'Sorry for your Loss' creator Kit Steinkellner says show mines real-life stories shared in the writers' room
Creator and showrunner, Kit Steinkellner, says her writers' room takes bits and pieces from real life and 'weaves' them into the fabric of the show's fictional storyline.
To portray the loss of a loved one and the grief of the walking wounded is not easy to do without it becoming a schmaltzy, cliche-ridden exercise. Yet, that is exactly what Kit Steinkellner has been doing in 'Sorry for her Loss', now in its second season on Facebook Watch. Her success in writing authentically about grief is reflected in the comments of the people who watch the show as they cope with loss and trauma in their own lives.
In an exclusive interview with MEA Worldwide (MEAWW), Kit Steinkellner spoke about how as a showrunner, she manages to bring a real 'slice of life' feel to her show. "Authenticity is our watchword in the writers' room. So we start by looking at our own lives and the lives of people we know and sharing experiences. But authenticity and honesty are not the same things for everyone. It's subjective. One person's deeply authentic story from their life will have another person react, saying, 'I can't believe that happened to you. It doesn't sound plausible or believable'. "According to her, her writers are both supportive of one another and also honest with one another. "If they think something is ringing false, there is a comfort level that allows them to speak up. There is a real spirit of collaboration."
Steinkellner emphasizes that the real-life stories are only the "starting point" to building the fictional events portrayed on the show. She gives the example of the first episode of Season 2 in which Leigh gets a haircut. "She doesn't want the hair that she has grown during this time of pain [in the six months after Matt died] to be on her head anymore. It feels cathartic to her. It feels like a ritual because it shows that time has passed and there is a new person in the mirror who looks like she is moving on. This was inspired by one of our writers, who had had that kind of a haircut."
Similarly, in episode 5 of season 2, there is an all-night walk that Danny and Leigh go on. "I know that event very well because my family members go for it every year. So when we were building to this moment between Leigh and Danny, I thought it was perfect for them to go on this all-night walk... to go through this journey over the course of a night, in order to have the conversation that they needed to have. So it's taking all these bits and pieces from real life and then overlaying them over our show. Those real moments weave into the fabric of the fiction."
Acknowledging the fact that gender, race, our upbringing are just some of the factors that affect how we process grief, Steinkellner has worked hard to create a writers' room that is diverse. "Our writers' room is really representative of different genders, ethnicities, ages, backgrounds, socio-economic levels -- it truly is a spectrum of humanity." In addition, the actors on 'Sorry for your loss', also hail from different backgrounds, and are seen as active collaborators. "We make sure that they know that if they have even the slightest hesitation or question the script, the door is wide open. They really are true partners and true collaborators with me and my team."
Steinkellner also credits Elizabeth Olsen's "golden gut" for bringing authenticity to Leigh's character that audiences immediately identify with. "She'll sometimes come with notes like 'can we work on the language and how we word this', and I'll be like 'beautiful, it's done', because she has accessed the character in a way that I haven't."
Over the 14 episodes that have aired, Leigh continually tries to make sense of Matt's death and her widowhood, trying to find clues that will bring her peace. It is like her grief is a mystery that she has to unravel before she can heal. This aspect was "absolutely deliberate" according to Kit. "We wanted the show to feel mysterious, the way real life is mysterious. So when you are unpacking your own pain and trauma, you sometimes have to go in search of the information that will help you evolve so that you recognize the truth that is buried deep within you. The truth that's buried under a bunch of static and noise. It is about solving the mystery of yourself and your relationship, the way one does in real life."
'Sorry For Your Loss' Season 2 will air new episodes on Facebook Watch every Tuesday at 12 p.m. PT and 3 p.m. ET.