Bridget McManus in Maybelle
Bridget McManus in Maybelle

We interview funny lady Bridget McManus about her series ‘Maybelle’

LOTL caught up with L.A. based TV host, screenwriter, and award-winning comedian (Brunch With Bridget, The Queen Latifah Show, Last Comic Standing) Bridget McManus about her latest comic creation

How did you land (or create) this amazing role of Maybelle Garris?

I went through an extensive rigorous three-month audition process where I met with the producers day and night and lived as this character in a dirty van…just kidding. I wrote the series, so I cast myself. I have always wanted to do a romantic drama. As a comedian, I mainly get cast in comedic roles so this was my chance to use my college acting degree and show my dramatic range.

She’s a southerner, with some romantic troubles, possibly not a great grip on reality… and this sounds like the opposite of you! What qualities or circumstances do you share with Maybelle? And how do you play someone so different from you?

Like me, Maybelle is all about family. She takes care of her ailing mother full-time, all by herself for many years, and I really love that about her. I would do anything for my family because they are the most important part of my life.

I wanted to set this series in the south because my wife is from Virginia and I’ve come to absolutely love the landscape and the charming and colourful people who live there. The setting is its own character in the series.

As far as our differences go, Maybelle is more repressed than I am. She follows the rules, but I think sometimes you have to do that in a small town to avoid making too many waves. It wasn’t difficult playing Maybelle because I liked her as a person.

I think it’s really important to find qualities you like about every character you play, even villains, to allow yourself to really become them. Even bad people still think they are good people. We all think we’re good people at the core.

The object of your affection is Della Cain-Cumbee, an unrequited (now married to a man) love from high school. That’s a syndrome many lesbians can relate to. Is it one you’ve experienced and what did you do to break the cycle of unrequited love?

Maybelle and Della were both very much in love growing up. It was a mutual relationship and they acted on their love. They were in a romantic and sexual relationship with each other at a young age and their desire for each other, even after so many years, is what drives this story. You can’t control whom you fall in love with.

I’m fortunate to say that I haven’t been in an unrequited relationship. I mean, I’ve definitely liked people who haven’t liked me back but I’ve never been lovesick over someone where my life was on pause waiting for them to come around. That is, of course, if we’re not including my lust for Hillary Clinton.

How did you first meet your newest leading lady Frances Nichols, and is she funny?

I worked with Fran on another lesbian film called Jew(ish).  It’s a comedy about an engaged couple for whom religion is an issue with one of their families. I adore Fran and we became fast friends on that film.

When I was writing Maybelle, I wrote the character of Della with Fran in mind. Fran is very funny, but what drew me to her as my leading lady is that she is fearless and doesn’t shy away from intensely emotional scenes.

We had to spend a lot of time wrapped in each other’s arms, kissing, caressing each other and I felt very comfortable with her. She’s an out actress, so she didn’t shy away from the love scenes. I found out later that I was Fran’s first on-screen kiss, which makes me feel very special.

Lesbians with towering, important, or even problematic mothers…Any advice on how to deal with Mom issues—from Maybelle’s experience, and perhaps also from yours?

Maybelle was very close to her mother and her mother knew about her relationship with Della. She approved of it and was even the person who explained to Maybelle about her feelings for Della. She saw their chemistry before the girls even identified what it was.

In my personal life, I have to say I’m extremely fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive mother and mother-in-law. My heart goes out to anyone who is struggling with a family that doesn’t approve of them.

All I can say is be patient and give the people in your life some time to come around and figure out that you are the same person no matter who you love. It’s so infuriating that when people “come out” their family and friends make it all about themselves.

Did I do this to you? Is it my fault? I didn’t raise you to be this way.” It’s still odd to me that in 2015 people still take issue with others’ sexuality. Being gay is fantastic. It’s one of my favourite things about myself.

It seems that Della likes Maybelle as well, and even though she’s married, might something develop between them?

This is a love story so, yes, their relationship goes full force. I think viewers will be very happy with their time on screen together.

Can you share one of your favourite funny scenes or situations from an episode?

My wife Karman plays a scuzzy local lesbian Don Juan that my character has an intimate scene. Karman had to undress me in the back of a truck and there was little room to move around in so it was kind of a hot mess, literally, because we were shooting in Nashville in August. The shooting was such a joy because I love working with my wife. She’s my inspiration for everything.

This is your 4th scripted project for Tello Film. What do you like so much about this platform? 

Tello is a pioneer in lesbian filmmaking. They make projects created by and for lesbian/bi women. Every time I work with Tello I feel like I’m giving back to the queer community.

I desperately wish Tello existed when I was growing up. The more queer media that’s out there the better. And before I forget, I have a new comedy special that will be premiering on Tello in 2016. I will work with Tello until they kick me out of their clubhouse.