The Knockturnal had the opportunity to talk to Mike O’Malley, creator of the hit show ‘Survivor’s Remorse,’ as well as RonReaco Lee and Teyonah Parris, two of the show’s stars, about season 3 of the Starz sensation. The show has undergone major changes and they enlightened us on character progression, storyline arcs, and the future of ‘Survivor’s Remorse.’
I really love the husband and wife dynamic between Missy and Reggie. Can you guys tell me, with the changes, the loss of Uncle J, how that’s affected your roles so far going into season 3?
RonReaco: I think Reggie’s is probably just gotten…It’s all about getting it right now. “Tomorrow isn’t promised,” which is a line he actually says. “Tomorrow isn’t promised and so we have to get everything right now.” If it’s possible, you can imagine, he gets even hungrier. He gets even more pressed to make sure Cam establishes a legacy and a very specific legacy at that. Everything just becomes heightened at this point. That’s how the loss affects him. How does the loss affect you?
Teyonah: Well, I don’t know if we’re able to say.
RonReaco: I already did it. Somebody would’ve said something.
Teyonah: Oh, well. I will say, given what happened at the end of season 2, Uncle J getting in a car accident, I think it puts the whole family in a situation where you have to really decide, “Who are we? What are we going to do? How do we move forward?” It’s such a devastating situation, no matter the outcome, that I think everyone is just shocked in to, like Reaco was saying, “Where do we go from now?” How does the family move forward in light of what’s happened. It really makes everyone dig deep.
With the Vaughns, they start discussing whether they want to have kids. That topic becomes more imminent. A lot of life, been putting it into perspective.
Missy’s role was more heightened this season. A lot more of you. What would you say are some of the challenges that Missy faced this season?
Teyonah: I think the challenges Missy faced season 3 would definitely be really trying to actually put into motion a career, a purpose for herself. She had a career and you see her and Reggie even speak on this a bit. She had a career. She was a successful young woman, very educated, owned businesses, and she sacrificed that and moved down here to Atlanta to support Reggie. At this point, it’s like season 1 and 2 and it’s, “Okay, I’m figuring out who I am here,” but now, “Okay, I’m good. I need to be myself and I need to be someone other than just your wife or just a part of Cam Calloway’s clan.
She becomes Cam’s media consultant and we watch all of the craziness that comes with that. The fact that it’s not as simple as just dealing with an average citizen. This is a very famous celebrity and that’s different, so no matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know, it’s just a ifferent beast in contending with that aspect of it.
Talking of the beast, how is Reggie dealing with his wife’s new position? She’s a lot to handle this season.
Teyonah: Reggie wants to support his wife more than anything and he does. I think there is a moment where, if Missy were just a media consultant and not his wife, that conversation in 3.05 would have gone a lot differently. Obviously be it that Missy is his wife not just Cam’s media consultant, he has to be very careful. He has to tread very lightly. I think it tests the strength of their marriage.
To then introduce this new dynamic is not only Missy being a professional, but being a professional as it relates to Cam. We’re now sharing a client, so how she interacts with Cam, the things that she does for Cam as his consultant, now directly affects Reggie as it affects Cam. It’s tricky but it makes for great dialogue, it makes for great scenes. I just think it was really smart on the writers’ part to not only give her something to do, in terms of a career, but to also connect her career to Cam, which then kind of connects her to Reggie in a different way. It leads to some really interesting dialogue.
Can you tell me a bit about some of the challenges having to build upon the storyline, starting from season 1 to now?
Mike: Right. Well, I think one of the challenges is that when you’re first doing a show and you have the opportunity to do it, you never know if you’re coming back so you take some big swings. You try to take on storylines and subjects that you think are very interesting, big ideas about how we live now. One of the things that happens when you do that is that those are episodic in nature. You see a family, okay, how are we going to deal with Cam’s visitation to a children’s hospital? How is he going to handle it if hospitals kind of creep him out? What’s he going to do with that? Or an old friend comes into town and needs an opportunity, but the old friend is a bad influence. How does Reggie, his manager, keep that guy away from him?
These are stories that I think people can relate to. The old friend from high school that people think is a bad influence or “I just really don’t like hospitals because I don’t like thinking about death and illness, it makes me…” Those are kind of universally relatable.
That’s what you’re trying to do when you first do a season of a show. You’re just trying to say, “This is a show for everybody.” This is a show that everybody can relate to because it’s about the general in the specific. It’s about human beings dealing with these things that we all deal with.
As you go on in a show, you’re trying to make things very, very more specific to the characters. What is more of their background? Who are their parents? Where did they come from? What are their individual fears? What are their dreams? Where do they want to build their life to go to?
In a great way, when you start filling in that history, you narrow who they are, but when you start thinking about what they want to do with their life, it’s wide open. That keeps all the storylines open. It’s an awful lot of time of just thinking and talking, and talking and thinking, and thinking and talking, and writing and throwing out, and talking and thinking.
Right. How difficult was this season, trying to bring the funny or maintain the funny atmosphere?
Mike: That’s a great question. It was very difficult after the first couple of episodes because one of the things that we knew is, that we didn’t have Mike. We only had him for a couple episodes because of other opportunities in his life that we couldn’t prevent him from pursuing. We love this guy. The fact that he’s going to play Richard Pryor in a movie, that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that he’s going to crush. The fact that he was the star of his own show, rather than part of an ensemble was something from Mike, in his life that was very, very important. We had to say goodbye to him.
The issue for us was, we had to then make a show where we didn’t want people turning on the television or watching the episodes and saying, “Is this an episode that Mike’s in? I like the episodes that Mike is in.” We had to move on, right? Because he had moved on. Though he will come back for origin stories. If we get a season 4, there’s a whole origin arc of how they got to where they are that we’re going to flashback. We’re still going to have Mike involved in that.
I think the difficulty was that we had to take this family as the audience is going to go through this idea of Mike no longer being with us. We had to take the family through that and we couldn’t rush through that. What I think it provided for us was the title Survivor’s Remorse became a lot more specific in what it meant. Had Cam never been the kind of person who could just buy a car and drive it off the lot and give it to a girl he just met 3 weeks ago, then his uncle might still be with us. What do you do when you know that if you weren’t rich and famous, your uncle would still be here? What’s the weight of that grief?
Survivor’s Remorse airs on Sundays at 10 PM.