Miriam Shor
Miriam Shor

Actress Miriam Shor has a bold personality punctuated by dry wit and fearless opinions. She and I had a blast dissecting the social message veiled behind the brightly hued humor of ABC’s new water cooler show, GCB.

GCB stars Shor, Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Bibb, Annie Potts, Marisol Nichols and Jennifer Aspen as six larger-than-life southern Christian women who love the Lord, and their Louboutins.

Though ABC declined to keep GCB’s original literary namesake, Good Christian Bitches (Hyperion Books, 2008), as the show’s official title, its acronym seems to be sufficient in getting the point across and creating some healthy controversy among viewers and the media.

In truth, GCB appears to brilliantly explore the wide chasm that develops when literal, divine Christianity and human foibles manage to cross paths and wreak havoc. GCB manages this theme with the backdrop of wealthy southern women who were raised in the church, but fall prey to the gossip and catty nature of small town living and one-upping the Jones’s of Dallas’s privileged Highland Park neighborhood. The result is high comedy and a breakout role for New York theatre-bred actress, Miriam Shor, who plays powerful Dallas socialite, Cricket Caruth-Reilly.

Some television critics are referring to GCB as the anti-Wisteria Lane, while Entertainment Weekly proclaims that GCB brings television’s “Housewives” theme to a whole new level as it “crank[s] up the crazy.” Either way, GCB has people talking, which is exactly what a show this audacious and unapologetic is designed to do. Where the conversation goes remains to be seen, but Miriam Shor relishes the thought of GCB’s laugh-out-loud lesson in hypocrisy resonating with viewers.

PR.com (Allison Kugel): I’ve been watching the previews for GCB and I think it is such a brilliant and brave show.

Miriam Shor: It’s subtle right? (Laughs). I’m just kidding. It’s about as over the top as you can get.

PR.com: Is the show’s full title Good Christian Bitches or Good Christian Belles?

Miriam Shor: It is GCB; it’s just easier to text. There’s a book called Good Christian Bitches which is what the show is based on. That was the working title, but I think they knew it wasn’t going to fly. The juxtaposition of “Christian” and “bitches” creates a verbal tension that is really interesting and has an impact immediately, but obviously it has a negative impact on a lot of people. ABC knew they couldn’t keep [that title], so then they went with Good Christian Belles. But then [our writer] Robert Harling said, “That’s not really right, because these women in Texas, they’re not really Christian belles. They’re a different kind of Christian woman.” So now it’s GCB. It stands for whatever you want it to stand for.

PR.com: It’s sort of a wink and a nod.

Miriam Shor: I think so. I think they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too, and I think they did a good job. There’s no shortage of shows with titles made up of just letters: CSI, NCIS… though we don’t solve crimes.

PR.com: Although, your show is likely to have some girl on girl crime.

Miriam Shor: Exactly. Emotional crimes, and the arena is the church.

Kristin Chenoweth, Miriam Shor & Marisol Nichols in GCB
Kristin Chenoweth, Miriam Shor & Marisol Nichols in GCB

PR.com: It seems the show will use comedy to explore the hypocrisy that’s prevalent among some bible-belt Christians.

Miriam Shor: Spot on. It explores all hypocrisy, actually. These people espouse to being Christians, and in their words they are but in their behavior they’re not. The parameters they’ve set up for themselves are the parameters set up by Christianity, and then how do they live within those parameters and still get what they want? Because they are human beings and they’re fallible, the humor comes from watching them try to negotiate that. And duplicitousness and hypocrisy, why not serve that up?

PR.com: What kind of response are you expecting from Christian groups?

Miriam Shor: Right away there was quite a big backlash from people because of the title. They were very offended by that and I understood it. I understand being offended, by just the word “bitch,” being a feminist. I understand people getting their hackles up. Certain people feel like they’re under attack, and maybe they are, and I understand the sensitivity there. Kristin Chenoweth is a Christian and she’s from Oklahoma; she’s from that area. And she kept saying while we were filming (with a put-on Southern drawl), “Oh maah God, ah know these women, ah know this!” And I was like, “Oh My God, this is so foreign to me!” Not the hypocrisy, obviously, that’s universal. Any corner of the earth you’re going to find that.

PR.com: I was just going to ask which of you ladies in the GCB cast actually come from Southern Christian roots, and were able to bring that firsthand insight to the characters.

Miriam Shor: Annie Potts is from the south and Leslie Bibb is from the south. Marisol Nichols and I are Yankees, big time. We went to Dallas to shoot the pilot and we got to do the research. There is a specific part of Dallas that we went to, called Highland Park, which is very wealthy and very devout in their own way. These people are larger-than-life. There’s a go big or go home [mentality], and I don’t think they shrink from that, they embrace it.

PR.com: The characters from GCB look so deliciously flawed, like they are great fun to play.

Miriam Shor: Super fun to play and really well written. Pilots are so hard because you have to fit so much information into one episode, and start the ball rolling for however long it goes. The writer’s took it to a great place. Just when you think you know each character you learn something new that’s surprising. We also don’t shy away from hugeness: hugeness of hair, hugeness of jewelry.

PR.com: What’s your own religious and cultural upbringing?

Miriam Shor & Mark Deklin in GCB
Miriam Shor & Mark Deklin in GCB

Miriam Shor: I like to say I’m Jew-ish, because I’m half Jewish but not really religious, but that’s sort of the culture. I went back and forth between Detroit and Italy when I was growing up. The Southern Christianity is very “other” for me. But, we’re still talking about people. I think everyone can identify on some level. Certainly all people identify with the need to protect what is dear to you, and the fierceness in my character comes from that. I can certainly identify with that. I have a daughter and a husband, and I am incredibly protective of them. If anything threatened them I would absolutely fight for it.

PR.com: Would you say that your character is a mean girl?

Miriam Shor: Cricket Caruth-Reilly, which is, c’mon, what a fantastic name?! She always introduces herself with her full name. She’s that kind of person (laughs). She’s a very powerful and wealthy woman and owns multi-million dollar corporations. She’s very powerful in a man’s world and has a set of balls. Not literally. This isn’t a secret I’m sharing with you.

PR.com: You’re not giving me an exclusive here (laughs).

Miriam Shor: Yeah, it’s not an exclusive (laughs), but she fought to get where she was. In high school she also had to fight to get where she was. Amanda Vaughn, the character Leslie Bibb plays, shot her down continuously. [Amanda] told everyone she had herpes, stole her boyfriend, and made her life miserable. So she was not the queen bee in high school. Cricket clawed her way up to the top to where she’s gotten to, and she has this delicate house of cards built around her, and this persona she’s created for herself. So when Amanda Vaughn comes back [to town], Cricket is terribly threatened. She also has an important secret which is that her husband, whom she loves and they have the perfect relationship, also happens to be gay. What I love about the way the writers dealt with that is that they didn’t go the typical way with it. They instead created this relationship between Cricket and her husband where there’s a true love there and a friendship, and a genuine connection that’s maybe the only genuine connection in her life.

PR.com: That’s interesting. It’s not a sexual and romantic connection, but there’s a real love in the marriage.

Miriam Shor: Exactly. It’s a partnership and they both have this facade that they’ve created that they have to live with, and they both have each other.

PR.com: From what it looks like, these GCB characters are very externally driven. They’re very much about what they have, how they look and how they’re perceived. People with big egos are just always funny to the outside observer.

Miriam Shor: And you can’t keep that many plates spinning. When you create that kind of a facade it’s going to crack and your humanity is going to come through. With good writing you’re going to see it, and that’s what makes you care about what they’re going through, and also laugh at them. Even though the story is huge and larger-than-life, I think one of Bobby Harling’s strengths as a writer, and all of the other [GCB] writers as well, is he can live in that world really comfortably and then serve up this beautiful moment of humanity that gets at you. He’s kind of a genius; not kind of, he’s definitely a genius.

Kristin Chenoweth & Miriam Shor in GCB
Kristin Chenoweth & Miriam Shor in GCB

PR.com: To me, the real heyday of television was back in the days when they used sitcoms to educate, and they encouraged societal growth through comedy. Back in the days of All In The Family and The Jeffersons, for example, they examined racial inequality and cultural divides and they did it in a way where the characters were still endearing to the viewing public.

Miriam Shor: I feel that good comedy comes from tension and from truth. When you have those two things, if you have a smart enough writer, you can create good comedy and make it resonate. And you’re absolutely right. Those shows did exactly that. There was the height of silliness going on there, but there was something else going on there; [issues] that people were talking about at the time. And the idea of hypocrisy is huge. People who are very wealthy and are able to set up this facade for themselves and this holier-than-though attitude, the calling to roost for them will be interesting to watch. I’m always fascinated by someone who can stand there and be holier-than-though, because my way of dealing with things is self-deprecation.

PR.com: I’ve always felt that the self-deprecating person is more confident and self-assured than the holier-than-though person.

Miriam Shor: It could also be that being Jewish, I’m going to make the joke first. I’m gonna make the funny first and then I’m done, so where are you gonna go? But I do kind of wear my heart on my sleeve and just blab whatever comes into my head, so it’s interesting to play someone who is controlled, and controlling enough to plot. That’s what amazed me about Cricket; she can assess a situation and plot. And certainly the clothes, the jewels, the shoes, the hair… everything helps because you’re so carefully put together. I always say that it’s their armor, and they’re going to battle. Fifteen pounds of jewelry, and the makeup, and the chicken cutlets, and they go into battle.

PR.com: You mean the chicken cutlets for the boobies?

Miriam Shor: In the boobies, yeah. Oh, we can’t live without those. Those are a girl’s best friend. I don’t know if that’s the official name for them, though. But yeah, it’s their armor, and then the church, that’s where all of the gladiators meet.

PR.com: I think it’s long overdue that television, or society as a whole, begins to explore what it means to have “good Christian values.”

Miriam Shor: I don’t think hypocrisy is limited to Christianity, nor do I think it’s limited to religion. This sense of higher morality and this sense of knowing what’s right, and knowing what’s right for you, and I can tell you how to live your life. That is not limited to just Christianity and it happens to be what’s going on right now in our country (laughs). But there are certainly other countries where that is happening, and it has nothing to do with Christianity. It’s just human and it’s in every society. It’s interesting to look at it and examine it, and the best way to examine it is through humor, because we’re all tired and we just want to be entertained (laughs).

PR.com: After a long day, you’re absolutely right. It’s so true.

Marisol Nichols, Miriam Shor, Kristin Chenoweth & Jennifer Aspen in GCB
Marisol Nichols, Miriam Shor, Kristin Chenoweth & Jennifer Aspen in GCB

Miriam Shor: At the end of the day I’m just [exhausted] and The Daily Show, it does it all for me. It makes me laugh hysterically, but it also allows me to think about what’s going on. Our show is The Daily Show in drag. No, I’m kidding. I do feel like I’m in drag though, I’m not going to lie. I know drag queens who take a lot less time to get ready than I do to get ready for our show.

PR.com: It’s that over-the-top everything is bigger in Texas look.

Miriam Shor: It is that, but it’s also about creating this perfect person. The drag queens have a persona in mind that they create, and so do these women. They’re very meticulous about it, and it’s everything to them.

PR.com: GCB has an amazing creative team behind it. You were talking about one of the show’s writers before, Robert Harling, who also wrote Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club.

Miriam Shor: Steel Magnolias, First Wives Club, Soapdish… he has a keen understanding of female relationships and the humor that’s there. He understands the kernel of truth that’s there, too. I was thinking about my character’s relationship with Kristin Chenoweth’s character, Carlene. There is a rivalry that shows up between Carlene and I that involves singing, which is hilarious. But they’ve been together since high school, probably even earlier. They’ve all gone to church together since they were babies so they are sisters, yet they feel that they are in a world that pits them against each other.

PR.com: I was instantly drawn in to this show as soon as I watched the first GCB promo trailer. People who are overly focused on the exterior and on gaining outside approval based on how the world perceives them, those people intrigue me.

Miriam Shor: And there’s so much fear there, which is also one of the ingredients for the recipe of hilarity.

PR.com: GCB also has a cast of incredibly talented actors. Kristin Chenoweth comes from a strong musical theatre background; Annie Potts is a television and film veteran; you also have your background in New York theatre. With such strong talent, does the comic timing run like a well-oiled machine?

Miriam Shor: What I appreciate with this show and what is really rare in my experience with any project, Bobby [Harling] will come into the makeup room and just chat with us. We would have a conversation and laugh, and then we would see that [moment] written into the next episode. He’s always open to whatever suggestions we have. There have been times when I’ve been on projects where they’re like, “You’re the little actor and just go over there and do your little thing. Say your lines and shut up, otherwise.” There are really strong comedic actors on this show, and it’s just smart to let them play on their strengths and give suggestions. The show just got better and better because there was more inclusion for the actors.

PR.com: How many episodes of GCB were shot so far, and how many episodes will we see in this first season?

Miriam Shor: We shot ten episodes. They’re going to air the ten episodes and then it’s up to Mr. and Mrs. Nielson, whoever the hell they are!

Miriam Shor
Miriam Shor

PR.com: Who actually has a Nielson box? Do you know anyone with a Nielson box in their home?

Miriam Shor: I do not know a single person who has one.

PR.com: There is so much buzz around GCB and I think it’s because there are so many fun little hot buttons going off there.

Miriam Shor: It’s interesting to me when people don’t want to explore something. The amount of violence that’s on television, that’s not a problem. Let’s watch a show about an eight year old being raped, but my God, we cannot talk about Christianity.

PR.com: I’m certainly interested to see how GCB plays with the American public. How will people react to it? And can people lighten up and laugh, not just at other people, but also at themselves.

Miriam Shor: I hope so. And the women I met down [in Dallas] can absolutely laugh at themselves, and were delightful. I’m giving those women credit. I think they can take the joke. And I like a person who can laugh at themselves, because lord knows I do. We’re not laughing at Christianity. That’s pretty clear in the show’s writing, that we’re not making fun of Christianity at all. It’s actually making fun of hypocrisy. Christianity is treated with a great deal of respect.

PR.com: Right. It’s making fun of the compartmentalization of, “I’m this way when I’m in church, but I’m this other way in a social situation or in my everyday life.”

Miriam Shor: It’s duplicity, and that’s what’s interesting.

“GCB” airs Sundays at 10PM/9c on ABC. Follow GCB on Twitter @GCB.