Ali Adler on “The New Normal” and stepping back from “Glee”


While Ryan Murphy juggles three different shows, he is lucky to have some great partners in production, including Ali Adler, his co-creator on The New Normal. NBC’s new series about a gay couple who hire a surrogate who’s also a single mom (with an incredibly bigoted mother) is smart, funny and poignant. It’s also boundary pushing, shocking and “I can’t believe they said that on television” television. Having come from Glee, Adler and Murphy have put together a group of characters that lend themselves well to stories that are more like Glee all grown up — without the musical numbers.

Just like glee club was a way for New Directions to find a home at McKinley High, the family at the center of The New Normal is also a chosen one. Instead of just accepting the family and home you’re born into, it’s about creating the supportive and loving environment you want — and accepting some of blood relatives for who they are. For so many people in America — especially those in the LGBT community — this is “the new normal.”

“I think it’s just a story of this family, and all my writers — straight or gay or indifferent — inject their own family into this family,” Adler said during the TCA NBC press tour. “So it’s my experience and Ryan’s and all of their’s. And it’s hopefully all of America’s.”

Also in the writers’ room is Karey Dornetto, the out Emmy-nominated Community and Portlandia scribe, which means there are two certified gay women involved with one of the gayest shows to hit television, which us wonder when will we see some on the show. Adler said she hopes the show runs long enough that they can “incorporate all kinds of different people.”

“Of course, lesbians are a big part of this community,” she said, “but the show is for everyone and not just for the gay and lesbian, bi and transgender and questioning community.”

Besides the two main gay male characters, Bryan and David, (played by Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha), the show stars Georgia King as Goldie, the surrogate single mom to Shania (Bebe Wood), a highly intelligent 8-year-old. The scene stealers, though, are Nene Leakes as David’s sassy personal assistant and Ellen Barkin as Goldie’s bigoted mother. All together, they create an unorthodox family brought together by the plotting of a yet-to-be-born child. When it comes to which character Ali puts her own stories into the most, she said there’s not just one.

“It’s sort of like choosing your children — which one’s your favorite?” Adler said. “I really love them all. Hopefully we injected them with enough voice that they’re equally exciting to write for.”

But when it comes to where they draw the line at some of the very un-PC dialogue, Adler said there have been times they had to cut things out, but she won’t tell me what. “It’s funny, we tend not to pull them back too much,” she said, “so hopefully what you see on TV is close to what we talked about in the writer’s room. It’s very exciting. NBC and 20th and Ryan and the staff, we’ve really tried not to censor ourselves because in life we don’t. We’re held by the standards of TV, but that’s it.”

Because she’s putting so much into The New Normal, Adler is sad to say she isn’t as big of a part of Glee as she was in Season 3. “Oh I love it so much. It’s the saddest thing to let go of. I read the scripts mostly like a fan and sometimes with a couple of ideas but mostly it’s been a very sad thing to let go of. I love Glee very much and I always will be forever in the family, I hope,” she said.

While she wouldn’t give me much on her experience in the Glee writers’ room, she did say she had a lot of insight into Santana’s coming out and her relationship with Brittany. “But the whole room definitely gives their collective experience,” Adler said. “I’m sure I had greater insight in certain areas, but we all universally contribute.”

Now that she’s part of a show she helped create, Alder likely has a little big more pull on what ends up on air, and so far it’s fun to watch and characters that are easy to love or love to hate. “I hope we’re able to reflect back a lot of people’s New Normal experience for many years,” Adler said. “I love this New Normal family I’m working with. The writing staff, the crew, Ryan — it’s been a tremendous experience for me. It’s just been so supportive.”

The New Normal premieres September 11 on NBC.