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'Playing House' stars on Keegan-Michael Key's rom-com moment

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Michael Yarish/USA Network

Emma (Jessica St. Clair) and Maggie (Lennon Parham) ended Playing House‘s second season with an ultimate high (a jam session alongside Kenny Loggins), a heartbreaking low (Emma’s breakup with Rabbi Dan, played by Kyle Bornheimer), and a cliffhanger that could go either way, with Mark (Keegan-Michael Key) appearing on the pair’s doorstep to talk to Emma about… what? 

The stars talked to EW about shooting opposite Loggins, nailing the romantic Emma and Mark scene, and the character they wish they had time to spotlight in the finale:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Kenny Loggins in the finale. You two are huge fans of him, obviously, so what was it like shooting that scene in the tour bus? 

JESSICA ST. CLAIR: We shot that probably at 3 a.m., and everyone was so tired, but it felt like a college night, where we stayed up all night and then someone brought out the guitar and that person just happened to be Kenny Loggins. 

LENNON PARHAM: Everybody was crying. It was one of those dream-come-true situations, you know? You’re just sitting across from, like, I can’t believe we wrote this, here we are on a tour bus with Kenny Loggins. It’s a big deal… It wasn’t hard to cry on cue, because every time he sang, literally, I would just spontaneously burst into tears.

ST. CLAIR: You know how you see black-and-white footage of teenagers sobbing at a Beatles concert? That was what Lennon was like all day. And it wouldn’t just be tears, it would be a guttural sob.

PARHAM: All right, I think that might be a bit of an exaggeration.

ST. CLAIR: But the way Lennon breaks down as Bosephus and can’t stop saying “Kenny Loggins” is not unlike the first time you behaved when you met him.

PARHAM: Well, that’s because the first time I met him was when we were rehearsing that scene.

ST. CLAIR: You just kept saying, “It’s Loggins, it’s Kenny. It’s Kenny, it’s Loggins.” [Laughs]

Another scene that stood out from these two episodes came from the penultimate episode, when Mark and Emma have a heart-to-heart, ending with him saying, “Unless…” What were the challenges to doing such a poignant scene in the middle of a comedy?

ST. CLAIR: I actually met Keegan when I played his wife in a movie that Jill Soloway, who created Transparent, did called Afternoon Delight. Jill’s whole thing is like, to get you into a different zone where you’re not just acting, you’re connecting in the moment, and it all sounded cheesy to me, and there was a lot of taking your shoes off and holding hands, and at first I was like, this is not the UCB. But then as I got into it, it really makes you so connected with the person in the scene. So anyway, Keegan and I are so close as friends, and we are like the same exact person, but in different bodies —

PARHAM: This is true.

ST. CLAIR: So it’s very hard for us not to laugh and joke and to get really serious. So we had this phrase that was, “We gotta straight Soloway it.” Which means [laughs], like, we have to get into that really cheesy actor state where we’re completely in the moment. So we picked out a song that we played each other, and Lennon was like, “This is so lame, I don’t know what you two are up to with these iPods” —

PARHAM: No, I was not. I didn’t know what was happening. Nobody said it was lame, you guys had your own private moments, I was completely unaware of it. You told me later because you were worried I would judge you. I kind of think it’s cool.

ST. CLAIR: [Laughs] Okay. So let’s just say I may or may not have listened and shared an earbud with Keegan and made him listen to Mark Knopfler’s live performance of “Romeo and Juliet” from God knows when and I was so pleased that it looked real and everything. We just went for it.

And then to have Lennon nearby…

ST. CLAIR: You would think that having your best friend direct you in a love scene with another really close friend would be very awkward but actually, [laughs] when you have to be that vulnerable, it’s kind of like that is the only person you need coming in. 

Any thoughts on what might happen if Playing House returns for a third season?

PARHAM: We have so many stories that we didn’t use. I mean our board was literally covered with like 16 episodes we basically roughly broke in the first couple of weeks, so we definitely have lots of things to come.

ST. CLAIR: One thing that we wished, we had a character in Best Friends Forever, our first show that we did on NBC, there was this little girl Queenetta, played by Daija Owens. She was the funniest. We had written her into the fianle, and everyone, well, the three people who watched our first series, would have gone crazy. But we had so many insane things happening, we had to cut that scene.

PARHAM: Yeah, to be honest, we shot this whole thing in about eight weeks and the whole season, we would have preferred to have had lots more time, I think we always do [laughs]… We haven’t figured out what the big arc would be [for a possible season 3], but I think we want to explore Emma stepping into who she truly wants to be, and for Maggie, her love life. 

ST. CLAIR: I’d love for there to be a wedding at some point. I don’t know who’s going to be married, I don’t know if it’s me and Mark, but I will say, if there is a wedding and it’s on the scale of Princess Diana’s wedding, I can die a happy person.

PARHAM: You heard it here first: One of our characters will get married at Westminster Abbey.

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