Interview With Privileged Executive Producer Rina Mimoun

by Jason the TVaholic on November 4, 2008

in Interviews, TV Talk

Get Privileged Episodes via Amazon Video On DemandA couple weeks back I had the opportunity to talk with Rina Mimoun about her show Privileged on The CW. On the call with me were representatives from two other online outlets, which included my fellow podcasting partner Amrie, on behalf of theTVaddict.com, and Kimra from BuzzSugar.com.

I mainly wanted to do the call because Ep.5 of the TVtimesThree podcast was going to be about shows we thought people should be watching, but for whatever reason are not. So, since Privileged was on my list of shows that people should be watching, I wanted to ask the creator of the show, why she thought they should and you can read her answer below or listen to it as part of the podcast mentioned above.

I would also like to thank Kimra for sending me a copy of the audio, since I called in from the wrong phone and was not able to record it my myself. But, since I hate transcribing and was mostly doing it for the podcast anyway, I’ve taken my sweet time to get it posted here at TVaholic. So, I hope you do enjoy it, if you haven’t read it at one of the other two places mentioned above already. Yet, I think you’ll find this to be the full transcript, to the best of my listening and typing ability.

With only three of us on the call to ask questions, it was almost more like chatting with some friends about a show we all like, than it was an interview. It was a fun call to be on.

Executive Producer Rina Mimoun Talks Privileged

Kimra of BuzzSugar: The question was something along the lines of, How did you go about adapting the book, How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, into the series Privileged? (But, the recording I have started after the question was asked.)

Rina Mimoun: What I loved about the book was, you know, the character of Megan and the setting of Palm Beach and sort of, it felt like a great thing that hadn’t been on TV. An obviously, like, her relationship to the girls. The logline of the books was very much the tutor who comes in from, you know, the other side of the tracks, so to speak, to tutor these spoiled, spoiled heiresses.

Beyond that, it was a lot of, the two main things that I think changed were the tone, like in reading the book, it has this fantastic, um, real snarky quality to it, which felt a little more along the lines of Gossip Girl and when, when I spoke to the people at Alloy and Warner Brothers, I was like, you know, I’m not going to do Gossip Girl better than Gossip Girl does Gossip Girl. And, I didn’t want to sort of try to be in that world, so the first thing felt like, well how do we kind of flip this a little bit. And, so the idea was the girls became a little less cruel and even Megan in the book was a little more sinister. She was a slightly darker character and so the first thing was trying to make sure we captured a different tone that wasn’t already on the network. And, I was thinking about, when I read it, I felt like there’s a way to do this that feels more like Cinderella, and feels more like a fairytale, and feels more like Clueless, you know, where we get to use more comedy and sort of play it on that end. So, tonally we sort of shifted it a little and then from a story perspective, the main thing that wasn’t in the book at all, but has become really helpful as a story engine is Megan’s family. In the book, Megan’s family has um, she doesn’t have any problems with them. They seem delightful. Her parents are married, she loves her sister, and they’re all in New York. The idea of having, you know, that was the thing that we really got to create from scratch in the writers’ room, was the broken home, the alcoholic father, the mother who left them, the sort of treacherous relationship with her sister. Because, it felt like things that were going to emerge, as we kept telling stories, was stories about family, and stories about sisterhood specifically. So, I really wanted to play up the notion of these two spoiled girls who seem like they might be the worst people in the world except that they’re maybe the greatest sisters ever and Megan who seems like she’s actually the savior and the saint, but except when she’s with her sister and that’s when all her flaws come out, because no one is really perfect all the time and she does have, sort of, a damaged relationship and those are, those are my favorite stories that we’re sort of getting into now, is like taking Megan’s family and learning about her background and where she comes from and playing it against Palm Beach.

Jason the TVaholic: Every year there is a show that gets christened the best show that people aren’t watching, but should be.

Rina: I know!

Jason: At present I think that show is a, Privileged. It is the best show that more people should be watching.

Rina: I agree!

Jason: So, with that in mind, as the executive producer, if you were talking to a prospective viewer, what would you tell them if they asked you, Why should I watch your show?

Rina: I honestly think they should watch our show because there’s nothing on TV like it right now. And as funny as it is, I think initially, when all of the fall premieres were coming out, and it’s like sort of a mass of people coming at you, saying, oh no, 17 shows about rich people, and I can’t stand it, and I’m sick of it, and I don’t need that one. We’re so not that show. We’re so, it is truly a feel good fairytale and if you want one hour of escapism every week, or, or 42 minutes to be precise, 41 minutes, 53 seconds to be precise (laughs). Um, this is definitely the place to go. You don’t have this, I mean, it’s just, we’re just trying to make you laugh, and maybe give you a little, a little heartbreak, and a little, a little romance. There’s so few, so little romance on television right now. There’s a lot of, you know, violence and sci-fi and a lot of dark, dark things. But, I think romance is missing and we’ve got it.

Amrie on behalf of theTVaddict: My question kind of goes back to the television show. You know, I’ve loved all the other shows that you’ve worked on in the past, and they all have a similar old WB type of feel. And, a friend of mine asked me to ask you this question, How have your other shows that you’ve worked on influenced, you know, what you’re doing with Privileged?

Rina: Oh my god! Completely! That’s why I’m so excited about the show, and I’m so desperate for people to find it. Because, I feel like I had the most amazing training ground, you know, working for Greg Berlanti for so many years, from Dawson’s to Everwood, you know, and starting on Jack and Jill, um, and Gilmore, all of those things, what I really learned, especially in my four years at Everwood, because I had the most time there, is how to arc a season, how to tell stories. And, it’s like, you have to give the audience just enough that they are interested and want to come back but there is a real, um, there’s, it’s a dance, in terms of figuring out, well how much is too soon. It’s like dating. You don’t want to give up too much too soon, otherwise they will probably dump you. Or, hate you for it, or something horrible will happen, but like it’s all about just enough and a slow build and planting the seeds, from every perspective, because also certain things happen. You know, on Everwood for instance, one of the most amazing lessons I learned there was, um, when we introduced a new character in season three, actually two new characters. We had Scott Wolf and Sarah Drew come on in our third season. We really didn’t know what to expect and our initial idea was for a much smaller little arc. But you, give them their time, and again, plant the seed, and they became so much more, even just watching, as the writers, we were like, oh my god, well he’s hilarious, and she’s amazing and oh it’s, and it’s sort of the same thing now. We’re trying to take our time and see, well who are the audience veering to, who are people loving. You know, we’re seeing so much love, for instance, for Marco. So, and I think, we’re finally now in our story breaking process, we’re like okay, well we’re breaking episode, actually the last episode of our initial order, and it’s like, now you get to meet Marco’s boyfriend. It’s like you’ve earned that time, you’ve set up enough and it’s really about letting the audience fall in love with your world and it takes time, and I learned that a lot, I learned that all over the place. I think Greg did it and Amy Sherman-Palladino obviously did it and um, it’s a, it’s a skill set that I will never, never forget and I’m eternally grateful.

Kimra: For me, I think the biggest draw for the show is Megan and that character and I was wondering how you found JoAnna, how either you found her or she came to you and what made you kind of go, by the way, that’s Megan, this is the girl I want for this part?

Rina: It’s so hardcore, cause we could not find a Megan and actually, Joanna didn’t come in, I didn’t know about Joanna Garcia. I was, unfortunately, not a fan. I hadn’t seen Reba. Of course, now I’m catching up on it because she could not be cuter. We were looking for Megan and we were literally at the point where it was a Friday, I will never forget this, and we were in casting forever and going through it, and sending it up the ranks, but no one had really landed. And, it became really clear, if you don’t fill this girl, you don’t have a show and so they weren’t going to allow us to make the show, if we didn’t have a Megan and the cut off time was right around, right after the strike, so it was all this crazy timing stuff. And, it was on a Friday and my casting director Patrick Rush called and he was like, JoAnna Garcia can come in at 6 o’clock tonight. And, we knew that if we didn’t find someone to deliver, we were going to be shutting down production and potentially not making the show at all, so I just remember, I was there with Michael Engler, who is our other Executive Producer, and I looked at him, I’m like, I don’t know who this girl is, but she better be Jesus, because I can’t take it. And she walked in, and she was, so funny, so immediately Megan, cause she was just winning and klutzy, and really self-deprecating in a way that I love. And, as soon as she got into the sides, she was so real and genuine and you just wanted to give her a hug and I was like, that’s, that’s who we need. Cause, you need her to be someone, I think it’s so important that the character really have flaws and really be like all of us. None of us are perfect, but there’s something about JoAnna that you forgive her anything, cause she’s just so sweet and she’s so honestly such a good person, it radiates out into your television. So yeah, it was a thank God moment!

Kimra: For the twins, how important was it that you found two actresses who sort of had the chemistry that they have and was that also a really big challenge?

Rina: That was sheer magic, because we never even met Ashley in person. We met Lucy very early in the process and the second you meet Lucy Hale, you’re like oh, she’s a little movie star so we have to hold on to her, immediately. And, she just got Rose, and it was no contest, it was a no brainer, so we had Lucy, and it was really, the challenge was finding Sage. Because, again it’s such a tricky character and you don’t want someone who’s just going to be cold and just going to be like the bitch, with nothing underneath, because again, it doesn’t live in the right world of our show. Leighton Meester is the best bitch ever, and it’s like, in that world, we didn’t want, we needed to find a different way to do this role. And, it required, like a confidence that a lot of young actresses, you know, don’t have yet. And, people were coming in and coming in and coming in and then I finally actually got a tape of Ashley, cause she was in Canada. She was shooting this little show, called Rent a Goalie, or something, and I knew her manager, because her manager represented Emily Van Camp. So, I had had a relationship with him from Everwood and he called and was like, I have this girl, she’s in Canada, I can’t bring her out, but can I put her on tape? And, I was like, eh, sure, I’ve seen everyone, put her on tape, and when we saw her, it was that same thing. It was like, oh, she’s really special, because she has such a, Ashley Newbrough has such a true vulnerability going on in those big, big, big blue eyes that when she delivers the snarky stuff, you also feel that there’s something behind it, that there’s something going on underneath and it’s important for the character. And then the miracle was that Lucy and Ashley are seriously best friends. They came up to me the other day, they were wearing these little matching rings and they were like, we just went to Nordstrom’s and I’m wearing the green one and she’s wearing the red one for Rose and Sage. And, I was like, I wanted to cry they were so cute. And they spend every minute together. They’re so adorable.

Kimra: That’s awesome.

Rina: Isn’t it? Cause, you know, it could be the other way.

Kimra: Right.

Rina: They literally are like little besties. It’s so cute. They’ve completely taken on. And, Lucy takes Ashley everywhere, because again, Ashley isn’t from here, and we sort of just plopped her at the Palatso, you know, over by the Grove, and Lucy picks her up and takes her to work and they go shopping. They couldn’t be cuter.

Jason: I was wondering, if you could talk a little bit about how the project, as a whole, came about?

Rina: Well, yeah. Actually, I was working on, I was working on Pushing Daisies last year. It was really about this time last year that I got the book and I had just shot a pilot for ABC that didn’t go. And, so I was working and I was just sort of happily working on staff at Daisies and enjoying, you know, the mad genius that is Bryan Fuller and Pete Occo and that whole staff. And, my agent sent me the book, How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, and at that point, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to develop again, because going through the process of making a pilot it’s a really intense, and it’s emotional, and then it’s so sad when it doesn’t happen and I wasn’t sure I was like ready to rev back up again. But, when I read the book, I really, I just loved it, and I really did respond to, I wanted to write some girl power. I’ve always, I’ve been talking about it forever, and I was like, this is the opportunity and it felt like the right project, for the right network. And, I just, I just dug the book. I’m a total sucker for Chick Lit. It’s pathetic actually.

Yeah, Jason do you like the Chick Lit? I feel like, feel like terrorizing you, cause you’re the only boy on the phone. But, that’s probably not cool.

Jason: Yeah, I am sort of the odd man out here, aren’t I?

Rina: (laughter) We’ll let it slide.

Robin (Warner Bros. TV Publicity): That’s all right, you get extra attention then.

Amrie: I was just wondering if you can give us a little hint about what we can expect in the next couple of episodes, you know, some storylines, not spoiling anything obviously, but just something you can look forward to?

Rina: Yes, as I was staying, it took a little time to set stuff up. But, now that we’re in the flow, we have a lot of our bigger secrets that are starting to come out. We have, you know, in this next episode, we finally get a little bit deeper into Laurel and her relationship with the girls and Megan, kind of how she’s inserted herself in that. But, also on the romance side, we’ve seen Charlie, up until now, be kind of the puppy dog and be all in love and that’s about to take a dark turn left, as he tries to get over Megan before Megan has any understanding of what is even going on. So, their relationship, sort of, hits a bad bump right around the time her relationship with Jacob completely explodes into a new direction, which is exciting. But then, we’ve got deeper issues for the sisters, and they start to encounter their first real problems with each other and where their lives are sort of going and how the introduction of Megan into their world has sort of caused the divide and we’re going to see that play out a little bit. We’re also going to meet a lot more of Megan’s family. We’re first going to meet her dad. Of course we have ramifications for Lily the thief, who stole the bracelet. And, I was so surprised, people didn’t totally get that. I was like, oh really? People were like, Sage planted the bracelet in Lily’s purse? And I was like no, no, Lily stole the bracelet. So, to clarify, Lily stole the bracelet. (I found it funny that at this point there were sirens from emergency vehicles in the background of the call. Then the recording goes out for a few seconds) …what Laurel has been keeping from the girls, which Megan is going to find out. Um, and then it’s just the romance. All of those things start popping like popcorn a little bit. We’re at the place where it’s all getting, it’s all about to get a lot juicier. Um, so yeah, so the next two, the next three really in a row, five, six and seven, uh, kind of explode.

Amrie: To follow up, I know Sarah Drew is coming on, is this just a one off for her right now?

Rina: For right now, it is. Um, but of course, you guys know that I’m clearly, weirdly obsessed with Sarah Drew, so I have a tendency to bring her back as much as I possibly can. So, in her role on the show, she plays Megan’s best friend from Yale, so currently still lives in New York, but it’s one of those parts where, if the audience loves her as much as I love her, then there’s certainly room for her to return.

And, I’m still trying to get Gregory Smith on this show. Mark my words; if I get the back nine, he’s coming!

Amrie: That the next part of my question, can we get a lot of the Everwood cast on the show? That would be great…(crosstalk)

Rina: I know! It’s so funny, I did just talk to Gregory, who I love, and I just think is so talented. And, I was like I know you’re busy and you’re like doing all your cool indie movies now, but would you maybe consider doing this part and we had a small part that we thought might work for him, cause he is shooting a lot of movies right now. And, he said yeah, let me see the script. And, when I showed him the script, he’s like, I want to be something bigger. If I’m coming, I want to come for a few days and hang out. It was like done and done! Now, it’s just a matter of finding, finding the right part for him. But, yes, that’s my, I would love, love, love to get him on, because he’s so, so amazing and I miss him.

Kimra: So, one of the things that I really like about Megan is that she’s neurotic sometimes and she’s klutzy and she doesn’t really have a filter and she’ll say inappropriate things, but she’s also really, really smart and really grounded when it comes down to it and I think a lot of people would say the same thing about the Gilmore Girls and I wondered if you could talk a little about what it’s like to write a character like that and how you kind of internally tweak the balance so that she’s, you know, really relatable, but doesn’t go too far either in being really, really uptight and really perfect all the time or just like really goofy and over the top and has no common sense?

Rina: It’s so interesting, cause I think that’s always been, I really do feel like, especially when it comes to women on television, it’s so hard to get those, to get those roles and strike that balance. Because one, finding actresses can do that, who can do what Lauren Graham did and Sarah Jessica Parker does, there’s not that many of them out there. You know, it is that ability, to be funny and laugh at yourself and not take everything too seriously, but then again know when things are important and know how to make, know how to make the turn. And, like I always joke with JoAnna, cause she’s got, you know, she’s got her Cuban flair that fires up every once in a while and you see it in the pilot when she goes off on Sage in front, in front of Laurel and it happens again in this next episode with she and Laurel.

What’s coming up this week is she and Laurel have a massive blowout, where it’s like a screaming match and it’s so awesome, because you just feel like, oh my god, don’t yell at your boss, don’t yell at your boss, how are you yelling at your boss, and you see Megan, JoAnna as Megan is just going for it, because she so, you know, so believes in what she’s saying, but then the second that she finishes it, she has that moment of oh shit, what did I just do, you can’t do that. And, I think that’s so, I think that’s so real and um, and I love, I love how well, I love how well she plays it. But, we are always sort of trying to figure out, you know, what’s too far? And, I think some people are like, oh is that too cutesy, should we pull her back and some of it for me is, I get really protective of certain elements. Like, I remember in the pilot, the moment when she says woo, uh, after she gives the big speech she says woo. I’m a big wooer and I remember there was a point when we had our first notes and the network was telling me, they were like do people really say woo and everyone at the studio, who I’ve known for like ten years started laughing, and (couldn’t make out the name) was like she says woo all the time. I was like yah, so you’re kind of like dissing me right now, if you don’t let her say woo. And, then I just think stuff like that is, it’s, it’s finding it and then when we feel like we’ve gone too far, you know, we pull it back in editing, but, it is, it is a balance and it is. But, it’s, it’s absolutely my favorite part of the show, again, because I think it’s real and I think, you know, the only other person right now who I think is sort of like that on TV, who I love, is Tina Fey. You know, she does that same thing, and she’s so brilliant with it.

Jason: In recent episodes, uh, have seemed to focus on, uh, Megan’s love life and her taking care of the girls. Is, uh, part of the story going to come back with her, what she’s writing and uh, her pursuing her career aspirations more on the writing side?

Rina: Absolutely! And, that is the episode in fact, where everything goes off the chain. It’s, it’s in part of her, in part of her writing pursuit, as, I’m so glad you remembered it actually. It’s helpful to know. Cause we’re, it doesn’t actually show up until our seventh episode, where you sort of see it all come to fruition. But, that’s what she started in the pilot, she has absolutely been continuing, um, under wraps and it all, kind of comes to a head, in a most unfortunate way, in episode seven. But, it is also the sort of thing that allows us to bring up our first big, our first big Laurel secret. So, but yah, we’re definitely still focusing on, on her writing and her aspirations. And, I think that was part of, um, an important part of the show, is making sure, it’s, it’s an ensemble and it’s all these people’s lives. But, if we look at Megan as a 20-something girl who has recently graduated college, it’s like what are the three things that you’re dealing with? You’re dealing with your job, you’re dealing with your love life, and you’re dealing with your family. And, so we try to circle out to all those three, you know, points in her life and we definitely don’t want to lose track of any of them. Cause, I think anyone at that age in your life, like that’s what you’re freaking out about. It’s like, what am I doing, how am I going to get to the next stage? You know, it’s hard.

Robin: And just so you have that information Jason. That episode is going to air November 4th.

Rina: I know, on the election, and they’ve all voted! They’re all wearing “I Voted” stickers. It’s all keyed up.

Robin: It’s all very timely. I love that.

Rina: Of course Megan votes, for God’s sake! I can’t say who she votes for, but I can say she votes.

Amrie: I don’t necessarily have a question, but a comment on Megan seems to meet hot guy after hot guy and I just would like to know what she’s drinking to get the guys attracted to her?

Rina: (laughs)

Amrie: So, are we going to keep seeing, like every guy she meets is a little bit cuter?

Rina: I’m telling you. That, listen, that’s what happens when you get a chick executive producer. I’ve been on a lot of shows where it’s like, let’s get a lot of hot girls! And, now finally, I’m in the seat people, and I’m like, let me see some hot boys. When I was on Jack and Jill actually and that was the other time, Randi Singer was the executive producer on Jack and Jill and that was like the biggest smorgasbord of hot guys I’ve ever seen on television. And, I vowed to her, when this happened, she emailed me on Facebook actually and I was like, my mission is to get the same level of hotness that you got on Jack and Jill and I feel we have succeeded. And, there’s another one in fact coming. Ignacio Serricchio, who we’ve just hired, who is from General Hospital fame. He is actually coming in as a potential love interest for Sage, so there will be more.

Kimra: One other thing I was wondering was, you talked a bit about shows that you’ve worked on and how they’ve influenced what you do now and I’m wondering if there are other influences, be they other shows or books or movies that you’ve kind of pulled in as you’re shaping Privileged?

Rina: I mean I am a huge, I say it all the time, I love television and there’s a, that’s why I’m in it. I love it. I love watching it. My TiVo is always full. And, it, when I was trying to develop this project, it really was thinking about, weirdly, the stuff that I was watching most on my TiVo were reruns of Friends and my Sex and the City DVDs and I love 30 Rock and I love The Office and I’m definitely, um, comedies have always gotten me. And, it’s funny, cause I’ve been in the one-hour world on The WB for so long, but they’ve been, ah, especially with Gilmore, it’s, there’s a, there’s a combination to it. Um, but I do, I do think and then in terms of movies, it’s absolutely romantic comedies. You know, Cameron Crowe and the early Nora Ephron stuff, is very much what I love and what I love writing. And there’s kind of a, it’s a little bit of realism mixed with a lot of wish fulfillment, hence, like yes exactly, Megan being surrounded by the hottest guys ever. This has never hasn’t happened to me in real life. But, it does seem like the kind of stuff that you love seeing on TV. And, I did think like, Sex and the City and Friends were like the biggest void when they vanished from my world and it felt like there was an opportunity to do that type of show at, at a different age. Megan, in some ways, you could look at her and say, maybe this is what Carrie Bradshaw was like at twenty. So, I thought that was, that was like a fun possibility to explore.

Robin: You guys are so great, by the way. I can’t thank you enough. We are in such a, um, state of desperately begging the network for our back nine, so we can keep going. And you guys are really what, what keeps hope alive, out there for us. So, I can’t thank you enough. Really and just so you guys know, for upcoming guest stars, um, we have Kathy Najimy, um, playing a publicist that the girls want to hire, so they can get started on their career. Um, we also have Perez Hilton in our November 11th episode. He’s playing himself. Oh, and also, Rina do you want to tell them about Lucy in that episode?

Rina: Oh my God, yah. The surprise about Lucy Hale is that she’s freakishly talented and can sing. I guess, I don’t know if anyone is a Lucy Hale fan from when she was younger. I think she started on some, some variety show where she was singing. Like, her voice is outrageous. So, we had to capitalize on that immediately, so we have her singing as part of the episode where Perez is there, and publicist is involved. It’s um, we see Lucy Hale singing her own lovely version of “Fever” and it is mind-blowing. She is so good and so cute. So, we’re looking forward to that.

Privileged plays Tuesdays on The CW after 90210. If you’re looking for a feel good show that gives you a little drama, a little comedy, a little romance and overall just puts a smile on your face, then I hope you will check this show out.

I will also be talking to JoAnna Garcia, who plays Megan, and Brian Hallisay, who plays Will, this Friday, November 7th. So, if you have any questions for them, feel free to leave them in the comments below or use the contact form.

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