Better Things: Creator Pamela Adlon on FX series debut
Every week, the cast and crew of FX’s Better Things — a semi-autobiographical comedy created by Pamela Adlon and Louie C.K., centered on Sam Fox (Adlon), an actress and gnarly single mom of three girls, fantastically played by Olivia Edward, Hannah Alligood, and Mikey Madison — is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, a cast or crew member is recapping, sharing thoughts on what went down, and walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. First up, Adlon (who also serves as a writer and executive producer, alongside C.K.) walks us through her personal series premiere, “Pilot/Sam.”
As told to Caitlin Brody:
On the opening credits, which include home videos of Pamela and her onscreen daughters:
On the inspiration behind the premiere:
The pilot was written as a 24-hour insane day — every time Sam has down time, there’s something else and something else. My inspiration was All That Jazz, the Bob Fosse movie. Every morning he wakes up and says, “It’s showtime, folks!” The pilot was originally very relentless and this deep, harrowing look at 24 hours for this woman. It was Louis’ idea to open the series with the scene where Duke is having a tantrum at the mall. He’s a brilliant editor.
On how Sam and Pamela differ:
There are certain aspects that are very similar, but I have, I hope, a little more control. I took aspects of myself from when I was younger, and parts of me that are perhaps dormant, to fully shape her into a character that’s less me. Everything is fictionalized, but there is some stuff in there that happened to me when I was a girl, some that happened to my daughters — it all became a part of the fabric of the show.
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On Sam’s green cardigan, which was Pamela’s father’s, and other Easter eggs in the series:
There are a lot! Almost all of the art that you see in the house is mine — I took it off the walls of my house and put it on the walls of the fake-me’s house. In that opening sequence when the girls are against a pink wall, Olivia is wearing a poncho with orange fringe — that was my childhood poncho! I gave Celia [Imrie], who plays my mom, some of my mom’s jewelry. I put my dad’s ring on Adam Kulbersh, who plays my dad in the flashback scene.
On Constance Zimmer’s cameo:
We had never met before this! I had originally written that scene for Janeane Garofalo and Constance because we always get compared to each other; we lose jobs to each other. Constance was fantastic, and now she’s my homie — we text each other all the time.
On choosing the names of Sam’s daughters — Duke, Frankie, and Max:
I knew that my oldest was going to be Max, my middle, Frankie, and I was going to be Sam because those are all family names. Felicia Fasano, my casting director, came up with the name Duke for my youngest, which I really liked and thought was cool. I asked my mother to name the character of my onscreen mother, and she chose Phyllis. That was her mother’s name. Her father used to call her Phil, so that’s how it all shook out.
On the “Dedicated to my daughters” end credit:
I put that in the pilot and the finale — it’s a little surprise I have for my real girls because the show really is completely dedicated to them. We’re going to watch it together.
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Better Things airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.