Will Graham on the Profound Joy of ‘A League of Their Own’
A League of Their Own premiered on Prime Video on Aug. 12. The TV show follows the creation of the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and stars Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, D’Arcy Carden, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roberta Colindrez, Molly Ephraim, Melanie Field, Kelly McCormack, and Priscilla Delgado.
The series has been heralded for its diversity and authentic storytelling. Will Graham created the trailblazing series with Jacobson. Following the release of the show’s first season, Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with Graham about how joy runs deep throughout A League of Their Own.
How the 1992 movie inspired ‘A League of Their Own’
The film A League of Their Own premiered in 1992. Directed by Penny Marshall, it stars Geena Davis as Dottie Hinson, Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan, and Lori Petty as Dottie’s sister Kit Keller. When it was released in 1992, the movie was groundbreaking in its own right.
“For me, it was a real lifeline because I was a queer kid and there was no queer content around me. And like everybody else in the world, I found some of that subtext in the movie and found the idea that it’s OK to be on the field even if you don’t look or act like the people who are supposed to be on the field,” Graham tells Showbiz on a Zoom call.
While shooting Mozart in the Jungle in Venice, Italy, Graham decided to rewatch A League of Their Own. This prompted him to start looking beyond the film’s subtext.
“You don’t have to look far to start imagining that there was a queer story underneath this. So I started to look into those real stories. As soon as I did that, I felt like there was a much bigger story here to tell,” he says.
How the series differs from the movie
While the Prime Video series is an adaptation of the 1992 film, Graham tells Showbiz that he and Jacobson did not want to do a reboot of the movie.
Instead, the series expands on the subtext from the movie through new characters and stories. LGBTQ and Black storylines are not just alluded to in A League of Their Own, they are central to the show’s entire premise.
“When we first started doing it, Abbi and I had a conversation with Penny Marshall, just spiritually wanting to feel good about moving forward and just to have her know what we were doing,” says Graham.
Even though A League of Their Own does not feature the same characters as the movie, Rosie O’Donnell, who played Doris Murphy in the film, appears in the series in a new role.
“It was so fun working with her. Just one of those moments that you pinch yourself and you can’t believe what you’re doing,” Graham shares. “I think she’s also been such a supporter of the show and acknowledges that the show is doing something that hasn’t really been done before in terms of how it’s depicting queer characters.”
Joy is a central part of ‘A League of Their Own’
To make A League of Their Own, Graham and Jacobson conducted intense research to make sure the series reflected the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as accurately as possible.
“Doing this research and making the show has been life-changing for me personally. And a huge part of that is the joy of these stories,” Graham tells Showbiz.
As part of their research, Graham and Jacobson talked to original players from the League, including Maybelle Blair.
Recounting speaking with Blair, Graham shares, “We asked her, ‘What was it like finding all these people who were like you?’ And she was like, ‘Oh, it was a party.'”
For Graham, this revelation was profound.
“The idea that that happened, that this joyful moment of connection and finding yourself in the world and finding other people who were like you happened for queer people in the ’40s with an incredible amount of hardship too was… It makes you realize what you’re a part of in terms of the history,” he says.
Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson created the series together
A League of Their Own is a collaboration between Graham and Jacobson, who also plays one of the show’s main characters, Carson Shaw.
“At the time that I talked to Abbi about it, I knew that I wanted to work with someone else on it. And we both knew that ultimately this was going to have to be a show that was written by a team,” Graham says.
For Graham, working with Jacobson “was a total joy,” and he thinks the balance of their creative efforts made the show the best it could be.
“Neither of us would have written the show exactly this way without the other. But ultimately, it made it something better than and more full than either of us would have come to on our own,” the showrunner says.
Season 2 of ‘A League of Their Own’ is in the works
Because the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League lasted until 1954, there is no shortage of storylines for future seasons of A League of Their Own.
“I think the problem with this show, from the moment that we started looking into the real stories, it has never been, ‘What are we going to do?’ It’s been, ‘There’s so much, and what’s the right way of bringing the audience into it?'” Graham tells Showbiz.
Luckily for fans of the series, the creators behind A League of Their Own have already started working on a second season.
“The question isn’t any more whether the League is going to exist. It’s existing and people are paying attention and it’s expanding,” Graham explains. “So there’s a different kind of problem that comes from success. And new obstacles and challenges once people are paying attention to you. We’re really excited to tell that story, but still through the same lens of joy that the first season has and that I think people are responding to so strongly.”
The first season of A League of Their Own is available to stream on Prime Video.