Abby McEnany is quite clear that she’s not your typical television star, and part of that reason is because she’s never really seen someone like herself on screen.
“Queer folks, mentally ill folks, fat folks, older women, non-conventional people [aren’t what] you would see as a lead on a TV show,” she tells Out. “Growing up and even not that long ago, often the queer character was portrayed as somebody who was unlovable or the freak or the weird one, just the other. There are so many stories that are either silenced or that we don’t see or are side stories.”
But not with her show, Work in Progress, which premiered on Showtime Sunday. “This is a representation of the real,” she continues. “I don’t think we’re shying from stuff. We’re not trying to make things pretty to please a certain audience.”
Work in Progress is a half-hour comedy loosely based on McEnany’s own life about a 45-year-old self-identified “fat, queer dyke” who unexpectedly lands into a vibrant, transformative relationship with a trans man, played by The Politician’s Theo Germaine. McEnany, a Chicago improv mainstay, is co-creator (with longtime collaborator Tim Mason) of the show which also stars Karin Anglin, Celeste Pechous, and Julia Sweeney.
Just one episode in, the show is already radically queer, gut-wrenchingly hilarious, and supremely relatable. Out caught up with McEnany to discuss representation, radical inclusivity on set, and what it’s like seeing her face on billboards.
What was the process like for you in terms of getting the show in front of the people at Showtime and getting it to move forward?
My co-creator, Tim Mason, and I, created the pilot on our own. We created a proof of concept video and actually it’s the first scene in the pilot, that therapist scene. Tim was going to go out to L.A. for some meetings and he was like, “I really want to talk about the show, but I don’t think you really come across on paper. And I’ve told some people that and they’re like, “Ooh, that’s offensive,”