Catherine Reitman on working through infidelity on Workin' Moms
'I think that staying with your partner, regardless of your history, is challenging.'
In one of the final scenes of the Season 3 finale of Workin' Moms, Catherine Reitman's character, Kate, is walking down a Toronto street with her husband, Nathan, Reitman's real life husband and producing partner, played by Philip Sternberg. They have their two very young onscreen children in tow, Kate's just pulled off an incredible pitch for her advertising company while still managing to get one of her kids into a (very) homemade Halloween costume for his school costume contest.
"I know I'm not exactly Betty Draper"
"Thank god for that."
"Cuz it's not too late to pull the ripcord on this thing, you know, find yourself an easy breezy homemaker who returns tupperware after it's lent to her."
"I don't want that. I mean, maybe I did, I don't know. Not anymore. I just want you"
And so do we. The last three seasons of Workin' Moms has woven together the stories of four women who have ambitious careers, families and relationships. It's a balancing act that the incredible Catherine Reitman is familiar with. As a mom, but also the star, creator, writer, producer — and the director of several episodes — of the series, Reitman is used to excelling in many roles. The show tackles everything from breastfeeding at work, to parenting a teenage daughter, to gender equality in the workplace and personal career growth — all while being funny.
Just one scene later Kate's character is faced with choosing between her husband, Nathan, and her new lover and business partner, Mike. It's the kind of complicated decision that makes the show so addictive. At the end of Season 2, we find out that Nathan's been having an affair with Anne's nanny, lovingly nicknamed "Mean Nanny". Kate's character arc in Season 3 explores the themes of infidelity and betrayal, while still being mostly about her success and identity. Kate forms some interesting new relationships, including potential new business and romantic partner Mike. I asked Reitman about writing this storyline. "We thought there was this fork in the road, and we thought the fork in the road was great because whether it was Nathan, who she has children with, or Mike, who she has business partners with, there are repercussions to this choice." So, how did they decide what direction to take the story? Reitman says they talked about "which repercussions would be funnier and more interesting and motivating for our character, and which choice would actually be more emotionally challenging".
Tonight's Workin' Moms Season 4 premiere at 9:30 p.m. (10 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem will reveal the choice they made. Meanwhile, I got more insight into the making of this wonderfully complex show from Reitman.
What made you want to explore the theme of the aftermath of infidelity and new beginnings in the last season?
I think most married women, particularly who have children, who I speak to, talk about that moment, meaning: If you were given the moment, the opportunity, to start over, to start fresh, to make different choices now that you're later in your life and you know what you didn't know back then — would you take it? What would it look like? And if you had children with someone else how would that get messier? Which is the story of many women I know.
There's an Esther Perel quote: "It used to be divorce that carried all the stigma. Now it's choosing to stay when you can leave, that is the new shame." Thinking about that, and without spoilers, can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming season and your character's decision?
I think that staying with your partner, regardless of your history, is challenging. Particularly when you have kids. But if there is an infidelity, there's not just the judgment you're going to feel toward yourself and your partner who you are re-accepting back, if you choose to, but you also have this circle of friends and co-workers who are invested in your life. And unlike most TV shows, where all friends seem to exist for the sole purpose of cheerleading and supporting the protagonist, I think most people in real life have their own motivations, and their own fears. If my best friend wanted to go back to a cheater, I'd be nervous about it, I would express that. So that felt like a very realistic take on normal life.
Can you talk a little bit about the portrayal of the male characters and how you think about them in the context of the female-driven stories?
Portraying men as one-dimensional was never my interest, and never something I've been accused of, but it's very important to me to show the kind of men that I was raised around — my father, my husband, my cousins, my male friends. I have so many male friends who are incredible allies, not just feminists but compassionate to our tale and wanting to further my development. So, to me it's important to show that both can exist. There can be putzes out there, because they certainly exist and they certainly exist on our show, as well as incredible male figures.
If we think about betrayal and identity being the focus of last season, what would you say are some of the headlines for this season?
I think there aren't too many headlines I can give without spoiling, so I'll just say, I think Season 4 is a great answer to the questions that have come up in Season 3. I think we slam home and satiate the audience in a way that we believe will be very satisfying. But there are also new questions that will arise. I mean, our characters get in deeper than they ever have, there are more complicated relationships, these kids are getting older, which as anyone who knows with kids who get older — it gets only more complicated. But I think it's a really fun season. It's a bottle rocket, it's only eight episodes long, so we really pack 'em.
Workin' Moms Season 4 premieres Tuesday, February 18 at 9:30 p.m. (10 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem.