PG Interview: Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair of BFF

June 1, 2012 No Comments »

Talking to Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair is like being on the set of their NBC series, Best Friends Forever (BFF). It’s a whirlwind of hilarity, infectious laughter, pop culture references – I completely understood why the scripts come mostly from the ladies’ improvisations and the connection that they’ve had for many years. And why those stories have affected so many fans who relate to the honesty and strong emotional connection of having a best friend that means the world to them.

Lennon and Jessica met while taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where they not only developed their comedic skills but also took to heart the lesson that you don’t wait for somebody to give you a job in comedy — you make it yourself. When they got their chance, the two ladies wanted to make something that they felt their friends would find funny – and have been grateful for their support as BFF has suffered from less-than-stellar ratings.

The final two episodes of their six-episode run air tonight (Friday, June 1st) at 8pm/7c on NBC. The ladies talk about the show, their fans and why you shouldn’t wear your yoga pants all the time.

 

The last few episodes of BFF are airing Friday, June 1st. What is your plan?

Jessica: Lennon and I are hosting a very BFF lazy Sunday dinner actually. It’s a very ding-dong hello type of dinner. Lennon — I picked up some colored, some Chinese lanterns for your porch.

Lennon: Excellent. So far only seven people have responded yes. [laughs]

Jessica: Well, I told Fred Savage of The Wonder Years, who is our director, that if he doesn’t show up we’re never speaking to him again, and so he will be there at the very least.

That’s a very good, proper threat.

Lennon: Well, at least he’d RSVP though, so I know how much chicken to get. [laughs]

Is he known for eating a lot of chicken, that Fred Savage?

Lennon: Oh, he stuffs his face, always.

Jessica: It’s true. We have to tell him – we tell him all the time that nobody wants a fat director. We have him on a very strict diet when he’s working for us.

Lennon: He likes those little mini candy bars. It’s very cute.

The miniatures are great because you can rationalize that you’re just having one small thing — and when you when you eat five, you can rationalize that they’re not as big as the regular ones.

Lennon: I know. You get a little taste of everything. Mr. Goodbar, Hershey’s, Nestle Crunch.

Jessica: I just think it’s a mixture of things that aren’t in production anymore. Like, have you seen a full-sized Mr. Goodbar?

You two need to obviously have a website where you just explain how to plan the perfect party.

Jessica: Done and done. Done and done. And we’re going to write a movie. I mean this BFF, this is a revolution, you know? It’s in stages.

 

Were you surprised at the reaction of people about BFF?

Lennon: I was 100 percent surprised. I didn’t know that people knew about it, you know? We kind of couldn’t help ourselves because we were so touched. Someone tweeted at us that she had lost her best friend six years ago, and for 30 minutes she felt close to her again. That really intense, personal stuff.

That’s in addition to everybody including the show and sharing their outrage when [it went on hiatus]– it was phenomenal.

Jessica: Yeah. They were so cute. Even now, the show obviously hasn’t been on the air for a month, but people are writing us, like, “I quoted BFF in my maid of honor speech because the two of us love your show so much.”

What I think touched us the most about it was that people said it really reminded them of them and their best friend, and that they would watch it together. In this age, you’re not often living in the same city as your best friend because those relationships were formed in college, or in high school even, so they would watch it on Skype together.

Wow.

Jessica: I know! When Lennon and I set out to write the show, all we wanted was to write a show that really spoke to best friends, that spoke to that relationship. So the fact that people were actually getting that made us feel like we had done our job.

I do feel like BFF is incredibly reflective of lady best friend relationships, and how ladies talk. The “Oh, I’ve got a rash on my butt” part alone — you don’t necessarily want everyone else to hear that, but you’re going to tell your friend that because that’s the situation.

Lennon: You want to know what’s causing it, and if she has any suggestions. Maybe it’s the new mesh panties you bought on sale.

Jessica: This is a terrible piece of information to share, but I just recently went to my dermatologist and she said, “Hey, thanks for the shout-out — you know, about your butt rash. I really appreciate it.” [Laughs]

I had to show Lennon my butt rash. I didn’t know what was going on and I needed a second opinion, and I certainly wasn’t going to get my husband involved. So in our little office, I had to show it to her. That’s real.

Lennon: It was a simple solution. She just was wearing her yoga pants for too long. [laughs] She would work out and then she would let the sweat dry on her skin, but in between her butt crack it continued to be moist.

Jessica: All right, Lennon. All right.

But here’s my question: How did you, Lennon, know that this was the problem?

Lennon: Because I spend every single day with her for eight hours a day and she was always wearing yoga pants.

We were trying to keep it tight, we would work out in the morning. I would change, and then she would show up at my house straight from the gym in her yoga attire.

Jessica: Mistakes were made. This is the kind of sacrifice that we made for the show and I want people to know it.

And we appreciate it. We really, really do appreciate it. Some writers say that they put their their blood, sweat, and tears into their scripts — and you really did for us.

Lennon: We did.

Jessica: We really did. And we were so happy to because when I still watch TV — I’m not ever like any of these women on television. I’m just not.

Even Sex and the City, that I loved so much — those women, they’re not living my life either. So [we said,] let’s just give it a shot. We’ll actually show what we really do and how we really behave and we’ll see if there’s anybody out there like us. And you know what? There’s a lot of nerdy girls out there who are parading around like normal women and they’re not. And they just feel left alone in the world.

 

Speaking of the nerdy girls — you’ve been so responsive to your fan base, especially on Twitter. Was that something that you set out to do?

Jessica: Everybody on Twitter who we talked to, I would like to hang out with! There’s just not one creepy person. I would like to really have a party and have everybody come and watch the last two episodes because you people all are exactly the type of people that we would be friends with.

Lennon: I felt like that was an unusual thing to me because I’ve heard most people are like, “Oh yeah, 90 percent of the feedback I get is like ‘you suck, go suck a dick.’” There’s maybe been one person that has said something rude to either one of us. I think everyone that watches our show, the people that get it, are smart, intelligent, calm people that are secret weirdos, you know?

Jessica: There was one guy who is obsessed with women wearing pantyhose on talk shows — really thinks that pantyhose should be worn, and so he said something weird about me not wearing pantyhose. Within seconds all of our Twitter followers jumped on him. (laughs)

So you inadvertently picked up a little gang, really.

Jessica: We did! And we want them to follow us to our next whatever, whether it’s BFF continuing, which is what we’re pursuing right now, or if it’s our next thing; we feel like we’ll always have them and that’s such a nice feeling we didn’t have before the show.

We’d all love to see more BFF — where are you looking to pursue the show in other venues?

Lennon: We’re trying to cover everything, honestly. To have it live on somewhere else — we’re looking at every single possible potential action to continue the story of these characters, so we’re sort of in the middle of that right now.

Jessica: We’re really heavily pursuing cable. To be honest, our show is more like a British show in that, even though we only had six episodes, it feels very complete. Cable would really be nice for us because [we could] do 12 and take a break, and then another 12. Lennon and I could write [the episodes] and then shoot them, and then be in the edit room because we really like – to raise Lennon’s point that I wish she never coined – “our fingers in every batch.”

I’m sorry, what in every batch?

Lennon: Fingers.

Jessica: In every episode, Lennon says we really have our fingers in every batch. First she started saying it and now I’m saying it.

Lennon: I almost got it into a script. I almost got Rav to say it in the pilot episode.

I’m trying to coin multiple phrases. I also like the word jamming, or jammers, so I’ve been trying to get jam in every episode. So even if we don’t write it, I’ll improvise something with jams in it.

Jessica: In episode two, [she was supposed to say,] “You know how Jessica likes to help people out of a situation?” She just kept saying, “You know how Jessica likes to help people out of a jam?”

Which nobody says, right? When we get into the edit room I realize that she’s only thing she says, so we have no choice [to leave it in] because that’s a plot point.

I have to agree that I’ve heard people say, “Get people out of a jam,” so I do stick up for the jam in that aspect.

Jessica: When would you say it? Were you in the 1800s when that was being said to you? [laughs]

Lennon: That was a phrase I’ve been trying to say. I don’t know who you’re talking to, but that is a phrase that people use: “Jam, get you out of a jam.”

I really wanted the phrase, “Jimmy jamming around. You’ve got to quit jimmy jamming around. You’ve got to get out of here.” Like that.

Jessica: Enough!

That one’s pushing it. “Jimmy jamming around” is definitely pushing it.

Lennon: Yeah. And that’s why it’s not in our show.

A lot of people obviously love Queenetta (Daija Owens), more commonly known as Q. One of you said that she was like the Greek chorus, which is just absolutely perfect. I think everyone has that little Greek chorus in their life, although it’s often a very flamboyant gay male.

Jessica: That’s interesting because the gay men have really rallied around Queenetta, and I think that’s because she is like a miniature gay man.

She totally is!

Jessica: I never thought of it that way. That’s a great way to put it because she’s always telling you, you need to lose a few and get rid of those pants and stop acting like that and tighten it up, and it’s true. [laughs]

Lennon: I think since we live in Los Angeles, we sort of have to seek that guidance out. Because Brooklyn would tell you if your outfit was ugly, you know what I mean? Like, everyone from the muffin lady to the deli guy, to the person you’re sitting next to on the subway, would let you know if something that you were wearing was inappropriate, you know?

In LA you could be out and about for hours at a time and not know that your skirt is tucked into your underwear or something. Those people are in their own world, they’re not engaging, you know?

Do you think you could set a show like this in LA? Like, I think it definitely has a very New York sensibility to it.

Jessica: A lot of people said that it would be a lot easier if [we] set this in LA. And we never for a second heard it because it’s a kind of homey neighborhood where everybody’s character is really true. As much as we made it a little more, Gilmore Girls than it probably is, it’s really very true to what living in the neighborhood in Brooklyn or Manhattan is like. You get to know everyone in your six-block radius and you sort of recognize. For Lennon and I, our formative years were in New York: Lennon lived in Brooklyn and then I was in Manhattan. We think so fondly of that time – it’s really nice for us while we’re baking in the LA sun to remember those things in New York.

It was so much fun to shoot in New York. Everyone in Cobble Hill where we shot — they were so cute. In LA, everyone’s annoyed that we’re shooting, but in New York, everyone’s like, “Now what’s this program? Oh my god, I love it. You girls are so cute.” You know what I mean? [laughs] “Welcome to the neighborhood, girls.” So we loved it. We had so much fun.

I find that even the jaded New Yorkers who see Law and Order shoot like 6,000 times all the time, you see the little, “Oh, somebody’s shooting over here. Who’s it going to be?” And that’s kind of neat. As cynical as we can possibly be out here, I don’t think that New York has lost kind of the excitement of watching creativity take place and supporting it.

Jessica: And everyone in New York has such a good sense of humor. That’s the truth right there. From the six-year-old girls to the Italian deli guy, everyone’s got a sense of irony and sarcasm that you just do not get in LA. Mike Starr played our butcher, Angelo — he’s been in every Goodfellas, every mob movie, because he has that New York way. It was so easy to write those characters for us because we loved them all so much.

Lennon: I had such an intimate relationship with my deli guy that when I told him I was moving to Los Angeles, he was struck down. He said, “Wait, but when are you coming back?” I said, “No, I’m leaving. I’m moving.” And he asked, “But just for a little while, right?” And I said “No. I’m going. I’m moving.”

I remember coming here and like sort of seeking that out, you know? At Intelligentsia or something, I would ask, “Tell me about this coffee” and they would be like, “Fuck you, man. It’s coffee. You wouldn’t even understand it if I did explain it.” You know? That kind of attitude. I gave up. Decided to just write about it.

I was really excited to read an interview where you mentioned that another New York-based show, Kate and Allie was such an influence for you. I loved them and that was kind of my image of what awesome ladies could be when they got older. They were friends, and they had their own lives, and they did the things that made them happy — they fought, but they were friends for so many years, and they just loved each other.

Jessica: Golden Girls did the same thing. Even though Rose Nylund was always driving Dorothy crazy, at the end of the day they all had each other’s back. Whatever Lennon and I write, whether it’s BFF or anything else, it will always be about love because that’s what we all do. No one hangs out with someone they hate, you know what I’m saying? Not in your thirties. [Laughs]

Lennon: You might in your twenties, but you learn the hard way that that’s not going to get you anywhere. Even if you think that you should be hanging out with them for such and such reason, at the end of the day nobody wants that in their thirties.

Supergirly question — here do you get most of the clothes on your show? Because everyone just absolutely loves the styling on your show.

Lennon: It’s sort of all over the place. I was attempting to do on our Best Friends Forever Pinterest page I was trying to upload photos of us and then where we got the shirt, or where we got the jeans, or what kind of shoes there were, so I think I did that for the first and maybe the second episodes. Maybe I can keep doing that.

Jessica: We try to get clothes that are close to how we try to dress, but better. We hired this fabulous French [costume designer] – she’s the sexiest woman we’ve ever met. Her name is Florence-Isabelle Megginson. We literally hired her because she’s so sexy and we said, “We definitely like you.” She was like, “O-kay.”

But we tried with our clothes to make them not look like TV clothes. You know like how most shows, their accessories are crazy and they’re different for everything? We tried to wear the same purses, and sometimes we re-wear things because we wanted it to really feel like our closet, you know?

Lennon: We would definitely re-wear jeans and shoes and jewelry, and usually the tops were all different every time. I did a bunch of Madewell and Brooklyn industry stuff. And sometimes Marc by Marc Jacob when I can find it on sale. [laughs] I wore French Connection. And then Jessica was a lot of Paige denim jeans.

Jessica: Yes, and a lot of Splendid tops. And a lot of shoes were from our closet.

We had this awesome awesome tailor. For the cougar ball, it was a Dolce and Gabbana dress that we bought and then remade it.

Lennon: We had expensive taste that we had to really fake.

Jessica, you had mentioned that you are a big fan of Anne of Green Gables — would you have planned an Anne of Green Gables-themed party for season two?

Jessica: Okay. Amy, I will tell you this: Lennon and I hosted an Anne of Green Gables olden days Christmas party, and that was in real life. I was the hit of the social season. I made gingerbread, Lennon made her wassail. Is that correct, Lennon? Am I saying it right?

Lennon: Yeah. You are allowed to say that.

Jessica: All right. And then we screened all of the holiday seasons from the entire series. Now, the weirdest thing about Anne of Green Gables is that there are about 12 comedians who you would recognize who are obsessed with Anne of Green Gables as well. They all came over and we did all of these olden days activities. My husband was like, “I am leaving the house. I may never come back.” It was the weirdest thing.

June Raphael, who is this fabulous comedienne – she’s married to Paul Scheer. She shows up in this bizarre outfit that by accident ended up making her look like one of the sister wives. We didn’t say come in costume, mind you. She was going for an olden thing – she wore like a ruffled blouse with like a ruffled long skirt. But yes, we would have absolutely had an Anne of Green Gables. What I would have done would be one of their old-fashioned ice cream socials. That’s what I would have hosted.

Oh, that sounds delightful! And I’d have to say in real life, how did the two of you decide that you really needed to do an Anne of Green Gables party?

Jessica: We got lost in that moment, to be honest with you.

Lennon: I think there was a time frame when Jessica and I were really learning about each other, and when we found out that we were both obsessed with Anne of Green Gables it was like hours later that we stopped talking about it. So we were like, “Oh, this is something that we’re going to have to delve into in a real way.”

Jessica: Lennon, wouldn’t you say it was almost like our coming out party? Like our debutante ball for this is who we are, you know, as adults?

Lennon: Yeah, if you want to think about it that way. [laughs] That’s fine.

I think Jessica appears to be such a put-together normal woman on the surface, and then underneath she’s just as fucked up as the rest of us. But I feel like I’m just super fucked up on the surface already, so I spent half an hour designing a gingerbread man at that party, speaking to no one. Just really getting into making a little yellow bikini on my gingerbread man, which then garnered everyone’s respect. But I wasn’t being a social person — I didn’t apologize for that, and everybody left me alone because they know that I’m weird like that.

Jessica: The other thing is, this was actually the second Anne of Green Gables party I had. The first one I ever had, we had a quiz with very difficult questions. I didn’t expect anybody to get them all right, okay? Well, we had a sudden death situation. We had two people that got 100 on the quiz, and so I had to go into a sudden death round.

June unfortunately lost on the question, “What did Gilbert’s bride almost die of?” Now, that’s scarlet fever, but she went with the croup, and she lost. And it was embarrassing for her, and she’s going to be embarrassed that it’s in print. That’s what happens. [laughs]

Who was this now?

Jessica: You know, the same woman who dressed up as a sister wife. She lost in the sudden death.

Lennon: But you have to say who won, though. You have to say who won!

Jessica: Jocelyn Diaz, who is the [VP of Production at Disney Studios]. Like movies. She’s like this amazing woman. She won, and she won the collected works of Anne of Green Gables.

Lennon: In DVD form or in a book form?

Jessica: In a book form. I kept it classic. But it’s show business, it’s not show fun, you know what I mean? I’m not going to bend the rules.

That’s awesome. I really like the fact that eventually when she googles herself, this will be coming up, that she has mad Anne of Green Gables skills.

Jessica: Oh yeah. She will be happy about that.

Lennon: She will be very thankful to us when we share that with everyone. [laughs]

In the pilot where you were talking about Steel Magnolias, it reminded me of the moment in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion where they’re watching Pretty Woman, and making fun of it. Then they stop and Michelle says “I’m just really happy when they finally let her shop.” I have done that, as I’ve done it Steel Magnolias too. That scene is such a funny, honest, super personal reflection.

Jessica: Thank you so much. I better watch Romy and Michelle again. I’ve got to do that.

Lennon: For a really long time my friend Jennifer and I had planned [that] at my wedding that we were going to do this full-out. This was before I met the man I was going to marry. [Laughter] We would do this full-out dance where the audience would part, and we would essentially do this duet like they do at the end of Romy and Michelle.

Once I met my husband I realized that was not going to ever happen because the wedding is not about me and my relationship with Jennifer. If anybody’s going to dance alone, it’s going to be me and my new husband, or me and my dad, you know? There was sort of a moment like that on the dance floor anyway, where everybody kind of parted and we were going crazy to Michael Jackson, but it wasn’t choreographed. [laughs] I love that movie.

It would definitely have to go on the list of good best friend films, if you were planning a themed party.

Jessica: Just throw in My Best Friend’s Wedding and I’m there.

IThere’s kind of a running theme here with them all being Julia Roberts movies. And in My Best Friend’s Wedding, she’s quite the evil character, which is kind of delightful.

Jessica: She is — I don’t know why, but I also loved her eighties outfits and I feel like I still would wear them today. I remember her weird shirts she wore, but I still think they hold up. I’d love to hear your opinions on that.

Lennon: Well, they’re definitely coming back, those big blazers with the shoulders.

Jessica: Thank god. Lennon tried on yellow blazer. I had to forcibly tackle her to stop her. I don’t know what – we’re making a lot of weird choices in our depression to be honest. A lot of weird choices.

Lennon: It was the right fit, you know? And I needed a pop of color.

A pop of color — with a yellow blazer?

Lennon: I didn’t buy it because she shot me down. This was after I told her she was beautiful in the prairie blouse that she bought and has been wearing every day — and she does.

Jessica: Not on my watch, Lennon. Not on my watch.

Do you wear the prairie blouse with yoga pants?

Jessica: I tried. Believe me, if I could I would. If it was okay to wear the yoga pants all the time I would, but I am not doing that anymore.

Ladies, this is a public service announcement: Do not do it. You’re going to have to get cream, and you’re going to have to use that cream for three months. [laughs]

Lennon: And you know what? You’re going to have to use cream in your jam, right guys?

Jessica: All right. All right.

See! BFF is educational and helpful, not just entertaining.

Jessica: Exactly. Exactly.

We were so heartbroken because these characters have become like real people to us, and we need to see what’s going to happen with Joe and Lennon’s wedding. We need to see Jess and Rav get to doing it, you know what I mean?

Absolutely.

Jessica: So America doesn’t know it, but they need it.

 

Lennon Parham on Twitter

Jessica St. Clair on Twitter

Best Friends Forever on Facebook

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