This post was sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network. However, all opinions are 100% my own.
9JKL centers on a newly divorced actor Josh Roberts (Mark Feuerstein), who recently moved into an apartment complex where he finds himself sandwiched between his parents Harry and Judy Roberts (Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin) and his brother’s family Andrew and Eve Roberts (David Walton and Liza Lapira). The living situation creates for a very interesting family dynamic, forcing Josh to create boundaries for his family while also trying to bond with them.
That’s It LA and fellow bloggers were recently invited to participate in a set visit for the freshman sitcom, where we learned more about the comedy, how real-life events helped inspire certain episodes, and what it takes to create these apartments on set.
Feuerstein admits that the show will draw some real-life events that could range from his father embarrassing him on a date, to his father getting him to create viral videos that would help promote his real estate business, to his mother waiting by the door. So he has plenty of material to work with, especially since the show is loosely based on his life. “It’s a tribute to my wife and the writing staff that things that are true to life that make it in in the most imaginative ways,” Feuerstein said.
The co-creator considers himself to be lucky to have his wife as his fellow co-creator and a part of the writing team. There are even times where she puts in extra hours to perfect the script, while he tends to the kids at home. So even though it may seem like working together on a sitcom such as 9JKL would create some arguments or infighting, Feuerstein says that it has actually brought them closer together. And 13 episodes in, he still cannot believe that they have made it this far. There have been weeks where Dana and I both want to pull our hair out but here we are, Feuerstein said. “We are stronger and tighter and more in love and supportive of each other. We’ve made it and we’ve come a long way.”
But basing a show on your life experiences can be a bit scary, as it can reveal some very personal things to a wide audience. However, Feuerstein sees things a bit differently. “I am incredibly grateful to my family that has allowed me to take advantage of the color and the personality that they have and let me try in some way to communicate that and convey that through a TV show,” Feuerstein said. “Along with my wife, every time I do an interview and talk about my family, I can’t believe that I get to talk about them in the context of the stories that we get to tell because it’s a great privilege to tell stories at all let alone to tell stories about my family for people to laugh and enjoy them.”
The actor says that even though 9JKL is based on his life, it is not a documentary. He adds that the sitcom is not based entirely on his life, but rather draws inspiration from his family and writing team. “I feel very grateful that I’m surrounded by this incredible cast who depict so brilliantly way beyond what I ever thought this show could be – what was the kernel coming from my family,” Feuerstein said.
Though it is a comedy, the writing on the show is so tight and focused, that it doesn’t allow much room for improv. While the format may work for some shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Feuerstein says the show has a “committee of 12 brilliant writers who sit and deliberate over every single word.” There may be a few words that are added or eliminated; it doesn’t hurt the heart of the content. “Although we definitely have a say in our reactions and things that we bring to it, are all improved and all alive but it’s just those words are meant to be said,” Feuerstein said.
When you watch the show, check out the set. Feurestein shared that there are similarities to his parents home. He took a trip back to NY when they were designing the sets. He took pictures of every room in his parents apartment as well as the apartment that he lived in next door. The set isn’t a replica of their apartments but attributed the look to set designer Steve Olson, “he is a genius at taking a kernel of an idea and just making it his own. The things that are similar are the flowers and the candy that which my mother puts out. Some of it has dust from 1986. The Post-its are from my parents house in long island and their rolodex is writing a number down and putting it on the cabinet and they have literally 120 post its that somehow they know how to find. So we replicated that on the refrigerator.”
There is at least one notable difference that is not a direct reflection of his life. While Liza Lapira plays Josh’s sister-in-law, Feuerstein’s real-life sister in law is not Asian. “She is honored and flattered and privileged and depicted by Lisa who has taken this character in such amazing realms, in what is whatever the true kernel, real life,” said Feuerstein. The actor added that he and his wife are very involved in the casting process and that they are very happy that they were able to get their first choices.
9JKL airs Mondays 9:30 ET/PT on CBS
Stars: Mark Feurestein, David Walton, Elliott Gould, Linda Lavin, Liza Lapira, Matt Murray and Albert Tsai.