When it comes to playing actress and single mother of three Sam Fox on FX’s Better Things, creator-director-writer-star Pamela Adlon said during Deadline’s Contenders Television virtual event that her onscreen character “Sam is me in a cape. I joke that FX is paying for my therapy and I’m able to live out my fantasies in the script.”
Better Things, which just clocked its fourth season, follows Fox’s life as she manages her precocious kids, finds new love, and deals with old love in the colorful landscape of the City of Angels. The series with its unique approach to storytelling evokes such filmmakers as Paulo Sorrentino and Nic Winding Refn, but for Adlon it’s John Cassavettes, Bob Fosse, Francois Truffaut and Luis Bunuel who worked their way into her creative sensibility.
One intriguing Better Things episode showing Adlon’s facets is this season’s “Batceanera,” in which Sam throws a cross between the female coming-of-age ceremonies for her daughter Frankie (Hannah Alligood). The show begins with a sublime impersonation by Alligood of the famed Jerry Lewis typewriter scene from his 1963 movie Who’s Minding the Store and evolves into poignant moments whereby Sam realizes that her little girl is growing up, coupled with an uncomfortable visit by her ex-husband and Frankie’s father.
On breaking story for the episode, which covered a number of characters, Adlon says: “This episode in particular was four-in-one. From the beginning when we started the writers’ room, I said Frankie’s a clown. There was something I saw in Hannah Alligood, Frankie.”
“In the first season she was this beautiful, innocent, green kid from the Bible Belt,” says Adlon, “and do funny things with her neck. I looked at her and said you’re a clown, but let me explain: You’re like Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, you’re Bill Irwin.”
Alligood worked with a clown coach on the bit all season, and it was filmed on the final day of the season’s shoot.
Adlon has received two Emmy lead comedy series actress nominations, and was also nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category along with a WGA Award.
Check out the panel video above.