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INTERVIEW: Jenna Elfman returns with new comedy Imaginary Mary

Interviews, ProgrammingMerrill Barr

Jenna Elfman
image - ABC (US)

One of the wildest new shows premiering this season, in both comedy and drama, is ABC’s Imaginary Mary. The new comedy stars Jenna Elfman as a woman being revisited by her childhood imaginary best friend after her life is turned upside down by new love. 

DeciderTV's Merrill Barr had a chance to catch up with both Elfman and co-star Stephen Schneider during production to get their thoughts on the crazy new comedy.

As it turns out, the idea of talking to a non-existent CG character for the entirety of the show’s existence wasn’t what almost kept Elfman from the gig. It was the commitment of ABC and producing studio Sony Pictures Television to shoot the series far from home. “For me, it wasn’t [the weirdness of the show], it was [shooting in] Vancouver,” said Elfman. “It’s uprooting the whole family.” The actress later continued, “I though [the concept of the show] was a great idea. I had said to my agents just two days before, ‘I’m not going to star in a primetime network show. Not doing it. So don’t offer them.’ Then I got this and read it and thought, ‘this is really interesting.’”

“I thought the script was very sharp,” began Schneider. “I had a pilot in development at ABC that didn’t go, and I’m always trying to find things that are different. That are a little out of the box somehow. That’s the stuff I like to watch. [Mary] was definitely a crazy idea when I first read it, but then I thought back to comedies I grew up watching, like Alf, and I was like, ‘if you can ground that character, it could work. This is a huge swing, but let’s see if it works.”

Regarding the ability of actors to go off scripts given the need to animate the character of Mary in certain ways written for scene, Elfman stated, “In terms of her lines, they can put in whatever, later. It’s mainly a blocking thing, in terms of how we’re structuring our movement because they are filming it being aware of where Mary’s going to be. There’s still flexibility.” “There is,” reiterated Schneider. “It’s not like one of us runs through the show and changes the blocking,” continues Elfman.

“Up until this point,” explained Schneider, “the scripts have been so honed, they’re really smart, funny scripts, [so] we find moment here and there, but there’s so much already on the page to explore and play with.” Continued Elfman, “There are moments of behaviour or beats that weren’t there that’s just a physical or emotional bit. That’s not really improv, it’s just acting.”

There’s also the matter of how Elfman took to Mary once filming began. On that front, the actress explained, “I’m really kid like and immature. I like making believe and pretending. It’s totally carte blanche to be a kid and have fun and be silly and ridiculous. You have to have some level of degree of that. You have to believe, and it’s a fine line of believing this character and, for me, connecting it to a point of stress, which is why she’s in my life. There’s this kind of a tightrope walk of making sure Alice is not a crazy person, but the audience can just grant a little dose of make believe. That’s my one challenge that I enjoy. I love it.”

Imaginary Mary (9 eps) premieres March 29th on ABC in the US. 
An Australian airdate is yet to be confirmed.


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