As a producer Liz Tigelaar worked on Melrose Place and Brothers and Sisters, as a writer she penned episodes of Dawson’s Creek, What About Brian and Dirty Sexy Money. Her new dramedy Life Unexpected is the first series she’s created herself. In the same vein as the popular Gilmore Girls, Tigelaar has the perfect producing partner in Janet Leahy, who was the consulting producer for that series for 44 episodes.
Life Unexpected tells the story of Lux, a fifteen year old who was abandoned at birth by her young mother. After years in foster care, Lux has decided to take control of her life and goes through the court system to find her ‘missing’ parents, Nate ‘Baze’ Bazile (Kristoffer Polaha) and Cate Cassidy (Shiri Appleby), who had a one-night-stand in high school and never saw each other again.
When the judge unexpectedly grants temporary joint custody of the teenager to Baze and Cate, despite their contentious relationship they decide to make a belated attempt to give Lux the family she never had.
How difficult is it to make these characters seem organic, where you could believe they could grow together over the course of the series?
Janet Leahy: I learned probably the basics of good television and good storytelling from Bill Cosby, and it’s you start with the truth. And these characters are all very truthful. Liz created an enormous array of honest-to-the-bone characters with all the goods and bads.
Liz Tigelaar: I’m so excited to work on this as a writer because the characters are so flawed and real. I think a really interesting aspect to explore is just the idea of being disappointing. It’s one thing to be disappointed in someone else, but it’s another to know that you are disappointing and that maybe you’re not enough for someone.
I think Cate, Baze and Lux are all going to feel that feeling. I just think that it’s a really interesting dynamic of a bunch of people who are troubled by their own disappointments. And it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that the more you try not to be disappointing, the more you end up being disappointing.
Janet Leahy: Another thing with good television shows is you have characters who have enormously good intentions, but they fall short because they’re victims of their own personalities.
I know the series went through a lot of names changes, why was it so hard to give it a title?
Liz Tigelaar: This show has been two years in development, and it was always called Light Years from the start, because Lux’s name means light.
The idea was that these are the years that Lux comes in, and not to be cheesy, kind of is the light of their lives. She illuminates all these things. And she changes the course of what their lives would have been, for better or for worse. Then we tested the title and everyone thought it was a sci fi show.
So then it became Lux, then we called it PDA, which I think sounded a little too sitcomy. And then Life Unexpected tested the highest, so we were really happy calling it that.
Liz, this is the first show running job for you. Are you nervous?
Liz Tigelaar: I’m nervous right this second, I haven’t slept for three days anticipating this press day, but Janet is going to show run (too) and will have everything under control. So that’s comforting.
Where is the series being shot?
Liz Tigelaar: We’re shooting it in Vancouver, or ‘the Couv’ as the kids call it. Shiri and Britt are going to live together, so it’s going to turn into a reality show!
There was a possibility of shooting in Portland, Oregon, as the show takes place there, but even though we shoot it in Vancouver it feels like Portland. We always set it in Portland knowing we would be in Vancouver, so it works out perfectly.