[02/23/09 - 03:02 PM]
Interview: "Privileged" Executive Producer Rina Mimoun
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

The freshman season of "Privileged" wraps up this week on the CW network with a healthy dose of drama, a gay wedding (with a famous D-lister guesting) and hopes for a second season order. Creator/executive producer Rina Mimoun gave our Jim Halterman an inside look at the light hearted series about a Yale grad/struggling writer named Megan (Joanna Garcia) who takes a job as a live-in tutor for a pair of rich, rebellious and beautiful teen sisters, Rose and Sage (Lucy Hale and Ashley Newbrough) in Palm Beach, Florida.

Mimoun, who has a string of teen-related series such as "Dawson's Creek" and "Everwood" under her belt, said "Maybe one day I'll grow up and have to write about 40-year olds or something but it seems like I just can't do it yet and I don't know why. I think what I love about writing these kinds of shows and why I think they work really well when they are focused on that teenagers and then early 20s is because they're not faking that drama. When you try to fabricate that and make that happening to people who are older, have careers, have mortgages, you can't help but start to prioritize your life differently."

Case in point, many storylines come to a head in the finale and give a multitude of fodder for a second season. "Rose [Hale] goes a little bit insane," according to Mimoun. "Rose is on a quest for independence [and] moving out of Sage's bedroom is only the beginning because she sort of ratchets it up about a 1000% in the finale. You'll see a whole new side of Rose."

Along with usual personal crises on a teen drama, what would a season finale be without some bumps in the road in terms of romance? "We have some pretty heavy duty Megan/Will stuff to contend with," Mimoun teased, "but, honestly, I think my favorite story line of the finale, as much as I love the Megan/Will story, is the really interesting Sage/Louis conundrum that sort of comes up as a result of this wedding. The character of Sage, for me, is this character that I hold very near and dear. She was so unhappy in the beginning and everyone said she was so mean but I have a soft spot for her. You really see in the finale and, we'll see if it works, the goal was you really get to see Sage kind of come full circle from the pilot and give her a new springboard for season two where she's really evolved into this pretty amazing, complicated young woman. And her stuff with Louis (Ignacio Serricchio) is my favorite."

There's also the matter of a little gay wedding between Marco and Keith (Allan Louis and David Monahan) in the finale along with a guest turn by comedian and self-proclaimed D-lister Kathy Griffin, who plays the wedding coordinator. However, the big (and very real) matter of a certain anti-gay rights bill passing screwed up some of the story plans for the show. "I had no idea that Prop 8 would ever go this way," Mimoun said, "so the whole time we were planning the story we were like we'll do the wedding in LA, which will be great because we can make it a location shoot here... we were so convinced that NO on 8 would be NO, we were breaking the story as if it were a done deal. And then when it came back I was like, 'Oh my God, not only does this suck but what are we going to do for Marco and Keith's wedding?' The whole thing threw me... it became a topic of conversation. I really wanted to deal with the issue. And, in a way, teenagers these days look at things differently... it's a whole different world now. It's even different than what we did on 'Everwood.' Kids are much savvier."

Those savvy viewers influenced the manner in which the series took a turn midseason when the network suggested confronting heavier and more topical issues without losing the lighter, comedic elements of the show. "I think it was one of the smartest notes I've ever gotten. Initially I was so excited that I was getting to write comedy because I hadn't been writing comedy in so long and that's where I kind of grew up... but as we sort of decided to find more secrets and slightly edgier stories and have a more serialized arc it helped the show grow by learning about the girls and having them become more real as people."

Mimoun also sang the praises for series star Garcia for her wide range of acting that she consistently displays in the series. "Joanna is just an amazing, amazing actress and she really can do anything. We did a scene where she managed to, within a one-minute scene, be hilarious and bubbly with all her comedy and by the end of the scene she's having this emotionally teary moment with her Dad. Not a lot of actresses can do that and she has that capacity. It makes it a lot easier and a lot more fun to write because we know she can always do it."

Back when she was looking to develop a new series, Mimoun saw a great amount of story potential after reading Zoey Dean's novel, "How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls," on which the series is based. "I responded to the character of Megan," Mimoun said, "and I particularly responded to the idea that it's an adapted book and there are a lot of sister storylines that can be told and there are really strong female characters, which really drew me to the book. But it was very much a self-contained piece unlike 'Gossip Girl,' which is more of a series [of books] and so there were more stories and more soap operatic elements."

In fact, the popular CW series "Gossip Girl" served as something of a model of what "Privileged" was not going to be, even if that meant making some necessary alterations when translating the project from book to series. "The book of 'Filthy Rich Girls,' was a different tone than what the show is," the writer said. "It was a little darker. Megan was definitely a lot rougher as a character and the girls were a lot more like the girls on 'Gossip Girl.' Our first meeting with the studio and the network was making sure we didn't want to do another 'Gossip Girl' because they do a wonderful job with that and I don't want to compete with that level. It was how do you make it a little more like 'Clueless.' Something that has a more lighter, brighter, slightly comedic appeal."

The freshman series recently received a bit of positive casting buzz when it was announced that Robert Buckley, last seen raising heart rates as the hunk on NBC's "Lipstick Jungle" would be appearing on the last few episodes of the season as David, the boss at the start-up magazine where Megan works. "I didn't know anything about Mr. Buckley," Mimoun admitted, "and when he came in and read with [Joanna] it was instantaneous. It was like Oh, okay, clearly you have to stay on the show now... Robert has a totally different energy than Brian [Hallisay, who plays Will] and in a way he and Jo have a good pitter-patter. They both bring that same neurotic energy, which I love, and they're super fast talkers." If Mimoun has her way (and a second season pickup), she sees Buckley as part of the future of the series. "He is fantastic and, in hoping that we get a second season, he would be, in our minds, a big part of the world."

Mimoun, and the CW, are hoping that numbers for the season finale (airing Tuesday at 9:00/8:00c), prove to be strong enough to grant "Privileged" a second season. Fingers are crossed.

  [february 2009]  


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