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Q&A Interview with Brooke Elliott and Executive Producer Josh Berman of DROP DEAD DIVA

Maj Canton - June 15, 2011





TV Tango recently took part in a Q&A conference call with DROP DEAD DIVA star Brooke Elliott and executive producer/creator Josh Berman. They took some time out of their busy schedules to dish about the new season, including Jane and Grayson's relationship, spectacular guest stars, and the show's season-long theme: "The Return of the Diva."

DROP DEAD DIVA returns with its Season 3 premiere on Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime.






Question: Brooke, you have such a beautiful singing voice. Is there a chance we’ll get to hear it again this season?

Brooke Elliott: Actually, in our first episode I get to sing “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” It turns into this full blown musical number that Tyce Diorio choreographed. Then we sing a couple more times this season.

Question: You have such great chemistry with everyone in the cast. How do you guys continue to maintain it?

Brooke Elliott: I think it’s actually something that you kind of get lucky with because sometimes energies blend and sometimes they don’t. And I feel really lucky that our cast has such amazing chemistry.

Question: Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch DROP DEAD DIVA?

Brooke Elliott: I think that they watch because we are talking about identity. We’re talking about who are you and what do you want and what happens when your life is different than you thought it was going to be. And is there magic in that. I think people can really relate to that as a universal topic.

Question: Can you talk a little bit about some of the guest stars that are going to be on this season?

Brooke Elliott: We’ve been so lucky that people want to lend their name and their talent to this. We have Wendy Williams, LeAnn Rimes, Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, Lance Bass, Clay Aiken, Tony Goldwyn -- he was wonderful. And the mothers come back, which is my favorite -- Faith Prince is Jane’s mom and Sharon Lawrence is Deb’s mom -- and I love when they come back.

Josh Berman: We’ve been so lucky. I’ve never experienced this on a show before where guest stars are actually contacting us to want to be on the show. I think that’s a real tribute to the message of the show. It’s such a feel good show.

I think that these A-list actors want to work with someone like Brooke who just glows on screen and has such chemistry with all of these amazing talents. I’ve even gotten actors that have tweeted me directly asking if we would write them a part on DROP DEAD DIVA. That’s so unusual, having come from such hit shows like CSI and BONES, where we would work so hard to get guest stars. Then having a show on cable like DROP DEAD DIVA where the stars are actually coming to us. We feel really lucky.

Question: So how do you deal with the physical aspect of the role? It feels like you carry yourself differently? What do you do?

Brooke Elliott: I don’t do anything specifically. That’s kind of the point -- it’s really not about your weight. That’s kind of what we’re saying. It’s really about identity. It’s about figuring out who you are and that’s why I love it. It doesn’t matter the body you’re in. And that’s why I like it.

Josh Berman: I think part of the beauty of this show -- and it’s something that Brooke as an actress reminds me of, as a writer, all the time -- is that this character is always Deb. She’s Deb in Jane’s body. And we sometimes even forget that as writers. I think that’s part of the joy and the deliciousness of this character.


Brooke Elliott: Deb carries herself a certain way and that carries through as Jane because that’s right, it’s always from Deb’s perspective. It’s Deb’s spirit. It’s Deb’s soul in the body and Jane gets peppered in on top of that. That’s what’s beautiful about it.


Josh Berman: She’s just lucky enough to get Jane’s brains which I think makes the character even more undeniable.

Question: Do you believe that Jane and Grayson are soul mates and they should eventually find their way together, without jumping the shark? In real life, do you believe in soul mates?

Brooke Elliott: Yes. I believe that Deb and Grayson should end up together. I’m such a romantic at heart. I believe that Grayson has to fall in love with Jane, who she is, not because he knows Deb is in that body. I feel like that’s cheating. Like he has to fall in love with her for who she is in new Jane.


I do believe in soul mates, but I don’t necessarily believe that there’s just one soul mate for a person. I believe there might be lots of soul mates for people.

Josh Berman: I think one thing that’s interesting about this season of DROP DEAD DIVA, and I think it’s by far the most exciting season to date, is that Jane and Grayson see each other through different eyes this year. The puppy love that was Grayson and Deb evolved as it would any relationship.


In this season we actually see these characters come into conflict with each other and Jane begins to question how she feels about Grayson at one point and if she was making the right decision. I think we deepen their relationship without necessarily making it a romantic relationship. We certainly deepen the character -- the way these characters interact and respect each other.


Ultimately, it’s building to a very satisfactory and a really exciting finale this year that no one will see coming. And it’s only because we bring these characters to new places.

Question: If Deb is inside Jane, why is it that Jane can’t lose weight if it’s so important to Deb? How do you decide the mixture of how much is Jane and how much is Deb?

Brooke Elliott: I don’t know if it’s that she can’t lose weight. It’s that she’s learning beyond that. She was so close minded and so shallow that that’s all she could focus on at first.


Through these experiences she’s had as Jane and the things that she’s learned, the point is that she’s moved beyond whether her weight is important or not to her. And she’s found that there’s all this beauty and gorgeousness in this body and in this life. That’s how she’s developing beyond this shallow model that she was before.

Josh Berman: I get to write for someone like Brooke who’s gorgeous. It’s fun now in season three where Jane could look in the mirror and see what we see, which is a gorgeous woman. It’s not necessarily about what size she is. I mean she radiates off the screen.


I think it’s fun now to be able to write scenes where Jane is actually pretty happy with her body and who she is as a person. The writers have kind of coined this season, “The Return of the Diva,” because we’re really seeing Jane own who she is.


I think it’s an exciting evolution of this character. But more importantly, exciting for television which has so many shows that glorify weight loss and so many shows, I worked on them. I contributed to it where, if you look at all the CSIs, they’re all size zeros.


In real life, of course, I don’t think I met a female CSI that was a size zero. I love the fact that we can embrace real women on the show and show that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Question: Can you tell us some of the cases that are coming up this year on the show?

Josh Berman: I think that DROP DEAD DIVA, by its nature, takes on a lot of causes in organic ways. Because of who the character of Jane is, she’s getting a second chance in life. She wants to be on the side of doing what’s right, and because of that we find ourselves as writers, getting to write about really juicy topics often inspired by real-life cases.

There’s an episode coming up this season where Jane takes on the case of a man who intentionally wants to go back to prison because he can get healthcare in prison that he couldn’t get in the outside world, which is a real statement about our healthcare system right now. And also the way the privatization of prisons affect the inmates’ lives. I don’t want to give away too much of that story and I’ve only kind of given you the tip of the iceberg. It’s a real fun case that was inspired by real life events.


Towards the end of the season we take on the life-insurance industry in California. It was just announced last week the guest star in that episode, and she’ll actually be on for at least three episodes, is Brandy. She comes in, her father has passed away and she can’t collect on his life insurance policy and she can’t figure out why. That’s when Jane comes in to help her out.


Faith Prince who plays Jane’s mother pulls the lever to get out of an airplane when she’s under some intolerable circumstances. We look closely at the passenger bill of rights and expose some of the loopholes in that bill of rights and how the airlines continue to take advantage of unsuspecting passengers. And again Jane gets right in the middle of that.

Question: Brooke, what did you do during the hiatus?

Brooke Elliott: I got to travel a lot with DIVA. We got to go to Paris and Madrid and Mexico City, and that was a real thrill for me to get to do that and to get to talk about the show internationally.

Question: Do you miss Broadway? Do you miss the stage?

Brooke Elliott: I do miss Broadway. I miss the energy and the audience and there’s a whole relationship that happens with the audience and the performers.


There’s such an adrenaline rush that you get from doing a story from beginning to end. I really love that and I miss that. However, I love TV for such different reasons. I love that you can work on a moment until you think that it’s exactly what you wanted to portray in that moment.

I love that you could put different pictures together and tell a story. And if you change the picture you change the story. Those little minute details are so fun for me that I love TV too.

Question: The cases, they so often relate to the characters’ lives. Are you looking for cases to match to their lives or do you come up with a case and think how do we fit this into the episodes?

Josh Berman: I actually went to law school and even when I was in law school I started keeping notes of cases that I thought would make great stories -- and that was way before I ever knew I would become a writer.


At this point we have a database on the show of thousands and thousands of cases. I review that at the beginning of each season along with my other writers.

First, we kind of beat out Jane’s arc for the season, so we kind of know what she’s going to be going through. Then we do find our cases that we think will work well within her development. But the fun times for us are when we find a case that’s just so compelling and just like Jane can be surprised with a case and it comes from nowhere.


Those kinds of cases when they surprise us and we know we have to write it will often make the most compelling stories. The themes come naturally. We do our best never to force a legal story into an episode. If it’s not working for Jane, if it’s not working for us, we know it’ll work later.


We’ve had at least one legal case this season which we tried to make work in the prior two years and it just didn’t quite fit with who Jane was as a character. Then this season it worked beautifully. So there’s a right time and place for every legal story I guess.


Then of course we take a lot of liberties, not with the law, but with the way a trial can progress and how Jane is not our typical lawyer so she gives us a lot of freedom in how we want to approach cases. She often will come into a case emotionally, which is how I wish our legal system operated but doesn’t necessarily always work that way where the right person or the right lawyer is on the right side of the case.

Question: I find it so easy to accept the conceit of the show. How did she end up a lawyer, back when you were putting this show together? How did you decide to take it that way?

Josh Berman: I think the reason you accept it so well, so easily, a lot of that has to do with Brooke’s acting skills. We spent months and months and months trying to find the lead of the show. It was an exhaustive nationwide search.

Brooke came in to New York and they put her on tape. I was actually out of town for the weekend and the casting director sent me her audition, which she had never done before. And she’s like I think we found our Jane. I fell in love with her instantly because she was just so believable. You don’t question the premise anymore once you see her act.

Question: How did you decide to make her a lawyer?

Josh Berman: I just thought given that she was a model in her prior life and the notion was, we say in the pilot she was a zero/zero. She’s never had to take a stand on anything when she was a model. She just kind of coasted through life.

I love the notion of taking that character and putting her in a profession where every single week she has to take a stand on something. It’s almost the opposite of who she was as Deb. Now she’s got to have a strong point of view every week. She’s got to argue in a case. She’s got to take positions. She has to have opinions. These are things that Deb never had to do and she just coasted through life.


So I guess it was the antithesis of who she was and I was hoping it would make for more compelling television and I think it works.

Question: Can you give us some little hints about what’s going to happen with the romance with Jane/Deb this year since Grayson might be off the market? And is she going to continue to pine for him?

Brooke Elliott: What I love that’s happening with Jane this season is, she’s a little flirtier, a little sexier, definitely more comfortable in her life. And she’s going to date some. Underneath all of that is there’s this turmoil about whether she really belongs with Grayson or whether her life is supposed to take her somewhere else. You know, if you change your circumstances you change your fate.

I love that concept. She’s starting for the first time to maybe really question, that where in past seasons it’s been her attempt to get that old life back in whatever way she can. I love the fact that she’s growing a bit and really having to question things and that we just don’t know what’s going to happen even though she loves him with everything in her. We just don’t know and I love that.


Josh Berman: In addition to putting herself on the market with confidence and exuberance, she also in one episode will end up falling for somebody that Jane -- old Jane before Deb was Jane -- had a fling with. It’s really interesting to see in this episode, that both Jane -- and by Jane in this case I mean old Jane -- and Deb were both attracted to the same person. I think that was really fun for us as writers. That actor’s played by Tony Goldwyn, who was such a pleasure to work with.


Brooke is kind of amazing because as Jane when we put her in these situations with such different men she just has such great chemistry with them. I think that you can’t help but root for her with each one of these guys even though at the end of the day we want her to be with Grayson.

Josh Berman: I did want to say just one quick thing here. Sharon Lawrence, who plays Deb’s mother, actually called me at the beginning of the season and she said it would be a fantasy for her as an actress to get to sing with both Brooke Elliott and Faith Prince. So we actually have a musical number coming up where the three women get to sing together and it’s just extraordinary.

Editorial assistance by: Stephanie Holland.