Behind the Scenes of “Exes & Ohs”

 
 

Chris and Kris are mother figures to the group, especially Crutch, a barista and aspiring singer-songwriter played by Heather Matarazzo. "[Crutch] is incredibly young, emotionally," Matarazzo said, "and is just trying to find her way in the world through the lives of these older women."

The diversity in ages among the regular cast is one thing that Friedlander and Paradise are proud of, as is the diversity in looks. The women in the cast don't all look like conventional models, and the characters range in age from 17 to 40. Class differences are also addressed, with Chris and Kris as home-owning, successful entrepreneurs on one end of the financial spectrum and multiple-job-holding, getting-help-from-Mom Crutch on the other.

"It's so important to me to have people who reflect an actual community," Paradise said. "And that isn't in just how someone looks, but in how they move in the world. And we've tried really, really hard with this to get all of that, and to have diversity on many, many levels."

She is aware that they may face some criticism about the fact that all the leads are white. "It wasn't an active choice to pick all Caucasian actresses," she said. "It was a question of which characters [from the short] do we want to focus on for the first season, and which ones have the greatest room to grow." When they knew that they were going forward with Jennifer, Chris, Kris and Sam, those roles had already been cast with Paradise, Cavanagh, Featherstone and Alton.

Women of color do appear in guest and recurring roles throughout the first season. For instance, Sheryl Lee Ralph (Broadway's Dreamgirls) plays a minister in the first episode, which also features former Pussycat Doll Nadine Ellis.

Considering the racial and ethnic diversity issue, Paradise said, "It's really important to raise those questions and for the people [who are creating shows] to hear it, actually hear it, and provide honest reflections of the community."

Several of the women from Exes & Ohs had very personal reactions to the project, whether due its content or the experience of filming it. Marnie Alton, for one, realized several dreams during the production. When she was younger, she saw Pretty in Pink and thought the pink Karmann Ghia that Molly Ringwald's character drove was the coolest thing ever. She mentioned this to Michelle Paradise when they were discussing what kind of car Alton's character, Sam, should drive in the series.

"She said to me, 'Yeah, wow, that's going to be a hard one to find … probably not, but good idea,'" Alton recalled. "So we discussed a couple of other cars. Well, on our very first day of shooting in Vancouver, we're doing a shot of me as Sam sitting in a car in front of a house she's looking at. I walk up to the set, and it's a gorgeous, completely refurbished, beautifully kept cherry-red Karmann Ghia."

Later, Alton had lunch with Paradise, who mentioned she was about to go meet the music director. Alton joked, "Hey, one day in Season 7 or 8 you should put my song in your show." Alton had always kept her songwriting private, but Paradise asked for a demo.

"I didn't have a demo," Alton said. "I called in some favors, and in 45 minutes, laid down samples of my songs." Paradise and the music director liked what they heard and are using one of Alton's songs in the fourth episode.

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