Most sitcoms are sensitive about money, but ABC Domestical economy dive straight into it. The show, which debuted in April and premiered its second season last month, follows the trials and tribulations of three siblings: extremely wealthy Connor (Jimmy Tatro), middle-class Tom (Topher Grace) and Sarah (Caitlin McGee), who is struggling financially.
As Sarah’s female teacher, Denise, played by Saturday Night Live and Wake up alum Sasheer Zamata, is a sweet voice of reason. And, thankfully, the second season offers more insight into her inner world, digging into her complex family dynamics. It’s a role that makes sense for Zamata, who tells BAZAAR.com that she tries to “choose projects that correspond to my values”.
Without being too heavy or taking itself too seriously, Domestical economy discusses the very real economic and social disparities in America, as well as the kind of family strains that financial problems can often cause. This is key for Zamata, as she says she blends balance and depth in all of her work.
Below, she tells us more about filming the sitcom’s final season, being in Hollywood during the coronavirus pandemic, and using comedy to break down barriers.
Domestical economy struck a chord during the pandemic. What do you think touched viewers?
I feel like the fact that the show has lasted through a pandemic is a testament to the writing and our chemistry as a cast. I think people have really leaned into their communities, whether it’s their groups of friends or their families. We spent a few years realizing how precious time is and that anything can happen. So communities are much more valuable to all of us now. It feels good for people to watch a show that acknowledges that all families have their issues, but they can come out of them in a positive way.
What new aspects of Denise are we getting for season 2? What parts of yourself are you channeling into Denise?
Denise was, for the most part, very “woo woo” and provided a soothing energy to the Hayworth family. Siblings can get upset and Denise is usually there to remind people to relax. I feel like I serve that purpose in some of the relationships in my life, and there are certainly tools that I’ve used in my own life that Denise uses as well – I’m definitely more of the mediator in many ways with my family, but sometimes I also need to calm down.
We’re featuring Denise’s sister on the show this season, and you can see how she reacts to her own family is quite different from how she reacts to the Hayworths. These family relationships bring more angst and aggravation, so Denise is definitely more dynamic this season.
How is this series different from other things you’ve worked on?
I will always remember this experience, as we shot it during COVID earlier this year. I’m so glad we were able to do this, because I’ve also been involved with productions that were trying to shoot during the pandemic. I’ve had a lot of closures – you know, COVID is real, and it’s out there, and it can seriously affect the workplace.
So it looks like a lucky show in that he still manages to break through all the barriers that are thrown at him. I love that we’re shooting in LA and then I can go to work and then go home. And I love the cast so much. I feel very lucky and in good hands because everyone wants to do a good job and get home safely.
What was your favorite part of filming Season 2?
For the first episode, we went to a 49ers game at USC Stadium. It was so nice to get out there somewhere after an entire first season with COVID. It was just like, “Oh, we’re back. Things are opening up, and we can live a little every time we leave the stage.” It’s great that we can actually explore what these characters do outside of their homes.
Your projects often balance comedy with politics. How to keep things funny while preserving the impact of the message?
I worked on shows, like Hulu’s Wake up, where the staff had excellent comedic focus on socio-political issues, and that’s my thought for my own comedy. I try to infuse that into my stand-up, or whatever writing I do. I try to pick projects where I feel the audience will get something other than entertainment out of it. I want something that’s educational, that gets the audience thinking about things and that challenges their point of view.
I really like it when people come up to me and say, “Whoa, I saw what you did, and I didn’t know it was part of your culture. I hadn’t even thought about those perspectives.” I think that’s great. Comedy is a really cool way to get people to think differently and make connections because it breaks down barriers and opens us up a little more to ideas and things that we might originally have been against.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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