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'Trophy Wife' is real life toned down a bit

Published October 4, 2013 4:30 pm

TV • Marrying a much older man with two ex-wives has a familiar ring for producer.
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If you think the premise of "Trophy Wife" seems contrived, it's not. Well, no more contrived than real life. Maybe less.

Yes, the ABC sitcom is about a young woman (Malin Ackerman) who marries a much-older man (Bradley Whitford) who has two ex-wives and three children. But it's actually somewhat toned down from reality.

"I have observed this syndrome by being it," said creator/writer/executive producer Sarah Haskins. "So the show is sort of very loosely based on my life."

After performing stand-up comedy in Chicago, Haskins moved to Los Angeles and, along with her writing partner, creator/executive producer Emily Halpern, began pitching TV scripts.

"One day we ran out of ideas, so I married my next-door neighbor, a man 20 years my senior with ex-wives and lots of children," Haskins said. "And we sort of realized this is too good to pass up. So it's very loosely based on my life and this experience of being a trophy wife, which I hope is a tongue-in-cheek experience for myself and my family also."

"Trophy Wife" centers on Kate (Malin Akerman), a 20-something party girl who marries a much-older man, Pete (Bradley Whitford), who's a lawyer. Pete has two ex-wives — uptight doctor Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) and ditzy Jackie (Michaela Watkins). Pete and Diane have twin teenagers, Hillary (Bailee Madison) and Warren (Ryan Lee). Pete and Jackie have an 8-year-old son, Bert (Albert Tsai), adopted from China.

It's relatable for Akerman; her mother and father have each been married "a few times" and she has "a lot of half-sisters and brothers and stepbrothers and sisters. I don't have ex-wives to deal with, but. …"

But she does have a lot of names to keep straight. Which she does. Right?

"Yeah," Ackerman said. "Sort of."

In real life, Haskins' husband has only two children, but he has three ex-wives.

"We didn't think America could accept that, so we just kept it at two," Haskins deadpanned.

Her husband is Geoffrey Edwards, the son of director Blake Edwards and his first wife, actress Patricia Walker, and stepson of Julie Andrews. One of his ex-wives is Denise Crosby ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"), the granddaughter of Bing Crosby.

Haskins is 34; Edwards is about to turn 54. Which means they do have different frames of reference.

"I mean, I knew about the Kennedy presidency," she joked. "He's seen a lot of movies I haven't seen, but I figure, well, I'll catch up. He and my mom can talk about 'Mary Tyler Moore.' That's not a slam. They do."

Her stepchildren are now 19 and 9, and Haskins has a 2½-year-old daughter.

"Trophy Wife" came out of Halpern and Haskins' brainstorming sessions. Not from the ideas that brainstormed, but from the conversations they had while trying to come up with ideas.

"We would wind up talking about some of Sarah's experiences often," Halpern said. "And maybe rather than come up with our own idea, we could just use that idea."

"It is loosely based," Haskins said. "I mean, these are characters. They are not the people in my life sort of put into action like puppets. So we did have some creative work to do."

But it comes from "a real place," Halpern said. Which is their way of working.

"When we first started working together, we wrote a screenplay about nerdy girls in high school," she said.

"Hard to believe now, I know," Haskins deadpanned.


Twitter: @ScottDPierce —

'Trophy Wife'

The new CBS sitcom airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 2.