Plus, what it took to land Chelsea Handler

By Evan Slead
Updated June 29, 2016 at 07:42 PM EDT
Credit: VH1
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Every week, Erin and Sara Foster, the creators and stars of VH1’s Barely Famous (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), will reveal the best from behind-the-scenes of their faux-reality show in conversation with EW. First up, the sisters dish on the show’s second season premiere, “Career Goals,” in which Erin and Jessica Alba get blackout drunk, and Sara attempts to be a brand star — and fails.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about the cameos. How difficult was it getting Chelsea Handler on the show?

SARA FOSTER: One day we were at a barbeque and we were having a conversation about this, and that, and whatever. She brought up our show and she said, “Oh God, people seem to really love your show” and that it was really funny. She was very complimentary, which I couldn’t believe. I had no idea she even knew about the show. Then I made a joke. I said, “Well we’d love to have you on” and she said, “Yeah, I would totally come on.” But of course people say that, people talk all day long. This was way before we started pre-production. We hadn’t hired writers. We had done nothing. And I didn’t see her since. Then when we were getting into pre-production and talking about storylines, I mentioned that I had talked to Chelsea and she said she would do it. So long story short, she’s a woman of her word. She showed up.

ERIN FOSTER: She made it so f—ing easy for us. We couldn’t get a budget to do hair and makeup for her, which we were horrified about. We even thought, “Should we just pay for this out of pocket?” Instead, she had us schedule her shoot day an hour before when she went on…

SARA: Conan.

ERIN: Right, so she would already have hair and makeup done for herself and would just stop by on her way to shoot the scene. She accommodated us. She was so easy and cool, just amazing.

Jessica Alba was on in season 1, and she’s back. Is she a close friend?

ERIN: She’s a good friend of ours, and she works her ass off. We really wanted her to come back in season two because she’s really funny and cool. We had this idea — in episode one, Sara wants to become a celebrity that has a brand, and Jessica is the most recognizable person who has pulled that off. Your instinct when someone is busy is to give them the least amount of work so that they can do it. So I told Jessica, “Here’s the idea. Sara wants to be like you, a celebrity with a brand, and she’s going to run into you and belittle what you do. She’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, you did it so I could do it too. You’re just a random actress and put your name on it.’ Then you’re going to school her and tell her you were on Capitol Hill, fighting for rights and all that.

SARA: We thought that we would just give her a very short walk and talk, essentially.

ERIN: And she said, “Yeah, I could do that, but that’s kind of boring. Everyone thinks of me as this uptight professional girl at this point. I want to do something different.”

SARA: She basically said she wanted to play an alcoholic.

ERIN: I think her exact words were, “I’d love to go pee in an alley with you, wasted.” I thought that was way more interesting than what we had.

SARA: You see so many women these days in town, all these actresses looking for other ways to make a buck and stay relevant. We really wanted to start season two off where Sara thinks she’s at this point in her career where she’s above movies and television, and she needs to get her Goop. She needs her Honest Company. Obviously, this is all ridiculous because Sara’s acting career is nowhere. We had to raise the stakes with people loving season one.

NEXT: What Erin and Sara really wanted to do with the episode


Sara, for the “Scoot,” a.k.a. “Voyáge” energy drink in the episode, where did the whole horse piss idea come from?

SARA: We have to give the credit to co-producer and consultant Seth Weitberg, who is the producer and writer on Drunk History. That was all him.

ERIN: Well, Sara, the concept was your idea but the fleshing out and details he helped with.

SARA: Right, but we always know that these characters are never going to win. They may get really close, but then they’re going to get put in their place harder than they ever have been put in their place. The idea of Sara trying to jumpstart her career by buying into a company, not creating it herself, and then realizing that it had horse piss in it — that wasn’t my idea, was it?

ERIN: I thought it was.

SARA: I’ll take credit for it.

ERIN: It comes from the idea that celebrities assume that since they’re famous, they’re all-knowing on all platforms, can do no wrong, and can pull everything off. The truth is that the celebrities that transitioned into being business moguls or launching a brand have to be very smart, or at least be advised by very smart people. I think Sara wanted to represent the celebrities that just put their name on something and don’t put in their homework.

The show is clearly exaggerated and you’re playing characters, but at the same time, you likely inject your own personal traits, and you have firsthand knowledge of the business and certain topics. Do people assume you are your character?

SARA: Well, no, but I will say that, yes, we are of course playing Sara and Erin Foster. I’m an actress and Erin’s a writer and we grew up in Hollywood and all of that, but I only wanted to do the show if we were going to write my character as the most absurd, obnoxious, delusional, wannabe fame whore, actress around. No, I mean, second season my husband’s f—king the nanny, I want nothing to do with my kids — this is obviously not who I am as a person. But when people are like, “Wait, is that you?” and I have to explain that it’s a joke.

The point of these behind-the-scenes discussions is so that fans can see who you both really are.

SARA: It’s great for people who don’t know us to see the show and play these characters, but then see us in interviews and realize that we are smart showrunners because that’s what we are.

ERIN: Sara was on [90210], and I was a staff writer on the show The New Normal, which was canceled after one year. So I had to develop something and I tried to throw out pitches, but it was my first development season and I wasn’t great at pitching. At that time, one of the reality networks was calling [our managers] asking when the Foster sisters would do a reality show, which we all said would never happen. Our managers made a joke about how funny it was that they kept getting pitched for reality shows that we’ll never do. We thought there was something funny about it, and every writer looks around them for inspiration, so I looked around and thought, “There’s so much f—king desperation. Everyone is too good for a reality show until they’re on a reality show.”

SARA: I mean, Mark Wahlberg is on a reality show! [Laughs.] He’s so likable, that Mark Wahlberg. People love it, and you know what, reality TV watchers aren’t offended by our show. Kris Jenner likes our show! She was going to be in season two, but we couldn’t get the schedule to work out. Anyway, I don’t think we’re offending anyone, and we’re not saying we’re curing cancer; we’re just doing our thing.

ERIN: People need it, and we’re giving it to them.

Before we sign off, congratulations on the big Barely Famous billboard I’m seeing all over L.A.! Did you instagram it?

ERIN: Yeah. I’m telling all my exes to suck a d–k.

SARA: By the way, people think she’s so funny. But she was serious.

ERIN: One more thing about episode one — it got restructured five times because Sara and I really wanted to do a race episode. There are so many shows that are “white,” and we wanted to talk about how two really delusional, cliché white girls handle racial issues. We tried so hard to have the first episode be about race and make it obviously funny — but also really be saying something — but we could never get it approved.

SARA: We essentially spent all of November fighting for the episode.

ERIN: Listen, it’s obviously risky, but we knew we weren’t going to make an episode that would just offend people, but rather start a conversation. I had an idea about getting a writing job…

SARA: Well, let’s not give away all of our ideas. If we get a season three, we have to do it.

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