'Another Period' Is Flawed, Evil and Terrible Fun, Say Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome

The absurd historical parody returns for its third season on January 23
'Another Period' Is Flawed, Evil and Terrible Fun, Say Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome
Photo: Elizabeth Caren
"There are no good people on our show," Riki Lindhome tells Exclaim! during a conference call with Natasha Leggero, her co-creator and co-star on Comedy Central's ridiculously harsh period parody, Another Period, which returns for its third season on January 23.
"Everyone's terrible and flawed and evil, and it's fun to play such characters," Lindhome says. "The best person in the house pushed a pregnant woman down the stairs."
Leggero and Lindhome play, respectively, Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt, sisters in a wealthy American family based in Newport, RI during the early 20th century gilded age. Irredeemable social climbers, they're the product of "new money," reared by mistreated servants who bolster their outlandish selfishness and insensitivity.
"It's like if a family like the Kardashians moved into Downton Abbey," Lindhome says succinctly of the show's genesis, where historical echoes resonate with contemporary cultural events for multilayered, smart satire.
With a stellar cast that includes Christina Hendricks, Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Paget Brewster, David Koechner, Jason Ritter, Beth Dover, Brian Huskey, Moshe Kasher and Brett Gelman, among others, Another Period is simply one of the funniest shows on television.
Available in Canada via the Comedy Network and Crave TV, Another Period's joke-rich premise was inspired by a somewhat inadvertent historical analysis conducted by Leggero.
"I had randomly read this book about the Gilded Age in America," she explains. "Everyone was talking about Downton Abbey, and I loved it, but I thought, 'What about America at that time?' I read this book that talked about how 90 percent of all of the wealth in America between, say, 1900 and 1910, was all in this place, Newport, RI. I thought, 'Wow,' and I happened to take a trip there.
"I told Riki about it. We were both wanting to come up with an idea together and I had one about a turn-of-the-century thing and then another about a fake reality show and Riki said, 'What about combining both of those things?' So, she came to Rhode Island with me and we went on these house tours and got inspired by it. The show started to write itself."
Leggero acknowledges that she began reading about the Gilded Age because she's just generally fascinated by glamour and opulence and how rich people arrive at their stations in life.
"Just hearing about this city that still exists and used to be like the Downton Abbey of America, or our 'royalty' [was fascinating], because America doesn't have royal roots like England," she explains. "Once Riki and I started studying it, the families who lived in Newport are very unique. They don't come from 30 generations of dukes and duchesses."
"Yeah, there's nothing preordained about their wealth." Lindhome adds. "They went from being like, a fur trapper to being a billionaire."
"They were much more scrappy and new money," Leggero says. "That is very American. We realized that no one had really told this story, even in a dramatic way. Everyone's obsessed with the 1920s and there're other [decades] that have been mined, but we thought, 'No one really talks about this one.'"
"That's one of the reasons I find reality shows like the Real Housewives or the Kardashians interesting because it is dynasty without decorum," Lindhome says. "It's new; these people have so much money, they can't stop showing it off."
When we last left the Bellacourts in season two, the family's circumstances seemed particularly chaotic. Savvy matriarch Dodo (Brewster) wrested control of the family fortune, leaving her husband (Koechner), daughters, and their servants mired in bankruptcy. And the "brown sheep" of the family, Hortense Bellacourt, a self-aware intellectual and champion of the suffrage movement (who, hilariously and circumstantially, has been played by at least one different actress in each season of the show), appeared to die in a fiery car crash while celebrating her honeymoon.
"We start right where we left off and it's at Hortense's funeral," Lindhome says. "We're jumping right back in. Dodo, our mother, has all the money and she has this hot boyfriend, played by Jemaine Clement. Right from the beginning, it explodes."
Of course, as those who follow the show know, characters don't seem to die on Another Period; instead they tend to return from the brink, often overcoming deep comas. Will we see more of Hortense?
"Well, I can't give it away, but I'd say the funeral is more of an inconvenience for Beatrice and Lillian, because they'd rather be taking a bath or something," Leggero demurs.
Beyond the wonderful core cast, Another Period often welcomes guest stars, some of whom portray actual historical figures that cross paths with the Bellacourts. The long list of comedians includes:  Steve Agee, Doug Benson, Kate Berlant, Rachel Blanchard, Lauren Bowles, Steve Byrne, Jemaine Clement, John Early, Bridget Everett, Fortune Feimster, Kate Flannery, Tom Lenk, Thomas Lennon, Samm Levine, Randy Liedtke, Andy Kindler, Gilles Marini, Chelsea Peretti, Patton Oswalt, Gil Ozeri, Richard Riehle, Vincent Rodriguez III, Paul Scheer, Rory Scovel, Beth Stelling, Paul F. Tompkins, Matt Walsh, Jimmy O. Yang and more.
By this point, the show is so respected by comedians, some are likely clamouring for roles by now.
"I mean, definitely people have asked me," Leggero laughs. "I don't want to say their names, because I haven't been able to cast them all. One thing we've realized about theatre people is, men love to play gay and dress up. Everyone likes to dress up and play these people."
As for hints about season three, Leggero and Lindhome mention a couple of larger scale musical numbers (Lindhome and her Garfunkel & Oates partner, Kate Micucci, have written songs for Another Period), plus a few contemporary references that have informed storylines.
"Lillian begins dating this 'toilet king,' and she finds out he really wanted a girl who was under 14, so she tries to pose like one," Leggero says. "It really echoes the Roy Moore situation and he even sounds like Roy Moore, but we wrote that a year ago."
"We don't want it to be preachy so we try to have commentary and silliness thrown together," Lindhome says when asked about any political messaging that might occur on Another Period. "We're able to say these things and we want to. There's a scene this season where Frederick (Ritter) is running to be president and goes to the Dodo Birds Union and promises to un-extinct the birds so they can get their jobs back. There's a big parallel there and it's also funny."
"I'm excited that Hitler makes an appearance," Leggero adds.
"Yeah, he was like 11 at the time," Lindhome says.
Wait, isn't Lillian's full, married name actually Lillian Abigail Hitler Schmemmerhorn Fish?
"Lillian might be related to him," Leggero says. "That's a very good call."
"This season just kicks everything up a notch," Lindhome says, conclusively. "It's more frantic, there's more jokes, it's even crazier. I love this season."
Listen to this interview with Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome on Kreative Kontrol via Apple Podcasts or below: