It pays to be “frenemies” with Rebel Wilson
Kate Jenkinson had to forgo more Offspring, but only so she could join Rebel Wilson's US comedy.
The bad news was it meant she had to be written out of Offspring.
But the chance to join Rebel Wilson’s US comedy was too good to pass up, especially as it meant working once again with her friend. Both had previously worked on The Wedge and Wilson’s own comedy, Bogan Pride.
At the time of writing, Super Fun Night has had one outing in the US. Following Modern Family it’s had a good launch numbers-wise.
Wilson stars as ‘Kimmie Boubier’, who gets a promotion at her law firm and decides that with the help of her friends she will make something of their usually mundane Friday nights.
Jenkinson plays bitchy lawyer ‘Kendall Quinn’.
“I play her new boss, because she gets a promotion,” she explained. “Kendall plays the mean girl at high school, or the stuck-up popular girl. The boys always love her, her hair always looks amazing, she always has beautiful clothes and gets good grades –that kind of thing. But really, on the inside she’s pretty vulnerable and insecure.
“I like to think of her as a “Frenemy.” She’s kind of friends with Rebel’s character but also enemies. You never quite know whether she’s being nice or nasty.”
Jenkinson has known Wilson for around 8 years. It was after a recent visit to the US that the invitation to audition for Super Fun Night was extended.
“We were friends from long ago and she moved to the US and conquered the world and became a massive superstar. She’d always planned to produce her own show in America and it just so happened there was a role she thought that I would be perfect for,” she says.
“When I got back to Australia she sent me an email and said ‘I think you should audition for this part in my show. I think you’d be great for it.’
“I flew back to LA and auditioned in front of all the Warner Bros. people and the ABC people and got the job and here I am.”
But accepting the role meant forgoing her role as Kate Reid, sister of Patrick, in TEN’s Offspring.
“Unfortunately I had to be written out of Offspring Season 5. They’d written a whole storyline for my character but sadly because of the scheduling conflicts there was just no way I would have been able to shoot it. There is still a possibility I might be able to appear in maybe one episode, but it will depend on whether the show here gets picked up,” she explained.
“The writers and producers of Offspring were incredibly generous and very supportive of me to get this job.”
Getting a work visa was made easier with the support of Warner Bros. studios, but I asked how the US experience differed from Australian television production.
So far, so good, says Jenkinson.
“I have to say that my experiences have been lovely. Those times when you walk into a room to do those big auditions, and I’ve done about 4 of those where you’re down to the last 2 people, when it gets to that stage everyone is pretty lovely to you because they’re interested in you,” she said.
“Because the show has been a success we’re seeing the best side of everyone because they’re really happy. But I’m sure there’s a second side, as there is with everything. It’s business at the end of the day, so I’m sure there’s a ruthless side I haven’t seen yet. Touch wood everything’s going really well so far.”
She’s yet to meet Exec Producer Conan O’Brien. Also appearing in the cast is Jacki Weaver in a recurring role.
“Jacki Weaver plays Rebel’s mum and she’s hilarious. We did a play together in Melbourne in 2009 so it was so lovely to see her in LA doing so incredibly well. She’s such a talented lady and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.”
While the first episode pulled over 8m viewers, reviews have been mixed, with some criticising the light material and the use of jokes about weight. Reviews noted Wilson as the show’s “glimmer of hope.”
“I haven’t read any of the reviews , I tend to steer clear of that,” Jenkinson admitted. “But our numbers for the first night were above what was expected of us. They’d hoped for a certain figure and we were able to surpass that, so that’s brilliant. Tonight is the second episode airing, so hopefully we can keep up the popularity.”
Jenkinson defended the show’s comedy, responding to criticisms the show relies on too many ‘fat jokes.’
“I have to say I’m a little disappointed if there are discussions like that. I don’t think the show is about that at all. Rebel is a comedian and as a comedian she’s going to make jokes about every part of her life. Part of the character she plays is a bigger girl and she loves ordering pizza with her mates, or eat going out –but that’s just part of her character.
“It’s not a show about overweight people. It’s a show about real women with real bodies. I actually don’t think Rebel has written the show to be about weight.
“None of the characters she plays are hung up about their weight at all. The character in Pitch Perfect, the character in this… they’re happy. She’s happy with her life, happy with the way that she looks. It’s just a part of her make up.”
Wilson has previously made the most of her appearance, despite sometimes polarising audiences. Staring down the Tall Poppy Syndrome, she has made a name for herself in the toughest town of all by using self-deprecating humour.
Jenkinson notes the success of other young writer performers, such as Lena Dunham (Girls), who are challenging aesthetic stereotypes.
“It’s not all about being beautiful and perfect, and I think we’re seeing a lot more of that on TV. I know that Rebel just wanted to make a show about 3 friends who were dags and try to become cool people. And I guess it just so happens that there’s a message embedded in there which is that you just have to be yourself. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what you weigh, what you choose to eat for dinner,” she insisted.
“I don’t think she was trying to make a statement, but we’re living in a time where you don’t have to be glamorous and stick thin to be a lead character on TV.
“What I really love about Rebel is she creates shows she likes. She’s committed to producing scripts and a show that she personally finds funny. And that’s the best that you can do. If you’re constantly thinking ‘What are other people going to like?’ you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
“You’ve got to go after what you believe is worthy and she’s great at doing that.”
Super Fun Night premieres 8pm Tuesday on Nine.