Workin’ Moms Retire
Catherine Reitman’s unique mothercentric comedy prepares to roll the final credits after the upcoming seventh season
It’s the last week of shooting for the cast and crew of Workin’ Moms when Indiescreen reached them in mid-September. The CBC series is sunsetting after its upcoming seventh and final season, set to hit the network in early 2023.
First airing in January 2017, Workin’ Moms is the brainchild of Catherine Reitman — who also plays the show’s protagonist, Kate Foster — following four moms who meet in a mommy-and-me parenting group set in Toronto.
While Reitman is the creator, executive producer, writer and star of Workin’ Moms, the show is co-produced by her real-life and on-screen husband, Philip Sternberg, under the duo’s production company, Wolf + Rabbit Entertainment.
Through the show’s tenure, the mothers — Kate (Catherine Reitman), Anne (Dani Kind), Frankie (Juno Rinaldi), Jenny (Jessalyn Wanlim) and mommy-and-me group facilitator Val (Sarah McVie) — have been through a lot. They’ve supported each other through abortions and postpartum depression; through divorces, marriages and affairs; and through career highs and lows.
The show has been a cathartic experience for Reitman, who initially wrote about her postpartum experiences through her pilot.
“There’s a really surprisingly cool part of being a content creator, and I’ve said this a lot: when I made the show initially, I was like, ‘I’m going to be indulgent as fuck, and I’m going to share exactly what happened to me six months after I had my first son.’ I had postpartum depression and I felt unsexy and unspecial and that I lost everything cool about me,” Reitman tells Indiescreen.
“At that time — believe it or not — nine years ago, people weren’t talking about postpartum depression [and] there was no postpartum anxiety to speak of. It was a different sort of landscape, and so I thought I was being incredibly indulgent in the show and that I was just going to say, ‘Here are four cool women who are trying to tap back into who they were prior to having kids.’”
Almost every scene in season one reflects Reitman’s own life and motherhood journey — from running into bears in the woods to some of the off-colour comments women receive when reaching out about their postpartum blues.
“Season one, specifically, is just ripped right out of my life,” Reitman reveals, recounting some of the show’s earlier scenes.
“All of those things happened. I was jogging with my kid in a stroller and I saw a bear in California. I didn’t scream at it, but I thought, What would I do if push came to shove? The mommy-and-me moment where I said, ‘How do I do this?’ and they all kind of changed the subject. When Frankie said, ‘I’m considering getting hit by a car so I can have a brain-dead vacation,’ and everyone looked at her like she was nuts. Or when Kate’s at the office and breaks down crying and says, ‘I want to work,’ and they were like, ‘You should stop.’ That inspired the entire show, so all those moments were based off of real-life, identity-crisis moments.”
While the show first seemed like a love letter to women with young children who were at the crux of their careers, it surprisingly brought audiences in throngs that didn’t identify as such, and, to Reitman’s surprise, the show continued getting greenlit for additional seasons.
“You don’t understand, when you’re starting this journey, who you’re telling your stories to,” she says.
“What floored me was that a huge chunk of our audience didn’t have kids, and I learned that 40 per cent of our audience was male, and then it continued to blow my mind that our audience skewed from fairly young to fairly old. And I would get stopped when I was out with my husband by just an amazing spectrum of people who were watching the show.”
At the time of filming the first season, the series creator had just moved to Toronto with a five-week-old and two-year-old, her husband, a nanny and two dogs in tow.
This will never happen again, we’ll probably get cancelled after season one, just sprint through it, she thought.
“I’ve become very good friends with fear and discomfort,” she now says with resolve.
“In season one, I wasn’t in my body for four months. In season two, I started to feel my flesh a bit more. I thought, If this was based on that experience, tap back into it. Channel it. The discomfort becomes less about ‘Can I do this?’ and more about ‘Can I actually get back there and feel what I once felt so I can authentically share this with an audience who can relate to it?’”
The community of Workin’ Moms fans has been built both in front of the TV screen and also behind the scenes, bringing lots of women and parents into the fold — including director Yael Staav, among others.
Staav cut her teeth in the industry directing commercials for TV, eventually becoming a decorated director with credits on CBC’s Baroness Von Sketch Show. Staav is a recipient of both a Canadian Screen Award and an outstanding achievement award from the Director’s Guild of Canada (DGC).
“Catherine took a risk on me and took me onto Workin’ Moms, and this has been the right place for me, especially because I was raising a child while I was working on this show,” Staav tells Indiescreen.
“I had a one-year-old the first time I did the show, so it felt very art imitating life, life imitating art.”
Sally Catto, General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports at CBC, felt the same way when she commissioned the show.
“I was definitely a working mother of young children when Catherine pitched the series,” she says.
“Scrolling through social media, I would often think, Well, this isn’t my experience. I knew many other mothers who felt the same way. When I saw the demo reel and read the pilot, I connected instantly.”
As time went on, the show’s writers had new material to draw on — like the high-stakes, heist-like birthday party for Val seen in the season six episode “The Big One.”
Staav’s direction of the episode earned her yet another Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award nomination from DGC.
“It’s so much fun when you get a script that feels like an independent little feature that you get to make in four days,” Staav recounts of the episode.
“How do you take the constraints to grow and enhance the story and make everybody shine? We let the limitations serve the creative,” she says. “It was an opportunity to see and all of a characters out of their homes, and out of their regular locations, so you get to see them ride a merrygo- round, and all of a sudden I look over, and Catherine is running in a circle. You get all of these people out of their environment so they’re feeling really inspired.”
Staav isn’t the only later addition to the Workin’ Moms world whose creativity has brought fresh inspiration to the show.
The series set off firecrackers when newcomer Enuka Okuma hit the screen as Kate’s take-no-shit, aviatorwearing boss, Sloane Mitchell.
Okuma’s powerful performance bought her more screen time, and she is now closing out the seventh and final season as a main character.
“[Sloane] was supposed to be this small little part during the pandemic, but it turned into a treasure trove of gifts,” Okuma reveals.
Not only was she brought on as a main character on the show, but Okuma actually penned an episode in season six in which it’s revealed that she’s pregnant. Now a fulltime writer in the writers’ room, Okuma is responsible for many of the show’s (sure-to-be) explosive storylines.
“Joining the show as a writer completely changed the experience, to love it even more,” she says.
“Being able to work in close capacity with the writers and creators — especially with Catherine, because she inspires me to do what I want to do — getting to watch her do it has been a huge lesson which I cherish because I was right there,” says Okuma.
While Sloane appears to be titanium-made, Okuma’s intimate knowledge of the character allows her to balance the character’s strength and vulnerability.
“It was a desire to learn and the inner workings of the writers’ room. I’ve never had a deep dive with a TV character like this, so I knew it was going to be a bonus. I’ve had such an understanding of my character the way I haven’t been able to on other shows,” says Okuma, whose acting credits include Grey’s Anatomy, Hillside and Rookie Blue.
“The best version of Enuka — when Enuka is feeling super confident and powerful — I bring to Sloane. She’s a no-holds-barred kind of gal, but what I like about what we’ve done with her is really chip away and show that everybody’s not that strong all the time. There’s some suffering, there’s some fear. That’s a complete person. There’s letting the cracks show.”
In fact, the fanfare for Workin’ Moms seems only to have escalated since Okuma became responsible for her character both on the page and on the screen. She recounts a particular story about being approached at a restaurant by a fan who told her that her daily mirror affirmation is “I am Sloane Mitchell.”
“Each character reflects different aspects of not only motherhood, but also what it is to be human — a perfect blend of depth and brilliant comedy,” Catto muses.
“The most comedic moments are born from darker truths, and by owning them and shining a light on the humour in them, we are not only entertained, we feel less alone in the world. Workin’ Moms does all of this,” she says.
“That’s all you want to do — inspire someone to be the best version of themselves by telling the stories of these flawed women,” Reitman muses.
“How fuckin’ cool is that?” she says in a perfect Kate Foster intonation.