How Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero Made the Reality Show the Gilded Age Deserved
“Think of The Kardashians meet Downton Abbey!” Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero describe Another Period, the sitcom the pair created, wrote, produced, directed and star in. Separately Riki is an actress, comedian and one-half of Garfunkel & Oates while Natasha is an actress and standup comedian who recently killed it at the Justin Beiber Roast. Together they created the television show that follows the lives of the Bellacourt family at the turn of the 20th century as they navigate Rhode Island society and get this — try to become famous.
I spoke with Riki and Natasha about the original idea, historical accuracy and how it feels to totally own a product.
I just finished watching the pilot and congratulations! What a great combination of Downton Abbey and The Kardashians. Do you watch reality TV yourselves?
Riki Lindhome: I do, I watch The Real Housewives, The Kardashians and America’s Next Top Model. I think they’re so funny.
What brought on the initial idea for the show?
Natasha Leggero: Riki and I wanted to create a show and write parts for ourselves. We were both really down one day thinking we do not really like many [acting] parts we’ve done and we have acted so much. We started thinking maybe we need to create our own show. We got together a few times to brainstorm and I had these two ideas — one was to do a fake reality show about the stupidest people you could imagine who are starring in movies based on serials. I had this other idea that took place in 1902, because I had never heard of a comedy set in 1902 that was a TV show. Riki’s idea was to combine those two together. We sort of brainstormed on that and it started to write itself. I had read this book on Newport, Rhode Island where a lot of these people lived at the time. We went there and toured their houses and started to imagine their lives.
You really got into the characters living situations and the everyday life.
RL: It gave us so much inspiration, reading the real stories.
NL: It was also a very fascinating time period. The Gilded Age in America from 1900-1915 there was no income tax; people were living like rappers. It is not a very over-documented time in our country’s history and it’s pretty fascinating. There was endless information.
Was it important to make the show historically accurate?
NL: No, we really lead with the comedy. The history was sort of a jumping off point. It was little gifts that would keep happening where we realized it was so much like what’s happening now. People are figuring out how to not pay income tax again a hundred years later. We kept it historically accurate to the degree of…we don’t have a Corvette in the shot.
RL: We kept it historically accurate as far as the basics of the set and the general rules of the society and then took comedic liberty.
Especially during that time there is a lot of comedy in the way society works. How was the writing process?
RL: It was pretty incredible. We had a great writer’s room and the funniest people surrounding us. Everyone was really passionate so it was kind of incredible. Natasha and I got to showrun for the first time so it was a big learning experience, we loved it.
NL: It was one of those things. We called every showrunner we knew the week before because we were so freaked out. Then within two days we were like, “Oh, this is easy!” [laughs]
How did you come up with the core cast, did you write for people you knew or cast separately?
NL: We 100% wrote for our ideal person, Riki is really good about that. I’ll be like, “You know this person would be good” and she would say, “Who is the most amazing, unattainable person we could have?” We think of that person and write in their voice…then we got those people!
RL: They are also more likely to do it if you write to their strengths, and more likely to be great at it.
That is what I thought when I heard Christina Hendricks was cast, going from a serious drama to a comedy right away.
RL: It’s a really cool move for her to do that and great for her to show people that she can kind of do everything.
NL: And being funny is not easy and it is definitely a skill that is underrated. All you have to do is look at people try to tell jokes at an award ceremony — comedy is hard! She [Christina] was very funny and obviously knew she could do it or she wouldn’t have been interested. I am so glad she let our show be the show she unleashes her comedic chops on.
She is so gorgeous and then plays a maid.
RL: Which is so ridiculous, and why we love it so much.
What do you think fame meant in 1902, do you think it carried the same positive benefits?
RL: It was probably more so because there were so few famous people. There was Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Oscar Wilde — it was very, very difficult to be famous.
NL: There was also society and class, which were very important at the time.
RL: Which I guess was their version of fame.
A hundred years ago it’s was so different why people were famous.
RL: You had to accomplish something. Even if what you accomplished was being the president’s wife, you had to do something spectacular.
You are involved in every part of the production: writing, producing, directing, acting. How does it feel to have an end product you put so much into every aspect of?
RL: It is pretty incredible. I still can’t believe it, it’s amazing.
NL: We’re definitely looking forward to what people think about it.
RL: We just want to share it with the world and get it out there so badly. We love it. We hope the world loves it. We are just very fortunate, we had the premiere last week and it was really incredible watching it in front of a crowd and seeing it was all real.
Another Period premieres tonight at 10:30pm on Comedy Central.