Woven into the best television shows is a little bit of magic. In the case of the CW comedy series SIGNIFICANT MOTHER, the magic comes from the wonderful minds of creators and executive producers Erin Cardillo and Rich Keith, who not only created the delightful characters but who have written them so heart-warming and funny. The premise of SIGNIFICANT MOTHER is a twenty-something finds out his best friend has begun dating his mom and it leads to a series of hijinks between them, especially once his dad decides to win his mom back. Toss in a slice of comedy at the restaurant he owns and his own quest for the girl of his dreams who is dating someone else — and there is a great mix of comedy and romance to explore.
In a recent exclusive interview, co-creators and executive producers Erin Cardillo and Rich Keith talked about the secret ingredients that make SIGNIFICANT MOTHER such a charming summer comedy.
What can you share about the upcoming “Weekend At Bernie’s” homage episode?
RICH: It’s this next episode and it’s called “Edibles Wrecks.” It’s kind of a pun on how Nate (Josh Zuckerman) eats these edibles and it wrecks his day. It’s some pot gummy-bears that Lydia (Krista Allen) buys for her and Jimmy (Nat Buzolic) now that it is legal in Oregon and they leave them in a mason jar and Nate eats them on the day that a food critic is coming to his restaurant. So they have to help him get through the night while he is as high as a kite.
ERIN: The part of that is like “Weekend At Bernie’s” is when he passes out.
RICH: He passes out and he is like a deadman and that gives Harrison (Jonathan Silverman) an idea that seemingly comes out of nowhere that might be from his other past.
That must have been fun to write!
ERIN: It was really fun.
RICH: It was a blast and really fun to shoot too.
ERIN: Terry Kiser, who played Bernie in “Weekend At Bernie’s,” came and played a cameo in the episode for us. That was really great.
RICH: Jonathan [Silverman] suggest it after the script came in and we finalized the deal only a few days before to get him. Terry now teaches an acting class in Austin and we had to get someone cover his class for him so he could come to work with us in Portland.
It is so cool you guys are doing that. Can’t wait to watch the episode! What other cool things are coming up on the show?
ERIN: What is coming up after “Edibles Wrecks,” is a great episode where Linda Gray guest-stars — Linda Gray from DALLAS — she’s amazing. She plays Lydia’s mother and there is a whole fun episode about whether Lydia and Jimmy are ready to tell Lydia’s mother that they are dating.
RICH: Spoiler alert! They are not. It sort of starts with one small lie and it spirals out of control from there. It’s personally my favorite episode title “Suffering + Succotash.” Lydia’s mom is planning to make a celebratory succotash for them all to enjoy together, but they end up having to suffer through their weekend there.
In this era of modern social media, how are Lydia and Jimmy able to keep their relationship secret? Everything is out there.
ERIN: Apparently, they have not been posting. It’s only a few weeks into their relationship and they have not been posting it online for purposes of keeping it under wraps until they are sure it’s going to work out. They are not really ready to tell the world yet.
I kind of thought that secret was out there after the first episode when Harrison found out.
RICH: (Laughs) Harrison is always kind of spying on her and trying to get back into her good graces. But the more incognito they can keep their relationship, the better in terms of keeping her soon-to-be ex-husband out of the middle of her new relationship.
Since Harrison is kind of in the know at this point, he is hovering like a helicopter ex-husband. How much trouble is he stirring up?
ERIN: He stirs up quite a bit of trouble, especially in the last two episodes this season. He makes a really big push to win Lydia back in episode 8.
RICH: He tries something he has never considered before, which is just being kind and telling her how he feels about her, which is an interesting turn for Harrison who has shown very little of his true self. He mostly hides behind his bravado, his money and his cars. He actually sort of puts it all out there.
ERIN: Well, there’s these other tactics he tries first and then goes with what Rich just said.
Are we supposed to be rooting for Harrison or are we supposed to be rooting for Jimmy and Lydia at this point?
ERIN: We should be rooting for Jimmy and Lydia, but it was out intention to humanize Harrison as the season went on. So we are rooting for Harrison to get his act together, but we are not necessarily rooting for him to get back together with Lydia.
RICH: We’re hopefully rooting for him to figure out —
ERIN: — the next chapter in his life, like Lydia is sort of figuring out the next chapter in her life.
RICH: And realizing that those chapters are in a different book — not the same book anymore.
The other couple we are looking forward to seeing if they go anywhere are Nate (Josh Zuckerman) and Sam (Emma Fitzgerald). Are we supposed to be rooting for that crazy little relationship to blossom or is that always just going to be forbidden-fruit?
RICH: I am rooting for them. I can’t say whether everyone else agrees, but I certainly hope that they get together.
ERIN: We are feeling that “will they or won’t they” sort of relationship is something that will probably span the life of the series. We thought they might get together sooner, but then when we cast Jay Ali as Atticus, we fell in love with him as well. So it’s been hard for us to decide.
RICH: I’m having a heck of an internal struggle trying to figure out who the right guy for Sam is. Part of the problem is Sam is not sure — like most of our characters — exactly who she is, so if you don’t know who you are, it’s hard to know who you are supposed to be with. But we definitely push their relationship in a couple different directions and we leave it a bit on question. I am a big fan, I grew up loving DAWSON’S CREEK, so for me, Sam is sort of our Joey Potter in a way.
That’s totally cute. Love that. Another great relationship, although not a romantic one, is the relationship between Jimmy and Nate. Is their friendship going to be able to make it this season or is the relationship between Jimmy and Lydia going to be one of those things that frays it to no end?
ERIN: I think their relationship is actually the core relationship of our show. From the beginning, we felt that one of the things that was interesting about the concept is: what do you do when your best friend gets into their first serious adult relationship and how does that affect the friendship. We’re heightening that obviously with the fact that Jimmy’s dating his best friend’s mother. But the idea of how being in a serious adult relationship affects your friendship is one that we are interested in exploring. We think that Jimmy and Nate have a strong enough connection that they will probably make it through.
RICH: As the season goes, they may have a bit of a bromance brewing. In episode 7, Nate brings in a relief bartender for Jimmy so that Jimmy can spend more time with Lydia, and that relief bartender may try to “Single White Female” his way into Jimmy’s life and steal it away from him, including his relationship with Nate.
ERIN: Yeah, and cause the guys to reprioritize their friendship a little bit.
RICH: Initially, Nate hires this guy to cover for Jimmy at the bar, but this new guy realizes that he really like Jimmy’s life and Jimmy’s friend Nate and slowly sort of tries to edge Jimmy out and take over his friendship with Nate.
I don’t think Jimmy is the kind of guy to take that lightly.
RICH: He does not. He does not take it lying down.
You kind of went for a sweet emphasis in the show as there is an element of whimsy in most of the episodes so far. Was that done with intent? And if so, why did you go for that kind of tone for your show?
ERIN: I think we felt that original premise of a guy who sleeps with his best friend’s mom could go in sort of a dark or obnoxious direction where we would not like the characters of Lydia and Jimmy. So I think part of the tone of the show and the whimsy is what we tried to find is a way to make these characters endearing and make the situation as light and fun as possible so that you really are rooting for all of the characters to get over the premise and just start living their lives in this new dynamic.
RICH: Not that we don’t go to the obnoxious, dark and weird places one in a while as we want to honor the idea. But, as Erin was saying, it is a very easy situation to sort of hate everyone for what they are doing, other than Nate, so we really tried to show you more of who these people are — more of what they hope and dream and want so that eventually we won’t forget the premise, we sort of spend more time with these people as they are trying to figure out the rest of their lives and not just their love-lives.
Who is the big BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fan? From that one episode, someone really is.
ERIN: (Laughs) My husband actually is a huge BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fan.
RICH: And I am. I watched the entire show in about three weeks — a very non-productive three weeks. We actually have a lot of homages coming up: “Weekend At Bernie’s,” “Single White Female,” “Back To The Future,” and we have an “Annie Hall” thing in episode 6, where Harrison meets a girl on a dating app called “Get Forked” — which is Tinder for foodies.
ERIN: And it turns out that she may have an alter-ego as an amateur porn star.
Sounds like you are having lots of fun on working on the show. For you, what is has been the funnest aspect of working on the show?
RICH: I always just enjoy being on set and watching our actors do the sort of silly stuff that Erin and I laugh about and wrote, and making it real and three-dimensional or two-dimensional when the humor needs it to be. Really just sort of finding the humanity in these silly ideas that we created — not just from our cast, but also from our crew. Taking little prop ideas or visual jokes and seeing how much creativity these people put into the ideas that Erin and I had and making it come to life that is not something I imagined when I first imagined it.
ERIN: And shooting up in Portland this summer and last summer when we did the original series of webisodes, it was a little bit like going to summer camp. Portland is such an amazing city. We had so much fun up there. Our crew was wonderful. It’s nice being out of town because everybody hangs out and it really does feel like camp.
RICH: 14-hour sunny days in the summer in Portland meant we would shoot and then have dinner and wine every day. It was very well planned out. Having a small crew, it can be stressful and we did a lot of episodes in a very short period of time. But everyone remembered that we are making a TV show and part of the point of it is to have fun — and if you’re not having fun, you’re audience isn’t going to. So with that in mind, we tried to have as much fun as we could while working to get it done.
If the TV stars align and everything works out, what would Season 2 look like?
ERIN: I think Season 2 will expand a bit beyond the Jimmy-Lydia relationship and find out what is going to happen in Harrison’s next chapter of his life. I think things will progress in the Nate-Sam relationship a bit. And Jimmy and Lydia will enter a new stage of their relationship —
RICH: — that we can’t tell you. It’s the finale.
ERIN: In the finale, they sort of enter into a new relationship and it will be about exploring that as well.
RICH: And I think Harrison may try to lean on Nate to maybe go out and pick up some chicks together. Like father-son bonding.
To find out how Nate fairs his “Weekend at Bernie’s” adventure and to find out just who is successful in the quest for true love by the end of Season 1, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of SIGNIFICANT MOTHER on Monday nights at 9:30 p.m. on the CW.