Erin and Sara Foster Are Barely Famous and Loving It
If you've happened upon VH1's Barely Famous (VH1, 9:30/8:30c), you are both lucky and possibly confused. It looks and feels like a reality show, but it's actually a stiletto-sharp spoof of the "unscripted" idea, starring sisters Erin and Sara Foster as versions of themselves. Mining the genre for its tried and true tropes—celebrity "friends," family drama and aspirational idiocy—these two (Erin was a writer on The New Normal, Sara starred as Naomi's awesomely vain sister Jen on 90210) have the heritage to back up their jabs at the genre: Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster is married to their dad, music producer David Foster, who's previous ex-wife Linda was wed to Keeping Up with the Kardashians' Bruce Jenner, making most of his brood their half-somethings. It's a crazy family tree, but nothing as nutty as the comical storylines they have cooked up for their own faux reality show.
OK, first off, it blows my mind that you are David Foster's daughters.
Erin: Ours too, because we have no musical talent whatsoever! [Laughs]
He's so grumpy-funny
Sara: You think? I think he's dry. He like a dry Canadian.
This concept of spoofing reality show…
Erin: We wanted to do a show that makes fun of the culture and reality TV. We have been exposed to it and seen a lot of it without ever having been on it ever, because that's just not the choice we have made. But we have witnessed a lot.
Sara: What is real is that I am Sara, she is Erin. I'm an actress, she's a writer. That is really where it stops.
Erin: What happened was, someone came to our management company asking, "When are we getting the Foster sisters reality show?" and they said never. Then we thought, what if we did this weird meta-thing about two girls who refused to be on reality shows but are making a reality show about how they will never do one? It took us like a year to figure out what it looked like, when you would actually see the cameras, when would we acknowledge that aspect.
It was very smart to get that out of the way in the pilot's opening scene with Kevin Connolly, to show the boom mic…
Erin: That scene encompasses what the show is.
Sara: The joke is that I think I am so much more famous and relevant than I am actually am, so I could never stoop so low to do a reality show. My character thinks that this is a documentary about my life and my accomplishments and I have allowed Erin to be in it! That is the joke.
Erin: And because we know we're not well known, we're going to have to earn people's trust to understand what we're doing. We'll have to prove ourselves and we're happy to do that. You know The Comeback's first season, people were like, "It's a little dark," and "It's kind of hard to watch," or "It's a little sad." So we tried to make this really light and easy to watch. It can still be your guilty pleasure.
I put it up there with Hulu's Hotwives of Orlando.
Sara: That is a huge compliment.
So these are heightened versions of yourselves.
Sara: Of course! I say "I'm an actress first, a mother second." Are you kidding, who would say that?! This is a character. Could you fathom that?
Actually, yes. Reality shows have shown us the craziest things ever.
Sara: [Laughs] Well, these are crazy, over-the-top situations that you would never see in real life. Erin gets a meeting with Courteney Cox to write a movie that she is producing and over the course of the meeting, Erin accuses of her of stealing her socks. These are insane situations that you can't…they aren't real.
But the seeds are real. You do know her, Nicole Richie, Jessica Alba, and the other guests on the show. Do you really know Kate Hudson?
Erin: Sara went to high school with her.
Sara: She's one of my best friends. We asked our friends to come on and do something we feel is kind of smart and cool. They get to make fun of themselves. We now have people coming up, saying that they have seen the show and they want to be on the second season. I am not gonna say who, but they're f--king names. It's crazy!
Erin: The only way to get the show made was to acknowledge some of those things and then go away from them.
Because in real life, they aren't going to do a reality show?
Sara: Right. Oh, and by the way, we're nobodies and we're not going to do a reality show! [Laughs] It's no disrespect to reality shows, we love them! But for me, I just can't imagine exposing anything real about my personal life.
Erin: That is something we have to get out from under, people being confused about what this show is. Once they see it, you get what it is. We have to get people who live real TV…
Sara: And people who like reality shows, too.
Because they'll get the jokes. Like Sara's spray-tanning scene. That was straight out of the Real Housewives of New York when Kristen got a spray tan and they blurred out her nipples.
Erin: I didn't see that!
Sara: Oh I did.
It was the weirdest thing because the blur matched her skin tone so it just looked like she had no nipples.
Sara: [Laughs] Right! And did you get when I said, "The producers said this would be a really interesting scene?" Like, it is obviously the dumbest scene you could imagine! And that is what we're doing. I wouldn't say we're exposing reality TV, but in the episode where my character doesn't get a free handbag? I tell my publicist I need a better publicist, she says, "No, you need a better career, but I'll throw you a bone, go to this gas station and you'll thank me," and it turns out there's a paparazzi waiting for me? You know, that is what happens in this LA world.
And that could actually become your reality.
Erin: How do you mean?
All roads lead back to the Kardashians. If you have any connection to them, you could be associated with them and reality TV and then the paparazzi will come swarming.
Erin: I guess so. We know those girls and they're really nice girls.
Sara: They're lovely.
Erin: And I love that show, I love watching it, but most people don't make the connection because it's so removed. For me to explain that family tree, it's like, "Oh, my dad's ex-wife was married to Bruce, but they're not married anymore." We're so removed that we might get away with people not making that connection. Only because we don't want people to confuse this with a reality show.
Sara: And this isn't being nasty, but we're not trying to make a quick buck here. Erin is writing a movie for Universal right now. I am an actress and I pay the bills as an actress. This is not us going, "Hey, film me having a baby!" You're not seeing anyone from our real families. It's not us trying to become famous.
So we won't see Yolanda or David…
Erin: Who's David?
Sara: Our father! [Laughs]
Erin: Oh yeah, no you won't. [Laughs] That would get too complicated, to put a real family person in here. And there are so many funny things we could have had him do, but we didn't want to have you ask that question and answer "yes," because then it would make it even harder to prove that this isn't a reality show.
Sara: We do an episode where you meet our step-sisters. They are not our step-sisters, they're models we hired.
Erin: They're fake people. [Laughs]
How long have you wanted to work together?
Sara: Being an actress or a writer, it's tough as hell. It's competitive and we sort of got to a point where we realized that we needed to create our own content. I can do an independent movie here, a recurring role here, a guest spot there, and then go a year without working. It's a grind.
Erin: As a writer, it's hard to get your work realized. It's hard to sell it or get it made. I have written pilots and heard, "Oh my god, we love this pilot. Do you have anything else?" That is just how this business is, it's weird. So this idea came about because we have been asked to do a million reality shows, we are the perfect people to put on one because of our life…if we were willing to expose everything in our lives, we would be gold, right?
You probably wouldn't be speaking to one another anymore.
Erin: Of course! [Laughs]
Sara: That is so true!
Barely Famous, Wednesdays, 9:30/8:30c, VH1