Vanessa Bayer interview: ‘I Love That for You’
Vanessa Bayer takes the lead in more ways that one on her new Showtime comedy series “I Love That for You.” The Emmy-nominated actress created the show with her old “Saturday Night Live” buddy Jeremy Beiler, telling the story of a woman named Joanna who survived childhood cancer and lies about having it again to save her job at a home shopping network. Despite the trickiness of this concept, the writers approach the story tactfully, while also delivering on laughs. “It was definitely different from what I’ve done in the past to be the lead and to be writing it and doing all of that stuff at the same time,” says Bayer in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “It was definitely a lot of responsibility, but it was also really fun.” Watch the full video chat above.
While Bayer hasn’t necessarily gone to the extent of what Joanna does in “I Love That for You,” she did base some aspects of the concept on her own life. On top of her obsession with home shopping networks, the actress had childhood leukemia, which was a difficult time in her life but also came with special attention, not unlike what Joanna went through. As she reveals, when that attention dissipated, it was a strange experience. “When you go through a difficult time, you do get this special treatment, and then, when that time is over, or people have moved on from it, it’s sort of like, ‘Well, where’s my special treatment?'” she explains. This is partly what Joanna is feeling when we meet her in the pilot episode, and her lie, told out of desperation, is what brings some of that special treatment back.
In addition to her social awkwardness, Joanna has a rough start as a home shopping host, though she quickly finds that she has a knack for its unique, perky rhythms. Bayer likens this skill to her character’s familiarity with the format, even if she isn’t anywhere near as confident away from the cameras. “She’s been a recipient of what the hosts and what the channel can do, and because now she’s on camera, so many things in her life have combined to make her this super host,” the actress suggests, adding, “I personally watched a lot when I was younger and I felt like when we started working on the show, the language of home shopping just came back, like riding a bicycle.”
The supporting players around Bayer include such newer comic talents as Matt Rogers and Punam Patel as well as industry veterans like Jenifer Lewis and Molly Shannon. The connection between Joanna and Jackie (Shannon), the most revered host at the home shopping network, is the emotional core of the show. Bayer admits she didn’t exactly have to work hard to pretend to look up to Shannon’s character, with the two actresses having been cast members on “SNL” for seven seasons each, though never at the same time. “It couldn’t have been easier to play someone who’s an enormous fan of hers, because that is such a true thing in my real life.”
Bayer also found that producing on top of acting required a number of decisions at various stages of production, which could sometimes be a challenge. At the same time, it was comforting for her to be constantly in a state of moving forward for the good of the show. “We’re all just sort of faking it ’til we make it a little bit and just trying to do a good job and everyone’s always learning, and you get better and better as time goes by,” she observes. “Some of our choices will be great, some won’t be as good, but I think that this show is full of good choices.”