If you move it, they'll get upset. But Kohan, who revels in tweaking convention, said the borderlands offer an abundance of new opportunities for Nancy and her often raunchy and profane entourage to toy with sexual, political, racial and religious taboos. And to resharpen the show's original, sometimes precarious, edge. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, creative arguments between Kohan and Parker have subsided, they both said, as a new executive producer directed the transition from the towns of Agrestic to Ren Mar.
Parker, who won a Golden Globe for her role as the charming, self-centered widow and mother of two, said she was impressed with the changes. It's pretty brave," she said.
In the Season 3 finale, Nancy rode off into the sunset on a Segway with Agrestic in flames behind her. At loose ends, she decides, in the Season 4 premiere, to move in with her estranged father-in-law Albert Brooks who lives in a scruffy house in a seaside town something like Del Mar. Establishing shots show Tijuana and the border crossing, but most outdoor locations were shot in Manhattan Beach.
Indoor scenes were filmed at the not-so-coincidently named Ren-Mar Studios. The geographic change precipitated many others, and soon the operating word for Season 4 became "reinvention. The first episode will open with an empty swing set as a transition. After that, short title cards will introduce the theme of each episode and there will be no new music.
Some characters business partners Heylia, Vaneeta and budding love interest Conrad were left behind. BFF Celia Elizabeth Perkins , who took the fall for Nancy last season after informing on her, is preoccupied with jailhouse issues of her own. Notably, Brooks will return to television in a special guest-star role as Nancy's father-in-law, Len Botwin, who cares for his comatose mother at home. And Nancy's old supplier Guillermo Guillermo Diaz will have a bigger role teaching her about trafficking on the border.
In this election year, Kohan said, the writers are exploring hot-button issues in the national debate, such as immigration and the drug trade. For homework, the creative team did a ride-along with the border patrol in Tijuana on a random weekday afternoon and returned with a treasure chest of dramatic scenarios, she said.
Antiheroine's attraction WHEN THE show was set in what looked like the Valley, its fans -- surprisingly, a large number of teens and college students -- liked its outlaw tone, even if the outlaw was a fortysomething single mom who still had friends on the school board. The characters were outrageously outspoken in the way allowed only by pay cable. Their politics were clearly to the left: Nancy's son once won a school debate contest with a two-word argument for the popular vote: Heylia observed that white neighbors who greeted her with a cheery "Hello!
Parker won the Golden Globe in for her performance, and the series has received several Emmy Award nominations. Not all critics felt the show succeeded completely, but others raved about its offbeat sensibility, a wry, dark tone popularized by shows such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" Arrested Development.
The point, Kohan said, is to show that you can still like some people who do, think or say awful things. There are well-intentioned people who screw up, bad people who get rewarded," she said.
Parker said that Nancy doesn't make what she would call admirable choices, but she does have "a certain charm. Charming people are not always kind. You can be seduced by what looks like sweetness, but it's not. It's a misplaced narcissism. Sometimes it's a survival technique.
Sometimes it's just hollow. Some others were shocked that Celia jokingly told her daughter she wished she'd had an abortion. Kohan said her own children, ages 8, 6 and 2, don't watch the show. But "teens are very sophisticated. It's not my job to monitor what people watch. If kids are watching a cable show in the middle of the night, it's inappropriate and not my responsibility. Indeed, Kohan said, "My biggest concern is for the children [actors] in our show.
We do pretty edgy stuff. In an environment free of the typical social conventions of suburbia, Nancy has a chance to build a life on her own terms, Kohan said. According to Parker, the task is like breaking an addiction to her old environment. It requires her character to become more aware and more proactive than she's ever been. Until this season, Parker said, Nancy has been "propelled from one thing to the next by the momentum of her depression and disassociation. Now she's at least in the present without a clear understanding of past or future.
Those close to the production would not say whether the sexy star's character turns out to be one and the same. The complicated role of Nancy was always hard to pin down emotionally, Parker said.
She relates to people based on what she needs from them. And she behaves naively as if nothing could ever hurt her. In shooting the new season, Parker said she's had to deal with Nancy's new voices. One recent evening after a day of shooting, she said she realized she had put too much of herself into a big scene. She said she beseeched director and co-executive producer Craig Zisk to reshoot it the next day.
Though television's quick pace typically precludes such reshoots, Parker said Zisk found the time. They were both happier with the result, she said. That wasn't always the case in the early days when news spread about a rift between Parker and Kohan over creative issues.
Parker said she's not really interested in "likability," a key issue for television executives. TV is different from theater and movies. There's a different relationship between the writer and performer. We had to find common ground.
Kohan said now when disagreements arise, they can talk about them or, if not, e-mail or communicate through Zisk. We made our peace. We share the baby. To a certain extent, we reinvent the show every season. This is just a larger reinvention.