How did you start to piece together the storyline of 'The Comeback' Season 2?
We started right with the idea of her having her own crew that she's paying. Then we just started thinking about the other things that would be going on. What's her marriage like? There probably has been a strain. You just get these impluses for things you want to see. We had Mickey, you know, and we had mentioned melanoma in the first season, so what happens when someone she really cares about is sick? And then with Mark, it's what happens when someone she really loves can't take it anymore?
I think the most thrilling thing was this one exchange that [co-creator] Michael [Patrick King] and I had. We were thinking of things that would be these hurdles for Valerie. He said, "Paulie G. has written an HBO half-hour about his time working on 'Room and Bored' and having to deal with a difficult, red-headed, older actress. And she has to audition for it." I said, "That's fine. But she has to get it."
Did he not want her to get the role of Mallory Church?
No, we weren't thinking that far yet. It was that first moment. This all went so fast. As Michael has put it, we just had to follow impulses and not look back. So, we did and that impulse fantastically got us to the part where she got the role of Mallory and then that's what the season has structuring it as Valerie is sort of a fish out of water because she's not an HBO show kind of actress. And then, by the way, does it matter? Nope! Do you have to be? No! To me, that was the most thrilling thing.
Did you ever debate whether Valerie was becoming too successful?
There was a brief chat about that. But for the most part it was decided that she would get the Emmy. I had a moment of asking myself: But would she? Wait, then we thought about that. We just tried to play it all out, and then we went, no, she needs to get it. Just because of everything that we've gone through with her, and it is something that's important to her. We thought, Let's just have her get one of her wins. And also, getting it, you get to see how thrilled Mark is, how thrilled Mickey is. It is a fun thing.
When did you think about the character of Valerie over the past nine years?
I'm good at keeping things out if I need to. I just tried to keep her out, but she would pop in if I was just about to say something that would've sounded just ridiculous. I'd push it to being too ridiclous and hopeful and making something too important, and I'd have to say it as Valerie to make it funny and not tragic.
Have you been able to put your finger on why fans love Valerie so much?
I think it's hard for them to put their finger on why, but mostly it's so hilarious. And, of course, it's not only hilarious. I'm thrilled when I hear hilarious, but everyone has a different take on Valerie. For some people, it's, "I just feel so bad for her." And for some people, it's, "She just never gives up. That's fantastic." And for some people, it's, "She's such a decent, good person ultimately." So everyone has a different thing. Then there's also, "She's so ridiculous. It's funny how much she doesn't get things."
Over the past nine years, the TV industry has changed a lot. How did that affect how you made 'The Comeback'?
This isn't about a person trying to control a reality show anymore. That's her personality -- even if it's behind-the-scenes or a documentary. She's just aware that there's a camera on her, and we know that that's somewhat affecting the way she behaves. But she behaves that way even if there's not a camera on her -- for the most part, not completely. We just felt like, this many years later, reality TV is not new, we've figured it out, and it's here and we've accepted it now. It's completely accepted, and it's valid. I think in 2005, there was a question mark: Is this going to be valid entertainment? And now...yeah! Audiences have said yes. It is. And so that couldn't be part of what this was about anymore. But because it's Valerie, it was great to start off with her making her own pilot presentation to get back into the game because she was right -- she was a pioneer, she was right. So that's fun.
What is going through Valerie's head when she is in the Emmy auditorium and gets the text from Mark about Mickey collapsing?
Well, I think she's asking: What do I do? Becasuse she really doesn't know what to do. She feels like she should go be with Mickey but she needs to be there at the Emmys -- because that's not nice to leave. And everyone is saying she's going to win. So you can't not stay. It's not nice. So she thinks, I'll just get more information -- I'll just call Mark again. Once she can't reach Mark and she's about to go back into the auditorium, she realizes she can't go back into the auditorium. She can't, only because she won't be able to think straight until she has her eyes on Mickey.
Mark says he didn't think Valerie would come to the hospital -- but he did text her. Did he have a shred of hope that he might show?
I think he was letting her know what was going on. In my mind, Mark may not have even know if she was waiting for him, or if he went ahead without him, because Mickey was supposed to go. I don't think Mark was letting her know to get her to come. I think that's why he says it very genuinely, "I texted you. I didn't think you would come." He really was not texting her as a test. It wasn't a test. He's genuinely shocked that she was there, and then it's also sad that he was so shocked. I think we can see that on her face. It was a little bit, wow, you don't think that much of me and I guess you have a right to not think much of me. So I love what is going on with all of that.
When Valerie leaves the Emmy auditorium without Jane's cameras, viewers see her from different cameras -- not reality footage -- for the first time ever. Can you talk how you guys arrived at that production decision?
Well, if we wanted it to be absolutely, definitely different, we could have gone further, you know, to make it completely different. I think we felt like it was going to be different enough this way, and for those who see it, then great. There's been a couple people who haven't noticed until Valerie says, "Where's Jane?" "I forgot about Jane." It works both ways I think. It was intentional. Michael directed it. There was supposed to be this magical sheen to it. I think he did want that because real life can be more magical than a produced life.
Do you think Jane's documentary changes considering Valerie's experience at the Emmys?
We haven't talked about what that means for Jane's documentary. That's something that would have to be continued. It was already going in another direction. It was already going to be a little bit heavier piece -- something that merits being a part of the HBO documentary films collection. It would have to be something that is a life more studied and examined, rather than just behind-the-scenes. As that is how Jane's presenting it, she was encouraged to keep going in that direction.
Do you think Valerie learned a lesson from what happened at the Emmys and with Mickey?
Michael and I will have to talk about it. I don't know that people learn big lessons and then change a whole lot. But I think some of it gets in. It's not said in the moment, but I think looking back, she would be shocked. "Can you believe I left the Emmys? And I won? Wasn't there to collect the award. I did that. What?" But I think at the end, that's why Mark is saying, "Wow, I guess we could go to Emmy parties. Do you feel like going?" And she says, "Have you met me?" Of course.