Talking with Privileged executive producer Rina Mimoun is an awful lot like gossiping over cocktails with a friend — which is exactly what I'd hoped for from the person behind one of my favorite Fall shows. Last week, Mimoun — who's also worked on Gilmore Girls, Everwood, and Pushing Daisies — chatted with some bloggers about her show, which airs a new episode tonight at 9 p.m. It was so fun I wish you all could have been there, but in lieu of that, here are highlights:
What was it like adapting the book [How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls] into a series? Were there things you took directly from the book, and things you changed or dropped?
What I loved about the book was the character of Megan and the setting of Palm Beach. It felt like a great thing that hadn't been on TV. And obviously her relationship to the girls — the logline of the book was very much the tutor who comes in from the other side of the tracks, so to speak, to tutor these spoiled heiresses. . . . In reading the book, it had this fantastic, snarky quality to it, which felt a little more along the lines of Gossip Girl, and when I spoke to the people at Alloy and Warner Bros., I was like, "You know, I'm not going to do Gossip Girl better than Gossip Girl does Gossip Girl." . . . So the idea was the girls became a little less cruel, and even Megan, in the book, was a little more sinister. . . . When I read it, I was thinking about, like, there's a way to do this that feels more like Cinderella, and feels more fairy tale, and feels more like Clueless, where we get to use more comedy.
From a story perspective, the main thing that wasn't in the book at all but that has become really helpful as a story engine is Megan's family. In the book, Megan's family — she doesn't have any problems with them, they seem delightful, her parents are married, she loves her sister, they're all in New York. The thing that we got to really create from scratch in the writer's room was the broken home, the alcoholic father, the mother who left them, the sort of treacherous relationship with her sister, because it felt like themes that were going to emerge as we keep telling stories were stories about family and stories about sisterhood specifically. I really wanted to play up the notion of these two spoiled girls who seem like the worst people in the world except that they're maybe the greatest sisters ever, and Megan, who seems like she's actually the savior and the saint, except when she's with her own sister.
To hear how she found JoAnna Garcia, what's filling up her TiVo, and what's up with all the gorgeous Privileged guys, just
How did you find JoAnna Garcia, and what made you think, "That's our Megan"?
We were in casting forever and going through it and sending it up the ranks but no one had really landed. And so they weren't going to allow us to make the show if we didn't find the Megan, and the cutoff time — it was right after the strike, so there was all this crazy timing stuff — it was on a Friday and my casting director Patrick Rush called and said, "JoAnna Garcia can come in at 6 o'clock tonight." And we knew that If we didn't find someone to deliver, we were going to be shutting down production and potentially not making the show at all. I remember I was there with Michael Engler, our other executive producer, and I looked at him and I'm like, "I don't know who this girl is, but she better be Jesus, because I can't take it." And she walked in, and she was so funny, so immediately Megan, cause she was just winning and klutzy and really self-deprecating in a way that I love. As soon as she got into the sides, she was so real and genuine and you just wanted to give her a hug, and I was like, "That's who we need."
What about the twins? How important was it to find actresses with that kind of chemistry together?
We met Lucy very early on in the process, and the second you meet Lucy Hale you're like, "Oh, well, she's a little movie star, so we have to hold onto her immediately." She just got Rose — it was a no-contest. The challenge was finding Sage because again it's such a tricky character and you don't want someone who's just going to be cold and just going to be the b*tch with nothing underneath. . . . I knew [Ashley's] manager because he represented Emily Van Camp, so I had had a relationship with him from Everwood, and he called me and he's like, "I have this girl, I can't bring her out, she's in Canada, can I put her on tape?" . . . Ashley Newbrough has such a true vulnerability going on in those big, big, big, blue eyes that when she delivers the snarky stuff, you also feel like there's something behind it.
Can you talk a little bit about how the project came together?
I had just shot a pilot for ABC that didn't go, and I was just sort of happily working on staff at Pushing Daisies and enjoying the mad genius that is Bryan Fuller and Peter Ocko and that whole staff, and my agent sent me the book How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls. And at that point I wasn't even sure that I wanted to develop again, because, you know, going through the process of making a pilot is really intense, and it's emotional, and it's so sad when it doesn't happen, and I wasn't sure I was ready to rev back up again. But when I read the book, I just loved it. I wanted to write some girl power. I've been talking about it forever and this was the opportunity, it really felt like the right project for the right network.
What are some teasers for what's coming up?
In this next episode, we finally get a little bit deeper into Laurel and her relationship with the girls and Megan. But also on the romance side, we've seen Charlie up until now be kind of a puppy dog and be all in love, and that's about to take a dark turn left as he tries to get over Megan before Megan has any understanding of what is even going on. So their relationship kind of hits a bad bump, right around the time that her relationship with Jacob completely explodes into a new direction. And then we've got deeper issues for the sisters, and they sort of start to encounter their first real problems with each other and how their lives are going and how the introduction of Megan into their world has sort of caused a divide.
Megan seems to find hot guy after hot guy. What's she drinking?
Listen, that's what happens when you get a chick executive producer. I've been on a lot of shows where it's, "Let's get a lot of hot girls!" Now, finally, I'm in the seat, people, and I'm like, "Let me see some hot boys."
What are some of the things that have inspired you, be they books or movies or other TV shows?
I love television. That's why I'm in it. My TiVo is always full. When I was trying to develop this project, weirdly, the stuff that I was watching most on my TiVo were reruns of Friends and my Sex and the City DVDs. I love 30 Rock and I love The Office, and comedies have always gotten me. . . . In terms of movies, it's absolutely romantic comedies, you know, Cameron Crowe and the early Nora Ephron stuff is what I love — it's what I love writing. It's a little bit of realism mixed with a lot of wish fulfillment, hence, yes, Megan is surrounded by the hottest guys ever. . . . Sex and the City and Friends were like the biggest voids when they vanished from my world, and it felt like there was an opportunity to do that type of show at a different age. In Megan, in some ways, you could maybe look at her and say, this is what Carrie Bradshaw was like at 20.