Cooking and comedy go hand-in-hand in the new series Constance Cooks from co-creators Constance Zaytoun and Marc Stuart Weitz.

Loosely based on her real life, the series tracks Constance on a quest to follow her passion for cooking, instead of paying off her PhD student loans.

The pilot episode recently premiered at NYC Web Fest, where it earned the award for ‘Best Pilot’ along with plenty of fans.

This single camera comedy refers to itself as a “hybrid” because it combines a scripted narrative along with a bonus time-lapse recipe demonstration segment at the end. So, we can laugh and then actually learn something – or not.

I recently caught up with Constance Zaytoun to learn more about the series.

What can you tell us about your new TV project Constance Cooks?

CONSTANCE ZAYTOUN: Constance Cooks is kind of like a modern-day Mary Tyler Moore Show crossed with Julia Child, by way of Sex and the City! Our protagonist, Constance, is a 40 year-old professor with a cooking problem. Rather than stay in academia to pay off her loans, she slings cocktails and dreams of creating her own cooking show where she interviews New York artists.

Each episode starts with her describing a recipe she’s going to make, but then you see all the trials she goes through in her daily life in her attempt to make this cooking show. She’s just a little too old, or not hip enough, or out-of-step, or whatever. By the end of the episode, however, she’s discovered a better recipe as a result of her age and experience. So she succeeds, but with a twist that surprises her and keeps her moving toward her goal. And then after the narrative portion of the episode, we actually include a time-lapse demonstration of the recipe so you can make it, too!

Where did you get the idea for this new hybrid comedy?

CZ: Well it’s pretty much based on my life! While I was writing my dissertation, I used to interview artists at my apartment and cook them dinner. And I’d been toying with making an interview style show for many years, but the living journal format I was thinking of was too difficult to self-produce and get off the ground. And then I had one of those “ah-hah” moments where I realized the structure of the show was actually “meta.” Instead of creating a cooking show in which I interview NY artists and cook their favorite foods, it’s a show about a woman who wants to make that show, but she’s not sure she knows how or if she’s too late in her life to make it happen.

Any interesting stories from the set you can share with us?

CZ: I mean the biggest thing that stands out for me was just how crazy cold it was on set! Unknown to us at the time, we chose the coldest weekend of the year to start principal photography. I would see our crew shiver during set-ups. And I’m in a short skirt and boots in the middle of the night, and my coat is supposed to be unbuttoned to show off my blouse. I was freezing! Our fabulous costume designer and art director were literally holding coats and blankets to my legs in between shots! I also never realized how frequently planes fly overhead in Brooklyn. We had to make sure we got our takes in short bursts, because every three minutes, another plane flew overhead and ruined our sound! Now I know.

What do you want audiences to gain from watching it?

CZ: The show is a tribute to women who have stayed in New York to pursue their dreams, but for whatever reason haven’t really been able to start their life to fully realize what they want. But New York really represents the sacrifice that anybody anywhere might have to make to be where they feel they can step into their power. So in the way that Constance takes a leap to jumpstart her life at 40, I hope we can inspire people, wherever they are, to realize it’s never too late to start. That’s a story that I feel is missing from the current TV landscape, where it can often be about starting over or starting something new, after you’ve already been successful at something. The women I know are still dreaming about that first success and continuing to plug along and do the work!

What’s been the biggest lesson for you personally from creating this project?

CZ: So many lessons! For one, I feel like Marc and I gave ourselves a very quick, very intense education in filmmaking! We’ve learned so much in just a year’s time. Also, much like my character, I’ve learned to value my voice more. At the end of the day, this project is Marc’s and my vision, so we need to stand behind the creation of each moment and make sure those reveal what we believe to be true. Lastly, I am inspired every day working with creatives who have chosen to collaborate with us, and most especially, I’m inspired working with Marc. I marvel at our ability to work together, and I’m grateful, too. It’s not that we don’t butt heads sometimes, but we always come out on the other side and find a wonderful solution that supports our collaboration.

Where does Constance Cooks go from here?

CZ: The future is unknown, but bright! We’ve finished three episodes, and we’d like to find producing and distribution partners, so we can finish the first season and get the story out there. We just won the Best Pilot Award at NYC Web Fest, so we’re very excited and hope that positive response propels us onwards and upwards!

Thanks, Constance – you’re definitely cooking-up a winner!
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Feb 24, 2020
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