'Life Unexpected' draws on real-life adoption experience
PASADENA, Calif. -- They say to write what you know. Liz Tigelaar took that at face value. She's the creator and executive producer of the new CW show "Life Unexpected," about a young girl lost in the foster-care system and seeking her parents.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Tigelaar is an adoptee herself. "I knew I was born in D.C., so I was always asking my mom, 'What's the deal?' I was, like, 'I think Nancy Reagan's my birth mom, and this really sucks. I should be living in the White House, and I should have $100-a-month allowance.'
"It started when I was little. And weirdly, it lasted for a long time, until finally when I was 8, my mom was like, 'You're an idiot. You're not doing basic math. There's no way that Nancy Reagan could be your birth mom.' I was very insistent. That was my Texas upbringing,"Tigelaar says at a press gathering.
She has parlayed her own childhood into the TV series which airs Monday nights. The show is about 15-year-old Lux (Britt Robertson), who searches for her birth parents so she can become legally emancipated.
The parents turn out far less mature than the daughter.
"What I brought into the series, is that fantasy of who your parents might be. I think when you have no idea and you really have nothing to go on, you really create something in your head," says Tigelaar.
"So this story is very much a story of Lux having this fantasy, and in some ways it's really coming true. Her mom is this super-successful, glamorous radio DJ, and her dad is this pretty cool guy who owns a bar and lives with friends and lives in a sweet loft. I think the idea is that just because people are kind of cool, fantasy people, doesn't actually make them fantasy parents."
Tigelaar got her start by working as an assistant to writer Winnie Holzman, who penned "My So-Called Life" and wrote for "thirtysomething."
"It got me kind of thinking about what are thirtysomethings today, and how is it different? And in our parents' generation, maybe thirtysomething means 401(K) plans and mortgages and suburbs and dogs. And for me, and maybe some other people, thirtysomething can mean a person who really has prioritized their professional life over relationships or whatever -- or not ... Or a guy who still lives like a frat guy and lives with his buddies and plays video games and drinks Coors Lite, and that's cool. And I just think it's like a whole different thing."
So it became a backward coming-of-age story, she says. "The grownups are the people that need to come of age, and Lux is the catalyst for them to do that. I think that was the impetus of the idea."
Tigelaar did locate her birth parents. "I found both my birth parents, and actually, I just met my birth mom in November for the first time, and the first thing she said was, 'I'm not a radio DJ.' And I said, 'That's OK.'"
Being adopted can leave a child with feelings of inadequacy, according to Tigelaar, whose credits include "Brothers and Sisters."
"It's like an initial rejection. Your mom has given you up, and that's a thing that you carry with you in your life. On the other hand, if you're adopted, it's juxtaposed by two people who want a kid so badly. My own parents, they made me feel so special and so wanted, and what I want to tell a story about was ... a girl who doesn't get that. She didn't get to feel special and wanted ..."
Shiri Appleby, who plays Cate, the DJ who becomes a surprise mom, says her life does not parallel her character's life at all. "I'm settled in myself, and I feel very secure with myself, where I am at this point in my life."
"So I feel like I can go just about anywhere and feel pretty cool. I'm not married. I don't have kids. So playing a parent is something that's definitely new for me, but at the same time, it's new for Cate. So I don't feel like I'm playing a character that I can't relate to. And quite the opposite: I think that Cate isn't a stable person either. She's having a hard time committing into her relationship. And when Lux comes back, it's the piece in the puzzle that's been missing for her that makes her stable.
"So have I found that peace for myself? It could be this show. I feel pretty stable in Vancouver (where the show is filmed.) I haven't lived in one city for five months since I graduated from high school. So I'm feeling more stable than I've felt in a while."
I have not seen the show yet, but it might just add a bit of reality to what Juno left our to the young audience it is geared toward. This young couple made s bby, gave her up for adoption - and she wound up UNLOVED in foste rcre! Not exctly the better life we are all promised adoption will provide.