Local viewers will get their first look at “Work in Progress,” a Showtime comedy series now shooting in Chicago, during a sold-out screening Saturday during the 2019 Reeling LGBTQ Film Festival.
The series pilot will be screened at noon Saturday at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St. Afterward, creators Abby McEnany and Tim Mason — both Chicago improv alumni — will discuss the project on a panel alongside guest star Theo Germaine, who plays McEnany’s love interest in the show.
“It’s a coming-of-age story about a 45-year-old queer dyke who’s depressed and given herself 180 days to decide if it’s worth it to continue living,” said McEnany, who just finished her sixth week of filming. “But in the first episode, she starts dating a young trans man, which provides her some hope and a new look at life.”
The eight-episode comedy series is based on solo storytelling shows she used to perform across Chicago. It premieres on Dec. 8.
Showtime picked up the series in January after McEnany and Mason, who is also director and executive producer, presented the pilot at the Sundance Film Festival. Lilly Wachowski, filmmaker behind “The Matrix” and Netflix series “Sense8,” is also an executive producer.
McEnany said that Wachowski, who came out as transgender in 2016, agreed that the production should cast as many trans and queer people as possible. She helped organize a queer day of casting so that LGBTQ people who have never had the opportunity to audition could come in and do so.
“We had an amazing response,” McEnany said. “Lilly has this power and vision to change the world, and she’s given us the license to do so.”
The show, which takes place in Chicago, also cast locally trained actors Karin Anglin and Celeste Pechous.
“Work in Progress” also features Julia Sweeney, whose ’90s “Saturday Night Live” character Pat is a source of trauma for McEnany and her character, Abby. McEnany said bullies often called her Pat due to the character’s androgynous appearance and ambiguous gender identity.
“I joke that Julia Sweeney ruined my life, but she’s really one of the most amazing people and we’re dear friends,” McEnany said
McEnany said that the show uses comedy to destigmatize difficult topics like depression and other mental illness, suicidal ideation, fatphobia, family issues, gender, sexuality and bigotry.
“There are times where it feels really hopeless for queer people, and I’m trying to create a conversation so we can learn from it,” McEnany said. “I also want to be very clear that I have no shame about my mental illness because I think so many people are ashamed of it and they shouldn’t.”