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Abbi Jacobson on re-telling 'A League of Their Own' for a new generation


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: The film A League of Their Own quickly became a cult classic after its initial release in 1992. The movie directed by the late Penny Marshall was based on the All American Girls Professional Baseball League that started in 1943. With thousands of American men serving overseas and World War II, women quite literally stepped up to the plate, and as a result widen the horizons for generations of young girls.

Now, 30 years after the film premiered in theaters, the Rockford, peaches are coming back to our screens. Joining us now is Abbi Jacobson, the co-creator and star of the new Prime Video Series A League of Their Own. It's great to have you with us.

Abbi Jacobson, "A League of Their Own" Co-creator: Oh, my goodness, thank you so much for having me. What a pleasure.

Geoff Bennett: And you have said that this new series, it's not a remake. It's more a reimagining of that 1992 film why reimagine this particular story?

Abbi Jacobson: Yes, I mean, I grew up with this film, I love this film. And it was so impactful for me as I was a very sporty kid, very athletic. You know, when Will Graham who co-created this with me, he approached me with this project in 2017. And we both bonded so much over our love of the film. But also, if we were going to do this, it does not need to be remade.

Penny Marshall hinted at a lot of things in in the film version that we are really leaning into. And the more we researched, the more we found that this All American Girls Professional Baseball League was this really incredible time for a lot of queer women that thought they were the only one they ended up finding each other through this league. And so that was one of the things that we felt like we really wanted to explore.

And then also, if you remember, there's an iconic scene in the film where a black woman picks up a foul ball and chucks it back to Gina Davis.

Geoff Bennett: Right.

Abbi Jacobson: And, whoa, if you blink, you miss this scene. And Penny is alluding to the fact that that league was segregated. Black woman and women of color were not allowed to try out. So what happens when this league is this incredible opportunity for white women and white passing women to get to play baseball. And it's also a door that closes for women of color. Those are stories that need people need to know about. It's baseball, it's American baseball history.

Geoff Bennett: Yes.

Abbi Jacobson: So it's very exciting.

Geoff Bennett: The idea to uplift stories and perspectives in your series that the original movie didn't necessarily touch. Was that intentional? Or was that something that you happened upon in the past half decade of research that you've been doing where you thought that this really needs to be elevated,.

Abbi Jacobson: Making something in 92, there's a lot of limitations to the kinds of stories that you were able to tell. Now we knew we wanted to have our own take on this league in this time, and this generation of ballplayers and also, the more we dive into the research, the more we're just like, there, these are stories that are fascinating to us. We think there'll be fascinating to audiences.

Geoff Bennett: You and your co-creator had a chance to speak with Penny Marshall shortly before she passed away about this project, what did she tell you?

Abbi Jacobson: We needed her to know how much we love the film. And now we were in as I'm saying, not trying to remake it and just why we were re approaching it and what our goal was in doing this again, and she seems really excited and told us a lot about what it was like to make the film and also how, you know, she felt like she couldn't tell all the stories and she wish she could and so she, you know, she told Will and I, you know, go do it already.

She's really excited. She also told us that when she made this film, the real women behind the film, their stories changed her life. And she said to us, I think they'll change yours too. And they really, really have.

Geoff Bennett: There are parallels as I understand it between your life and the life of the character you play, Carson Shaw. Give us a sense of that. That's sort of the mirror image such that it exists.

Abbi Jacobson: I came to know myself and my sexuality pretty late in life and that's definitely a big part of Carson's journey on the show. And I think also, there's like a big meta experience for me in being one of the leaders of the show, and playing a character who becomes sort of a de facto leader of the pitches, and a very unlikely one. And that's something I'm really excited to portray and a character, someone who's kind of messy and insecure and, and isn't the person that you might think should lead at first. But the more she knows herself, and the more she gets, gets to know herself throughout the season, the more she finds her voice and her confidence and becomes a really great leader.

Geoff Bennett: You mentioned that as a kid, you were athletic. Did you play baseball or softball? I mean, what was the training? Like, can imagine that you used a lot of stand ins, it didn't look like it from watching the series?

Abbi Jacobson: Well, that's good to hear. Yes, I played softball as a kid. But I mean, I haven't played in a long time. And, yes, we had a lot of training. And so we did a three-week training camp in Los Angeles before we shot the series.

And basically, it was all of us all day, you know, you had little sectioned off position training, going through all the dynamics of what it looks to be a player what it feels like all the different drills and we were coached by our main coach was Justin Siegel, who was actually the first woman to be staffed in MLB coaching position.

And all the rest of the trainers were other women, and people who are a part of her baseball for all organization, it was so incredible, because all our trainers were basically the modern day version of the women that we were playing on screen. So it was so cool to really be around real players and get to hang out with them all day. Everyone got better. But we did have doubles.

Geoff Bennett: How has this process changed you? How it changed your outlook, your perspective, not just starring in a series like this, but actually creating it producing it during a pandemic no less?

Abbi Jacobson: Yes, you know, I think my career up to this point has mostly been Broad City, which was a show that is near and dear to my heart. And I had a lot of the same roles on that show. But embarking on this, this in scope and in size, and it's just a very grand period piece show. So that was very different. But I feel a great honor and responsibility in making sure that those experiences feel as truthful and as expansive and joyful and nuanced as they can be.

And the most powerful thing I feel is really proud of putting these characters out into the world. I hope people feel like they see themselves in someone on the show. And that's exciting.

Geoff Bennett: Well, that sense of pride you feel I have to say as well deserved. So Abbi Jacobson, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Abbi Jacobson: Thanks for having me.

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