Pamela Adlon on 'Better Things' Without Louis C.K. and #MeToo: "This Show Is Therapy"

"I like now that I'm in a place where I hire people and I create a safe space," said the creator and star of the FX comedy at the Television Critics Association's press tour on Monday.
Beth Dubber/FX
'Better Things'

Pamela Adlon is opening up about making Better Things without Louis C.K.

At the Television Critics Association's press tour on Monday, the creator and star of the critically acclaimed FX comedy — which returns for its third season on Feb. 28 — addressed a question from a reporter in the crowd about how the show is different without her former writing and producing partner, who was quickly removed in 2017 after admitting to sexual misconduct brought to light in a New York Times exposé.

"It's different in the fact that I didn't have him as the only person to write with," Adlon said onstage. Instead, she would write story ideas in a drafts folder on her phone and then later convene with four other writers to bounce the ideas around. "It was a head-cracking, amazing experience for me. I'd never been in a writers room, let alone run a writers room. But I loved it," said Adlon, adding, "This show is therapy."

Adlon also described the experience as a "revelation" because there were certain things she hadn't been ready to put in the show yet. She went on to detail one scene in the upcoming season's fifth episode called "Girls Night," where her character goes out to a restaurant with her girlfriends. It was actually the first scene Adlon had ever written for the show. When she and C.K. were first coming up with ideas for the pilot, they'd decided to each write an idea and then call each other and run through them. When Adlon pitched hers, C.K. told her, "That's the voice of your show." Still, she didn't use it in the first two seasons because she didn't want her character to have that kind of "break" when her kids were still young.

In the forthcoming season of the show, Adlon also tackles issues related to #MeToo, in particular the idea that abuse of power isn't always sexual in nature. "I have been working since I was 9 years old, so I've seen everything," she said. "The thing that is kind of this ugly air that hangs around so many ... is abuse of power: people being rude, people in an upper echelon position mismanaging, wasting peoples' time, hurting people emotionally and psychologically." Adlon recalled a friend of hers who was working for a high-powered woman in the 1980s and stories of the boss throwing coffee pots.

She explained that putting "terrible things like that" in the show was important for her. "When I was 19, I'd already seen some shit," Adlon said, revealing that she was only 15 years old when she did an independent movie where the director asked her to drop her towel because he thought it would be funny for people to see her naked behind. "I like now that I'm in a place where I hire people and I create a safe space ... I'm trying to make a model for a kinder, gentler workplace," she said. "It doesn't have to be this scary thing."