Cody Heller Says Quibi’s ‘Dummy’ Is ‘Really About Bonding With Yourself’
If you’re looking for a quirky, strange (in a good way), and funny series to check out — and you only have about 10 minutes or so at a time — Dummy on Quibi might just be the one for you.
The series follows an aspiring writer, Cody (Anna Kendrick), and her boyfriend’s (Donal Logue) sex doll, Barbara (Meredith Hagner), who take on the world together. It’s based on creator Cody Heller’s personal relationship with her then-boyfriend, now fiancé Dan Harmon.
“It really is sort of a love story between [Cody and Barbara] and a buddy comedy and Dan is the means of them meeting, but he really goes into the background,” Heller tells TV Insider. “Then it is this story about these two women navigating the world together.”
“It is a lot about feminism and just what I struggle with with feminism and feeling like I’m not good enough about being a feminist and I’m not doing it right,” she continues. “There’s a whole episode that’s about trying to pass the Bechdel test. The title Dummy is not just referring to the doll.”
Here, Heller discusses creating the series and previews the fictional Cody’s journey.
With this series based on your personal relationship, can you talk about the casting process?
Cody Heller: It was originally set up a while back at TBS and I was going to play myself and Dan, my real-life fiancé, was going to play himself, and then that fell apart years ago and then it got revitalized when Colin Davis, who was an executive at TBS, went over to Quibi and gave the scripts to Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Jeffrey saw something in them and liked them, which was very cool.
It was one of the first things they were setting up at Quibi. They really wanted some star power, and Anna’s name came up. I was somewhat familiar with her work, knew she was a good actress, but hadn’t really seen her do anything that was similar to this part, so we met for dinner, [which] turned into a four-and-a-half-hour love sesh. … I was like, “You get it. You get what the part is. You get what the show is about.” From then on, I saw her as my partner in it.
The way I had written the doll was one way early on, and when Meredith Hagner came in and auditioned, she just blew me away. She was just so funny and very different than I had originally envisioned the personality and voice of Barbara. I was sold on her immediately, fell in love with her, and then found myself going through all the scripts and slightly revising the voice to make it work with what Meredith brought to the table, because she’s so insanely talented.
It’s really more a buddy comedy/love story between the two female characters, so the Dan role is not that big. But I just wanted someone who kind of looked like the real Dan and had some of the qualities of him. … One night I fell asleep watching Law & Order reruns, and Donal Logue was in an episode. I was like, “That’s him!”
What’s Cody’s relationship with her boyfriend like as we meet them in the first episode?
They’re pretty early on in their dating life. Cody doesn’t live with him, but she stays over at his house a lot. There’s a gap between them both in age and success levels. Cody’s an aspiring writer, Dan is a successful writer. We can tell from the first scene they do have a very adventurous, fun sex life together, but it comes out that Dan has a sex doll, and Cody thinks of herself as highly evolved sexually and a modern woman, and that this is no different than porn and it’s fine with her, but it’s obviously eating away at her and she starts thinking about the doll.
How is this journey with Barbara going to affect Cody? What is she getting out of it, as crazy as this all sounds?
I think of Barbara as being Cody’s id. In the beginning, she’s the voice that every woman has in their head when they look at themselves in the mirror that tells them they’re not good enough or not pretty enough or not smart enough. Everybody, but particularly women, struggles with that inner critic, that harsh voice. Barbara is that in a lot of ways, but it’s a comedy, so she’s a fun version of that.
As they get to know each other more and bond, it’s, in a way, about falling in love with yourself and learning to communicate with yourself in a more healthy way. It’s really about bonding with yourself.
What makes Quibi the right platform for this?
Originally it was set up at TBS and was supposed to be for this new quarter-hour programming block that never went anywhere, so it didn’t happen. I first just wrote it as a regular pilot that was intended to be a spec script and then I developed it into these 15 minute episodes, which was a challenge and interesting for me … to figure out how much story you could tell in 15 minutes.
Once it went over to Quibi, it was getting it down to even shorter to 10 minutes, but Quibi was so wonderful to work with, so supportive of the process and the idea and letting me take all the risks I wanted to. Everybody over there is just really down to let people make fun stuff. I don’t think I could have found that at a traditional network or cable place. I felt very lucky to have wound up there.
Another really interesting thing was with the 10 minutes, at first I was really struggling. How could I tell a story so quickly? You really have to get so much packed into those 10-12 pages. We shot the entire season in 18 days and then when I was in the editing room, I found myself realizing, “This scene, I don’t love and it’s not totally essential to the story.”
Because Quibi is 10 minutes or less, they don’t have to be uniform in length, so that was such a luxury because I was able to really cut the episodes down to just what I thought was the most entertaining, best parts of the show and not feel forced to meet a certain amount of time.
Dummy, Monday, April 20, Quibi