Being a first-timer at anything can be overwhelming. You’re so concerned about fitting in and doing things right that all your personality drains out of you, leaving nothing but a wannabe perfectionist who reads like a nervous mess. Despite introducing herself as a walking mess in the video below, it sure looks like Abby McEnany left all of those overwhelming vibes outside her first full-time job as the lead actor, writer, and creator on a comedy series.
“Work in Progress” premiered its pilot at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, getting scooped up by Lilly Wachowski and her production company, Circle of Confusion, before selling to Showtime, where the show will debut this December.
In the video below, McEnany — a veteran of the Chicago improv scene — takes you on a mini tour of her set, explaining how the show came to be, what motivated it, and sharing behind-the-scenes footage of what looks like a very good time filming it all. Her energy is quickly infectious, and having seen and loved the pilot at Sundance, that same charisma is about to sweep through television as “Work in Progress” rolls out.
The series features McEnany as a 45-year-old self-identified fat, queer dyke from Chicago whose misfortune and despair unexpectedly lead her to a vibrantly transformative relationship. Chicago-based performer Karin Anglin co-stars alongside Celeste Pechous, with Julia Sweeney “Saturday Night Live,” “Shrill” appearing in a crucial role as herself. Theo Germaine, who IndieWire cited as another 2019 breakout talent in Netflix’s “The Politician,” will also appear as a special guest star.
“Work in Progress” is executive produced by McEnany, fellow co-creator Tim Mason, and co-writer Lilly Wachowski. All three serve as co-showrunners on Season 1, while Mason is directing these initial episodes and Circle of Confusion colleagues Lawrence Mattis, Ashley Berns, and Josh Adler are all onboard as executive producers, as well.
“Work in Progress” premieres Sunday, December 8 at 11 p.m. ET on Showtime. Check out the exclusive video below.
Abby McEnany knows there are not a lot of people who look like her on TV. She knew it 30 years ago, when the character of Pat, a chubby nerd whose inscrutable gender was the scene's only punchline, appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” Here, finally, was someone who did look like Abby on TV. There was just one problem: Pat's sole reason for making it to screen was so that people could laugh at their appearance.
Nearly three decades after Pat's “SNL” debut — thanks to McEnany and her co-creator Tim Mason — another androgynous, heavyset, nerdy, butch lesbian has miraculously made her way to television. She's glorious, she's hilarious, and she's definitely having the last laugh.
The show is called “Work In Progress,” and it wraps a superlative first season this Sunday. In just eight 30-minute episodes, “Work in Progress” has radically reshaped what queer stories can look like on TV, blowing the competition out of the water with its sharp black comedy, lovable trans characters, and refreshingly unfiltered take on mental illness, body image, and gender non-conformity.
The series follows self-identified fat, queer dyke Abby McEnany, as her plans to commit suicide are complicated by an unexpected romance with adorable trans man Chris Theo Germaine, who's 20 years her junior. The developing relationship challenges her to open up about her obsessive compulsive habits, suicidal ideation, self-loathing, and sexual hang-ups. If that doesn't necessarily sound like the stuff of side-clutching comedy, that's exactly what makes it so damn brilliant.
“The thing about our show is it's not all palatable queers,” McEnany told IndieWire during a recent interview. “For middle America or whatever America, I'm not a palatable queer. Right? I'm this fat, loud, gray-haired, masculine, queer dyke who's a mess. But the goal of this show is, hopefully — for folks out there that feel isolated — to show that there's a life out there without shame, and just stick in there.”
The show works because it is coming directly from McEnany's perspective, with Mason's help. The writing duo Mason directs every episode as well have been doing improv in Chicago for over 20 years, and they understand how to seamlessly weave comedy into every scene.
“Work in Progress”
“I think honestly I wouldn't have been ready for this 10 years ago or five years ago. I've just been steadily kind of working, and performing, writing, improvising, and acting,” said McEnany. “I think I'm just one of those people that keeps on trying and does stuff at her own pace.”