Chicago improv veteran and story teller Abby McEnany is living a Cinderella story: The $30,000 pilot she created with Tim Mason and stars in, A Work In Progress, went to Sundance and is now a Showtime series set to premiere in December. Not bad for a self-identified middle-aged, fat, queer dyke who has suffered from OCD and clinical depression.
McEnany said Season 1 will continue the story of her character’s budding romance with Chris, a millennial transman portrayed by Theo Germaine.
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McEnany appeared a show panel at Showtime’s TCA day Friday with Mason and Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix franchise and Sense8 co-creator) who was brought on as executive producer and co-writer when the project was tapped for a series. The fast-talking McEnany said of the surprise success: “It’s bonkers!”
Hollywood is so new to McEnany and Mason that Mason cheerfully told assembled TV journalists: “It was written by two people who had no idea what they were going to do with it. We don’t even know who you people are.”
McEnany said she’s still nowhere close to being comfortable with life as a gender-noncomforming individual – in fact, she recounted a story of getting a confused look from a woman in the ladies’ room at TCA headquarters, the Beverly Hilton.
“To be 51 and scared of using a public bathroom, confronted, stared at, it like permeates my life,” she said. “It’s rough. It’s a bummer.”
Still, McEnany wanted to reassure the crowd that she’s made peace with one media image that has tortured her for years: Julia Sweeney’s gender-indeterminate Pat character from SNL. In fact, Sweeney appears in Work in Progress and the two have become fast friends.
“I never disliked her,” McEnany said. “I’ve been called Pat a lot, and in this storytelling show, one of the stories is that Julia Sweeney ruined my life… I’m enamored and in awe of her, but yeah, Pat was really rough. I met her, she’s lovely and we talked a lot about Pat. I love her so much.”
Wachowski, who came out in 2016, four years after her sister Lana, said her goal was not to come in and “gum up the works.”
“We’re still feeling our way,” Wachowski said. Her goal, she said, is to “fill holes” and not to tamper with the original concept, “the thing that made the thing.” Due to the tight schedule to get the series on the air in December, she said producers are having to “cross-board it” and shoot multiple episodes “like a giant movie. I’ll just continue to be a back seat driver, which I’m excellent at.”
Wachowski added that the show would tap outsiders to help inform how the how deals with sensitive subjects
“(We want to consult) other people involved in the conversation” about issues dealt with by gender nonconforming people, such as a gender identified bathrooms, and “getting the way trans people talk about their bodies, making sure all those voices are being heard.”