One Mississippi, a semi-autobiographical show from comedian Tig Notaro, dropped its first six episodes Sept. 9 on Amazon. To guide us through our binging, the cast and crew will be taking EW behind the scenes. They’ll take turns sharing their thoughts on what went into making each episode. Here, actor John Rothman (he plays Tig’s stepfather, Bill) takes us through episode 5, “How ‘Bout Now, How ‘Bout Right Now.”
The title of the penultimate episode of season 1 of One Mississippi is “How About Now, How About Right Now,” which refers to a childhood game that Tig recounts at the top of the episode, on her radio show. It’s a game of daring and spontaneous fun, and it says a lot about the experience of making and, I think, watching the episode. I play Bill, Tig’s stepfather, and the events of this episode are particularly challenging for my character — even though they don’t concern his cat!
Spoiler Alert! In one painful and beautiful scene (written by Tig and her real-life wife, Stephanie Allynne, the wonderful actress who plays Kate in the series), Bill tells Tig that if she doesn’t like the way things are run around here, she can get the hell out of his house. It was a tough scene to shoot, in part because I never knew which of the events I was acting sprung from Tig’s real life and which were from her imagination. I didn’t know — I still don’t know — if her real stepfather, Ric, ever said that to her. It doesn’t matter. As an actor, I try to fully embrace the reality and believe it happened to me.
As I’ve said, the title of the episode refers to a game where the object is spontaneity (not Bill’s strong suit!) and daring. And what is really daring in the scene I’m describing is Tig’s confrontation with Bill — she really takes him on. There is such a deep well of anger, and they fall down into it. But Bill has no choice but to somehow defend himself and his choices in life… and deal with the consequences for Tig and her brother, Remy (Noah Harpster). It’s very dark, but it doesn’t tip the balance of the show. As one critic said, the show is like a Faulkner novel — the way the past becomes the present. But it is more fun than Faulkner!
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Keeping that comic balance just right in this episode was the job of the brilliant and funny director, Ken Kwapis. When you watch it, look at how Bill towers over Tig at the top of the stairs when she comes in through the front door. It says everything about their relationship — at least as Bill sees it. One more thing, Tig calls Bill “a nerd,” as does his late wife, Caroline (played by the incomparable Rya Kihlstedt), and well, that is the rap on the guy. He’s a nerd! But my director knew that nerds can have their revenge. In fact, Ken Kwapis directed Revenge of the Nerds for American Playhouse. Revenge might be too strong a word for what Bill comes up with to defend himself, but in this confrontation comes a surprise for Tig and Remy that they would never have suspected. You’ll see.
Be sure to return to EW.com on Wednesday for a look into the finale, “New Contact,” by Stephanie Allynne, Tig’s real-life wife who plays her radio producer, Kate.