‘I Love That For You’: Vanessa Bayer, Molly Shannon & Jenifer Lewis on Their Comedic Chemistry
Vanessa Bayer, Molly Shannon, and Jenifer Lewis headline Showtime‘s upcoming comedy I Love That For You (premiering April 29). And as if that stacked cast of leads isn’t enough of a draw, I Love That For You‘s leads and ensemble cast shine thanks to hilarious writing from Bayer and fellow Saturday Night Live alum Jeremy Beiler.
Inspired by Bayer’s own story of overcoming childhood leukemia, I Love That For You stars Bayer as Joanna Gold, a woman who dreams of becoming a host on a home shopping channel called SVN. Shannon plays Jackie Stilton, the charismatic longtime star of the network whom Joanna idolizes. And in her first role after black-ish, Lewis plays Patricia Cochran, SVN’s icy, enigmatic founder and CEO. Paul James, Ayden Mayeri, Matt Rogers, and Punam Patel round out the series regulars as a wickedly funny ensemble.
I Love That For You is full of Bayer’s signature humor, from the most cringeworthy lines only she could deliver to impressions that never made it onto SNL. Here, Bayer, Shannon, and Lewis dish to TV Insider on what it was like to work together on the thoroughly entertaining addition to the workplace comedy genre, plus what drew them to the show in the first place.
The I Love That For You pilot, “GottaHaveIt,” starts by showing a teenage Joanna (played by Sophie Pollono, whose Bayer impression is truly uncanny) using her leukemia as an excuse to get special treatment. In her hospital room during cancer treatment, young Joanna fawns over Jackie on SVN. Bayer says the home-shopping obsession was true of her own younger self.
Joanna snags a giant cookie cake meant for someone else in the pilot, but in real life, Bayer says she and her family got a kick out of “dropping the L bomb,” as she describes, to get out of things, saying “the comedy of that helped me get through that time.” After leaving SNL, a brunch with Beiler revealed he had also been developing a home shopping channel comedy. From there, they brought in fellow SNL alum Jessi Klein (Big Mouth, Dead to Me) as an executive producer. And the rest is comedy history.
Joanna gets to meet her icon in the first episode after landing a job at SVN. And while some may assume Joanna and Jackie will be rivals, the opposite is true. Jackie immediately takes Joanna under her wing, and seeing the SNL alums — both from Cleveland, Ohio, where Joanna is also from — together will give viewers all the joy.
Viewers will also clock several SNL parallels, from the network’s name to the live aspect of the network’s productions and the characters who feel like they’re pulled straight from a sketch.
Shannon says the writing was the immediate appeal of the series when she first got the script.
“I just thought was original,” she says. “I do read a lot of pilots for TV shows, and the [I Love That For You] script was really special. It really popped off the page, it was very well written, it’s a character-driven comedy — my favorite. And it reminded me of ’90s kind of romantic comedies. Actually, the part of Jackie in the pilot was smaller, and I actually liked that. I was like, ‘I want to do this small part in a good show.’ That was kind of how I approached it.”
“It really does feel a little reminiscent of SNL,” Shannon continues. “It’s really cool casting, because I was on SNL before Vanessa, I did the Catholic school girl, and she did the bar mitzvah boy. We’re both from Cleveland, Ohio — we just have a lot in common. We both overcame childhood stuff that was tough, and I think we both have a positive attitude about life and show business and art and being creative. I think we’re similar in a lot of ways.”
Naturally, it didn’t take much acting for Shannon to take Bayer under her wing as Jackie. Lewis’ Patricia, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different from Jackie and Joanna. But there’s something about the trio that just clicks.
“The journey of Joanna and Patricia is so much fun,” Bayer says. “It was so fun doing this role with Jenifer Lewis, because she and I, we have very opposite personalities. I think we both are very loving and sweet, but from the moment we met, it was like an instant connection. It’s a real opposites attract kind of a thing, and I think audiences will really enjoy watching that relationship progress.”
“What has happened with I Love That For You is this perfect storm has come together,” Lewis says. “It’s multigenerational, as black-ish was. Vanessa’s in her 40s, Molly’s in her 50s, I’m in my 60s. We all have done comedic work, and these ladies are comedic giants, make no mistake.”
In an attempt to keep her job alongside her icon and the network giant, Joanna tells a big lie in Episode 1 — her cancer is back — and it will threaten her relationships with these women she admires so much.
“As she’s telling this lie, she starts to make these real relationships with people and friendships and romance,” Bayer says. “Meanwhile, this lie becomes a deeper and deeper thing, and it kind of spirals into a bigger lie if you don’t come clean. It complicates things in her life as the season progresses, and I think it’s pretty fun to watch.”
All three of these women could have easily been written as rivals. But Bayer and Shannon say it was important for them to portray them as friends who rely on each other. But the lie looms over Joanna’s head through it all.
“It’s very complicated for Joanna to be getting closer and closer to this person who thinks something about Joanna that isn’t true,” Bayer says about Joanna and Jackie’s bond. And while Jackie and Patricia kind of dance into that rival territory, their decades-long friendship is the foundation of all of their interactions.
“Jackie and Patty really butt heads, because Patty wants Jackie to stay the same,” Shannon shares. “The viewers know her as a married woman who sells cool things and talks about her husband, Marty, on air. She’s just known as that, and Patty, my boss, wants Jackie to stay in her lane. She’s like, ‘That’s how they know you, baby! That’s how we sell. That’s how I make money.’ But my character is really coming up against her, pushing up against her, trying to stand up for herself and saying, ‘I don’t want this, I want to be authentic.’ She wants to branch out, so you’ll see that play out.”
As for Patricia’s iciness, Lewis says, “she has to build herself up to get that respect from these employees that she has to keep in line.”
“She plays them off each other,” she continues. “Sometimes she’ll create that drama herself just to keep them on their toes. But you know, everybody that’s pretty much an ice queen, you know they have a big heart. And that will come out with Patricia later.”
I Love That for You, Series Premiere, Sunday, May 1, 8:30/7:30c, Showtime (Friday, April 29, streaming and on demand)