Polly Draper: The Naked Brothers' Mother Returns to TV
Polly Draper, Naked Brothers Band
has returned to series television — more than 15 years after audiences first fell in love with wry career gal Ellyn Warren on thirtysomething
— as writer, director and
executive producer of Nickelodeon's Naked Brothers Band
(Saturdays at 8:30 pm/ET), a hat trick that keeps her busy in the background while her real-life sons, Nat
and Alex Wolff
, shine in the spotlight.
TV Guide: Naked Brothers Band is a real family affair. What made you decide to make your whole family into a TV show?
Polly Draper: None of this was calculated at all on any of our parts. What originally happened was that Nat and Alex had a band, and the idea evolved based on that. Spinal Tap meets The Little Rascals was my concept. Nat and Alex are just obsessed with The Beatles — Alex learned to play drums because he watched Ringo play — so we had to pretend to be The Beatles when they were little. Nat was Paul, I was John, Michael [Wolff, Polly's husband and the boys' father] was George, and Alex was Ringo. That was another thing that featured into my style, that I wanted it to be very Beatle-ish, have that Help! or A Hard Day's Night kind of feeling.
TV Guide: It's probably great timing, with High School Musical coming out last year.
Draper: You know, it is. In a way, ours was a little edgy, maybe, to be the front-runner, but maybe kids are ready for this now. This is just so homegrown, so different.... There's no formula to it, it's very eccentric. So maybe you needed to have a prototype before you could have something like this that's way out there.
TV Guide: Was this your first directing job?
Draper: Yes, I'd written a movie before, The Tic Code, but I had never directed, so that was another reason to use all of the relatives, because they'd have to speak to me again. [Laughs]
TV Guide: Is it hard being the boys' mother and boss on the set?
Draper: They don't listen to me in real life, and they didn't listen to me as a director, so it was perfectly fine. [Laughs] Part of the fun of it was that I am their mom, so they don't have any inhibitions. That makes it feel almost improvised, a quality I wanted. I wanted it to seem like a documentary, like none of this stuff was staged, and that's a really hard thing to do with kids.
TV Guide: So has this cut into your time as an actress?
Draper: Yeah, it definitely has. I had to turn down a couple of jobs since the inception of this.
TV Guide: Do you miss acting?
Draper: I do, but I also love being creative, and this really, really, really opens up every area of creativity I have, so I feel incredibly fulfilled by that part of it. I've been acting for a long, long time, and every now and then it's challenging, but mostly it's fun and not particularly challenging at this point in my career, whereas this is super-challenging in every way. Being a producer is challenging, directing is challenging, writing is challenging.... When my parents came to visit, my dad said he has never been prouder in his life because he couldn't believe a flake like me was controlling this whole group of, like, 300 people. I'm a little in awe of that, too.
TV Guide: It's so cute how Alex sounds like you, with your trademark throaty voice.
Draper: I know, isn't that so funny? That's what [fellow thirtysomething alumna Patricia] Wettig said. She said, "How did that happen? If I had seen him at a mall I would have known that was your son because of his voice."
TV Guide: So you're still close to the thirtysomething cast?
Draper: I see them individually more than I see them as a big group, where we all get together.
TV Guide: Do you think there will ever be a thirtysomething reunion?
Draper: No, the producers Ed [Zwick] and Marshall [Herskovitz] don't want it. It has been years and years since people have asked that question, but it never has been greeted with a yes by Ed and Marshall.
TV Guide: Does it surprise you that you still get the reunion question?
Draper: It's hard for me to even believe that people still remember, because attention spans are so short these days. I always count back how many years it was and can't believe people would even have any recollection of it. But it was a really special show — it started a lot of trends and was really timeless in a way. It was a great experience.
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