When building out a truly lived-in friendship onscreen, it’s easier to tap into fact instead of fiction.
The ensemble cast for Prime Video’s reimagining of “A League of Their Own” fused the real-life stories behind the traveling baseball league formed in 1943 with the female friendships and queer love stories at the center of it all. “A League of Their Own” centers on Carson (Abbi Jacobson), a catcher who runs away from her marriage and tries to untangle her sexual identity with the help of Greta (D’Arcy Carden), a charismatic and seductively empowered new teammate.
Meanwhile, in racially-segregated Rockford, Illinois, all-star player Max (Chanté Adams) is seeking a team to play on, while pal Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo) supports Max’s similar journey to sexual self-discovery.
During the Tribeca Festival premiere Q&A for the series, star, showrunner, co-creator, and executive producer Jacobson gushed over how Carden, her real-life friend of 15-plus years, brought her own swagger to Greta’s powerhouse persona. Yet Carden clarified to IndieWire that transforming into Greta was more than just donning a 1940s baseball uniform.
“It’s funny, Abbi has been saying that,” Carden said. “Abbi says like ‘Greta is D’arcy, D’arcy is Greta.’ In our real lives I’ll do something and she’ll say, ‘That’s Greta!’ And on set I’d be doing something and she’d be like, ‘That’s D’arcy!’ But I don’t see that as much, and when I think of Greta, I think like, ‘How do I play this gal?’ I think of it more as a stretch. She’s seeing something different. But I know there are some things that work both as Greta as D’Arcy, especially my relationship with Abbi.
“I’ve known Abbi for 15 years and she’s one of my closest friends and one of the things I like to do to her the most is make her uncomfortable,” Carden continued. “I like to get too close to her and I like to grab her. I like to make her be like, ‘D’Arce, stop!’ So that was an easy thing to bring to the Greta-Carson relationship. I know how to get Abbi’s uncomfortable laugh out so sometimes, as Greta, I would lean into that.”
The season initially seems to pit Greta as a spirit guide for Carson, sharing her first kiss with a woman in the pilot episode. However as the series unfolds, it’s not just Greta “showing Carson the way” anymore.
“I think that’s something that Greta takes pride in. But then I think along the way, something changes,” Carden continued. “Obviously Greta is way more experienced than Carson in a million different ways. But Greta has shut off this part of her that is vulnerable and innocent and open-eyed and she’s sort of like, ‘I’m in charge and I’m going to show you the way to do things and I’m going to tell you how to do it.’ This is what works in her life, in all respects. And Carson, she sort of takes Greta back in time to almost feeling young love, like a teenager, and all these things that Greta has learned to make her into this hardened survivor, she lets go of them a little bit.”
And the on-set sisterhood didn’t stop with Jacobson and Carden. From a cast member group text chat (“Our text thread is goddamn every day!”) to watching other friendships unfold on set, Carden detailed the dynamics behind the scenes. Carden’s co-star Melanie Field, who plays Jo in the series, brought the same closeness to the screen after an immediate connection with Carden during casting.
“That was truly instant in that chemistry read,” Carden explained. “Whatever we found in that audition carried us through that whole season.”
Looking to the other stars of the series, Carden couldn’t help but applaud the “lived in” friendship between Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo) and Max (Chanté Adams).
“There’s something about those types of best friends that are like your sister, like your soulmate, and there’s a little bit of bad habits formed over the years,” Carden shared. “I really felt that Max and Clance had that. I recognized it. This is a friendship that I know and love.”
Gbemisola Ikumelo, a series standout as Clance, told IndieWire that she knew she had to sign on for the series right from the initial script. “I sorted of claimed it and metaphorically peed all over it,” Ikumelo joked. “I just declared this my role because I love Clance so much.”
And like Jacobson and Carden, Ikumelo’s “ride or die” co-star Adams is convinced the “Road House” actress is more like Clance than she realizes.
“I don’t necessarily see all of it but I definitely connect with her quirky sort of outsider-ness,” Ikumelo said. “I felt she feels quite ahead of the curve for her time. I just love that I get to play a Black comic book nerd. I find that really exciting seeing that in that era. I think there’s that thing as actors, you find bits of yourself to put into the character and a bit of the character might leave imprints on you. So by the end of it you’re like, ‘Maybe I am my character, I’m not sure.’ That’s when you know you’ve nailed it.”
“A League of Their Own” is now streaming on Prime Video.