Playing House's Lennon Parham, Jessica St. Clair Talk Friendship, Gilmore Girls, and Fighting in the Baja Fresh Parking Lot
The ladies are back! Two years after their first show NBC's Best Friends Forever was cancelled before its time, real-life best friends and Upright Citizens Brigade alums Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair have created another TV comedy, Playing House.
In their USA debut, the pals play Maggie (Parham) and Emma (St. Clair)—two childhood friends who have decided to raise Maggie's baby together in their small hometown. Us Weekly editor Rachel McRady spoke to the pair about their devoted friendship, their writer's room inspirations, and one particularly hilarious fight they had in a Baja Fresh parking lot.
What’s the key to a good friendship?
L: For me it’s like you have to treat them like you’re dating them. When you fall in love with your best friend, you think about them all the time. It’s like, ‘Oh my god, Jessica would love this! I have to send her this pin on Pinterest or video. I have to send her this tweet of this video of stripper pole fails.’ And then like a marriage you have to go on dates, you have to…
J: Put the time in.
L: Put the time in! Jessica and I don’t have to worry about the time because we spend 15 hours a day together, but we are lucky in that way. And every once and a while a grand gesture. Like flying out to host your best friend’s baby shower.
Who are some of your favorite friend duos in pop culture?
L: And also Chelsea Handler is in there.
J: Keeping their bodies tight together. But Laverne and Shirley were our inspiration for this go around. We became obsessed with watching the old episodes on YouTube. Lennon is 1000 percent Laverne. What best friends do so well is they just waste time. Like Lennon and I will get our nails done together and, of course, something insane will happen.
Credit: Neil Jacobs/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank
People have called this show “Gilmore Girls gone wild.” Who is Lorelai and who is Rory?
J: 100 percent Lorelai, me.
L: And I’m Rory. Jessica also worries that we’re copying Gilmore Girls, but I’m like, ‘I’ve never seen it! How could I possibly copy it?’ And now it’s like a point of contention. I can’t watch it because Jessica’s memorized it so much. I’m the only person who’s the control group.
J: Do you know how infuriating it is that I love something so much, and Lennon refuses to love it and look at it?
L: Because I watched the things you’ve told me to watch like Letters to Juliet and In Her Shoes. The saddest movies I’ve ever seen and they weren’t satisfying! Sometimes Jessica’s obsessed with movies just because they’re set in Tuscany. Felicity was my Gilmore Girls, because I grew up in a small town. My family is from a tiny town in Alabama. So all I wanted to do was get out of this town. So when I was teaching high school, I would watch her living in New York. I would watch 15 minutes of Felicity or Sex and the City and that was my escape.
J: The other show we reference a lot in the writers room is Sex and the City. That fight where Carrie and Miranda fight about ‘Don’t you go to Paris with him’ we talk about that all the time. Because as much as the clothes were outrageous and the lifestyle was fabulous, at the core the issues that would come up between these friends were super real. And that’s what Lennon and I try to do. Lennon never wants to disappoint me so she keeps some sh-- to herself forever, and then it’ll come out in the Baja Fresh parking lot, while everyone’s eating fish tacos watching us. And I’m like, 'Listen, nothing you say will ever make me love you less!' And I’m screaming that in front of the shrimp taco eating…
L: And I say, 'If you would stop talking just for a hot second, I would be able to tell you what I think.'
J: All the things you see in our show or all the issues we have as characters are things that have actually…
L: They’re connected to some core truth.
What’s one trait that you wish you had that your friend has?
L: I wish I was a little bit more aggressive in the way Jessica is. With business and stuff. I’m more like, ‘Everybody’s doing a good job! Let them do a good job!’ And Jessica’s like, ‘Nobody’s doing a good job!’ She pushes people to do things that maybe wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t pushed for them.
J: Lennon has an amazing ability to think before she speaks. She doesn’t have to constantly be talking. She just thinks and when she speaks, it’s thoughtful. She’s very calm. I’m trying to learn that from her. It hasn’t really worked yet.
Credit: Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images
You’ve both acted with some of the best comedians in the business. Are there any ones out there who are on your bucket list?
J: If you’re a fan of all the alternative comics, every week one of our best friends from the UCB [Upright Citizen's Brigade] is coming on and doing a part we wrote for them, so they are literally the funniest they’ve ever been. We’re like, ‘Hey would you guys mind humping that guy’s face aggressively?’ And they’re like, ‘Sure, we’ll do that!’
Us: I’ve always thought Maya Rudolph would be wonderful with you guys.
L: She’s actually shooting a variety show right now, or we would have made her.
J: We stalked her, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
L: Amy Poehler.
J: We have so many comedy crushes that we want on our show.
Would you let the other one babysit?
J: I would trust Lennon not only to babysit my child but to raise them. Literally, that’s who I would want to raise my child. I’ve never said that to you. I feel like I’m going to start crying right now.
L: She’s crying.
J: I would though, that’s who I’d want.
L: Stop, stop. Three weeks before she had her baby, she was like ‘Dan’s going out of town this weekend, and I might go into labor. I need you if I call you at 4 a.m., if I’m in labor, would you come?’ And I was like, ‘Of course I’ll come.’ And she was like, ‘Ok, because I just need you to know that I would trust you to get this baby out of me, if it came to that.’ And I was like, ‘You’re in the right hands.’
J: Because all you want to do is be a part-time midwife.
L: I would feel the same. I think we know each other so well that we would know what would be important for us to impart to our daughters. And I think they would grow up like sisters, and they would be given the same love.
J: All she asked was would we babysit each other’s kids, and we went to, if we died, we’d have each other raise the child. That’s way too dark!