Interview With the Women of “Jackie Woodman”

The first season of IFC’s half-hour comedy The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman was hailed by Time as "the kind of drawling feminist sarcasm rarely seen since Roseanne left sitcomdom." Created by writer and comedian Laura Kightlinger (Will & Grace, Saturday Night Live), who also stars as the title character, Minor Accomplishments returns this Sunday for its second season, kicking off with a truly lesbionic premiere episode.

The series follows Jackie Woodman, an aspiring screenwriter, and best friend Tara (Nicholle Tom), a production assistant, as they ineptly attempt to build their struggling careers in Hollywood. In this season’s premiere, titled "Dykes Like Us," Jackie and Tara are mistaken for lesbians and quickly discover that their new Sapphic status might help them get ahead, so they decide to fake it as long as they can.

An episode like "Dykes Like Us," written by Kightlinger and David Punch, might easily have veered into offensive territory, but it’s clear that Kightlinger and Tom (who played Maggie Sheffield for six years on The Nanny) are familiar with the hallmarks — or stereotypes — of lesbian culture.

When I chatted with them last month after IFC’s press conference at the Television Critics Association press tour, they easily bantered back and forth about lesbians, feminism and wearing a mullet wing to the dog groomer’s, demonstrating that this is one show that certainly deserves a lesbian following.

AfterEllen.com: Where did the inspiration for the premise behind "Dykes Like Us" come from?
Laura Kightlinger: First of all, a lot of the smart, powerful writers that I know — the ones that are female — are lesbians, and they are really well-off, and … I feel like I’m maybe on the fringe as a straight person. And I don’t even know why I’m still straight. I still have not figured out what’s so great about c-o-c-k, in many ways.

Nicholle Tom: C-o-c-k, oh. I had to spell that out. [Laughter.] I had to think about that one.

LK: Anyway, about men, just in general, I haven’t had a lot of luck.

NT: Oh, come on.

LK: It was really based on that. One of the showrunners of Will & Grace, Jhoni Marchinko, who’s very inspirational to a lot of women writers … Jhoni and Roseanne [Barr], they’re like the two women in the business that have given me a break. I guess that was it. There is a certain affluent lesbian lifestyle out here that I am sometimes allowed on the fringes of [laughs] just because I’m a writer, you know.

AE: So there really is some sort of powerful lesbian cabal running Hollywood?
LK: I wish they were running Hollywood, ’cause then I think I’d work more. No, but I think they’re making great television, the ones I know.

NT: I know some construction people. The one that did my house and tore it down. My best friend ran off with her.

AE: Lesbian construction workers?
NT:
Yeah.

LK: Nicholle … goes for the more blue-collar lesbian; I go for the moneyed lesbians.

NT: Oh, I wanna get in with the moneyed lesbos though, I really do.

LK: Hey, is that offensive? Lesbo?

NT: Is lesbo offensive?

AE: I don’t think so, although some people might think it’s offensive. The thing is, your episode could have been offensive, but I thought it was just really spot-on.
LK:
She’s talking about the island, anyway. [Laughter.]

AE: So how did you avoid making it offensive?
LK:
No one wore flannel shirts.

NT: There were flannel shirts.

LK: There were?

NT: When we went to the picnic.

LK: Oh, damn, you’re right. … Well you know what? I did personally make an executive decision. I didn’t have anybody playing acoustic guitar at that picnic.

NT: And there weren’t any dogs.

LK: Yes, yes.

NT: I wanted dogs to be there.

AE: No cats?
LK:
I’m a cat lady. I’m four cats in.

NT: Big dogs.

LK: Is that another cliché? Lesbians with big dogs?

NT: Well yeah, I thought that I heard you say that.

LK: Oh yeah, Sabrina Matthews, first of all who’s fantastic — very funny comic —

AE: Yeah, I wanted to ask how you cast her in the role of Mel, the car salesperson.
LK:
I’ve known Sabrina for a long time, doing stand-up and stuff. Her timing’s great; I just thought she’d be perfect. And she was — she was very funny.

NT: Who was the girl who played the curly-haired girl? I like her.

LK: Oh yeah, Morgan Murphy was great. Yeah, we had so many great women in that episode.

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