By Mary Erickson Oregon Editor
Last June, a new digital TV comedy started shooting in Portland. The producers of the show with a tentative name unsuitable for mixed company put an unconventional spin on the sitcom with a cross-generational romantic relationship. The result is Alloy Entertainment’s Significant Mother.
Originally created for The CW’s digital channel, CW Seed, three digital episodes were produced in 2014. Once CW executives saw the show, they ordered a total of nine episodes for broadcast on the CW network, forgoing Seed altogether. The three original episodes were never shown on CW Seed. Alloy Entertainment, which produced Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, has just wrapped production last month on the first season of Significant Mother.
The story follows Nate, a young restaurateur played by Josh Zuckerman. Nate goes out of town and comes back to find his best friend and roommate, a Lothario of sorts, in a relationship with Nate’s mother.
“It’s kind of a new twist on Three’s Company with a lot of funny, and it ends up having a lot of heart as well,” says Tripp Reed, the show’s executive producer and director of several episodes.
Joining Zuckerman on screen is Krista Allen, who plays Nate’s mom Lydia, and Jonathan Silverman, who plays Nate’s dad. The show has also brought in Denise Richards and Linda Gray for guest appearances.
Creators and writers Erin Cardillo and Richard Keith considered Portland to be a perfect location thanks to its reputation as a mecca for food appreciation.
“When we were thinking about places to set the show,” says Cardillo, “we thought about Portland and how it’s such a great foodie town. Rich and I are both foodies, and we’re really into that culture up here.”
Reed connected with Oregon Film’s then-executive director Vince Porter to scope out Portland.
“Vince was kind enough to fly me up and showcase Portland,” he says. “He introduced me to the physical production team of Portlandia. Their first and second year budgets were similar to what we’d be working with. We got to see what is possible in Portland.” The show also qualifies for i-OPIF incentives, making Portland all the more appealing.
Keith recalled his previous experience working in Portland on 2013’s City Baby, directed by David F. Morgan. This low-budget independent production introduced him to crew with whom he’d reconnect for Significant Mother. “About half the crew on our show now is from that movie,” says Keith. “Everybody is really laid back and enjoys what they do. That makes it so much more fun.”
“The crews are professional and they’re used to working on a variety of sizes of shows,” says Reed. “They can work on something small, but they know how to do it well. They can shift gears easily. On a small production like ours, we don’t always have the luxury of pre-planning, so the crews here are flexible when we need to bring in stars or change the location.”
Significant Mother works hard to bring Portland to the forefront of the screen. “The show has a very Portland vibe,” says Reed, “so we’re constantly trying to find ways to get our characters out into the real Portland.”
To accomplish this, the production has worked with the city’s film office. “We’ve had incredible support from the city of Portland and we’ve been able to do pretty much what we want to do. We shot in front of Union Station. It’s such an iconic building, and it’s amazing that we can do that. In Los Angeles, you’d have to be a large production to shoot in such a prominent location.”
With its unconventional premise of an older woman dating a much younger man, the show is pushing boundaries and breaking down preconceived ideas of how people behave. As Reed points out, “Portland goes by its own rules and the people of Portland have an attitude and perspective on life that you don’t find everywhere else in the country. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a great place to set the show.”
Significant Mother premieres on The CW on Monday, August 3, at 9:30pm.