PASADENA, Calif. — LennonParham and Jessica St. Clair knew from the start which characters they would play in their new comedy series “Playing House.” Parham would be the more stable one of the two best friends, who is on the verge of having her first baby. St. Clair would be the jet-setting business wiz who’s on the verge of her first martini of the day.
That was good thinking. Because as soon as the USA Network ordered the series, Parham got pregnant. She was only days away from giving birth during the filming of the first episode.
“Itwasarealsituation,aperfect stormforcomedy,” Parham says.
St. Clair almost took the perfect out of the storm. She was three-months pregnant when they shot the first episode. A few months later and the series might have had a whole different story line. Once the first episode was filmed, the writing and comedy pair were able to get the network to delay putting the show on the schedule long enough to give St. Clair the chance to have her baby.
The show tells the story of childhood best friends — Maggie Caruso (Parham) and Emma Crawford (St. Clair) — who end up living together to raise Maggie’s baby. The dad’s no longer in the picture because of an online fetish. The decision initially is tough on Emma, who leaves the international corporate world to move back to the hometown filled with all her secrets.
This won’t be a case of waiting years for the baby to arrive. The birth is planned in episode nine. There’s plenty of comedy to be mined before they get to the baby stuff.
“Basicallywekindof hadadecisiontomakeinthewriters’roomwhether ornotweweregoingtohavethebabyrightawayand thenseewhatlifeislikeafter,butwefoundthat therewasalotoffuntobehadwithherbeing pregnant,” St. Clair says.
Creating and writing the show has been easy for the pair, who were real-life friends long before they started working together. Georgia native Parham and New Jersey-born St. Clair were members of the Upright CitizensBrigadeTheatreinNewYork, where they started performing together before becoming a writing team. A lot of their writing consists of sitting around in their pajamas improvising scenes.
“Likewe’reinsanepeople.Wetape-record it,andthenwetranscribeit.Thatbecomesthe transcriptforthefirstdraft,” St. Clair says.
All of the years working together has given each a sense of what makes the other one laugh. They also have a room full of writers and producers. St. Clair jokes that because they are both new moms, they are usually too tired to fight about something they’ve written.
“Playing House” isn’t the first series created by the pair. Their “Best Friends Forever” series didn’t live up to its name and was off the air after seven episodes. They’re certain this series will have a better fate.
The new show does what the pair wanted to do — explore female friendship in a realistic way.
“Withthisshowwe’rereally tappingintowherewearerightnowandthe storytellingthatwewanttotell.Ithinkcomedy reallycomesbestoutofaplaceoftruth.Bothofuswerejustpregnantfor10 months.Bothofusarenew moms,andbothofusarelivingthisbest-friend, mid-30sstory,” Parham says.
Tonight at 10 p.m.