Its final season (S05) is soon ... well, soon for me. I'm waiting for the last episode to air April 25 and then I'm binging the whole thing. Till then, in no particular order, what I would ask Pamela Adlon, and Sam Fox. Wouldn't that be divine? A chat with Pamela Adlon.
This piece contains spoilers ...
Hello Pamela Aldon,
Let's start by talking about food.
Sam is a provider, but not just that. Sam is a nurturer, some of which she expresses through her cooking (she’s often in the kitchen making the most amazing meals and snacks). Does Sam see it that way? Does Sam see herself as a nurturer? Or is she just into cooking?
And, Sam cooks a lot (a lot), and what she makes looks deliriously delicious. But, we almost never see her or anyone else eating all those meals she makes. What’s up with that? Dramatically-speaking, is there a difference between showing a cooking scene and an eating scene?
Let's talk about music.
The soundtrack across all 4 seasons is stellar, and often the lyrics replace dialogue—how does that come about? Do you discuss the script and intentions for dialogue with the music supervisor? Is there already dialogue in the script that gets replaced with song lyrics?
The soundtrack is all over the map in terms of eras and genres, but there’s a through line—a consistent feeling. What is that for you? What’s the mood, the space, that you’re going for? Is it aligned with that the mood/space that the Fox family lives within? It all feels nostalgic and contemporary at the same time—or there’s a strain—again, a vibe, a feeling—that transcends time. This continuity seems to anchor to and through Sam: she is a woman of her time—whatever that time is.
Let's talk about Sam
Before what reads as a denouement in S04 E10, “Listen to the Roosters”, Sam seems to us to be experiencing some of the symptoms of peri-menopause, like her patchy pubic hair. As a middle-aged woman myself, I found this incredibly reassuring. It reminds me of a scene in Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener, 2013) when Julia Louis Dreyfus’ character discovers that her boyfriend, played by James Gandolfini, is missing a tooth—which she notices when they’re kissing. As she’s telling a friend about it she says she finds it sexy. Twenty years after a bike accident, I had to have a tooth pulled, and have since walked around with a gap in my mouth—Holofcener’s scene reassured me in the same way as yours did.
Some would probably characterize this disclosure about Sam—patchy pubic hair loss, discussing this facet of (female) middle-aging—as brave. Is it? And who is it, at the end of the day, who’s brave? Sam? Or, Pamela?
Does Sam has boundary issues, or has she chosen radical transparency?
Let's talk about being a Woman
Who is Sam as a woman? Particularly in this culture, and even more particularly in the context of LA. How does she perceive herself on the femininity continuum and within the social strictures that dominate how we define and perceive woman along that measurement.
It strikes me that the two filmic storylines that helped me feel comfortable about intimate (sort of female) “frailties” “losses” “shortcomings”—yours about pubic hair and Holofcener’s about a missing tooth—are both told by woman. Do you think, ultimately, women are more forgiving, more accepting, of our bodily foibles, if not achieving equanimity then at least acquiescence? (Even though women are more relentlessly put upon to perform beauty and perfection in a particular way.)
OK. Now let's talk about Motherhood.
Is Sam a good mother? Does she think she is? Do her kids think she is? In S02E04 Max exclaims to her mother “you didn’t do anything that a mother does”, and after some back-and-forth about the issue Sam exclaims back, “you’re right, I’m a shitty mother”. But Sam is holding back so much in that scene. Sam holds back so much from Max (and all her daughters) about their father’s shortcomings and the complicated strings that push and pull outside the view of children. And that is what a mother does. Including not rescuing her own reputation in the eyes of her children at the expense of the father’s. Do the girls really know this deep down?
What about Phil? Was she a good mother to Sam when Sam was a girl? These days Phil is somewhere between a bit “off” and totally unhinged, and Sam (appropriately) has a bit of a short fuse with her. So what about in their past? Sam seems to have achieved remarkable equanimity vis-à-vis her mother Phil. How did she get there?
Will Sam go through empty-nest syndrome (big time)? She is so centered in her place of motherhood—in the first seasons wearing the “maman” nameplate necklace—it seems like the departure of all three girls from the house will bring about an enormous emptiness. Will it?
In S02E02, “Rising", Sam leaves for the weekend—off for a girlfriends’ get-away to splash around at the home her friend Sunny’s uber rich boyfriend. Off in a private plane no less. Off to where a hired mariachi band greets the women when they arrive at Mark’s villa from the airport. Barely arrived though, Sam leaves. She gets Sanjay, one of the servants, to drive her away in a golf-cart escape and she goes to a modest seaside motel. Then Sam leaves again. We see her driving a black Dodge Challenger as picks up her girls, one by one, from their weekend babysitting places, and they all go the beach. A different get-away with her own girls (all of which we witness to the anthemic totem tune, Rising, by Corrina Repp.) But. Sam is still alone at the seaside motel. It’s been a fantasy. Where does Sam want to be?
Let's talk about the acting
Of all the girls, Max and Sam seem to have the most arch dynamic together. Is it because Max is full-on in hormonal teen time, or is there something in their relationship? Is all the tetchy stuff with the girls scripted or is any of it improvised? It sometimes sounds improvised, or seems so—especially with Max. Sometimes it looks like, Mikey Madison, the actor playing Max, is about to crack up.
What were you looking for in the actors who auditioned for the roles of the three daughters? Where you looking for discrete traits as well as a traits that operated within the three as sisters and daughters together?
Let's talk about the men
How is Sam feeling about men? She says she’s sworn off them. Has she? Is she angry about men? Relatedly, was Sam negligent or a push-over in the separation settlement with her ex-husband Zander? Was she a push-over in the marriage? In fact, how did Sam even marry a guy like Zander in the first place? He seems so louche and flaccid and Sam is so full of fire and power. It’s very hard to imagine how that relationship ever happened.
Relatedly, everyone in Sam’s immediate family—all female—have what our culture would deem to be male names: Sam, Max, Phil, Duke, Frankie. And Sam’s brother’s name is Marion, a name more conventionally thought of as female. What’s up with that?
What are your thoughts on ghosts? They make appearances across the seasons. And, more generally, what about energy? In Get Lit, S03E11, the episode starts with Duke and Phil clearing / smudging the house. In this same episode Sam’s father’s ghost appears. And in other episodes other ghosts appear too. There's S02E09, White Rock, where Duke sees the ghost of the dead woman. And in S04E10, Listen to the Roosters, Duke has a conversation with an old woman while seated on a bench near a food cart. At one point the woman proclaims to Duke that she can see the future. In the same conversation, and after Duke has said that she never wants to get married and have children, the old woman, who herself never married and never had children, talks to Duke about the role men played in her life, noting that they’d given her music, love, danger, ideas, adventure, all of which shaped her. But, as the woman says next, she’s preferred being alone and feeling good about being alone with herself. So, are men a distraction? Taking away from women who they are capable of being?
The woman on the bench vanishes—another ghost? Or is Duke actually talking to her future self?
It seems to be Duke who most intersects with otherworldly phenomenon. How did that come about in her life?
And, Sam. A bit more on Sam.
In S04E03, Sam walks in on Frankie who is in bed with a boy. Sam goes to talk to Max about it. Part of the conundrum for Sam is that Frankie is with a boy, and says so to Max, plaintively pointing out to Max that she said once that Frankie is a boy (S01E10), to which Max replies, “mom, I never said that”. It’s not true. But Sam doesn’t confront Max with that lie. How come?
In fact, Sam demonstrates enormous largesse towards those who have fallen short. Sunny’s ex, Jeff, is a really great case in point—Sam extends and huge “OK, we mess up in certain realms” to Jeff post-divorce, and even when he messes up again (S02E07, Blackout). But Sam is still is pretty ballast about it—she’s not thrown. She simply see Jeff’s utter mess, which seems to liberate Sam even further. How has Sam achieved such balance? Such compassion? Is that what she has?
Would Sam move to New Orleans? Is Sam a beast of LA? It seems very much her ecosystem. Could she live anywhere else? (Although, having been in New Orleans myself, and being someone chatty in the way that Sam is, it’s a great city for chatting people up, which is most definitely central to Sam’s ecosystem.)
Do you have a favorite episode?
In re-watching the series, S02E09, White Rock, really struck me. It seems to be about legacy. Family legacy: those lost, those stolen (the Indigenous man in the museum exclaiming his family belongings should be returned); even legacies that linger at the edge of our lives—the ghost the Duke sees and then makes peace with.
What’s with all the rain in S04?
Lastly. What are better things?