What’s one thing that deep-dish pizza, the Wrigley Building, and the Chicago Cubs all have in common? They’re iconic staples of The Windy City, the most crowded and well-known city in Midwestern America. Inspired by the city’s wild antics and people comes Netflix’s latest animated series: Chicago Party Aunt.
This upcoming adult animation series is heavy on laughter and the Chicagoan accents. It was sparked by the Twitter account created by Chris Witaske back in 2016, parodying a delightfully unhinged, stereotypical Chicago woman named Diane. Now, the comedic Twitter account will be making its way to the small screen on September 17 with the release of the show’s first eight 30-minute episodes, the rest are due to be released as a Part 2 drop at a future date.
Voicing the lead characters Diane Dunbrowski and her gay nephew Daniel are actors Lauren Ash and Rory O’Malley. Both gushed about their personal connection to The Windy City in an exclusive interview with Monsters & Critics. Ash shared that it’s her “favorite city.”
She said, “I lived there for two years when I was on the Second City Mainstage, performing there. And I got to tell you every weekend was an adventure very quickly. Some of the things I love about Chicago one, there is art in the streets. I love that you can turn a corner on a residential street, and then there’s an art installation. I think that’s amazing. Two, I love the waterfront.”
She continued, “Three. The food. I mean, what more do you want in life? Chicago does it right.”
O’Malley’s response was a bit more sentimental. The Broadway actor expressed, “My favorite memory of Chicago is when I was eighteen years old and auditioning for acting schools. And I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. So we’re, like, a distant suburb of Chicago.”
He added, “I had to go to Chicago to the Palmer House Hotel. I went by myself in a plane, and I auditioned for a bunch of schools. And I’ll never forget being there. And just feeling like this is the beginning. And it’s close to where my character Daniel is, eighteen years old, college-age. And that feeling of excitement and the possibility that a big city can bring you.”
Monsters and Critics had the opportunity to sit down with Lauren Ash and Rory O’Malley to talk about their experience starring in Chicago Party Aunt.
O’Malley’s journey from stage to screen
While O’Malley isn’t fresh on the television scene, he has made tremendous success on the Broadway stage. He famously originated the role of Elder McKinley in the comedic musical The Book of Mormon, created by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone. O’Malley also starred in the acclaimed musical Hamilton as King George III, wowing audiences with each rendition of You’ll Be Back.
O’Malley has starred in a handful of television projects, including South Park, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the Lifetime series American Girl. Recently, he joined the star-studded cast of Apple TV’s Central Park, starring alongside Josh Gad and Daveed Diggs. With such a vast range of roles, Monsters and Critics asked him where his interest lies and whether his most recent work in animation was sparked by Broadway’s tragic shut-down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 40-year-old Tony nominee shared, “I’ve always, always, always, always wanted to be a Disney Princess. And that was from an early age growing up in Cleveland, you don’t get to see Broadway shows and musicals all the time. But you did get to go to the movie theater and watch Beauty and the Beast, or Aladdin.” He continued, “For me, a lot of my love for theater really comes from animated musicals. I love animation. I’ve always wanted to do voice-over work and the fact that this happened when a pandemic came was a miracle.”
“I was doing Hamilton. I was about to open a new production in Los Angeles, and it shut down the day of our first preview. Many of us lost work and had difficult things going on,” O’Malley added, sharing that he recorded his lines for Chicago Party Aunt in a homemade studio located inside of his garage. “I recorded all the episodes from home during the pandemic and was able to have conversations with our amazing, hilarious writers and Matt Craig, our showrunner, and to get to laugh with them through one of the most difficult years of my life and in so many peoples.”
He concluded his response with: “My love for this show goes beyond the fact that I think it’s hilarious and brilliant. It really, truly gave me joy at a time that I needed it most.”
Ash on manifesting her leading lady role
Award-winning comedian Lauren Ash wasn’t new to the “Chicago Party Aunt” concept before joining the cast of the television adaptation, she followed the Twitter account from the very beginning. Ash told us, “The account actually started following me, which made me think it was probably somebody that I knew. And so I started reading the Tweets, and I was like, this is hysterical. I have to find out who this is. And so I started to DM the account, and then I literally deleted my message.” She continued, “I was like, no, I want the mystery to remain because I want to pretend she’s a real person.”
The Superstore actor added, “When it got turned into a show: First of all, of course, I found out who was behind it. And it was a dear friend of mine. But then, I was like, I want to play her. I love this account so much. It’s so funny. I wanted to jump at any opportunity for sure.”
Watch our full interview below.
Chicago Party Aunt premieres September 17 on Netflix.