One of the most charming duos on television is by far Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair. The real-life best friends play fictional best friends, Maggie (Parham) and Emma (St. Clair) on the USA comedy Playing House. Historically, Playing House is a light-hearted, look-at-the-bright-side comedy that keeps you laughing or shaking your head (or both) for a half-hour. But, this season, the co-creators and stars chose to include the extremely personal and serious matter of St. Clair being diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, cancer-free and continuing to heal, St. Clair and Lennon talk about the importance of including that in a show based on their lives and how they managed to walk the thin line of finding comedic value in something that affected so many people.
Talk about integrating your personal experience with breast cancer into the show’s plot.
Well, as Jess so eloquently wrote in her StandUp2Cancer piece, we always write what we know. And, this season is by far the most personal thing we’ve ever written because much of the breast cancer storyline is taken directly from our lives and how we experienced it. At first, we were hesitant to write about it. We knew it would be difficult to relive those moments, but Jess felt very strongly that we had to tell the story and if just one woman or man was made to feel less alone or more hopeful, then it would have been worth it.
What was the process like to walk the thin line of infusing it with comedy — something that was so tastefully done, by the way.
It was easier than we thought. As we began to recount the moments in our journey, we realized that there had been some very funny moments sprinkled throughout: picking out [the] new implants, talk of Jessica’s perfect nipples (they are the perfect ratio of nipple to areola), the doctors making Jessica’s boobs ever so slightly bigger and being worried about that. Often times, during the darkest moments of our lives, there are also moments of great joy and comedy.
How will we see Emma and Maggie’s friendship evolve post-diagnosis?
Our show revolves around this friendship clearly and much like in our real life, you will see Emma and Maggie get even closer, if you can believe it. Once you pick out someone’s boobs, you’ve achieved sister status.
What was the reasoning behind not including Mark’s reaction to Emma’s diagnosis?
Since the primary relationship in our show is the one between Emma and Maggie, we decided to stay with their journey. We pick up with Mark already knowing about the diagnosis and showing up for a sweet porch scene, echoing one of our favorite scenes from the very first episode.
On another note, there were a few hints at Mark and Emma getting married. Is that something we’ll see in the near future?
You’ll have to wait for Season 4 for that, baby!
What about Maggie and Dr. Ericson? They’ve had a rocky start but it seems like she’s just what he needs. Plus, he played a big part in Emma and Maggie’s journey through the big “C.”
Things with Maggie tend to move at their own slow pace — you know, the Jane Austen of it all. So whatever happens between them, it will be a slow simmering sort of situation since they are both so wonderfully awkward about love.
Any talks about a fourth season? If so, please tell me Jeff Hiller is going to be upped to a regular — he’s a great addition!
We agree! We’ve known Jeff for years from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and we are obsessed. [We’re] so glad that America loves him in the show, too! Do yourself a favor and catch him this summer in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. As for a fourth season, we are very much hoping for one — or seven! We’d love to make this show forever, honestly. So, let’s get those petitions going! Or better yet, just tell everyone you know to watch. Our show is thriving on word of mouth.
Catch up on seasons one and two of Playing House on-demand, and don’t miss the two episode season three finale Friday, July 14 at 9pm ET on USA.