BROOKE LEFFERTSAssociated Press
NEW YORK — “Better Things” showrunner Pamela Adlon always has a specific vision and message in her work. So when it came to filming the comedy’s fifth season, there were some non-negotiables, and one was that Celia Imrie – who plays Adlon’s cheeky mother Phil – had to be part of it.
But Imrie was stuck in England and couldn’t travel for medical reasons, so Adlon brought the show to her.
“I needed Phil, because it’s the last season and it was a Rubik’s Cube of how do I do that?” Adlon said in a recent interview. “Then I thought, OK, I’m just going to write these scenes and we’ll still be in the dining room of Phil’s house.”
So amid the pandemic — taking safety precautions — Adlon moved the cast and crew to England and recreated a piece from the Los Angeles-based set for multiple scenes. Imrie says she was “humbled” by the effort.
“It was overwhelming and quite magical, really,” Imrie said. “It was a huge challenge, a huge amount of work… But I’m so overwhelmed with admiration for Pamela, and also with joy that she wanted me in it and didn’t do the end without me, which would have broken my heart.”
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Adlon stars in, co-writes and directs all 10 episodes of the final season, which begin airing on FX and Hulu this week.
“Better Things” is known for finding emotion in life’s mundane moments and shining a light on minor characters, and its final episodes bring growth and resolution to many. The show features a menagerie of people in protagonist Sam Fox’s world, of varying ages, genders, and races.
“Everyone has a story, you know, and that’s my favorite thing,” Adlon said.
Fox is based on Adlon’s life — she’s a divorced single mother with a British mother and three precocious daughters — but many of the characters are atypical of regular comedies.
“The show really gave my kids and their friends a voice we haven’t heard,” Adlon said.
Actress Olivia Edward, who plays Duke’s youngest daughter, recently thanked Adlon for how her role has evolved over the five seasons. “She said, ‘Thank you so much for letting me be Duke, letting me tell these stories and not just having me be a piece of furniture in the background.’ You know, these kids are all people.
A keen observer of people and details, Adlon gives meaning to each frame. As showrunner, she also has a purpose, using her power on set and on the page to celebrate and uplift women. Besides the female-dominated cast, she made a point of hiring many women into her crew.
“It’s just a very safe, very nurturing space. You know, it’s good for everyone. And men love it too,” Adlon said.
“I feel really lucky to have been able to work with women for most of my career,” said Mikey Madison. “It’s really important for me to see because these are the things that I dream of doing. I watch these women do it and I’m like, ‘I can probably do it too.’ »
Many actors say Adlon’s authenticity and unassuming approach to acting inspire them.
“She’s the most wonderful actress and the most wonderful director for actors because she absolutely hates people acting…the whole atmosphere on set is kind of raw and truthful,” Imrie said.
“Pamela has always been amazing with improvisation, and… I’m so grateful that she always encouraged it because some of the best things that happen in scenes happen on the spur of when you’re actually in it. energy.” said Edward.
“I learned a lot. Pamela always says… she writes what she knows. She has this very specific perspective…and she really did it all on her own,” Madison said.
For those wondering if Sam Fox finds love at the end of the story, Adlon says that was never his goal.
“The revolutionary act is a woman who is alone and does very well,” Adlon said. “Sam is a lone wolf and always has been.”
When asked how she felt about the show ending and whether she had said all that needed to be said, Adlon cried. She’s been in a vacuum editing the last few episodes and is thrilled the storylines seem to resonate.
“It hit me like, ‘Oh my God, they’re listening!’ It’s out there and it’s overwhelming. I feel elated.