Season 1

Episode 1

Interview With Emily Mortimer

HBO

How did you and Dolly Wells come to create ‘Doll & Em’?

Emily Mortimer

About 10 years ago, just after I had my first kid -- Sam, who’s now 10 -- we decided we were going to write something together. I’ve always known that Dolly is just one of the brightest, funniest people I’ve ever met and that she’d be the most brilliant writer. It didn’t amount to anything at first; it was really just an excuse for us to stay in touch with each other through our separation -- me in America and her in England. It also helped justify the enormous telephone bills and airplane tickets to our husbands!

So two kids each and 10 years later, we still hadn’t written a script and it started getting really embarrassing when people would ask us about it. Finally, we had this idea -- such a simple idea -- that instantly crystallized the last 10 years of ideas. We’d always been fascinated by the dynamic between people and their assistants, the misunderstandings and gray areas of someone so intimately involved in your life…but who also has to maintain a professional distance. How they know more about you than anyone else, but you’re also paying them. How awkward that situation is and how it would be a recipe for total disaster to invite your childhood friend to be your assistant.

HBO

‘Doll & Em’ is an honest portrayal of female friendship. It seems easy for viewers to relate to, even if they don’t know Hollywood or have a personal assistant.

Emily Mortimer

I was really worried that the Hollywood setting would be alienating. My other worry was that we had created such a toxic portrait of friendship. I was pleasantly surprised after a screening in London, when people came up to me afterwards and told me they wanted to call up their best friend. That was so encouraging.

While making the show, Doll and I talked about how the worst disagreements and the most awful, bad feelings happen between you and the people you love most in the world -- especially the jealous ones. When the best happens to someone you love, it makes you think of where you are in your life. That comparison can be very hard. What we were trying to do with ‘Doll & Em’ was make those feelings okay. These two people love each other so much -- but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

HBO

The characters you and Doll play -- and their relationship -- feels very real, very human.

Emily Mortimer

There are very few people in the world who you can be your worst self in front of, and they’re completely vital to survival. Those people you can tell your worst feelings to and admit to the most awful, dark thoughts and weird, f*cked up emotions and not only will they understand, but they’ll forgive you and love you even more for having the guts to say them. Doll and I have always had that with each other. That’s how our relationship worked, making each other laugh by sharing the worst things that went on in our heads.

Ours is the least tempestuous relationship in my life, and because of this, it was safe to imagine jeopardizing it in such an extreme way.
HBO

Since you and Doll are best friends in real life, have you experienced a similar kind of trouble in your relationship, like your fictionalized selves do in the series?

Emily Mortimer

It’s sort of infuriating for me to say this and also it’s really bad luck, but Dolly and I don’t really argue. In a way, ours is the least tempestuous relationship in my life, and because of this, it was safe to imagine jeopardizing it in such an extreme way. We feel so safe in our friendship that we just used the basis of how much we love each other and get along as a starting point and then imagined sucking that up in the worst way possible, how awful that would feel to the both of us. It would feel like the end of marriage. It’s soul destroying to have the person you’ve known all your life -- whom you’ve shared such important moments like the death of your parents or the birth of your children -- suddenly not in it.

HBO

Do you see another installment in the series?

Emily Mortimer

I think we would love to do one more. Honestly, there’s a bit of fear of drawing this out too much so that not only the rest of the world, but we too, will get sick of ourselves and our relationship. We did four days of press in London and afterwards I was speaking with another childhood friend and saying, “Oh my god, it’s been amazing, but just the phrase ‘Doll & Em’ makes me want to gag.” And she said, “Oh my god, me too!” [Laughs.] We both now live in Brooklyn, about two blocks away from each other, so if we could manage to do another one at home it would be a dream.