Warning: This interview contains spoilers from the first six episodes of Facebook Watch’s Sorry for Your Loss, which are streaming now.
Sorry for Your Loss is this year’s best-kept secret.
In Facebook Watch’s stellar half-hour drama series, Elizabeth Olsen plays Leigh Shaw, a young widow trying to pick up the pieces following the sudden death of her husband, Matt (Mamoudou Athie). She is a millennial filled with anger, quiet rage and bite, but as she gradually discovers, her husband’s loss forces her to reexamine her own life and her relationships to those closest to her, namely her sister, Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), a recovering alcoholic; mother Amy (Janet McTeer), owner of a floundering gym; and Matt’s brother, Danny (Jovan Adepo).
Instead of wallowing in her grief, Sorry for Your Loss provides Leigh the freedom to experience and process the death of her husband in her own way. After all, there is no right way to grieve. For creator Kit Steinkellner, who drew inspiration from a near-traumatic experience with her husband, and showrunner Lizzy Weiss, that was the guiding principle that was top of mind for the long-gestating 10-episode series.
“One of the things that we learned is there isn’t one authentic way and that’s what we’re trying to honor with every character — that every character is experiencing [Matt’s] death in a different way,” Weiss tells ET. “Every character is very different in the way they process it and when we talked to our psychiatrist and grief experts, that’s the truth. That’s the message. There isn’t a right way to go through loss and however you’re feeling, you’re allowed to feel.”
“From the original pitch, it was the intention to show that this is a multi-faceted experience because life is multi-faceted. It is devastating one minute and then something comes along that is completely hilarious and you’re laughing through your tears,” Steinkellner tells ET. “We were very careful in calibrating the changes to maintain the overall tone of the show to make sure it was consistent.”
With the second half of the freshman season hitting Facebook Watch over the next week, Steinkellner and Weiss talk to ET about the challenges of making the series, what it says about difficult topics like death and loss, and why there’s much more story to tell.
ET: Kit, when did you first get the idea for Sorry for Your Loss?
Kit Steinkellner: It will be five years around the holidays since I started writing the pilot. In the first episode, there is a flashback sequence when [Leigh] wakes up in the middle of the night and her husband is nowhere to be found and she is scared out of her mind that something terrible has happened to him. That was very much based on a real night in my life. Everything was fine, my husband was fine but I couldn’t shake it, just the terror of what had happened and what could have happened. It had been a year where a couple of important people in my life had died, so I felt very vulnerable and unsafe in that moment in time. I started thinking deeply about what it would be like to survive this impossible thing — something people survive every day. The more I started thinking about this heroine, in particular, played by Lizzy Olsen, and the people in her life, I really grew to love them and I really needed to tell their story. It was burning a hole in my gut.
Did having personal experiences with losing loved ones during a short period of time make the process of writing this show more challenging? Did you find it cathartic?
Steinkellner: It was all of those things. I joked about a few times while making this that if this had been directly autobiographical, if my husband was dead, I would not have written the show, I would have written a fantasy or a space opera. It would have been too painful to write this exactly how I wrote it. What we were able to do throughout the series is you take one truth and then you put it inside the pocket of another truth and then you put that inside another vessel of truth, so it’s like a matryoshka doll of truth.
How early in the creative process was Elizabeth Olsen, who also is an executive producer, brought in? Was she always the first choice to be Leigh?
Steinkellner: Yes. Once Lizzy had read the material and sat down and we talked, it was this crazy experience where I realized I had written the part for her without knowing I had written this part for her. She was the only lead. She was always meant to play this role. It’s impossible to imagine anybody else doing what she does with this role. I think that was fall 2015, so it’s been a couple of years.