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“Trial and Error” Creator and Showrunner Jeff Astrof on the Campaign to Save the Acclaimed Comedy

The Blessed Few

Jan 29, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Some TV shows are too good for this world. Some are cancelled before their time. Some capture lightning in a bottle once and are unable to replicate it. Others go on a little too long (Scrubs, Frasier). Some have to battle with their studios to stay on the air just long enough to finish up their stories (The Wire). Some are the greatest television franchises ever made and can go on forever (Star Trek). Others divebomb for no reason, or zig when they should have zagged. Some stay for the perfect amount of time, but after the critics have moved on (Girls, The Sopranos, Mad Men). Five to seven seasons is the sweet spot.

Others pop up out of nowhere and burrow their way deep into your imagination and heart, and are lodged there permanently. They get in your head. They kill it in the first season, then turn around and do it again, and stay just long enough to prove the first season wasn’t a fluke, and for whatever reason, are gone (Carnivàle, The Knick, Party Down). They are punk rock TV and leave good looking corpses. They are the shows we end up telling our kids about decades in the future. Trial and Error is firmly in the latter category.

It premiered in 2017 and was one of the best shows of the year. It’s very zeitgeisty, with a piano solo opening over a red underlined title card. A true crime mockumentary, it apes The Jinx, Serial, and Making a Murderer. There’s a lot of male full frontal nudity, men screaming, poop jokes, sexual double entendres, sexual fluidity, and gay humor. A buried human body is exhumed and then accidentally cremated in the back of a truck in the first hour. The music is perfect, with harpsichords, dulcimers, bell pianos, and pizzicato strings. Trial and Error can handle dark jokes but remain light-hearted and fun. It’s pure and good-hearted but really profane, full of hilarious contradictions with serious situations and adults being very silly. For all its brutal humor, Trial and Error is about trust and friendship, with multiple characters frequently holding hands, crying together, and accidentally saying “I love you.” Though parts of the show are genuinely creepy, it’s about friendship and trust, and ultimately, love.

It takes place in the small town of East Peck, South Carolina. It’s a murder mystery that’s always solved in the first episode, with clues in each episode’s credit sequence, tons of red herrings, and classic gallows humor. East Peck is plagued by unemployment, obesity, low voter turnout, and cannon balls that are fired every day at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., East Peck time. Waterskiing with a cat is only a misdemeanor in East Peck, and the rich not paying taxes is legal. The town has elected two consecutive mayors who were in comas, has an immortal cat, releases its prison inmates for the funeral of the much-beloved Mickey Moose (coincidentally, moose meat was on sale for a short time thereafter), and, of course, conducted its own Witch Trials in the 1990s. Causes of death in East Peck can be listed by the coroner as “because” or “just because.” Its two biggest murder trials have been presided over by Judges Horsedich and Kamiltow. East Peck’s criminal justice system has epic conflicts of interest, with witnesses being selected as jurors. And rollersizing in your front yard while you’re on trial for the murder of your wife is only frowned upon by a biased neighbor (who will probably serve as a juror).

The protagonist, Josh Segal (Nick D’Agosto), is the straight man in the first season, a big city “northeasterner” lawyer who came down to East Peck to cut his teeth on his first murder trial. By the second season he’s the weirdo, and the craziness of the town has been normalized. His small law practice is staffed by Dwayne Reed (Steven Boyer), a former (and then, again, fired) East Peck police officer who keeps stealing police evidence. He’s a little careless with his service weapon and is constantly amazed by the Internet and computers, and Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd), a legal secretary who suffers from a number of disorders and disabilities that just so happen to be super funny, like: laughing at inappropriate moments, walking backward, spontaneous human combustion, and profanity-laden screeds. All of the members of Josh Segal and Ass’s (that was an Anne Flatch typo) can really cut up a dance floor. Josh’s on-again, off-again love interest and courtroom nemesis is Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays), an ambitious Assistant District Attorney who has a button on her desk that closes her office door. In the first season she’s the prosecutor in the trial of Larry Henderson (John Lithgow), maybe wife-murderer. In the second, she works against and then on behalf of Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth), the richest person in town, after the death of her beloved and very short husband, Edgar.

The production of Trial and Error is a charmed story. The fates conspired to have all the right people do the right jobs at the right time. Alchemy of vision, writing, directing, acting, and the right combination of producers made it possible. The odds of this kind of synergy are astronomical. It was kind of paranormal. Multiple gods would need to have been involved. It’s something only witches can do. Westworld may want us to believe that “you only live as long as the last person who remembers you,” but someone in the universe is keeping score. Good storytelling still matters. It has intrinsic value.

There’s also something to be said for stories that get killed by networks before they can finish. It feels like the adventure was meant to be be continuous but unknown. Life is messy. Not every story ends the way you think it should. Nothing is perfect. But somebody said excellence doesn’t require perfection. Audiences need an ending; they crave it. A second or third season with an premature end isn’t always enough (Deadwood).

Not a lot of people saw it, but it was made with painstaking attention to detail, consistency, and affection. There is great power in world-building, and Trial and Error should have been given a few more seasons, but more than that, it deserves to have a proper ending. Creator and showrunner Jeff Astrof has been waging the #SaveTrialandError campaign since the show went off the air. Astrof is a TV veteran who has produced such shows as The New Adventures of Old Christine; Partners; It’s Like, You Know…; Grounded for Life; and others. Here he talks about Trial and Error‘s first two seasons, the chances it will be renewed by NBC or find another home, and his plans for season three.

(Obligatory Spoiler Disclaimer: We’re going to blow some major plot points in both seasons, so read at your own risk. Additionally, after this interview was conducted but before its publication, NBC officially cancelled Trial and Error. So, if you’re reading this specific spoiler alert, just know that the show’s cancellation is all your fault for not watching the show in the first place.)

Steve King (Under the Radar): It’s not every day I can finish an interview request with “we will rise from the ashes like the mythical penis.” So, thanks for agreeing to it. How is the search for a new network going?

Jeff Astrof: The search is not very difficult. There’s only a set number of places, and sadly nobody has really bitten as of yet. The issue with the show in terms of finding a new home is that it was seen as not a successful show in terms of audience. It was in terms of the quality of the audience. It’s a very, very faithful and high-end audience, if you will, and the quality is right for the audience. NBC never owned the show, and because of that and the rights that come with owning the show and streaming, it never got to them. The financial model is changing.

We didn’t do well enough on Hulu because we were never really promoted on Hulu. So Hulu says, “We’ve already seen those numbers and they’re not great.” I went to look up legal comedies on Hulu and didn’t find us, so what are you going to do when it’s impossible to find us? It seems like people randomly found us, and Netflix is now kind of not in the market to buy other people’s shows because they’re developing a lot of stuff in-house. Apple isn’t really a thing yet. Facebook isn’t really a thing yet. YouTube stopped before it became a thing. TBS also has their own long development process so they’re not really into it. I’m hoping when the AT&T network comes, which is owned by Warner Brothers, that that could potentially be the venue. So you never know. That gives me hope that some miracle will happen and we’ll get a third season. But I don’t want to give false hope either. If my cast gets hired for things they should absolutely take the job.

I don’t get how a show can be developed with such care over multiple years, and it’s funny and it gets good ratings and it’s critically acclaimed, and the first thing the network says for the next season is “Cut the budget.” That doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s a money thing. I had this conversation with [NBC chairman] Bob Greenblatt. I just laid it on the line and said, “The truth is, if you look at NBC and the shows they make money on or the shows that people watch, they’re not their shows. Like The Voice. They run reruns of The Voice. They run Ellen’s Game of Games or Show of Shows or something of something. Ellen of Ellens. That’s a game show that costs them, whatever, the studio space and Ellen and whatever they give away. I have no idea what that show is. Between that and The Voice and This Is Us, they’re the only shows the people watch.

We never had a lead-in comedy. It was just us. It’s such a bummer honestly. Sandwiched between The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in another world, the show would live for seven years. Nobody here understands that either. It’s one of those things where I talk to people at Warner Bros. and they’re like, “We had assumed by now the show would be a hit.” It makes no sense that we had a show with John Lithgow returning to NBC, and we were put on at 10 p.m. back to back on ourselves. It made no sense. But look, there are programming people and gurus, and the creative people are not the ones who make the decisions. It was the numbers people.

Is it just that television viewing is changing, and people aren’t showing up for appointment programming anymore necessarily?

I think we were held to a different standard than something they owned. If they owned our show, they could have put it online. They couldn’t do that because they have a contract with Warner Bros., and Warner Bros. has to make some money also. So they could only air a certain number of episodes online. We have one of the few shows that you can’t find online, which is remarkable. I was told by Warner Bros. that they’re going to be putting the first two seasons online and trying to sell it sometime in the new year, which is now, so I’m going to follow up relentlessly with that. Warner Bros. owns my show, so they don’t have as much of an incentive, when you look at, say, The Good Place and Will & Grace. Their numbers are microscopic but there are relationships they have to maintain. No one’s going to cancel Mike Schur’s show or Amy Poehler’s show and a Tina Fey show, nor should they. It’s all coming from the same pocket from Universal into NBC. We were the only comedy that was not produced by NBC.

How did it develop? Was it a series of story ideas kind of combining in your head over the course of time, or was there a moment of inspiration, where you could almost see the whole thing in your mind? What was the process of breaking the story?

I was watching, not surprisingly, The Staircase a few years ago and I immediately became obsessed with it. I was watching it with my wife and said, “If Steve Carell played Michael Peterson this would be the funniest show ever,” and she said, “Maybe. I could see that….” and I thought I could try to push the boundaries on comedy.

Comedy is really a matter of having stakes. What if the stakes were life and death? So I pitched it to Warner Bros., where I’ve been working for 18 of my 26 years in the business. I said, “I want to do a comedy show about a guy accused of killing his wife.” And they said, “No, we want you to do comedy,” and they said, “The Staircase is great but there’s no way it’s a comedy.” Then Making a Murderer and Serial came out, and I pitched it to Peter Roth, who is the head [of Warner Bros. television]. He laughed and said, “Well, that’s not on TV,” so he gave me permission to go out with it. I said, “I want this to be something that’s binged.” That was the point of it; the old model was: you can never do anything serialized because it screws things up in syndication, but syndication doesn’t really exist so much anymore.

So I went out and pitched it to Warner Bros. I said, “I want this for Netflix.” Warner Bros. said they didn’t really have a model for Netflix. They said, “No. This is a hit network comedy.” And they were half right about that. We pitched it all around. Fox loved it and NBC loved it. NBC followed up immediately and they became obsessed with it and with The Staircase, and their development people were huge fans and they showed the most attention. You need a champion to get something. We had two champions, and god bless them, they pushed it and we got on the air. Nobody knew what it was or what it compared to. No one had really done a murder documentary comedyand finally I was like “It’s an office comedy set in a taxidermist,” and they were like, “Okay, that makes sense.” Then they could only compare it to The Office, but then once the pilot was shot they could only compare to itself. There seem to be two types of people: those who love it and people who haven’t seen it. The latter category is much bigger. For whatever reason, we never got the machine behind us.

If the show were to be picked up as a web series for Netflix or Hulu, would you still kind of do the Kimmy Schmidt thing and edit its language and content? Because the bleeping of the dialogue and blurring are some of the best moments in the show.

I love the bleeping, I love the pixelation. There’s so much fun in the pixelation and the bleeping. One of the tentpole scenes when it was conceived was: I wanted to have a scene that was almost entirely bleeped out, and that ended up being Alfonso testifying. And they weren’t even cursing in that. I don’t want to tell you what they said, but we gave the actors something to say, and it was basically a nursery rhyme. And I made it like three times longer and the director thought “that’s too long,” and I said, “It’s not long enough. Trust me.” I knew the network was going to hate it, and they knew the studio hated it, and everyone hated it, but it was one thing I didn’t budge on. It’s a made-for-tv documentary. I don’t think cursing is funny by itself. To me, it’s funnier to see Jayma Mays curse when it’s bleeped out.

Nicholas D’Agosto has chemistry with everyone onscreen, and he understands that Josh has this persistent positivity and need to win and be liked. He’s a great lead. He’s just one of those guys. He dances. He sings. He can carry a tune. Were there times when you just told him, “Go nuts, improv?”

I love Nick. Nick is a unicorn. Nick is the glue that holds the show together. I saw Nick for the first time when we were looking at Jeff Blitz’s reel, and a movie called Rocket Science, and it opens with a five minute monologue from Nick, and I was like, “Wow. This guy is so facile with words.” For every single one of the characters we had prototypes in mind, and Ben Schwartz was the guy that we had in mind for Josh. And then Nick did a self tape in New York, and he was so good and so precise. This is why casting is everything. He’s so likeable you could show a video of him killing someone and it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s the same way with John Lithgow.

Nick is such a meticulous actor and everything is so studied. He didn’t often improvise but he tried things different ways and more so in the second season we gave him more fun and more goofiness and he loved playing that. He loves singing “Coming Around the Mountain.” He would find moments where he was like “everybody gets a kiss,” which I loved, so when he got silly and improvised I would never give him a note.

I would rarely give the actors notes on acting, but Nick would call me down to the stage and say, “I have a huge problem with a line. Do you mind if I change the ‘and’ to a ‘but?’” It would make me go, “Damn it, Nick. Fine. But that’s your last one.” Nick is a genius actor; I believe he can play anything. He and Jayma, and Steven can play any character. To say that he improvised would be a stretch, but he made stuff his own and I loved when he was silly. Without him, everything would fall apart, because you need someone who can not only do the slow burn, but generate comedy and likeability and sexiness but in a goofy way. I have nothing but positive things to say about Nick.

In two years and 23 episodes there was not one actor who refused to deliver a line. One time John got frustrated and he was like, “Please let me try to get this.” And that was it. That’s John Lithgow. Then John would have to keep up with Steven Boyer and he’d get upset with himself because he was used to doing stuff onstage that he’d get upset with himself if he didn’t nail everything in the first take.

I’m so blessed to work with this group. You’ve never seen anything like it. You’ve never seen a nicer cast. People think we wanted John because of Harry and the Hendersons, but no. It’s the same thing with Kristin Chenoweth. Nobody could have played Larry with the same pathos that John has, and the comedy. That was one of my big regrets from the first season; that I didn’t spend more time on the stage just watching. Whenever I went down, they were like, “Do you have anything for that scene?” and I was like, “Yeah. Do it again. I loved it!” But the Larry character was hard for him to get at first, and we asked him, “Do you want to know if Larry did it?” and he said, “Let me think about it” and he finally came back and said, “Yes, but I don’t want to betray that.” And we were like, “Okay. You didn’t do it. An owl did it.” And he was like “What?” And he didn’t betray it, and the thing he did to get into character was tailor his pants an inch higher, and that’s what had him lock into it, and I will never question the genius of John Lithgow. There was never anything left to chance.

Dwyane and Anne really love each other. Their relationship is really beautiful. Was it intended, or was it a result of the on-screen give and take between Steven Boyer and Sherri Shepherd?

Well, Steven is just a genius and when he auditioned we had never even heard of him. He was just coming off of Broadway and he absolutely nailed it, and my partner Matt Miller said, “It’s going to be difficult dealing with that guy because he’s kind of like the character. He seems mentally off.” And someone said, “No, no. He comes from Juilliard. Bring him in.” We had diversity considerations, and once we knew that Josh was going to be white because he’s Jewish, we needed a little diversity, and Sherri’s name came up. Then Sherri came in and read it, and she had just gotten into a car accident, so she limped in and was like, “I love this. I want to do this.” And we just fell in love with her. Anne was written to be a bit of a hangdog, and when Sherri came in we were like, “You can give this character any affliction and she’s always going to be upbeat.” Then it was the same way when Steven played it. Originally, Dwayne was supposed to be more of a military-type and Anne was supposed to be a Debbie Downer type, but they both played it with such a lightness that it was just natural chemistry, and I love the two of them just being best friends. If we are blessed with season three, I have a totally different way to go with them.

Was “Hill dialect” meant to be understandable? There were a few times when I thought I could almost make it out. Was it meant to be partially understandable?

That was another argument that we got into it with the network and studio. One of the first things that I vowed not to change was the original title of the show, which was called The Trail. I was like “I’m not changing it. It’s funny. It’s interesting.” Anne wrote The Trail when she meant to write The Trial, because she’s dyslexic, and I was like, “I’m not changing it,” and Bob Greenblatt was like “Nah.” But they wanted to put subtitles on Judge Kamiltow. And I said “Absolutely not,” and they said, “How will we know what he’s saying?” And I said, “That’s the comedy of it. You don’t know what he’s saying. That’s the thing you haven’t seen before.” You’ve seen subtitles. We’ve seen it a billion times. I can’t come up with another subtitle joke.

East Peck has a very casual anti-semitism. There are a lot of Jewish jokes in both seasons. From Josh being referred to as a “northeasterner,” Carol Ann Keane saying that Josh was engaging in a ‘schmear campaign,’ bagels, “Die Lawyer” being spray-painted on the office window, the picture of Woody Allen being used by the local news to identify Josh, Lavinia talking about her father giving a Nazi salute before his suicide. There are more Jew jokes in the first season than the second. Did the network bosses ask you to tone it down at all?

No. There’s something about anti-Semitism that people don’t mind. We’re lucky that way. I think with xenophobia and anti-Semitism, you can still get away with it. You can write Jews doing anything. It was like that with Jeremiah, where I didn’t want to make a character that you were rooting for be openly anti-Semitic.

In the first season it was Jeremiah, so you could kind of get away with it, in that he was old money. And the whole “northeasterner” thing came because my wife is from Oregon, and we were at some press fair up in Oregon and someone said, “Oh, you have an interesting accent; are you… from the Northeast?” I’m from New York, and they said, “Are you a northeasterner?” And I said, “Ah, I’m going to use that!” I like trying new things.

The Josh Segal mask didn’t make it into the show, but we were going to have a Witch Hunt Day, where everyone wore masks, and Josh had one that just had a big gigantic nose. It was just so offensive, and even I was like, “That’s a little too far.” I liked its casual sexism, casual racism, casual anti-Semitism, but also it’s a place where people don’t know better. I didn’t want the show to be a slam on the South or a slam on small towns. I wanted it to be something lovely and warm and just where some things are baked into it. There is a Confederate past to East Peck, but there’s other stuff about East Peck that we’ll hopefully get to discover.

The eye work in the show is amazing. Characters often laugh, and then there’s a pregnant pause. Even supporting characters like Boom and Echo and Forge Clooney are amazing. Echo is great because he’s a man with a clear traumatic brain injury from one of the town’s cannonballs, but his repetition of the last thing he heard (like referring to squirrels as being “everywhere”) is amazing. It’s a small role, but it’s excellent because of the way he allows his mouth to hang open. It’s not meant to be mean to people with brain injuries, it’s just funny. It’s a fine line between something devastating and funny, and I’m wondering how you walk that?

Every person in East Peck is kind of matter of fact about their thing. It’s a very accepting society because it’s a town of 600 people, and probably 400 of them have some sort of disorder. It’s also great casting. When I met that guy who played Echo, I was like, “HI. THANK YOU FOR DOING OUR SHOW,” and he was like “No problem, man. Yeah, this is a really funny script.” That was remarkable to me because he was so good in it. All the people we cast just really got it. Every single character, from the main cast to guest characters, had to have a line that was authentic to themselves. It’s also great direction. It’s filmed like a documentary. Everything is scripted, but the actors had multiple takes on stuff and that let them find stuff and moments, and fine-tune it the way we wanted. There are two cameras going. So many jokes are in the background. We lost so many jokes. Every episode came in between 8 and 11 minutes too long. There’s so much left on the cutting room floor.

You have to pay close attention because there are so many rapid-fire, razor sharp jokes that it’s almost impossible to catch them all in one viewing.

And the network actually complained about that too, and rightfully. It just became a machine gun. They would say, “You’ve got to let this breathe. You’ve got to cut out stuff.”

Everyone genuinely looked like they were having a good time and that transfers to the audience. How many times did different actors break? And who broke the most? Because it looks like Jayma Mays almost lost it a couple times.

It was great because she never did in the first season. She never ever did, and then she and Nick kind of had this thing where they could see who can make each other break. This year, with the pregnancy, she did a few bits, like the fart scene we couldn’t get through, and the scene with the bed raising and lowering. She broke maybe twice in two seasons. They were pretty good about getting through it but the cast always cracks each other up, and it starts at the top. It starts with John being such a mensch and a good guy. He never had a problem. They love each other. And I always thought if we found it in the writers room and they have fun on the stage, then it’ll come through and it’ll be infectious. And I wanted to make a nice show that wasn’t cynical. If you notice we don’t do mean jokes. It’s not insult humor. The characters are not there to be mean. I guess that doesn’t play anymore.

There’s a scene in season two where Dwyane gives a tutorial on how to hang yourself. Anne’s eyes are closed and painted while she stands nearby, holding a knife. There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen. How do you get that past network Standards? Did you need the disclaimer?

No. I wrote the disclaimer into there. That was written. There were a couple things with the network where I fought back on with Standards and Practices. Standards and Practices’ notes on the show were fantastic; every one was, “You have to bleep ‘fuck,’ you can’t say this. Jayma can’t say ‘fuck.’ You can’t use the c-word.”

But with that one, we came up with that idea early in the season; that Dwayne would try to hang himself during auto-erotic asphyxiation and with having Anne with the painted eyes, it just became a horror show. It’s verite. We felt like we were pushing our luck. So we got that in and the director said, “There’s no way you’re going to be able to show this” and I said, “Let’s just do it.” I have a great relationship with Standards, where I was constantly bargaining for stuff.

When Josh figures out Lavinia is the real killer, she drops the act in the archery scene and starts killing witnesses, and becomes the first real villain of the series. And then Jesse Ray Beaumont becomes a sympathetic character after spending the season being a guy filled with bees, poison, and regret. Larry was a dubious and detached suspect in the first season. Lavinia is straight up evil, but she gets away with it because she’s a product of the East Peck Lady Laws. She’s the villain the Lady Laws created.

I talked about that with Kristin, where she’s a victim of this inbred society, with cousins marrying cousins. She was the girl in the gilded cage. She lived inside this house. She never left her parents. I initially wanted her to be a kind of Robert Durst, like when you watch The Jinx you kind of feel bad for him. We had to do a very hard pitch to get the show picked up for season 2. So Matt Miller and I said, “What if the verdict comes earlier? What if it comes midway and the show completely turns on itself,” and that’s how it came about. And the next season would be even more different than that. I want you to feel good at the end; that she gets out, and that Lavinia is actually free. She’s a horrible person but she’s also really damaged.

She was reacting to her environment. Her arc is kind of like Larry’s in that they both get what they deserve. Larry’s goodbye is heartfelt, poignant, and earned and heavy in its way. Lavinia’s is more matter of fact. As a viewer I didn’t just view her as the villain, but more a victim of circumstance.

You need to have sympathy for the character. There has to be a reason that you’re watching it and interested in it. I like things that are messy. The network was great about it, because I knew what was happening and I knew what I wanted to do, and they deferred to me on that. I knew that the baby wasn’t Josh’s and people would say, even at the end, “Can you give us some wiggle room that they’re not sure?” Because they thought it was too heartbreaking that it wasn’t Josh’s. I said no. I’m an emotional guy and I like little victories more than big victories, and I like things that are messy. Life is messy. There is true evil and there are people who are truly good, but the most of us fall in the middle somewhere and I like that.

I need to ask about the end of “A Big Break.” It has a birth, people finding gold, a killer’s confession and waxing poetic about life. It’s profound, it’s scary, it’s jarring, and it ends with two characters asking if they just pooped themselves.

I should have known that we weren’t going to be picked up for another season. It’s like, what else is there left for us to do?

But it’s like the nucleus of the show. I’m wondering how you break that specific episode and story beat. Did it happen that way or were you just like, “We’re gonna fucking go for it” type thing?

I knew that we only had a certain number of episodes. There’s a line that we had from Nina when we introduced her that we didn’t do, where she’s like, “Look man, last year I did the show and it was popular but somehow it didn’t take off and everything must go this year,” like a tongue-in-cheek thing. I wanted Lavinia to be sympathetic there. That was actually a speech that was personal to my wife and me, where it was about finding your true one and the “blessed few,“and I wanted the audience to feel for her and feel her crack and also be a little evil. They’re supposed to be complicated. I wanted this thing to culminate in a big, giant finale. Just think of what we accomplished in 10 episodes. It’s unbelievable. We shot so many scenes and so much story, and you need someone like Kristin Chenoweth to pull it off. I was very, very happy with that.

It’s the monologue. She says, “At the end of the day, life is just a journey. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to take that journey alone. If you’re one of the blessed few, you take that journey with someone you love and you hold them forever. And we can take comfort in knowing all our journeys end in the same place: a hole in the ground.” It’s the fatalism of Chenoweth’s delivery with the last line…. I’ve just never seen anything like it on network TV.

She’s a miracle. I wrote that speech sitting in my underwear in Vancouver for the last two episodes. I just needed to have the final speech and be in the right headspace and be able to cry and really get emotional, and I wanted something special about Josh being there for the baby knowing that it wasn’t his, and that he’d actually make a heroic move. I also wanted Lavina to be sad a little bit and know that this was her role in her life and that she never had someone to love. That was her whole thing. She loved somebody. She loved her son and she had to give him up, and she was comforted by the fact that everyone’s going to die anyway.

Both Josh and Carol Anne Keane respect the law, though they have different stylistic and temperamental approaches and that love works personally for them too, obviously. Could Josh still be Princess Anne Maybe Seagal-Keane’s father? I’m not ready to let go of it.

I always thought it was more interesting and gave more legs to Josh and Carol Anne Keane if Josh was not the father. That said, I will tell you that the East Peck Paternity Store got only one star on Yelp, so you never know…

I saw a tweet where you said that you had finished writing the third season. Would we have seen West or South Peck, or the Jessups in season three?

For sure. We would see South Peck and the Peck Colony. The next season would go deeper into the town’s history and the founding of East Peck, and also go back to the witch trials and what it was like before the Pecks got there.

Would Carol Anne Keane prosecute the East Peck Three since she had just won the race for District Attorney?

I will answer this with the caveat that the show has not been picked up and I am broken-hearted. That said, here’s a little teaser for season three, if only in my head. Season three takes place roughly one year later. Josh can’t get past the fact that he let a serial killer go free and has completely lost his confidence and the desire to take on a big client. Carol Anne Keane is bored out of her mind as DA. Atticus is doing the day-to-day casework. The East Peck 3 are two boys who were accused of kidnapping a young boy for a satanic ritual back in the early ‘90s, leading to the famed Witch Trials of 1994. Now that the Pecks are gone, the cult that ran the town is back. But I’ve said too much…

Like HBO’s Paradise Lost?

That’s exactly what it’s based on, yes. I can tell you this now. The fun of the Peck Colony came about last year when I wanted to hire Jayma’s husband, Adam Campbell, and Jayma said, “It’s weird because he’s got a British accent,” and I said, “You know what? He’s from Peck Colony and there’s a part of the town that still paid taxes to the Queen up until the early 1900s, so there’s a part of Peck Colony where they still use British law, and and they have a British accent even though they were born in the United States, and parts of East Peck have fought on the wrong side of every single war, including the Revolutionary War. So that’s one of the things that we’re looking to discover next year. They drive on the opposite side of the street. They wear wigs in court so you can only imagine how much fun that would be.


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