Most of us know Lisa Kudrow for her fearlessly funny roles in Friends, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, and The Opposite of Sex. But did you know that Lisa spends most of her time these days producing? In 2003, Kudrow and actor/writer Dan Bucatinsky formed their own production company, called Is or Isn’t Entertainment. Together, they’ve brought us some of the funniest moments captured on film, from HBO’s cult-hit The Comeback to the current web-series-turned-Showtime-smash Web Therapy.
But when things get serious, it’s safe to say you’ll find Lisa Kudrow behind the camera. That’s where she’s currently sitting, serving as Executive Producer on NBC’s acclaimed documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?, which follows celebrities as they trace their family tree. That search leads to surprising, emotional encounters, making for some truly compelling TV. The third season premieres tonight at 8 p.m., and features Martin Sheen, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood, Helen Hunt, Reba McEntire, Jerome Bettis, Rita Wilson, Edie Falco, Rob Lowe, Rashida Jones, Jason Sudeikis and Paula Deen. Not bad, eh?
On the heels of its premiere, we caught up with Kudrow last week to find out all the backstage scoop on the show, this season’s celebs, and if there’ll ever be a Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion sequel. Here’s what we learned:
Tracing your genealogy will change you
Kudrow knows this for a fact – she herself had her genealogy traced for an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? back in season one. For Kudrow, doing the show made a profound difference in her life – one that’s allowed her to better process difficult information. “You put yourself in the situation where you’re walking the same road they walked before they were all murdered, you know?” she explained to us.” “And at one point, they said ‘it’s right up here,’ and I actually stopped. My instinct was to stop and not take one more step. I usually like to avoid emotionally unpleasant things, and that’s not a great way to go through life. And so I think it was good to push on and to understand this is beyond just me having this experience. It’s a story that you’re sharing with other people.”
As you can imagine, processing all that change isn’t easy. And as Kudrow has found, almost all of the show’s celebrity participants are dealing with the same problems, post-filming. “When I talk to them, there’s a recurring theme which is, ‘that was a lot to process and I’m still processing it.’ It’s something that really lingers. And that’s usually what someone says afterwards.”
There’s a waiting list to get on the show
Celebs may have been apprehensive about the show when Kudrow and company were casting for season one. But once they saw it, that all changed. “We’ve got a waiting list now,” Kudrow explained. “They know that we’re not trying to catch them at something or make them look bad. We’re really interested in just telling these stories as experienced by their ancestors.” That interest, apparently, goes a long way. Underwood stopped Lisa Kudrow at a party and asked her to be on the show. Marisa Tomei and Rob Lowe wanted in back in season one – it’s just taken that long to do their family research. But don’t expect to see any of her Friends co-stars yet. Kudrow says they’re all unavailable these days.
Martin Sheen comes from a long line of rebels
One of the celebrities we’ll follow this season is The West Wing’s Martin Sheen, who traces his Estevez-roots back to Spain to find a pretty interesting factoid about his father’s brother. Apparently, Uncle Estevez was the only sibling who didn’t leave the county, because he was caught up trying to put down Franco’s coup. “He was imprisoned many times for that,” Kudrow said. “Martin really related to that, you know. He’s an activist. He’s been in jail. He could relate to and be proud of families who sacrificed for their believes in social justice.”
Marisa Tomei’s great-grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was
We’re all told stories about our relatives that we take to be gospel. Tomei had always heard that her father was some big philanderer, who was killed by a jealous lover. Apparently, that didn’t happen! Reputation restored!
Lisa Kudrow hated that music video montage from season one too.
If you only caught a few episodes in season one, you saw that terrible music video montage they used to air. Never fret – it’s gone. “That, to me, was a great improvement,” Kudrow said.
That Romy and Michelle’s sequel is still in limbo
Despite Alan Cumming’s suggestion on Watch What Happen Live that a Romy and Michelle sequel was in the works, Kudrow was less enthusiastic: “Robin Schiff who wrote and produced the first one has really good ideas for sequels, but it hasn’t happened.”
Don’t look for Lisa Kudrow on Glee anytime soon
Fans have been flooding the internet, trying to get Kudrow to play Brittany’s mon on Glee for a few seasons now. But it was all news to Kudrow. “I get why people suggest that,” Kudrow said, “but I don’t sing!” Even if she grabbed a non-singing part, it probably won’t happen. “No one’s asked,” she said. Bummer!
The third season of Who Do You Think You Are? premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC. Check out the video below for more: