As you're checking out all the new shows coming to your TV this fall, you'll notice a familiar face in one of the season's most highly anticipated series. Paul Adelstein, whom Bravo fans know and love from Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce and Imposters, is starring in the new NBC comedy I Feel Bad, which comes from executive producer Amy Poehler, another name you surely recognize.
Adelstein will bring the funny in the new series as David, who's just trying to keep it all together with wife Emet (Sarayu Blue) as they juggle work, their kids growing up way too fast, and frequent input from his in-laws. I Feel Bad is a hilarious and refreshing look at family and parenthood today that will help us laugh at all of life's challenges instead of cry.
The Daily Dish recently caught up with Adelstein over the phone to chat all about the new series, why you can't always trust what may look like a perfect life on social media, and his other exciting upcoming projects in the works.
The Daily Dish: What attracted you to this project?
Paul Adelstein: I just thought it was a really funny script. I've worked with Julie Anne Robinson who's one of the executive producers and director of the pilot before, and I'm very fond of her. And, you know, Amy Poehler, her name being on it was a great vote of confidence for it being strong. And I just really responded to the script itself. I thought the relationship between Emet and David was wonderful. And I loved the take on it and how they were going to do each episode with a different subtitle: 'I feel bad about this. I feel bad about that.' And I looked at Orli [Auslander]'s book that it's based on [I Feel Bad Every Day About Everything], and I thought there's such rich material here. It's a different way to talk about families and women balancing work and home life, which is something we've seen before, but I think this is more of an irreverent take on it.
For your inspiration for the character of David, did you draw from the book, the graphic novel, or did you draw from any other sources?
I mostly took from the script and talking to Aseem Batra who wrote the script and created the show about what she was looking for in terms of the dynamic between the two of them. Unlike a lot of couples we see on TV, I think, especially in comedies, they are very much a team, and it's a very loving relationship, and they kind of see each other's foibles, and they enjoy that in one another, although that can be frustrating. But it's fun, but it's a very loving relationship, and they're both pretty neurotic.
How did you and Sarayu, who plays Emet in the series, go about fostering that bond or chemistry or partnership that we're going to see in I Feel Bad?
When we read together, it immediately kind of clicked. We got to know one another over the course of shooting the pilot and we just went in every day and did our work. And we talked about it, but it's really in the doing of it where you find it. We got the time to do it. And we had Julianne and Aseem guiding us, and it certainly wasn't heavy lifting. We really sparked right away. Mostly focus on the page, and then you kind of bring hopefully some magic to it. But that's how the relationship is written, and we just wanted to service that properly.
Who are some of your favorite TV dads?
In terms of the comedies, I loved Everybody Loves Raymond. I love Modern Family. I like those kinds of flawed but loving TV dads.
Emet's narration plays a big part in the show, but if we could hear David's internal monologue, what do you think it would sound like?
I think his would be similar in his neuroses. He wants to be doing the right thing at all times. He and Emet are on the same page, but things seem to go awry often. I think that he really wants it to be a smooth ship at home, and it rarely is, so I think that his narration would go somewhere along the lines of "How did I screw this up?" or "Is Emet screwing this up and how do we correct it?"
He seems like he's really keeping it together in the pilot, but I can imagine internally, yes, there'd be a lot of stress, craziness.
Yeah, anybody who's raising three kids and holding down a job, whose spouse is also holding down a job and in-laws live next door or nearby, it's pretty overwhelming, so I think that he is just trying to keep his head above water. I think that what's refreshing about the show is we live in a time where you see people's Instagram and Facebook, and it looks like everyone's life is perfect. I think behind every front door, things aren't as perfect as they look, and I think that's refreshing. I think that's what they're getting up to in this is that we get to see behind the curtain a little bit.
I Feel Bad is really putting that idea of "having it all" under the microscope and that work-life balance, perfecting that, for both moms and dads. What is your idea of having it all, or what do you think our perception of having it all should be in 2018?
I think to just be a little more realistic that it's not always gonna be perfect. The title comes from feeling bad about not being perfect, essentially. I think if our expectations were a little more realistic, if we saw a little more of the grit and grime of the grind of being a parent and a working parent, that we wouldn't be so hard on ourselves, that we'd go a little easier on ourselves in terms of the house not always looking perfect, sometimes ordering dinner in, or being tired at work, or whatever it happens to be, that everything doesn't look like a commercial for parenthood or adulthood at all times.
This show is so relatable for all moms, all dads, anyone with a family, really. Is there a moment that has stood out to you so far in the script that has really hit home for you or something that seems like it came from your own life?
Many of the moments, frankly. So much of the morning ritual of trying to keep it calm in the kitchen but actually being 10 minutes behind, which feels like it's an unrecoverable amount of time, that it's gonna ruin your whole day. The co-parenting in the pilot, I think, is really poignant in that she tries to manipulate her own daughter into not dancing, he goes along with it because he agrees with her but maybe not in the process of it. But yet they don't throw each other under the bus with the kids. They support one another, so that's very relatable. It's all very, very familiar. It's one of the things that drew me to it.
What's also really great about this show is you've got a lot of great female voices, a female showrunner in Aseem Batra. And of course, you've worked with some really amazing female showrunners in the past, from Shonda Rimes to Marti Noxon. (Watch Adelstein dish on Grey's Anatomy during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen in April, above.) What does having that really strong female point-of-view add to a series and kind of help you inform your work on a series, especially when it's very focused on the female experience like I Feel Bad is?
I don't know. Your boss is your boss, and it's their vision, and that's what you're trying to execute. That's one of the fun things about TV is that it's a producer-writer's medium. I've been very fortunate that I have had great bosses; they just happen to be female. I think in a show like this, obviously it's crucial because it's being told, the lead character is a woman, and it's being told from her perspective, so the creator, the showrunner, the executive producers being women obviously helps. I think you never have to question the authenticity of something. You have a very strong voice at the head of it, which any TV show needs.
Why do you think I Feel Bad will really resonate with viewers now?
Because I think that it is a truthful but light look at what it's really like to be raising a family in this day and age and the slightly unrealistic expectations that we hold ourselves to, whether it be because of social media and how everything looks or how as Americans we overwork at home, we overwork at work and hold ourselves at this incredibly high standard, and I think it's a really fun look at that. And I think that's very refreshing.
In addition to your work in front of the camera, we also love seeing you work behind the scenes on projects such as Imposters and Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce. Do you have any more exciting, new projects in the works?
Me and Adam Brooks — we created Imposters together — are writing something for UCP, Universal Cable Productions, right now. And we're in the process of writing that pilot, which I'm not really allowed to talk about.
Then me and Lucas Kavner have a half-hour comedy at Universal Cable Productions that I think is gonna be really funny about performers. I think it's kind of a funny take on entertainment. So hopefully in the next year, that's hopefully gonna be happening, too.
You can catch a special one-hour preview of I Feel Bad on Wednesday, September 19 at 10/9c. The series premieres on Thursday, October 4 at 9:30/8:30c.
Relive one of Adelstein's most thrilling scenes on Imposters, below.