Ginny & Georgia producers on making a show about witty, smart women dealing with real issues
WARNING: This post contains major Ginny & Georgia spoilers.
If you found yourself racing through Netflix's 10-episode dramedy Ginny & Georgia as fast as Ginny (Antonia Gentry) zipped off on that motorcycle in the season finale, we get it and we're here for you in your moment of loss.
Ginny & Georgia tells the story of 30-year-old Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey) who moves to the quaint town of Wellsbury, Mass. with her 15-year-old daughter Ginny and 9-year-old son Austin (Diesel La Torraca). Once there, Ginny finds herself, for the first time, as part of a group of girlfriends — and even has a couple of cute boys pursuing her. Not to be outdone, Georgia finds herself the center of three men's attention, including Wellsbury's handsome young mayor (Friday Night Lights' Scott Porter).
Of course, because everything is going so well, Georgia's past has to come knocking. Turns out she has some pretty dark secrets, that potentially include more than one murder and setting up an ex for embezzlement. When Ginny starts to learn more about her's mom capabilities, she does what Georgia's always taught her to do when things get hairy: run. The finale's final scene sees Ginny speed off on a motorcycle, her little brother with her, leaving Georgia behind, totally unaware.
Because we feel a sense of loss without G&G (not to mention Max, played by the brilliant Sara Waisglass) in our lives now that we're done binging, we turned to first-time creator Sarah Lampert and first-time showrunner Debra J. Fisher to tell us more about bringing these characters to the screen, what we can hope for in a second season, and if the can't-help-but-love-her Georgia is based on anyone real.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea for this show originally come from?
SARAH LAMPERT: Truly, the first fetus of the idea was just a girl struggling to be popular at school with a mother who made that difficult and then, from there, it was kind of boring. I think the first three main characters that were born were obviously Ginny, Georgia, and then the relationship between the two of them. So it started as a mother-daughter story, but with a heavy focus on the daughter navigating high school.
Debra, what was about it that made you want to come on board as showrunner?
DEBRA J. FISHER: I had told my reps I really wanted to work on a female-centric show. I read Ginny & Georgia and it's smart women who are funny, complicated, troubled, and intense, and it had everything that I love: drama, mystery, humor, living room dance parties. Sarah and my first meeting was two hours. An hour meeting in this business is really long. We had a two hour meeting. It went really well. We very much jived creatively. We talked about storylines, we talked about collaboration. Then we worked feverishly for, I think, a week straight, like Monday through Friday in a conference room, just the two of us, really crafting a seed, really digging into all the main characters and really laying out what the show would be long-term. Two hours later, they called and gave it the green light. We were off and running.
LAMPERT: Fun fact: All this was happening and SNL released the skit like, "Netflix is buying a show about a girl named Ginny." I was like, "What? What's happening?" It all felt very kismet: the show ending up on Netflix and Deb coming on board.
Are Ginny and Georgia based on real people at all?
LAMPERT: I'm so happy you brought this up because my mom has been after me to clarify this. I actually haven't been asked that question before, so this is a vital. This is not based on Audrey Lampert. That said, Audrey Lampert did send popsicles to my entire class when I changed schools so that I could make friends and she does do living room dance parties and she did car picnics and she ran sophomore sleepover and she caught me shoplifting... the list goes on. But Georgia is not based on Audrey. The characters are all fictional, but they all definitely have a bunch of different inspirations drawn to create them. I would say that Toni [Gentry] had a huge part in crafting and bringing Ginny to life. There are elements of me and Deb and all the writers in the writers' room sprinkled throughout every character. MANG [Ginny's friends group] is based off a bunch of my high school friends. Marcus [Felix Mallard] is based off my high school boyfriend. Max [Waisglass] is based on me. I gave Max most of my voice, if that makes sense. The character is not necessarily based on me, but she is my spirit animal.
How did you end up with Brianne and Toni in the titular roles? They both bring such excellent performances.
FISHER: Alyssa Weisberg, who was our casting director, initially thought the role of Ginny was going to be the most challenging, but we found Toni first. Alyssa is amazing. She would be secretly on Instagram, social media; she's more stalk-y than Sarah and me put together. We had Antonia fly out to L.A. a couple of times, and we knew right away that she was Ginny. So Brianne was the last, literally, the last to be cast. We had to find the perfect Georgia that balanced beauty, that's going to kill you with a smile but will stab you in the chest without seeing it coming. We met actresses from the U.S., Canada, and England and on one of our last days, Bri got back from a European vacation and put herself on tape. We watched the tape really late Friday night or on the weekend, and we were like, "We must meet this woman." Monday morning, we brought her in read her with Toni and we were like, "We just found Ginny and Georgia. There they are."
So glad you held out for her. Her Southern accent is so great.
FISHER: People we know from the South ask is she from the South.
One of the cool things about the show is that it doesn't trivialize the teen experience. These characters are going through a lot and you really feel that watching it. How did you ensure you kept it as authentic as possible in the writers' room and also balance the tone between drama and humor?
FISHER: After reading the pilot, tonally, it has drama, mystery, humor. It has everything. We were really intentional with the makeup of our writers' room. It's something that Sarah and I talked at length about in our first meeting. We really wanted the room to be representative of the stories that we wanted to tell. We wanted a room filled with people that had unique and different experiences from ours and lenses and insights into the stories that we wanted to tell for these characters. We achieved that from the writers' point of view and a story point of view.
Was Ginny always going to be a biracial character?
LAMPERT: She was always biracial because it was important to me that Ginny and Georgia's relationship be really textured and layered. As manipulative and controlling as Georgia is, she'll never share the lived experience of her daughter or fully understand it. We see that in how messy she is in the series when she's really just not nourishing Ginny in the way that she should be. We see her dress as Scarlett O'Hara for Halloween, but she knows how to do her daughter's hair. It's just this really messy, complicated relationship. To speak to the tone a little bit too, humor for me is very important. Growing up, watching all the Disney movies, I never related to the princess, I always related to the funny sidekick. I didn't even audition for my high school improv team because girls just weren't funny — this is not that long ago. Bridesmaids changed the game. For me, watching Gilmore Girls, watching Buffy, watching Veronica Mars with these smart, funny women who got to be witty while dealing with real issues that women deal with, that was really crucial for me. My family is very much like that. When my grandpa was in the hospital with chemo and the nurse came in and she was like, "Are you comfortable?" He goes, "I make a living." Humor is a part of life and I think you need to maintain your sense of humor, no matter what you're going through. Dancing with that tone was, very intentionally, a big part of the show.
Teenage sex is a big part of the show too. How did you go about approaching that so it wasn't just the same story we've seen on TV a million times?
LAMPERT: The reason I wrote Ginny losing her virginity into the pilot was because virginity is a construct and I didn't want virginity to be treated like a personality trait, as it so often is for women. We just wanted to get that done off the bat immediately and it felt very true to life, right? When you're that age, you're really in your head, glamorizing sex so much. I'll just speak personally, you're having all these — like in episode 9 — the dry humping sessions, the grinding sessions. In your head, sex is this big glamorous thing and then when you finally have it, you're like, "Oh, that lasted five seconds in my basement." Like, "What the hell just happened? I'm a woman now?" That being said, it is a big deal. It is a milestone. Dealing with that in a realistic way, is why have that whole conversation in the cafeteria where they're discussing it. So the reason it happens in the pilot episode is because I really wanted to subvert that trope and not let virginity be a personality trait for Ginny, something to protect and guard at all.
FISHER: Reading that scene the first time, I was like, "relatable."
Ginny's also dealing with self harming and we know that Marcus has gone through some pretty deep depression before we meet him that's still lingering too. How important was it to you to make mental health part of the show?
LAMPERT: I'm very open and I struggle with my mental health and that's something that I really, really wanted to be in the show. It's so relatable, especially right now. Mental health [struggles] with youth right now are surging and I think it's just really important to showcase it in a way that is realistic so that people don't feel that they're demonized for it. Also, in the show we point toward therapy for it.
FISHER: I just want to reiterate, that that true and grounded representation of what a 15-year-old girl struggling with her mental health looks like, is all we wanted to do. So in the writers' room, we talked about this process so much. We got to work with a psychologist and she specialized in self-harm behavior. Sarah and I worked with her very closely on crafting this throughout the season, where we wanted to go and what was realistic. She gave us such great insight to it that really helped us shape Ginny's arc. It's just such an important thing that I think that all teens are going through and will identify with and find relatable as well.
LAMPERT: It was really intentional that we had Marcus be the one who Ginny opened up to about this and for him to be the one who's pointing her in the therapy direction.
On a lighter note, there are a bunch of musical moments in this season. We see Hunter (Mason Temple) tap dance and then Max perform the stage number in Sing Sing. Did you write those scenes in because you knew your cast had those talents?
LAMPERT: They cast knows they can't mention anything to me because it will find its way into the show. We found out that Mason could tap dance. It was in the show and then it wasn't because of timing and budget etc. But he had been rehearsing in the cafeteria and Deb walked into our office and goes, "I just saw Mason tap dance, it's in the show."
FISHER: It was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen her. I said, "We have to keep it. We have to make it work." They're all so talented with instruments and art and everything. We would see them add something to their Insta story and we'd be like, "Okay, can we put that in the show?"
LAMPERT: With Sing Sing...I have forever burned in my memory, me in a pushup bra and fishnets doing Chicago, crawling my fingers down my leg, but making direct eye contact with my grandfather. That experience was just so hysterical that we had to include it.
Looking ahead to season 2, what are your hopes there? We see Ginny ride off into the sunset, but is she going to copy her mom's life without even meaning to? Will we learn more of Georgia's past if you get a second season?
FISHER: Yes to all of your questions. We want to keep talking about Ginny and Georgia for a very long time.
LAMPERT: We can't really talk about season 2, but what I will say is, where we always wanted season 1 to end was with Ginny protecting her mom, but by doing so, having blood on her hands.
Okay, fair enough. Maybe you can answer this one: If you had to chose are you Team Paul, Team Zion (Nathan Mitchell) or Team Joe (Raymond Ablack)?
LAMPERT: It's a little bit of an unfair question because they're all slightly based on exes of mine. I feel like I'll recuse myself from answering. I'll kick it to Deb.
FISHER: I love Joe. I love Zion. And when Paul proposes! I'm all Paul in that moment. I love them all.
LAMPERT: Paul's proposal scene. Zion in the kitchen in episode 9. Joe in the sunglasses. In those three moments, I'm on that man's side.
Ginny & Georgia is available to stream on Netflix now.