Inquirer Super

‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ is purer than pure—and it’s just what we need right now

By Pam Pastor
07/28/20 3:05 PM

In this exclusive interview with Super, showrunner Rachel Shukert, and director and executive producer Lucia Aniello talk about taking Ann M. Martin’s beloved characters to 2020, at a time when the world needs it the most

Since it came out over thirty years ago, girls all over the world including the Philippines grew up reading “The Baby-Sitters Club,” Ann M. Martin’s best-selling book series that’s set in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. It was fun to get lost in the world of Kristy, Mary-Anne, Claudia, Stacey and Dawn—girls who were very different but were bonded by their friendship and shared passion for baby-sitting. 

The young readers who curled up with those books are grownups now, in their 30s and 40s, and a number of them wanted to bring the joys of “BSC” to a new generation in the form of a TV show.

“The timing of this series was really a decision made by the fans. Many of them have become writers, editors, producers. There was just so much renewed interest in the books from these adults who had read them when they were kids,” said Martin, who serves as executive producer. “I was lucky to be able to work with this wonderful team of mostly women who were all long-time ‘Baby-Sitters Club’ fans. It was just great to know that these stories were in the hands of people who felt so passionate about the books. I knew that the series was in good hands.”

Rachel Shukert (Glow), showrunner, and Lucia Aniello (Broad City), director and executive producer, are two of these lifelong fans. Aniello said in an exclusive interview with Super, “I wasn’t just reading the books–I was devouring. I was a full-on addict… In my head, the Babysitters were my real friends! So I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.”

Stewardship

Shukert said, “It was just an incredible opportunity to take these books that meant so much to me and bring them into the present day. It’s an act of creation but also stewardship — it was my job to take care of these iconic characters and bring them to life in a loving, responsible way.”

Aniello said they’re “basically the babysitters to ‘The Baby-Sitters Club series.” 

“Martin has been very involved in the process of making a show that fans both old and new will love. She has been very hands-on in the filming process and it’s been great having her around the set.”  

Shukert and Aniello took the world Martin had created to 2020, striking the right balance between nostalgia and freshness. “The books were very modern and inclusive for their time, so I felt like I just wanted to nudge them forward in an organic way. We had to update technology and things like that, and also find ways for the world of Stoneybrook to feel more like the world we live in now, in terms of diversity and inclusion,” said Shukert.

Over 2,650 actresses submitted and over 1,000 auditioned for the role of the leads. In the end, they found their five: Sophie Grace would play Kristy Thomas, Malia Baker is Mary-Anne Spier,  Momona Tamada is Claudia Kishi, Shay Rudolph is Stacey McGill while Xochitl Gomez was cast as Dawn Schafer.

“We wanted to find the right girls who first and foremost embodied these characters naturally. The goal was to always make the cast and the club more diverse and inclusive to better adapt these stories for the present day. We could not be more proud of our talented young cast!” said Shukert. 

The BSC meeting of our dreams. Clockwise: Sophie Grace (Kristy Thomas), Malia Baker (Mary-Anne Spier), The Baby-sitters Club author Ann M. Martin, Xochitl Gomez (Dawn Schafer), Momona Tamada (Claudia Kishi), Shay Rudolph (Stacey McGill) 

“I couldn’t be happier with the cast they assembled,” said Martin.

Thrilled

The girls, a number of whom grew up reading the graphic novel versions of the books, are thrilled to be part of the show. Tamada said, “It was so exciting to see a Japanese-American character depicted in the books, and I loved to imagine that I was in the story as Claudia! This moment feels full-circle now, to say the least.”

Gomez started reading the novels when the reboot was announced. “I really enjoyed the books and once I started reading them I couldn’t put them down. I’ve collected over 80 books now, they fill an entire shelf in my room!”

Rounding out the cast are Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) who plays Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer, Kristy’s single mom, and playing Elizabeth’s love interest Watson is Mark Feuerstein. Shukert said, “We’re so lucky that all of them wanted to do this — they elevate the material to an insane degree.”

Alicia Silverstone as Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer and Sophia Grace as Kristy Thomas in a scene from The Baby-sitters Club

Sophia Grace said, “It’s amazing to have Alicia Silverstone play my mom on screen. Of course I saw her in “Clueless” and I loved her character Cher. She’s like the original girl boss! When we were on set, Alicia made me feel so comfortable performing and encouraged me to trust my abilities.”

Respite 

The show started streaming on Netflix in 190 countries earlier this month and has gotten rave reviews from both critics and fans. 

They actually began working on the show three years ago. Aniello said, “We started working on it in 2017, and it felt then (and still feels) like people are needing a respite from the real world. Of course we had no idea it would come out when people were stuck at home and needing a distraction more than ever.”

Many people feel that it came out at just the right time. “I think they have so much to teach young people in their care for one another, and they way the deal with conflict and try to do good in the world,” said Shukert.

From the books to your screens

Aniello said, “I’ve also been hearing from a lot of fans of the books who seem to feel it’s an honorable adaptation, and that, as as superfan myself, has been so satisfying.”

‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ is purer than pure—and it’s just what we need right now.