In my review of Bad Mother #1, we meet April Walters who is a bad mother in so much as she loves her children and her husband and wants what’s best for them, even if that means putting her own hopes and dreams on the sidelines. With a life that’s down in the dumps, Christa Faust writes your typical suburban mom going through the motions — until her daughter, Taylor, is kidnapped and April discovers that there are some very bad things going on in her seemingly normal home town. Here, Faust takes a few moments to chat about Bad Mother, the five-part mini series from AWA Studios.
The elevator pitch for Bad Mother is a Walter White-esque suburban mom becomes Frank Castle to save her daughter from a crime syndicate. Having read the first two issues, it’s clear that there is far more depth that you want to bring to this crime thriller. Working from Axel Alonso’s original concept, what concepts did you bring to the table as you began to shape the project?
The most important thing for me going into this project was to avoid what I like to call the Sad Daddy cliché. In other words, a woman or girl is kidnapped/raped/killed and a man (often her father or a father-like figure) feels feelings about it. The victim is merely a pretty catalyst that gives the lone wolf hero a reason to learn kung fu and kick ass. Because this is such a pervasive archetype, I didn’t want to just do a simple, gender-flipped Sad Mommy story. I really wanted the character of Taylor, the teenage daughter, to have agency and be actively working to enable her own rescue.
I was also very attracted to the idea of a heroine with no prior combat skills who doesn’t need to become masculine in order to beat her adversaries. She’s able to use skills she already has, traditionally female skills that are often taken for granted in a society that puts very little value on homemaking and the never-ending emotional labor of raising a family. I like to joke that if April can pull off a successful birthday party for a dozen nine-year-olds with a wide range of complicated food allergies and esoteric parental requirements, staying one step ahead of a homicidal crime Queenpin is a walk in the playground.
Presumably, you haven’t personally been messing with a crime syndicate…, but how relatable is April to your own experience?
To be honest, I relate more to messing with a crime syndicate than being a suburban soccer mom. I’m child-free by choice and have lived a pretty wild life by conventional standards. That being said, I’m also a 51 year old woman living in our ferociously youth-obsessed culture. I’m fascinated by the way that women seem to disappear as we age, and how in April’s case that invisibility could also be a kind of superpower. It means a lot to me personally to be part of centering an older female character in the greater pop culture narrative. And I do think a lot of women will relate to her.
Describe your back and forth process with Mike Deodato Jr. Were you involved in the character design?
No, there wasn’t really any direct back and forth on this project and I didn’t have much of anything to do with character design. My only suggestion was that the cop character Elkland look like “a younger Stellan Skarsgård playing the perpetually annoyed high school principal in teen movie.” Which, uncannily, he kind of does.
Cell phones are an integral part of our lives now and you don’t shy away from making use of them to their fullest in this series. Why was it important to you to tell so much of the story in this way?
We wanted everything to feel as real and normal and mundane as possible. Like most of us, April’s day-to-day existence is one in which cell phones play an integral role. It made sense to take advantage of that and use it in the construction of the story.
In crime fiction circles, we constantly complain about how much harder it is to set thrillers and murder mysteries in this modern era of cell phones. There are so many classic crime fiction moments that would never happen today because of cell phones. Modern storytelling has to come up with a zillion clever excuses for why they can’t be used. It’s like the absurd excuses that were made for Jean Claude Van Damme’s accent in ’80s action flicks. He’s Cajun! He’s French Canadian! In Bad Mother, we leaned into the use of cell phones. We just let Jean Claude be Belgian.
Sister Pictures has expressed an interest in this story. How would you feel about seeing it on the big or little screen — do you have a preference?
I would love to see either one, but I think a series could give the characters more room to breathe and develop so the audience can really move in and live with them. This story is all about the slow burn and the intimate details of suburban life, rather than a more traditional, high-octane action movie tempo.
Let’s go a step further and do some fan casting. Who would you like to see playing your characters?
The obvious, big-fish dream choice for April would be Melissa McCarthy. She’s a no brainer for a character like this. An interesting dark horse option that I’ve thought about a lot recently is Merritt Wever. She might be on the younger side, but I think she would be amazing. Carla Gugino would be great for Ava, or maybe Amanda Peet. My pick for Taylor would be Sophia Lillis. Obviously Stellan Skarsgård is too old to play Elkland now, so maybe James Badge Dale? He really knocked me out in Hightown.
The second issue of Bad Mother will be out on September 9 where we’ll get to meet our Big Bad and see what Taylor has to say about her predicament.