‘Drop Dead Diva’: ‘I believe Jane resonates with people’

There’s a new diva in town and she’s very popular. Lifetime’s new series “Drop Dead Diva

Q. The other series you’ve created (“Killer Instinct,” “Vanished”) and worked on (“CSI”) have been so dark in tone. What inspired you to create something a little lighter and with so much humor?
A. I started in comedy — a short-lived show called “MYOB,” created by Don Roos. I enjoy writing comedy and I believe there’s always a bit of humor in everything I write. It feels great to have the comedy front and center on my new series.

Brooke Q. Tell us about the process of casting Brooke Elliott (right), who is a newcomer to television.
A. It was love at first sight. Our casting director received her audition tape from New York. She emailed me the file and we flew her out the next week. She was Jane.

Q. The show is filming in Atalanta. How do you find the local production community there? Have you been able to cast local actors as guest stars?
A. Yes, we cast actors from L.A., N.Y. and all over the South. There is a terrific talent pool in Georgia.

Q. Your list of upcoming guest stars is pretty impressive — Rosie O’Donnell (below with Elliott), Liza Minnelli, Nia Vardalos, Jorja Fox, Tim Gunn. What do you think it is about the show that attracts these names?
A. The series is about feeling like an outsider. Who can’t relate to that? Usually, it’s tough to get guest stars in a first-season show, but I believe our theme and the character of Jane resonates with these big names. I feel very lucky.

Q. What challenges are you finding working on a cable show vs. a broadcast network series?
A. Our budgets are smaller but the expectations are the same. Fortunately, Sony (our studio) is a terrific, writer-friendly place to work. They’re very supportive. I like the shorter season but I’m getting anxious for the pick-up.

Rosie Q. Lifetime really touted the show as having a strong message in its press materials, providing testimonials from women’s groups. Were you driven to create a show with a “message ?
A. No, I was driven to create a great television show. I’m glad that Lifetime sees a positive message in the show, but for me, entertainment comes first.

Q. What did you learn from working on “CSI” and “Bones” that helped you in the creation of “DDD”?
A. “CSI” and “Bones” each have terrific showrunners. Carol Mendelsohn and Hart Hanson, respectively. They’ve both taught me so much. On CSI, I started as a junior writer and Carol included me in everything — editing, casting, mixing, color correcting. I learned how to produce by watching her do her job.

Q. What’s been your favorite line from a review?
A. “ ‘Drop Dead Diva’ is Drop Dead Fabulous.” Has a nice ring to it.

Q. Which character is your favorite to write for?
A. I can’t answer that one! But, seriously, I have an amazing cast and love writing this show.

Heaven Q. Let me rephrase it then: Do you prefer writing for the Jane part of Jane of the Deb part of Jane?
A. I love both sides of the character… The more I write for this character, the less I differentiate between the two — they’ve become one in my brain.

Q. Will you please tell the story of how you came up with the name of your production company, Osprey Prods. I love that story.  
A. Oh, Kathy — you just like this story because I’m a big nerd. In second grade, the teacher went around the classroom and asked each student what animal they’d like to be if not a human. Most students said dog, cat, bird. But I said “osprey.” I don’t know how I knew the word — it’s a sea eagle. I do think they’re amazing animals, but for a second grader to say “osprey,” they deserve to get beaten up on the playground.

Bonus question for “Drop Dead Diva”
star Brooke Elliott:

Q.You are accustomed to performing in plays, where the reaction from the audience is instantaneous. Can you tell us how it felt to wait almost a full year after filming the pilot to learn the reaction from critics and audiences?