D’Arcy Carden on A League of Their Own, Baseball, and Creator Abbi Jacobson

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Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for A League of Their Own.

From co-creators and executive producers Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham, the Amazon Studios original series A League of Their Own embraces the spirit of the 1992 film from director Penny Marshall while delving much deeper into its 1940s/World War II time period and what the dream of playing professional baseball meant to a generation of women. When Carson Shaw (Jacobson) leaves her life behind to try out for the Peaches, she meets a team of smart, funny women, each of whom is trying to overcome their own obstacles in order to find themselves out on the baseball field.

COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, D’Arcy Carden (who plays the equal parts sassy and confident team player Greta Gill) talked about how much she wanted to be a part of A League of Their Own, her background with baseball, and what it was like to work with the professional players. She also spoke about the challenge that came with wearing the gloves for the era, the Greta and Jo (Melanie Field) friendship, and what she thinks might need to happen for Greta and Carson, if they get to continue telling this story. She also talked about whether she’d be game to appear on the CBS series Ghosts, alongside her longtime friend Brandon Scott Jones.

COLLIDER: Because you’re good friends with Abbi Jacobson, who created the show and is pretty much a one-woman creative band, did you know that she was working on this, as she was developing what it ultimately came to be? Did she ever say, “Hey, this is what I’m working on,” or, “I’m writing this character for you to play?”

D’ARCY CARDEN: Yeah. I knew she’d been working on it for years. I came on in 2019, but I think she started working on this in 2017. Abbi’s one of my best friends, so we always update each other on what’s going on, in our lives and careers. I remember when she told me about this meeting she had about A League of Their Own. I also knew how much she loved the movie and had always been a huge fan of the movie, and I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, that’s perfect for her. That is the perfect place to do this.” But then, I was also like, “Poor me, I wanna be a part of it too.” I felt really excited for her but really jealous for me, which is not my favorite feeling because I don’t love that. But I couldn’t help it because I love the movie, I love sports, I love Abbi, and the whole thing. It was just like, “Oh, man, I can’t picture a better thing for me to do. Too bad she didn’t ask me, and I can’t do it because I’m doing other things.” And then, the timing of it really worked out well. When The Good Place ended, that was when they were starting to cast the show. I never expected it. I thought maybe someday, some season down the road, I could be a player on a different team or something like that. But I didn’t think I’d get to play Greta Gill.


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When you found out about this role, was it fully formed? Did you know what this character would be when Abbi said, “This is the character I want you to play?”

CARDEN: Yeah, I did. All I had to go on was the pilot, but I loved that first episode. And then, Abbi and I talked about it a ton, and she told me, “If we’re so lucky to get a full season,” which we did, “this is what the arc would look like.” And I just loved it. It was that feeling of, “I can’t not. I must. I have to be a part of it. I can’t let this go.” Right now, today, this very day, I, D’Arcy, would be having a really hard time watching this come out with someone else playing this role.


That would’ve been the moment your friendship became very different.

CARDEN: Yeah, totally. It would be like, “I can’t be around you for a while.”

You shot this pilot before the pandemic, which is interesting because you initially got to know each other without all of the safety precautions, and you had time waiting to find out if the show got picked up. Did you guys do anything, in that time? Did you set up weekly Zoom meetings? What did you do while you were waiting?

CARDEN: It was such a funny thing because we were playing baseball together and we were spending tons of time together, and then we shot the pilot, which was two weeks, or whatever. We just couldn’t get enough of each other. We were in each other’s faces for a good long while. And then, the world shut down and it was almost like, even though I’ve had longer relationships with other friends, these were the people that I was with right before the shutdown, so we were still talking, all the time. It seems so long ago now, but really not seeing each other, that was just such a weird time, that first six months, or whatever it was. It was just like, “Can we even get together at a park, or is that dangerous? Is that irresponsible?” So, we weren’t really seeing each other, but we were definitely in great contact. And then, once the show got picked up, about a year later, it was on.


I know you’ve said that you played baseball, as a kid and through high school. Was it specifically that sport that you had been interested in, or was that the only sport that was available? What drew you to baseball?

CARDEN: That’s funny. I wonder. I grew up in the Bay Area in a big Oakland A’s family. My grandma was obsessed with the Oakland A’s. She had a framed picture of José Canseco in her house. It must be that. Looking back, I’m like, “Why did I?” It must be just that we went to a lot of baseball games, so I knew the sport and I remember wanting to play before I was allowed to. I don’t know how young. I don’t even know if girls played tee-ball. Anyway, as soon as they had a team that I could play on, I think I was nine when I joined the team. I was ready from age six. And then, I played basketball, I played soccer, I played water polo, and I played whatever I could get my hands or feet on in high school, but softball always just felt really right. I got it. I loved it. Some of the other sports, like swimming or soccer, were more of a struggle. Baseball was like, “Ah.”

What was it like to have an experience where you’ve played some baseball, and then you take this detour and you become an actor, but then you find yourself on a set with professional baseball players?

CARDEN: I know. It was so surreal. I’d had this thought before, where I had already felt like between The Good Place and Barry, “Oh, this is a dream come true.” I was already feeling like, “I can’t believe my luck.” And now, on top of that, I was in A League of Their Own, getting to play baseball and be an actor. This is what I would’ve written in a letter to Santa or God or something like that. I don’t know. I’m not sure who. But if someone asked, “What’s your dream when you grow up?” it would have been being a baseball-playing actress. It was just really fun. And the cast, or the team, got along so well. We shot out in Pittsburgh, which felt like summer camp. It was a little too good to be true.

When it came to the baseball side of filming, was there a most difficult thing that you had to learn or do, that you didn’t know would be that hard?

CARDEN: The thing that was such a bummer was the day that they switched us from modern gloves to 1940s gloves. That was depressing. Everybody had improved. Some of the girls had never played before, and they had gotten so good. We were all getting to the point where we were “good,” which I’m saying in quotes because obviously, the real baseball players were actually good. We were just actor-good. But when they switched us to the prop 1940s gloves, which are almost like kitchen mitts or something, they’re just soft and tiny and really hurt your hand. It was like, “Oh, well, it’s never gonna be good.” I was so sad.


One of the best relationships on this show is the friendship that Greta and Jo have because, from the second they’re on screen together, you can see how much they care about each other. When did you guys meet? Did you instantly know that it was going to work, or was there a lightbulb moment that happened?

CARDEN: Yeah, it’s so funny that you say that. I love Melanie Field. She’s an incredible actor. I knew of her before this, but we’d never met. I was one of the first people cast, so during the audition process, I got to be a part of it and be in the room, or audition, with a lot of the actors. And when Melanie walked in to audition for Jo, it was so instant. It was like we had known each other forever. Greta and Jo are always on top of each other, always hanging on each other, and we were doing that in the audition. We were physically close, which usually takes a minute to warm up to someone. It was so effortless with her. It was undeniable. And when Melanie walked out of the audition room, everybody, all the producers, looked at me and I looked at them and they were like, “Yeah, that’s gonna be Jo.” Without a doubt, she just had it. I love Melanie. I love getting to be in those big group scenes with her because we always have so much fun, but also the more serious, one-on-one scenes. She’s just a fantastic actor. It was a privilege to get to be in the scenes with her.


There’s a bit of a falling out and a separation between them during the season, which is heartbreaking because it’s so easy to love their friendship, making it hard to see that relationship so fractured. What was it like to explore that turning point for them, with where things get for them by the end of the season? Do you feel like there’s also hope for the future of their friendship?

CARDEN: Yeah. When we were filming the first half of the season, it was always a little bittersweet, knowing what was coming and that we were gonna have this big breakup. It was hard. I really love their friendship, and I get their friendship. That sister soulmate, best friend thing is really important and really huge. Whatever that bond was, it was so fractured it felt irreparable. So, it was tough shooting those scenes, knowing that was coming. And shooting those scenes was really heartbreaking. I do think there is hope for their relationship. I want the best for the characters. I want them to be together, but I’m also like, “Well, I don’t know if it might be best for Jo to step out on her own for a little while before they come back together.” It might not be. You don’t want Jo and Greta to fall back into their old habits. They do need to be their own people.


The kiss at the end of the season between Greta and Carson is so beautiful and so sad because we know that they can’t just run off together, even if they both want to.

CARDEN: Yeah.

At the same time, the audience knows that Carson has gotten caught by her husband after Greta leaves. What do you hope happens for Greta and Carson? If there is a second season, what would you want for them?

CARDEN: It’s a little bit similar to the Jo and Greta situation. The romantic in me wants Greta and Carson to be together forever, and their love prevails and everything. But there’s also something really cool about Carson maybe having some time to herself, alone for real, with no love interest, to focus on herself and who she is, and explore and become her own person, and be truly fully realized. That would be important. If I were in the writers’ room, I think there would be something to them taking some time apart. Maybe Greta and Carson come back together later. I do think it would be important, honestly, for all of them, not just for Carson, but for Greta to have some time to herself, and for Jo to have some time to herself. They need to be apart, in order to come back better.


My co-worker interviewed the cast of Ghosts at Comic-Con in July, and your good friend on that show, Brandon Scott Jones, mentioned you as the confidante he would go to if he were to ever see ghosts because he said you would just understand that. But him mentioning you also sparked conversation from the cast about how they would all love to have you be on that show.

CARDEN: It did?!

Yes, it did. And they would all love to have you come guest on Ghosts.

CARDEN: Yay!

Would you be game to do that?

CARDEN: Hell yeah! God, I love that show. I love that cast. It’s so much fun. And Brandon Scott Jones is my real true love. I adore him. It’s almost like he’s my and my husband’s third spouse, or child. I’m not quite sure what our relationship is, but we spend most of our time with him. I would do that show in a heartbeat. I would love to be in scenes with Brandon. Brandon and I have been on stage together for 15 years. We’ve done sketch shows, and improv shows, and two-person improv shows. I think he’s one of the most talented people on the face of the earth, and I would do whatever he wants, forever. Maybe I could play his twin sister, or his enemy, or his wife, something. I’m in, whatever he wants. I’ll go to Canada for that. Hell yeah!


A League of Their Own is available to stream on Prime Video.

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