Thursday, May 03, 2012
Sometimes writers have to hold their ground
But the point is it was a pretty well-received episode. You can see it here.
But the whole show almost blew up. Over one little note.
Bebe Neuwirth, who plays Lilith and I dearly love, announced on the second day of rehearsal that she had a problem.
Lilith didn't carry a purse. Well, okay. We asked her to make an exception this week for the story. But she said it wasn't consistent with her character. She explained that Lilith is a scientist and scientists don't carry purses.
Oh really? NO scientist? Ever?
Again, the whole writing staff asked if she'd graciously overlook that TINY inconsistency and please have a purse?
Were there alternatives?
One thought was that she could keep the rat in her pocket (do scientists have pockets?) but that seemed even too creepy for Lilith, and it was important that the gang in the bar discovered the critter while she was out of the room. We needed Frasier to explain away her rather bizarre behavior. Our primary concern was that Lilith didn't come off like a complete loon.
I do admire that actors take great care in wanting to be as true to their characters as possible, and details that are seemingly unimportant to us are very meaningful to their defining their roles. But sometimes, Jesus! As the great David Lloyd used to say, "It's just pretend!".
To her credit, Bebe backed down. Most of the time (practically ALL of the time) writers make adjustments to accommodate the actors. Sometimes we have to stand our ground. In this case, the entire episode depended on it. Bebe was a team player. She embraced the purse and the episode went off as planned.
Ironically, we did expect a note, but it wasn't from Bebe and we never got flagged for it. At one point in the script the guys around the bar get out junk food. When David and I were writing it we wondered out loud if anyone could eat a Hostess Snowball in one gulp? So how best to settle it? We made Woody do it. His favorite food was Hostess Snowballs because they were "bite size." God love, Mr. Harrelson, he downed one of those babies in one bite. Excuse me, but THAT'S acting!
Happy to say that in all these years and all the many airings of Rat Girl, not once have we received a protest from a scientist. Or Hostess bakeries.