Stefan Golaszewski wrote two of the BBC’s best comedies of recent years. Him & She took the viewers into the life of 20-somethings Steve and Becky cramped in their apartment in London.
Mom – starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Wire) – pulls in viewers with its painfully tentative romance between the recently widowed, Cathy and former friend, Michael.
Golaszewski, says the ambition is to change the way female characters are written to the screen.
He grew up in Chingford, London, in the north-east of the city. Until now, his work has strayed from there only rarely.
Up to his last series, Him & It does not move the small flat the central characters shared in Walthamstow. The first two sets of Mother were set close by, in leafier Chingford (if the show from the outside are actually filmed in Croxley Green in Hertfordshire).
At the age of 37, Golaszewski is now a Hertfordshire resident himself, moving recently to Harpenden with his wife and two small children.
Golaszewski said he is often frustrated by the way the TV portrays female characters.
“After Him, & Him four years ago, I’ve written a few other pieces, but I’m back to the comedy of situation again. As a structure and a format that it can contain a lot of popularity. But by the nature of the topics that you explore it has the ability of depth.
“When I started to write Him & It got me interested in the structure of each episode, but these days with Mom, I am more and more caught up in the structure of the whole series. I am looking along the arc a lot more interesting.
“One of the ideas behind the Mum was that I think the way TV and society in general – presents and, for women of a certain age does not seem to conform to the truth. I wanted to look at someone who is reaching a stage of life where our culture would be probably be considered as washed. But why should they be?
“It’s always bothered me and, in a different way, there was also in the character of Becky She & Him (played by Sarah Solemani).
“Becky was my deliberate attempt to the portrait of a young woman who was sexually interested by desire not need. It has an asset that is not a problem. In fact, it has often been her boyfriend Steve (Russell Tovey) that could appear less confident. I was in the process of undermining the traditional manner, this relationship can be written.”
Golaszewski, says Mom (already recommissioned for the third and last of the series) who is trying to be realistic about the fall in love.
“Every time you watch a movie or a drama, the truth is often short-changed essentially for the good of the plot. On the screen people fall in love incredibly easily and very quickly. In fact, it is terribly difficult. But I’m interested in the minutiae of falling in love: I wanted to watch it happen in a glacial age.”
He says that he has always wanted to Manville in the role of the woman who loses her husband in his 50s. “I saw Lesley in the film Another Year (written and directed by Mike Leigh) and I was completely blown away. When Lesley said ” yes, we have been able to build our superb distribution around it. I know it’s a clichÃ©, but while we are filming, it is that we are family.”
Most of the humour in the series does not come directly from Cathy or Michael (played by Peter Mullan): there is a lurking tragedy in the way that they seem to be unable to express their desire for each other. So far Cathy has stoically accepted his family’s apparent blindness to his need for love.
But Golaszewski says that he always bears in mind the expectations of the public and comedy.
“Well, some Mom’s it is the other characters are deliberately written more. You have great parents (played by Karl Johnson and Marlene Sidaway), which can show an edge of the grotesque. But as the story progresses, I hope that I explain the root of certain behaviors that you see on the screen.”
He had another ambition with Mom. “I really wanted to study the relationship between a woman and her daughter-in-law. It is a basic element of the life of the family and really an interesting dynamic. But almost no one writes about it.
“For me, it is important that my writing is about kindness and understanding. It is about the nuance of unity and not separation. I am trying to write about things that bring us together.”
Mid-way through the arc of the Mom, Golaszewski is to keep silent on what will happen in the series finale, he is busy writing. “I sit down at nine to write, and then go out and get some exercise at lunch time. And then I write again until about 5.30. And I don’t write on the weekends or holidays.”
With the final series of Him And Her, he took the drastic measure of dropping the characters in a totally new situation – a hellish, but quite hilarious wedding ceremony with its chaotic. But is he aware of the fact that with Mum some viewers are now close to shouting at Cathy and Michael to get it before it is too late and the series ends?
“I lead a relatively hermetic existence in the home with my wife and my children. I am always surprised to find someone is watching. The cast is more recognizable, of course, and after a series they have told me stories about the things that people say in the street. But you have to write what is in your own head.”
Golaszewski has also led the current series of Mom. He told the BBC have been supportive in allowing him to continue his vision. “We were allowed to make a pilot episode of the Mom, which is becoming scarce. I had a feeling where each of the characters is going to go and that the show is on. But a lot of detail comes in the writing: I take notes in my phone that I’m walking on.
“When I wrote the first series of Him, And I was 28 years old. It was the first thing I have written for tv and it is only by a series of three and four that I began to know what buttons to press. So now, I don’t panic so much if I find it, I can’t do it. Some days, I’m going to look at what I wrote the day before, and maybe I thought it was great, but I realize that it is terrible.
“In fact the reason for which something is impracticable is often what he has done seem attractive in the first place. As a writer, you can be seduced by the concept. But the concepts are not very useful when you try to write the truth about human beings.”
Mom is on BBC Two on Tuesdays and is also available on the BBC iPlayer.
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