Cricket Melfi is a star. She knows it. Her husband Jann knows it. And soon the world will… well, at least Cricket and Jann know it.
This is the central truth of Quibi’s short-form comedy “Flipped,” which features Kaitlin Olson and Will Forte as a slightly-delusional couple whose dreams of becoming the next Chip and Joanna Gaines results in them running afoul of a drug cartel. The series, like so many of Quibi’s shows, boasts a host of Hollywood luminaries, including Arturo Castro, Andy Garcia, and Eva Longoria, but in a cast littered with stars, it’s Olson (and Cricket) that shine brightest. (And not just because of the latter’s penchant for sequins.)
And thanks to her efforts on “Flipped,” after 15 years spent perfecting her role as “Sweet Dee” Reynolds on FXX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and two seasons spent in a headlining turn on Fox’s “The Mick,” Olson has another new role to play: Emmy nominee.
Olson was as surprised as anyone to learn of her Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series, but maybe not for the reasons you might expect. “The Emmy nominations were so not on my radar,” Olson admitted in a recent phone interview with IndieWire, “partly because I’m in full quarantine life, partly because I didn’t realize that Quibi shows were things on the Emmy’s radar, and I think mostly because I don’t think that I’m on the Emmy’s radar.”
The beleaguered billion-dollar streamer made a significant showing on Emmy nomination morning with its “quick bites” model, featuring abbreviated TV shows with episodes less than 10 minutes long. Quibi earned 10 nominations in short form categories, and took eight of the 10 available acting spots with their actors.
Olson first learned of the streamer when her agent reached out and informed her she was being offered an acting opportunity, one that involved Quibi pitching her.
“They said, ‘Jeffrey Katzenberg would really love you to do this project and it’s with Will Forte.’ So right away, I was like, “Uh, okay. I’m in,” she recalled. “And then I read the script and I thought it was such a great character. I loved that it was very different from Dee and Mickey.”
Though the business model has been challenged by quarantine, Olson immediately understood the appeal of creating content to consume in off-hours. “Just the idea of being able to take 10 minutes while you’re waiting to pick up your kids at school, or you have a little break at work, or you’re in a doctor’s office waiting for an appointment. Just having six to 10 minutes to watch something other than checking your social media was so exciting to me,” she said.
For Olson, part of the appeal of the nomination is that it came for playing a character that felt like such a departure from the one she’s known for, and she spoke lovingly of Cricket’s high energy and butterfly-like hopefulness.
“The over-confidence with zero evidence to back up why she should be confident was so exciting to me,” Olson said. “I just love this woman who has just decided she’s amazing at something with zero feedback to support that. It’s such a funny quality to me. Also, I love a character who is so sweet and nice, and nice, and nice, and nice, and then just snaps. That’s really fun.”
Also appealing about taking on “Flipped” was the idea that the project still had plenty of room for improv. Olson said that while she and Forte never strayed too far from the script, if there was something they thought of in the moment, they would throw it in.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do a project where someone tells me, ‘You’re not allowed to do that.’ I would just be like, ‘Okay. Find someone else,'” she explained. On “Flipped,” she used both her facility at both improv and sketch comedy. “I never like to crossover into cartoon, fake person lane, but Cricket was definitely more in the sketch comedy vibe,” she said.
Given Olson’s penchant for hilarity at all costs, it’s no surprise that her first response to the nomination news took a comedic bent. And given that the actress has been in lockdown for months on end with “Sunny” co-star and husband Rob McElhenney, as well as their two young sons, it’s no wonder the Emmys weren’t on her radar. “Lockdown has really great, but again, that’s the other reason I was really blindsided. I forgot that I ever had a job, I feel like I’ve just been full-time, zero breaks, mom to two very little boys who don’t want to play with anyone but me, for two years,” she joked.
“My first thought honestly was, ‘This is hilarious. I can’t wait to tell Rob that I got nominated for something that’s not “Sunny.”‘ And it was really only when he was genuinely excited for me and proud of me that I was like, ‘Oh, right. I guess not everything has to be a joke. This is cool,'” Olson said.
“It was just a very strange response all around,” she continued. “I texted my mom and dad, literally, in the middle of making eggs, like, ‘Hey, I got nominated for an Emmy for ‘Flipped’ and they immediately FaceTimed me, freaking out.”
But now that a little time has passed, Olson has to admit that the enthusiasm around her nomination has been contagious.
“Now that I’ve decided to take it seriously, I’m really excited.”