Paleyfest 2018: Multicultural Families in “I Feel Bad”

I Feel Bad had a special premiere last week on NBC, but the series officially starts on October 4th. The series is based on a book called I Feel Bad: All Day. Every Day. About Everything by Orli Auslander, and it tackles the many internal struggles that adults (but women especially) go through on a daily basis. We had the opportunity to chat with some of the cast and crew behind the comedy at this year’s Paleyfest, and they were particularly proud of the blending of cultures within their main character’s family, as well as the many unexpected ways there are to feel bad. Check out the interviews below to see if this show is going to make it onto your Fall schedule next month!

Sarayu Blue is the star of I Feel Bad, playing working mom Emet Kamala-Sweetzer, and she’s supported by costar Paul Adelstein in the role of her husband David. The actress was effusive regarding the rise of interracial relationships onscreen, saying that “it’s hard to express enough… how imperative it is. It’s the kind of representation we’re all looking for more and more of on every level.” She added, “Just to get to see it in such a normal, real way is a breath of fresh air. That’s what makes our show so relatable.”

Adelstein commented on their situation as well. “[The show] is very specific to that, but it’s not about that necessarily. It’s what the world looks like; it’s what America looks like.”

Madhur Jaffrey plays Maya Kamala, the mother we all want to impress and yet feel exasperated by. Her desire to be part of I Feel Bad stemmed from reading the first few pages of the script. “They were fantastic and they were funny.” When it comes to the character of Maya specifically, she enjoyed the contentious dynamic between mother and daughter. “We are always fighting… But we are exactly alike. We also love each other, but we try never to show it.”

That layered relationship often makes up the heart of the show, but Jaffrey also found the interracial marriage aspect very relatable. “All my grandkids are mixed kids,” she explained. “As a family, there’s a great similarity that we have. When we get together, everyone has different ideas.”

Brian George has played all sorts of roles throughout the year, and now he’s the easygoing Sonny Kamala, who tries to stay out of his family’s squabbles as much as possible. “The fact that it’s not about a South Asian family” is what drew him to I Feel Bad. “It’s not made anything, other than they’re an American family of different backgrounds.” There will be some stereotypes flipped on their heads in the first season, including the ideas of how parents raise their kids.

When it comes to Emet herself, George detailed her struggles as follows. “She’s now dealing with the idea of being a career woman, a mother of three children… And [having] a mother who’s a little less than easy to be with.” Not only does it fall to him to play the role of pacifier at times, but he and his onscreen wife often end up being “babysitters” when their daughter’s life gets too hectic.

I Feel Bad‘s creator, Aseem Batra, shared the journey to the show’s birth. “I related so much to this book that when I came in and pitched, we all just got into this amazing two-hour conversation about our lives,” she confessed, which is how her fellow producers knew they wanted to work with her on bringing the story to life. As for the part of the story that speaks most to her, Batra said, “We have all this pressure on us to be a certain way. We’re in a society where people are judging each other on social media, and there’s the pressure we put on ourselves to be career women and mothers.”

“We never shy away from talking about [any] certain cultural thing that is unique to this family,” she added, referring to the specificity of an Indian-American family being at the center of the story. “But what we aren’t doing is addressing the problems of these two cultures coming together, because frankly it’s 2018 and I’m an American girl.”

Producer Julie Anne Robinson helped out by providing a few hilarious examples of when she might feel bad, some of which are going to be part of the show this season. “I feel because I’m too sentimental, I feel bad because I’m turning into my mother – which is one that I really relate to, I feel bad I’m a total massive hypocrite – which is one that I just directed.” That last one sounds like something everyone can relate to, and it’s certain to make compelling television.

Catch up on the first two episodes at nbc.com, and tune in for the rest of the first season starting on October 4th at 9:30 eastern.