The writers of NBC’s new comedy “Up All Night” should not lack for material — they’re creating a TV show about the travails of new parenthood in, at least by showbiz standards, an unusually baby-heavy environment.
Creator Emily Spivey and stars Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph all have young children, as does semi-regular Nick Cannon. There’s even a nursery adjoining Applegate’s and Rudolph’s dressing rooms, Spivey says.
“The babies are here a lot. Down the whole hallway there are signs that say ‘Quiet – sleeping babies,'” Spivey told Zap2it when we spoke with her in early September. “Poor Nick is flying back and forth, because his family is in New York. But everyone’s just managing — it’s what you have to do. It hasn’t been a problem — it’s actually been kind of nice. There’s nothing that makes the blood pressure do down more than holding a sweet baby.”
It also helps that, according to Spivey, working on “Up All Night” has so far been “super-duper fun.” We talked with the former “Saturday Night Live” writer about changes she’s made since the pilot and what she hopes viewers will get from the show, which premieres Wednesday night (Sept. 14). Some highlights of our conversation:
Zap2it: Is writing for a weekly series a different discipline than working on “SNL,” where you’re starting fresh every week?
Emily Spivey: It’s more like a long-term, intense thing. At “SNL” you [write] it quickly, and then it’s over. But there was always that pressure of starting from scratch and sitting down in an office with a blank page every week, unless you had a recurring thing. But this is all recurring characters. … Both are challenging. It’s a challenge to come up with new stuff, but it’s also challenging to keep it fresh with the same characters week after week, and come up with stories and discover who they are.
You’ve changed Maya’s character since the original pilot from a celebrity publicist to a talk-show host. How is that working so far?
I think it’s great. It’s been really, really fun. It’s so much more in Maya’s and my bag of tricks. … It’s a more complete world, and I think it’s a world more people will be able to relate to, especially with all the “Oprah Behind the Scenes.” She’s not Oprah, but people know so much about the talk-show format and what goes on.
Has that shifted the balance of the storytelling much from Reagan and Chris’ (Applegate and Arnett) home life to the workplace?
No, I think it’s still the same. Because the show is about her striking that balance, so we still devote the same amount of time … that we would have to the old workplace. I think this workplace, the talk show allows Christina’s character to be a little more involved. It’s not just about them trying to sign clients or something. There’s a lot more interpersonal stuff that goes on.
I would think that there would just be more stories to tell in that environment too.
Right. And [stories] that just involve our characters, without having to have outside people come in every week.
What was Chris’ job before he became a stay-at-home dad?
He was a lawyer before. He left his law firm to stay at home with their daughter, Amy.
Does he have any regrets about the decision?
He does not have regrets. He chose to do it because he felt it was important that Reagan have her career. He had sort of done his thing in his firm and was ready to do something he felt was more meaningful to him.
Will we be meeting the grandparents during the season?
Yes — that episode we’re actually working on as we speak.
Have you cast them yet?
I can’t really talk about that yet. It’s still in the ether a little bit, but it’s some fun casting.
What can you tell us about Nick Cannon’s character? He’s playing Maya’s sidekick on the show, correct?
He’s basically in the office keeping it really positive. He’s very spiritual. His character raised his sisters on his own after the death of his parents, and he’s putting them through college. We wanted him to be a light, so he’s the light of the office. He’s funny and positive and unflappable.
Is that energy always welcome?
People are sort of stunned by it and at times a little irritated, but for the most part it’s welcome.
Do you have any feelings about how the show will be received? Have you gotten any early feedback?
I can’t predict — but I hope people like it. We’re all having fun, and I hope it’s reflected in the shows. I hope people will laugh and relate to it, even people who don’t have babies. There’s something for everybody. We’re just trying to keep it relatable and fun. At the end of the day, if you’re having fun, that’s the most you can hope or ask for. I just hope that comes across.
“Up All Night” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, Sept. 14, following the finale of “America’s Got Talent.” It moves to its regular home at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on Sept. 21.