by Kathryn Graham
These two talented hyphenates (actor-writer-producers), Colby Ryan (who plays Mitch) and Anne Schroeder (who plays Sarah), told me all about their new web series: Grosse Misconduct. It’s a dramatic and absurd workplace comedy that focuses on the HR department and features two leading LGBTQ characters! We discussed their writing process and how actors are getting into the writing/producing game (so you non-acting writers have no excuses!)
Kate: Are you both actors first and foremost? Or do you consider yourselves actors and writers in equal measure?
Anne: I’m evolving. I’m learning. I’d like to be more confident in feeling like I’m an actor and writer in equal measure. I would say I’m still an actor, first and foremost, but I’m working on it.
Colby: I will always want to be an actor, but I loved writing Grosse Misconduct, and I’m definitely interested in writing more things in the future. I’m happy to consider myself a hyphenate going forward.
Anne: A hyphenate? (laughs)
Colby: A hyphenate! (laughs)
Kate: How did you come up with the witty title?
Colby: Thank you! We went through a couple of choices, and ultimately, we wanted a title that would reflect HR – Human Resources. I have an alternate career in Human Resources, which is why we ended up with that setting.
‘Gross misconduct’ is a term often used in HR. It’s the most extreme type of situation where someone’s doing something so egregious that they probably have to be fired immediately.
We thought it’d be interesting to make that the name of the department head – Mitch Grosse – using the double meaning of that word to suggest that it’s not just gross misconduct in the office, but specifically, misconduct of the boss.
Kate: What was your process writing this together?
Anne: We would brainstorm ideas first, then go off and work on our own. I need both. I need silence to focus, but in order to get the ball rolling and to get something finished, I need a partner or a group of people to hold me accountable.
Kate: When you were coming up with the characters, especially the ones you played, how did you craft them?
Colby: Obviously, we wanted to have a great time playing these characters and really be able to relate to them. I have played a lot of misunderstood jerks. Characters that are probably not as nice as I am. That seems to work for me, and I love bringing that out in myself. So I knew that was the type of character I wanted Mitch to be.
Sometimes in comedy, especially in sitcoms, you’ll see characters that are two dimensional or stereotypical. So, we tried to make all of the characters as full and complex as possible.
Anne: It’s my first time writing something for myself. I got more invested in some of the other characters than my own character. (laugh)
Once we got to the later drafts, I realized that Sarah was kind of a doormat. I feel like I was making the evolution as an actor from being the ‘nerdy best friend’ to a woman with a little more of a backbone, so in following drafts, she’s still quirky and bubbly, but we wanted to give her a backbone.
Kate: What was the inspiration for the main characters of Brian and Alicia?
Colby: For Brian, Steve Barkman was with us at the casting workshop. He is not like Brian, but he has this kind of twinkle in his eye that can be perceived as a naiveté. We were attracted to that aspect of him since that’s so different from Mitch. The idea of having him be Amish and from the farm background, that was something that Anne developed. I focused more on the Alicia character.
For Alicia, it’s important to me as a gay actor to not just have one LGBT character. I’ve certainly played characters who are not gay, but I wanted Mitch to be gay. I thought that was important.
We tend to have gay characters who are somebody’s best friend or they come on for a quick, comedic moment in a rom-com, but are usually not the central focus. And/or we’ll see a gay character who is focused on a ‘coming out’ story. That’s their reason for existing.
I knew I wanted Mitch to be a gay character who was not going through those things. He’s a lead. The boss of all of these people.
But I also thought there should be a balance in terms of LGBT representation, so we wanted Alicia to be a transgender woman played by a transgender actress.
We found Pooya Mohseni. When we looked up her website and the examples she had online of her work, we completely fell in love. We were like: “This is Alicia”. Then: “Oh, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to agree to do it.” (laughs)
We gave her the whole script, and said: “Just let us know if you’d be interested in doing this. We’d love to have you.”
She was very pleased to see a trans character whose story line was not just about her being trans. That’s not something we hid. It’s mentioned throughout the series when it comes up, but it wasn’t the main focus. She has such a strength and a presence in the series otherwise.
Kate: Is there a season two in the works?
Anne: Yeah! We’re strategizing about season 2. We’re still interested in getting feedback on season one and what people liked and where we could do better. The feedback we have been getting has been very encouraging and people are excited to see what happens after that last episode. It’s encouraging. We’ll see.
Check out all six episodes here: Grosse Misconduct
Get in touch with Colby & Anne and tell them what you think here: