TCA: “Rita Rocks” strikes a chord with Nicole Sullivan

Ritarocks_3 

It’s usually a good sign for a show when there’s a lot of jokes and banter swapped among the cast and writer-producers during their inaugural TCA sesh. It sends a message that these folks actually like each other and are confident enough in their work to have fun in front of the assembled television press corps.

That was the case on Friday with the gang behind Lifetime’s upcoming comedy “Rita Rocks,” from Media Rights Capital.

Star Nicole Sullivan was particularly bubbly in her discussion of the show about a married working mom who decides to revisit her garage band roots as a way of carving out some time for herself amid all the stress and strain of her everyday grind. Show is set to preem in December; Lifetime only had a clip to show to the crix but it looks like fun (it had me at “Try a Little Tenderness,” the sturdy Otis Redding ballad that Rita and her newly assembled band tackle).

Sullivan, known for her stints on Fox’s MadTV and CBS’ “The King of Queens,” said she’s been waylaid in the past by committing to half-hour series projects that tried to trade too much on her over-the-top characters sketch comedy persona.
 
“For me this was the first opportunity where the character was smart enough and alive enough that I could Ritarockstca put in all of my dumb bits that I love to do…but the show is so grounded in reality, so grounded in people that all women know. There’s not a wife and mother that doesn’t hunderstand the feeling of waking up one day and saying ‘I know I’m happy but why am I feeling sort of unsatisfied?’ That was what sent it home for me. It’s the first time I felt that there was a part that was equal parts real and funny for me.”

Creators/exec producers Stan Zimmerman and Jim Berg probably wrote “Rita Rocks” as a spec more than 10 years ago, and shopped it every now and again until Lifetime finally bit.

“It’s a writers fantasy to have a script that nobody believed in come to fruition like this,” Berg admitted.

Sullivan and her costars Tisha Campbell-Martin and Richard Ruccolo (pictured above) giggled through the sesh, particularly after one questioner pressed Sullivan on her musical faves when she was growing up.

I listened to things like REO Speedwagon. I had the worst taste. I loved Van Halen and REO,” Sullivan confessed. “I was white trash. There. Print it.”

But Sullivan was nothing if not upbeat and polite.  “Have a good rest of the day,” she earnestly told the TCAers as the session wrapped.

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