At Wondercon Jay was talk to the cast and producers of Imaginary Mary
Imaginary Mary is not a perfect show, but it is getting better. The pilot was kind of rough, but the first episode made up for it. At Wondercon they had some of the cast and executive producers of Imaginary Mary in attendance. I was able to interview them and here is what I learned about this show.
How was your dynamic at the start of Imaginary Mary? Did you have to work on it or was it a natural between you two?
Stephen Schneider: I showed up fifteen minutes late to the audition, which was a chemistry read between us. I had already auditioned a few times for it. Then obviously she doesn’t have to audition (laughs) you know.
Jenna Elfman: Because I did five billion auditions earlier in my career to work up to this moment.
Stephen: So I showed up fifteen minutes late that morning. I needed that extra fifteen minutes of sleep. I am just kidding. I just happened to get stuck in crazy traffic. I was like ‘Oh no. I have blown this whole relationship.’ I do this read with her, it goes great. We are joking around
Jenna: I would like to see it now and compare it to like our first meeting.
Stephen: That was the first moment we ever met. How many have that moment, the first time they met on tape? It was so cool. But maybe we shouldn’t watch it, like in my mind it is better than it really is. The next thing I know, I think I found out that night that I got the part. The next day we had a table read for the show. That was a Friday and on Monday we were in Vancouver filming the pilot. I landed in Vancouver and got a phone call immediately from her being like ‘Hey, are you here? Wanna go for a walk?’ I was like ‘Yea’. She proceeded to take me around the Seawall in Vancouver for a nice stroll and just wanted to get to know me. I think that is a testament to who she is as a person. She wanted to take the time and cared enough to sort of build this relationship. From that point forward we just became friends.
Jenna: I really feel like you set the tone for that walk. Like you made that walk special. He was getting food for the homeless at the grocery store.
Stephen: That was all staged (laughs).
Jenna: I saw what a kind of person he is and totally fell in love with his humanity. I was so appreciative of how funny he was, he is so truly and sincerely funny. Which for me as a woman finding a leading man that you can be romantic with who is truly funny is really hard to find. I was just so grateful that they cast such a great guy.
What do you think has the reception been for the Imaginary Mary pilot so far?
Doug Robinson: I think we did okay from a numbers standpoint. You mean like ratings or reviews?
David Guarascio: I haven’t read a single one.
Doug: I’ve read a bunch and today it is so different. There is social media and then there are reviewers. I think the reviews have been some good and some questioning the fact that only Jenna can see Mary but liking the family aspect of it all. All in all I would say we are pretty pleased. The social media feedback was really positive. I was looking at these reports and it was like 88% positive on social media with a lot of activity. When you try to make something different, and you know it is the first time anyone has ever done CG animation on a television show with live action. We were learning as we went and it was great.
What were the biggest challenges in bringing the character Mary and the show to life?
David: The biggest challenges is tough because there were so many. First was just finding the right actress to voice her. We had in truth offered it to a couple of people and then heard them and it wasn’t quite right. Then we decided to sort of change our strategy. To just truly audition people instead of a straight offer. We listened to a hundred different actresses play the part. This was after we had already shot it at that point. And Rachel was just head and shoulders better than them and made it something new. But that was a long road, that took months and months. Then fine tuning the character. The character looks very different now then when we shot the pilot first a year ago.
Doug: But it had a bunch of challenges, because once again no one had ever done it before on a TV schedule. We are used to shooting shows in Los Angeles. Unlike dramas where you have to go and shoot all over the place. This was shot in Vancouver which faced its own challenges for doing a comedy. How do you set up a writers room, how do you send somebody out to the set? How do you set up comedy alts and punch ups? The process of shooting it. Do you use a tennis ball, do you use a green screen or do you use nothing? For Jenna it what an eye line nightmare figuring out where to look. And just figuring out how we were going to do this thing. Shawn Levy who did the pilot with us which was really instrumental in bringing the energy of Mary. Because we didn’t have an actress in the beginning as David was saying Shawn acted it out on set. He would jump up and do Mary, hopping up on tables. Shawn Levy is such an energetic guy that so much of that is baked into Mary’s DNA now. Once we started animating it a little bit it was following what Shawn was doing. Every step of the way there were challenges for us, which was fun. We are used to doing television shows where you do a single camera comedy. You hope the cast works but this faced a lot of hurdles in post production was different. The whole thing was different.
What was the biggest challenge in bringing Imaginary Mary to TV?
Patrick Osborne: Well I knew nothing about making a sitcom and a family comedy. They all knew nothing about making animation, so the biggest difficulty is everyone educating each other on how its normally done and figuring out how we can twist the process enough to make it possible to do high quality animation at this speed. Because making television is really fast. An animated short that is 6 minutes long takes 51 weeks, and we only have six weeks per episode to make this show. So it was very different. I think really smart choices on what you are spending your money on like performance and acting and what you can kind of not worry about as much. So we didn’t worry as much about the fur sim, the fur doesn’t completely move all the time, only when necessary. But we made sure the animators we brought on were really high talent performers and could make the comedy work. That’s job one.
Why do you think people should watch Imaginary Mary?
Patrick: For me it is a release. It’s a wacky, kind of ridiculous premise that is escapism. That set in a family situation that feels common enough. I think it is not an unusual situation that the family is in. Everybody is dealing with things that are heavy and real out there and I think television should be a little bit of an escape from that.