'The Good Place' Writer Megan Amram on Her New Web Series 'An Emmy for Megan'
"I really just thought that it was my time to transition into a multihyphenate, out of a single hyphenate," says the heretofore writer-comedian about her bold play for the outstanding actress in a shortform comedy or drama Emmy.
[This story contains spoilers from the web series An Emmy for Megan.]
Megan Amram is ready to branch out.
The comedian — currently a writer-producer on NBC's The Good Place who has also written episodes of Parks and Recreation, Silicon Valley and Kroll Show — can now add "director" and "lead actress" to her list of IMDb filter options thanks to her new, critically lauded web series An Emmy for Megan.
Released on April 27 — the deadline to qualify for September's 70th Primetime Emmy Awards — An Emmy for Megan is a trenchant, insightful take on the reasons that Megan Amram deserves an Emmy. The series' six, sub-15 minute episodes not only check off all the boxes in terms of what Amram needed to do to be considered for the outstanding actress in a shortform comedy or drama series category, but also these boxes: laughter (check), drama (check), edge-of-your-seat thrills (check).
Amram sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss her nascent acting career, her relationship with Good Place star D'Arcy Carden, and why hating her series should in no way preclude anyone from voting for it.
Why now? Why did it take so long for Megan Amram to throw her proverbial hat into the acting ring?
This is a great question. First of all, thank you so much for doing the press on this. This is all I've ever wanted. For me, it really came down to the fact that shortform categories are now part of the Emmy Awards and I feel like my real strength is shortform performances. Like, maybe I can't carry a show, but under 15 minutes seemed like a real sweet spot for me.
There have always been a lot of Creative Arts categories that may have been ripe for, uh, "outsiders," I guess, coming in. So why did the shortform category hold more appeal for you than say, outstanding commercial or outstanding lighting design?
Great question. I do watch the Emmys every year. Love them. I've been a couple times. I think that, well to just add to your first question. I have been performing onstage and in my own stuff for most of my life. But I really just thought that it was my time to transition into a multihyphenate, out of a single hyphenate writer-comedian. But in terms of this category. Two of my dear friends, Ben Schwartz and Lauren Lapkus, were both nominated for Emmys last year, [and] I thought their series [The Earliest Show] was hilarious, and I was very excited to see my friends nominated, which sort of brought it to my attention, and I hadn't realized that you could be recognized for more comedic acting — even though I obviously do both comedic and very serious acting in my series. But I think that this was a real showcase for a lot of different skills that I have, whereas with commercial, I'd only show my ability to sell a product, which I imagine I'd be amazing at. But this let me do comedic and dramatic acting and show off my musical skills and allowed me to write and direct at the same time. So I had full creative control.
I also went and took a look at the list of previous winners in this category which obviously, beyond impressive. Patrika Darbo, Jane Lynch, obviously some big shoes to fill.
Definitely. Jane Lynch is like 6 feet tall I bet she does have big shoes to fill.
Yeah! I actually had a question later about D'Arcy Carden's height so that's good because we can kind just get that out of the way.
I don't know if you'd given this any thought but if — I'll just say if for now — if you win, you'll not only be the youngest-ever winner, but only the third woman to ever win.
You're bringing up such incredible points. I think that's so inspirational when people see, like, "Oh my God, a woman — a woman — won this category." That could be so important in 2018. I think that, you know, this year politically, it can be really tough to see the sort of backsliding in social reform. That's why I think things like The Handmaid's Tale are obviously really responded to. But I think, yeah, a woman winning outstanding actress in a shortform comedy or drama would be really inspirational to all the little girls.
Yes. That was my thought too. Well, it's kind of a touchy subject, but I felt like I couldn't do this interview without bringing up D'Arcy. And I don't know if you guys have, like, talked at all since she murdered you in this series.
Yeah it's been really hard because I work with D'Arcy. We both work on the show The Good Place. But it makes it really hard that she murdered me because it has totally, like, put a rift between the two of us. We don't really talk on set, we sort of have to avoid each other, after she killed me. But that was the only part of this series that went off-script, is when she poisoned me. The rest of it was, like, super scripted — as you could probably tell watching it. That part was really unplanned, and I didn't know she was gonna do that. And it totally derailed the shooting of the series, when she murdered me, but we had to get it out by April 27th so we couldn't do any reshoots.
I don't know how much time you spent with her before that — like it seemed you guys were friends, I don't know — but did you ever wonder what she carried around in that apothecary jar before?
Yeah I just figured it was some sort of actor's thing? Like D'Arcy has been a very good friend of mine for many years before the show. But since she's been on The Good Place she's gotten really, really Hollywood. And I think I assumed that apothecary jar was some sort of Goop tincture, maybe to keep her skin looking good or maybe some sort of speed to keep her thin or something? But yeah, it never occured to me it might be poison. But I probably should have thought of that because it seems like an actor-y thing to do. And it's like the kinda thing that because I just became an actor I never would have thought of. And I guess that's now something I need to — especially if I win the Emmy, I should probably start to carry poison around in a little jar. It's how you find out who your real friends are.
Right. Like if they don't use the poison on you —
— they're your real friends.
Also, I don't know if anything's been announced officially but in my capacity as a worker person for THR I've heard rumors that HBO is actually going to do the second season of Big Little Lies as a shortform web series.
Yeah. I don't know if you feel that might affect your chances.
This is coming as a huge surprise. Because part of what I thought about this web series is, like, there wasn't that much competition. With that being said, my series is obviously really amazing and is getting a lot of amazing press like in The Hollywood Reporter. So I think my series stands alone as a really incredible work of art. But also I think people are getting sick of Big Little Lies. Like are they big? Are they little? It's really confusing. There's so many characters in it. I can't really tell, like, are they sick of the beach, do they love the beach? Feel like they didn't really get to that in season one. So hopefully, even if they are my competition, my performance stands out. And I don't really think Nicole Kidman can translate to short form. Like no offense to her. I think she's sort of like a longform actress — and she's so good, I would never say she wasn't good — but I think she kind of wouldn't have what it takes to do short form. Like they're just two different things: one's long, one's short.
I don't know if you've given any thought to campaigning. I know it's a bit early, but campaign season is going to be upon us before you know it, and I don't know if you've thought about what kind of gifts, or pastries, or catered meals that you might send to certain press outlets?
That is such a good question. I've truly been thinking about this since day one, even before the series basically is like, how is campaigning going to go? And I am willing to sink every penny of my savings into this. I now have been saving up my money for something nebulous in the future. And it became clear that this was the most important thing to ever happen to me, and I was going to really need to put my own financial backing into it. So I'm thinking billboards, bus ads, bus benches, that's a given. And I'm not sure if it's legal or not, but I'd like to find the home address of every [TV] academy member — if the academy won't given them to me maybe Cambridge Analytica has them or something — and I would like to personally visit them, introduce myself, tell them how good I am at acting, tell them that my series is great if they haven't seen it. And I also would love to get an Emmy for each of the academy voters, because I tend to think when one person wins an Emmy, everyone who voted for them truly won the Emmy that day. So like if people are selling old Emmys on eBay maybe I'll buy those and send those to the academy voters. But yeah I'm gonna really be spending a lot of money on this, and if it doesn't work out I don't know what I'm gonna do financially. I'm gonna be in a really, really big hole.
Well last thing, if there's just anything you wanna say about you web series, to the doubters out there. The haters.
To the doubters, to the haters, I'd like to say: Respect. You're entitled to your opinion, but your opinion is wrong. My series is amazing. But even if you don't like it, it's important that you vote for it. Like, like it, love it, hate it, it kinda doesn't matter as long as I win. It doesn't take that long to vote for the Emmys. You just have to log in online, find An Emmy for Megan, and there that's it you've done it. So I wanna thank everyone in advance for voting for me, and when I win it's gonna be for everyone.
That's so magnanimous. It's like you're a professional Emmy winner already. Thanks so much for talking to me. As a professional journalist I'm supposed to be impartial, you know? And I just wanna state for the record that this has absolutely nothing to do with the $500 that was just anonymously placed into my PayPal account, but I would like to fully endorse An Emmy for Megan.
Well that's so great to hear because I would really, really love an Emmy.