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The writers of CBS’ Mom had to deal with two shocking exits last season. During the summer, star Anna Faris surprised fans when she announced that she was leaving the sitcom after seven seasons, with her character’s departure explained in the season eight premiere. Then, with just a few episodes left to shoot, the team behind the Warner Bros. show, executive produced by Chuck Lorre, learned that the season would be its last.
Continuing its shift from the family dynamics of Faris’ Christy and her mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney), Mom became even more of an ensemble that centered on Bonnie, her friends and her fellow recovering alcoholics.
“One of the things that was hard about the show ending in this season is we had found a new rhythm and a new way of going at our storytelling, and we were having a really good time doing it, so it was hard to stop,” says Mom co-creator Gemma Baker. “And we really felt like we had so many more stories to tell.”
Baker spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about crafting a meaningful, realistic ending for the sitcom’s characters while dealing with the emotions of the series coming to an end.
How much of a challenge was it to write out Anna Faris’ character, and how did this affect the larger arc of the season?
We absolutely loved having Anna Faris at the center of our show for seven seasons, so of course when she left it was a huge loss. In the seasons leading up to our last season, there had been an organic shift that happened, where the show had become more of an ensemble, so we were able to lean into that and go deeper with our other characters.
Was there anything you weren’t able to do with these characters or spend as much time on that you wish you could have?
When we found out that we weren’t coming back for another season, I think we only had five more episodes left to shoot, and two of those were already written. The last three were bringing this home, and probably the Jill [Jaime Pressly] storyline was a little more rushed than it would have been had we had more time. I think if we had known at the beginning of the season that this was going to be the last one, we would have done things differently and taken more time with certain stories. We did something that we didn’t usually do, which is that we jumped time in the last three episodes, so Jill and Andy (Will Sasso) got back together, and then a couple months passed and she found out she was pregnant, and then in the last episode a couple of months had passed again.
As you were trying to come up with satisfying endings for these characters, what was your larger goal in terms of plotting where they would end up?
Because of the nature of the show, it didn’t feel truthful to have an ending where everything is tied up in a perfect bow, because the show has always really been about reality and characters being in recovery and showing up for life on life’s terms. Sometimes these terms are good and sometimes they’re not so good, but it’s these women showing up for life no matter what, sober and together. We wanted to tie up some loose ends, which I actually think we did a lot of in the penultimate episode. That’s where we first find out that Jill’s dream of becoming a mother is happening, and we were able to have Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) and her son reach a deeper part in their relationship and show that he had a new level of forgiveness and understanding of his mother. We also got to see Bonnie really come to appreciate Marjorie on a deeper level and recognize how much Marjorie means to her, and Tammy [Kristen Johnston] started this new relationship, and Wendy [Beth Hall] took a risk and, hopefully, you got the sense that was something she was going to do more of in her life as well. That episode in a way was part of the finale. This show started with the idea of doing a sitcom that was about redemption and hope, and I think the finale really spoke to that. There was the redemption of seeing how much Bonnie had changed over eight seasons and the hope of passing recovery forward to two newcomers.
As you look back on this season, is there a scene or a line or an episode that you’re particularly proud of or that really moved you?
I really loved the billboard episode where the women discover an old photo of Christy as a stripper is still being used as an ad for the strip club where she worked 20 years ago, and they take care of that for her because they were afraid that would get in the way of her career as a lawyer. And Bob Odenkirk had a wonderful scene with Allison Janney where he played the manager of the strip club. It was a delight to have him. I also really loved the scene in the finale where the women are talking about how much their lives have changed and the newcomer [an addict played by Melanie Lynskey] can’t imagine they ever had problems and they were able to explain how far they’d come. I felt like that spoke to their recovery and how much we’ve seen them grow. The audience got to see those changes happen in real time, and they remember what those characters were like. It was almost like a mini clip show in that you can remember those scenes in your mind of what they were like in earlier seasons.
Were there any storylines this year that were particularly challenging?
Well, the season premiere was challenging in terms of how we were going to deal with Christy’s absence. But nothing was harder than the finale, because we wanted to bring the show to a close in a way that was meaningful and that did the best for our characters and the cast and our audience. At the same time, a lot of us were having a hard time because we had suddenly found out that this thing that we really loved doing with people we really loved was coming to an end. One of the many things I will miss about working with [co-showrunner Nick Bakay] is he always had these great sports analogies and often talked about “playing hurt,” so if one of the writers was going through something personal but they were coming to work and doing their best, he would acknowledge them for playing hurt, and in the finale, we were all playing hurt in a way.
Mom was one of the few broadcast sitcoms revolving around multiple women over the age of 40. What do you hope people take away from that?
Our cast was so incredible. We would often say we had an embarrassment of riches with our cast, such phenomenal actors and people, whom I already miss very much. We love writing for older characters because they are deep and rich and complicated because of age and experience, and our actors are the same.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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