Published: Monday, 21 June 2021 19:12 | Written by SciFi Vision
Yesterday, the dark comedy, Kevin Can F**k Himself, premiered on AMC. The series follows Allison (Annie Murphy), the stereotypical sitcom wife of Kevin (Eric Petersen). However, when the scene switches from the bright multi-cam to the more realistic single-cam part of the series, we see her life is anything but the happy sitcom it first appeared to be.
Series’ creator and executive producer Valerie Armstrong and showrunner and executive producer Craig DiGregorio recently talked to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about making the series, where the idea came from, creating its unique look, their favorite scenes, and more.
SCIFI VISION:Can you just start by talking about where the idea came from? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:Sure. So, it was the summer of 2017, and I was listening to a podcast where these two woman comedians were talking about pilot season and how every year they find themselves still going out for the sitcom wife, that they're always told like, “We need a really funny woman. This one's going to be different.” And then they get the sides and all of their lines are like, “What do you mean?” They're just set up machines for the men, and it still hasn't changed. And I was like, “What the hell? How is this still happening, and why are these women going out for that? They're so much better than that.” And I thought, “Where's her show? I want to follow her. I bet she's so miserable.” And the first format switch popped into my head, where this wife walks out of her brightly lit, laugh-tracked living room with her funny husband and walks into the kitchen and for once we follow her, and we see that she's actually really miserable. It's not that she's a different person than she was in the in the other room; it's that nobody was bothering to pay attention. We weren't close enough. We didn't pick up on any of these things. Then, from then on, that germ of the idea has stayed in the series throughout. SCIFI VISION:So, it's not based on anybody, though were any of the people maybe inspired by real people or were they just all from your head? VALERIE ARMSTRONG: Oh, absolutely. There are characters in it that are inspired by family members or people I grew up around but definitely not any like sitcom characters that existed before. I mean, there are certain archetypes and tropes that we felt we had to or wanted to stick to really comment on the genre. We had to do it right; we couldn't reinvent the wheel, but Kevin is unto himself. He's his own person. The single camera characters, everyone is based off of a family member of mine, but that's really just because I am horribly uncreative and can't waste time thinking of names. SCIFI VISION: Craig, how'd you start working on the show? CRAIG DiGREGORIO:It was shortly after, I assume, Valerie sold the show, the pilot, to AMC. She was taking meetings for showrunners, and we met. We got along very well, and we both have very similar tastes and very similar visions, if not the same vision for the show. So, that was very helpful, especially when you go into a relationship that can be as close as this. And certainly you hear a lot more horror stories than good stories about how these things can crash and burn pretty pretty quickly, and I mean, I think we do very well together. Neither of us has a big ego about having our idea in there or anything like that. It's more about what's best for the show, and whether it's from either of us or from the staff or someone walking by, we really just want to get the best ideas and have those on screen. I think that really helps when there's no sort of like, “I need my hands in everything” type of attitude. SCIFI VISION:So, how do you break stories; how do you divvy it up, or do you have separate writers that do most of that? Are you guys are involved in that? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:We have people who are specifically skilled at punch ups and stuff like that. It's certainly not all we ask of them; it's not all that they can do. I think, Craig I feel like with every episode we broke it a different way. With some we might start with a concept that we really like, like a trope in multi-cam that would translate very well into single cam. Like in our sixth episode, the multi-cam is a farce, and we loved the idea that at this apex in the season, tension is played for comedy in a multi-cam, and our single-cam is just tension, and having them go back and forth really excited us, so we started on that episode there. There are times when we know what Allison has to accomplish, and we start there and then break everything around it. There are things that we want to get to in her psychology sometimes that we start with. It's all like a giant math problem, like a giant fishtail braided math problem. It always came together a little bit differently, but when it broke right, we could always tell. CRAIG DiGREGORIO:Yeah, and it's really fun once you get to break it. Like, getting to the initial “Okay, what is this? What are we really saying?” The first idea or big scenes or things like that are really hard and then once it starts breaking it does break, at least, for us, pretty easily. SCIFI VISION:All right. Can tell about me about casting? Because I think that's definitely obviously an important part to get it to work, right? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:Oh, God, we got so lucky. I don't know of any sitcom pilots that don't recast after they shoot the pilot, and we just couldn't possibly do that. We had a series order and were block shooting, and we just kind of held our breath and hoped that these people who we felt had such great chemistry in the room actually did on screen. And oh, my God, we got so lucky. I wouldn't obviously recast any of them for the world. I think they're all fantastic at their jobs, and for every role, including Allison, we really saw a lot of people. There wasn't anybody I could think of and point to for Allison specifically and say, “I know they can do this. I trust that they can hold their own in the multi-cam and also be funny in the single-cam, but carry that drama through as well.” And after we met Annie, I just had a giant breath of relief. We just knew it was her. I mean, she can do all of those things, and I'm so excited for people to see. SCIFI VISION:What are some of the difficulties in changing back and forth? I mean, I assume that you film the multi-cam film and the single-cam separate, but what are some of the problems that come up with that?
CRAIG DiGREGORIO:Yes. [laughs] VALERIE ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Shoot two different shows? Yeah. It made our script supervisor incredibly [important]. I mean, they're always important, but we needed continuity to help sell that format switch. The only difference can be in cameras and lighting. It can't be that the table has moved or that the hair is different. It all has to be a constant so that the only thing that changes is the format and you understand. So, that was very interesting. CRAIG DiGREGORIO:Not our job, though. VALERIE ARMSTRONG:Not our job. CRAIG DiGREGORIO:Not our job. Made our job a lot easier by that not being our job. [laughs] SCIFI VISION:I really like the juxtaposition and even, like you said, the color shift and that, because it's so apparent; it's definitely like two shows in one.
The one thing I want to ask about, and I had asked Eric a little bit about this, but I want your take. We see everything from Annie's point of view. I mean, we see obviously the multi-cam, but we see everything from her perspective of the way she feels about it. Kevin is obviously very inconsiderate, and he's childish and all that, but he doesn't necessarily seem to be purposely hurting her, for the most part. But she tells the stories of some of the bad things that happened, like with her job and everything. So, I'm just curious, is that more her perspective? Are we gonna see a darker side to Kevin? I'm just kind of curious, because sometimes I feel a little bit bad for him, just a little bit, because I don't think he always realizes it. But maybe I'm looking at it wrong. I don't know. I'm just curious how you guys feel about that? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:No, I don't think you're necessarily looking at it wrong, but there isn't a single-camera side to Kevin. That guy doesn't have to have one; he gets to walk around with a sitcom audience cheering him on his entire life. And the the real I think thing that Craig and I tried to do is that those things that Allison talks about, those moments of him thinking she had an affair and putting sugar in her boss's gas tank and getting her fired, or trading online fake sports memorabilia and getting into hot water doing that, those are things that would happen on a sitcom. Those are plots from a sitcom. I could absolutely see that happening on any one of those shows. And what we're asking is for people to be like, “Oh! Oh, I've been laughing at the wrong thing.” That is his perspective. The multi-cam is his perspective, and we've gotten it for fifty years. So, I think finally what we're seeing with Allison and with Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden), because we follow her out of that sitcom, too, it’s like “Oh, these actions that he's been taking, his behavior, it has consequences.” He's just never had to deal with them. She always does. CRAIG DiGREGORIO:I don't think your reaction is wrong. We want people to watch that and laugh in spite of themselves. Like, you know he's not necessarily the best guy, and he's had the benefit of the doubt for so long, and you know what consequences he creates by doing these things, but you're still gonna laugh at him, hopefully. SCIFI VISION:Right. It's like you want to be mad at him, but at the same time, I'm kind of like, “She just needs to talk to them. They need to sit down and have a discussion.” VALERIE ARMSTRONG:Absolutely. That's New England. SCIFI VISION:So, you started talking about Patty. How important is it to have that character? Obviously, at first, she doesn't see it; she says that he's harmless. How important is to show her throughout the series change her opinion by talking to Allison? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:To me, the show really started and became worth telling when I realized that I was telling a story, not about a marriage, that it wasn't about Alison and Kevin, it's about Allison and Patty. It's about how women can get each other out of toxic situations. And so, for me, Patty is - I mean, not just for me. Patty's the second lead of the show, and watching her sort of awaken to Allison's actual reality and her emotional state, to me, it's at times a placeholder for the audience. When Patty says it seemed harmless, Allison is talking to the audience. It's like, “What have you been laughing at? You sat there and you laughed.” And I I understand how people got there, which is like, “I didn't think about it.” But I think that Patty in her story, it goes so far beyond just being the proxy for the audience. I think she's a totally different kind of dissatisfied, a totally different kind of New Englander who I really, really understand on a sort of visceral level. SCIFI VISION:Right, and continuing on that, obviously, she's not happy either. And I know Allison makes a point of saying that she feels bad for her too, but can you tease, is any of Allison gonna rub off on her and her wanting to become hopeful? From what Mary Hollis said, it sounds like maybe the second part of the season has a little bit more of that. Is there anything you can tease that way? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:Absolutely. We talked about how Patty is glass half empty; Allison is always hoping for something more. And I think Patty for the first time is going to start thinking about her future in a way that she sees things for herself beyond sitting on the couch with those boys and waiting for them to let her play beer pong - and by the way, they never will. But in the pilot, she's just decided that that's what her lot in life is going to be, and I think it is through her relationship with Allison, and seeing Allison's optimism and seeing Allison try for something, that makes Patty want to do the same. SCIFI VISION: Then, can you tell me maybe your favorite scene without spoiling too much? VALERIE ARMSTRONG:Of the whole season? SCIFI VISION:Yeah, if you can do it without spoiling it too much. VALERIE ARMSTRONG: Sure. Yeah, there's a scene in our seventh episode that takes place in an empty bathtub, and that is by far my favorite. Not by far; I love them all, but I do really love that scene. SCIFI VISION:You said episode seven? Because there's a bathtub in the one scene early on. VALERIE ARMSTRONG: That's true. I love that scene too, where Annie accidentally hit her own tooth with a bottle of wine. That was real. CRAIG DIGREGORIO: We used it, yeah. VALERIE ARMSTRONG: We used no foley. SCIFI VISION: [laughs] What about you, Craig? CRAIG DiGREGORIO:I'm going to go with an early scene, because I think it's so sad, but still makes me smile, and from watching it get filmed, some of the behind-the-scenes stuff also made me laugh, but was with Allison and the dog. I thought it was very sweet. It's not quite as emotionally impactful as the scene that Valerie's describing, but just being around for that and how insane it was to film with that dog, and knowing how happy Annie was to do it, and how sad it was that she had no one to talk to except for a dog was pretty great. SCIFI VISION:Was the dog a good actor? [laughs] VALERIE ARMSTRONG: Oh, she was so sweet. CRAIG DiGREGORIO: Millie. We heard that name screamed on set so many times.