The perils of marriage and parenthood have been ripe material for comedy, but it's a wonder they haven't warded more people off of the institutions. This season's new comedy Notes from the Underbelly explores a newly pregnant woman (Jennifer Westfeldt) and her husband as they navigate the new world and all the comic disasters it entails.
Jennifer Westfeldt on Notes from the Underbelly
"I’m not married and I have no kids so it has been [a deterrent] for me I guess," Westfeldt joked. "I just wrote a movie about divorce so I don't know why it’s not a deterrent. I guess it’s just the cycle of life. Everyone does what everyone else does but I’m terrified of having kids."
Since such subjects have been explored often before, a new show faces special challenges in originality. "Well, luckily that’s not my job. I’m just an actor on this one. One of the things I found refreshing about the pilot is just the honesty of the woman being like, ‘I’m not ready to have a kid. I don’t want to have a kid. I don’t want to get fat. This is crazy. I’m totally incompetent.’ All of that felt real to me because I think whenever women and mothers, expectant mothers talk about oh, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world and it’s the best time of your life. I’m always like, ‘How could it be the best time? You’re huge and waddling around. Whatever. And then you go through the worst pain ever.’ It just seems incredibly scary to me."
It's not just the movies and TV that make childbirth sound delightfully painful. There are real world testimonies too. "I have friends who have had babies in the past year and they’re literally like, ‘It’s the worst…’ If people are really honest about it I think it is scary and overwhelming. Not just physically but emotionally and the notion of being responsible for someone for the rest of your life, just totally overwhelms me."
A breakthrough with her self-written Kissing Jessica Stein, scaling back to acting only duty brings its own set of challenges. "It’s different in the sense of you’re always trying to figure out how they heard it when they wrote it. You want to make sure you’re hitting it the way they envisioned it which obviously I know when it’s my own words. But in a way it’s liberating that I can just come to it with a fresh take and a fresh perspective and I’m not responsible for rewrites, this and that and all the rest of it. But I guess it’s really just about trying to please them and hope to fulfill the vision that they had. That’s sort of the task. It’s just a different part of my brain."
Notes from the Underbelly premieres on ABC Thursday, April 12th.