Alyssa Milano has been working pretty much non-stop since she was just a young girl straight out of New York City, playing the smart and sweet daughter of a live-in male housekeeper on Who's The Boss? She has come a long way since then, and though she more than deserves a break, she is instead choosing to return to sitcom television just next week as a newly divorced single mother and lawyer who (as ABC likes to proclaim) "hasn't been on a date since the Clinton administration!" What was it about the Romantically Challenged script that caused Milano to want to take on yet another project? "At first it was Ricky Blitt, our creator/showrunner, who worked on Family Guy for years, so his comedic sensibility is really, really smart. I liked his vision of the show; I liked the multi-camera format, but the writing was so smart that it gave it a different type of sensibility!" She said during a phone interview with "My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture" late last week.
"The first script, I was so taken by the fact that the female character was so funny," Milano added. "Normally the women are the straight guys, so for that, it was awesome. And then James Burrows is a TV God! When I was a little girl on Who's The Boss, I would see [his] name, I was like "That's a guy I want to work with!" He was my Steven Spielberg, you know?" Burrows is another workhorse who Milano credited as someone who "really does his best to make you do your best." Working with him is collaborative but also probably safe in many ways, as just about every sitcom he touches turns to gold.
Milano has spent her more recent television projects on single-camera, somewhat alternatively styled programming, but she admitted that she was eager to take on a more traditional format. "I have to tell you, before every single show-- about forty-five minutes before the show would start-- [I] just get the crazy nervous energy," she exclaimed. "I love that aspect of [our show]. I think it brings something really tangible to the performance, too. You take that energy and use it to be where you need to in the scene. It's nerve-wracking and exciting, but when the show is over, you feel like you've really accomplished something. It's the best of theater without the scary stuff."
And just what is that scary stuff, according to Milano? "Well, [here] if you flub a line, you can go back and pick it up!" She laughed.
Romantically Challenged also has a theater-like collaborative feel, though Milano said she hasn't yet been able to offer personal dating experiences to the writers for input into the script. "At this point because we're at the beginning stages," she explained, "[so] there's not a lot of input from us, but I'm sure if we're blessed to be picked up next year, that will change."
After all, they were only give six episodes to let the in-studio-- and at-home!-- audience know who they are and what they're about, so the focus was just on letting the writers get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the actors to put out the best six episodes possible. "What that does is really enable us to explore the characters thoroughly [and] not only the dynamic they have between the friendship together as a foursome but also what they're like in other aspects of their lives," Milano offered, discussing the various guest stars that will be brought in as potential love interests not only for her own character but also those of her co-stars, Kyle Bornheimer, Kelly Stables, and Josh Lawson.
"Let's face it, we all have that core group of friends that bring us something-- that we get something from-- but with different people, we allow ourselves to express parts of ourselves...depending on who we're dating. That's the fun part! Having guys come in, and women come in, and contribute on a weekly basis keeps things really, really, really exciting. Certainly nothing gets stale!" And according to Milano, the interest will probably always continue to lie in pairing the core four, so to speak, with someone new and outside of their group rather than have them hook-up a bit incestuously with each other.
"We don't want to do anything that's forced or just convenient, for the sake of the story line," Milano stated simply. Then she paused for a moment and thoughtfully added that she couldn't really say that indefinitely because no one knows what might happen "in four or five years, how the audience responds to the characters, but as of right now we're really trying to fight against it."
For now the audience seems to be responding very well, especially considering the show hasn't even premiered yet! Fans have been rallying on Twitter for months, with the show's official site already reaching over 7500 followers. Milano said using the social networking site "was great to plant the seed and give the show a little bit of presence before anyone had known anything about it." She is also very active on the site in her personal life, as well, pointing out that "it's amazing platform to be able to share with people a little part of who you are, and what you believe in, and what's important to you." Milano's advice to any new Tweeters? She said the most important thing about using the website was to "be as organic and real as you can be!"
Production on Romantically Challenged has wrapped for the season, but that doesn't mean Milano can just kick back, watch the episodes air along with the rest of America, and take a break until she gets a season two announcement! She is about to start shooting a new comedic feature entitled Hall Pass starring Jenna Fischer, Amanda Bynes, and Christina Applegate. Milano and Applegate starred together in my favorite made-for-TV movie of all time: Dance Til Dawn from 1988, so I had to ask just how she felt about the upcoming reunion. "Christina and I have known each other-- God for a really long time!" Milano gushed. "We shot on the same lot when we were little girls. I've always been rooting for her and proud of her because I feel like we're on a very small team of people who had sitcoms in the eighties that didn't end up in rehab! I adore her, and my husband is actually her agent, so I'm excited to begin working with her again!"
Hall Pass is currently in production, scheduled for release in 2011. Romantically Challenged premieres on ABC Monday, April 19 at 9:30 pm.