Arts & Entertainment

Westfield Native Jessica St. Clair Talks About Her Hit Show, Playing House, and Hometown Inspiration

Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair (Maggie and Emma of USA Network's Playing House) Credits: USA Network
Jessica St. Clair with childhood friend Kelly Feeney during their college years.

WESTFIELD, NJ — Jessica St. Clair, co-star/creator of USA Network comedy Playing House, hasn’t forgotten about her home town, Westfield. In fact, she weaves memories of growing up here into the hit show.

Playing House was created by real life besties St. Clair and Lennon Parham, who met while studying improv comedy at the renowned Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York.

The show follows two best friends, Emma and Maggie, who reconnect in their small childhood town of Pinebrook, CT. While Emma is visiting Pinebrook for Maggie’s baby shower, the two discover that Maggie’s husband is cheating on her. Emma decides to leave her high level position in China to help newly single Maggie raise her soon-to-be-born baby. Laverne and Shirley-type escapades ensue.

Sign Up for E-News

St. Clair, who graduated Westfield High School in 1994, has fond memories of growing up in Westfield and weaves them into the storyline in unique, and sometimes specific, ways.

The fictional town of Pinebrook is a lot like Westfield, she explained.

“It’s a small East Coast town where everyone knows each other,” she said.

“In one of the episodes, ‘Drumline,’ we break into the Pinebrook JCC pool,” said St. Clair, who then revealed, “We used to hop the fence and go swimming in the middle of the night senior year at the Shackamaxon Country Club.”

She sneaks Westfield into the show other ways, too, like when she drops in people's last names.

St. Clair has been named by Variety magazine as one of the 10 Comics to Watch. In addition to Playing House, has appeared in such movies as Bridesmaids, Enough Said and She’s Out of My League. But her theatrical roots were planted here in Westfield. Her first acting stint was a musical titled Logger’s Lament at Roosevelt School.

“I did a musical every year and played sports every year,” said St. Clair. 

She remembers one teacher who encouraged her from a young age.

“Drude Roessler, who happens to be the mother-in-law of USA Network President Chris McCumber, grew up in Westfield. She was my choir teacher,” said St. Clair. "My first production was written by Drude."

Other teachers who she said inspired her were advanced learning teacher Annesly Swicker, English teacher  Paula Roy and French teacher Madame Didier, who fueled St. Clair’s lifelong obsession with France, “which emptied my credit card every year.”

St. Clair’s character on Playing House is based on herself.

“One hundred percent pretty much just me,” she said. “People from my high school might be surprised that I’m a comedian. Back then I was just trying to fit in. I would keep some of my humor to myself. It wasn’t until college that I came into my own and became a comedian.”

When she met her “family” at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, St. Clair’s career started taking off, she said.

“Nobody that I knew was in show business,” said St. Clair. “I majored in drama and did improv comedy at Middlebury College, then lived at home my first year out of college and worked at CNN and at night would intern at the Upright Citizens Brigade, basically cleaning their bathrooms. Basically everybody from Playing House is from the Upright Citizens Brigade. Lennon I met from New York. The philosophy of Upright Citizens Brigade is to keep it in the family.”

She compared UCB to grad school, “if grad school was late night at bars, cleaning toilets and learning how to be a comedian.”

There, she met Amy Poehlor, a “kick-ass comedian who is fearless and also really nice. The second I was at the theater, I felt like a fish out of water. She came up to me and said, ‘Oh, hi, I’m Amy, I just wanted to thank you for helping out.’ Not only is she a fearless comedian but she also keeps it classy,” said St. Clair.

These days, St. Clair lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband, playwright Dan O’Brien, and eight-month-old daughter, Isobel Kelly O’Brien. She holds Westfield very dear to her heart.

“I miss [Westfield] very much. I wish I could raise my kids there,” said St. Clair. “I miss Mindowaskin Park. Walking around the downtown. Halloween – going trick or treating with that small town feeling. Going to The Brown Cow for ice cream. Feeding animal crackers to the Doberman in front of the shoe repair place. Playing sports there. Sledding at Galloping Hill and Echo Park.”

And, she added, “I especially miss the friendships that I made. My best friend, Brandi Kovac – her mom was the gymnastics coach at Westfield high school. We’ll end up in a Golden Girls situation,” she said.

When writing the show with Parham, St. Clair loosely based the story on her childhood friend who died from Leukemia in 2012.

“My childhood best friend, Kelly Feeney, a food writer for The New York Times, passed away and this show is a tribute to her in some way. She died of Leukemia about a year and a half ago. Her mother is like my second mother. This show is based on my real life friendship with Lennon, but the fact that it’s about childhood best friends, in a small town…it’s the fantasy of living in the town that you have such fond memories of and the devotion that you have to your lifelong friends,” said St. Clair.

The season finale aired Tuesday night on USA, but you can catch up on full episodes by clicking here.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Union County Daughters of Ireland Raise More Than $3,500 with Cranford Bar Crawl

September 19, 2017

CRANFORD, NJ – Union County’s women of Irish descent are coming together to build relationships, network and raise money for young women of Irish heritage.

Two Clark women, Kate Mooney and Lori Connolly, teamed up last April to start the Union County Daughters of Ireland. They were inspired by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a group of which Mooney’s father is a proud ...

It is Time for the Incumbent Mayor to Pass the Torch

September 19, 2017

Dear Editor:

There is a reason why the Westfield primary turn-out was historically high this year. Westfield residents are hungry for change. I, for one, give credit to the incumbent mayor for his accomplishments. After 12 years in office, some are to be expected. Length of service in politics is a double-edged sword; it can lead to complacency. The best thing about this ...

Brindle Asks: ‘Who’s Representing You in our Local Government?’

September 21, 2017

You have a right to know who is representing you in your town government. This information should be easy to find on the Town website; it’s not. If it was, you might be surprised by what you discover.

Our mayor’s nearly 100 political appointees to key positions in our local government are not representative of our community across qard, political party, skill sets and experience.

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_e7794c05218c83df7623_oktflyer-nv

Fri, September 22, 5:00 PM

NosVino, Westfield

Free Oktoberfest Beer Tasting!

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_fc5b5626003c59ab0830_8e5f9e67f8bdfb8a9e43_img_9192

Fri, September 22, 6:30 PM

The James Ward Mansion , Westfield

5th Annual Rahway Film Festival the The James ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_09b8037a9192fd208201_car_wash

Sat, September 23, 10:00 AM

Allstate - Ron Bansky & Associates , Westfield

Free Car Wash Day at Allstate

Business & Finance

Video: Point View's Petrides Feels Market Has Room to Run as Fed Decision Looms

September 20, 2017

Point View Wealth Management's Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, John Petrides, appeared live on CNBC discussing the upcoming Fed meeting and its rate hike decision:

cnbc.com/video

For nearly 25 years, Point View Wealth Management, Inc. has been working with families in Summit and beyond, providing customized portfolio management services and ...

Westfield Police Blotter: Home Burglary Reported & More

September 20, 2017

September 14, 2017 8:50 a.m.

A resident of the 1000 block of Harding Street reports a theft to their motor vehicles while parked in the driveway of their residence. The vehicles were left unsecured during these incidents. Unknown actor(s) entered the one vehicle, a silver-colored Nissan Pathfinder, and removed approximately $5 in US coin currency. Actor(s) also entered a Nissan Maxima and ...

Dog Lost in Westfield

Juliet, a boxer, was last spotted at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday by the south side firehouse in Westfield on Central Avenue. 

If you see her, please call 908-380-3319.

Free Pass to School Events for Westfield Senior Citizens

The Westfield Public School District is once again providing a senior citizens’ “Golden Pass” to Westfield residents 65 years and older to attend many school-sponsored events for free.  The pass will provide free admission to events that normally collect entrance fees such as Westfield High School musicals, matinee performances of plays and certain concerts.  The pass ...

Westfield Area YMCA Celebrates International Dot Day in Early Learning Programs

The Westfield Area YMCA Early Learning programs recently celebrated International Dot Day.  During this day of creativity, courage and collaboration, all classes began by reading and discussing the book “The Dot.” The classes then participated in a variety of age-appropriate activities including creating art projects with dot paints, paper circles, and other round items.  ...

Op Ed: High Schools Should Teach Students CPR

September 18, 2017

You walked through the halls together. You sat together at lunch. You couldn’t wait to go to college together. But all of it was destroyed by one minute of that day. One minute she was smiling. The next she was on the floor, pale, and lifeless. I couldn’t save her. Everyone gathered around her as she choked, no one knew what to do. I lost my best friend that day because my education ...

Whether You’re Selling Your Home or Want More Peace

Realtors always advise home sellers to eliminate clutter when selling their homes because it makes a remarkable difference. A clutter-free home can look like a new one altogether, and you shouldn’t wait until you sell your home to make it look better. Furthermore, clutter can have adverse effects and cause mental and physical stress. You can take steps to conquer your clutter by breaking ...

Teens Complete Youth Facilitator Training at Imagine

On Saturday, Sept. 9, Imagine held its’ sixth youth facilitator training. Eighteen amazing young people, ages 14 to 18, attended the full day training which sensitizes teen participants to the issue of childhood grief, and prepares the youth to assist with the facilitation of peer-support groups for children who are coping with the death of a parent or a sibling.

Through the ...

Two Scams You Should Know About

Scam Alert 1: Fake Donations

It's a testament to the generosity of the people in our nation to want to pitch in and help those affected by a catastrophe. As we see all the destruction that Harvey and now Irma are imparting, our hearts go out to these folks, and we want to respond by opening our wallets.

Unfortunately, criminals and scam artists are counting on that generous spirit, too, ...

Saving for Higher Education

Saving for Higher Education

Part 1 – Six Options for Savings

 

Introduction

Your children’s education may be the most cost-intensive purchase you ever make. A family of three children that all attend private universities will likely pay close to $1 million for their degrees. No matter your personal financial objectives or your children’s choice of ...

Moving with Your Children Out of State After a Divorce

One of the most contentious issues faced by many divorced parents has always been whether the custodial parent has the right to relocate with the parties’ children out of state. In an increasingly mobile society this has become an issue for many parents. Often custodial parents decide that they cannot continue to reside in New Jersey. They need to explore job opportunities in other states ...

Sam Shepard's 'Simpatico' takes off

Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico” has a forceful workout at McCarter Theatre.

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, NJ – If you’re at all familiar with the works of Sam Shepard, you know that he writes about gritty, unforgiving characters in what appear to be hopeless situations.

In “Simpatico,” we learn that Vinnie and Carter are former partners in a race horse ...

Obituaries

Oct 24, 1926 - Aug 14, 2017
Elizabeth H. List, 90, of Westfield and Cape May, NJ, died peacefully surrounded by her family ...
Read more

Boy Scouts’ Sabattis Adventure Camp to Remain Open for Now

September 20, 2017

CEDAR KNOLLS, NJ — The Patriots’ Paths Council Executive Board met on Monday, Sept. 18, in a special session to discuss the future operation of Sabattis Adventure Camp, which was threatened with closure. The board voted to continue Sabbatis camping activities through the end of the 2019 summer camping season. 

“Patriots’ Path Council’s ...