TCA 18: ‘Good Girls’ Go Bad in NBC’s New Comedy

Stars Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman joined executive producer Jenna Bans onstage Tuesday, January 9th to discuss their upcoming NBC comedy Good Girls. Before you ask, the title is ironic and the three women do indeed engage in some very bad behavior as suburban mothers who are driven to desperate extremes due to dire circumstances. But lest anyone fret that network TV will prevent these ladies from being as dark and edgy as they desire, Bans assured critics that, “These women are so funny when they’re together, and a lot of the laughs and a lot of the comedy just comes from the chemistry and the vibe they have with each other, and it isn’t necessarily about a dark subject.”

Good Girls is essentially a love story but it’s between these three women.,” says Bans.

And Good Girls isn’t here to preach to its audience or to promote grocery store robberies, either. As Whitman explained, “That’s one thing I really loved about the show right away was sort of it brings up the question of morals and justification systems and what is good and what’s evil and sort of what would you do, how far would you go to protect your family, what are the intentions behind these characters’ motives in doing what they do.” Each episode of the show delves deeper into the question of right and wrong without casting moral judgments on the characters or audience. It is done in a humorous and heartwarming way if the trailer is anything to go by, but that’s not to say there won’t be painful moments in the series – even in the first episode.

Journalists and fans alike have been throwing the phrase Thelma and Louise around, but Hendricks has a few qualms about that comparison. “Storywise, I don’t think it necessarily applies, but I think what people are responding to is the chemistry and the camaraderie of these women and these powerful women together, so that makes sense to me. We have had a bit of that.” One thing the cast and producer agreed on was that the theme of doing something drastic to get out of a rut is very relatable to women, and in fact to anyone interested in watching.

Retta’s character, Ruby Hill, in particular has big hole she’s climbing out of. Her daughter is suffering from a rare kidney disease, and she needs money for the silver bullet medicine that will treat the illness. Bans even admitted that she researched the medicine, which is called eculizumab, and selected it first before even deciding on the disease. “And everybody battles with pronouncing it,” Retta quipped in response.

For those wondering how Good Girls can keep its theme fresh week after week, Bans describes her method succinctly. “I think the show really becomes about these characters trying to balance their personal lives[…] At the same time, they’re in a whole buttload of trouble from what they started in the pilot. So it sort of becomes more and more fraught and it’s a little bit of a snowball effect rolling towards the end of the first season.”

Retta looking glam at the TCA panel.

The actresses were full of praise for their fearless leader’s writing style. “She’s able to build a world that is so full and deep while also having it be this crazy, action packed situation,” Whitman declared. Retta expressed how the script moved her to tears, saying, “I was all in from the first, the first reading. And then, the third[…] I cried every time I read it. I cried at the same spots every time.” Bans redirected some of the shine back onto the cast, as well. “It’s totally a collaboration, because these ladies will add to lines and make them their own in a way that’s a hundred times better than I ever could have written.” Hendricks summed up the collaboration effort nicely: “We do go from very, very serious stuff into funny things, and we just try to make sure that we honor what Jenna’s written and that we play every moment as real, that you honor each one of those moments as real.”

The leads of Good Girls are all known for their stellar work in ensemble stories, but this is one of the first times they’re really getting to branch out as the focal point of a story. Whitman was most interested in the layers of each of the protagonists. “The characters are so complex and it’s not your average, you know, normal person in the lead that doesn’t really have a strong personality or whatever.” Retta especially hit a poignant note when describing how often she’s offered only the roles meant to help others or further their plot. “[Good Girls] was the first time I felt I got to play a person with love in her life, who, you know, outside of dealing with the problems of her sick child, is happy. ”

What about the men, you ask? Well, as much as it is a story about the women, Good Girls isn’t looking to demonize or sideline their male counterparts as much as a show called “Bad Boys” might do to the wives. “We try to make issues such as parenting and marriage more complicated than she’s right and he’s wrong,” Bans clarified.

Check out the Good Girls trailer below, and then watch the premiere Monday, February 26 at 10/9c on NBC.