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Showtime sitcom about life as a ‘queer dyke’ to shoot soon in Chicago

Abby McEnany, co-creator and star of ‘Work in Progress,’ says the enthusiastic response to her TV idea has been ‘bonkers.’

Two executive producers of “Work in Progress,” Lilly Wachowski (left) and Abby McEnany (also its star and co-creator), discuss the Showtime series Friday at the Beverly Hilton in California.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Chicago improv veteran Abby McEnany says her upcoming Showtime sitcom will deal with the issue that “permeates my life”: her gender status.

The show, “Work in Progress,” will premiere on Dec. 8, the cable network said Friday. Showtime describes the main character as a “queer dyke from Chicago” — which is exactly how McEnany describes herself.

Production is to begin later this summer in Chicago.

Appearing before TV critics on Friday, McEnany said she continues to struggle with living as a gender-nonconforming person, according to a Deadline report. Even at the site of the press event, the prestigious Beverly Hilton in California, she got a confused look from a woman in the ladies’ room.

“To be 51 and scared of using a public bathroom, confronted, stared at, it like permeates my life,” she said. “It’s rough. It’s a bummer.”

Showtime picked up the series based on a pilot McEnany and Mason presented at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a turn of events McEnany described as “bonkers.”

“Work in Progress” is based on solo shows she performed at Chicago theaters. Her fellow executive producers also are locals: improv and sketch actor Tim Mason (also the director) and filmmaker Lilly Wachowski, best known for creating and directing, with her sibling Lana, the three “Matrix” movies and the Netflix series “Sense8.”

Wachowski, who came out as a trans woman in 2016, also is contributing as a writer. “I’ll just continue to be a back seat driver, which I’m excellent at,” she told the reporters.

The “Work in Progress” cast includes Chicago-trained actors Karin Anglin and Celeste Pechous. McEnany’s character embarks on a romance with a younger trans man portrayed by part-time Chicagoan Theo Germaine.

Also in the cast is Julia Sweeney, the “Saturday Night Live” alum who lived for a decade in Wilmette. Sweeney’s classic ’90s “SNL” character Pat, a source of fascination for people unable to determine her sex, has been a source of frustration for McEnany.

“I never disliked her,” McEnany said. “I’ve been called Pat a lot, and in this storytelling show, one of the stories is that Julia Sweeney ruined my life. … I’m enamored and in awe of her, but yeah, Pat was really rough. I met her, she’s lovely and we talked a lot about Pat. I love her so much.”