“This season was definitely the most cohesive in terms of the storyline that I’ve ever done,” declares Pamela Adlon about the fourth season of the FX comedy “Better Things.” Adlon, an Emmy winner for her voice work on “King of the Hill,” has earned two Emmy nominations for Best Comedy Actress for her role as working actress and single mom Sam Fox. But she looms even larger behind the scenes having directed every episode since the show’s second season, as well as having written or co-written most episodes. In our exclusive video interview (watch above), Adlon explains some of the challenges and highlights helming the fourth season.
Water and rain was a common motif of the season, something Adlon says was inspired by the impact of a particularly devastating California wildfire season. “Every day it rained I felt so grateful and calm. I needed that rain,” she explains. Adlon also saw the rain as a reflection of Sam’s experiences growing older. “That’s the way life is,” she says, “and that’s just the way I’ve always kind of presented the stories in the show.
Adlon got to fulfill one of her dreams when she convinced Lance Henrikson to appear on the show. Henrikson, one of Adlon’s favorite actors, was persuaded by a letter Adlon wrote to him. “Basically I got one of my all-time heroes to come do this scene,” she exclaims. “I couldn’t believe he came to play.” But for Adlon, the richest relationship on the show is between Sam and her gay best friend Rich (Diedrich Bader). “For me, it is the purest love, Sam and Rich,” she says. “It’s just this incredibly close, unconditional love. They are as much of a couple as anybody.”
Adlon’s greatest directorial challenge came in the season’s sixth episode in which Sam travels to New Orleans for a friend’s wedding. While some interior scenes were shot in Los Angeles, Adlon shot a majority of the episode on location. “It was just a lot of logistical problems,” she explains. “I had no idea what I was running into…I almost collapsed. It was like that.” However, the episode was also a mark of Adlon’s attitude towards her growth as director. “If there is a door that’s closed to me, I will try to get it open if I think it’s the right thing for the show,” she states. “It’s been four seasons of a crash course in how to direct a show like this.”
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