When your co-star is a CGI character on a comedy series, you want to make sure the casting is just right. We’re not talking Rachel Dratch who is the voice of Mary, the imaginary friend to Jenna Elfman’s Alice on ABC’s upcoming Imaginary Mary. Dratch is the voiceover. We’re talking the actual cartoon character and it’s taken the creators some time to get it right.
At one point in time, Elfman was testing higher than Mary. So the EPs of Imaginary Mary made the cartoon more loveable and cute with big teeth. “The comment was across the board when we tested was that the monster looked scary,” said EP Adam F. Goldberg, “But it was always our intention to redesign it.”
Imaginary Mary centers on Alice (Elfman), a fiercely independent career woman whose life is turned upside-down when she meets the love of her life – a divorced father with three kids. This triggers even more upheaval when the slightly unhinged imaginary friend she created as a child suddenly reappears to help her navigate the transition from single girl to a woman ready for a family.
The series synthesized via EP Patrick Osborne and EP David Guarascio. Osborne won the Oscar for the best animated short Feast two years ago. He came to ABC with an idea of doing a family series with an imaginary friend. The concept was married with Guarascio’s story, whose wife is also a stepmom.
For Osborne, making a TV network comedy series was a wake-up call from features; essentially the writers want to make script/story adjustments all the way up to delivery of the episode.
Given the challenges with the animation, ABC cut the episode order for Imaginary Mary from 13 to 9 episodes.
For EP Adam F. Goldberg, it was important to make them the best nine as possible so that the audience would buy in: “The animation was really hard. It was strictly a time thing. The thing is you build up library of animation and by the end it’s like ‘Oh, we’ll pull that look’, but at the beginning we had nothing. And Zorn took a full year and we didn’t have a year. It was a logistic thing where we could have started more episodes, but I didn’t want the whole thing to suffer.”