Viewers of Louis C.K.’s great series “Louie” will notice that in the first episode of the new season, which premieres tomorrow, Thursday, June 28th at 10:30pm on FX, there’s a quiet but significant additon to the show — we finally get to meet Louie’s ex-wife.
Like the real life C.K., Louie is the divorced father of two kids — he shares custody of the girls with an ex who has so far stayed off screen while remaining a regular part of the character’s life. In “Something Is Wrong,” the season premiere, Louie calls Janet to arrange picking up their kids, and we see her answer, as played by actress Susan Kelechi Watson, who recently appeared in “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts.” On a press call today, C.K. explained his decision to introduce the character as part of his need to “do something that’s new to the show”:
The show needs to keep going, so I’m introducing new elements each year. The stories I wrote led me to her. The show has broken off into fiction much more in the last year and this year, so it’s really not drawing from my life anymore. This ex-wife character is completely not anything like my real ex-wife.
When I was drawing from my own life, I didn’t want to have the story be about an ex-husband and ex-wife — that relationship wasn’t what I wanted to write about. I arrived at a version of it for this character that I thought was good, this woman who’s well put-together and an added pressure to his life. And the actress was so good.
A lot of the stuff that we do on the show, I’m not sure I’m going to do it until I see who’s playing it. It’s part of having the freedom without a network where you have to run all the scripts and casting by people. I wrote the script with her in it and I had the casting people go look for someone, and I told them open it way up and just bring anybody. And I really liked what this woman did, so I decided to stick with the character.
That Watson is African-American and Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker, the child actresses playing her children with Louie, are white and blond didn’t really seem an issue to C.K.
To me, the racial thing is like — when people probably first see her, their brains do a little bit of DNA map and go “I’m not sure I get how that would happen,” and then I think with my show most people, they go “Oh, all right, just go ahead.” And then they watch the scene. The thing that’s important is what’s getting said.
I think that her performances are really compelling and I like what that character brings out in the stories and in me on the show. To me that trumped whatever… logistical notion. She’s really direct and very self-possessed. She’s got a great demeanor for somebody who’s moved on in life. That’s what she feels like to me. She’s moved on in life and she’s on a good new chapter. She looks like she’s in a better new chapter than me, as far as us having shared a chapter earlier. I think that’s a good contrast.