September 14th, 2010 by thetvchick
Life Unexpected returns tonight (to the CW at 9 pm) for its second season premiere and I will say it is quite sizzling. Last season, it quickly earned a top spot on my TV schedule and I am incredibly excited for tonight. One thing that stuck out for me from the beginning was just how invested I became in these characters and how every week I laughed and cried along with them. The CW would have been absolutely insane if they didn’t pick it up for a second season. Liz Tigelaar is the amazing and brilliant creator behind the show with so much heart. Every episode has her signature style on it and I admire her so much as a storyteller. All of the cast has sung her praises and I can absolutely see why. I recently had the chance to chat with her and we talked about everything from Baze’s evolution from douche bag to caring father, guest stars, Sarah McLachlan (who appears in an upcoming episode), her wonderful friendship with Julie Plec (Executive Producer of The Vampire Diaries) and what the show is really about at its core.
I’m so excited Life Unexpected is back for season 2! What does it mean to you to get a second season?
It’s amazing. I kind of can’t believe it. I figured we’d get on the air first season and be on for a few episodes and then get cancelled or something.
I kind of didn’t know what to expect. I always kind of hoped for the bare minimum. When you’re writing a pilot, you’re like “If we could just shoot it, that’d be great.” Then when you shoot it, you’re like “Well, if we could just at least air it, that’d be great,” and then you’re like “well if we could just air a few episodes, if we could just air a whole season.” Every time, your expectations get a little higher, but it means a lot. I think it means that there’s space for a show like this, definitely on the CW, but also just a show that — we don’t really have a hook or a gimmick, we don’t have cops or doctors or time travel or anything exciting, it’s just kind of a show about a family and characters. And I’m glad there’s room for it on the network and on TV in general. It means a lot and I think that a lot of the reason we got picked up was loyal fans. Even though we don’t have a billion of them, the ones that we have were really loyal and loved the show and I think that it was also the network just having faith in the show and wanting to give us another shot at getting to tell these characters’ stories. So, it means a lot. Certainly it means a lot because I love the show and I love the people involved, and I love being able to tell stories about Cate and Baze and Lux and Ryan.
Well I love watching it! And obviously this show is very personal to you. You were adopted and you’ve said there’s a part of you in each of the characters. So will we see any stories from your life appear in season 2?
(laughs) I relate to all of the stories in sort of a vague way. My life is definitely not exciting enough to be a TV show in any way, but I definitely take ideas that I think about or grapple with or struggle with in my own life and kind of give them to these characters. I think in terms of we’re bringing on Shaun Sipos, he’s playing a new character Eric, he’s a character that Lux connects with pretty much off the bat. And I think their story is definitely a story of boundaries and rules and what are arbitrary boundaries, and what are necessary boundaries and for me that’s been a story in my life that I’ve thought a lot about too. What do you do when you feel like you’re above the rules or you want to be special enough to be above the rules but you’re really not. And does that feel. And so I think a lot of those things — things from my own life play in in sort of a more thematic way, than an actual way.
That makes sense. In the first season, Lux is a really good kid, but she’s perpetually screwing up. So what can we expect from Lux this season? Will it be a newer, more mature Lux or the same old Lux that we know and love?
I think that she has matured. Even Brittany coming back having gone away and shot a movie and come back, she came back seeming more grown up. And so I think Lux has grown, and we’re going to see that. I think she comes back and she seems a little older and wiser. She’s still going to definitely make mistakes, and I think that we’re going to kind of uncover more of why Lux is the way she is and uncover more about her past. One of the things that I think is interesting about Lux is that she seems like such a put together, dream kid even though she makes mistakes and messes up, it’s not more so than any other teenager. And I think that it’s not exactly realistic to think that she hasn’t been damaged or affected by what’s happened in her past. And so I think over the course of the first thirteen at least, we wanted to explore more of what are things that really affected Lux and for instance, what led to her finally deciding I want to get emancipated. So I think that we want to explore that in season 2 and kind of all she wants to be is a normal kid. But what do you do when you feel like nothing you do will make you seem normal. So she just doesn’t feel normal inside, so how do you negotiate that, which really is a story about every teenager. I mean nobody feels normal inside, even if you had the most normal, boring upbringing ever. So I think it’s like how does she negotiate those feelings and does she embrace trying to be normal or does she shun trying to be normal. So it’s interesting. It’s really fun to dive into from a writing standpoint.
Obviously, Cate and Baze fans are dying to know how their relationship is going to change this season.
Well definitely a choice has been made, which on one hand it alters their relationship and on the other hand, it kind of doesn’t because feelings are feelings whether you make choices are not. I think that Baze has to learn to move on, but Shiri and I talk a lot about this, and Shiri always says “I think that Cate likes that Baze burst into the church of her wedding.” She likes that he loves her that much and that’s something that makes her feel good and validated and something she didn’t have in the past. And so even if she’s made her choice, I think it’s still hard to see someone move on. And so I think there’s a lot of negotiating of their relationship like having to be okay with it and everyone’s made their choices and needs to do what they need to do but I don’t think you’re ever going to feel like the Baze/Cate story — by no means is that story over, it’s just that they need to find a new dynamic with each other, and I think that what you’re going to see this season is how they actually become friends.
Definitely. And how will the side characters — Math and Bug and some of the new characters be used in season 2? Will we see a lot more of them?
Yeah, we definitely have all our old characters back from last year. We’re bringing back a lot of new characters too so we’ll be weaving in and out. Some people will appear at the beginning and go away and then come back, some people will come in half way through, second episode, third, fourth, but everyone will be back. We’ve got Jamie and Bug and Jones and Tasha and Laverne and Abby and Jack and Baze’s mom Ellen. And then we’ve got Shaun Sipos and we have Arielle and Emma and Amy, these new characters that are being brought in. And eventually we’ll have Alice back as soon as she finishes Being Erica, she’ll be Alice again. We’re just waiting for her. Every episode, I’m like “Is she done yet?” So it’s really fun. We definitely have all the old people back and then new people to weave in too. So you’re not going to get every person every single episode but it’s really good. The show feels really full and expanded.
This is for my own curiosity but are you going to continue to have the same sort of titles in season two? With the -ed at the end like Family Therapized?
Oh yeah, totally! We’re staying with the same format. It’s funny, last year we were like “what do we title the episodes?” and we didn’t know what to do, and I think Sally Patrick came up with just from Life Unexpected, she was like “What if we do it this way every time?” and we have a lot of fun thinking of them. It definitely hasn’t gotten old. We were like “Should we change it for this season?” and we were like “No, we like it.” We also like it when they’re more arbitrary like the turtle one. We have one coming up called Plumber Cracked, and it’s random and not really what the episode’s about but it makes me laugh. We have random ones, we like it.
As you mentioned, there are a lot of great guest stars, especially in the premiere, so are there any we don’t know about yet?
Well, Emma Caufield is coming in episode two. We’ll definitely have people as the season continues but she’s our big one. She’s a big deal.
I also know that Sarah McLachlan will be on the show, so can you talk a little bit about that experience?
I could talk about it forever! It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I could not have been happier. I couldn’t believe that she did the show and that she sang the song that is the most beautiful song. It was so Sarah McLachlan-y and perfect. I think it’s my favorite song I’ve ever heard of hers. It’s amazing and it just ties in this huge story that we have going on. Literally having her on our set, was like I don’t know, I don’t even know what to make of it. I think I’ve watched the dailies like every day. It was amazing. She was so talented and so beautiful and so nice. Jared Levine directed the episode and he just kept saying “This is why we do this, this is why we do this. This is a big deal.” All night we were like “Sarah McLachlan’s here.” It was really cute because when we were filming some of her close up stuff, a lot of the crew and the families had come so they were sitting out listening, and it was just amazing. It felt like you were at a real concert because the venue was so amazing. Our production designer Rachel — it was incredible what she did. When I walked up, I was like “I feel like I’m at the best music festival ever!” You know, Ben Lee was there and Rain Perry and we had all the One Tree Hill people. It was amazing all day but when Sarah McLachlan got on stage, it was definitely like we were at our own private Lilith Fair. We were hearing the same song over and over again but it’s the best song, so who cares? It’s amazing, and it reminded me of Dawson’s Creek. We used to use Sarah McLachlan on Dawson’s Creek — I say we, I was like a P.A. –
You were a part of it too!
I’m sure I had to go buy the CD or something. But we used to use her on Dawson’s and it just felt so iconic and just to have her on the show, it was amazing. I don’t know how we’re not going to make the whole episode just Sarah McLachlan singing.
Well, I would watch it.
It’s incredible. We’re going to need extra minutes.
This is more of a grand scheme question, but in your plan for the show, when you envisioned it, beyond the upcoming 13 episodes, what do you see for each character? College, new careers? What do you see in the long run?
It’s a great question which of course I don’t entirely have the answer to. I think that I’ve always just seen it as a group of people, no matter how big or small the group is, it’s this blended kind of extended family, and this group of people who make a choice every day to keep doing it together. And they’re flawed and they’re struggling, and they’re grappling and things are hard and life isn’t how it’s supposed to be, and things don’t work out the way they want all the time, but kind of at the end of it all, they’re still there. They’re still there doing it together. The show was originally called light years, and Lux means light and it was always the idea of this girl came into their lives and she changed the course of where they were going and she illuminated things about them and things were illuminated about herself because of them, and they’re different people obviously because of each other. So I always saw it as that’s the story. And who ends up with who, and what the story is on the last day that someone yells “Action” will be what the story is, but in every episode, it’s just the story of these people committed to trying with each other. No matter what, and not walking away and not giving up on their relationship, whatever form that will take with each other. And that’s the beauty of the show to me. And when I look at the shows I admire, a show like Friday Night Lights, any season could be the last season of that because each season was complete. You’re so happy that it just got to continue. I love that show. And American Dreams, a show I used work on, and I love that show more than anything, too. At any moment, it’s just a group of people who care deeply about each other.
When I think about the core of all the shows I admire, it’s not about what happened each episode, it’s about the people.
Right. It’s about how you felt. Totally. And that’s interesting. It’s easy as a writer to kind of get sucked in to what’s happening and get sucked into plot. And to lose some of the emotion of “Why are we telling this story? What’s important about this?” Why does it resonate? Why do I feel something in my heart when I hear those words or watch that scene or hear that song or all of it combined hopefully.
Yeah, that all makes sense. And you’re good friends with Julie Plec, you worked on Dawson’s Creek together.
I am! I love Julie!
I love that friendship on Twitter by the way!
(laughs) Oh my God, it’s so fun! She got mad at me the other day because I was bragging about being ahead of her. But I was like “Hey, you have giant ratings! That’s all I can brag about is being two episodes ahead of you!” I’ll take your ratings any day!
Yeah, let’s trade, it’s cool! (laughs) And obviously with your two shows, there’s not really any room for crossover. But do you think you two would ever collaborate and write an episode of Life Unexpected or The Vampire Diaries?
Oh my God, I would love it! I love Julie and Kevin. And a lot of their writers, I know and a lot of our writers know them. I always say if Life Unexpected goes down, I hope you’ll hire me. I don’t think The Vampire Diaries is going anywhere, but I’m always like “You know you have a job if you want one.” So we’re total Sunday night therapy sessions where we’re like “This is hard! What are we doing?! This is so hard! We’re scared!” It’s really fun. We’ve been going through it together pretty much from the beginning and it seems like every time we’re in Cabo together, something big happens for us. It’s always so funny. It’s been funny with this because we’re in such different places. We each have a show on the CW, but our shows are so different. Mine is a little tiny show, hers is a big huge show. Julie and I are so different as people. Julie can crank out a script midnight and have it shooting by 9 am and have it be amazing, whereas I cannot do that at all. We’re so different but at the same time, we both have the same story love and story sense. When we’ve worked together in the past, we’re always the ones kind of saying the same thing and I think that it’s been really fun to go through it with her. One of her actors, Marguerite McIntyre, who plays the Sheriff on her show, is my best friend.
Yeah, we live next door to each other, and literally share a wall. I see her every day. We get together, and Marguerite knows every single thing about my show and every single thing about Julie’s show and I’m always like “Don’t tell me what happens!” Every time we get together and they start talking, I’m like “Don’t give anything away!” And someone does, and I’m like “Ughh!” I want to watch it live, I watch it like the minute it’s on. It’s been a really nice friendship. We support each other a lot and admire each other. I admire her a lot as a writer and a person and the way she is in life. A few years ago, I was like “I want to be like Julie! I love how Julie is, I just want to be like Julie.” So I really love her, we have fun together. [Ed Note: This is probably the cutest and best friendship ever! For the record, I personally want to be like Liz and Julie.]
Well maybe you have to plan a trip to Cabo right around when when the 13 episodes are over.
Right around pickups, around the back nine. I wish I could tear away. They’ll get an extra 13 and we’ll end up getting cut. They’re like “Why don’t you double air in Life Unexpected’s slot and and we’ll just cut them.”
No, no, no! Don’t say that! And what has been the most surprising moment for you working on Life Unexpected?
There have been individual moments that have been amazing, like walking onto our sets being built for the first time was so surreal. I just couldn’t believe it. Obviously, the Sarah McLachlan thing was incredible, and Ben Lee who I’ve been obsessed with forever. I think just in a way everything about it has just been so surprising. I think one of the biggest things from last season was just the critical response. It was just so nice. Not that every review was favorable. Believe me, we got plenty of not favorable reviews. But that the critics liked it was just surprising to me and encouraging. I’m still shocked by it. I feel a lot of pressure not to let people down.
I can tell you with my experience, the premiere did not let me down at all.
Well, I’m so glad. I spent a lot of time worrying about it.
Aw, well I am sure it will go over really well. And what has been the biggest challenge for you?
The biggest challenge is kind of the relentlessness of the schedule. Right now, we’ve kind of been given a mandate to broaden out the show. But we only shoot seven day episodes. It’s really, really hard, It’s really hard on the crew, it’s really hard on the director, it’s really hard on the actors. It’s hard on the writers. It’s just asking for so much in such a small amount of time. Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to do your best work in this process. Imagine what stories you could tell if you took two or three weeks to break one episode instead of one and a half weeks. How intricate you could make stuff. So I think a little bit of the biggest challenge to me is kind of the assembly line nature of television, of feeling like you’re cranking out this product and suddenly because of the schedule, you have to shoot it when you have to shoot it, not necessarily when you feel it’s ready. I would say that’s the biggest challenge. And the other thing is just for me personally, the biggest challenge is really wanting to maintain a show that I personally connect with, and not letting it become something that I don’t connect with. Because I don’t know how to write something that I don’t feel really connected to. I know how to write on a staff of something I don’t feel connected to, but not to create something and be responsible for something I don’t feel connected to. So it’s definitely been a challenge to keep myself connected and to want to make sure that on some level, it feels like for me, it’s coming from my heart. That’s hard to do in the assembly line nature of it.
Yeah, definitely. All the cast that I’ve spoke to has sung your praises. They love working with you. And one thing they all said overwhelmingly is how collaborative you are, and how they bounce ideas back and forth with you. So are there any ideas that came from the cast that you are incorporating in season two?
Oh definitely! It can be little things and big things. Kerr joining the show changed the whole scope of the show. It was never going to be a triangle with Cate, Baze and Ryan. So that was completely Kerr. And I think giving Ryan’s character a little — because he wasn’t originally conceived from the start, it took a while in season one to kind of ramp him up. He wasn’t as present in the beginning because we never had intended him to be that present. Kerr wanted to kind of dirty up Ryan for a while, so we always kind of said we’re going to get there. We all kind of had an agreement between us. Let’s kind of get there naturally. Not that we’re even dirtying him up, we’re just making him human. I still think he’s the perfect guy but it doesn’t mean everything he does is perfect. So that’s been a real collaboration with Kerr. With Shiri, she just has all sorts of ideas. We spent a couple of weeks together in New York over hiatus, and all we did was talk about ideas for the show. We came up with a whole flashback sequence that we are filming now that Shiri and I sat and talked about. A lot of how Cate’s feeling towards Ryan and towards Baze and towards Lux, I think come from Shiri. Kris, we wanted to make the character, we always expected Baze to be an immature douche bag. But first season, when we saw how paternal he was in real life, and how much he connected with Lux even in the pilot, we started writing to that. Instead of just being a guy who didn’t want to be a dad, which is kind of how I envisioned it, that he was doing stuff a little more out of guilt and obligation but not a deep want within him. It really became a guy who has the deep want, but just is incapable of stepping up. So that’s a very different tone. So I think that Kris really infused the character with that. And Brittany can do no wrong. Just put the camera on her face and let her go. But Brittany’s great at tracking where her character is emotionally and where she’s coming into things and she’ll throw out ideas as a question and as soon as she says it, you’re like “Oh wait a minute, yeah!” That’s the biggest thing about the cast, I feel like everybody cares so much. I think that the cast, with the exception of Brittany, is old enough and had enough experiences to know that when an opportunity like this comes along, you want to make the most of it. Shiri and Kerr have already had their own show success, Kris has done a lot but hasn’t gotten to sink his teeth into this big character consistently on TV until now. And Brittany’s star’s just on the rise. She’s just starting out, but with the older — and by older I mean like 30s — but with the older actors, I feel like there’s a level of appreciation that they have that they also can kind of communicate to the younger actors, “Hey this doesn’t come along every day.” This type of group and this connection and the material hopefully, and the concept and just that it’s rare that it clicks like this. So I think everybody is just really enjoying it and wants to collaborate and really cares. There is not a single person who shows up and doesn’t care. And they wouldn’t be on the show, it would never happen. So it’s amazing. They are a group of people that care so much.
Well it definitely shows a lot. And I know you can’t spoil too much, but can you give us a little teaser of what’s coming up and maybe what the theme of season 2 is?
Season 2 is very much like “Who am I now? Who am I now that I got everything that I got everything that I wanted?” or “Who am I now that I’ve been adopted?” or “Who am I now that I’m a wife or a mom and a stepdad?” or “Who am I now that I’ve lost everything?” So I think it’s questions like that. So I think all the stories kind of fall under the umbrella of that theme. I think there’s going to be a new relationship with Baze. I think that Cate and Ryan are going to find out that Baze was not their biggest problem. For Lux, I think her world gets opened up and she kind of has this connection with somebody that she’s not supposed to. And I think for Lux a lot of familiar faces return and we’re really kind of uncovering who she is and what happened and why she is the way she is. And finding out more about Ryan and his past, and kind of what his damage is. Why does he want to be with a fucked up person like Cate? There has to be something to that. So what’s his deal? What’s his problem? Why doesn’t he walk away? Why does he always want more from her than he wants to give?
Do not miss tonight’s AMAZING season premiere at 9 pm on the CW!Tweet