Doll & Em needs to be on your radar. Premiering tonight at 10 p.m., the scripted dramedy follows the life of Emily Mortimer, playing a caricatured version of herself, and her BFF since childhood, Dolly Wells, whose fictionalized self moves to L.A. to become Mortimer's personal assistant. Their sister-like friendship unravels as the entertainment business begins to take a toll on them. Although it's stacked with A-list cameos and surreal only-in-Hollywood situations, the show is full of heart that can't be faked. Audiences get such a disarmingly up-close-and-personal look into Mortimer and Wells' friendship, however modified for the TV screen, that it's difficult not to feel emotionally connected to them by the first episode's end.
Complex got a chance to speak to the six-episode mini-series' director, and Wells and Mortimer's writing partner, Azazel Jacobs about how he got involved with the show and what sets Doll & Em apart from everything else on television.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
So how did you meet Emily and Dolly?
I met Dolly through a mutual friend a little over a dozen years ago when she was visiting L.A., and she was going to see Emily who had just made the move over there. I met Emily maybe a week later, so it's been a long relationship.
Who approached who about doing a mini-series?
The three of us had always talked about doing something together. Dolly brought up this idea that Emily and her recently had about what if she was her personal assistant. They were talking maybe a movie or a play, but I suggested that it was something that we could do in pieces, while at the same time approach it like a film and give it a full arch.
How much of it is real?
It's hard for me to separate. There isn't anything that happens in the show that can't happen in real life because there's a natural true friendship behind it. Dolly and Emily are able to be insecure with each other because there's something extremely trusting and creative with their friendship.
Considering you've spent so much time with them, what have you observed about their friendship?
I have never seen a female relationship that, first off, went from such a young age and is that tight. To have been able to weather all these years and still want to talk to each other and make something with each other, it just seemed so healthy, so particular, and so rare that I was drawn to it.
How do you direct them when you are basically directing them to be themselves?
They are playing variations and they aren't thinking that much about it. They're thinking, "What would this character do?" It wasn't any different than directing someone playing an unfamiliar character.
I hope the audience sees something that's not only familiar but really true, and that there's something in the show that can’t be directed nor written nor acted.
How did writing the series together work?
Well the first episode was hardly written. It was kind of an outline for each little scene. Once we actually decided to go on and get commissioned, the three of us started writing together. First, we met in New York because it was kind of like the half way point. I flew to New York from Los Angeles, Emily was already here, and Dolly flew from London. Ultimately, we wound up emailing the scripts back and forth and getting on Skype trying to find windows to check in as much as possible.
How did you manage to pull all of those cameos?
It really came down to everybody calling in favors and finding people that were up for having some fun. There are only a specific amount of actors that were going to answer that call and go, “Yeah, I have half a day to come down." All of us in our own ways have built up good will with these people and there was something that seemed exciting and worthwhile for them.
The show gives you such a great, comforted feeling.
Not that it wasn’t work, but it was a good feeling making it. There was a feeling on the set that we were getting a chance to do something personal and I think even the crew felt that way.
Are you hoping the audience will get that sense?
I hope the audience sees something that's not only familiar but really true, and that there's something in the show that can’t be directed nor written nor acted. There's a real heart to the show and I'd like to believe it is something that most of us are looking for.