Interview with Scott Prendergast, Elizabeth Klaviter, Marcia Gay Harden, Skylar Astin, Madeline Wise, Tristen J. Winger, Inga Schlingmann and Rosa Arrendondo of “So Help Me Todd” on CBS by Suzanne 9/21/23
CBS 2022 TCA PRESS TOUR
“SO HELP ME TODD”
Scott Prendergast, Creator/Executive Producer; Elizabeth Klaviter, Showrunner/Executive Producer; and actors Marcia Gay Harden, Skylar Astin, Madeline Wise, Tristen J. Winger, Inga Schlingmann and Rosa Arrendondo
Virtual via Zoom September 21 2022
©2022 CBS All rights reserved.
Here were some introductory remarks about the show. First, from the moderator: The series is inspired by our creator and executive producer Scott show premieres Thursday, September 29th, at 9/8 Central on CBS and Paramount+.
Joining us today is the cast and executive producers of the series. Please welcome creator and executive producer Scott Prendergast, showrunner and executive producer Elizabeth Klaviter, stars Marcia Gay Harden, Skylar Astin, Madeline Wise, Tristen J. Winger, Inga Schlingmann, and Rosa Arredondo.
The second remarks were from the creator/EP Scott Prendergast: “I’m so happy to be here with my showrunner Elizabeth Klaviter and our six incredible cast members. Just a quick recap. This show is based on a true story. My mother’s husband did disappear and I helped her find him and that’s where we drew the inspiration for the show. So it’s very exciting to be here. The cast is incredible. And I’ll just quickly tell you that when I pitched the show, the first thing I said to CBS was if you took Alicia, the lawyer, from “The Good Wife” and Kalinda, the investigator, made them mother and son and had them do “Moonlighting,” that’s the show, and here we are a year and a half later.
This press panel was for the TV Critics Association. They give us a transcript of the interviews, but we’re not allowed to post them verbatim, and there’s no video or audio.
This is a fun new dramady starring Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (whom you may remember from “Law and Order” and other shows) and Skylar Astin, who’s probably best known for playing Zoey’s love interest in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (ZEP) I spoke with Marcia before, years ago, so I was very happy to get a chance to speak to Skylar because I really loved ZEP.
CBS/Paramount let us watch one episode before airing. It’s a quirky show, and those rarely do well on TV, but you never know. One of the more interesting things about it is that the idea for the story came from the show’s creator’s real life experiences.
With these large press panels, we’re lucky to get one question in, so I was ecstatic to ask him if he would be singing on this show. He not only starred in ZEP but was in the musical movie “Pitch Perfect.” He said that they had no plans to do that yet. He didn’t think his character, Todd, would be a very good singer.
The follow-up question to mine asked if filming the show was easier because there wasn’t choreography and everything, like on ZEP and Pitch Perfect. He felt very comfortable doing musicals, but this show has its own “specific rhythm,” so he treats it the same way. He was talking about the dialogue, which is “very rhythmic.”
“So Help Me Todd: A Quirky Blend of Comedy and Mystery Unveiled in CBS’ New Series”
In a recent Television Critics Association (TCA) panel, the creators, cast, and executive producers of CBS’ upcoming series “So Help Me Todd” gathered to share insights into this intriguing blend of comedy and mystery. The series, set to premiere on Thursday, September 29th, at 9/8 Central, promises to captivate viewers with its unique storyline and a cast that seamlessly mixes humor and drama.
“Inspiration from Real Life”
The show’s creator and executive producer, Scott Prendergast, kicked off the event by sharing the series’ origin story. He revealed that the inspiration for “So Help Me Todd” came from a real-life experience where his mother’s husband disappeared, and he played a pivotal role in helping her find him. This deeply personal narrative forms the foundation of the show’s premise.
Prendergast described the series as a blend of “The Good Wife,” “Moonlighting,” and classic CBS procedurals, with a strong focus on the unique mother-son dynamic at its core.
“Balancing Comedy and Mystery”
A recurring theme during the panel discussion was how the show successfully balances comedy and mystery. Skylar Astin, who plays the titular character Todd, explained that while the show has its comedic moments, it also explores deeper emotional aspects. Astin noted that Todd is a complex character, and he enjoys portraying the character’s messiness and vulnerability.
Executive producer Elizabeth Klaviter emphasized that the humor in the show is grounded in authentic character development. The cast’s performances and the witty scripts allow viewers to relate to the characters while enjoying the comedic elements.
“A Cast of Characters”
The cast of “So Help Me Todd” includes the talented Marcia Gay Harden, Skylar Astin, Madeline Wise, Tristen J. Winger, Inga Schlingmann, and Rosa Arredondo. Each actor brings their unique qualities to the series, contributing to the chemistry that makes the show stand out.
Finding Laughter in the Unusual
One of the standout aspects of the show is its willingness to embrace humor in unusual situations. Scott Prendergast shared a real-life anecdote where he pretended to be someone else to locate a missing person. This blend of absurdity and suspense is at the heart of “So Help Me Todd,” making it an engaging and entertaining watch.
Plans for the Future
When asked about the show’s future, Scott Prendergast revealed that they have ambitious plans for seven seasons. He believes that the evolving mother-son relationship and the characters’ growth will provide endless material for captivating storylines. The panelists expressed their excitement about exploring the family dynamics further, including relationships between siblings, colleagues, and adversaries.
A Quirky Family Saga Awaits
As the panel concluded, it was evident that “So Help Me Todd” promises to be a unique addition to CBS’ lineup, offering viewers a captivating blend of comedy and mystery while delving deep into the intricacies of family dynamics. With a strong cast and a commitment to maintaining the delicate balance between humor and drama, this series is poised to become a must-watch this fall.
Prepare to embark on a journey with the Todd family as they navigate life’s twists, turns, and absurdities, all while seeking answers to intriguing mysteries. Tune in on September 29th to catch the premiere of “So Help Me Todd” on CBS and Paramount+.
MORE INFO: Trailer
SO HELP ME TODD stars Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden and Skylar Astin as razor-sharp, meticulous attorney Margaret Wright (Harden) and Todd (Astin), her talented but scruffy, aimless son whom she hires as her law firm’s in-house investigator. As the black sheep of the well-heeled Wright family, Todd is a laidback, quick-thinking, excellent former private detective who fell on hard times after his flexible interpretation of the law got his license revoked. Margaret’s penchant for excellence and strict adherence to the law is at complete odds with Todd’s scrappy methods of finding his way through sticky situations: by the seat of his wrinkled pants. When Todd inadvertently teams with his mother on a case, she’s surprised to find herself duly impressed by – and proud of – his crafty ability to sleuth out information with his charm and his wide-ranging tech savvy. At last, Margaret sees a way to put her son on a “suitable” path to living an adult, financially solvent life she approves of, and she asks him to join her firm. Todd agrees, since it means getting his license back and once again doing the job he excels at and loves. Mother and son working together is a big first step toward mending their fragile, dysfunctional relationship, and they may even come away with a better understanding of each other at this pivotal point in their lives. But whether Todd and Margaret will be able to accept each other for who they are is another case entirely.
Marcia Gay Harden
Academy Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden has forged an incomparable body of work, and like a chameleon she transforms into each character she plays. Her critically lauded performances are myriad – from glamorous Ava Gardner in “Sinatra,” to artist Lee Krasner in “Pollock” (winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), to the down-and-out Celeste in “Mystic River” (Oscar-nominated in the same category) – and her versatility has been praised in other films such as “Miller’s Crossing,” “The First Wives Club,” “Meet Joe Black,” “Mona Lisa Smile,” “The Hoax” and “Used People.”
Harden stars in the comedy series “Uncoupled” opposite Neil Patrick Harris. She plays a socialite in the middle of a bitter divorce who commiserates with Harris’ character when his husband walks out on him.
On the film side, Harden will be seen in “Roadside’s Gigi & Nate” with Jim Belushi, Josephine Langford and Charlie Rowe, set for a September theater release, along with Greg Mattola’s “Confess, Fletch” opposite Jon Hamm.
Currently, she recurs on the Emmy-nominated series “The Morning Show” opposite Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, for which she was just nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. Most recently, she starred in the Amy Poehler-directed comedy “Moxie” and the miniseries “Barkskins.”
Harden lives in Los Angeles. Her birth date is August 14. She can be followed on Twitter @MGH_8 and Instagram @mgh_8.
Skylar Astin is a celebrated actor with a varied career across stage and screen. This past summer, Astin returned to the theater in the Off-Broadway revival of “Little Shop of Horrors” as Seymour, directed by Tony winner Michael Mayer. Also, he appeared in the documentary “Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known.” Astin and the rest of the cast revisited their roles and re-sparked the cultural phenomenon which put Astin on the map and went on to win eight Tony Awards in 2007. Following the release of the documentary, he performed a special rendition of “Touch Me” at this year’s Tony Awards with the original cast.
Most recently, Astin starred in two seasons of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” alongside Jane Levy, Mary Steenburgen and Peter Gallagher.
Additional television credits include appearing opposite Golden Globe-winner Rachel Bloom in the final season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” the Golden Globe-nominated dark comedy “Graves,” Frank Coraci’s comedy “Hot Air,” “Ground Floor,” “Girls,” “Halt and Catch Fire,” “House” and “Love Bites.”
Astin is perhaps best known for his star turn as Jesse in the hit “Pitch Perfect” franchise. Additional big screen credits include “Ghosts of War,” “21 and Over” opposite Miles Teller, “Taking Woodstock” for director Ang Lee, the Sundance cult-hit “Hamlet 2,” “Flock of Dudes,” “Cavemen” and the beloved animated film “Wreck It Ralph.”
In 2020, Astin appeared in “Secret Society of Second Born Royals,” an original live action film. Astin was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award in the category of Best Actor in a Superhero Movie for his role in this film.
A native New Yorker, Astin portrayed the iconic role of Tony in Carnegie Hall’s performance of “West Side Story” and received rave reviews in Encore’s production of Kurt Vonnegut’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” He was also seen in Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck’s play, “What We’re Up Against.”
Currently, Astin resides in Los Angeles. He can be followed on Twitter @SkylarAstin and Instagram @skylarastin.
Madeline Wise is an actress with a diverse background. After studying at Bard College, with a stint at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, she co-founded New Saloon Theatre Co. and worked extensively in the downtown theatre scene in New York.
Wise made her television debut in season three of the Pete Holmes semi-autobiographical comedy “Crashing,” produced by Judd Apatow. She also played Sir Patrick Stewart’s mother in season two of STAR TREK: PICARD and has appeared in “Single Drunk Female,” EVIL and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Her film credits include Noah Hutton’s sci-fi “Lapsis” and Sophia Silver’s meditation on adolescent female friendship “Over/Under.”
Currently, she resides in New York. Her birth date is March 1 and she can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @wise_dumb.
Tristen J. Winger
Born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles, Winger discovered his love for acting at a young age. He notes he was a “TGIF” kid, looking forward to Friday nights where he could tune in to “Family Matters” and see himself represented for the first time on television through Jaleel White and his on-screen character Steve Urkel. Winger attended the Amazing Grace Conservatory (AGC), where he was able to hone his craft in theater, bringing characters to life on stage. He went on to attend the King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, where he became friends with Issa Rae (who would eventually give him his first big break with “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”), graduating one year early. While Winger initially thought he would pursue a career in the medical field, even studying science, math and engineering at California State University Northridge, the performing arts kept calling his name. He dabbled in music production and audio engineering, learning to produce and make music while in college, and took a few retail jobs while he auditioned for acting projects in Los Angeles. While working at the Apple store he landed one of his first big jobs on “Insecure,” and he has been booking film and television projects ever since.
On television, Winger has played a variety of characters that come from many different backgrounds. He is best known for his role as Thug Yoda on the award-winning series “Insecure” from creator/writer/producer Issa Rae. His other credits include “Bigger,” “East of La Brea,” “50 Central,” “Almost 30,” and his first big break, comedy web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” opposite Issa Rae, which debuted on YouTube in 2011.
Winger’s feature film credits include Tripp in the short film “The Hostage,” which was accepted into the Nantucket Film Festival. Winger also appeared in the award-winning short “Baldwin Beauty,” which went to the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and was nominated for Short Film Grand Jury Prize and Best Short Film. The project was also nominated for a NAACP Image Award in 2020 for Outstanding Short Form (Live Action).
Winger frequently lends his voice to projects. He voiced multiple characters in the highly popular PlayStation 5 video game “Horizon: Forbidden West.” Recently, he starred in the podcast “We Stay Looking” (six episodes), which was produced by HBO Max. The podcast was nominated at the 2022 Ambies for Best Scriptwriting, Fiction and secured back-to-back wins at the 2021 and 2022 Webby Awards in the Podcasts – Scripted (Fiction) (Limited-Series & Specials) category.
Winger is passionate about giving back to his community and bringing awareness to the growing food insecurity issues in South L.A. Winger is also an advocate for shining a light on the stigma around mental health and lack of adequate mental health resources for Black men, as he has been on a personal journey through therapy and building deeper, meaningful relationships with others, and himself. For years, Winger has championed the Amazing Grace Conservatory where he got his start, supporting emerging artists and at-risk youth in the performing and digital arts by offering a well-rounded and culturally enriching educational program in an environment that is nurturing for their personal, artistic and professional growth.
Currently, Winger lives in South-Central L.A. with his rescue dog, a Yorkiepoo named Frito. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @tristenjwinger.
Inga Schlingmann is a first-generation American, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan and Germany. She attended NYU, where she was pre-med and majored in art history, with minors in chemistry and psychology.
While at NYU, Schlingmann was crowned Miss Manhattan, with a platform focused on lowering infant and maternal mortality rates. After NYU, she worked with Americorp as a birth doula and lactation aide for underserved and undocumented women in Brooklyn.
Schlingmann left healthcare to work at Bloomberg LP and later went on to work for LinkedIn, where she was a senior account director when she landed the role of Susan in SO HELP ME TODD.
Schlingmann currently resides in New York. Follow her on Instagram @ingaschlingmann.
Rosa Arredondo’s career includes work in film, television and on stage. An Alvin Ailey-trained dancer, Arredondo transitioned to acting early in her career, though she continues to take dance class regularly. Her most recent film, “The Secret Art of Human Flight,” appeared in competition at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival.
Arredondo’s stage credits include the Blair Underwood/Daphne Rubin-Vega Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Broadhurst Theatre, Sonnet Repertory’s production of “The Maids” and Arredondo’s one-woman show “Journeys,” which she wrote, produced and performed herself as part of the Female Forward Festival at The Royal Family Theater in N.Y.C.
Currently, she resides in New York. Her birthday is Jan. 13.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda