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Workin’ Moms: Catherine Reitman talks about “that” season finale storyline

It’s been over 24 hours since the season finale of Workin’ Moms and I’m still reeling.

“Look Back” was, of course, beautiful and funny thanks to Anne (Dani Kind) and Lionel’s (Ryan Belleville) commitment ceremony that reunited the clan and saw the reappearance of Jann Arden as Kate Carlson. Throw in Val’s (Sarah McVie) outrageous dress choice and overshare about Alicia’s (Kat Barrell) bedroom antics and there was plenty to laugh at and enjoy.

But, in a stunning reveal, we learned Nathan (Philip Sternberg) and Mean Nanny (Jess Salgueiro) have been having an affair. This just minutes after Kate (Catherine Reitman) and Nathan’s quickie in the wedding hall bathroom. Now it appears as though Kate could end up pregnant. All this after a season where Kate lost two jobs, strained her friendship with Anne and started her own business. It was just too much; we had to get Workin’ Moms‘ creator, showrunner, executive producer, star and director Reitman on the phone to discuss it all!

Most showrunners, in a second season of a series, will expand their characters’ worlds a bit. But you blew the show up and sent them in different directions. Was that always your intention?
Catherine Reitman: Yes and no. We learn so much, the writers and Philip and I, during production. You can imagine things all day but the chemistry that happens in front of the camera absolutely determines things for me. Once I get in the edit bay and go, ‘Oh man! No wonder the audience is going crazy for him or her.’ I want to honour what’s meant to be and not just try to control it. Did I have a sneaking suspicion Sarah McVie was going to make Val the funniest character in the world? Yes. But did I know how great she was going to be? No. That’s something that I’m continuing to push forward. Even now I’m scratching my head in the Season 3 writers’ room wondering how I better feature our talent, how do I best include the chemistry that we’re witnessing. The yes part of it is, of course, I knew Jenny and Ian [Jessalyn Wanlim] and Ian [Dennis Andres] were never going to make it and there had to be consequences to her actions. That was something I had intended. So, yes and no.

You mentioned Val already. There were many funny moments this season and in the finale, but there were very serious moments too. Kate and Anne’s friendship … those characters were so real this season. Everyone can relate to them.
I’m so in love with Anne and Kate. I moved my world to Toronto two years ago and I don’t have a lot of close friends in my life. I have the people that I work with, my incredible kids and my husband. And I think most women that are full-time working moms are hungry for a friendship like that. We’re so desperate to see a connection like that. Dani Kind and I have become very close in real life and I saw our chemistry on-camera—which very much exists off-camera too—but I don’t think anyone, including me, knew how potent it would be. We started going, ‘OK, this is the real love story.’ The husbands and the partners are fantastic but what our audience really seems to be thumping their hearts for is the Kate-Anne storyline. And I do think that’s because so many women crave that in real life. I made the decision to direct the first and last episodes to bookend what a friendship could look like over a decade.

Let’s discuss the Brad storyline. I believe your scripts were already written when the #MeToo movement happened, correct?
You’re absolutely right.

It was a dramatic arc with, I feel, Anne getting her mojo back after perhaps questioning her strength.
As far as the #MeToo movement goes, it has always existed. It’s this fantastic thing where victims are now having a voice. All of the women in our room, for the most part, had some uncomfortable stories with an authority figure. No one was hypnotized. We thought there was something that could potentially be funny, potentially be really creepy and bothersome. But, most importantly, that it would challenge this character we love to see as strong. People love that Anne is a no-nonsense ass kicker. So of all the characters, to see her emotionally threatened in a sexually deviant way by someone she trusted, her husband, it felt like the right combo to take her on a great arc. And then you have someone as brilliant as Christopher Redman come in [as Brad]. I think I saw the whole country of Canada, Greg, I read for that role for weeks and weeks and weeks because it’s a really tricky role. Chris had this amazing ability of making him very believable and nuanced while also tapping into funny even though it’s very serious subject matter. It was really exciting to cast him and realize we had something real on our hands.

Let’s break down the season finale. We had happy moments thanks to Lionel and Anne, and we had the sad because of the revelation Mean Nanny and Nathan are having an affair. With everything that Kate has been through this season—the death of her father, losing two jobs and a falling out with Anne—why this?
[Laughs.] It’s true. She got her ass kicked this season. Something that we’re really hemming and hawing about in the Season 3 writers’ room is … look, nothing justifies having an affair. I’m a married woman of 10 years, I can wrap my head around that. Kate, whether we like to admit it not, had both feet, head, arms, legs, breasts, her whole body out the door this entire season. She hasn’t been on the same page as her husband and there are consequences to that. I don’t think she asked for this and I don’t think she deserves this. But in my quest to have it all, in the hours that I spend working and the hours that I have left that I want to give to my children, my marriage often suffers for it. Luckily, Philip is in the same game as me. For most couples, the pressure to keep things alive … fuck sex, just staying emotionally connected is so much responsibility. As a showrunner, I knew the audience wouldn’t see that coming. It is a really effective gut punch. But, if you go back over the season, we planted so many seeds to show this coming.

What was Phil’s reaction to this story angle for Nathan and Kate?
We held off letting him know that detail. About halfway through writing the season the network comes in and we pitch them what we have so far. Philip came to that and we went through to the end and I looked right at him and I could tell his socks were knocked off. Phil is always story above all else. He was totally on board for it. The day of was challenging and the person I felt most for was Jess Salgueiro. She was just incredible on the day. Not only did she have to kiss Phil but I had to direct her in doing it. I pray every director gets to work with someone like Jess because there was no bullshit. She brought her A-game. Never for a second did I see her sweat or feeling uncomfortable. I was so impressed with her.

Where are you at with Season 3?
We’ve got about six episodes outlined that we’re just starting to draft out. That being said, everything can change. After watching the season finale last night, I thought, ‘You know what this needs? This, that and the other.’ I’m re-opening the outline of the first episode so it’s still all a Tetris board.

Do you think Kate should confront Nathan right away or should she focus on building her business? What was your favourite storyline from Season 2? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

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Workin’ Moms: Dani Kind and Ryan Belleville discuss Anne and Lionel’s Season 2 journey

If fans thought Season 2 of Workin’ Moms was going to ride on cruise control, they were in for a surprise.

Catherine Reitman and her writing team have headed into bold new directions for the show’s sophomore season on CBC, putting Kate (Reitman) through the death of her father and having her take on a new job. Frankie (Juno Rinaldi) is seeking wellness for herself and Ian (Dennis Andres) finds himself in a whole new world. Anne (Dani Kind) and Lionel (Ryan Belleville) are treading new ground as well, dealing with the after-effects of his vasectomy by having sex everywhere and anytime they can. That will, of course, be tempered by someone from Anne’s past surfacing in this week’s episode, “The Holy Hole.” We spoke to Kind and Belleville about the couple’s journey during a break in filming Season 2 late last year.

I just watched you film a pretty heavy scene in there.
Dani Kind: There are some heavy scenes this season.

I told Catherine Reitman that I sometimes feel Workin’ Moms is being erroneously billed as a comedy. There are some downright heartbreaking moments.
DK: I like that, though, because then we’re not all ‘yukka yukka yukka’ like a lot of comedies are.

I was telling Ryan Belleville that he’s usually that guy going for the laughs, but he gets to play such a sensitive character in Lionel.
DK: I think so too. He’s so great. He’s amazing. He just had a vasectomy so there is a whole bunch of sex. They’re humping everywhere and for no reason. They’re just so different after the abortion. Anne is softer. She is still hard, but they really went through something together. That couple has changed. The writers are so smart because the abortion changed them. There is an intimacy and a passion between them that wasn’t there last season.

Viewers met Anne’s ex, Brad, in the “2005” episode. Are you allowed to say whether or not Brad shows up later this season?
DK: Well … Anne is forced to get her own office …

There are more scenes with Anne and Kate this season?
DK: We go on a retreat this year. Val plans this retreat that we all go on, which is great because there are two new additions to Mommy & Me and we get paired up with different characters at the retreat which is comedy in itself.

I love that Ian is now part of the mommy group.
DK: He is so sweet, it’s literally like throwing a piece of meat into a lion’s pen.

I really like seeing this side to your acting. Lionel is a great character.
Ryan Belleville: It’s been nice to come in and bring some humanity to the comedy and not just be Mr. Punch-Up or Mr. Zany.

Did you view this as an opportunity to show another facet to your acting?
RB: There have been a few people who have given me shots to be more dramatic over the years, like Martin Gero on The L.A. Complex and Emily Andras on Wynonna Earp. I’m still learning the craft of dramatic acting but I love it. My parents are both actors. Like, real actors.

At what point in your career will you think of yourself as a real actor?
RB: I don’t think I ever will! I think I have too much respect for the craft to ever think I’ll be good at it.

I really enjoyed the honesty in Anne and Lionel’s relationship in Season 1.
RB: That’s the thing about this show. It’s not cliché. The husbands on the show are good dads, they’re not like in commercials where you have bumbling dads. In Anne and Lionel’s relationship, I’m the more sweet, docile character but it’s still a relationship and a partnership. Anne is super-angry and I’m super-soft, but when real-life stuff starts happening you see them functioning as a couple.

Lionel has had a vasectomy, and that leads to a whole new level of relationship for Lionel and Anne.
RB: It was kind of funny because I was only three or four weeks out from my own vasectomy. Most of the vasectomy scenes are very method. [Laughs.] There is a lot of doing it this season. It’s funny because in my career I’ve done far more sex scenes than a guy that looks like me should ever do on camera. [Laughs.] And the only reason I can think of is it’s because I look hilarious.

Workin’ Moms airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

 

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Workin’ Moms: Catherine Reitman previews drama-filled Season 2

What I hope for Catherine Reitman in 2018 is that she have continued success. And a much-deserved nap.

Reitman has plenty on her plate as creator, executive producer, writer, star and showrunner of Workin’ Moms, returning Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBC. Throw in the fact she’s really a workin’ mom of two kids, wife to fellow Moms executive producer/actor Philip Sternberg, and directing three episodes this season? She’s got a lot going on. And yet she makes it seem effortless, taking 30 minutes out of production on an episode of the show to sit down at talk shop with me.

What’s in store for Kate (Reitman) and Nathan Foster (Sternberg) now that she’s back at Gaze? Where are Anne (Dani Kind) and Lionel Carlson (Ryan Belleville) headed now that they’ve decided not to have any more kids? How is Frankie Coyne (Juno Rinaldi) doing in rehab? And does Jenny Matthews (Jessalyn Wanlim) have regrets about blowing up her marriage to Ian (Dennis Andres)?

Reitman gave us the scoop on what’s to come in Season 2.

Was it easier to work on Season 2 because there was a shorthand developed by everyone in Season 1 and the actors now know their characters?
Catherine Reitman: In some ways, it’s easier and in others, it’s harder. The easier is that, yeah, we’ve established these characters, where they live and where they work and what the core of their character is. I’ve hired such talented actors that they all understand that, and we’ve established a tone that the show is a comedy and that it’s really, really subtle and that there is a lot of drama. Lucky for me, people have watched it and people get it and have responded in, largely, a positive way. In that way, everyone understands the essence of it. That job is done.

A lot of people who really get wine will say, ‘As soon as you actually start understanding wine you realize you know nothing about wine.’ I feel that way about showrunning. In Season 1 I came in, hot on it and super-confident. Now that I actually understand the dynamic and the responsibilities of the title I feel much more comfortable in it but I also realize that I have so much to learn. My eyes are open and I’m hoping to grow more and I feel myself growing with the show.

What have you learned about yourself as a showrunner?
I’m learning that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I like to do things fast and trust my gut and not overthink things and make decisions. Luckily, I’m married to a man who is really methodical and understands the details. Just from being with him I’ve learned a ton about just slowing down and taking more things into consideration. It is a marathon. Right when you think the writer’s room is done and your job is done, production begins. And halfway through production, you think you pretty much have everything but the second half of production has an entirely different energy. And then when you wrap that and the crew goes away you think that’s it. No, it’s time to do post-production. And post-production carries through until the writer’s room begins again. And that’s not even taking into account that I’m a mother of two and a wife to a man who I work with. I’m also the child of two complicated, artistic, powerful people. I’m constantly checking in and saying, ‘OK, where do I put my energy now?’

It’s been very interesting to see some of the comic actors in your cast in more serious scenes. I know Ryan Belleville as being a goofball in past projects he’s been in. Seeing him play Lionel so sensitively has been great. I’ve really connected with him.
We’ve got both sides of that line. We’ve got someone like Ryan who is so talented comedically—and I’ve had the complete and utter joy of improvising with him a few times—but the other side of it, and he talks about it in his stand-up, is that he’s a working father with a working mother-wife. He actually relates to this content quite deeply and the idea that no one has asked him to play on that side of the fence astounds me because he’s so good and so relatable. The other side is that I’ve got a bunch of dramatic actors who really have pretty tremendous comedic timing. Dani Kind hasn’t done a ton of comedy prior to this and she is never going for the joke in an obnoxious, broad way. She always plays the character real and in any scene, in any take, I look at her and say, ‘Yeah, she gets it.’ And it’s always funny to me.

Where do we find Anne and Lionel when Season 2 begins?
In Season 1 we just watched, particularly her, struggle and struggle. She was sick, she was confused about her connection with her daughter, she was confused about her own pregnancy and the pressures that come with being this perfect wife and perfect mother. Society encourages us to do it all and have it all. The idea of a mother of two having an abortion … is that woman allowed to have joy? Is that woman allowed to laugh and have a fulfilling life? That’s really interesting to me. The dynamic of where Anne and Lionel are now was so fascinating to me because I wanted to see them have some fun.

We had to, in Season 1, set up the work and home life of all of these characters, which is a lot to do in 22 minutes every week. So, to now get deeper into those relationships and to show that they’re not always so perfect … and can our ambitions grow? Can we want more? Exploring the Kate and Anne friendship is something that we do a lot this season and what we demand of our friendship when we’re wives and mothers is very different from when we’re in our twenties.

What else can you say about Season 2?
The point of view of one of the core characters has shifted. There are some big surprises early in the season to which I think the audience will need a second to adjust to.

I’m not sure what you’re alluding to, but I was shocked last season by Jenny’s decision to blow up her marriage. 
The truth is, 50 per cent of marriages don’t work out, especially once you factor in the responsibilities of a working mother. To watch one woman have an incredible identity crisis like Jenny does. We’re with her, we’re with her. Are we with her? Are we with her? Why are we with her?! And then, to all of a sudden shift and root for him was something really fun to do.

Workin’ Moms airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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