Shrinking Stars Jessica Williams and Christa Miller Discuss Developing Their On-Screen Friendship as a Nod to The Real Housewives Franchise

When developing her on-screen friendship with co-star Christa Miller, “Shrinking” star Jessica Williams said she positioned it as if they were hanging out “like a ‘Real Housewife of Pasadena.’”

In other words, she approached the relationship between her character, Gaby, and and Miller’s character, Liz, through the lens of her fascination with reality TV and obsession with the “Real Housewives” franchise. In this episode of Variety‘s Awards Circuit Podcast, Williams and Miller share how that TV friendship has developed into a real-life, off-screen one as well.

In separate interviews, Williams and Miller discussed the dynamic of their characters’ evolving personalities and what they hope for the second season. Listen below!

“Shrinking” focuses on therapist Jimmy Laird (Jason Segel) and his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell), after the loss of their matriarch, Tia (Lilan Bowden). The half-hour comedy chronicles as the therapist develops a much more hands-on approach with his clientele and begins to process his grief with Alice. 

As Jimmy and Alice grieve, the two are embraced by the family’s close friends, Liz (Christa Miller) and Gaby (Jessica Williams). As Jimmy neglects his daughter during his mourning period, Liz becomes the proxy overbearing maternal figure to Alice, and guides her through her grief, all while bringing a new dimension to the nosy neighbor archetype. And then there’s Harrison Ford, who plays Jimmy’s mentor, Paul, an aging therapist who isn’t yet ready to come to terms with his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

While Liz attends to Alice’s needs, she starts causing fierce face-offs with those that also support the Lairds — including Tia’s best friend, Jimmy’s co-worker and Alice’s godmother, Gaby. Williams’ Gaby becomes the expressive and understanding friend to Alice, and at the same time develops a deeper connection with Jimmy. Battling her own grief, Gaby develops an unlikely friendship with Harrison Ford’s Paul, and eventually an unexpected friendship with Liz.

As a product of her personal relationship with series co-creator, and real-life husband, Bill Lawrence, Miller noted how her quirks have also filtered into the creation of Liz — explaining how the character’s unique rock-cleaning obsession comes from her personal fixation. In addition to starring as Liz, Miller also serves as the series’ music supervisor with Tony Von Pervieux. Throughout the podcast, Miller detailed what it’s like to curate the series’ music, divulging she “puts all the music in on the first edit” and primarily uses new music as a nod to the characters’ ages and lifestyles.

In addition to working on the music for “Shrinking,” Miller also worked on the music of Lawrence’s “Ted Lasso,” “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town.” Although Miller and Lawrence’s professional and personal partnerships didn’t begin until 2002 and 1998, respectively, Miller appeared in several series throughout the 1990s, including “Seinfeld,” “Party of Five” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which led her to join “The Drew Carey Show.”

After spending seven years at “The Drew Carey Show,” Miller joined Lawrence for his animated satire, “Clone High,” and would soon become a recurring character on “Scrubs.” As “Scrubs” concluded, she and Lawrence partnered on “Cougar Town,” and once the sitcom wrapped, Miller appeared in feature films, “Hot Air” and “Breaking In.” Miller recently reprised her role in Max’s “Clone High” reboot.

Meanwhile, Williams said that Gaby was “right in [her] wheelhouse,” because of the character’s ability to “swing really hard and do comedy, and then be pretty dramatic.” Additionally, Williams acknowledged how she worked to transform the stereotype of a Black female therapist and was encouraged to improvise and incorporate Black American vernacular into Gaby’s dialogue.

Williams has circled in the comedy scene for nearly two decades. First appearing in “Just for Kicks” at 17 years old, Williams appeared in several TV movies, short films, web series, as well as popular comedy films and TV shows, including “Girls” and “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.”

As she simultaneously guest starred in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” and appeared as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” the comedian hosted the “2 Dope Queens” podcast with Phoebe Robinson. Once the podcast concluded in 2018, Williams continued her comedy career, taking on more scripted series and films, including “Booksmart,” “Love Life” and now “Shrinking.”  

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.

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