October 17th, 2012 by thetvchick
Suburgatory is back tonight and if you haven’t been watching, now is a great time to start. I realize the name is a little odd and it’s on a network where Modern Family and Happy Endings are the critical darlings, but Suburgatory is brilliant and highly underrated. It’s hilarious and full of heart. Ana Gasteyer plays Sheila Shay, neighbor to George and Tessa (our protagonist family). Sheila and her husband Fred (played by SNL costar Chris Parnell) have a favorite child, a barn full of secrets and are never afraid to stick their nose in their neighbors’ business. Hilarity always ensues. I recently had the chance to chat with Gasteyer, who talked about what she loves most about playing Sheila Shay, her SNL costars on the show and what’s coming up for the Shay family in the big premiere and beyond.
What have you loved most about playing Sheila Shay?
What I’ve loved the most, from an acting standpoint, has been that the well has been so much deeper than I ever would have given credit for it when I did the pilot. (laughs) I mean, there’s been just so much more to do there. I just think a lot of times those characters, neighbor characters and women characters, get kind of written off in sort of a one-note stereotype and we’ve had such a fun times examining, she’s all about relationship, and that’s the most interesting thing to me as a performer. You know, how I relate to my husband, how I relate to my daughter, how I relate to my son, how my son’s behavior impacts me, how I relate to George. It’s really fun to be judgmental too because it just makes me laugh. All of that has been great because Emily is an amazing writer and she’s very dimensional in the way she approaches all of it. We have a lot happening this season, the poor Shay family really gets pushed to the limit. (laughs) and Patty Breen was like, “Ohhh the Shays are coming unglued!” [she's] one of our writers [who said that] when we were shooting this very sad scene. And we were shooting this huge volcanic moment in their family and Emily was laughing. It was so funny, we went back behind the monitor and her eyes were all teary and she was like, “It’s so funny! It’s so sad!” And to me, very few people embrace that about these kind of characters. Usually you’re just knocking on the door and whatever, just delivering information that helps the writers at some point. (laughs) So it’s been very fun to, fun is too diminished a word, it’s been incredible just to be able to be in that dynamic. And frankly, I just love my little Shay family. I love Allie Grant. I love Parker Young. I obviously love Chris Parnell, and we have so many days on the set now where it’s just the little funny Shays. It’s like, “Oh, it’s a Shay day! Good, good!” People all over set will come to us, if we’re getting notes or whatever, and they’ll be like, “Hey Shays, so you guys need to be walking in about 15 minutes” or whatever it is, you know, it’s hilarious because people are just constantly calling us just Shays in a group. Allie and I have, you know how in TV like whenever they’re breaking down the schedule for the day and they always do this little one line description of what the scene is, and Allie and I have this thing now where we keep them and circle them because they make us laugh so hard because they’ll just say like, “Sheila comes unglued. Lisa has gout.” (laughs) Hilarious Shay descriptions.
The premiere was hilarious and Lisa is going to have some leverage on her parents, what can you share about that?
Isn’t it exciting? It’s great. But again, I do have to say about Emily Kapnek, she’s such a dynamic writer. Most people would have a situation, but she explores that situation, she’s constantly moving it forward. Last season we definitely were exposed to the fact that Lisa was the low man on the totem pole. It’s pretty much unapologetic in their family. I mean, they clearly just like Ryan better. It’s not really a question. (laughs) I don’t know if you ever have the opportunity, this is like one of those awesome little details that’s not really mentioned, they have their Shay family photos up on the mantle…
Yeah, the proof!
Yes! (laughs) I love that every time I see it. It’s like, “Oh, just get that one. I’m not gonna pay for it!” And that’s sort of like their status. She’s gonna explore that status to the end of its little rainbow, and then use it against us. It plays out, it’s really cool. They play out the back half of regret around that and having used it. So it’s really cool how they’re doing it.
And a big part of the premiere was the Fall Follies, and I thought the Shays’ performance was unbelievably amazing and hilarious.
(laughs) Thank you! We really worked hard.
How fun was that to film?
It was insane. I have done so much with Chris Parnell over the years that I forget how crazy it is, but I’m just so comfortable with seeing him in a cat suit. And by cat suit, I mean outfit dressed as a cat, not like Catwoman. It just makes me laugh, how many variations of Chris Parnell I know at this point. So yeah, we fell right into our old routine. We have another one coming up soon with some musical notes to it that’s pretty crazy.
We saw Jane Levy sing at the end of the premiere, do you think we might hear you sing some more on the show?
We might a little. We have something coming up, but I’ve been having to work on how Sheila would sing.
Different from how you would sing, I’m sure.
It’s a little complicated, yeah, finding Sheila’s inner voice. It’s interesting, we actually have a ton of musical performers on our show, so they probably are going to exploit that at a certain point. Jeremy has an album out, he’s kind of an alt-rocker. Parnell’s a really good, very musical guy. Allie is a great folk singer, and Jane. So yeah, we all sing.
Hopefully we’ll see it on the show soon.
So I know Tim Meadows and Rachel Dratch are coming on. Is there anyone that you would just love to get on the show?
You know, I just had so much fun with both of them. I loved that. A lot of times creators are shy about putting people from the same kind of association together like that, but it’s great because [Emily] has really embraced it. Again, I think Emily knows that when there’s a good energy between performers, fun stuff happens. I had so much fun with both of those performers. And then my daughter acutally plays myself, she plays Young Sheila, in the Halloween episode, which was a totally fun surprise. It’s just a little series of flashbacks, so that was a really great experience for me as a mom.
Oh, of course. Yeah, I’m sure she had a blast too.
You obviously work most with Parnell and Allie and Parker Young. Is there someone that you would just love to have a scene with or go head-to-head with on the show?
I had one, really funny scene last year with Carly, and it was really small but we had such a good time. It just makes me laugh, the idea of Sheila Shay interacting with Dalia. And I would love working with Cheryl. I love my cast. That’s actually one of the nicest things. There are a million nice things about Subugatory, but it is such a good cast, any given week that I could be thrown with Alan or with Cheryl or with Carly at any given time. Every day, you’re like, “Oh, good! It’s a Jane Day!” or “It’s a Carly day!”. It’s really fun.
Yeah, Sheila and Dalia are like polar opposites so I’d love to see more of them together.
They’re oil and water. (laughs)
I know you can’t spoil too much, but what’s coming up for the Shay family post-premiere? After the Ryan and his adoption story?
AG: They’re really gonna explore this whole family secrets thing. We’re going down a terrible, dark, murky road. It’s a barn-burner.
Literally, a barn-burner after the shed.
After the shed is burned, unfortunately the secret doesn’t die. (laughs) So it’s going to be a long, sad fall for the Shays.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 9:30 to ABC for the season premiere of Suburgatory!Tweet