Kathryn Renée Thomas – Teachers
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) “Teachers” is all we have time for! Before the first season aired, The Katydids sold a pilot script to NBC, but it didn’t get picked up. We all go on auditions and write on the side when there’s time, but 20 episodes is a lot and there’s barely time for anything else.
Q) Where did the idea for “Teachers” originate?
A) Matt Miller is a director in Chicago who we had all done work with before “Teachers.” At some point, we went to him to direct a different project we had going, but it wasn’t a good fit. We decided we’d love to do something different together in the future. He came to us in 2011 with the idea of doing a web series about teachers because he had just read two different articles on teachers; one saying that teaching was in the top five most admired professions and one saying that teaching was in the top five most adulterous and gossip-ridden professions. This dichotomy was fun and interesting. We loved it because it fit our group’s style of nice, perky, Midwestern girls saying the nastiest things you’d ever heard. It just seemed to make sense! Matt directed the web series and is now an EP on the show.
Q) What is new this season on “Teachers?”
A) In the first season, we couldn’t get too deep with the characters as it’s hard to write a twenty-one minute six-person ensemble show and get out a ton of information about each character. The first season was about the basics. The second season is about going deeper. We have some interesting new relationships develop between characters on the show that you wouldn’t expect. We get a little more topical when it comes to real issues in teaching, like Common Core and low pay for a difficult job, as well as political and social issues like slut-shaming and addiction. Also, we wrote an entire musical!
Q) As the season progresses, how might dynamics flip or switch?
A) I think you begin to see change in the teachers, which is fun. Not too much change or they wouldn’t be the same lovable and imperfect people they already are. It’s fun to see a little more evolution for these ladies.
Q) Where do you and your character connect, if at all?
A) Adler is definitely a heightened version of me when I was fifteen years old. I was a wannabe goth/punk chick who kids in my suburban neighborhood thought was weird. I wasn’t relentlessly bullied, just occasionally called “dyke” or “satan-worshipper,” neither of which I was. I just liked to pretend to be tough and wear a lot of leather dog collars. There’s definitely some Mrs. Adler in me, though. I can be really dry. I’m too sensitive, for sure. I’m working on trying not to take things too personally! I can snap when I’m hangry. I really have a big place in my heart for nerds!
Q) Who is the most like their character? Who’s the least like their character?
A) I think that Kate Lambert is most like Ms. Watson. She’s super type-A, mega-tidy and likes things a certain way. I think Katy Colloton is least like Ms. Snap. She’s such a sweetheart and for sure not shallow and promiscuous. It’s hilarious. People think she’s like that in real life, but she’s such a grounded, kind, Kansas girl!
Q) Is there room to improv at all or do you tend to stick solely to the script?
A) Our show is on the low-budget side so our time is really limited on set. We always get everything we’ve written and we always write the entire script. We never leave a spot in the script that says, “Improvise this part!” If a joke doesn’t seem to be working on set, we can improvise different bits or our showrunners help us pitch other ideas to each other. If we have some extra time or we hit a really good take, sometimes our directors will let us play for a bit at the end of the scene. Sometimes those improvised bits make it in!
Q) You have great comedic timing. Is it something that has always come naturally to you or have you had to work at it?
A) I think it’s super hard to learn comic timing. I believe you have to have some naturally, which we all do. There is work to do on learning how to write and deliver jokes, though. It’s harder than just “being funny.” But yeah, some people can just feel in their gut when it’s time to break the silence or deliver a blow.
Q) What makes the series such a perfect fit for TV Land?
A) We’re a perfect fit for TV Land because they’re trying to reach a younger demographic and that group generally is looking for edgier, more unique content that hasn’t been seen before. I think our voice is very different than many comedians and it’s hard to compare our style to anyone else. We’re helping them bring a lot of new viewers, especially young women looking for people to relate to, to their network. And TV Land is the perfect fit for us! They give us so much creative freedom. I’m not sure how many other networks would let us have the control we do with our show. They’re super warm and grounded, like family.
Q) What do you think it is about the show that has made it such a fan favorite?
A) I think it’s unique and has a bizarre comedic voice that hasn’t been heard. That draws people in. I think people like it because we’re saying things that young women talk about, but never heard talked about publicly. I also think that teachers love our show because we get to say the things they don’t get to say.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you enjoy the instant fan feedback you receive to episodes?
A) I’m an insecure actor – of course! It is super nice to hear from real people as opposed to just numbers from the ratings. It’s so rewarding to connect with our audience. When we improvised in theaters live, we got that. It’s nice to get it in this newish technological way!
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
A) We are so grateful for all of the fans we’ve picked up along the way, from our silly black box improv shows in Chicago in 2009 to our TV show on TV Land. One of the things I love the most about our fanbase is seeing how many amazing, cool young women are responding to the show. It’s sometimes hard to feel like a role model when you find yourself writing fart jokes all day, but when you hear from a fan that you’ve really affected them, whether it’s making them think about something in a new way or putting something out there that they really relate to that they haven’t heard anywhere else, it feels really good. There are a lot of amazing people out there whose love and support means so much. This thing we’re doing is more of a reciprocal thing than I realized.