Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is a platform for creators, actors, and industry insiders to bring the readers behind the scenes of the production process. In our latest installment, we removed the curtain on the writers’ room for the second season of Fox’s, The Mick.
This part of the walkthrough looks at the sixth episode from The Mick’s second season. Previous installments can be found here. In this installment, showrunner John Chernin is joined by the episode’s writer, Eric Falconer.
The Mick Season 2 Episode 6 – “The Matriach”
“Mickey and the kids go to great grandmother Rita Pemberton’s 100th birthday celebration at her huge mansion. Mickey takes advantage of Rita when she discovers that Rita believes Mickey to be an old friend, but later learns that their friendship was more than just platonic. Meanwhile, the kids’ grandmother, Tippy, gives the family an unexpected surprise.”
Written by Eric Falconer; Directed by Kat Coiro
DEN OF GEEK: Tippy and the Colonel were one of my favorite, most shocking guests from the first season so I was quite happy to see them returning. Were they always someone that you wanted to work back into things?
JOHN CHERNIN: Yeah, they were just so much fun to have around. Conchetta Tomei, who plays Tippy, really came and set a tone for us and what we wanted to do on this show last year. It was a pleasure to have her on set, so it was nice to get to have her back this season.
The question of course then becomes, how do you top them, and so you introduce Rita in this one, who is very exaggerated in her own way.
JOHN CHERNIN: She is. I think we wanted to explore the Pemberton family a little more and open that up a bit. Dave [Chernin] really liked the idea of a Colonel having a mother. We were talking in the writers room when Rupert Murdoch’s mother passed away and we were like, “His mother was still alive!?” So that was really the origin for that character. Also, Rita is named after my dear grandmother who is not a lesbian and does not have dementia in real life.
Sabrina and Jimmy’s discussion and debate on power dynamics is a lot of fun. These two typically don’t get to pair up together. Was it nice to find a storyline for the two of them to share here?
JOHN CHERNIN: Yeah, I forget how it went. We were trying to figure out the B-story on this one for a while and I think it went through a lot of iterations. Scott and Sofia are very friendly off camera, so it’s always nice when they can spend a lot of time together on the show. They just have such a good rapport. Even at the start of the episode where they have that simple conversation—her disdain for him really shines through. It’s always fun when he’s able to get really self righteous and indignant over something and then push it in her face.
You brought up the B-story here, but the C-story is even crazier. Two characters stuck in a hedge maze feels like a pretty perfect storyline for this show. It’s not exactly the most natural idea though. How did it come about?
ERIC FALCONER: I think that just came about from a result of knowing how expensive the rest of the episode would be to produce. So we wanted to make something small and contained for our other characters, but in the end I think that it turned out to be prohibitively more expensive. It was not the smartest move on our part.
That bird’s eye view shot of the sprawling maze is so damn good!
ERIC FALCONER: We have a really great VFX team.
Talk about building to that insane visual and scenario of Mickey winding up with a naked 100 year-old sexual predator.
JOHN CHERNIN: We started to have that pretty early on into things. We knew that it would be this big set piece and turning point for the episode. We knew it would be an episode where Mickey impersonates an old friend of Rita’s, so we thought it would be funny if we discovered that they were actually lovers. So the discussion then moved to the most shocking way of revealing that and I think we found it.
Jesus Christ, you guys blow up a great grandmother with dementia. Did you know that you were building to this ending? How’d you find this conclusion?
ERIC FALCONER: I honestly don’t remember…
JOHN CHERNIN: There were a lot of iterations of this episode. The only thing that made it from day one to the actual production was that she would explode at some point in the episode. At one time it was the mid-way point, but then it just steadily slid further down.
This episode nicely juxtaposes the Pemberton’s old fancy life to the new way of living that they’ve gotten used to. Did you want to prove that these guys could slum it for a while before getting back into luxury? Did you consider returning to this point sooner or later in the season?
JOHN CHERNIN: I think originally—when we first burnt down the house last year we joked about them moving to Rhode Island or rotating through all of these cheap motels. In the end though we felt that the audience had just gotten used to this show so we didn’t want to completely reinvent things. So we thought at first we’d put them in this house in like episode ten, but then we wanted to just get them back into the lap as luxury as quickly as possible. So we shot this one a little later in the season, but I think it comes at a good time in the episode order.
This episode ends on a pretty big note and re-sets the table before moving into what feels like this show’s next phase. What was the thought process on building to that moment and keeping the Colonel around as a fixture of the show?
JOHN CHERNIN: One, we really like E.J. Callahan, the actor. He’s just great to have on set. We also thought he’d just make for a really funny prop to have around moving around. I don’t know if he’ll be around a ton, but he will pop up from time to time.
Our walkthrough of The Mick’s second season will continue next week.