Minnie Driver is a little nervous about her terrific ABC sitcom Speechless' move to Fridays, because that's traditionally not a vote of confidence from the network. But the season premiere (Oct. 5 at 8:30/7:30c) has international travel and a musical number, so it's not like ABC is turning its back on the show.
Besides, Driver thinks Speechless is well-positioned to attract some new fans who liked a certain canceled ABC sitcom and may be looking for a new spiky family comedy made by people who haven't tweeted anything career-endingly racist. Speechless also happens to be about a financially struggling white family that handles their problems through jokes. It's like Roseanne or The Conners without all the baggage, and is doing a great job of representation for people with disabilities to boot.
After Roseannewas canceled in May due to Roseanne Barr's racist tweet read 'round the world, Driver tweeted "So proud of @ABCNetwork for having the ethical compunction to cancel #Rosanne [sic] despite the show's huge numbers. We too make a show about a middle class family, come and watch us instead #speechless." Minnie Driver is not afraid to call stuff out when she sees fit.
"I got some stick for kind of like 'co-opting' that, and it's like 'bulls---, man,'" Driver tells TV Guide. She saw an opportunity to use Barr's "terrible racist comment" to point potential fans toward something positive. "If you want to watch a show that is about the exact opposite of that, that's about inclusivity and about a forward-thinking society that one would hope we're creating, then absolutely 100 percent come watch our show," she says. "It is funny and it is cool and it is inclusive and the humor is acidic without being harmful. That's the kind of sh-- I want to watch."
The premiere deals with some economic anxiety. It and the season's second episode were shot on location in London, where the DiMeos have traveled in order to ask Maya's (Driver) father — played by John Cleese — for a loan. They got evicted from their house in the Season 2 finale, and they're trying to get the money together to buy it. But Maya hasn't spoken to her father in 20 years, so the bad blood between them may make negotiations tough. (Check out a clip of the DiMeos' arrival in London above.)
Comedy legend Cleese previously played Driver's father on Will & Grace, on which they both guested back in the early '00s. "John Cleese always plays my dad," Driver tells TV Guide. "I don't have another TV father." (Her mother on Speechless is played by Holland Taylor, who made her first appearance in Season 2. Their characters are divorced.) Driver says that the DiMeos needing money was a great excuse to travel to London and shoot. Driver is from London and doesn't get back as much as she used to now that her son is in school, so she used the trip to spend time with friends and family. It was a hot, dry summer, and she says she fell in love with the city all over again.
"It equals every great beautiful city — Rome, Paris, New York — in grace when it's beautiful there, and my God, it was amazing," she says. "I think we got mad production value. A lot of scenes in the premiere take place on the top of an open air double decker tour bus, so you really get to see the splendor of London." She said returning to Los Angeles was a "proper kick in the gut."
The premiere opens with a musical number, the second the show has done. ("There would be a musical element in every episode if I had my way," Driver says.) Last season contained a parody of Willy Wonka's "I've Got a Golden Ticket" performed by Driver in a fantasy sequence, and Season 3 is indulging in fantasy again with fake opening credits for an '80s sitcom about the DiMeos crashing at Kenneth's (Cedric Yarbrough) house. Driver and Yarbrough sing a lovely duet about how no one can agree on a temperature for the thermostat. She says the show is planning to do a full musical episode sometime this season, so stay tuned for that.
Speechless Season 3 premieres Friday, Oct. 5 at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.