Under normal circumstances, Canadian comedian Mae Martin would be doing press junkets and in-person interviews to promote her new Netflix series “Feel Good”, which launched last week.
But the world situation is far from normal, and the Canadian comedian — who currently calls the U.K. home — spoke to ET Canada by phone from her London home, where she expects to be housebound “for the next three months” amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
In the quasi-autobiographical series, Martin plays Mae, a gay Canadian comedian living in London who falls in love with a woman named George (Charlotte Ritchie, “Call the Midwife”), who up until then had been exclusively heterosexual. The series explores all facets of their romance, including Mae’s complicated relationship with her parents (Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis) and her daily struggles as a recovering addict.
According to Martin, “Feel Good” emerged from a standup show she was performing called “Dope”, which explored “addiction and love, where those two things intersect,” she says.
“That show got a good response so I teamed up with the director of that show, we made a pilot and then Netflix came onboard. It’s been like a five-year process.”
While a love story is at the heart of “Feel Good”, it’s far from a typical romantic comedy, with Martin describing the series as “a love story about two people who don’t have much in common except that they’re in love.”
While creating the series with writing partner Joe Hampson, Martin says the goal was to create a true dramedy that avoided the usual rom-com tropes.
“I’m a comedian, but I’m also a super earnest Canadian, and me and my writing partner are both secret romantics,” she explains of finding the right balance between laughter and drama. “We wanted to earn both, earn the emotional moment, so when they happen it comes at you unexpectedly and it really hits you. And also earn the laughs, so in the middle of a dramatic moment you can have a laugh. It was important to us that it was really a comedy-drama in the truest sense, and not just a comedy with a little drama or a drama with a couple of jokes.”
She adds: “Any time that it felt too rom-com-y, we made sure to undercut that, hopefully, and subvert those tropes to make it more realistic”.
So how did Martin manage to nab “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow to portray her onscreen mom? “I wish I could say I held a boombox over my head outside a window,” Martin jokes. “We just sent her a script. She liked the script, and I think she watched some of my standup and she was just so supportive. She liked the character, we were so lucky… she just knocked it out of the park.”
“Feel Good” doesn’t shy away from its depiction of Mae’s addiction issues, and she describes the anxiety she’s trying to depict. “You know that feeling where you’re out for dinner with people and you realize you’ve lost your phone?” she says. “That kind of nagging distraction feeling where you’re not quite present? That’s kind of what I’m trying to get across, the mundanity of it. Addiction’s not all heroin withdrawal and getting the shakes, it’s this kind of pervasive feeling of detachment and anxiety and wanting to be present but not.”
While some people claim they never read reviews, Martin is not among them. “I wish I could be like, ‘No, I’m just living my life,’” she jokes, admitting she’s been “Googling my name” because she’s “desperate to know what people think, and it’s been really, really amazing, the response. People warn you that the internet is such a terrible place, I really kind of braced myself for people to kind of tear it apart. But everyone’s been so thoughtful, and connecting to it.”
The first season of “Feel Good” is available to stream right now.