INTERVIEW: Stars of ‘One Mississippi’ open up about the ‘transformational’ series

One Mississippi stars John Rothman and Sheryl Lee Ralph. Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

One Mississippi, the original series on Amazon Prime Video, has returned for a second season. Tig Notaro, who created the show with Diablo Cody, stars as a version of herself struggling through difficult family and health issues, yet enjoying laughs along the way.

John Rothman plays Tig’s stepfather on the show, and Broadway star Sheryl Lee Ralph recurs as newcomer Felicia Hollingsworth. Recently Hollywood Soapbox chatted with Rothman and Ralph about the new episodes. Here’s what they had to say.

On establishing their characters …

Ralph: “I’m new to the cast, playing Felicia. … She’s very confident. … On top of that, she’s no nonsense. I just had to let her have her way, and it was amazing because once I started reading the script, her voice came alive. Her mannerisms came alive, and once that happened, that was it.”

Rothman: “I, obviously, had a character established in season one, and he had quirky characteristics and a kind of rigidity. … Tig says to her girlfriend when she’s about to meet her stepfather that he has a temperament between room temperature and sleet. … A guy not with a lot of emotion. In season two, he meets this amazing woman. … They share a ride on the elevator, and something happens. And things start to change.”

On how true Rothman’s character is to Notaro’s actual stepfather …

Rothman: “As you know, it is based on her stepfather, and there is information out there. She did a Moth radio hour about him and her relationship with him. She’s also written a wonderful book called I’m Just a Person where she talks about him, so in the beginning a lot of what you were seeing was really based on [his] life. … Something like 80 percent biographical, so the foundation of the character did come from a kind of research and also from feedback from Tig. ‘Well, Bill wouldn’t do that, or he wouldn’t say that.’ … I didn’t ask her that many questions, and it came up for me whether I really wanted to meet the real guy. Well, he exists, and I decided no because this character was not really a real character. He was a creation that was made of these real things — his reality, my reality. It was beginning to evolve and have its own life. Tig kind of let go this season. As we moved into a fictionalized and imaginative world, there was less of, ‘He would never do that.'”

On whether Ralph’s character is fictionalized …

Ralph: “I said, ‘Well, did you know my character? Where did she come from?’ And [Notaro] said, ‘She was created.’ Because they needed an answer to what they felt was going on in the world now, and they created this character for this season. And it’s become so amazingly timely, especially there’s certain things that I get to say that I’m so proud and so happy that I get to say them out loud.”

On the importance of One Mississippi …

Ralph: “The arts can be truly transformational. The arts have the power to take a dark secret, a dim time in your life and turn it into something that you learn from, that you find some thankfulness in having had it, that you’re able to smile at or maybe even laugh at. But it has a way of making you rethink what you think you thought about some things, and I just love that, being an artist. It’s like we’ve got the keys to some doors that some people think should be locked, and we go in there. We unlock it, turn it into something that’s absolutely amazing, that’s beautiful. And I really believe that One Mississippi has that power to be transformational to people.”

On the future of the show …

Rothman: “I pray that we have another season. It’s the most thrilling kind of work. The writers, I think, are extraordinary. Tig is amazing. … Rarely have I felt sort of proud and excited about a project. I think it has a real life, and I just hope that people embrace it as they did the first season, and that there’s more.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

One Mississippi’s second season is now available on Amazon Prime Video. Click here for more information. Click here for Hollywood Soapbox’s other interviews with the cast and crew of One Mississippi.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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