Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

Katey Sagal plays mom to son Jackson White in 'Tell Me Lies'

2022 Hulu

Jackson White’s favorite episode of his new Hulu series “ Tell Me Lies ” was also the hardest for him to film. His real-life mom, actor Katey Sagal, played his mother on this week’s fifth episode.

We meet Sagal's character, Norah, when White's Stephen returns home from college for Christmas break. He's the middle child of three kids who were raised by their single mom. Throughout the episode we see Norah's manipulation tactics and distortion of reality. She uses her own children as scapegoats and deflects any focus put onto her own behavior.

It immediately clicks why the Stephen character is the way he is, calculating, often dishonest and usually maintaining an upper-hand with those around him.

Meaghan Oppenheim, the showrunner, said her mother was “obsessed” with the Sagal-starring sitcom “Married... with Children” and when it came time to cast the Stephen character's mother, she had the idea to ask Sagal to play the part. First, she wanted White's blessing.

“I felt I had to ask Jackson before anyone else. So I texted him. I said, ‘How would you feel if your mom played Norah?’ And he didn’t respond for a while and then he was like, ‘I love it. Let’s talk to her.’”

Sagal says all it took was a chat with Oppenheim and her response was an “immediate yes."

White describes the experience as "insane" but also says she was “perfect casting.”

“I'm friends with my mother, and we had to be extremely passive aggressive and tense, but it was so fun and exciting to build that relationship and talk to each other how we’ve never really talked to each other," he said.

Sagal agreed: “It was a challenge to leave our very close relationship at the door, and take on the extremely toxic dynamic between Stephen and his mom. Jackson shows up fully on set, ready to play, present and collaborative,” she added. “It was beautiful.”

White's co-star, Grace Van Patten, who portrays Lucy, Stephen's love interest on the series, who is often making excuses for him and feeling disappointed, also says it was her “favorite episode.”

"It's such a good middle mark because you can't hate Stephen really any more than you do before episode four, so then five comes in and it slaps some empathy on, you reboot your feelings and possibly understand him a little bit more.”

Sagal and White are not the first parent and child actors to share scenes together. Other examples include Ryan and Tatum O'Neal in the 1973 film “Paper Moon,” Will and Jaden Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006 and Donald and Kiefer Sutherland in the 2016 movie “Forsaken.”

Related Stories
A toxic relationship is fun viewing in Hulu's 'Tell Me Lies'
Grace Van Patten and Jackson White co-star in the new Hulu series ‘Tell Me Lies,’ about a couple in college…
From analysis to the latest developments in health, read the most diverse news in one place.
New this week: 'Reasonable Doubt,' 'Blonde' and Björk
This week’s new entertainment releases include albums from Björk and Broadway's "Into the Woods,” the reunion of Bette Midler, Sarah…
River City star Jordan Young says soap has 'changed his life' ahead of 20th anniversary
He joined the BBC's flagship Scottish soap as Alex Murdoch in 2013 and as the cast and crew prepare to…
Review: Remaking a beloved sitcom can be a disaster. 'Reboot' spins it into comedy gold
Corny jokes and smart humor battle it out in "Reboot," a half-hour comedy about a millennial writer's effort to revamp…
Kathleen Turner: Women aren't "vessels"
The legendary actor spoke to Salon about "The Swearing Jar," her career and the importance of independent film
One place to find news on any topic, from hundreds of sites.
Khloe Kardashian's heartbreaking second birth - no Tristan as Kim steps in
The Kardashians has aired the moment that Khloe welcomed her second child with Tristan Thompson but in the absence of…