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This story first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Anna Faris: When were you first inspired to create the show?
Chuck Lorre: I started the process in 1993 when I went to Elgin, Illinois, to research single moms. I was struck by the impossible nature of raising children, working and trying to have a life. What came out of that was one season of Grace Under Fire. Then I left that show for reasons we don’t have to go into now.
Allison Janney: I would like to hear!
Lorre: I’m sure you would. (Laughs.)
Janney: What is your secret to making a show about characters who are struggling with addiction funny?
Lorre: There’s an unspoken contract with the audience that promises comedy. But you can’t be glib about difficult subjects because that’s disrespectful. I think these characters represent hope for one another. The tragedy of the past is in their rearview mirror, which gives you a chance to lighten the mood.
Faris: What is your favorite episode so far?
Janney: I know that one. The season-one finale.
Lorre: Yes. It tore me up! It hit me hard, when Violet [Sadie Calvano] gives the baby up. I’ve spent 25 years chasing laughs and there I am, sobbing and trying to not let anybody see! It’s a good litmus test when you feel that deeply about fictional characters. I remember when we shot it, I was dry as could be. As soon as I was in editing, I started crying.
Faris: We talk a lot about how great it is to have such a densely packed show. We do so much in one episode.
Lorre: That’s something we talk about in the writers room, too. “Let these great actors act and let the comedy come from that as opposed to writing jokes.”
Janney: What’s the nicest feedback you’ve gotten about the show from the outside world?
Lorre: I don’t go on the street! I’m a very indoor cat. I’m terrified of social media. I’m just getting the hang of emails.
Farris: Well, feedback to me has been incredible. I’ve never done anything that touches people like this.
Lorre: That’s great. A few people have told me it’s not just something they watch — they’ve personalized it, which is a dream come true to hear.
Faris: What is your secret to juggling four shows?
Lorre: Steroids! No, great writers. It’s an inhumane task to write even one show, so each one has a staff of great comedy writers.
Faris: If the show had been Dad instead of Mom, whom would you have cast as the father and son?
Lorre: Well, that’s easy. Tony Danza and Peter Dinklage! Actually, I have no idea. It would never have been Dad. It wouldn’t be as interesting.
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