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CBS’ Murphy Brown revival features a more inclusive cast than the original version of the series, with new additions like Nik Dodani (who plays tech genius Pat Patel) and Phil’s staffer Miguel (Adan Rocha).
Additionally, it was recently announced that Merle Dandridge will play Murphy and Co.’s arrogant network boss.
During a panel discussion with star Candice Bergen at Paleyfest NY on Saturday night, Murphy Brown creator and showrunner Diane English explained that she felt it was important the revival better reflect the U.S. today.
“We were a pretty white show back in the day,” English said during the discussion moderated by entertainment journalist Chris Witherspoon. “So when we came back we decided we were not going to make that mistake again. Our show needs to look like the rest of the country. So far I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
As for Rocha’s Miguel, who’s quickly identified as a “Dreamer” and is alarmed by the mention of “ice,” English said that she wanted the revival to feature someone affected by DACA and teased that the show’s Thanksgiving episode “has a lot to do with immigration, so it’s a good episode for him.”
Earlier, Bergen praised the Thanksgiving show, which she pointed out airs on the actual holiday, saying it “swings from hilarious comedy — not slapstick but close — and ends in tears.”
She called it “very powerful” and urged the audience not to miss it.
Viewers of the revival have also reacted strongly, Bergen said, to scenes between Murphy and her son Avery, played by newcomer Jake McDorman, replacing the actors that played Avery as a child (a group that included a young Haley Joel Osment).
Bergen explained that she and English auditioned actors to play the grown-up Avery and were underwhelmed by their options until McDorman showed up.
“We were like, ‘That’s our guy.’ He just has everything. He’s totally comfortable in his own skin. He has a great sense of humor. He misses nothing. And people are responding to him, in droves,” Bergen said.
She added, “Diane and her writers write great scenes between Murphy and Avery, and they really ring true. They’re a little off-center because Murphy’s such a weird mom, and there’s never any food in the house. She’s almost liable for social services. I think it’s that they’ve found an original voice between a mom and a son, and everyone that I hear from comments on the scenes in the townhouse between the two of us.”
Those townhouse scenes also feature a cheeky pillow sitting on Murphy’s couch, which reads, “Tired-Ass Honky Ho,” a description that was given to Bergen herself by an Instagram troll that she enjoyed so much she made it her Instagram bio. Bergen explained that she asked English and the set designer if they could put it on a pillow for Murphy.
And while it’s caught the eye of viewers, with English saying, “People have asked where they can get one,” the prop also drew scrutiny from CBS’ standards and practices department, English said.
“They came to the stage, taking pictures of it,” she recalled. “I said it was an Instagram thing, and we talked them into it. So now it’s just prominently featured.”
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