Left to right: Kevin Bishop (Richard Royce), Lauren Ash (Marika), Executive Producer John Riggi,
Rebel Wilson (Kimmie), Executive Producer Conan O'Brien, Liza Lapira (Helen-Alice)
Much attention has been paid to the fact that Conan O’Brien will be an executive producer on ABC’s new comedy Super Fun Night, starring Rebel Wilson. On Sunday at the Television Critics Association Summer Tour, the cast and producers shed a bit of light on how that pairing came about, as well as what you can expect Wednesdays 9:30|8:30c on ABC.
Wilson had previously been a guest on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show, and simply blew him away with her presence. “When the show was over,” O’Brien said, “I walked over to [the executive producer] and said, ‘I want her back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.’ She’s one of the more likeable performers I’ve ever seen.”
So with O’Brien itching to work with her, Wilson started fleshing out an idea for a sitcom. She used to have “Friday Night Fun Night” with her sister, Liberty, where they’d stay in and watch movies, or play games -- but whatever it was, it was always in the comfort of their own home. Slowly, they started to branch out and go out on the town to see what was waiting for them in the world out there. That personal experience became the kernel of the show concept.
She took it to O’Brien and he was in. “I work with a lot of women, and I would tell them the idea and they would say, ‘That is my experience. There are so many of us who grew up together with our girlfriends, and being afraid to break that bond and of what’s outside that world,’” O’Brien said.
Left to right: John Riggi, Lauren Ash, Rebel Wilson, Liza Lapira, Kevin Bishop, Conan O'Brien
“The purpose of the show to me is to really inspire girls who don’t think they’re cool, or popular, or pretty and all that, to get out there, and that they can have fun and exciting lives too,” Wilson said. “And I think that in order to do that you need to present a very realistic version of what it’s like to be a girl who looks like me and is not the coolest.”
In putting herself out there, Wilson’s character, Kimmie, faces a lot of harsh words from that outside world -- but that’s by design. Wilson said she’s often the one pitching sad storylines in the writers’ room, but she believes that Kimmie facing a lot of adversity makes her successes that much more gratifying. “Rebel writes these [nasty] lines that people fire at her,” O’Brien said. “She’s absolutely fearless.”
When the panel was asked whether there were fears that the show would tilt into cruelty, executive producer John Riggi and O’Brien both praised Wilson’s ability to walk the tightrope between harsh realities and heartwarming comedy. “She has an unerring ability to hit that balance,” O’Brien said. “You sometimes cringe when you see her going through something embarrassing, but she’s so winning and she’s so likeable, and you root for her so much that you’re in this with her. And when she survives, and achieves her goal, it’s exciting.”
Riggi said that Wilson had her mission statement written on an orange Post-It note, and that every day the writers’ room strives to write toward that goal. “At the end of the day, Kimmie’s saying, ‘I get to have my shot,’” Riggi said. “All three of them are saying, ‘We get to have our shot. We get to stand up to the plate and take our swing just like everyone else.”