In ‘A League of Their Own’, Abbi Jacobson teams up

abby jacobson can actually play baseball, he insisted. Just not when the cameras are rolling. He told me, “I get completely gasped when someone is looking at me.”

It was a recent weekday morning, on a shady bench overlooking the ball field in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Jacobson lives nearby, in an apartment she shares with her fiancée, “For All Mankind” actress Jodi Balfour. This morning, she hadn’t come to the field to play, which was good – the little kids sizzled with diamonds. (That was cool too, because while Jacobson can play, I can’t, although she offered to teach me.) And honestly, she deserved to enjoy her off-season.

In “a league of Their Own12 on Amazon Prime Video, Jacobson stars as Carson Shaw, the catcher of the Rockford Peaches. Carson is an invented character, but the Peaches, a team of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, started in 1943, are happily real. For five rainy months, 38-year-old Jacobson had to catch, throw, hit, and slide across bases, on location in Pittsburgh. Is some of this computer generated magic? Sure, but not all. Which means Jacobson played when a lot of people were watching. And she played well.

“She’s really good,” said Will Graham, who made the series with him. “Abbi is constantly self-destructive and self-deprecating but is actually a badass.”

Carson, a talented, concerned woman, becomes the de facto leader of the team. As a producer and executive producer as well as the star of the series, Jacobson leads a team, both onscreen and off. This is work she’s been doing since her mid-20s, when she and Ilana Glazer created and eventually oversaw comedies such as Gadgad, Unleadedly “Broad City”. In that show, she became a leader more or less by chance. On “A League of Their Own”, inspired by Joe Penny Marshall’s 1992 filmJacobson led from the beginning and on purpose, influencing the script with his ideas of what leadership might look like.

“The stories I want to tell are about how I’m a messy person, and I’m insecure all the time,” she said. “And then what if the most insecure, precarious person is the leader? What if the messy person becomes their own boss?”

So is Carson’s story his story?

“Kind of,” she said, squinting against the sun.

Jacobson, who describes herself as an introvert rather than an extrovert, is approachable as an observer before being a participant, but also cautious. Even in the midst of animated conversation, she has an attitude that suggests that if you leave her alone with a book, or a sketch pad, or maybe even her dog, Desi, it’ll be fine, too.

Her favorite pastime: “I like to go and sit in a very populated area like a book. Alone,” she said.

That morning, she wore a white tank top and paint-stained pants, but the stains had already been applied and deliberate, sloppiness had turned into fashion. The bag she was carrying was Chanel. She didn’t look like a baseball player, but she did look like a woman who became comfortable in her own skin, cleaned off most of her personal mess and put the rest to professional use.

“He’s a boss,” said the writer and comedian Phoebe Robinson, A friend. “And she knows herself at her core.”

Jacobson grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, the youngest of two children in a Reformed Jewish family. She used to play sports as a child – softball, basketball, travel football – until she gave them to jam bands and weeds.

“That team mentality was from my childhood,” she said.

After art school, she moved to New York to become a dramatic actress, then entered comedy through improvisation classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. He and Glazer wanted to join a house improv team, but were rejected by team after team. so they made “Broad City” Instead, which ran for five seasons, first as a web series and then on Comedy Central. a “Girls” Without the glow, leaving behind pot smoke, it followed its protagonists, Abbi and Ilana, as they blazed a zigzag trail through young adulthood. The New Yorker affectionately called the show, A “bra-meat.”

For Jacobson, the show was a professional development seminar and a form of therapy. Through writing and playing a version of herself, she emerged more confident, less anxious.

“The realization of her anxiety in the character allowed her to look at it and move in a different direction,” Glazer said.

In 2017, when “Broad City” had two seasons to go, Graham (“Mozart in the Jungle”) Jacobson invited to dinner. He had recently acquired the rights to “A League of Their Own”, a film he had loved as a child. He thought it could make a great series with a few changes. Some of the characters’ queues—rendered in the film via blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subtext—should have been more obvious this time around. In the film, in a scene that lasts only a few seconds, A black woman returns the ball for a foul With force and precision, a signal to the separation of the league. It also deserved more attention.

Graham had followed Jacobson, he said, for his honesty, his smarts, his nervous optimism. He wanted the show to be a joyous experience. And he wanted the stories he told – especially queer stories – to convey joy as well. She felt that Jacobson, who came out in her mid-30s, could deliver.

“She’s very funny, and also emotionally honest — and too afraid to be emotionally honest,” Graham said.

As soon as Jacobson finished the final season of “Broad City”, development on the new series began. She and Graham threw themselves into the research, talking to a few surviving women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League or in the negro league, He also spoke with Marshall via phone, before his death in 2018. Marshall focused primarily on the story of one woman: Geena Davis’s Dottie. Graham and Jacobson wanted to try to tell as many stories as the eight-episode season allowed.

“The film is the story of white women playing baseball,” Jacobson said. “That’s just not enough.”

Gradually the show took shape, turning from a half-hour comedy to an hour-long drama. Then it found its co-stars: D’Arcy Carden as Greta, the glamor girl of the team; Roberta Kolindrez as Lupe, the team’s pitcher; Song Adams As Max, a black superstar looking for a team of his own. Rosie O’DonnellA star from the original film, playing the owner of a gay bar, signed on for an episode.

The pilot was shot in Los Angeles, doubling first for Chicago and then for Rockford, Ill. Soon after the coronavirus hit, production was delayed until last summer. Rising costs prompted the show to relocate to Pittsburgh, which, as it happens, is a problem for a show with so many game-day scenes, a rainy city. But the cast and crew handled it.

“It had a kind of summer camp quality to it,” Graham said.

And Jacobson, as Glazer reminded me, spent many years as a camp advisor. So much of the quality of that summer camp was owed to him. And he insisted on frequent baseball practice.

“There was a lot of baseball practice, months of baseball practice actually,” Cardon said. “We were more of a team than an artist. That was Abbi. Abbi is an ensemble person.”

Adams first met Jacobson in the audition room. (As a longtime “Broad City” fan, she struggled to keep her cool.) On set, Jacobson immediately impressed her.

“I don’t know how she does it,” Adams said. “But even as a leader and the star of the show, she always makes sure everyone’s voice is heard and included.” After filming ended, Adams said, Jacobson continued to show for her, attending the opening night of her Broadway show.

“It just melted my heart,” she said. “Abbi is the epitome of what it means to be a leader.”

Jacobson doesn’t always feel that way, but she feels it more often than ever before. “Sometimes I can really own it,” she said. “And sometimes I go home, and I’m like, What kind of person am I? Or what’s going on here?” So she gives Carson the same self-doubt a leader develops when she accepts her vulnerability.

But Carson’s story is only one of those series that celebrates a range of women’s experiences: black, white and Latina women; straight, queer and questioning women; women women; butch woman; And women in between. Many actors are beautiful in the ways Hollywood loves. There are not many.

Yet the show insists that all these women deserve love, friendship and fulfillment. In an email, O’Donnell observed that while the film focused on the story of one woman, this new version gives nearly every character a rich inner life “in a beautiful and accurate way that brings the characters’ humanity to the fore.” “

Kardon has known Jacobson from his early days for over 15 years. No one cast her as the romantic lead until Jacobson dropped a glove and a hand-drawn card (“adorable and romantic,” Cardon said) and invited her to join the team. saw. Carden was proud to play the role and was also proud to work with Jacobson again.

“He hasn’t changed at all,” Cardon said. “She’s always been an abbie, but confidence is different.”

Jacobson wears that confidence lightly. A ray of uncertainty remains. “I’m not the person you’re like, he should be leading the show,” he told me in Prospect Park.

But clearly he is. When he didn’t have a team, he made his own, and now he’s made another. After an hour and a half, she picked up her purse and her coffee cup and went back to the park. like a boss. like a coach. like a leader.

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