Starz officially won me over with Party Down, so I was excited to see what else the network had to offer. Gravity is a new series starring Krysten Ritter (of “Breaking Bad” and “Gilmore Girls” fame) about a suicide support group. Each member of the group tried to kill themselves in some way — some hilarious ways, others heartbreaking, and some we are just beginning to discover. The third episode is tonight and already it’s off to a great start. When I first heard about this series, I wasn’t sure what to think. However, I think death is a topic that isn’t addressed enough on TV. Gravity injects humor where necessary and serious moments as well, and I think the balance is just right. I recently had the chance to chat with the lovely creator, Jill Franklyn, who talked about the casting process, her inspiration for the show and why she had to change the name to Gravity.
What was your inspiration behind creating Gravity?
I was having a bad day. I don’t mean to make light of it. I’m not going to give you the laundry list of what was going on, but it was during the writers strike in ’07 when I came up with it. And just my dog, and there was just all this stuff, so I went to this dark place which I sometimes do–which for me, creatively is really good. And so I also was thinking about, because it was the writers strike and I knew coming back from the writers strike, that it was going to be really hard to sell something, and you really had to come up with something different. So I was trying to think of territories that no one had ever approached and so I started thinking about death, as I do, because I’ve written a lot of stories about people that are in comas, and I made them humorous. So I just started thinking about crazy ways of people trying to off themselves and it started to come alive. I started to see the faces of the characters, they had names, I had a title for the show. And then what happened was I called up my agent and I was already going out with three shows. And I called up my agent and said I have one more show I want to go out with, and they said “Okay, what is it?” and I said “I call it ‘Suicide for Dummies’” and it’s going to be a comedy about suicide, and there was dead silence on the phone.
“Are you guys there?” and they said “Yeah…but no. We cannot make that call. We cannot call up producers and say you have a show about suicide.” So because I already had three shows I was going out with, I put it aside. I put it aside and Eric [Schaeffer] had called me one day, we had worked together once before. He wasn’t doing anything and he asked what I was doing, and I said I had some projects I was going out with. And he asked if I had anything laying around, and I said “Yeah, I do have this idea that I really want to do but my agents doesn’t want me to go out with it. So I told him, and he said “I love that!” I’ll get my agents to go out with it. So, we talked it about it for a little bit and I said go off and think about it and I’ll go think about it because we need more than that. And he called me the next day and after I hung up with him, I was thinking about what could be the love story. And I had written this movie, I actually wrote it in a weekend after a yoga class, and sold it the next week. It was about this girl who — well there’s this big sixth sense twist to it — but I’ll just say that in the afterlife she finds her love…I’ll say that just in case it gets made, hopefully.
Yeah, you don’t want to give it away!
No, especially that big twist. So I had this character, and I already know her name is Lily, and I’m thinking why does she do it and who is she and what happens when she dies? And the whole story just came to me really in a few minutes. So I wrote everything down and I wrote it as if I was her telling her story. And I think just a few days later, we started going out to the networks and it was really funny because we would get these reactions where people would just look at us completely dumbfounded. Fortunately, we found Starz. They were really great. And so we wrote the pilot — we actually Skype wrote the pilot — because he’s there, I’m here. [She's in LA and he's in NY] We wrote the pilot and then we had to wait a really long time. I’m going to say that it felt like it could have been like 8 months. I could be exaggerating but it was a really long time and I remember so well because my dog was so sick and my dog had died and I remember I was at Trader Joe’s and Eric called me and said “Guess what, our show got picked up.” And I said “Oh that’s really great.” And he said “You don’t sound excited.” And I said “Well, my dog died.” And he said “But you don’t sound excited!” And I said “But my dog died…”
You were like how am I supposed to sound excited after this happened?
I know, it was awful. It was awful and bittersweet. And ultimately it was great, and I will tell you right now I have my new dog laying on my lap.
Aww. I’m a huge dog lover.
[We then proceeded to talk about dogs -- I grew up with golden retrievers. We are both surprised at how many dogs live in New York City.]
So then we got the call, and then we just wrote the nine episodes and it was pretty quick. We turned them around really fast and it was really exciting. I think the biggest thing for me was just knowing that if somebody says no, it really has no more meaning to me (laughs). And so I love that. I feel much more freedom than I did before.
Yeah. And how did the name change to Gravity?
Well, I knew we were going to have a problem with Suicide For Dummies because of all the For Dummies books. So we changed it first to Suicide Dummies so it didn’t have the for in it, so it didn’t seem like it was a manual. And Starz legal they just didn’t want suicide in the title. So they threw around a lot of other names. We had Failure to Fly which I just hated. Failure to Fly is the actual term if you’re in the hospital and you try to commit suicide and you fail, they call that Failure to Fly.
Oh! I had no idea!
I had no idea either, but I still hated it. And I don’t remember exactly how we had Gravity. I think Gravity was in a list of maybe three names and it just, at first I wasn’t crazy about it and then it grew on me, and now I love it.