tv talk

‘Ginny & Georgia’ creator Sarah Lampert dishes on the hit Netflix show

Season 2 hit the streaming service at the beginning of January, quickly becoming one of its most popular series of the new year

Amanda Matlovich/Netflix

(L to R) Sara Waisglass as Maxine Baker, Katie Douglas as Abby, Chelsea Clark as Norah, Antonia Gentry as Ginny

Moving to a new town is never easy, so when Sarah Lampert left Canton, Mass., for nearby Newton in the fifth grade, her mother sent in popsicles for the entire school to help break the ice. That moment inspired a nearly parallel scene in the first season of Lampert’s hit Netflix show, “Ginny & Georgia.”

Like the real-life move made by Lampert, 35, who now lives in Los Angeles, the show’s first season sees the arrival of Georgia, Ginny and Austin Miller to the fictional town of Wellsbury, Mass. The similarities end there. Georgia, a vivacious 30-year-old single mother, moves to Wellsbury in an attempt to flee her past and create a better life for her 9-year-old son Austin and 15-year-old daughter Ginny, who herself is dealing with the challenges of high school while figuring out her own identity.

Now in its sophomore season, which dropped on Jan. 5, Ginny & Georgia’s central family is no longer new to the neighborhood, but still faces plenty of drama; Ginny is struggling with her mental health and coming to terms with her mother’s crimes, while ghosts from Georgia’s past — including her son’s father fresh out of prison and a private investigator from Season 1 who’s still looking into the death of her recently deceased ex-husband — keep showing up to haunt her in the present. 

The second season of “Ginny & Georgia,” though it has only been available for less than two months, has hit a number of milestones. As of Tuesday, the season has continued into its seventh week on Netflix’s top 10 most-watched list in the United States, also appearing on the most-watched lists of 45 other countries (Season 1 only recently ended its run, having been in the U.S. top 10 for the past six weeks). On Feb. 7, Season 2 broke into Netflix’s all-time most popular list, edging in at No. 10 among the streamer’s English-language TV series with 504.8 million hours viewed within its first 28 days.

Sarah Lampert (Jess Nurse Photography)

The success of “Ginny & Georgia,” Lampert said of her first pilot, is “otherworldly.” Lampert, who also serves as an executive producer and writer on the show, wrote the pilot for a writing class she was taking in between working as a manager of development in reality TV. Thanks to her boss at the time, that script ended up in front of Netflix, where Lampert connected with showrunner Debra J. Fisher. The two pitched a fuller concept of the show to Netflix, which was immediately picked up for a 10-episode first season.

“On one hand, it’s this global phenomenon that everyone is relating to across the world, and then on the other hand, like nothing about my life has actually changed,” Lampert told Jewish Insider. “I’m still in the same apartment with my dog. So it’s surreal.”

At its core, “Ginny & Georgia” is a show about the complex mother-daughter relationship between its eponymous characters, a dynamic that Lampert has always had an interest in showcasing on screen.

“For me, it’s just one of the most important relationships that you can have,” Lampert said. “Young girls and their mothers, it’s just such a unique relationship. Like, oftentimes, I don’t want to generalize, but oftentimes teen girls and their moms almost have a fraught relationship for a number of years in that kind of teenhood period — and I definitely had that with my mom. And now that I’m an adult, my mom’s my best friend…I think that for me, just seeing, you know, my bond I have with my grandmother, with all the women in my [family], with my whole family, family is just really important to me. So for me, it’s that mother-and-daughter relationship, but it’s also the sister-brother relationship. The twins across the street [from Ginny, Georgia and Austin in the show], their relationship with their family.”

“Family is big for me, and I don’t think there’s a more pure love than a familial love,” she added. “But it also can be toxic, and I think that’s explored in the show too. So yeah, I just think family relationships are always dynamic and complicated and worth exploring.”

Lampert grew up in a very tight-knit family in the Boston suburbs, many aspects of which seeped into the fabric of “Ginny & Georgia” — Season 1’s “Sophomore Sleepover” was a real event at Lampert’s high school, and the neighborhood club Georgia tries to join in Season 2 mirrors one that existed in her hometown. Despite certain character and setting parallels — Abby Littman is very loosely based on one of Lampert’s real-life friends, while Wellsbury is an imagined town combining Newton and Lexington, Mass. — the show is largely a work of fiction.

“For the most part, these characters, the inception of them, is a real work of imagination and then the building out of them across the two seasons is a real group effort from the writers room,” Lampert said. “I think that it’s really important to include all of the other writers in the building out of these characters, to make them as deep as they are, as truthful as they are, and ultimately, to give those experiences a sense of truth.”

Still, every writer consciously or not leaves traces of themself in their work, and the same is true for Lampert. While she maintains that the Miller women are not inspired by her and her mother — if she had to choose, Lampert feels they most resemble Ellen and Maxine, Georgia and Ginny’s best friends and neighbors — there are traces of the other’s personality that they share.

In Lampert’s case, Ginny’s penchant for writing mirrors her own, whereas when it comes to her mother and the show’s dynamic yet deeply flawed matriarch, their connection shines through in their shared devotion to family.

“The element of Georgia that my mom does have, is this overwhelming love for her children in a way that she would do anything for us,” Lampert said.  “My mom is so fierce with her love of her kids and really so involved in our happiness…she’s just always going one step above and beyond for her kids, and so I think that element did find its way into Georgia.”

Having characters that, despite their excessiveness at times, are also relatable, is why “Ginny & Georgia” has reached audiences beyond the typical demographics most teen-oriented shows see.

“I think at its level, it’s just so grounded in relationships and in human connection, and I think that that’s what is resonating,” Lampert said. “On one hand, you have this wild show, it’s super pulpy, it’s super propulsive, you have absolutely insane things happening outside the realm of reality, but at its core, it’s really grounded in the emotion of these characters and in real situations and real struggles that people face that don’t always get airtime, and so people connect with that.”

In between sex talks and shocking murder scenes, “Ginny & Georgia” tackles a lot of difficult topics, including mental health, race, body image and abuse. To ensure every conversation is handled with care, the show works closely with Mental Health America and has an on-site psychiatrist, both of whom weigh in on every script and cut.

“Ultimately, it’s really just about listening to everyone in that writers room, and everyone really showing up and pouring themselves into the show. Because I think in order to make, even just entertaining TV, you can’t shy away from the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the funny and the sad, because that’s life,” Lampert said.

One identity that Lampert felt was important to highlight, without delving too deeply into religion, was her own Jewish faith. Canton, where she grew up, did not have a large Jewish community, but she recalled the “Jewish pride” her mother surrounded her family in during that time.

“There was only like one other Jew in my entire class in elementary school, and my mom came in during Hanukkah with a hot plate and made latkes for everyone in my class, and taught everyone how to play dreidel,” Lampert recalled. “She made it seem so cool to be Jewish, like all of my friends thought it was like the coolest thing ever, and I didn’t even kind of realize that the rest of the world didn’t always share that opinion.”

Once the family moved to Newton, which has a large Jewish population, Lampert’s mother continued to make Judaism feel special, putting together Passover plays every year that got the whole family involved.

“I was raised Jewish, so I think it’s an inextricable part of myself that I’m proud of, and it was important to me to make characters in ‘Ginny & Georgia’ Jewish,” Lampert said. “It was important for me to have that be a part of the show, even if it wasn’t a main element of the show.”

In Season 1, it’s mentioned briefly that two members of Ginny’s friend group, “MANG,” Abby and Norah, are Jewish. In the Season 2 episode, “Latkes Are Lit,” there’s an entire scene — during which the song “Paamon (פעמון)” by Israeli artists Noa Kirel and Italy Galo is showcased — where MANG and their mothers are celebrating Hanukkah with a latke party they throw every year.

“There’s not more said about it other than that, but it’s just a presence. And it’s a positive presence in the show that just exists,” Lampert said. “My favorite line from Season 1 is when Ginny is surprised that Norah is Jewish, and she’s like, ‘Yeah, Baruch Atah Adonai, bitch.’” 

Lampert said she is open to exploring both Abby and Norah’s Jewish identities in possible future seasons of the show. Separate from “Ginny & Georgia,” she also revealed that she’s in the process of writing her own feature-length Hanukkah movie.

“I have it all laid out, and I’m writing it like on spec, which means for free, like there’s no one attached to it. I don’t want anyone reading it until it’s done, and then I’ll take it out and try to sell it, because I have it all in my head,” Lampert said. “I really want to write like a modern, really fun, kind of raunchy Hanukkah movie to be in the zeitgeist.”

As far as the future of “Ginny & Georgia,” there’s no word yet on if the show will be renewed for a third season. Both Lampert and Fisher have mentioned in interviews that they have storylines mapped out through Season 4, but beyond that, and whether those ideas will make it onto the screen is still yet to be seen.

“I can tell you that the very first scene of ‘Ginny & Georgia’ that I thought of, was this idea of Ginny walking down the hall in high school and everyone whispering about her because of her mother. Ultimately, I took that out, and that wasn’t in Season 1 or Season 2, but I think that was a real point of inspiration for the creation of the show and probably where it’s headed in Season 3,” Lampert said.

“Logically looking at where we left off at the end of Season 2 with this public arrest, everyone in the town has just seen Georgia be put into this cop car for murder and driven away, and I think we’re faced with these big questions of: How is she going to get herself out of this one? What more is going to be revealed? And how is this going to impact Ginny?”

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