Ever since the channel’s launch in 2014, drama has been a key element of Lifetime UK’s schedule. Over the past two years, the A+E Networks UK backed channel has aired a wealth of exclusive drama series including Witches Of East End, The Client List, Blue and UnREAL.
Their latest such acquisition is the Bravo series Girlfriends Guide To Divorce, which premieres in the UK tonight at 10pm. The series, which A+E Networks UK’s Senior Vice-President for Content & Creative Heather Jones described as a “good example” of what Lifetime UK is looking for in a drama series, was designed to be the “scripted partner piece to the Real Housewives franchise”.
Based on Girlfriends’ Guide book series by Vicki Iovine, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce comes from former Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Code Black executive producer Marti Noxon (who also created the Lifetime original series UnREAL) and features Lisa Edlestein in her first series regular since exiting House in 2009.
Edelstein leads the cast as Abby, a self-help book author and guru of all things family, who shocks the world when she reveals that her seemingly perfect life has all been a lie. After publicly admitting that she has separated from her husband, Jake, America’s once-favourite girlfriend finds her career and marriage in a free fall.
The cast of the series – which has already been renewed for a second season by Bravo in the United States – also includes Janeane Garofalo, Beau Garrett, Paul Adelstein, Beau Garrett, Alanna Ubach, Necar Zadegan, Patrick Heusinger, J. August Richards, C. Thomas Howell, Julianna Guill, Michael Weaverand and Charles Mesure.
Ahead of tonight’s premiere on Lifetime UK, TVWise spoke with Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce star Lisa Edelstein about the series, what attracted her to the role, Janeane Garofalo’s surprise exit during the first season, the pressures of leading Bravo’s first ever original scripted drama series and much more.
TVWise: This is your first regular role since House, what attracted you to the part?
Lisa Edelstein: So many things. First of all, I love Marti Noxon, I think she’s an incredible talent. I love that the show itself covers a whole spectrum from comedy to drama; it gets to be very light and witty, and then it gets to be incredibly raw. That’s a really amazing opportunity that doesn’t come along very often and also to be, at my age, the lead of a romantic comedy is really special and I think really important. I love that that story is being told now. I think it’s something that would have been unheard of when I started in the business, so that was really exciting and it’s just a great show.
TVWise: There’s something of a dichotomy with your character being clearly a strong woman yet she can’t accept or perhaps admit that her marriage is over…
Lisa Edelstein: Well she made her whole career on how to have the perfect family. She’s written a whole series of books: Girlfriends’ Guide To Pregnancy; Girlfriends’ Guide To Raising A Toddler; and now she’s just coming out with a book called Girlfriends’ Guide To Getting Your Groove Back, which is about keeping your marriage sexy now that the kids are in school. So for her it’s as much a personal failure as it is a professional one for it to come out that she is in a failed marriage. She’s fighting as hard as she can to keep it all under wraps and finally by the end of the episode she just can’t do it a second longer.
TVWise: Picking up there, she has something of a public breakdown at the end of the first episode and the secret is out. Does that spell the end of her writing career?
Lisa Edelstein: Her career tanks and she’s got to figure everything out. She’s got to really put herself back together again and figure out how to be a single mother, how to negotiate with her soon to be ex-husband, what she wants in her relationship. She has to learn a lot of thing that if you’re single as a young adult you learn, but that you just don’t get to learn if you get married young. She and Jake have been together so long that there are a lot of things in the world that she just hasn’t figured out yet.
TVWise: How important is Abby’s group of friends going to be as she goes through the divorce? Will she be relying heavily on them?
Lisa Edelstein: Oh, very much so. Especially as we get into season two, the stories expand even further. Part of Abby’s story is that these are new friends. When your life shifts so much, you tend to lean into people who share your experience. Her old friends are all married and no one relates to what’s happening in her world. So, these are all young friendships and they each have their own version of the story to tell and it continues that way.
TVWise: You got married shortly before going to work on Girlfriends’ Guide, what was it like playing a character heading into a divorce as you were going into a marriage:
Lisa Edelstein: I actually got married the day before we started shooting [laughs]. So it was great, it really was, because it’s a cautionary tale, especially as a newlywed. There’s nothing you are thinking about more when you get married than how to make it work and what it means. Maybe it’s because I was an older bride… when you’re a kid and you get married you’re just an idiot [laughs] and you just think it’s romantic. But when you’re older and get married you think ‘Ok, I’m really doing this and that’s because it means something to me. What is it going to take? What are the pitfalls I need to avoid?’ And then here I go off to shoot the show about just that, about lack of communication, and letting things go for too long and all the problems that Jake and Abby had.
TVWise: There is this wonderfully awkward intimate scene between Abby and Warren Christie’s character in the pilot, what crossed your mind when you saw that in the script?
Lisa Edelsetin: Oh my god, I love that scene so much. I love it. It’s so complicated, it’s so layered, because she’s so new… I think it’s a beautiful scene. It’s awkward, but [Warren] did such a good job. If you break down the kind of dialogue he had, on the wrong guy it would have just been really gross [laughs]. But he is very good at playing that role and he found a way of keeping it really soft and really earnest and making her feel safe. I love that scene, the whole thing.
TVWise: What’s it like working with such a strong cast?
Lisa Edelstein: Oh god, we had such a good time. Everybody showed up to this show with a wonderful attitude and in love with the show. There was actual singing taking place on set, our crew frequently broke out into happy birthday or applause, whether or not it was someone’s birthday or they had said something great. And the actors… everybody there had that attitude of being thrilled to be there and loving what they do, so it was just a wonderful environment.
TVWise: Janeane Garofalo exits the show part way through the first season, what happened there?
Lisa Edelstein: It just wasn’t a good fit for her. She wasn’t happy, but the character has an arc that worked out fine, where with her story it made sense that she moved on. We all had an incredible time working with her, she’s an amazing comedian. It just wasn’t a good fit for her. I don’t think she wants to be on a series, she wants to do her stand-up. It’s hard when people have two careers.
TVWise: Girlfriends’ Guide was Bravo’s first original scripted series, did you feel that put any additional pressure on you?
Lisa Edelstein: I think it actually worked to our advantage, because they had done a few pilots before ours and so this was the first one that they green-lit and they were really behind us. They really put a lot of faith in Marti and our writing team and in [the cast]. Because they had never done it before, it was a learning experience for everybody, so in some ways it slowed some things down, but most of the time they were just psyched, they were really excited. They supported the show enormously and did a great campaign to get us pushed out of the door.
And a lot of times on the major networks that’s not what happens. You might have a show that’s good, but for whatever reason they’re paying attention to another show and you don’t get the campaigns that you need or don’t get the support or you get a bad time-slot. All those things can kill a show, even if it is a good show. Just look a Relativity. That was many, many years ago, but it was a Jason Katims [creator of Friday Night Lights & Parenthood) show and it was a really wonderful drama. It was a soap-opera drama about two young adults falling in love with each other, and their families, and [ABC] put us on Saturday night. Any people who were going to watch that show were out on Saturday night. So stuff like that is impossible to… you can’t control it. So when you’re in a situation like ours, where they wanted and needed to succeed, it was great.
TVWise: Speaking of the campaign, it did cause something of a controversy, what were your thoughts when you heard that?
Lisa Edelstein: It was awesome. First of all, my husband made that campaign. That was his poster and his concept – the whole thing. That was exciting because then he got to participate in our show about divorce. It was wonderful because when it got banned, at first the network was starting to freak out and trying to figure out if there was an alternative poster we could put in the places that it got banned, but then they realised that it was just a wonderful opportunity because it became a story. The show was a story before the show even aired. People were debating on talk shows whether or not it was pro-marriage or anti-marriage and they hadn’t even seen it yet. So, it very much worked in our favour to be so controversial and it’s a great poster.
Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce premieres on Lifetime UK on Tuesday September 15th at 10pm.