how do we navigate a world where for only the past 30 years many women had the same economic power as the men in their lives? We have no handbook for that and it really screws up gender dynamics even though they weren’t so great before.”
Noxon, who also wrote for Mad Men, says that the Betty Draper era is not without its appeal. “It wasn’t better, but at least you had ‘A woman’s supposed to look like this and do this,’ and if she wasn’t like that, she was an outlier. Now, you make all kinds of choices and if you choose to stay home, you can be ridiculed for that. If you choose to work, you can be ridiculed for that. If your husband chooses to stay home, he can be ridiculed for that. There’s a lot of societal sneering that goes on about that stuff.”
Edelstein wants viewers to know that GGTD is more than juicy sexcapades and preconceived male-bashing.
“This is a story about a woman,” Edelstein said. “I hear a lot of language about women who are ‘no longer relevant’ after a certain age and that really pisses me off and that’s not what this show is. It’s not about relevance or irrelevance. This is about being a female of any age and pushing through the world.”
Noxon likes how Iovine’s book, Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy, is an open-minded look at the topic. “I thought, ‘At least it says it’s not going to be a super-drag all the time,'” Noxon said. “You see a show with the word ‘Divorce’ in the title and it can be really off-putting. People are afraid it’s just going to be the downside, but there’s a lot of upside too.”
One of the upsides of divorce is detailed in Zadegan’s character Delia, who reaps the financial benefits of being a divorce lawyer.
“I think that for a lot of divorce attorneys, the potential for making a lot of money and having a huge lifestyle is so attractive,” said Zadegan. “And I didn’t know this — it might not even be true — but it’s an easier part of the law to get involved in, and some divorce attorneys are older, haggard women who are divorced themselves, and some of them are what you tend to call the ‘TV lawyer’ — hot suits, looking great — who want to wine and dine people and have a lot of celebrity clients. And this is the kind that Delia is, which is a thrill for me because then we get to do all that fun stuff.”
“The books are really a launching point,” Adelstein told RT. “We had Vicki [Iovine] in a lot and she was very involved, but it’s not Vicki’s story. By Vicki’s own admission, the reason it’s ‘Girlfriends’ Guide’ is so she could use other people’s stories and you’d never know which ones were hers. Marti’s done a similar thing.”
A lot of the plotlines in GGTD come from the real-life experiences of the writers and their friends. “One of the first things that happened in the writers room was everyone going around in a circle and sharing whatever war stories they knew — best date, worst date, best breakup, worst breakup,” Adelstein said.
And while the show keeps the anecdotes anonymous, Noxon did share with Rotten Tomatoes one of her worst dates.
“I’ve only gone on one date with a person I’ve met online and I’ll just say two things: he cried and he asked me to read a screenplay.”
“You get some wish fulfillment out of the effortless glamour of these characters,” Noxon said, “but at the same time, it’s kind of nice to know that glamorous people have problems too. They’re not all unlikable.”
Noxon hopes that viewers will identify with characters — even viewers who aren’t a part of this particular world.
“For me, the whole goal in this show was to write about real things that are going on in real families, and real women who are working at real jobs” she explained. “Obviously, this is about a particular class of women and this group of friends in this world. The biggest goal for me was that people would watch it and go, ‘I’ve felt like that’ or ‘That’s a little secret I thought nobody else knew’ or ‘My girlfriends and I talk exactly like that.’ It’s not a put-on.”
For Edelstein, the themes of the show are universal. “The way Marti writes is so beautifully funny and raw at the same time,” Edelstein told RT. “She allows characters — especially my character — to be smart and an idiot simultaneously, to be successful and completely naive at the same time.”
For Garofalo, there’s a different theme in the show that resonates with her. “In my character’s case, the universality for my gender and my age would be any of the changes that happen at the age of 50 — but also facing that with children who are younger for someone my age and divorced,” Garofalo said. “It’s facing a new chapter where there’s less ahead of you than behind you.”
Beau Garrett plays a Phoebe, a divorcee and former model. And while not everyone can pull off Phoebe’s mostly-sheer, completely fabulous wardrobe, Garrett thinks that a lot of viewers will connect to her story.
“I think everyone can relate to dealing with disappointment in relationships and things not being what you want,” Garrett said.