Whoever came up with the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” obviously had never watched Somebody Somewhere.
The HBO series, whose second season premiered in April, brings together friends and creative collaborators with decades of combined personal and professional connections. As evidenced by a recent Deadline FYC House + HBO Max screening and panel series event (held before the WGA strike), the show’s prevailing emotion is pretty much the mirror opposite of contempt.
“It is all joyful and so much fun and so gratifying,” said Mary Catherine Garrison, who plays Tricia. “There’s so much love on the set.” Bridget Everett, who plays the lead role of Sam and is an executive producer, noted that she and Garrison were roommates for 10 years. The two of them, along with Murray Hill, who plays Fred, were active in New York’s downtown theater/cabaret/comedy scene starting in the 2000s. Jeff Hiller, who plays Joel, was less a part of that scene but said he immediately fell in with his castmates and the show’s cast and crew after the pilot was shot in 2019. As far as his favorite part of making the show, he said, “I can’t believe I’m going to say making friends!” Everett recalled being “in the downtown world, we were sort of kickin’ around together. Now, we’re all doing something together that gives everyone a chance to shine, and that’s really special to me.”
Given those vibes, moderator Amy Sedaris struck the appropriate tone by throwing objectivity out the window from the start. “It’s my favorite show!” the actor and writer — who also has many of those downtown connections — raved after the lights came up. The event at New York’s Crosby Hotel followed a screening of the opening episodes of Season 2.
After declaring her passion for the series, Sedaris laid out her plans for the panel. “I’m going to tell you why I love it and then you’re going to tell me why you love it.” Reading from “little notes I jotted down,” Sedaris identified qualities like the show’s emotional depth; its treatment of church and community; casting and realistic dialogue.
Creators Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen also had close ties as they came up in the industry. “Hannah and I met in college and then we were roommates together for eight years,” Thureen said. “We worked in the same restaurant and we would come home and watch Strangers with Candy,” a Comedy Central series starring Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello and Mitch Rouse. Sedaris said making the show was “like being out in the woods with your friends, and the goal was just to make each other laugh.”
Thureen said a similar bond helped the creative team and cast chart nuanced and emotional territory, finding new layers and applying the kind of brush strokes that don’t often survive the demands of commercial episodic storytelling. The show’s central plot of Sam living in a small town in Kansas and coping with the death of her sister while nurturing dreams of expressing herself through song offers endless possibilities to explore.
“To be able to have queer people of faith and farmers existing together, and to get to work on it with people who care about every single detail has been amazing,” Thureen said. Garrison praised the way the show “treats religion and faith. I like how respectful it is toward everyone. … It’s a joy to act in something where every single person you interact with, there’s so much to it, potentially.”
Bos said the familiar atmosphere onset pays dividends with the comedic moments. When cast members make each other laugh, she said, “they often laugh in the zone of their character, so we get to keep that” in the final cut.
Diversity and inclusion are also organic to the series. Hill said having “somebody like me onscreen” means that “representation is finally starting to mean almost everybody.” Having a character like Fred onscreen says to the audience in a politically fraught time that “people like me, queer people, trans people, we’re everywhere. We’re in big cities, we’re in little cities. … We’re not going anywhere. We’ve always been here.”
All in all, Bos added, it has been “pretty dreamy” to have HBO not only permit the show’s lived-in aesthetic but embrace it. Thureen agreed. “How is this on TV and how is this on HBO?” he said he has found himself wondering. Everett said when the classic HBO pneumonic comes on before the start of the show, with its sound of static and screen filling with snow, “Sometimes I rewind it.” She said with a laugh, “I think when we’re done making it and I’ll say, ‘You were on HBO, bitch!’”
Click on the video above to watch the conversation.
To watch more videos from the Deadline FYC House + HBO Max event series, click here.