As Bravo preps to launch its first scripted endeavor in “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” Marti Noxon and her cast could not have been more excited to talk about the show at its premiere Tuesday night at the Ace Hotel’s United Artists Theater in Downtown L.A.
The project is not just a first for Bravo, best known for its reality series — it’s also a first for Noxon. Though her name appears in credits for hits including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Glee” and “Mad Men,” “Girlfriends’ Guide” is the first series with her name under the bill of “creator.”
“It just feels a little bit like a dream come true,” said Noxon. “How often do you get to write about real women with work problems and family problems, and they’re not a doctor or a lawyer or a cop?”
The series follows Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein), a self-help book author and icon for family happiness, who shocks her readers when she reveals that she and her husband (Paul Adelstein) live anything but a perfect life and are getting divorced. Abby turns to her also-divorced friends for advice on her journey of self-discovery as she tries to salvage her career, reclaim a dating life and figure out her identity as a single woman.
Originally suggested as a half-hour series, “Girlfriends’ Guide” has grown into an hour-long dramedy, a switch that Noxon said helps to deepen the characters and details of the story of divorce, and allows them “to discuss all these issues and bring them to life in a way that’s not a drag, in a way that can be funny and fun. And everybody’s flawed, that’s the truth of life,” she said.
“It’s sort of an area that we can’t go into with reality,” said Frances Berwick, president of Lifestyle Networks, NBCU Cable Entertainment. “You can have a fun approach to a divorce but with all the highs and lows and emotion of it.”
Berwick noted that while the network frequently touches on such subjects through its “Real Housewives” franchise, “you don’t really see the guts of it.”
“In a weird way this is more real than reality,” said Noxon, “because we get to go behind the scenes and see people having sex and fighting the way they might not on reality TV.”
“Some of the stories that happen in the season are real stories,” added Edelstein. “Some of the more ridiculous stories are actually from real life,” she laughed.
Edelstein said that during the early days of the show, Noxon asked the cast, crew and writers to all share their personal marriage, relationship and breakup stories to help give the show a more personal feel. Edelstein praised the move, and Noxon’s confidence “to not be threatened by input but to celebrate it. It created an environment on set that was juicy and interesting and full of potential.”
She also joined Noxon in expressing the “incredible” thrill of being in Bravo’s first scripted series.“There’s something to being a first, because they are so behind it,” she said of the cabler. “Being on a more established network where scripted is every day, you’re on a roster of many shows and you’re waiting to find out in two or three episodes if you’re going to live or die and that’s not what happened here.”
“We have all felt very supported by the network and the studio,” she said.
Edelstein then beamed over the fun of working on the new series – the “greatest work experience” she’s had.
“It’s so smart,” she said of “Girlfriends’ Guide,” “it’s everything I can do in one job. It’s funny and it’s brutal and I love that. I love that I get to play the entire range.”
The actress also cited the show’s poster, featuring her character giving the ring finger, as an interesting way in which “Girlfriends’ Guide” has unexpectedly sparked some debate. “It really somehow ended up touching a nerve and creating conversation,” she said. “There’s a lot of conversation that I’ve heard about the show — whether or not it mocks marriage or looks badly upon marriage or encourages divorce — no one has seen the show that has these conversations, but they’re still having them.”
Said Noxon, “I feel like divorce is kind of a Trojan horse into what for me is a bigger issue right now, which is sexual politics.”
“I’m just happy that a conversation is being had,” said Edelstein. “I think the way the topic is being handled is much more interesting than these preconceived notions people have when they hear about a show about divorce.”
“Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” premieres at 10 p.m. Dec. 2 on Bravo.