I’ll never forget the day we shot Season 2. Tallulah may not have appreciated having to share her kitchen with “circus types,” but Mhairi was thrilled. In fact, she was so excited that she greeted each and every new cast & crew member that arrived with giant hugs and little gift bags filled with candy, and of course, feathers.
It felt like a party.
I was thrilled too but if I’m honest, was still quite a bit nervous with anticipation about whether we were going to be able to pull this off or not. Our plan was to shoot the entire 8 episodes in one day, and given the unscripted nature of our show, this was no small feat. It was going to take a tremendous amount of focus, energy and determination.
I love Improv for the same reasons that I hate it: it’s scary, unpredictable and you never know what you’re gonna get, but when you hit it right, its like capturing magic in a bottle, and I was determined to capture that magic.
Mhairi and I had plotted and planned deeply for this day, we knew exactly the beats we needed to hit for each episode and I had no doubt that on her own, Mhairi would hit them all, as I had seen her do it a thousand times, but today we would be intentionally throwing ourselves a curve ball. We were throwing new characters into the mix, via new Improv actors, each with their own motivations and beats to hit and there was no way to know for sure how this dynamic would play out.
I was most nervous about introducing the Marge character, the woman Tallulah had saved from the brink in Season 1 and the sole reason for Tallulah’s messiah complex. She was an important character to be sure, but mainly I was nervous because I didn’t have a vision for her. Marge had been Mhairi’s idea, a character she described to me as a lump, depressed, and not doing much of anything, and although I trusted Mhairi completely, I had trouble seeing how that was going to be funny. (Silly me)
In an attempt to mitigate my fears, I had asked my friend and fellow Second City grad, Tami Hillberry if she would be Marge, as I figured if anyone could pull it off, it would be her.
And here we were, everyone in their places, lights ready, camera speeding, nervous excitement in the air, seconds away from filming the very first episode of Season 2, I call action, and in she walks, Marge, living and breathing. The dynamic between her and “Tallulah” was immediately perfect, Tami’s layered choices as “Marge” so obviously brilliant. I was riveted, as she was adding things I didn’t even know could be there, the perfect foil to Tallulah, making Mhairi’s already funny choices even funnier.
By the time I yelled cut I was already breathing a huge sigh of relief, followed quickly by deep and sincere gratitude. I knew I had just been blessed with the opportunity to capture magic in a bottle, the birth of yet another legendary character, which leads me to…
Industry Tip #15
Hire Tami Hillberry. I’m kidding. I know she’s not right for every role (or is she?) But seriously, your tip for the day is “cast well, and then let your actors do what they do. If you let them, they will bring you more to your characters than you even realized was there.”
And without further ado here is Episode 1 Season 2 of Feathers and Toast. We did about 3 takes of this scene but ended up using that very first one. It was perfect right from the start. (And honestly and truly Tami, I can never thank you enough for being our Marge)