Tig Notaro talks to Awards Daily TV about the Amazon pilot format, expanding her One Mississippi story, and the weird test Amazon Studios made her and her wife take.
The Tig Notaro series One Mississippi received glowing reviews when Amazon Studios released the pilot in late 2015. But unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until September 2016 that fans would have the chance to see any new episodes.
“We shot the pilot, waited to see if Amazon wanted to turn it into a series,” said Notaro in a phone interview, “and then when they said yes, we did the five episodes.” At the time of this phone interview, the One Mississippi crew was just two weeks from finishing work on Season 2.
A year is a long time for fans in TV land, especially with the oversaturation of shows and networks and only having one episode to go on. Would audiences forget about One Mississippi? Fortunately, it wasn’t something that concerned the series creator and star.
“I think I saved up my worry for something else,” she laughed. “It was a little weird, but not weird in a bad way for [One Mississippi] to air a year later. It was kind of a time capsule that was fun to open up again.”
Right after shooting wrapped for Season 1, Notaro and her wife, Stephanie Allynne, welcomed twin sons.
“They came one month early. We thought we were going to have a month of freedom to just let loose, and they came days after we wrapped our first season.”
Fans of One Mississippi know Notaro’s wife as Kate the local sound engineer on the series (she’s also a writer on the show), but maybe not as Notaro’s wife until they Google her bio.
“A lot of people we’ve run into have said, ‘You two have really great chemistry, and then we looked you up and found out you were married and it all made sense.’ It’s pretty amazing [to work with Allynne]. I don’t even know where to begin. I’m always very much eager to express how much Stephanie inspires me and makes me laugh. Writing with her is really fun. Even if the moments we’re creating are fictional or even if they’re real, it’s fun and we’re the immediate person to tap into to write the perfect dialogue between us.”
The idea for Notaro and Allynne to act alongside each other was actually showrunner Kate Robin’s idea, who suggested Allynne for the role of Kate. The spouses talked it over, trying to figure out whether it was the right decision or whether it would be too distracting. Ultimately, they decided to go for it, but not before Amazon Studios made the two take a “chemistry” test.
“It was a funny moment to wait and see if you and your spouse have chemistry based on what a network says. We got the good news that we do, in fact, have chemistry.”
So much so that one questions whether Kate and Tig could be more than friends in Season 2 or beyond of the series.
“I think there’s a possibility. These characters are open to whatever might happen. I think they’re big enough people and open to what lies ahead.”
Kate comes along at a time when Tig on the show is going through a lot, including the death of her mother and career changes. And while Tig and girlfriend Brooke (Casey Wilson) are a strong couple in the pilot episode, all of the issues Tig has going on catch up with her in subsequent episodes, amplifying the weaknesses in the relationship.
“If you’re relationship isn’t solid and you bring that relationship home and around your family, it magnifies things even more. Brooke and the actual person she’s loosely based on are both wonderful people, but it’s really hard when you’re not with the right person, when everything goes to hell.”
Season 1’s Darkly Hilarious Scene
One of the most memorable scenes of the first season actually involves a horrible situation. In Episode 6 titled “New Contact,” Tig visits her mother (Rya Kihlstedt) at her grave and learns that her mother engaged in a sexual relationship with a much older man when she was a teenager. Soon, in a surreal sense, other female “bodies” pop up from the grave to share their sexual abuse stories in what is both a hysterical and painful scene to watch.
“There are so many moments on the show like that, that start out as a joke or a riff of some sort in the writers’ room and then you end up on set actually filming the scene. And that’s one of the things I feel so lucky for, from Kate Robin to Stephanie and all of the other writers, to bring so much of themselves to my story and make it this interesting journey that I can’t wait to find out where it goes.”
As much as Tig brings her own unique narrative to this project, the television format allows her to expand the story with more fictionalized possibilities compared to something more finite like a feature film.
“I don’t know exactly where the story is going, and it can allow the story to be based in truth and just sprout and veer off from there, as the years and seasons go by and change and twist and turn as we like. The fun part with the TV show is moving on and going into new and different storylines.”
Stool to Chair, Comedy to Drama
But whether she’s doing a dramatic scene or a comedic moment, some things carry over between the different genres Tig works in, like the way she can find inspiration in the smallest things, chairs for example. In 2011, Notaro dragged a stool across the stage to much hilarity during an episode of TBS’s Conan, and in a dramatic moment on One Mississippi, she has to figure out what to do with a chair stained in her mother’s blood, something that Notaro actually had to deal with in real life.
“It was an intense thing. Do you throw the chair out? Do you clean it? There were so many little moments like that that are real. I think on the other side of me, the silly part that loves to drag a stool around on Conan, I think I can find different levels of entertainment or storytelling from a chair to a stool, comedy to drama.”
Catch Tig on tour! Here’s a list of her tour dates. Season 1 of One Mississippi is now streaming on Amazon. Season 2 premieres in the fall of 2017.