Before making it as a successful playwright, Lesley Headland worked as an assistant in the office trenches of film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Her taxing experience meeting the office’s incessant demands inspired the 2012 off-Broadway hit Assistance. Now however Headland is in a position to call the shots herself: NBC is adapting the play for TV, with filming on the pilot beginning next week.
“Once you’ve been an assistant, it totally changes the way you treat people who are doing the grunt work,” Headland told Broadway.com of preparing for the project. The series will star Krysten Ritter as Norah, an ambitious young woman attempting to further her career while working for a tyrannical film executive. “She’s an actress I wanted to work with for a really long time,” Headland said of the former Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 star. “She’s brilliant, beautiful and incredible, but also because like myself she’s gone from theater to film to television and back again.” Tony nominee Alfred Molina is also rumored to join the project as Norah’s overbearing boss.
Though Headland has plenty of her own memories to pull from, she isn’t basing the character of Norah off herself. “She’s so much more of a wish-fulfiller kind of assistant than I was,” she said. “It’s kind of a great way to go back and go, ‘I wish I did this.’ Headland is also open to changing the play’s format for TV. “It’s funny, I don’t really have a lot of respect for my own writing. It’s like, ‘Let’s see what kind of television show these characters want to live in, and let’s let them breathe.’ That’s fun for me.”
Even if the series strays from its source material, Headland hopes fans of the play will still identify with its theme of ambition. “It’s really about how you move up and go from being somebody with a dream to someone executing that dream. That was really my story. I want people to tune in and relate with the characters, because everybody has a moment where they hate their job.”
With Assistance prepping to begin production, Headland already has a successful screen adaptation of one of her play’s under her belt: the film version of Bachelorette hits DVD on March 19. “It’s a little scary how many times people have come up to me and said, “Aw man, I had a night that was just like that,” she said of the raunchy girls’ night out comedy. The film stars Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher as not so ideal bridesmaids more concernced with their own problems than their friend's nuptials. “We we’re having the best time, and that’s why we got such great performances," Headland said of filming. "People are willing to go to some darker and edgier areas when there’s intimacy and you’re just having a great time. You don’t even realize you’re doing it until you cut the movie, send it out into the world and everyone’s like, 'Jesus Christ! What’s wrong with you?'” Headland said with a laugh. “My mom was like, “Oh, Leslye, come on. Pull it together.”