New Yorker Joanna Bonaro wrote, produced and stars in “Good ‘n Screwed,” a half-hour series about the trials and tribulation of a woman suddenly divorced and back in the dating pool. A self-confessed “Sex And The City” fan, Bonaro has cast a perfect tale for today directed at women over 40.
The cast features Robert Funaro (“The Sopranos,” “The Sinner”) and Armen Garo (“Gotham”), with Suzanne H. Smart, Warren Bub, Lori Hammel, Deborah Unger and Ernest Mingione.
The pilot is unspooling at next month’s Action on Film 2017 Festival in Las Vegas
Bonaro is a Native New Yorker, who grew up in The Bronx. She often portrays ballsy, yet vulnerable blue collar wives, moms and cougars, according to her official biography.
She’s best known for her roles on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “The Sopranos”, “BoardWalk Empire” and “Mozart in the Jungle.”
A graduate of New York University Tisch School of the Arts, she also studied 14th through 19th Century English Literature. Yes, she knows all about Tobias Smollett.
She attended The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England with a focus on Shakespeare.
Her Off-Broadway roles include How Alfo Learned to Love and the newly discovered 18th century play (The Art of Thinking), Elizabetta Caminer.
Other memorable roles include Shakespeare’s The Duke (Measure for Measure), Medea (Medea), Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) and Tamora (Titus Andronicus).
Don’t let the accent fool you. She has perfect diction when she’s not performing.
She created her production company Brainy Beauty Productions to advocate for and create female driven content for women over 40 in film, television and digital media.
TheImproper exclusively spoke to Bonaro in the middle of a production session:
TheImproper: Give us the back story on the writing and creation of Good ‘n Screwed.
Bonaro: I was inspired to create this series by my many female friends who are divorced, widowed, or who have never married. One friend was married for 25 years when out of the blue, her husband divorced her; another career woman never dated and now feels like a novice. Then of course, there is always the question about sex. These women now confront the daunting task of dating after 40 and feel overwhelmed in this Tinder based, market yourself on Facebook world.
As an actress of a certain age, finding roles that are substantive and not “sliver” roles, are rare and far between. Studies show that from 2007 to 2014 less than 20 percent of female characters in film were between 40 and 64, and this trend hasn’t changed. If there are no roles written for them, this age group can’t be fairly represented. Baby boomer women represent a significant portion of the buying public – they know they are smart, attractive and still very significant – and are feeling highly neglected. I decided to try to change that.
IM: How long did it take from the concept, to actually executing the pilot?
Bonaro: The idea had been incubating for a while. Once I wrote it, I wanted to do it, however, my mom had been ill and my priority was to take care of her. So a year went by. She passed away, and I knew I had to make it and dedicate the project to her. In many ways, she made her presence and support known. Within seven months, we got the entire cast and production crew and shot it. The dominoes just fell into place.
IM: How did you come up with the title Good ‘n Screwed?
Bonaro: It perfectly sums up main character Nina’s quandary. She was a ‘good girl,’ who followed the rules her entire life- studied hard, got good grades and married the only man she went to bed with, had a family, and was religious, moral and ethical to a fault. Now suddenly, her life, though not perfect, is turned topsy turvy and she finds herself suddenly in a world that is very unfamiliar, overwhelming and a little bit scary. So she is feeling screwy but also feeling a bit screwed by life. In the Book of Life, this wasn’t supposed to happen to her. So the title simply seemed apt.
IM: What TV shows did you watch and really enjoy? And, why?
Bonaro: I loved ‘Sex And the City.’ My show, in a way, is for the woman who loved that show and watched it, but who now is older, perhaps, still single, widowed or divorced. She is in a different place and is wondering: ‘Is this it?’ ‘Is this all there is?’ Or, if she is married’ is she thinking: “What if?’ And, wanting sex, having sex and getting naked at 25 is very different than 45. I loved the dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Mad Men.’ There were so many multidimensional wonderful characters and yes, “The Sopranos” surpasses all, still, in my book. Most recently I loved ‘Big Little Lies.’ All the women were so real and interesting.
IM: In your pilot, you have some strong talent, starting with Robert Funaro, from ‘The Sopranos’ and the new USA series ‘The Sinner’ with Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman. Tell us how you cast each of the main characters.
Bonaro: I cast actors who I admired for their talent and work ethic. Bobby Funaro and I have worked together and have very similar creative processes on how we approach a role and on screen chemistry/synergy. I wanted to explore his softer, vulnerable side as the romantic Lead in the series. Armen Garo and I worked Off-Broadway together. He is funny and warm and versatile, and I wanted to show that side of him. Suzanne H. Smart, plays the very important role as my fraternal twin sister. They have very similar personalities so I knew she would bring her to life in all her witty and wild splendor.
Warren Bub as my confidante could be both sweet and sexy, and Lori Hammel always sparkles and makes one smile. Most importantly, they bring a humanity and sensitivity to these very real yet flawed people. I also want a shout-out to behind the scene superior talents of my inventive female director-extraordinaire Kelli K. Barnett, cinematographer Darryl Patterson , who created magic, and excellent editor Stephen Fuller. None of this would have happened without them at the helm.
IM: Obviously, with the proliferation of outlets like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, there are more choices for the consumer than ever before. And, more room for scripted series. This bodes well for you, correct?
Bonaro: Yes, I and my producers feel that those outlets would be perfect for this type of series targeted towards this primarily 40- to 65-year-old female demographic. They can take more chances with programming, and are looking for good, quality content, which is what we can provide for a significantly untapped but highly desirable market segment.
IM: We know the pilot is going to unspool next month at the Action on Film 2017 festival in Las Vegas. Tell us about that process.
Bonaro: Basically, festivals are avenues where one can seek further financing and distribution. We entered strategically into various festivals. The Action on Film Festival has a wonderful reputation. Del and Theresa Weston are very supportive and were one of the first to accept us. We have also been accepted into other festivals worldwide, including the Roma Cinema Doc festival in Rome. It’s all been very exciting and we are truly thankful.
IM: What are some of the previous acting roles you’ve been involved with?
Bonaro: I portrayed an overwrought Staten Island nosy neighbor in ‘Law & Order SVU’ opposite Mariska Hargitay and Ice T, directed by David Platt. All lovely to work with and very welcoming. I had the pleasure to work with my acting coach Michael Kostroff in ‘BlackBox,’ directed by Eric Stolz. We didn’t know we had both been hired until on set. That was an incredible surprise. On the film ‘Saved By the Pole,’ I portrayed a very religious, emotional mom opposite Vincent Pastore. One of my favorite roles was as an ex-Madam turned Male Strip Club owner opposite Pedro Pascal in ‘King of Hearts.’ Strong willed, sexy and a take no prisoners sort of woman. Her customers were women, and it was the men who stripped. She was a lot of fun to play. Of course, I will always be proud of my work on ‘The Sopranos’ directed by Steve Buscemi, who is such an actor’s director, and the superb Vincent Pastore, with whom who I will be working again this fall.
IM: What’s it like to create your own vehicle?
Bonaro: The joy in writing ‘Good ‘n Screwed’ comes from a desire to create a female role that until now, does not exist. She is the prototype of the women who I see and know every day who are vital and interesting but who do not think that they are represented or understood in the industry. I am often told by women who have privately seen the pilot, ‘I like her, I would watch her, she is very much like me.’ So I am giving those women, a character they can identify with, relate to and root for. As a natural introvert, who is introspective, I find writing very relaxing and freeing. I can create an entire world and fill it with all sorts of experiences and people — I make discoveries while I am writing and it can be highly entertaining.
IM: Do you have the whole first season planned out?
Bonaro: Yes, I have the entire first season done. The story arcs for all of the characters, especially Nina, continue to put them in situations that push their boundaries, question how to live their lives and further explores and deepens the relationships both established and new, along with the question “Will she or won’t she?…”
IM: I bet you have some amazing guest stars in mind … right?
Bonaro: Yes, they will be very interesting, lots of well known highly relatable and likable women over 40, and I can guarantee, the men will be…. exceedingly sexy.
Check out a trailer from the series and another video interview.