June Diane Raphael and Jessica St. Clair on why their new podcast is a gateway drug back to the world
Actresses June Diane Raphael and Jessica St. Clair are known for plenty: Their sitcom performances (Grace & Frankie, Playing House), their activism, their regular guest appearances on hit podcast Bitch Sesh (and, for Raphael's part, as co-host of the long-running How Did This Get Made?). What they're not known for is their technical acumen - the fact that their brand new joint podcast venture, The Deep Dive, is becoming a runaway hit is notable not for its content but for the sheer miracle that it makes it from their living rooms to the airwaves every week. Raphael and St. Clair launched the project at the end of April - with guest Casey Wilson - and their frank, vulnerable discussions about everything from motherhood to grief to unfortunate hairstyles of the past struck an immediate chord with their (mostly identifying) listenership. Below, the co-hosts discuss launching a podcast in a pandemic, the responsibility of being newly-coined lifestyle gurus, and the importance of pressing "play" during a recording.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about the genesis of The Deep Dive...
JESSICA ST. CLAIR: We actually wanted to do this podcast before the pandemic, so this has been cooking for a little while. We'd even recorded with some of our friends. But we really believe in trusting our instincts, as we talk about on the podcast, and it does feel like the timing of this has been divinely guided - when the pandemic hit, we were holding onto it for so long and trying to decide when to drop it, and it turns out it really hit.
JUNE DIANE RAPHAEL: As we're all in this next transition, back into a new type of normal, I think one of the reasons why people are connecting to it is that we've been so honest about how strange we feel reintegrating. As Jessica always says, it's like we crawled out of a pile of dry leaves. And in a culture that really devalues women as we age, I find them more and more interesting. So to get to talk about so many of these topics honestly with the women in our lives has been such a gift.
How do you think the podcast would have been different if you had gone ahead and launched as the pandemic was hitting?
ST. CLAIR: June and I did ask ourselves if we should just keep on with [the release], but we were too busy just trying to survive. We were trying - and failing! - to teach young children how to read. But it's also much more interesting, to us, to discuss how we've changed and what we want to bring into this new phase. We listened to one of our intros from before the pandemic, and I was like, who is that girl? She's really fun. She's talking about her spray tan, and she's looking forward to things. But in all seriousness, I feel like we've all deepened in a way that I'm excited about; we're more comfortable being vulnerable with each other.
RAPHAEL: A lot of what we talk about is grief. I don't mean just losing people or death, but the grief of what we've collectively been through and lost. People have really responded to it all. I made one offhand comment about how it's so hard to be a parent to a young child and that it does get better, and the amount of women who reached out saying it struck them stopped me in my tracks. This is one of the first times we've talked about the podcast, and we kind of don't know what the hell this thing is - we are witnesses as much as anybody else - but I do know it's validating to people, and I want to continue that.
Are most of your listeners coming to the podcast because they're already fans of yours?
ST. CLAIR: I think for women at least, if we find something - whether it's a mascara or a Spanx - we want to share it. So that's how I think it's being spread. Like rats spreading the plague!
RAPHAEL: We certainly haven't tapped into the backend analytics, so we don't have data to support this. Jessica just found out about a trove of messages she had from listeners. I will say we spend a lot of time talking about Jessica's relationship to technology on the show. In fact, one of the reasons I'm doing the show is there's no one in the world who delights me more than Jessica St. Clair.
ST. CLAIR: I always say I could listen to June all day. You can hear it when she speaks; it's like she's savoring something. Whenever we have our girls' nights, I'm always like June, tell us the one about blank. Even if she's told us a story 16 times, I just want to hear her say it. I would listen to her read the phone book.
You have a large listener base and you're discussing heavy stuff; do you feel any particular responsibility towards your fans?
RAPHAEL: Jessica interacts a lot more. I read almost everything listeners send in, but I don't interact as much. I'm a bit more guarded in that area - I appreciate it all, but I have to set limits on time. But there are moments where I feel a heavy responsibility, episodes where I'm like wow we talked about a lot of stuff, does everything need to be such a ride?
ST. CLAIR: Whenever someone who is in the middle of chemo or has just been diagnosed [with cancer] reaches out to me, I write back. I know what it felt like to be in that terrifying spot, searching the internet wildly for positive outcomes. I had to find a story from Parade magazine in 1991 like I'm looking through microfiche. You glean onto those nuggets of positivity; they're like a guidepost.
How do you let go of any negative feedback if there are topics you discuss that listeners don't like or agree with?
RAPHAEL: It is interesting because we do live in a misogynistic culture that dismisses and really hates women. And there's a deep distrust in and dismissal of "women's" things or feminine interests. So one of the things I love about the podcast is there's so much joy and delight taken in the things we care about. I remember thinking this when Sex and the City came out, and there were so many men who had such an issue with it, and it became the butt of so many jokes. But it's no more ridiculous than, say, a lightsaber. It's no more absurd than many canons of male work. We're not everyone's cup of tea, and that's really quite fine. That's another gift of aging that people don't talk about: the freedom. I can easily say, be on your way, kind sir. No disrespect, but if you don't want to listen, that's okay.
How does the work of podcasting, in 2021 and during a pandemic, compare to your experiences writing and acting in Hollywood?
RAPHAEL: Well, I was one of the first ladies of podcasting, which is a title I've given myself. I've always been told I have a face for podcasting. But really, How Did This Get Made was one of the first podcasts at Earwolf. And one of the wonderful things about the industry is that it's fairly accessible for creators: you don't need all that much, and it's not so precious a medium compared to, say, if you make your own short film.
ST. CLAIR: We started recording our podcast in a room at the Jane Club [Raphael's co-working space] and it was a little womb. It was just me and June and our microphones. Now, did we forget to press record for one of our guests? Did she say some of the most life-changing things you've ever heard? Yes. But I still don't want to go into a traditional recording studio; I like being in our little cocoon.
Are you looking forward to going back on set or into a writers' room?
RAPHAEL: I've actually been working. This podcast has helped me transition back; it's like a gateway drug. So many of us are out of practice in terms of social interactions. It's a chance to laugh and remember that you're a person in the world. And I can talk to Jess about how I want to just go into a hut with random strangers and do hard drugs and get tattoos. I'm craving a ritual. I feel like our culture doesn't allow us to grieve with rituals outside of funerals, but processing the grief of this time is so important. If we don't, it's going to come out real sideways.
Do you see live shows in your future?
ST. CLAIR: I remember I said to June, before we even recorded half an episode, I'm seeing a Bitch Sesh-Deep Dive live show in Cabo. We're in the presidential suite.
RAPHAEL: I'm like, is this all about getting to a hotel? Because we could go there on our own.
ST. CLAIR: I actually think we would really enjoy the company of all the people listening to this podcast. Let's go to Cabo. If there's anyone out there that would be able to get us lined up on a cruise ship like Rosie O'Donnell used to do, we're there.
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