Season 1 of Workin’ Moms has been unlike any other comedy I’ve seen on CBC. As a matter of fact, to call Catherine Reitman’s creation a comedy is putting it in too small of a box. To tune into a half-hour episode on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. is to witness, yes, plenty of laughs, but also tears, drama and downright shock.
When we last left the ladies, Kate (Reitman) was reconsidering her decision to accept the Montreal gig; Anne (Dani Kind) had fleeting thoughts of an abortion; Frankie (Juno Rinaldi) had lost her job, and perhaps her mind; and Jenny (Jessalyn Wanlim) was juggling nipple piercings and alleyway makeout sessions.
With just one more new episode before the Season 1 finale—”Merde” on Tuesday—we spoke to Reitman about the journey she and these characters have been on.
Kate’s struggle has been awful to watch, but also very real and there were times I wanted to punch Nathan because this about her time to shine, for me anyway. But as of last week’s episode, it feels like Kate is regretting her decision. She’s being left behind and left out of her family dynamic.
Catherine Reitman: It’s not a ‘likeable’ storyline and it’s something I deal with a lot. Kate is in many ways a younger, naive version of myself. Someone who doesn’t want to compromise anything. To me, that’s very relatable but it’s also a very unrealistic way to live your life. Now that I’ve done a season of this show with a newborn, a three-year-old and a husband, something’s gotta give. To ‘have it all,’ as has been promised in this modern world, but there is not really a structure in place to achieve that. At least, not without compromise. The more I meet working women, there isn’t an affordable way to do this—daycare, etc.—trying to have it all, you lose all of your grace and relationship in the process or you lose things that have value to you and make you a unique, special individual and not just a mother.
When I got pregnant with Liam, it was the day before I got my first-ever series greenlight. All of a sudden I realized I had an option. I could move forward and just be a mother and say no to this incredible opportunity. Or maybe, I could be an OK mother and follow this thing I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl. That’s sort of the route Kate takes and I think it’s really easy to lose your grace on that path and it’s something that I wanted to explore.
Nathan is played by Philip Sternberg, your real-life husband. Did you and he have discussions about whether or not you would showrun Workin’ Girls?
We absolutely had that conversation and his fears and my fears were absolutely equal. He wondered if we could do this. It doesn’t just mean, ‘Hey, you’re going to be working while you’re pregnant,’ but we were uprooting our toddler and saying, ‘Not only do you have a new baby brother to contend with, but you’re now living in a different country and Mommy’s gone all day and all night in production.’ It’s actually the cruelest to our toddler because he doesn’t know what the hell is going on. [Laughs.] Yes, it was a huge adjustment for all parties.
Dani Kind has been fantastic as Anne.
She’s been magical.
Every character is good, but Anne has been in some pretty dark places, the most recent of which secretly hoping she’d lost the baby when she fell on her stomach. I’ve never even considered that that might be a thought.
It’s funny. When you think about a woman considering an abortion or a woman being relieved at a miscarriage … if you had just told me that I would have complete judgment about her. The truth is that life is incredibly complicated. I heard a statistic where women having abortions are most likely to already have children. There was this huge wake-up call when I heard that statistic because I have absolutely thought about having an abortion before and have fainted on my child while pregnant and thought a miscarriage might be a relief for a second. That doesn’t make me a villain, it makes me a person. To watch it, and see the disconnection Anne has from the child she already has and then see them growing closer … there is something very potent to me about that.
Anne could easily be construed as an angry woman and when you get somebody like Dani Kind … she never plays it safe. She plays it 100 per cent to the point where you become her. Every time I see her play it, I say, ‘Uh huh, I believe her and I want to be her.’ You get on board with a potentially unlikable subject matter.
This is a messy show.
Yeah man. This is a messy life.
The writers’ room must have been a real mix of laughs and tears.
It was pretty therapeutic. Everything you see on-screen is based on, if not mine, someone else’s story.
Have you gotten any negative feedback about some of the subject matter?
Not one. People put the fear of God into me. I was told that Canada would not accept this and we would have one wild season and be on our way. At first, the pushback was, ‘What kind of show is this?’ It’s not like a lot of stuff on our network. But as soon as you get on board with it and see it’s multi-faceted, then you can enjoy it.
One of the things Dani has said on social media is how caring the environment was on Workin’ Moms. That starts with you, the showrunner. How did you ensure it was a safe space?
I wasn’t afraid to fail. Because it was so real and we had been practicing fearlessness in the writers’ room for six months, but the time we got to production it was a very therapeutic environment. If someone needed to cry, they could cry. If they wanted to be angry, they could be angry. But we needed to be constructive and supportive of each other.
What are you most proud of?
That my boys still like me. I was really scared. I knew I had to go full-throttle with this and give everything I had to it with the awareness Canada might not accept it and it would be a flash in the pan for me. The fact we started to see [ratings] numbers and the fact that people wanted to watch it and stopping me at restaurants and thanking me for telling these stories and generating a conversation … that all of that happened felt really rewarding. And then, at the end of the day, my boys aren’t mad at me. They still accept me at their breakfast table! They know my features!
Workin’ Moms airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.