We sat down with Katie to ask her about what made her want to write a female-led buddy cop comedy, her experiences working with Paul Feig on the film, and a little bit about her previous experience on the small screen with Parks and Rec.
Were you always a fan of buddy cop movies?
Yeah, I grew up watching all of them. I remember I saw Running Scared when I was young, the Billy Crystal-Gregory Hines movie, and then like Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs. I just always loved them. They were always just so funny and badass and cool and stuff, and I just always wanted to be like that. So I though, why can’t two ladies be that funny and cool and all that.
I can’t remember any other major female buddy cop movies.
There have definitely been duos, but not quite two detectives on the streets solving a case. There was a movie, Feds, which was two women going through FBI training in the academy, but it still wasn’t, and I did love that movie as a kid, but it wasn’t quite on the streets.
What was the genesis of the script and it making its way to Paul Feig?
When you write something on spec, you just write it and put all of your time and blood, sweat and tears into it, and you just hope that someone buys it. So it’s a big risk, but that way you’re free to write something that you’re really excited about. So I did it that way, and the more time I spent working on it, the more I was terrified I was going to hear, “oh there’s this new buddy cop movie starring whoever,” and I’d have spent months and months writing it and then I’d have been very depressed.
I didin’t think he would. So first what happened was the producers who bought it, Peter Chernin. So they somehow got the script before it was released, I don’t know how. They won’t tell me!
You’re not complaining though.
No, it’s fine! So they got it, and I was thrilled. So I was actually coming out of a hair salon appointment and my agent got me on the phone and said’ “okay, Peter Chernin’s lawyers are on the phone and they’re going to buy the script or they’re not going to buy it by the end of this phone call.” And I was like, “what!” My cell phone was dying too, and I was driving home trying to get to my charger while my agent was going back and forth with their lawyers and me, and I had no idea what any of it meant. They could have signed my first born away and I’d have had no idea what was happening. So after that then the producers started talking to Paul Feig, and Paul Feig would have been my dream but I just didn’t think that he would ever want to do it because he’d just done a big female comedy with Bridesmaids. So when I heard he was interested, I got an email from his agent saying he’d read it and wanted to have lunch and I almost died I was so excited.
And you’re going to work with him again, so it’s been a good relationship?
It’s been great, yeah. He’s been just so writer-friendly. I was scared because everything I’ve ever been told in movies, because I was a writer on a TV show and TV is more of a writer’s medium, but in movies I’ve always been told that once you sell it you have nothing to do with it. But luckily Paul Feig is a writer too and likes having a writer around, so I got to be there for the whole process and the whole shoot in Boston, and I just learned so much.
And how did you feel about the film attracting Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock?
When the producers were like, “how do you feel about Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy,” I was like, “great!” Why would there be any other reaction than ‘holy shit?’ It didn’t sound like it was real, that it would happen actually, but then it did. It was crazy.
I was so afraid of so many different things, I don’t even know if that was one of the million that came into my head. But luckily they are really great together, I feel like they have a lot of good chemistry. Even in real life I hear that they’re best friends now, and they both have kids that hang out together. And that’s so nice because writing a movie about female friendship, it would have been really depressing if they hated each other. So it’s really nice to see that they got along. And do you remember the scene when they first go into the building and they kind of fight over who gets into the door. That was all them, just having fun with it. That was so fun to see.
You come from an improv background, so do you consider improvisation when you’re writing a script like this?
I think that’s the best-case scenario, personally. The TV shows I’ve worked on, Parks and Recreation, the cast has a lot of improvisers like Amy Poehler, so I kind of always hope for improv on set. I think the best-case scenario is you write a script that then if you have a cast that’s really strong and knows their characters and are good improvisers it just makes it so much better. And Melissa and Sandra are both really great; they just added such a spice to the characters. I feel like for a good movie to be a great movie it has to have all of those things.
Paul must be great for that too. It seemed like he encouraged great improvisation on Bridesmaids.
He really encourages it. He tends to cast people who are good at improv and really makes people on set feel like it’s a safe place to do all that.
It also seems like you were able to create a lot of great individual scenes for really funny people like Tony Hale or Kaitlin Olson to come in and have fun.
Yeah, Paul would get a lot of stuff down as scripted, and then after that then people can have a lot of fun. Tony Hale’s amazing, and Tatiana as played by Kaitlin Olson.
There are lots of them. The big scenes with the family too are full of great performers.
Those were great because all of those actors are from Boston specifically. I feel like as much as I tried to study and research Boston, I didn’t grow up there so it was so nice to have all of those performers from there that really know how they talk exactly. That was really helpful.
Well to be honest the first draft took place in New York, only because I didn’t want to pretend to know Boston well and I lived in New York for a long time. Then we switched it to Boston, and I’m so glad we did. It was a big rewrite making sure that things were accurate, but it added such a nice layer. And I feel like Melissa’s character would be from Boston, it just felt very fitting.
Can I ask you a bit about your background with Parks and Recreation? We’re big fans of the show.
Oh yeah, it’s here now right? Didn’t it just start airing here.
Yeah, we’ve started to get it on TV and some of the seasons on DVD. We’ve got a lot of it very quickly. How did you first get involved with the show?
My first writing job was at a sketch show called MADtv, and then that was cancelled and I wrote a half-hour original pilot as a sample. And so then my manager gave it to Mike Schurr, who’s the creator of Parks and Rec, and I got a meeting off of that and I started working there for Season 2. I was there for three seasons, and then I had to take leave for the movie.
And on that show you’re writing for one of the best female characters on TV. How was it writing for Leslie Knope, and for Amy Poehler as an actress?
It was great; it’s such a fun character. One of my favourite things about the show is that Mike Schurr doesn’t really like mean humor. He’s such an optimist about things, which I think is nice.
It’s hopeful, which is such a nice change of pace from a lot of different things. And then Amy Poehler is just great. It’s so much fun being able to write for that character, and then I think that Amy Poehler is just like the nicest woman in the world. It was such a great experience there.
Did you have any other particular favourite characters to write for?
Honestly, I felt like every month I had a new favourite, but then it would change. And all of the actors were so good too. Like Nick Offerman who plays Ron Swanson. I just love that character, and Nick Offerman’s just so good. And even in real life he’s just such this man, like he builds canoes! He’s got this woodshop and when I first started they brought the writing staff over to his woodshop and he was just building stuff, and he was like “hey guys, how’s it going, check out my woodshop.” It’s just ridiculous that he’s this LA actor but not an LA person at all. It’s just refreshing. And they’re all like that, like Chris Pratt and all of the rest of the cast are all interesting, kind people. I see that I had a really nice situation there, because I’m sure it’s not always like that.
You wrote the April and Andy wedding episode?
Yeah, well, when you write an episode on the show it’s still a huge collaborative effort. So that episode in particular the idea for this secret, last minute wedding was Mike’s idea, so then we all brainstormed it together. And then I took all of those notes and went off and wrote it, but then I brought it back and we all re-wrote it together. I always get credit for that, but it really isn’t mine to take credit for.
Is there any chance you’ll ever return to the show?
I would love to at some point. It’s a great place. I also miss a writer’s room. It’s so fun to be able to go in with some of the funniest you’ve ever met and just make fun of each other all day. I miss that. I think part of that’s what made me want to become a writer, so I do miss it.
Yeah, and it’s been really fun this season watching it and not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s so strange to watch it now knowing, and it’s always fun.
The show never seems afraid to constantly change things in order to improve and course-correct. For instance, Season 2 is fantastic, but then Rob Lowe and Adam Scott are added to the mix and then Season 3 is even better.
Yeah, that’s a big change. I totally agree. I remember when we found out those two were coming everyone was really excited because we were big fans of both of them. But it was also scary because the thought of adding two new characters was pretty nerve-wracking when we already had so many characters. But they just fit in so well and it was so much fun writing for them. It worked out, I think so anyway, so yeah it’s been fun.
So for now is the focus on film, but at some stage you’d like to do more TV?
So you’ve got this other project that you’re writing for Paul, and then there’s a possibility of The Heat 2?
A possibility. Hopefully.
So do you start work on that now? Do you start thinking of ideas?
I can’t help but start thinking of stuff for it. So we’ll just talk about what would be fun, what would be fun to see these characters do next. So we’ll, see. I’m hopeful, but who knows.
What can you tell us about the other project with Paul?
Well it’s a mother-daughter adventure comedy. I think that’s all I can say right now, I should find out though!
That seems like another sub-genre we haven’t seen a lot of?
Yeah, thinking about it and researching other mother-daughter movies, there’s not a ton.
I enjoy writing for both equally. At Parks and Rec I enjoyed writing for the women and the men just as much. But I guess it almost feels like there’s more to do just because there hasn’t been as much done with women. And also there are so many funny female comedians out there that it feels like there’s so much to be able to do with them too.
And you have a cameo in The Heat towards the end. Is that something you asked for?
No, I did not. I was surprised. Paul was very nice to let me do that. I was terrified. I got so used to sitting in my little chair behind everything, so it was quite terrifying suddenly being on set, being insulted by Melissa McCarthy.