This Australian-born comedy might be new to your radar, but it has already been a hit down under through the work of Jane Turner and Gina Riley, who played the roles of Kath Day and Kim Craig on the original Australian series. They are now working as executive producers on the American version, along with Michelle Nader, the mastermind who brought the show to our shores.
Maintaining the reputation of the series as being funny, quirky, and all-around enjoyable is important to the original stars of the show as well as the new leading ladies. Molly Shannon watched the original series in hopes that someday it would be brought to American audiences. The show’s move had been in the works for over a year before Michelle Nader came aboard and, according to Shannon, brought new life to an already lively series.
“They had sent me the script about a year before with another writer who developed it,” Shannon explains. “It wasn't so hot. I didn't like it, so I passed on it and then they ended up redeveloping it with Michelle Nader, and brought it back to me, and I was like, 'Oh, this is much better.' Because you're really partnering with the writer. You really have to take a chance believing them.”
Once Nader took on the executive producer position, both Molly Shannon and Selma Blair eagerly took on the coveted roles as the unstoppably ditzy and narcissistic mother-daughter duo. Kath and Kim read celebrity gossip magazines religiously while desperately trying to keep up with what’s in style. Though Kim’s marriage ended before the honeymoon phase was even over, she still considers herself to be a trophy wife, even if she does wear her clothes three sizes too small. Kath’s love life has become more successful than her daughter’s as she eagerly plans her wedding to her fiancé, played by John Michael Higgins.
Producer Michelle Nader describes the character of Kim as, “being like Britney Spears—like an American girl, like this sort of narcissistic juvenile girl. And I think that is exactly who she is. Because if you see Kim, she's sort of, like, stunted, but in a lovable way.”
Kim’s maturity level may be debatable, but a major theme of the show is how Kath deals with her adult daughter moving back home after her shortly lived marriage. Kath had been busy making a new life for herself, but now she must deal with the emotional drama of Kim.
“She's really sucked back into that dynamic with her daughter,” Molly Shannon notes. “They fight, but they love one another. Fighting is part of love, so it's that kind of relationship, so the dark side is being sucked back into that vortex of Kim. But [Kath] is a positive, together woman who's trying to move forward and not get back in because she feels like this is her time, Kath’s time to start her life and date. She's like, 'This is my time for me.'”
Many critics have noticed the irony in that Molly Shannon, at 44 years old, is playing the mother of Selma Blair, who is only 8 years her junior. Is this a difficult situation, Dish asks, or does it make it easier for Shannon and Blair to connect on a sisterly level?
“They don't seem like they're not mother and daughter for some reason,” Nader says. “That's why it works so well. I mean, the show's not about age because everyone in the show is kind of childlike and desperate.”
“Dakota Fanning was unavailable,” Blair jokes when asked if the producers thought about using a younger actress. “So they were like, Dakota Fanning, Selma Blair, that makes sense, perfect sense.”
The idea that Kath was fairly young when she gave birth to her daughter hits home for Nader, who is the daughter of a single mother. “My mom was—I think she was 19 when she had me, so we grew up together,” Nader explains. “And in those kinds of situations, you're the mother sometimes and you're the daughter sometimes, and we're still like that because we're still the same age. It doesn't change as you get older. So, yeah, I think that's what part of their dynamic is—it's a mother/child constant struggle of who's in charge—they act like sisters.”
Regardless of their ages as actresses, both Shannon and Blair were excited to take on real character roles, giving them a chance to become someone else and to truly develop the back story of their characters.
“It’s fun,” Blair notes. “I’ve always played a lot younger than my own age. As an actress, I think that’s great because I play a lot of things I’m not. It’s fun playing such a brat. My character is really, really bratty, and I do have a bit of a fear that I’ll take that character home with me one too many days.”
Shannon sees her character as being completely different than anyone she’s ever played before, and she’s enjoying the change. “The way I look at Kath is she's ultra-feminine. She loves being a lady. She likes wearing belts and perfume and cream and high heels—so to me that's fun. I was raised by my dad, and I was always intrigued by, like, women that smelled good and brushed their silks against you. I always liked those kinds of ladies. So, that's how I look at her.”
Kath & Kim will hopefully follow in the footsteps of other primetime shows that were first successful in other countries. Fellow NBC series The Office, which began in England, has become a runaway hit, and it’s now going into its fifth season. Shannon and Blair seem up for the challenge to keep people coming back to watch their show every week, and here at Dish, we certainly expect that Kath & Kim will perk up our Thursday nights!
You won’t want to miss the premiere of Kath & Kim on Thursday, October 9 at 9:30pm et/pt on NBC.