But changes are afoot for the ladies when Workin’ Moms returns to CBC on Tuesday night.
Like many programs, COVID-19 impacted production on the primetime comedy both creatively and physically. Production on the show, which is usually filmed indoors, was in many instances moved outside. And, the pandemic worked its way into the Carlson’s plans: upon arriving in Cochrane, Alberta, Anne, Lionel and the girls were forced to sequester for safety. Upon things opening up intown, Anne found herself a true stranger in a strange land and unable—so far—to cope with the upheaval.
We spoke to Workin’ Moms’ co-creator, executive producer, writer, star and director Catherine Reitman and actor Dani Kind about the upcoming 10-episode season.
Catherine, did the fact you had to work around the safety issues change anything from a writing standpoint or even a filming standpoint? Were there major changes that you had to make to the fifth season because of the pandemic?
Catherine Reitman: Huge. Yeah, I mean, look, we’re a summer show that goes into tiny, little real apartments. We’ve never been a real studio show. We’ve really been a location-based show. I think why Toronto loves the show, in particular, is because we’re in real buildings in Toronto. We’re in tiny apartments. We’re like an indie movie where we’re we’ve got two camera teams going up and down narrow stairwells with stairs that are about to give way.
We’ve shot in several buildings that have been since torn down because they’re derelict. So we couldn’t really go into buildings that had elevators. We had to move a lot of our interiors to exteriors. We could only shoot 10-hour days. We had to make a lot of concessions as far as we had to shoot in the fall to winter and add exteriors to that, so that was more complicated than we were used to. And then, from a creative standpoint, we were trying to figure out how much we were actually going to deal with COVID-19. The idea of a season of characters in masks and being six feet apart didn’t really interest me. And it’s not even that didn’t interest me. I mean, it’s our life, right?
I wanted the fans of the show to be able to come back and laugh at what we used to deem real problems. And I think that’s what our goal was this season, to put it in the rear view mirror. Deal with it quickly and get out.
Dani, what were your thoughts on having the pandemic impact the Carlson’s and their move out to Cochrane?
Dani Kind: The impact was helpful as an actor because she’s going through so much with the move already, leaving her best friend and that main relationship in her life, leaving the circle of her job, leaving a house that she loves, and then going with Lionel to this new place, but also having the pandemic hit the moment they move in just squashed everything. I found it really helpful, and also I loved that we acknowledged it, that it was happening. We didn’t just gloss over it and pretend like it was fine. It was extremely helpful to play the anxiety of what she was already going through.
Catherine, friendship is a huge part of Workin’ Moms, and to see Kate and Anne distanced by so much is tough. How much of that friendship is going to be tested? Is that the main arc of the season, this fifth season?
CR: It’s certainly one of the arcs. I know what you mean. And watching it in post, it’s funny… I think it’s Quentin Tarantino who said that you write your rough draft and then post is the last draft of the script. What worked, what didn’t work. And what was really telling to me—and to all of us—was I think we were so excited about this Anne bottle, but you do miss her friends with her. You’re so hungry for them to be together again and for Anne to get that comfort and seeing them pulled away from each other was painful. And I think it’s all too real for a lot of people.
For me personally, my friendships have taken such a back seat to my job and to my family, and to my responsibilities. To see Kate and Anne separated—this love story that we’ve been rooting for—to see them pulled away is probably a little too real for a lot of people and I don’t think I even realized that until it aired. And so challenging that is, of course, one of the big obstacles of the season. And then we sort of turn it on its head mid-season in a way that I don’t think anyone’s going to see coming.
As funny as Workin’ Moms can be, it can be very, very serious. Dani, there is an incredible scene in the season premiere where Anne isn’t saying anything, she’s just overcome with emotion. How do you feel about this storyline that has been written for Anne?
DK: I think that’s one of the greatest gifts I get being on this show is that I can be and I can play her grounded and I can play the relationships more than the comedies. I don’t think that that’s mainly my strength in the show per se.
I think playing the real is and also lends itself to Anne. That’s who she is. She’s a straight shooter. But watching a straight shooter fall is where she lives. And every season that I get the scripts and I get to see those moments in all the different ways that have unraveled in the five seasons, that’s the most exciting part for me playing her.
How Anne copes with the move to Cochrane is interesting.
CR: One of our writers was from Cochrane, specifically, and there was a group of women. This writer doesn’t have children, but a lot of her sister’s friends were in what they called the Pretty Committee. We turned it into the Cutie Committee on our show. We sort of showed the Alicia version in the Toronto Mommy and Me group and going to Cochrane and seeing how that’s changed because there are different mom gangs anywhere you are, right? And in this particular mom gang, they had to adjust from the sort of big city, high-pressure career lifestyles to a much slower lifestyle. And the way they chose to deal with it is by sedating themselves.
I know a lot of women my age who are opioid addicts. They’re taking pills to sedate themselves to just let those hours go by a little more quickly. And it’s an international problem truly, but seeing a character like Anne, who is a psychiatrist and is sharp and really smart and really understands the nature of the human mind, to see her slowly accept that and fall into that slippery slope makes us as an audience terrified.
And so watching her not only say goodbye to her friendships and the world we know in Toronto, but also maybe turn off the lights a little bit. That was something that was really fun to explore.
Workin’ Moms airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.