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'Housebroken' brings out the animal in pet owners, stars say

'Housebroken' brings out the animal in pet owners, stars say

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If Clea DuVall had been able to take her cat to therapy, she may not have written “Housebroken,” a new animated series on Fox.

“I have a cat who just seems permanently dissatisfied and I wanted more than anything to be able to go to a counselor together so she could tell me what needs I wasn’t meeting,” she says. “And then I started thinking that would be such a great idea for a show – getting into what animals’ interior lives are really like.”

In the sitcom, a poodle named Honey (voiced by Lisa Kudrow) leads other pets in group therapy sessions. They dish their owners and complain about the lives they lead.

DuVall, who’s also one of the show’s producers, voices Elsa, an all-knowing Corgi and service dog in training. Nat Faxon plays Chief, a St. Bernard who always seems joyful.

“My character was exactly what I imagined myself as a pet – very simple, somewhat dim, eats anything.” Chief has much in common with one of Faxon’s friends. “He loves to have a really good time and doesn’t ever really get to the depths of much of anything,” Faxon says. “I basically told him one day, ‘I’m doing you as a St. Bernard’ and he said, ‘That’s great. That’s awesome. That sounds like a fun show.’”

Others have veered a bit from their own personalities.

Will Forte, who plays Shel, a tortoise with intimacy issues, thought of himself as a stallion. “Then, sadly, it really is true that I’m more of a tortoise,” he says.

Sharon Horgan, who voices Tabitha, an aging show cat, figures the character is setting her up for what’s ahead. “She has had to come to terms with the brutal reality of her career ending early,” she jokes.

Because “Housebroken” was recorded during the coronavirus pandemic, the actors didn’t get to record with all the others. “It’s hard for me not to see the person I’m talking to,” Kudrow says. “But it’s fun because you get to keep doing it over and over again. Unlike a live-action sitcom, they have 10 minutes after the scene to make it perfect.”

Forte, who has voiced characters in other series (including “The Great North,” also on Fox), considers it “the best job there is. You get to be presented with these super-funny scripts and work with a great group of friends. There’s no downside.”

Faxon also likes the ability to “record in your pajamas. There’s a lot of positives.”

After DuVall got the idea for a series, she went to Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, producers she knew from other work (including “Veep”), and brainstormed.

“We love therapy, we love animals and we just thought it would be a great way to look at human issues in a way that felt palatable and relatable for everybody,” Allan says. “There’s something about putting it on a dog or a cat that makes our internal lives easier to talk about.”

Faxon says more people should live lives like pets: “Things don’t need to be this complicated. It can be easy, you know: eating, sleeping and chasing squirrels.”


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