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AT LACMA Fri 10.9.2015

Finding the Casual Comedy Delivery with the Cast and Creators

Writer Zander Lehmann has been studying both young and older women closely. No, not really studying (that could be illegal) but as the writer of the new Hulu comedy series Casual, Lehmann has crafted two such characters that jumped off the page to the actors that read the pilot. Those actors are Michaela Watkins (Valerie on the show) and Tara Lynne Barr (Laura) who, at last night’s Film Independent at LACMA screening, recounted with actor Tommy Dewey (Alex) and executive producers Jason Reitman, Helen Estabrook and Liz Tigelaar that it was Lehmann’s attentive writing that drew them to the project.

Watkins, Barr and Dewey make up the core cast of the show, an intentional move by Lehmann, who didn’t want to create a cast of characters so big there was no room to really get to know them. Reitman and Estabrook, who have been working together on Reitman’s projects for several years, had been looking for a television script for a while, and when they read Lehmann’s pilot they were drawn to this aspect of Casual. “The humor builds the same way as in a movie,” Reitman explained. Because it never went for easy laughs, character development came first and comedy second, giving the 10-episode arc a steady pacing unlike traditional sitcom dialogue. It was the actors who brought the comedy with their delivery.

Casual at Film Independent at LACMA

More importantly, at the heart of Casual, the cast in attendance agreed, is a love story between a brother and a sister. The pilot kicks off with news of Valerie’s messy divorce, which leads her to move in with her brother, Alex. Contrary to Reitman and Watkins’ personal experiences, the siblings are actually open with each other about their sex lives. Alex starts “coaching” Valerie through online dating and casual sex, revealing his own insecurities and screwing up in his own ways (maybe don’t buy cocaine from that random guy at a bar to impress a woman?).

And for Barr, Valerie’s teenage daughter on the show, Lehmann crafted a younger character who is somewhere in between the extremes Barr finds too commonplace in both film and television – the bubbly cheerleader and the sad emo kid. Barr’s character Laura has her own insecurities about sex and relationships and in episode two, we see Valerie starting to open up to her daughter about her own. The only input from Hulu, the creators said through laughs, was: “Maybe Laura was 16 when you put her on the pill, not 12.”

Diana Buendia / Marketing Assistant

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