Now into its second season, CTV’s hit original series Children Ruin Everything has a new baby entering Astrid (Meaghan Rath) and James (Aaron Abrams) already hectic lives – leaving the young family looking for extra time, any sleep at all, and even space.
The TV Watercooler had the opportunity to chat with series stars Meaghan Rath (Being Human) and Aaron Abrams (Blindspot) recently about how the series doesn’t pit them against each other, season’s two main themes, working with children, and if they really do ruin everything?
What I like about this show is that Astrid and James are always on the same team. A lot of sitcoms have those tropes where it’s the wife against the husband all the time. Was it refreshing to hear that it would be this different take?
Aaron: It’s our favourite thing about the show, I think…it’s how we get to be a team and the conflict is us versus the kids. It’s never us versus each other, really. We might have different ideas about how to tackle a problem, but there’s open listening.
Meaghan always says that it’s nice to watch a sort of emotionally evolved couple who feels like maybe they’ve been to therapy. I think that’s what makes the show even funnier, is that they’re not idiots, or at each other’s throats! But they are still in the weeds with their kids all the time. That’s how hard it is to raise kids.
Meaghan, you were a new mom shortly before you started doing this show. Do children really ruin everything?
Meaghan: I mean, in a certain sense, yes [laughs]… but it’s not that they ruin it, it’s that they create space for something new. The life you knew before is over, but they definitely bring something so wonderful [to it]. The point of the show is that you can keep who you were before. You can still be that person, which is what our characters try to navigate.
There’s that phrase (by W.C. Fields) about show business, ‘never work with children or animals.’ You’ve gone ahead and added a third kid! How has that dynamic changed? Is it a real kid? Is it a fake baby?
Meaghan: Yeah, we have the real ones and then the fake ones. With the union rules or child labour laws, they can only work for 15 minutes at a time, basically.
Aaron: Babies can work! You can put babies to work in an adult environment…
Meaghan: [Laughs] This is a ridiculous industry. But yeah, the clock starts ticking the second that the baby is on set. So, we do a lot of wide shots with the fake baby, who is truly disturbing.
If you picture a horror baby, that’s what it looks like. It’s got one eye half open and has a French manicure on just his thumb!
It’s a whole lot scarier than “The Red Ghost!”
Aaron: Ah, yes… The Red Ghost! This season, Viv has a reoccurring nightmare about a red ghost that you have to sing the Whisper song to. It’s very specific and very frightening.
It’s crazy the amount of detail that the writers can come up with for something that’s so bizarre.
Aaron: It’s like that throughout the show. It’s so specific and that’s what it is about the show that connects with people, I think. We’re not just like your average parents, we’re very specific people and therefor I think that it resonates with more people.
Did you screen-test with Logan Nicholson (Felix) and Mikayla SwamiNathan (Viv)?
Meaghan: No, we didn’t screen with them, but I saw a bunch of auditions from different children and it was very clear that these were the two kids to everybody. Mikayla was four when we started, which is insane because she’s worked like an adult! [Laughs] Again, weird industry. You forget how young these kids are. They are so professional and so wonderful. We’re so lucky to have them!
Aaron: And they get to be kids. It’s in the first season too, but I think this season more so, they’ll take stolen moments of Mikayla just saying something weird or film her just reacting the way that she would and end up using that in the show.
The show really makes these kids, kids… and not just punchline machines, or monsters! They’re lovely and adorable, but also stressful and weird. It takes a lot from who they are and just how comfortable and professional they are when the cameras are rolling. It makes them so charming.
You mesh well as a family. How did you create that chemistry? Are you hanging out off-set?
Meaghan: We got lucky. It’s not an easy thing to find. The kids are so free and so open. They’re so excited to be there and it really wasn’t hard at all. The chemistry with us is the easiest part.
Aaron: And we generally like them! Speaking for myself, I’m not a guy who likes every kid that he meets. Some kids a great and some kids are hmmm… I would hang out with these kids. I love sitting around and chatting about what their day is like. It’s a real treat and it’s easy to connect with them in real life, so we sort of bring that into the show.
How interesting was the multicultural aspect of it? They don’t look like your typical sitcom family. I never thought I’d hear the term “Nani” (maternal grandmother) on a Canadian television show.
Meaghan: The reality is that that’s what the world looks like now. That’s what my family looks like. It’s really amazing. It shouldn’t be amazing, but it is – that we’re making this very normal and our cast gets to be so diverse. It’s not a show about a mixed-race couple or family, it’s a show about a family.
It definitely wasn’t like that when I was growing up. I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV. Or certainly not a family that looked like mine. It’s nice that this is a thing now and that we get to be a part of it.
I also love that the show is actually set in Canada and that they mention that they live in Toronto. Schitt’s Creek always kept it very vague so that they could sell it to the Americans. Toronto feels very much part of this show or when James was thinking about moving to the suburbs, that’s very relatable moment.
Aaron: I think that’s true of a lot of cities, but I think when you make it more specific, it connects with people. I do think that Toronto is a character in the show, so I do think that it appeals to Torontonians and Canadians – and even Americans, as an interesting look into a culture that is kind of like theirs, and not. It adds to the show in every possible way.
Could you tease if they’d actually consider that move to the suburbs a little more throughout the season?
Aaron: In the first season the debate between Astrid and James was whether or not to have a third kid, the debate this season is about whether or not to pick up the family and move away from the city, and perhaps a little bit farther away from their extended family and friends…but they’ll have more money, space, and quiet! They are debating the pros and cons of moving throughout the season.
Congratulations on the success of the show. The first season began at the start of the year, and we’ve already got season 2 underway this fall. Has this all felt like a whirlwind?
Meaghan: Yeah, it definitely was a fast turnaround because we were still shooting a few months ago. We finished in the beginning of July, so it wasn’t that long ago. We did 16 episodes this season, which we shot very quickly. That’s what felt like a whirlwind of it all. We’re still recovering! It’s already started to air.
Aaron and I are still going into the studio to record our voiceovers, so we’re not even done this season yet, technically.
Aaron: It’s nice to be moved up to September. Last season, we premiered in January, so that makes it feel like the turnaround is tight, which is great because fans of the show can pick up where they left off and there’s not this big gap where they’ve forgotten who we are. We just sort of continue. And they are going to get more episodes, which is great.
Children Ruin Everything airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV. Canadians can catch up with seasons one and two on CTV.ca and the CTV app. The first season is also streaming on Crave in Canada and The Roku Channel in the U.S.