This story on Pamela Adlon first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
It’s safe to say that Pamela Adlon‘s nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her FX show “Better Things” was the biggest surprise in all of the acting categories — not only to Emmy watchers who didn’t have Adlon’s semiautobiographical show on their radar, but also to Adlon herself.
“I’m still not sure that they meant me,” she said of the nomination. “I was stunned, and a lot of my friends and people who have been supportive of me had the same reaction: we cried.”
“Better Things” is inspired by (and sometimes based on) Adlon’s life as the single mother of three daughters, juggling acting, comedy and voiceover work with parenting.
When her longtime pal and collaborator Louis C.K. told her he’d recommended her to FX boss John Landgraf, who was looking for a female-driven comedy, she said she was initially angry: “I was like, ‘Are you f—ing insane? I can’t do that!’ It scared me, and I had made a pact with myself when my girls were younger that I would never take on more than I could handle.”
But she ended up embracing the idea of basing a show on her own life — rewriting some situations she encounters to give herself better lines than she had in real life, and pushing others into absurdity and chaos. “I’m able to live out certain scenarios by going down a fantasy road and saying, ‘Wouldn’t that have been great?'” she said.
“Or even more deliciously, to go down the dark road: ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be the worst thing ever?’ I like both those things.”
Her daughters, meanwhile, are now increasingly aware that they might be grist for the show. “The other day,” Adlon said, “my middle daughter left the house and called from an Uber to say, ‘Mom, I know you’re going to use what just happened in ‘Better Things!’ Don’t even!’
“And I was like, ‘Oh, totally I’m not.'” She shrugged. “But they’re on to me.”
See TheWrap’s video interview with Adlon above.