In her new Bravo series Odd Mom Out, Jill Kargman plays a woman who’s not entirely different from her real-life self. After all, Kargman is an Upper East Side mom, a successful writer and a familiar face on the New York social scene—and so is the TV Jill. But while the two women have a few things in common, to hear Kargman tell it, their differences are greater than their similarities.
Here, Kargman explains what went into creating the new series, how she found herself in front of the camera and why she can still be trusted with a secret—most of the time.
OK, so you’ve got a TV show about a woman whose life could be confused for yours. How much of your material is taken from your own existence?
I don’t really pluck from real life, though there are anecdotes and things on the show that are real. It’s more about the excessive behavior and the hyperbole—like having four nannies and four kids—that’s real, but there are no characters based on any actual person. There aren’t even composites, though some characters might seem familiar to viewers because they’re just that type.
So people shouldn’t be afraid to tell you their secrets?
Well, the opening line of the show was real. Somebody was bitching to me when I ran into her. I asked, ‘How are you?’—just a simple question—and she was like, ‘I’m so stressed, I’m deciding over two sets of blueprints, I have a house in the Hamptons and a total gut job on Fifth Avenue and both contractors are driving me crazy.’
People would kill for her problems, but to her, she was really, truly stressed. I don’t think she realized it was strange behavior, and there are plenty of people who would sympathize with that, I just wasn’t one of them. I think problems are relative and people lose sight of that. But that’s fucking funny.
How did the process of creating Odd Mom Out begin?
All of my books have been optioned and none were made, so I just got to a point where I didn’t care anymore. NBC optioned Momzillas and it was never made, but at some point I met with Andy Cohen, and he introduced me to [Bravo exec] Lara Spotts, who kind of co-created the show with me. I had said to them, ‘Can’t you just reach over and take my books from NBC, because they’re your parent company? And they told me that is not how it works, so they read my essay collection Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, which is my only nonfiction book, and we came up with Odd Mom Out. It was the most fun thing I’ve ever done, so much better than writing books and being alone all day.
What do you think it is about this subject matter that’s going to appeal to audiences?
Studying the elite is nothing new; I always devoured Edith Wharton and Jane Austen novels. I thought about the common cliché that all that glitters is not gold, and how there are these women who are swimming in wealth but are still miserable.
There’s something in this social media age where everyone is projecting perfection. This studied artifice of a Christmas card that used to come once a year with the perfect children, golden retriever and Hamptons house is now 365 days a year. And you just keep seeing this excess, people on their private planes and selfies in exotic locales, and I think it’s relevant to speak to that. But I’m not really trying to make a commentary; I’m just trying to be funny.
Had you always planned to work both in front of and behind the camera?
I loved acting when I was younger, and I was never not in a play in college. But I became so ambitious about work that I could never have that unreliability of that world. I saw girls who were talented, who were pretty and who couldn’t get jobs and were just trying to make ends meet in New York—that was not for me. So, I went into writing and that worked out for me really well. It’s only because I wrote my own material that it worked this way, but I don’t think I could’ve gotten to become an actress otherwise.
What was your favorite part of filming the first season?
It was bliss every day. Everyone would always ask, ‘How are you dealing with a 14-hour day?’ I would say, ‘What are you talking about? We’re making a show. I’m not fetching coffee!’
If I had to name one highlight, there’s an episode where I’m flirting with moving to Brooklyn because I’ve had it uptown. Then I actually go to Brooklyn and I learn that you’re trading one set of problems in for another, so I screech back to the Upper East Side and I’m so blissed out that there’s this whole surreal musical number: I’m being twirled around by a doorman, there are people with rhinoplasty, old people with walkers and tennis balls, Pilates balls, doormen with gilded epilates, nannies with Bugaboos and a huge chorus line in front of the steps of the Met. It was like a religious experience, I was so pleased. It was everything I imagined and more.
Odd Mom Out premieres Monday, June 8 at 10pm on Bravo