Cast of Peacock’s ‘Girls5eva’ find acting, singing harmony

Rick's Reviews

The cast of the new Peacock series “Girls5eva” include (from left) Busy Phillipps, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Barellis and Paula Pell. (Photo courtesy of Peacock).

(KGET) — The team behind “Girls5eva” knew casting the roles for the new Peacock original comedy was not going to be easy. They not only had to find four actors who could handle comedy but they also needed to be able to sing well enough to make people believe in the story of a one-hit-wonder female group from the ‘90s having musical skills.

Tina Fey, the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star, is one of the executive producers for the new streaming service offering. She explains the original idea for the casting process was to concentrate on finding the right actors for the roles. If the worst case scenario happened where the cast members could not sing, that part could be faked.

There’s no faking going on with “Girls5eva” as the production team was able to put together a cast that could handle both the comedy and musical numbers. That includes: Grammy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Renée Elise Goldsberry; comedy icon Paula Pell; and author, actor, activist, writer and host Busy Philipps.

The key was the casting of Grammy Award-winner and Tony and Emmy Award-nominated singer Sara Bareilles. That set the tempo for finding the other cast members.

Fey says, “I had seen Sara in ‘Waitress’ (on Broadway) and I knew she was going to sound amazing. I thought she was just such a warm and present actress.  I was so impressed with her acting.  I said, ‘Let’s try to meet with Sara.’  And we did.”

“Once we had her name, I was like, ‘Do we try Renée?’  Then we were realizing like, oh we’re hitting the jackpot.  Let’s shoot for people who can all sing for real because it makes it so lovely and present, not just in full performance moments, but in scenes where people are rehearsing or working something out.  It’s so great when they just sing for a second and it’s real and it’s happening in real time.”

The comedy – slated to be available on Peacock starting May 6 – is loaded with musical moments as four of the five members of Girls5eva are brought together for what they think is a one-time special appearance with a young rapper who has sampled their work. That moment sparks interest in their music and the group members make the decision to give music another try despite being years older and having lives full of spouses, kids, jobs, debt, aging parents and weird body aches.

There’s a good reason the casting of Bareilles was the foundation for the comedy. The singer-songwriter, actress, author and producer has been a success in the music world since 2004 earning eight Grammy nominations. Her 2007 release, “Love Song,” earned her two Grammy Award nominations, including Song of the Year.

Along with composing the music and writing the lyrics for the 2015 Broadway musical “Waitress,” Bareilles earned a Tony nomination for her work in the 2016 Broadway musical “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Bareilles has been on TV as a judge on “The Sing-off” and playing Mary Magdalene in the live production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But, “Girls5eva” is her first continuing acting job on a TV series.

She says working on Broadway with “Waitress” prepared her for the rigorous schedule of doing a TV series. It’s a way of working she doesn’t think is ideal.

“I have to say, getting up at four in the morning on a regular basis is not my favorite thing, but sort of the discipline and the structure of theater,” Bareilles says. “People who are a part of the theater understand that and, certainly, the stamina of that.

“But this series, it’s like a dream fantasy. It’s comedy and music and female empowerment and stories about women with slightly heightened (lives), but based in reality.  All my favorite people are a part of this.  Just it’s been something out of a fantasy.”

Having a cast with musical skills proved invaluable. The first season of “Girls5eva” features two original full-length numbers and more than 200 songs that are 11 seconds in length.

And because this is a comedy, the songs have to be presented in a very specific manner. They must be performed as if they are being taken very seriously by the group and their fans despite being written as parodies of boy and girl-bands in the ‘90s.

Bareilles calls taking humorous material seriously the greatest job an actor can do.

“These women, our characters, are sort of going through the realization that the things they were singing as young women were maybe not so awesome,” Bareilles says. “But, they’re kind of coming into the space of finding their voice and finding their own empowered kind of presence of mind in what they choose to do.

“But, at the time, it was taken very seriously.”

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