A version of this interview first appeared in the print edition of TheWrap Magazine’s Fall TV Issue.
ABC’s “Speechless” stars Minnie Driver and John Ross Bowie as a middle-class couple with three children, including a teenage boy with cerebral palsy, who move to an Orange County, California neighborhood they can’t afford but want to live in because of its school district.
What makes the show special?
JOHN ROSS BOWIE: I think there’s an inherent challenge in this material. There’s a way to do it where it’s very maudlin and overly sentimental, and there’s a way to do it where it’s actually kinda tasteless. And I love how the show walks a line between those two things really well, and maybe dipped its toes in both. That’s what makes it work. There was an interesting tone about it that I had not seen before on TV. There’s a lot of interesting stuff about the lengths we’ll go to as a people to make our kids happy and taken care of, and the ways we fall short sometimes.
MINNIE DRIVER: And I love that we have the absolute worst house in a really nice neighborhood.
BOWIE: We were talking about this earlier — we might have the worst house in the history of TV comedies. This is a fixer-upper that is probably not going to get fixed up any time soon, and that was really exciting to me.
A lot of the time in these aspirational comedies, you see the sets and think, ‘No ordinary person’s gonna live in that kind of place.’
DRIVER: Whatever the opposite of aspirational is, that’s our show.
BOWIE: With all due respect to our executive producer, who wrote on “Friends,” Monica’s what? She’s like a junior chef at a restaurant? With a house like that?
DRIVER: They inherited the apartment from her grandmother.
BOWIE: Oh that’s right, they did! I’m sorry, I apologize. Still, though, nice place. Has a terrace, in the West Village? Granted there’s no fourth wall, but still.
What can you tell us about the rest of the first season?
BOWIE: We’re just trying to find our place in this rather tony part of Newport Beach, in our terrible little house.
DRIVER: Is that where we live?
BOWIE: Yes, Newport Beach. According to the script, anyway.
DRIVER: [Laughs] I only read my part, obviously. Newport, really? Orange County?
BOWIE: It’s Orange County, yeah. We moved from Tustin.
DRIVER I can’t believe we live in Orange County. That is actually really a reason to be angry for me. That’s great. That’s good fuel for [my character] Maya.
BOWIE: It’s all part of the process. I’m so sorry, pro-cess.
DRIVER: [to Bowie] That’s why they cut that line, isn’t it?
BOWIE: I think so.
DRIVER: Oh, God. There was a really funny line where I’m explaining…
BOWIE: She explains how our son with cerebral palsy gives the middle finger…
DRIVER: The line was, “He’s all there upstairs. The rest of him could use a tuneup. That’s the finger. It’s a work in progress.” They cut “it’s a work in progress” and I didn’t understand why. And he just said it’s because I say it funny. I don’t say it funny! We invented English!
BOWIE: It’s not pro-gress, it’s prah-gress.
DRIVER: Aaaah. Ask me to be English in a show, and then cut me when I talk. See how that goes. Crikey. I will be trouble before this is done.
“Speechless” premieres Sept. 21 on ABC.
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