Maribeth Monroe, Sam Richardson, Stephanie Laing, and Dave Hill sat down during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to discuss Bootstrapped, an Indie Episodic. Unfortunately, series creator and star Danielle Uhlarik was unable to make the trip due to her pregnancy.
Bootstrapped is a very funny pilot set in Kansas City. The pilot alone features so many alumni of the Chicago and Detroit improv families in minor and cameo roles–including Brad Morris, Andy St. Clair, Jaime Moyer, Brian Shortall, etc. Series producers Dave Hill and Karen Graci cameo in a presentation scene, which funny enough takes place in Chicago. I hope that a network or streaming provider decides to pick up the series.
How thrilled are you to be premiering Bootstrapped at Sundance?
Maribeth Monroe: So happy. Beyond. Beyond. It is from I think the dreams we had of even getting to pitch the show and to sell the show. This was beyond around our wildest expectations to be able to get to that place via Sundance. It’s just going to give our show such a pedigree. I think we’re all blown away that it’s even happening.
Dave Hill: We’re so happy that Sundance is doing Indie Episodic now. It’s so great for them doing it. We are so happy to be back in the second round of it. They get it. This is where everything is going so that’s very smart for them so we’re really ecstatic.
What attracted you to sign on to the pilot?
Stephanie Laing: Danielle.
Maribeth Monroe: Yeah, Danielle. The writer-creator Danielle Uhlarik, who unfortunately can’t be with us today because she is having a little baby of her own—her baby is here and she’s having a baby. But yes, she and I became friends through Second City. We all kind of know each other through circles. So when I read the script and she’s like, “I want to do this with you.” They had already signed on with Gumption. I read the script and it was a no-brainer but also she’s one of my best friends. I love the writing so much that I just knew—I didn’t know this would happen but I knew something fabulous was going to happen with it so I couldn’t say no.
Sam Richardson: I was best man at the wedding! (Laughs)
Obviously with Andy St. Clair!
Sam Richardson: Yeah. That’s all I want to say.
Stephanie Laing: I met Danielle through Matthew. That’s how I was brought into it. In the beginning, I just read the world that she created and I was really dying to be part of it.
Sam Richardson: Usually, the opportunity to work on something with a friend you respect and who is very funny. The opportunity to get to work with friends is always something you want to do. And especially that Gumption Pictures is an exciting kind of thing to participate in and not one to miss.
Maribeth Monroe: I also think Danielle’s vision for it in talking to her about it, which I think is what really signed me on to—of just the idea that these two female leads are never going to have conflict really with each other in the sense of that they’re always going to have each other’s backs, which I think for a female buddy is really fun and amazing and perfect timing for what’s kind of happening in episodic and film now. Also, that they don’t necessarily have conflict when it comes to men. Danielle said that would be a very precious thing—they would never date men. They are going to be the couple. They are the relationship. They are the work wife. That’s the relationship you’re going to be following as opposed to kind of seeing women I guess for lack of a better word getting catty or whatever in regards to the relationships in their lives. I thought that was really cool. Couple that with how many female executive producers are on this, female director, how many female cast and crew members we had. That was a big reason I wanted to do it too.
What did you bring to the characters that were not in the script?
Sam Richardson: My shoes. My shoes were a big part of the character.
Maribeth Monroe: They literally were.
Sam Richardson: They literally were. It was a plot point even. I don’t know if it was a plot point. but I collect sneakers. I have over 150 pairs now. I have to do a little hewing.
Maribeth Monroe: Are you okay?
Sam Richardson: No I’m not.
Maribeth Monroe: I’m sure you’re not.
Sam Richardson: It’s hard. It’s very hard. I love all of my shoes but they made their way into the show so that was really fun.
Maribeth Monroe: It’s like some Sophie’s Choice stuff happening in your closet.
Sam Richardson: It legitimately is!
Maribeth Monroe: I mean how did you do that?
Sam Richardson: The girlfriend moved in so I had to remove some shoes.
Maribeth Monroe: Oh, geeze. Oh my gosh.
Sam Richardson: That’s facts, okay! I’m fine with it. I love you, Nicole!
Maribeth Monroe: I was also excited to play this part honestly because I think—in general—I’m a pretty positive happy-go-lucky person but for whatever reason my career is really off in the direction of me playing really miserable people or some quasi-negative—for lack of a better word—bitches. I was really excited to get to play a really positive, optimistic, excited character that is also very smart, and so that was really exciting to me. I think that she is more in line with my actual personality so I think I brought myself.
Would any of you download BitchThatWouldLookBetterOnMe in real life?
Stephanie Laing: Yes!
Sam Richardson: Oh yeah.
Dave Hill: Yeah.
Maribeth Monroe: Yes! Where has this been?!? I am legit still blown away by Danielle’s brain that she wrote the script and created an app that feasibly is something everybody should have.
Dave Hill: That was from her time in Silicon Valley. She actually worked in Silicon Valley ad so this is where the seed of the idea for the script came. She’s got that brain—comedy brain/tech brain.
Sam Richardson: A Malcolm. (Laughs)
What is the hope for Bootstrapped after Sundance?
Maribeth Monroe: Sell it, baby!
Stephanie Laing: Sell it.
Dave Hill: We really think that obviously because it was in the tech world, we really are excited to talk to some of those platforms. We think it’s just a perfect fit for places like that. Danielle has three seasons worth of the series mapped out so we’re raring to go and just give us the go ahead and we’ll make all the Bootstrapped you guys want.
Maribeth Monroe: Don’t leave us bootstrapped by Bootstrapped.
Stephanie Laing: That’s a great—
Maribeth Monroe: Just sitting here nailing it.
For those of you who came up through improv in Chicago or Detroit, who is the most meaningful instructor on your career?
Maribeth Monroe: Wow.
Sam Richardson: I guess I’d say myself.
Dave Hill: My shoes.
Sam Richardson: My shoes, my sneakers.
Maribeth Monroe: I would say Sam Richardson’s sneakers.
Sam Richardson: Yeah, I guess so. They teach a little workshop.
Maribeth Monroe: That’s a really tough one to answer.
Sam Richardson: It’s a tough question.
Maribeth Monroe: I would have to say that when I was starting out at Second City Detroit as well as Sam, I think the first shows I watched—there were people that I don’t know that they are necessarily famous but they were very instrumental and inspiring to me to believe that improvisation—I’m going to sound so cheesy right now—is really magical. I remember just being like, how are they doing that magic? It was the Larry Joe Campbell’s of the world and Margaret Exner. Again, these are probably people don’t know of but they were my main inspiration I think for getting involved in the improv aspect of my career.
Sam Richardson: Two answers. Sean Hamlin—I was in high school taking improv courses at Planet Ant. He really made improv fun and accessible like this is something I can participate in and do. Maribeth Monroe was there and she saw me do it. It was on the tip of my tongue. Kirk Hanley, actually. There was an improv jam that I did when I was 15 years old at Second City Detroit. I got up to do the jam and he kind of gave me a nudge into Make A Story, which is an improv game where you kind of conduct so he points to somebody and you make up a story from there. He kind of gave me a heads up and pointed to me to make up a story. I got like a killer line. I remember it so well. My head grew, my ego swelled, and I bit the bug.
Maribeth Monroe: The rest is history. Kirk Hanley was my first teacher.
Sam Richardson: Really? Kirk Hanley is a genius and amazing.
Maribeth Monroe: Thanks, Kirk Hanley.
Sam Richardson: Thank you, Kirk Hanley.
What are y’all looking forward to taking on next? I know Detroiters unfortunately got canceled and it’s Veep’s final season.
Sam Richardson: News to me—what?!? (Laughs) I have another show called Champion Hill on YouTube Premium. We’ll see what happens with that. I’m excited to be in this realm of being open to opportunities so I’m very excited for that.
Maribeth Monroe: I have been recurring in The Good Place, which has been a complete blast. I’m continuing that into their next season. I also have been recurring on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s last season, which I feel really honored to be a part of that. Then I just recently got cast in a Chuck Lorre pilot called Bob Hearts Abishola, which will be shooting in April—which I’m really excited about especially since my boss just won a Golden Globe, which is very exciting so I’m hoping that bares well for our little production as well.
Stephanie Laing: I’m doing a Hulu series, Dollface, that I am directing and producing. It starts filming in LA in February.
Dave Hill: Gumption has this pilot and shot another pilot. We’ve got one in development and we’re about to start submissions on our next slate. We’re going to keep rocking and rolling as best we can.
Thanks again for your time and congrats on Sundance.
Maribeth Monroe: Thank you so much.
Dave Hill: Thanks.
Stephanie Laing: Thanks.
Sam Richardson: Thank you so much. I find out about Veep—what’s going on?!?