I’ve put up a new design at Frankie Shaw Fan! I hope you guys like it as much as I do. I was tired of looking at the last design and adore this one more. It really pays tribute to the boss lady herself. hehe. Thanks for visiting my fansite!
Before I was an actress, I wanted to be a basketball player. Growing up in Boston, I practiced all the time. I wouldn’t leave the court unless I made 100 free throws and 100 lefty layups. My friend Phoebe and I would hustle men—we would act like we didn’t know how to play, and then we’d play two-on-two with guys and bet money. We would often win.
I went to college in New York, at Barnard, and that’s where I discovered acting. My first job was playing a waitress from Staten Island on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Eventually, I moved to L.A. I was sick of being a broke, struggling auditioner, so I wrote SMILF.
The optics of SMILF are very autobiographical. Like my character on the show, I play basketball, and I, too, have a baby daddy who’s married to a beautiful blonde actress from Australia. But then the show veers off in a million crazy directions.
Your toddler son on the show is so cute.
Those are twin girls playing my son. They’re the most beautiful humans who have ever lived and will ever live.
Won’t it be awkward when you’re in year 20 of the show and your son looks like your daughter?
It’ll be GILF then. Grandmothers! Actually, we may want to say he was really two girls. That would be a great story to tell!
SMILF creator and star Frankie Shaw has signed a two-year overall deal with ABC Signature Studios, the studio behind the breakout Showtime series. Under the exclusive TV pact, Shaw will continue as an executive producer on SMILF, which has started filming its second season in Boston. She also will develop new projects for all platforms, including broadcast, with focus on cable.
A unique aspect of the deal will enable Shaw to incubate small projects/films as both a proof of concept and a way to identify undiscovered voices. Shaw credits her work in short film with enabling her to grow as a filmmaker and make the move into television. Backed by ABC Signature, she hopes to do the same by nurturing undiscovered female and diverse artists via her newly launched production company.
SMILF, loosely based on Shaw’s experiences as a single mother, originated as a spec TV script she had written to get a writing job. Struggling to get it produced, she eventually made a portion of it into a the short SMILF, which won the jury award for best short film at Sundance in 2015 and opened the doors for the SMILF TV series. Its debut last year saw the biggest premiere week audience for a new Showtime comedy since 2012. Additionally, the first season was the biggest freshmen half-hour comedy on Showtime since 2010. SMILF, which co-stars Rosie O’Donnell and Connie Britton, also earned two Golden Globe nominations, for best television series musical or comedy, and best actress in a TV series musical or comedy for Shaw.. The series is executive produced by Shaw, Michael London, Lee Eisenberg and Scott King.
“During the journey of developing and producing SMILF with Frankie it quickly became clear that we wanted an ongoing partnership to help build out her company, brand and vision,” said Tracy Underwood, SVP, ABC Signature Studios. “She’s such a brilliant artist with a singular point of view while also proving to be an ambitious, taste making producer. “
Added Shaw, “ABC Signature has been an incredible partner in bringing SMILF to life and I’m so excited to take our relationship to the next level. I’m even more grateful for their support in creating a space for new and diverse storytellers.”
Shaw also wrote and directed the short Too Legit starring Zoe Kravitz, Teresa Palmer, Nate Corddry and Clarke Gregg, which premiered at Sundance in 2016. Her recent acting credits include the first season of USA Network’s Mr. Robot, and the film Stronger starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany.
Shaw is repped by UTA and Karl Austen.
Deadline did a little feature of Frankie in their new issue. I’ve added scans to the gallery. It was a good read, definitely check it out. Enjoy!
I’ve added a new album of Frankie and Zach’s wedding which was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings back in August 2016. The photos are beautiful. Enjoy.
Check out the full round table video. I posted clips a few weeks ago and now you can watch the whole interview. Enjoy!
Frankie is featured in the new issue of Emmy magazine. It’s a beautiful spread and a good read. Big thanks to my friend Mary for these. Check it out in our gallery.
Between the first and second seasons of Frankie Shaw’s single mom Showtime series, “SMILF,” the writers’ offices moved from the Sunset Gower lot in Hollywood to the Paramount lot, a mere mile away. Shaw made it a point to bring with her items that represented not only the inspiration for her show, but also all the hard work that went into making the series so far. “We really did all band together,” she says of her writing staff. “It felt almost like an athletic team — at least that’s how I can relate to it.”
This Isn’t Just Horse Play
An avid rider when she was growing up, Shaw was gifted this photograph taken by Laura Porzak. She hung it behind her desk when she moved into her new office not only because of her longtime love of the animal, but also because of the “dark horse metaphor,” which will be infused in the second season. “Bridgette is faced with her shadow self, and what does that mean if you try to repress the darker parts of yourself?” Shaw reveals.
Designed by Discourse
“SMILF” takes on a lot of social and cultural issues that range from sexual assault to mental illness to race and modern masculinity. Although Shaw admits that her politics are oftentimes “the ones that come through” on the show, she wants to include a lot of different perspectives and voices in her writers’ room to help flesh out the supporting characters. “Our room is really diverse and our stories are very anecdotal from our writers and then also people who maybe think deeper than we do,” she says. Shaw relies on a number of books from writers including Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates, whom she not only reads but also encourages her writers to read.
Color Palette Collage
On the wall adjacent to Shaw’s desk is a collage that she draws from tonally and visually. Photos of Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” inspired an early fantasy sequence on “SMILF,” a photo of the WNBA “dream team,” who were her heroes growing up, paved the way for Bridgette’s own hoop dreams, and shots from “A Woman Under the Influence, “Chungking Express” and “In the Mood for Love” inform the show’s lighting style. “As we write season two we realize some of this means even more. This season’s all about identity and we actually have an homage to ‘In the Mood for Love,’” Shaw says. A quote about how “language can represent us or not” from Bell Hooks and a key prop from Shaw’s short film “Too Legit” flesh out the space.
Drawing the Male Gaze
Production designer Michael Grasley sketches ideas for the sets he pitches Shaw. A one-off scene in a department store dressing room became a bit more complicated by the fact that the camera had to be able to pan up to see a man hiding in rafters above, spying on and “jerking off to” women as they changed, Shaw recalls. Grasley presented her this sketch, in which the juxtaposition of light, airy movement below and dark cramped quarters above she found beautiful. “I said, ‘I want that framed,’ sort of as a joke, but when we wrapped, this came in the mail,” Shaw says. Now the prized possession hangs in a prime spot right behind her couch.
In the first season of “SMILF,” Bridgette looked back fondly on her youthful passion of playing basketball and decided she was going to go for it professionally. “For a young, single mom to have dreams, aspirations to play basketball, it’s such a far reach — it’s the farthest reach one can have maybe,” Shaw acknowledges. She may not have made the cut, but the plot point informed the framed basketball Showtime senior vice president of original programming Amy Israel gave her when the show wrapped. “You crushed it!” wrote Israel.
Page One Rewrite
The very first line Bridgette was ever supposed to speak was “I need to get undressed,” Shaw says. It was the opening to the television pilot she was working on in 2012 — well before she created the short film version that ended up winning a Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. She keeps this doodle from co-producer Emily Brecht to remind her how far she — and the idea — evolved through the years and how important those first creative instincts can be.
Milo Ventimiglia, Sara Gilbert, Constance Wu, and Other TV Moms and Dads Sound Off
“Our parents are not perfect. Those flaws are what makes them lovable.” From Father Knows Best to Arrested Development, we’ve all loved and learned from a favorite TV parent. The current crop of TV moms and dads discuss what makes playing them so special.
Our first memories of television often involve sitting with our families watching fictional mothers and fathers who may—or may not—resemble our own. Intimate strangers are beamed into our living spaces, leading idealized versions of family life with most of the ugly stuff (financial struggle, impossible expectations, and sour disappointments) airbrushed out of the picture.
TV moms and dads have always been aspirational models as well as fun-house-mirror reflections of changing American realities. The family sitcom started promisingly in the 1940s with some relatively unconventional scenarios. The Goldbergs—created and written by radio colossus Gertrude Berg, who also starred in the show—depicted a Jewish family in the Bronx. Amos ’n’ Andy was a comedy series featuring African-American actors (albeit a deeply problematic one criticized for its depiction of African-Americans and its basis in a radio show that used minstrel stereotypes). I Love Lucy introduced ethnic intermarriage to the small screen when Lucille Ball persuaded CBS to cast as her TV spouse Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, her real-life husband.
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Within a few years, though, this multicultural vision of America contracted to wall-to-wall whiteness. Early sitcoms such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and Leave It to Beaver conjured a midcentury middle-American paradise with a Hollywood-back-lot simulation of suburbia. In these prim domestic prisons, kindly patriarchs usually had the last word while perfectly coiffed wives cooked and cleaned for their mildly mischievous children, surrounded by exactly the same sort of shiny new kitchen appliances marketed by the show’s sponsors. You can just imagine Betty Friedan watching and taking notes for The Feminine Mystique, the second-wave feminist classic that tore the lid off women’s mounting misery in such soul-stifling domestic confinement.
No problem was so tricky that it couldn’t be resolved in a half-hour time slot. The papers teemed with ominous headlines—civil-rights protests, the Cuban missile crisis, wars in Asia—but barely a trace of these real-world threats or tensions leaked into the hermetically sealed homes of these 50s and 60s series. Even when TV attempted to come to grips with a cultural shift, it did so in an oddly warped way. Anxiety about rising divorce rates indirectly inspired a flurry of series about single widowed fathers (My Three Sons, Bachelor Father, The Andy Griffith Show, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and Family Affair) who keep the family afloat, usually with the help of a selfless housekeeper.
Yet there were no sitcoms about divorced moms raising children until 1975, when actress Whitney Blake co-created One Day at a Time with her husband, Allan Manings, and Norman Lear. Lear injected a gritty new realism into the domestic series of the day. Such families as the upwardly mobile African-Americans of The Jeffersons, the white working-class clan of All in the Family, and the inhabitants of a Chicago housing project on Good Times all fought over the fraught cultural issues of that turbulent decade. Since this short golden age of relatively realistic and socially relevant comedy, the family-based sitcom has been repeatedly written off as dead, only to bolt back to life in some new tweaked form that reflects the concerns and anxieties of its era, whether it’s The Cosby Show, Roseanne, The Simpsons, Weeds, or Arrested Development.
The current, decentralized TV landscape has begun opening the medium up again to a more diverse vision of the American family: married, single, multi-generational, gay, straight, trans, suburban, cosmopolitan, strict, bohemian, wealthy, working-class. There are kids with disabilities (Speechless, on ABC) and kids who might be transgender (FX’s Better Things); moms with postpartum depression (ABC’s Black-ish) and dads recently released from prison (TBS’s The Last O.G.). If there is a formula for TV families in 2018, it involves toppling traditional formulas, or stretching them to be more inclusive.
Constance Wu, star of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, recalls that, growing up Asian-American in the 80s and 90s, “there were no TV families that reminded me of my own.” In TV history generally, she says, “there haven’t been a lot of stories that center the Asian-American experience in a way that celebrates it.” Wu believes Fresh Off the Boat’s portrait of a quirky, successful immigrant couple and their three sons plays a serious role in prime time. “A lot of the conversation around immigration and immigrants sometimes has sort of a fear around it,” Wu says. Through TV, “you get to experience the inner life of somebody.”
Although his role as gay dad Mitchell Pritchett, on ABC’s Modern Family, has made Jesse Tyler Ferguson a TV icon (and a five-time Emmy nominee), the actor is most proud of the matter-of-factness with which the show treats its characters’ sexuality: “Mitchell and Cam are spouses first . . . and then they’re lawyers and teachers. Being gay is really kind of far down on the list.” We also see Mitch and Cam negotiating their careers and parenting responsibilities in a way that fathers rarely do on TV. The couple doesn’t have a designated stay-at-home parent, but instead “we switch on and off,” Ferguson says. “I love that we’re presenting . . . that these struggles exist in any family and we have to just make things work.”
Actresses playing contemporary TV mothers are relieved that their characters are far more complex and varied than the ones they grew up watching. Jennifer Jason Leigh found herself embodying maternal extremes in two recent roles: Elsa, the overprotective mom of a kid on the autism spectrum, in Netflix’s Atypical, and Eleanor, the fragile wife of a sadistic aristocrat, in Patrick Melrose, on Showtime. “[Eleanor is] sort of living in this very beautiful prison, and she loves her son very much, but she’s also terrified of the father and . . . does the best that she can do,” Leigh explains.
“The moms on television are actually changing, which is really wonderful,” says Justina Machado, who plays Penelope Alvarez on Netflix’s reboot of One Day at a Time, which Lear himself helped produce for the streaming service. A single Latina working mom and Iraq-war veteran, Penelope openly struggles with depression and PTSD as she raises her two children (one of whom came out as a lesbian in Season One). Machado remembers sitcoms of yore “where the moms were just kind of the sounding board”—marginal figures giggling, “Oh, you crazy kids!” Now that there are so many more female show-runners and writers, she says, they “are writing for women as people.”
Frankie Shaw, the show-runner and star of Showtime’s SMILF, complains that TV traditionally put mothers on ridiculous pedestals. She wanted viewers to relate to “how hard it is to be a good mom and how the pressure to live up to this ideal is detrimental and painful.” Her single-mom character, Bridgette Bird, couldn’t be further from the idealized TV mom in an apron and pearls—she masturbates with her child asleep in bed beside her and struggles with an eating disorder.
SMILF is set in blue-collar Boston, and the class consciousness of the original run of Roseanne was something of an inspiration, says Shaw. It was also important to Sara Gilbert, now serving as an executive producer on ABC’s reboot of Roseanne as well as starring in her original role as Darlene Conner. Back in the 90s, Darlene seemed to be the Conner most likely to succeed. But now she’s an unemployed single mom forced to move back in with her parents. “That cycle of poverty is so hard for people to break,” says Gilbert. “A big theme of the show is having these talents, having these ambitions, and not being able to live out your dream.” What happened to Darlene “felt true to the state of our country for many people.”
What unites so many of 2018’s TV moms and dads, sons and daughters, is imperfection. Jack Pearson in NBC’s This Is Us harks back to the golden age of TV fathers: he’s a pillar of strength and a stockpile of wisdom. As played by Milo Ventimiglia, though, Jack also has the flaws and vulnerabilities of a contemporary dad, including a drinking problem. “Jack really wants to widen the perspective of his kids—he wants them to understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how it’s impacting other people,” Ventimiglia says. Jack is not perfect, but “he’s well intentioned. . . . Being a good man goes a long way in this day and age.”
This Is Us flashes between decades, a structural innovation that enables viewers to trace how the mother’s and father’s legacies unfold through the lives of their children. “We are all created by our past,” Ventimiglia suggests, “but we all have a point where we can say, ‘Hey, this is what happened in the past. . . .’ And you have a choice in this present moment right now to do something different.”
“I’m really interested in how people behave when they’re alone versus how they are with other people. That’s something that we get into throughout this series. It was like, ‘Let’s just show how hard it is to be twentysomething with a kid and trying to figure out your life. What’s been so amazing—a lot of men actually have related to some of the things that Bridgette has done. I’ve had men come up to me, like, ‘I’ve left my kid in the car while I went to the post office.’”
“Roseanne” was canceled following a racist tweet by Roseanne Barr. In response, Sara Gilbert tweeted, “This is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us, as we’ve created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love — one that is separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member.”
Frankie Shaw: “Roseanne” is and was so important to so many people, and I can say “SMILF” is directly inspired by growing up watching “Roseanne” and seeing people who felt like my family on television. I was like, “Oh, those people speak to each other like how my family speaks to each other,” you know, with sarcasm.
Sara Gilbert: And I felt watching “SMILF,” I was thinking this is so amazing that this character is struggling, doesn’t have money, it’s difficult to buy things. Even when people are portrayed as working class on TV, you don’t usually see the real struggle.
Shaw: What is different in filming this new season of “Roseanne”? Are you dealing with different issues?
Gilbert: I never go in thinking these are the issues that we want to take on, but it is just a way to talk about things that we’re experiencing right now through the lens of this family. So we got to talk about how people are divided politically without it being about anyone’s politics specifically, just about how does a family deal with this conflict. Or my son likes to wear skirts and more feminine clothing, so how does that affect the family relationship or how they treat him. I always think our writers do such a great job of doing things that are in current events without making it feel like we’re doing an issue. And I thought you did the same thing honestly with sexual harassment issues between men and women, and power, and just a woman’s place in the world. Was that the main reason you wanted to make this story?
Shaw: Yeah, there was sort of a layered approach while writing “SMILF.” On the surface, what it’s like to be broke and raising a kid and navigating co-parenting, and then underneath that, I wanted to explore feminine identity and the issues we all face. It wasn’t like, oh, how do we directly make this a feminist show. It’s really just like, what is life like for me and other women, who are harassed, who have been sexually abused, who have to deal with objectification or their own identity.
Gilbert: How much of your life influences the show?
Shaw: The way we like to talk about Bridgette is she’s a very exaggerated version of Frankie. We didn’t call the show Frankie for a reason. When we’re stuck in the writers room, what is a true story we can tell here? It always comes back to a kernel of truth. So that’s important to us, but because we want to talk about certain issues, we make Bridgette the butt of the joke. So on one hand, she’s very similar to me, and then also a huge departure and very exaggerated and a lot messier. But there are elements of myself from a long time ago when things were really difficult, when my son was younger, when I was struggling with an eating disorder and residual effects of trauma, that we put into this show very much deliberately.
Gilbert: And she is very flawed and can be sort of self-centered and antihero in some ways. Do you feel like the ways that she’s flawed are the same flaws that you either have or had back then?
Shaw: Yeah, when we’re talking about her in the writers room, we say Bridgette can’t be woke. She hasn’t read the books or had the conversations, so that’s something that felt really important. I’m not claiming to be woke, but I’m trying to be as educated as possible. What about you and Darlene? What’s true about you, and what’s true about the character?
Gilbert: I think over time since I played Darlene originally, I probably have gotten more vulnerable and gotten older so I’ve gone through more hard knocks, and I think I wanted to bring that to Darlene, that kind of humanity so she can still have a sharp tongue and have a tough side but a little wear on the wheels, you know? I wanted to bring that feeling to her.
My goal in general, in any project, is to want to tell people’s stories and have them relate. I think in order to do that, I feel like I have to bring a chunk of myself, probably what you’re saying about being in the writers room and wanting real stories. So in that way, I think we’re the same. I’ve always thought Darlene was a little stronger than me. She just has this fire and this strength that maybe I have, but maybe you just don’t feel it when it’s you. Not when I’m playing it, but I can later watch her on the screen and see this kind of inner strength.