Q & A: Jamie Pressly and Katie Finneran talk ‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter’

Jamie Pressly is back on TV with the new FOX sitcom, I Hate My Teenage Daughter. She’s joined by Katie Finneran, who you may have seen in the filmed version of Company (starring Neil Patrick Harris) and last season’s Broadway revival of Promises, Promises.

The two play best friends who were bullied in high school and now, as single moms, have found out that they are raising daughters to be just like the girls that used to menace them.

Jamie was looking to return to TV but was looking for a “multi-camera format” and wanted her character to be completely different than her Emmy-Winning role as Joy in My Name Is Earl.

Katie had just had a baby and thought that the sitcom format was the best schedule for her to raise a family.

The two talk about how they got their parts, Katie’s transition from Broadway to TV and what they think of the title of the show

I hate My Teenage Daughter airs at 9:30/8:30c on FOX

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes  For both of you—what was it about the premise of the show and about your characters in particular that made you want to participate?

Jamie Pressly: I can say for me it was—in order for me to come back to TV, being that Earl  is still on and that character, Joy, was such  strong character, I have to be able to play something that was completely opposite of her so that everybody didn’t think I was playing a different version of her.  And this character is definitely that.

She comes from a religious background and a military father, is completely unaware of anything that has to do with pop culture, and she had her daughter when she was in college and is really kind of the more grounded one, but, is quite quirky and a bit of a dork.  Both characters are a bit of goof-balls. 

But, I also like the relationship between the two of us—myself and Katie—Nicki and Annie—because, that’s really what this show is about.  Because as a single mom, myself, I know that I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my friends and my best friend since I was five is named Katie Mack and when I met Katie Finneran they were so similar, it just kind of felt like the right fit.

Katie Finneran: I just love the sitcom format.  I think there is so much comfort in it.  I loved watching sitcoms growing up.   I love that it was about best friends—Laverne & Shirley was like my favorite show growing up.  I’m dating myself again.  I am a healthy 40-year-old woman and I enjoy Laverne & Shirley.  There you have it.

I really wanted to do a sitcom because I had just had a baby.  When I auditioned, my baby was four days old when I auditioned, and I knew that that format would be the greatest schedule for me to raise a family.  And also, I just always feel silly when I play doctors or very serious roles.  I can do it and I enjoy working in any capacity, but when I have to say, “He had a thrompoctomy” and the seriousness and somebody dies, I just always want to giggle behind my surgery mask. 

What do you all think of the title of the show?

Katie Finneran: Love it.  We love the title.

Jamie Pressly: I think it’s great because, for one thing, it’s grabbing people’s attention one way or the other.  Whether it’s upsetting them, or they like it and they agree with it, it’s grabbing people’s attention and that was the point of it in the first place.  And it’s like Katie always says, we’re just saying it for you, ‘cause it’s a moment that everybody that as a parent has actually had where they actually just want to say, oh, my God, I hate my teenager.  But, you don’t really.  You just, on occasion, they can do things that make you want to want crawl into a fetal position.

Katie, talk about the transition from Broadway to TV.

Katie Finneran: It’s fantastic.  I love that it’s, again, it’s the sitcom format, because it’s so similar.  There’s an audience.  We rehearse it like a play.  It changes more than a play would every day and we get new lines every single day, but sometimes when you’re doing a new play it changes a lot, too.  But, I take so much comfort in it because I am most comfortable in front of an audience.  

So, when we’re doing the sitcom, it’s the same arena.  We know something works because the audience laughs or doesn’t laugh and it’s very comforting.  It’s a really easy transition.  Like I said, I’m most nervous when I have to perform a surgery or do some deposition and there’s a camera there and I’m missing my light and I miss my mark and nothing works.  But, this is very, very familiar to me because it’s so similar.

Jaime, your character is significantly differently than it was on Earl.  How would that transition for you?

Jamie Pressly: It’s been incredible to be allowed to play a character against type.  People in this business, you can be pigeon-holed very easily.  If people see that you’re good at doing something, they either assume that that’s all you can do, or they assume oh, that’s just who she is.   And so, it’s been really great to be able to venture out and do something different and show that I can do something different. 

But for me, again, I love the sitcom format as well. I love to be in front of the audience and to see what works and what doesn’t work right away, so that by the time it airs, it’s really, really funny. We know it’s going to work because we shot it in front of the audience, and if it didn’t work in the audience, they change it right then and there.  We make sure that we get the jokes right. 

So, it’s nice to kind of have that assurance that by the time it airs it’s going to be really good.  But, also, to be able to have this kind of a schedule when both of us—Katie and I – are both used to such very, very, very rigorous, long, grueling hours—seventeen hour days with a single camera or her with theater if’s very, very long hours and it’s really difficult to be a part of a family and raise a family, because the people you work with become your family.  You’re with them more than you are with your actual family at home.  So, it’s been really nice to be able to have a sense of normalcy in my life and be able to take my son to school in the mornings.

In the pilot there’s references to you guys having mean girls as daughters. So, what were you guys in high school?

Katie Finneran: I was kind of a good girl.  I was the designated driver. I drove all of my friends around but I was, you’re always trying to keep up with who’s the coolest and you’re always feeling like you’re out of place.  I think even the cool people feel that way.  Even the mean girl’s are always feeling out of place.  It always comes from insecurity.  Jaime on the other hand…

Jamie Pressly: I was getting ready to say that, it’s the insecurity that makes them act as cool as they are, you know, or as cool as they do. 

Katie Finneran: But, Jaime, on the other hand was actually cool.  Jaime actually was cool.

Jamie Pressly: Both Katie and I got along with every group, though.  That was the thing in which we are both very similar.  We could hang our really in any group and we both were very much a part of the theater and I was a dancer my whole life and my mom was with the performing arts department so, I was always in either in the plays or there while she was choreographing the plays.  And Katie, of course was in the plays. 

But as far as the whole fitting in thing, I don’t think anybody, like Katie said, ever really feels like they completely fit in in that age group, because it’s all, those are your formative years and it’s all about figuring out yourself and what you like and don’t like and what kind of style you’re going to dress yourself in.  You know, trying new things and so my mother, my experience was a little different because I went to my freshman year in North Carolina and then moved to California, went to my first semester my sophomore year and then I left and went to Japan on a contract so, I came back and didn’t exactly have the same experience.  But, all my friends were still there and I did get to go to a dance or two, thank God. 

How did you guys come to get these roles?  Did you have to audition in front of all the executives?

Jamie Pressly: Katie actually got it first.

Katie Finneran: I got a phone call from when I was in the hospital bed.  It was about three days after my cesarean for my son and they called and said, you know, “Warner Brothers would like to see you for this show. Would you please, put yourself on tape?”  And my husband looked at me and I was all swollen from the surgery and he said, “Well we can shoot her from the chin up.” 

I auditioned from chin up and Warner Brothers decided that they wanted to work with me and then wanted to fly me in to meet with FOX.  And then, it was FOX and they decided to it was a good fit and Sherry Bilsing-Graham and Ellen Kreamer decided it was a good fit and then they threw me in with Jaime and it was all like a good marriage.

Jamie Pressly: Yes, my very first series was actually with Warner Brothers and Peter Roth. And Peter Roth called me up and said, “Jaime, I got this show for you.”  My thing, again, that I said earlier, I wanted to come back to TV, but I wanted it to be in a multi-camera sitcom format.  And I also wanted it to be a character that was completely different—that I didn’t think anybody had seen me play before.  Because Joy is still on the air seven days a week, I needed it to be very different from her.  

He said, “I’ve got a script for you. I’m sending it to you.  They’re messengering it today.”  I read it; called him right back and said “I love it.”  Went and met with FOX and Katie was there.  And, she and I hit it off right off the bat.  And that was that.  It just was a natural fit from the get-go.

Jaime, Katie is this Broadway powerhouse, have you ever thought of doing a play or musical?

Jamie Pressly: Absolutely.  And I will. It’s just difficult when you have a kid.  You know, in my twenties, I was travelling and doing films a lot and I did quite a bit of TV and then I think I went to China for five months on a film, came back and started Earl.  Did that for four years and in the process of that show, I had Desi, my son.

So, when you have a kid, it’s kind of; some people have no problems picking up and leaving and taking their kid with them all over the world.  I personally, didn’t want to do that to my son. So, I chose to stay on television.  I love doing television.  And so, one day, when he is old enough, I will definitely go and do Broadway, when I have time.

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