Let’s get one thing straight: Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome not only co-created and star in Another Period, but they also run the show. Every single aspect of the comedy project, launching its third season Tuesday on Comedy Central, has their fingerprints all over it, which is particularly impressive when you realize that they’re some of the only women in Hollywood who run a TV series they also star in.
In the new episodes, the ladies return as the ultra-wealthy Bellacourt sisters, who live in Rhode Island at the turn of the century. They’re back to their usual hijinks, including throwing dog dinner parties and trying to prevent women from getting the vote. It’s all in good fun, but this year there’s an added layer of relevancy as we watch the super-rich get richer and refuse to give women any rights. Playboy spoke with Leggero and Lindhome about how Trump’s presidency came into play this season and why truth is often funnier than fiction.
How long ago did you start writing the new episodes?
Riki Lindhome: We started writing in the fall of 2016, so it’s been a while. We write the whole show, then film, then edit. We had a three-month writing period in that fall/winter time, right during the election.
Natasha Leggero: Basically, we were three-quarters of the way through our writing process, and then Trump was elected, and we had an awful week in the writers room. The show is somewhat satirical, so we were like, “OK, where are we going to be when this airs?” We were like, “Well, we’re going to have a woman president. How is that going to affect the zeitgeist?” So we were really writing that. When Trump got elected, Comedy Central actually gave us more time to extend our writing period, and we did re-work a lot of stuff.
“There have only been two times in American history where the wealth gap is as big as it is–now, and in the era of our show.”
So the election really impacted what you wrote.
RL: Yeah, it was really strange. We had to say, “What’s funny now? What’s relevant? What’s going to be relevant when it comes out?”
NL: Most sensible people felt pretty blindsided by the whole election process. I think we already had our brother Frederick, who is the stupidest character, becoming the president.
RL: That was a pitch that was on the table, but we didn’t decide that we’d actually do it until after the Trump victory.
Until you had tangible proof that an idiot could become president?
RL: Uh, yeah.
NL: What’s great about Frederick, as played by Jason Ritter, is that he’s so cute, and he’s charming, and he’s so funny. He has basically the personality of Trump, but it’s more palatable. You don’t actually have to watch Trump. And I think it’s hard to satirize Trump because every day there’s a new crazy, stupid thing. You can’t really make fun of specifics because they become outdated within a day.
RL: The only advantage we have is that it’s set in the turn of the century. Initially, when we were thinking of the idea for the show, we were like, “Oh, let’s satirize a reality show.” But you can’t. There’s nothing broader than what’s actually happening, so we set it in a different time period. Same with Trump–you can’t really satirize it because he’s going to do something worse tomorrow.
“When Trump got elected, Comedy Central actually gave us more time to extend our writing period, and we did re-work a lot of stuff.”
Do you intend for the show to have an actual political message?
RL: I think it’s hard not to right now. Mostly, we just want the show to be funny. We want people to have an escape. We want it to be hilarious. But it’s hard not to have a little bit of that weaved in.
NL: All the political stuff–that happened. If you go to Newport and study these people’s lives a hundred years ago, they were still all white, rich men trying to make it legal to not pay taxes. It’s all the same stuff. Look at this new tax law! A hundred years ago, they were like, “We’re not going to pay taxes.” And then when they had to, that’s basically when the Gilded Age ended. They couldn’t live with 30 indoor servants and 50 outdoor servants anymore and keep up these houses.
It’s all just repeating itself now. We try to mix that with silly stuff that they were also doing as a result of being rich, like having a dinner party for their dog. One woman would move mansions because the sea was affecting her hairdo in the wrong way. These people were so extreme from all of their wealth–because they didn’t have to pay taxes!
RL: There have only been two times in American history where the wealth gap is as big as it is–now, and in the era of our show.
NL: It’s really an un-mined era. People love Downton Abbey, and they’re watching The Crown, but that’s all about England. America really did have its heyday where they were living like royalty. The show just kind of writes itself.
Do you ever worry that something will seem too ridiculous?
NL: We try to base things in reality as much as possible. With the dog dinner party–a woman really did throw a dinner party for her dog. Whether her dog gave her an emerald necklace, I don’t know. We just add things for comedy, obviously.
RL: But we don’t go too ridiculous. Like a spaceship doesn’t land in the yard. Everything could have happened.
NL: And that makes it more fun because crazy stuff did happen there. If you watch Downton Abbey, a lot of that could be a comedy—they just play it like a drama. It’s not normal to be talking to your husband before bed and just hold your arms out and have your servants put your robe on. That’s how people lived then! Or in our pilot, Riki’s character and her brother, who are having an affair, undress and have sex in front of like five servants.
RL: And they’re like, “Thank God, we’re finally alone.”
Are there any historical figures who make an appearance this season?
RL: Hitler. He makes an appearance finally. A young Hitler. He’s 11 or 12.
NL: He’s the age he was then. We try to keep that as accurate as possible.
RL: And there’s Houdini.
NL: This year is very focused on our brother Frederick moving up the ranks in politics. And then there’s this Italian family who moves in next door, and everyone is upset about it. That actually came from one of the books we read about Newport. Some rich people were complaining that the Italians hung their laundry out to dry, and the whole neighborhood was like, “The Italians are going to be the beginning of the end of civilization!”
That seems to also parallel what’s going on today …
RL: It’s almost impossible not to have parallels because the time period was so similar. People had billions and billions of dollars and a lot of entitlement.
Do you ever write scenes for yourselves just because you want to do something?
RL: I mean, we wrote a show where we get to dress up like princesses. It’s not an accident. You get to do that–it’s the greatest thing.
NL: A lot of our stuff involves a mess. Riki and I will be like, “We want to be learning how to eat ice cream cones.” Because ice cream cones were invented in that time, and nobody knew how to eat them. So we’ll come up with physical comedy bits where we want to incorporate something.
RL: We have a scene where we’re sucking the filling out of cream puffs and throwing the casing at our servants, while we’re talking about something else. That does not further the plot. That’s just fun. And then our servants come carry us out of the room because we don’t feel like walking.
How many cream puffs did you actually eat?
RL: I don’t remember.
NL: We had a bucket.
RL: You can pretend to suck the filling out without actually doing it. Acting!
Another Period airs Tuesdays at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central.