Having watched, (and loved), the first webisode of Family Dinner before I spoke to Lauralee, and knowing she had written it, I was anxious to hear all about it. Lauralee wrote the scripts a few years ago, but it was put on the back burner until the writer's strike, and budget cuts, came about. Since the project is a one-set, completely character-driven show, it finally seemed to be the right time to pull it out of the drawer!
Reflecting on why family dinner time is such fertile ground for comedy, Lauralee laughingly told me, "Everyone is throwing out random thoughts, the kids are on the level of 'pee' and 'butt', and mom's just happy to finally sit down!"
Lauralee describes the zany scripts as being, "What my parents taught me - it's about the characters and their reactions. Sometimes you have to say nothing and have it all be in the eyes."
I was struck by how much actually happened within the first three minute webisode. Lauralee said, "Family Dinner feels like it could be stretched out to a half-hour format and taken in crazy directions, but the three-minute format is a great place to start! The first one was hard too, because you have to explain why Dan [Cortese, reality show producer] was there, and what it's all about. I feel like you got to know the characters a little bit."
Lauralee was thrilled when her mom mentioned the project to Phyllis Diller over lunch, and the infamous comedienne called to say that she had to play Grandma! The actress recounted how she gave Phyllis carte blanche as far as Grandma's 'look' was concerned, and how Phyllis was so gracious with the 'blown away' cast and crew, bringing in pictures and signing books! Lauralee also visited Phyllis at home, and raved about what an amazing artist she is, and how she has shared remarkable stories with her. Regardless of what happens with the series, she says that being with Phyllis, and being able to spend time with her, was the gift right there.
Y&R fans will also recognize Aaron Lustig, who played Dr. Tim Reid on the show, as the father, Steven, in Family Dinner!
Lauralee loves working with the talented children that play her kids in Family Dinner, but deflected her own young daughter's interest in taking a role. Asked if she and husband Scott Martin would encourage her to pursue a career in entertainment, she said, "I was very lucky because I came onto a set that was a great family. Tracy Bregman would tell me, "You should eat fish and drink water." It was such a healthy environment, where a lot of sets aren't. So, we'll have to wait and see. I would like to prolong it as long as possible, at least until after 16 or 18, and then we'll see if they she is even interested - we certainly won't push it. She likes to perform though!"
Asked about career plans, Lauralee shared, "I would love to shoot a bunch of these [webisodes], and I have a lot of ideas. I wrote a two-hour movie of the week that is also skewed a little bit young, like a Disney Channel film perhaps. In the past I've always taken on so much more than I should. I have another webisode idea that I was going to move forward with, but then I thought I would take a couple of months and see where Family Dinner is going to go. I want to truly focus on this and see it through."
Don't miss Lauralee's Family Dinner, the first and second webisodes are now available to view! Visit Funny or Die to vote, or the new Family Dinner official website, which features testimonials from the characters (even non-talking Jeremy)!
For those Soaps.com readers who want to know what Lauralee had to say about a return to The Young and the Restless, read Part II of the interview here!