Exclusive Interview: Ana Gasteyer Talks Suburgatory Season 2, The Shays and Country Singing

“The Shay will hit the fan” – Ana Gasteyer, 2012

This quote will give you a bit of an idea what you can expect from this new season of Suburgatory which premieres tonight Wednesday, October 17, 9:30 p.m., PT/ET on ABC.

While you are waiting to watch it check out what Ana Gasteyer who plays Sheila Shay had to say about the series, her character and more.

Sheila is really intense, but lovable. How did you build that character?

Ana Gasteyer: A lot of it was in the writing, and a lot of it…she started out…well, I shouldn’t say garden variety, but the kind of basis of the character was this kind of antagonistic, judgmental neighbor with a lot of these stereotypical Martha Stewart, alpha characteristics. But what I really think distinguishes Emily [Kapnek] as a writer is that she might be able to develop a character, like in the sort of traditional TV pitch sense, but then it’s all about the relationships that the character has with other people. That’s really where you get to see what’s fun in the writing and what develops and what the strengths are.

I think that’s sort of an evolutionary process because you have the basis of it, and I think that Emily is always like, ‘Oh, well, how fun would it be to see Sheila adore her son and have disdain for her daughter?’ Then the daughter is sort of turning out to be a little bit like her on some levels, as all children do, and never in the ways that their parents think they’re going to be similar. I’m a mom, and I always hear other moms go, ‘Oh, he’s exactly like my husband that way,’ in that way that you didn’t think was going to play out because that’s not what you work to do as a parent.

That’s part of it, and then the other part is that casting Chris Parnell as my husband, automatically we’ve always had a huge amount of shorthand and connection in the way that we finish each other’s sentences because we have so much history together. I think that was just a strength that like presented itself the first time we did it, when we shot a scene. We were under duress. We were running out of time, and they had to take a four page scene and condense it down to like a half page and it kind of had to happen rapid fire in one shot. They couldn’t cut away or anything, and immediately that just became a sort of characteristic of our marriage and that supported the idea of what kind of couple we were. Do you know what I mean?

I do. Do you find your experience on ‘SNL’ informs this process?

Ana Gasteyer: Absolutely. The thing about ‘SNL’ is that a lot of it is instinct, to survive and do well there. I would say it’s eighty percent instinct, seventy percent instinct, just kind of the way that you’re built then thirty percent of it is just adaptive abilities, the ability to do things quickly, to make changes quickly, to roll with the punches, that kind of thing. Chris and I talk about this all time, but to sell a piece of material at the read through table, you live or die by that at ‘SNL.’ So you get pretty adept at making quick choices, even if they’re wrong, which they are.

The nice thing about a single camera half hour is that you can do it again, because it is wrong. I think I’ve gotten a lot better, and maybe this is just a function of experience but I think I’m more forgiving. I think I make a mistake and I’m like, ‘Oh, well. That sucked,’ and then I try the next one, but that’s also partially because the environment is so nurturing on ‘Suburgatory‘ just because I have Chris and I love my little Shay family. Emily is an amazing leader, an amazing, creative leader. So I think we all have fun doing what we’re doing and we feel safe doing it. I think also is a huge element of good work.

What can you tease about this upcoming season?

Ana Gasteyer: There’s so much happening vis-a-vis all that relationship stuff I was saying. The Shay’s are up for a very long, bumpy fall because of this adoption secret that’s emerged. Again, to me, that’s just brilliant because obviously my son is the most important and wonderful thing in my whole life. What would be the one thing that could jeopardize that, and that’s his discovering that he was adopted and I kept it secret from him. So that’s where the Shay will hit the fan, so to speak.

What is a typical Sheila moment for you?

Ana Gasteyer: What I love about Sheila is that she is one hundred percent a black and white mockingbird. She believes that there is a right way and a wrong way and she believes she is in total control of that, and as we all know, she is not. That typifies any moment in Sheila’s life. She believes that she has the answer and has to face the concept somewhere deep down that she is wrong.

What message do you have for the fans of the show as they get ready to watch the new season?

Ana Gasteyer: I’m just so glad that people like the show. My main message would be that we’re on at 9:30pm. I think it’s fun. I really admire Emily’s willingness to just go for it. She doesn’t stop and indulge anything. She just moves the story rapidly in the right direction and in new directions and she’s always kind of challenging herself and the characters. So I think it’s really fun. That’s good comedy to me.

If you could guest star on any TV show, your pick of the litter, which one would it be?

Ana Gasteyer: You know what, I’m going to say ‘Nashville.’ I would like to be a country western singer for a week. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Did you enjoy its premiere?

Ana Gasteyer: I loved it. I really did. I loved it. First of all, I just love both of those actresses and I love Nashville. I’ve been to Nashville and I thought that it was shot really beautifully. Strangely enough, speaking of people who used to work in The Groundlings, Charles Esten, he’s somebody I know as an improviser and he’s a great actor. I just think that’s a really interesting area, full of kind of human drama and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. That’s definitely a show that I wanted to tune into and I did.

That’s all folks. Don’t miss the premiere tonight at 9:30 pm and also heck out of Ana Gasteyer with the a hilarious Shay family: