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Ever hanker for a taste of a show sporting that nostalgic sitcom feel, starring many of the actors and actresses you knew and loved growing up but playing near polar opposites of themselves? Well then Borgasmord Productions’ Life Interrupted might just harbor such a continuation for you! The brainchild and colorful creation of The brainchild and colorful creation of former OZ actor, who still acts but is also a writer, director and producer Steven Wishnoff, this show is sure to amuse your child of the 60s, 70s and 80s Nick at Nite sensibilities while simultaneously shocking you back into present day reality with a groundbreaking concept that is long overdue! Starring Alison Arngrim (aka bad girl Nellie Oleson of Little House on the Prairie fame), Erin Murphy (best known as Tabitha on the original black and white to color Bewitched), TV’s best known child actor Mason Reese, Dawn Wells (i.e. Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island fame), Michael Learned (Olivia Walton of The Waltons), Robbie Rist (best known as the bespectacled, adorable, yet unassumingly obstreperous Oliver of Brady Bunch fame), Brandon Cruz (i.e. Eddie on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), and another Robbie in his own right who probably wasn’t even born when most of the aforementioned actors were weaving all related tales once told: Robbie Allen. Allen, as fate would have it, looks uncannily like Arngrim herself if he were her son or smiling non-bad non-girl alter ego. Naturally, Allen plays the former.
To top it all off this new and innovative show has so far garnered official selections in: The Los Angeles Film Awards, The Festigious International Film Festival and Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards.
The first sitcom of its kind starring Mason Reese and featuring a lesbian couple played by Arngrim and Murphy, the stage is set for more than one’s fair share of progressive whimsy and uh…family strife! In a nutshell: Allie Hughes played by Arngim leaves Mason Bell portrayed by Mason Reese for Nina Woodworth portrayed by Erin Murphy. Annie Hughes played by Dawn Wells and Marni Woodworth portrayed by Michael Learned as Arngrim’s and Murphy’s respective mothers cop near diametrically opposed stances regarding the merger-from-the-split.
Moreover, this Girl-tells-Boy-to-get-lost-after-meeting-other girl-causing-boy-to-feel-like-loser comedy possesses all the makings of a classic sitcom pertaining to style, but every conceptual element fit for the early 21st century. “It’s nostalgic, you know what I mean?” says creator Steven Wishnoff. “While I cast these people that we know and love…I don’t want it to feel like it’s dusty. The fact is, our plot certainly never would have flown 30 years ago…and the way we’re approaching it is fairly contemporary. So, it’s got to [get on] a network that understands that you can be comfortable and still be funny without being ‘Here’s muh boobs!’ …[For instance] the plot [where] somebody on a show thinks that everybody is treating them badly on their birthday, or has forgotten their birthday when in fact they don’t know that something is coming: That’s a fairly traditional convention, but we’ve treated it in a way that is a little more contemporary.”
“The old school thing…” muses Arngrim. “When I read his script and people were asking me…’What’s it like?’ I said, ‘It’s very old fashioned…like when you’d watch sitcoms and they were good and it was simple…” And [my husband] was like ‘Wait, oh my God, somebody finally wrote one again?!?”
From here on out, I have so many questions regarding the show, chiefly, “How did it all start?”, the conversation flows seamlessly and organically, each member of the cast and creation sharing their enthusiastic impressions and interpretations.
Mason– Well, it was my idea to put something together.
Steven-…Mason and I had worked together at the very first TV Land Awards, I was one of the producers and produced for the online department which at that point was in its infancy which tells you how old we all are, and thumbnail images truly were the size of a thumbnail… It was also oddly the first time I worked with Erin Murphy because Erin and Dave Mandel, who had played Adam on Bewitched…were our trophy presenters on the show. So we had Tabitha and Adam from Bewitched as the trophy presenters and [we set up an interview with] Mason and Rodney Allan Rippe…because Mason was a New Yorker and Rodney’s from L.A., and we did a Biggie/Tupac Rivalry interview, which became a lot of fun!
Alison—Did we not meet because of TV Land originally the first time around?
Steven—No I don’t think so. Because I had left a year before they flew you at Barker Hangar.
Alison—But before they flew me I was trophy girl with Glenn Scarpelli and I won the character Most Desperately in Need of a Time Out!
Steven—Yes that was the year I left… But in all seriousness, we all stayed in touch over the years and Mason had wanted to do something…and we talked about this and were like, “How long has it been since you’ve done something like that?” and he goes, “Well I was 14,” and I went, “Okay so it’s been a couple years.” And it was like “Okay, how do we keep something in the wheel house to keep it comfortable? Well you own a bar…” At the time he still was the owner of a bar in the East Village [in real life]…so I said “Let’s set it in a bar in the East Village.” He wasn’t particularly happy with the way things were going. He was in a transition. The partners were selling. I was like, “That will figure nicely into television,” and you were a formerly extraordinarily famous child actor. Let’s use that as a jumping point. And the next thing he knew he got a phone call from me saying, “Okay so you were a former child actor who wakes up on the eve of his 50th birthday, you’re miserable with your life, your wife left you for another woman, your mother-in-law is your landlady. How’s THAT?” And he was like, “Oh my God I LOVE it!”
Alison—[Steven] called me to say, “Okay I’ve written this thing,” and I was like “Great, great!” “Okay,” he says, “you’re Mason Reese’s ex-wife,” and I laughed nonstop and I said “Brilliant!” ‘But you’ve remarried: You’ve remarried Erin Murphy’ and I’m like “Aaah. Yeah, what time are we shooting!??”
Steven-Now there had to be a world and some conflict…so mother-in-law is a classic convention and I had known Dawn a number of years at this point. We did meet while I was working for Nick at Nite in TVLand but I also happened to be the person who produced her interview for the Archive of American Television…We had stayed in touch and I have to write it for Dawn but I’m basing it on this woman that I know whose name really is Annie Hughes and she’s a little saucy and she runs a bar and Dawn went, “Sounds good. Let me know when you finish it!” ‘Cause I wanted it to be as far form Mary Ann as could humanly be. [Then] obviously [Mason] needed a best friend and confidante. Since he and Robbie [Rist] are friends and Robbie is a musician…we turned to Robbie’s character Oliver…
LA Beat-Ohhh “Oliver” dingdingding!
Alison—It’s also supposed to be how we met, how we hooked up ‘cause we were in a band. He had a band.
Mason—She was my groupie!
Steven-But they had a great time and there’s the end result sitting at the end of the table! (pointing to a smiling young Robbie Allen)
Alison-Also, we [filmed at] lightning speed because we had to get out of the location at a set time… When we arrived and [Steven] said, “We’ll be done by 7,” [most of us said] “Yeah, yeah I’ll call everyone I know and tell them, ‘Don’t expect to hear from me ‘til midnight!’” You know how these things go. (To Michael) You were there encamped. You were there for the duration you brought a lunch she was ready to go then 6:59, ‘Everybody out to the parking lot, chop chop off ya go!’
Steven—In order to make it happen we just had to be so organized, and so on top of it, and no matter what came up or what happened or which actor needed a break when or who might’ve wanted to do something, there was a way to fix everything and make it work to get what we needed.
Dawn-But may I say something? Your demeanor, your support, your enthusiasm, a lot of times directors and writers are “this way, this way, this way”. You opened your arms to all of your creativity!
Michael-You made it fun.
Dawn-That’s not easy. You could have been a dictator.
Steven-I think Mason was the only person who knew that by the end of the last day of shooting, I had been in a car wreck a year and a half prior to that.
Mason-The man couldn’t walk.
Steven-I actually could not walk. I was faking it the whole time. I was wearing a brace. I could not walk and somehow, we did it. [Mason] was the only person who knew… But I come from theatre. I grew up doing theatre. It goes on. Period. You make it happen it’s like, what’s going on inside is not necessarily what’s going on outside, but what you need to show does…
Michael-We call it “Doctor Theatre” ‘cause while you’re in it you don’t even feel it and then when you go home it’s like “Oh crap, how did I do that?”
Steven– And we got what we needed, “Don’t worry about me. Just do what you need to do and I will get through this.” But honestly, from beginning to end, writing a theme song with Robbie [Rist was so easy] I threw him a lyric, gave him a genre, told him the feel. We went back and forth once, twice maybe…
Robbie-That’s ‘cause I hate notes… [But what’s great about] what we’ve started here is the amount of talented people that we could pull to include on this thing and have fun with their history all at the same time, it virtually writes itself!
Steven-I will tell you something really funny, when I was cutting the promos together… I pulled some of the behind the scenes video of stuff that was being shot unbeknownst to people, and at one point I caught Leslie Little, who was our scenic person, talking to one of the PAs…and she’s tying off a balloon at the party, and you hear her going, “Well, you DO know why Brandon Cruz’s last name is Corbett in the show?” He goes, “Oh, it says Dax.” She goes, “Well it’s Dax Corbett but that’s because he played Eddie Corbett on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” The guy who was the PA went, “I didn’t even realize that!” She goes, “You should pay attention to what’s in the script it’s funny!”
Mason-The whole show is an exercise in show business history…and by the way, on a complete side note, we’re surrounded by other people here, I don’t think they understand how much royalty is at this table!
Dawn-(tongue in cheek) You did not kneel when I came in and I’m terribly embarrassed!
Steven—Yeah I’m not so much so there ya go… My mother is still alive ‘til I wrestle that scepter out of her cold hand I can only be a princess!!!
Alison-The chemistry between the actors was the thing. You believe Mason was my ex-husband. (to Mason) I was giving you such shit, and you’re sitting there in the bed and I was saying, “I told you to be at the office, Jesus Christ!” Yeah, (to Dawn) and I believe you’re my mom and I could take you (to Robbie Allen) to parties and go “Look it’s my son!” And then–oh my god–the one time the crew almost had a complete breakdown and could not film the next scene was when Erin and I are in what’s supposed to be our apartment, and I come in and [say], “Hi honey I’m home,” …We kissed, and they cut for something, and she said, “Oh Alison’s lips are really soft!!!” And the whole camera crew went “aynh anyh anyh- she-had-to-say-that-why-did-she-have-to-say-that?!?” And they could not concentrate on anything. They had to stop because it was a bunch of guys. They watched us kiss and she said my lips were soft and they all…lost their marbles for like 20 minutes. It was hysterical!!!
Steven-We had to take a break… [And] I still have the clipping [from the review of the show] that you did in Brussels… Because Alison had been in Europe performing, they wrote “This new series with Nellie Oleson form the Prairie and the little witch or the little bitch kissing…” She sent me this clip from Europe and I was hysterical laughing!!! The thing is, there are so many layers to this. For example, the Upper East Side apartment that Alison and Erin’s characters lived in are actually shot in the valley in Jeannie Russell-who was Margaret from Dennis the Menace’s-house as was the dream kitchen from the dream sequence…
Alison-The dream kitchen is her kitchen and literally five feet away is the wall of the living room that was our Manhattan apartment…
Steven-And actually in the driveway is where we did the green screen shooting for [Mason] driving [in New York]… We had one exterior, when you see how it was dealt with, you will believe we were in New York City. And that’s because one of the FX designers form Sharknado was our SFX supervisor!
LA Beat-So Steven, you said a lot of the characters you wrote about were based in real life? Can you get into that?
Steven– Only one of them, that I can talk about. I mean certainly Mason’s character is fiction… other than the premise: A former child actor turning 50 whose life may or may not be what he intended it to be…
Mason-Right, who played in a band and who owned a bar.
Steven-So that part’s real. Beyond that, I left out everything else. I had to. I do know the adult son of a female couple who is the biological child of one of the two women and actually had to call to say “How do you address this person? How do you address that person? What is this like?” Actually, I know several people now who are the children of same sex couples but there was one in particular that I called. Dawn’s character Annie is very much based on a woman whose name is Annie Hughes who I met when I was doing theatre in New York. Everybody has a survival job and my day job was actually a night job in the piano bars in New York, and I would be behind the piano 8 hours of improv a night…insanity! And anybody doing a show in town would come in after the show was dark and sing, and the audiences would come from all over the world and hang out and sing along and carry on and have fun and all of the staff were performers. Annie Hughes happened to be a genius performer with a couple of Broadway shows to her credit. We are very good friends, and the running joke was; for her birthday one year I gave her a shirt that said, “That’s Miss Bitch to You!” which she proudly wore the rest of that shift and then pummeled it with me later. But Annie and I are still friends. She had a very fun and slightly saucy sense of humor and was also one of the kindest people ever. Though she might’ve hurt someone’s feelings, she never liked the idea that she did–if it happened at all. Or it was somebody that she really didn’t care if she did or not. She’d say “f ‘em!” …But a brilliant performer. And a good deal of Annie Hughes…is based on her. Not that she ever, that I’m aware of, had a thing with Julio (Dawn’s younger man flirtation in the show)…
Dawn-She’d like to.
Steven—[Yes] trust me I think she would like to… And I have known several people who were patrons of the arts upon whom Marni (Michael Learned’s character) is loosely based; Marni was actually named for my old voice teacher Marni Nixon who did live uptown and was quite a lovely human being whose husband was a saxophonist, well when I knew her…who I just love to pieces. Robbie [Rist’s] character Oliver is loosely based on Steve Lukather from Toto because he travels a lot and performs still…but I’m told is a very good friend to all of his friends. I know his son Trev so that’s where that came from. So…yeah, everybody is sort of based in reality. There had to be reality or it wouldn’t work. And setting it in New York was something close to my heart because I am a New Yorker. Mason is a New Yorker and the East Village is…or at least was, a very unique place.
LA Beat-So I know there are some interesting stories about how some of you know each other or eventually met.
Robbie Rist-Well the crazy thing about it is…that Mason and I have known about each other our entire lives and strangely we just started talking over the Inter-tron about three or four years ago… [But] when I was seven, Mason and I…were rivals. Well maybe rivals is the wrong word. We were both hard working guys at the same time… So, here’s two first graders basically…and I mean actually even this is going wrong. Truth of the matter is, Mason sat way above all of us. Mason was a genuine, without putting too fine a point on it. Mason was a genuine cultural icon of the time…maybe that’s really what this whole show is about is him just proving to us that he’s the top dog… Y’know what? (classic Robbie Rist tongue in cheek) Fuck Mason. I hate that guy!..Fuck him!
Steven– Robbie [Allen] and I had done this short film together… I was playing your uncle I think (to Robbie Allen) but…it was a very, very serious piece full of more angst, and tears and didn’t we fight…? A physical fight I mean he was like sobbing, it was quite a thing. So, to go from that [to me calling] him and saying “Hey listen, I’ve got this part…” [was a little crazy.] And he’s like, “Are you kidding?” I’m like, “No, and it’s a comedy!” And he goes, “you know that I’d really prefer to do [drama].” and I’m like, “Yeah I know but this is gonna [be fun].” And the only note I ever [gave him] was “Brighten it up. This is a comedy.” Because the intention, the brain power was all there!
Alison-(to Dawn) You and I in a makeup room in New York City: I don’t know if it was Sally Jesse Raphael or Geraldo ‘cause we did ‘em all, but we were in one make up room in New York and we had both been up watching the porn channel separately in our hotel rooms, and we were like “Oh my God!” We were flipping channels going “What the Hell?” ‘cause New York had the porn channels…and I said, “Oh my God did you see the porn channel?” and you were like “Oh my God did you see the porn channel?!? I could not believe what was on there. I was flipping channels and the thing with the two girls oh my god when they brought in the guy…” And the makeup woman was going “lalalala”…
Steven-Well because they had discovered the infamous New York Channel 35/Channel J.
Alison-We did not realize were watching it separately in our hotel rooms going “No way!!!” And then we discussed it graphically in the make-up room the next morning and [the makeup people] were like “This is not taking place.”
LA Beat-And what were some of your favorite aspects or memories about working on this show?
Alison-The cast. The fact that she’s (Dawn’s) my mother and (Robbie Allen’s) my son and I’m married to Erin… I mean as soon as [Steven] called and said, “You’re playing Mason’s ex-wife,” I was like “A hahaha! That’s hysterical”…and then he said, “Okay guess who’s playing the mom? (Dawn)..and it just kept escalating from there, and I said, “Oh that sounds great!”
Dawn-The favorite aspect: There was a unit of shared enthusiasm and shared creativity…it wasn’t just a black and white line…the chemistry of the whole thing…everybody was in it together!
Robbie Allen-Well of course meeting everybody was amazing. Then I got to share a bunch of scenes with Dawn!
Dawn-I get to chase him around the bar.
Robbie Allen-That was one of the funnest moments!
Dawn-And the bar has the feeling like Cheers had. You walk into this bar and [you’re gonna know where you are!]
Robbie Rist– I think what Mason and Steven have created is a potential gift for fans of this sort of television because anybody can be a guest star now and the way the show is set up, you can make a reference to the world from which they came without blatantly going, “Hey everybody it’s blahbiddyblah!”
Michael—I love the sense of family that we even have here. I seem to spend my life being involved in family, and that’s one of the things I love about the show. We have a family and you created this family. So, we’re all here. Here we all are. I love that.
Clearly this cast has a deep and fun abiding love and respect for one another. To speak nothing of being part of a groundbreaking series that should, if there is a just God in this universe, be remembered long after the lives of the characters on the show were ever interrupted! What more couldja want?!?
For more information on Life Interrupted and to watch its weekly released YouTube episodes, please visit:
The YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/LifeInterruptedSeriesLife Interrupted Official Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lifeinterrupted.tv/On imdb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4085678/?ref_=nv_sr_1