In late March, I attended WonderCon with a fellow TGON writer Kat and interviewed four members of the HouseBroken crew. If you haven’t heard about HouseBroken yet, it’s worth a watch! If you love animals and wonder what they get up to while you’re away, HouseBroken is the series for you!
HouseBroken is an American adult animated sitcom that features Honey, a Standard Poodle voiced by American actress Lisa Kudrow who rose to fame through her role as Phoebe Buffay in the American sitcom Friends, who leads a therapy group for the neighboring pets and strays. The problem is Honey has her fair share of issues, affecting how she leads her pack on their diverse paths to healing. Created by film producer Gabrielle Allan, screenwriter Jennifer Crittenden, and actress Clea DuVall (who voices “Elsa” the Corgi), HouseBroken takes a hilarious but honest take on mental health, animal psychiatry, and the inner lives of animals. You can watch the first and second seasons of HouseBroken through Fox networks or Hulu.
At WonderCon 2023, showrunner, screenwriter, and co-creator Jennifer “Jen” Crittenden, director Eric Koenig, comedian, writer, and co-executive producer Elliot Kalan, and comedian and actor Will Forte (who voices “Shel” the love-addicted Tortoise) were present to promote their second season of HouseBroken. As a relatively new fan of the series and overall animal lover, I was eager to interview the crew and learn about what went into creating and maintaining the show. I waited my turn to ask questions. Presumably, to cover more ground quicker, the four split into two groups that answered questions separately. I interviewed Eric Koenig and Elliot Kalan first, and they had to say this.
Me: Many of us always wonder what our pets are going through and thinking about. Is that what inspired the show?
Eric: Oh yeah. Everybody that works on the show is a pet owner or animal lover to some extent. Animals are endlessly fascinating to watch. I had a Golden Retriever, and I could stare at him all day because he did the craziest things, and if I could put that into the show, the characters would become much more relatable. That way, when people watch, they’ll think, ‘My dog or my cat does that too!’
Me: Elliot, since you write about sensitive subjects mixed with comedy, what’s the mindset or vibe in the Writer’s Room?
Elliot: It is a really warm, really sweet vibe in the room. Our showrunners, Jen and Gabby, set a tone where we’re all very comfortable talking about things that are very important and private to us. The fun challenge of the show is ‘How do you take something that is a specific human experience, or universal human experience, and filter that through an animal’s point of view’? That way, you can find something new to give a fresh perspective and realize something different you hadn’t noticed before. The Writer’s Room is fun and supportive; everyone takes private information respectfully to generate new ideas. Even though we’re constantly making fun of our characters, we want them to treat them with equal amounts of respect.
Eric: With the show creators Jen, Gabby, and Clea, the show is made with a lot of love. Despite working remotely and staring at each through screens, we’ve become family. We have a lot of love and respect for each other and work really well with each other. It’s been a pleasure of a show to work on, and I just feel so lucky to be a part of it.
Me: Since the show delves into sensitive subjects such as trauma, anxiety, and narcissism, what are some factors in deciding a character’s backstory?
Elliot: It’s a couple of different factors for the characters’ backstories. One is ‘What would be funny? What would be a funny backstory?’ The other would be ‘What would be a believable backstory?’ And in this next season, we go into the character’s backstories in new ways. There’s an episode where “Chico” is lost, taken back to his original owner, and discovers something quite shocking. We try to establish funny, believable backstories and say something about something. What’s a funny backstory that says something about who this character is? That way, audiences can connect.
Me: For those new to HouseBroken, how would you convince them to watch the second season?
Eric: I think if you watch the season premiere, it turned out beautiful. It’s a great episode that’s wonderfully written. Anybody that watches it gets hooked by the characters and the funny situations they get into. And if I do my job right, you’ll get hooked on the filmmaking showcased in the newest season. You’ll see in this new season I’ve tried my hardest to be as ambitious and cinematic as possible and push the show’s boundaries.
Elliot: If anyone has met or owned an animal, they’ll find something in the show they’ll enjoy. Especially if there’ve ever looked at an animal and wondered, ‘What’s going on in your head right now?’
Next, I interviewed Jennifer Crittenden and Will Forte.
Me: Jen, what drives you to tell this story?
Jennifer: Oh, well, what I love most about this show is the amazing collection of animals with different crazy personalities. I like that we can make outrageous jokes with them and have moments of heart. And so that kind of in this amazing cast can do everything. And so getting to exploit that and go from an actual moving relationship and then into some crazy insane joke or escapade is really fun to write.
Will added: I just love thinking that there’s something so fun about thinking that animals could have this connection because, obviously, animals communicate in ways that we don’t know and some ways that we do, but it’s so fun to think about. Oh, wouldn’t that be fun if this is what it’s like for them on some level, like the movie Coco? It has transformed the way I look at death. I had to go to a funeral a couple of months ago, and I’ve been watching a lot of Coco because my daughter, I have a young daughter, and she went through a phase where all she wanted to watch was Coco for like a couple of months. And I love that movie; it just changed how I thought. I have never been more at peace at a funeral. I was thinking about this person potentially in this afterlife situation as I saw in Coco was comforting. And there’s something really that same kind of thing. This makes me look at my dogs. I have two dogs, and I look at their relationship differently or like when they encounter other dogs. It’s really fun to think there could be a world for pets like this.
Me: Most certainly all. Every owner and pet lover, in general, wonders at some point, what do you do when I’m not home?
Jennifer: And what do you think about me?
Me: When you catch your dog or cat staring at you, and you’re there, like, are you judging me?
Jennifer: That exact thought was the genesis of the show. That was what Clea Duvall, who came up with the idea of the show with us, was talking about this cat Twig that she has who completely disrespects her and is not impressed with anything she does. And Clea wanted to go to couples counseling and try and get to find out what the issue was between them. And that was how we started thinking about the show. So you nailed it.
Afterward, we talked a bit about our experiences as pet owners; I thanked them for the show and went on my merry way. It was wonderful to meet them and dive deeper into what inspired HouseBroken and how it resonates with today’s average audience. By the end of the day, I was looking forward to bingeing season two of HouseBroken!
If you want to catch a first look at HouseBroken, click here! If you’re interested in what else I did during my trip to Anaheim, click here!