Despite having had minimal contact since the TV adaptation of "Clueless" went off the air in 1999, Stacey "Dionne" Dash would never say no to onscreen boyfriend Donald "Murray" Faison — unless, of course, the script called for it.
"As soon as my agent said, 'There's an offer for you to work with Donald Faison on his TV show,' I was like, 'Hell yeah.' I would never say no to Donald," Dash told Yahoo! TV when she was on "The Exes" set last April to film an episode that airs July 10 on TV Land. "Even though we haven't worked together since 'Clueless' and have only seen each other a few times in the last 14 years, he will always hold a special place in my heart. I wouldn't miss the chance to work with him again. Then when I heard that I would be playing a recommitted virgin that he hits on, I was like, 'F--- yeah, where do I sign?'"
The idea to reunite the "Clueless" couple was suggested by a TV Land executive last season, according to Faison, who plays lead character Phil on the half-hour comedy about divorced friends re-entering the single life. "She was, like, 'Wouldn't it be dope if Stacey Dash was on the show?' I don't think the writers heard her, so she pitched it again for this season, and everyone automatically, said, 'That's a great idea.' They asked me what I thought and I was, like, 'F--- yeah.' Excuse my language, but I was superexcited about the idea."
When Dash came in to rehearse, the old friends picked up where they left off. "It's like we've never been apart," she said, and Faison added, "All sorts of things come flooding back. That chemistry, that connection was instant. She walked into the room, I hugged her and I was, like, 'I remember this. This does work well.'"
Producer Mindy Schultheis knew they'd made the perfect casting choice from the minute the two reunited. "You felt it at the table read. You could tell they went back a long time and that they'd work well together, because there was a chemistry and a shorthand between them that people who just met don't have."
The shorthand bled into their joint interview as well. They constantly set each other up for jokes, finished a few thoughts when the other paused, and marveled sarcastically at the people they'd become. "I am so grown now. Stacey, how grown am I? Keep it real," Faison queried as he flexed his arm and leg muscles. Upon her admitting that he "went and got thick" on her, the expectant father added, "I am such a man. You heard it from the girl who knew me when."
Dash plays Dana, a woman Phil tries to hook up with at a bar only to find out that she is a born-again virgin. Still hoping to score, Phil claims he is also practicing a return to abstinence.
"He thinks I'm a sexy chick, picks me up, and brings me home. Because I've lived hard and had a wild past, I've decided to make a vow to live a more traditional lifestyle. I have recommitted to being a virgin," Dash explained. "God bless this character, because she's been doing it for two years, and that is an accomplishment. I gave up sex for Lent and I was a mess by 40 days. I was like a cat in heat if you just brushed up against me."
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Faison chimed in, "And my character lies and says that I'm doing the same thing. At that moment in real life, I don't know that I would have done anything different. Seriously, she looks like someone Phil would like to get to know biblically and maybe for a long period of time, so he is willing to try to recommit to virginity as well. But it's a sitcom, so you know how well that works out for Phil. Not well, and hilarity ensues. She's the first lady of the season for my character."
Dash was moved by the realization. "That's sweet. It's nice to be your first onscreen again."
The duo's "Clueless" characters were also preoccupied with getting some. At first, Dionne proclaimed that her man was "sat-is-fied" despite not going all the way, and after a near-death experience on an L.A. freeway, her "virginity went from technical to nonexistent." But despite the plot similarity, Faison doubts the writers dreamed up this episode as a nod to Amy Heckerling's film. "To be honest, I didn't even remember that our characters were virgins or that it was a big deal. I think they just thought it would be a funny situation for Phil to get himself into."
Dash interrupted, "How could you not remember that? Dionne loved Murray so much and it was a really big step for our characters to do it."
Faison called her out as only a friend can get away with. "Don't even play like you remembered. You just remembered when she brought it up. I saw it in your face. You got the 'Wait, oh yeah, that's right' face."
Schultheis backed up Faison's theory. "This role was right for Stacey and it is a nod to their 'Clueless' relationship, but it wasn't created in a wink-wink way. Don't get me wrong. It was a great movie and bringing this memorable onscreen couple together again is an added bonus for fans of the movie, but it was less about staging a reunion and more about these two loving each other, wanting to get her on the show and finding the right role at the right time."
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All involved also promise that you don't have to be a fan of Dee and Murr to enjoy the guest spot, which is left open-ended enough that Dana could feasibly return, and Dash quickly realized that was a good thing. "The wardrobe woman here didn't know we'd worked together before and had never seen 'Clueless.' That's crazy. I thought everyone had seen it by now. It inspired a generation."
Faison concurred and added, "People who loved 'Clueless' as teenagers are sharing it with their kids, and some of their kids have kids now, too, which is crazy. It makes you feel old. Especially when a 12-year-old comes up to you and says, 'You were in my mom's favorite movie.' Or worse, they say, 'My grandma's.'"
"The Exes" airs Wednesdays at 10:30 PM on TV Land.
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