Lennon Parham & Jessica St. Clair Share How 'Playing House' Reflects Their Own Parenting Experiences
As a fan of good storytelling, the news that Playing House starring Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham would return for Season 2 was particularly satisfying because we finally got to the promise of the show's original premise. The sitcom is about two best friends, Maggie and Emma, who decide to raise a baby together after Maggie gets divorced, but in last summer's Season 1 she was still pregnant for the majority of the season. "It's definitely like the kind of theory of having a baby and then the actual practice of it," Parham says of what’s ahead this season, before explaining that Maggie and Emma's post-baby life on Playing House is inspired by their own experiences as parents and friends.
"Charlotte's there and she's informing and infusing every part of their life with meaning and magic and making them so much more happy to be alive," Jessica St. Clair explains, "but there aren't necessarily baby-driven stories because they continue to have the same dramas that we all have. Who do you love? What do you wanna do with your life, and it's even more important now that the baby's here — because if you're gonna be away from your most precious thing, it better be important. And the idea that everything you do now, you wanna try to make sure that you're being the best version of you that you can be for this little girl."
The baby, in case you are a newcomer to the show and are wondering, received the name Charlotte before it became the most famous infant name in the world. "We're pretty sure the monarchy stole it from us," Parham says when I bring that up. However, if anyone would like to help get the Royal Family on board with the show, that would be appreciated, because St. Clair thinks "Princess Kate would so be a Jammer." The name actually has several origins. It's a name they like and use a lot, sometimes without realizing it — Lennon Parham's character on the duo's podcast WOMP it Up! is named Charlotte, and in real life she has an Aunt Charlotte. "I also love Charlotte's Web," her friend and co-creator adds, "because that's a sister who's doing it for herself."
On the production side of Playing House, the two also praise the baby actors and baby-friendly environment that the show has created. The actors and crew do their best to make sure the babies are comfortable, and it pays off in the scene. The twins that play Charlotte enjoy following conversations in real life, so essentially they are acting and improvising along with the adult performers. In addition, I learn that Keegan-Michael Key is an asset who can often be found entertaining the infants off set. "Babies are into him because of his bald head," Jessica St. Clair suggests. "They think that he's one of them."
The dynamic between Emma and Maggie as friends who both care for the same baby is also taken from their experiences. "We have the pleasure of exploring this," Lennon Parham explains, "what it means to be like as close as a parent, but you're not a parent." Since their children are so close in age, they have a similar relationship with the other's daughter that Emma has with Charlotte even though she's not Charlotte's mother. They're much more than "mom's friend" to these kids. "That's a nice thing that we were able to write about that we're actually living," St. Clair says. Parents come in a lot of shapes and forms, and it's nice to have all the support you can get. For example, when Jessica St. Clair's daughter was running around a hotel room with her "chicken cutlets," it's nice to have a bestie who can get them back for you. As "Aunt Lala" herself summarizes the situation:
"Sometimes you need your best friend to wrangle your boobs away from your baby."
They tell me that when they sat down to start Season 2, the reality of having a baby as a character seemed a little daunting. However, I think it's working out for the best. Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham's real life mothering experiences make for fun, honest, stories about parenting that we don't see that often on television. At the end of the day, Playing House is still about Maggie and Emma — the addition of Baby Charlotte just makes everything that much more exciting!
Images: Robyn Von Swank/USA (2); Giphy