Inspired by the 1992 film A League of Their Own, a new eight-episode series of the same name is set to premiere on August 12, 2022, on Prime Video. Both projects depict the formation of a professional women's baseball team in 1943 but have different characters with unique storylines. The new series is from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television in association with Field Trip Productions.
The cast includes Abbi Jacobson from Comedy Central's Broad City, Emmy nominee for The Good Place D'Arcy Beth Carden and break-through performer Chante Adams.
Before a recent screening of the first episode at the historic Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford, Illinois, several members of the cast and creatives of A League of Their Own stopped on a green grass carpet to discuss the series and the legacy of the team.
The first person to tackle the step and repeat was an original All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player named Maybelle Blair. She explained that being a lesbian on the team was all underground including herself until after she came out at age 95. "I finally decided to come out and tell everyone that I was gay. I was afraid to come out with the possibility of being disowned. I wouldn't be able to get jobs or survive. I wouldn't have a chance because in our day there were only three positions for women, school teacher, secretary or nurse. We didn't have the opportunities that we have today. This show will open doors for our girls. I feel so much better when I did come out because I don't have to hide. I used to have to date men and put on long gowns with high heels.
"I did it all, believe me. I almost got married once. I knew it wasn't right because I would have ruined his life and my life. I was trying to please my family and it wouldn't have been right for him or me, so I backed out," Blair explained.
Chante Adams stated that her character Max was inspired by several of the team members of the Rockford Peaches, "The different personalities were combined to make Max. Hopefully, we can flesh her out more in season two. I did a lot of research on the women and I hope more women come forward with further information after this series debuts."
Adams spoke of the "complex journey" Max goes on throughout each episode. "We are really at the beginning for the character so I hope they give us another season. In season two I would like to see Max in love. Being able to tell stories of Black women at that time was an honor. I really appreciate the writer's room who showed what it meant to be Black and queer at that time, because that is not the story we hear a lot, especially during that era. That is what makes our show so special."
The original movie required all of the cast to audition by showing some skill at playing baseball, Adams confessed she is not a baseball player, but the cast trained for months with long hours of baseball camps to become a team. Megan Cavanagh who played Marla Hooch had two months of baseball training before her debut in the original film. Cavanagh was at the event in support saying, "We were told we had to play ball before we could even read for our roles. My roommate was a trainer and people would call for help about a new baseball movie. That is how I got in. I thought maybe I could be an extra and look what happened!"
When asked what she thought of the first episode, she exclaimed, "I love it and I am moderating the talk back at the end of the night! I am super excited about the series and I feel it is taking it to the next step. We set the stage and now we are showing more stories. It takes it into the 21st century while shining some light into a few shadowy areas that need to be seen."
Rosie O'Donnell played Doris Murphy in the film and now guest stars as Vi, the owner of the gay bar The Office. D'Arcy Carden informed Windy City Times that The Office Niteclub was recreated for the TV show and not actually filmed in Rockford. Carden described knowing several people like her sexually fluid character Greta in modern times even though the show is set in the '40s, "These characters have their classic story that is still relevant today. Great is complicated, layered and cool. I loved Greta the second I read the script. To dive into her character was rewarding, scary, fun and great. I was honored to play her and I hope I made her proud."
Carden went on to say, "We filmed over a year ago and watching it tonight is reminding me of what it was like. For season two I would like to see her fulfill her potential with Carson. I don't know if it is because I love Abbi or Greta does Carson, but I have such a soft spot for her. She is taking a step towards it, but there is so much there."
The talented actress is also currently starring in HBO's Barry as Natalie Greer and stated, "In every scene, we are basically trying to make Bill Hader laugh. Sometimes we are just goofing around and it actually goes into the final cut! I think that is what makes the show, we are trying to make the funny guy laugh. The cast parties, dinners and Zoom meetings are all fun. It has been almost six years now, so we love each other and it is a thrill to do that show. We will be filming season four soon."
After researching what percentage of the original team was part of the LGBTQ+ community, out executive producer Desta Tedros Reff discovered that it was at least 70 percent and explained, "It was a story that the movie couldn't tell at that time. This was our opportunity to step in and tell a story about queerness and people of color. Our writing room was almost entirely queer and a very diverse room full of queer people, women and lots of people of color, myself included. We really focused on orienting everything from our own experience. This was new to me because I could tell this from a place of joy, not just pain without sacrificing the authenticity in terms of the grit or realities of the world. We were guided through a place that felt true to us and the research of the people we talked to."
When asked to compare the differences between other writing projects and this one, Reff said,"We have more writers that are out because of a larger societal acceptance. There are still miles and miles to go. There is a mandate now for authentication in stories. People are attracted to that. We have told the stories about straight white dudes and now want what we haven't seen. The new perspectives are breaking into the mainstream. When Orange Is the New Black came out it was very popular on Netflix and it showed that people were curious and wanted to see shows such as that. The industry is finally responding."
For season two Reff would like to show the expansion of baseball teams, "We hinted at the Black women's league, but we need to expand more into the world of baseball and queerness. It is a very queer show, but there are so many more levels to explore. It feels like we are going back to that time period after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, so we could explore more of the women's empowerment issue as well. Hopefully, we get to do that in the future."
Co-creators and executive producers Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson stopped to take pictures and Jacobson confessed to really enjoying the latter half of the eight-episode story arc. She elaborated, "I am really proud of the representation in this show. I care about the stories that we are honoring. These characters are inspired by so many women queer and not who dreamed of playing baseball in the 1940s and beyond. I think this show is ultimately about finding your team. The show is really about finding your own baseball community and also finding your own queer community. It meant so much to us to underline some of the stories missing from the film. It was an undertone to the film, but didn't lean into it such as the television show does."
When questioned about how many seasons were planned overall Jacobson stated that she didn't want to overstay her welcome as a series, "We have a big ensemble so after eight episodes we need to tell more stories. I would love to tell a lot more!"
Celebrate the 30th anniversary by watching the original movie this July and stream the series adaptation beginning August 12 on Amazon.com .