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‘Imaginary Mary’ Star Jenna Elfman on Why Her Adult Character Needs an Imaginary Friend

Variety logo Variety 3/20/2017 Will Thorne
© Provided by Variety

For most people, imaginary friends tend to disappear when the person makes real friends as a child, but for Alice, the central character of ABC’s new sitcom “Imaginary Mary,” her best imaginary friend makes a comeback during a relationship crisis in her mid-30s.

At the show’s premiere event, which took place in a private, VIP box at the Staples Center before Sunday night’s Los Angeles Lakers game against the Cleveland Cavaliers,Jenna Elfman, who plays Alice, and executive producer Patrick Osborne explained where the idea behind the grey, almost troll-like Mary came from.

“We wanted to make a show with a little whimsy and an animated character,” Osborne said, as the stadium’s blaring warm-up music threatened to drown him out. “Mary went through many iterations and napkin sketches until we landed here, and honestly, we didn’t even land here until after the pilot. We hadn’t written a full pilot or cast anyone because making Mary needed so much lead time.”

Osborne revealed that he called in a favor with a friend of his at Disney who took a look at his original design for Mary and tore it apart. “He made it better,” Osborne assured Variety.

While LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell were dropping points left and right on the court, Elfman explained why Mary had stayed around as Alice’s companion for so long into her puberty, and why she had made a sudden return.

“Puberty blows, if you have no parents and you need someone,” Elfman said. “Parents and puberty are a bad combination, but Mary is Alice’s little attempt at some self-determinism and some sort of buddy system. [When the series starts] she has no point of reference, no buddy by her side and no one to turn to.”

The show also features the voice of Rachel Dratch as Mary, Stephen Schneider as Alice’s boyfriend who has three kids, played by Erica Tremblay, Matreya Scarrwener, and Nicholas Coombe; it is a co-production between Sony Pictures Television, ABC Studios, and Happy Madison Productions.

“Imaginary Mary” premieres Mar. 29 on ABC.

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