CULVER CITY, CA—Writers of a popular prime-time CBS sitcom spent the last three weeks making late-stage script adjustments to work its female lead's recent abortion into its storyline, sources close to the show revealed Monday.
In the upcoming episode of Same Difference, taped late last week and scheduled to air in May, star Kirsten Sumner's character, Trish O'Connell, the sharp-tongued but beautiful wife of portly Chicago bread-truck driver Greg O'Connell, played by Carl Hubbard, will reveal to her husband she was pregnant and had an abortion without his knowledge. Trish's revelation comprises the secondary, or "B," story of the episode, in which Greg eats a meatball sandwich against his wife's wishes.
"It would've been insulting to our viewers if we never addressed the fact that Kirsten is so obviously post-abortion," executive producer Aaron Karsch said. "We did consider shooting around the abortion and using lighting tricks and strategically placed plants to cover up her uterus. But everyone would have been able to tell anyhow, so we figured we might as well use it to the show's advantage."
Sumner, who decided to terminate her pregnancy after several weeks of emotional deliberation, reportedly informed the show's executive producers about it earlier this month. Though the abortion posed a significant challenge for Same Difference's 12 writers, who were given the task of addressing it in a way that would not disrupt the show's lighthearted pace or contradict Sumner's on-screen persona, Karsch said such developments "come with the territory."
"When you're writing a successful sitcom, sometimes the actors' personal lives find a way to creep on set and you just have to adapt," Karsch said. "Kirsten's around that age when a lot of actresses start thinking about having abortions, so I guess it's not that surprising."
After viewing the rough edits of the new scenes, Karsch said he "couldn't be happier" with the decision to include Sumner's abortion in the show, and expects the episode will be Same Difference's most popular since "High Definition," a 2002 episode in which Greg bought a big-screen TV.
"It wasn't easy, but in the end, we got some very solid material out of it—the plotline stayed true to the O'Connells' relationship while still being entertaining," said co- executive producer Larry Krespie, adding that, thanks to the show's resourceful writing staff, Sumner's evacuated womb may be "the best thing that ever happened to Same Difference."
Despite his initial skepticism about how the new abortion storyline would play to the female 36 to 49 demographic, Krespie was ultimately won over after viewing the rough edits.
"Kirsten did some brilliant acting," said Krespie, who called Sumner's portrayal of a woman who had recently had an abortion "spot-on." "Our show does a lot of quiet, observational humor, and I think anyone who's had an abortion would be hard-pressed not to relate to, and get a chuckle out of, Trish's situation."
Continued Krespie: "Kirsten really got into the mind of her character, even in the physical-comedy scenes, like when she was trying to avoid Greg and get out of the house to get the abortion. And later in the packed abortion clinic, when she mistakes the number 81 she received from the receptionist for 18, and finds out she has to wait much longer for her abortion. But it all leads to a nice, poignant ending when both characters realize they should have been honest with each other all along—Trish with her pregnancy, and Greg with his sandwich."