Tracey Wigfield had her hand in critically acclaimed workplace comedies “30 Rock” and “The Mindy Project” before creating her own sitcom, “Great News.” Fictionalizing her relationship with her own lovingly invasive mother, Wigfield’s “Great News” focuses on changing familial dynamics when Carol (Andrea Martin) lands an internship at her daughter Katie’s (Briga Heelan) place of work.
About to premiere its sophomore season, Wigfield is now expanding the cast dynamics to “delve a little more deeply” into the personal lives of the characters who make up the fictional cable newsroom at the center of “Great News.” “In a nice way from the pilot, we very quickly realized the show was a little crazier and a little more insane workplace comedy of weirdos than I even realized I was writing,” Wigfield tells Variety.
Wigfield spoke to Variety ahead of the “Great News” Season 2 premiere about upcoming guest stars, how President Donald Trump will (and won’t) impact the approach to their news show, and her own mom’s on-screen aspirations.
The first season left off on a cliffhanger regarding Katie’s relationship with her boss, Greg [Adam Campbell]. What can we expect to unfold from that?
When we start the season, we pick up right after we left off in the finale. Katie and Greg shared this moment, and some of the comedy in the second episode comes from Katie accidentally letting it slip to her mom what happened between her and Greg. Carol, in a bunch of not subtle at all ways, is trying to make Katie and Greg happen really hard.
How will Katie and Carol’s mother-daughter dynamic continue to evolve?
We want to be able to tell the same fun stories where Carol is crazy and way too much in Katie’s business that we did last year, but we do want to mark a 5% maturity from Season 1. We’re trying to tell stories where it’s not always Carol realizing she’s a maniac who needs to back out of her daughter’s life. It’s also Katie realizing her part in her weird, dysfunctional, sicko relationship with her mom, and how much she contributes to that and the way in which she is very much like Carol at times. We’re trying to tell more stories that deal with Katie’s side of it, too.
The first season was written before Trump’s narrative took over the news. Have any current events been incorporated into the newsroom at MMN?
We are able to tell more topical jokes and story lines specifically poking fun at cable news and how cable news is very different than it was a few years ago. In our premiere, Tina Fey plays the new boss at MMN and she comes in with a mission statement of “I’m going to bring the show into the 21st century and give people what they want out of cable news right now.” And that’s a panel of dementoid pundits screaming at each other. [But] this is never going to be like “Saturday Night Live” where we’re telling Trump jokes about what happened this week. I wouldn’t want it to be, and also we can’t because we’re writing jokes that you’ll see on TV two months later. We like to poke fun at news and trends in politics and current events rather than trying to keep up with what’s happening, because you couldn’t. This isn’t the Trump show.
It was such a thrill to have her come into our world and see her in scenes, in the premiere physically fighting with Andrea, and just being able to interact with all of our characters. I did feel when I was on set, it’s like when your teacher comes. Being a little more on high alert like, “Yes, everything’s under control. This is the very good way in which the show always runs. Everything’s smooth and nothing’s on fire.” She has been a wonderful mentor to me for the past 10 years and as much as we are both executive producers on this show, there’s very much a part of me that wants her to know I’m doing a good job.
In what ways do you plan to develop both new and returning characters?
We really wanted to tell stories with our people but we were able to get a bunch of cool guest stars that set our characters off on stories in different ways. In our first three episodes, Tina’s character comes in and shakes things up at the show and is a mentor-figure for Katie and gets into a feud with Portia [Nicole Richie]. We utilized her character well to define what was going on with all of our series regulars. We have a love interest for Katie played by Reid Scott from “Veep.” He’s a New York Times reporter who looks down at Katie for working in cable news. Over the course of a couple episodes, they get close and start dating. We were looking for a fun love interest for her to play against Greg. In the sixth episode we have Rashad Jennings playing Portia’s football player fiancé.
Will your mom be appearing in any episodes?
She’s coming to visit [when] we’re shooting the fifth episode, and she was like, “What scenes can Angie, who’s her best friend, and I be in?” And I was like, “No scenes.” Also my mother has been a background person so many times she has to join SAG and my father has to pay like $2,000 if she does it again. So my dad’s like, “Please, don’t. We can’t be paying dues for your mother.” She is Carol Wendelson. She wants to be a star. She’s only been trusted with background so far. I think she could be a day player one time. It would have to be the right thing. She could be one of Carol’s friends or something. I’m sure she’ll wear me down.
Does she try to pitch anything?
Yes, and often times they’re good ideas because she’s funny. She’ll say, “Oh, you should come and hang out at my work and see all the stuff that goes on there.” She works for my dad at his office, and I’m like, “Well I don’t have time to go hang out at your work and observe the hijinks of you and your co workers.” My mom told my sister and I that sometimes to pump herself up in the morning she sings Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” to herself in the mirror with the words, “‘Cause you’re amazing, just the way you are.” We put that in an episode where Carol sings to herself, “‘Cause Carol’s amazing, just the way Carol is.”
What’s been the biggest change in now being your own boss?
The fun thing about writing your own show is when you pitch something that is way too crazy, now there’s nobody babysitting being like, “No we can’t do that, that’s irresponsible and insane.” Any of the crazies jokes you want to, you have the power to do them. But you’re also the person in charge when Robert [Carlock] and Tina watch the cut and are like, “What the hell did you do?” Last year I remember an episode being like, “This is really funny to me, and I really like it. Is this just too crazy? Are we in outer space? Is nobody going to get it?” And the writers were like, “No, I think this is the show it wants to be.”
“Great News” Season 2 premieres on NBC Sept. 28 at 9:30 p.m.