It's rare that you find a comedy on television that has both heart and brains. The Real O'Neals on ABC delivers big laughs, but also focuses on somewhat controversial subjects that cause you to think about what some families are facing these days.
If you haven't seen the show, The Real O'Neals is about a close-knit, Chicago-based, Catholic family that is far from perfect. The parent's, Eileen and Pat, marriage is on the rocks, their middle son Kenny has announced he's gay, the oldest, Jimmy, has an eating disorder and their daughter, Shannon, is questioning her faith. Added to the mix is Aunt Jodi who has made some questionable life choices. Through all their differences and beliefs, they still love one another and come together in an undeniable family bond ... the way real families do.
I was able to sit down with the executive producers and some of the cast for a casual Q&A about the show. Here's a few of the fun takeaways.
Executive producers Casey Johnson, David Windsor and Stacy Traub
- Executive producers Casey Johnson and David Windsor have been writing partners for 17 years. They also wrote the pilot script for the show.
- When The Real O'Neals got picked up, they brought on Stacy Traub as a third show runner. Casey, David and Stacy previously worked on The Trophy Wife together.
- The spark of the idea for the show came from Dan Savage, who is a blogger, author and podcaster. He grew up in Chicago with a cop dad and was gay in a Catholic family.
- Stacy brings stories from her life about being divorced into the show.
- David grew up Catholic and was raised by two gay dads.
- There are 5-6 gay writers on the show along with several Catholic writers. This brings authentic experiences to the show,
- The goal of the show is to make you laugh, but the writers aren't afraid to bring in heavy issues, too.
- The greatest reward for the writers is when they receive tweets from kids saying "I just watched the show and I decided to go and come out to my family."
Matt Shively (Jimmy) and Mary Hollis Inboden (Aunt Jodi)
- On the show, Aunt Jodi works in a hair salon and to get into character Mary would practice on a dummy. She thought she had it down, but during filming accidentally brushed an extra with the scissors while doing the "flip". Now she's a colorist.
- Matt hates his hair on the show. In real life he has great hair.
- Like her character, Mary loves doing karaoke.
- The cast hangs out all the time when they're not filming - they even have an ongoing group text.
- Matt loves that his character is not the stereotypical jock, with an ego and is a bully... Jimmy is just the opposite. He has his brother's back.
- In the first draft of the show, Mary's character was a woman named Maureen, who was the next door neighbor. She had a 15-year-old son who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant.
Jay R. Ferguson (Pat) and Noah Galvin (Kenny)
- Noah hopes that the show becomes a driving force to normalize gay adolescence.
- Jay hopes the show wins over people that may have thought they wouldn't like the show.
- Jay's family, on both sides, is deep southern baptist raised in church. They gave the show a chance and love it.
- Noah's audition for Kenny took two months. It was important to producers that the character of Kenny was played by an openly gay actor who understood the coming out process.
- Jay's system for perfect hair involves wearing a headband.
"The Real Book Club"
Tonight The Real O'Neals returns with a new episode titled "The Real Book Club".
Eileen faces her book club for the first time after her family's "outing," but things take a surprising turn when instead of shunning her the ladies begin opening up - way too much - about their own problems. Kenny's first trip to the "gayborhood" coffee shop is everything he'd hoped for, until Pat tags along with him to a gay dodge ball match.
Watch The Real O’Neals Tuesday Nights at 8:30 pm EST
Photo Credit: Coralie Seright — Special thanks to ABC television for hosting me during the #ABCTVEvent. All opinions are my own.