Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s possible to have an oral history of My So-Called Life without Claire Danes

Illustration for article titled It’s possible to have an oral history of My So-Called Life without Claire Danes

My So-Called Life is one of those shows, like Freaks And Geeks or Twin Peaks, that inspires lifelong fandom from those who fell under its sway, despite delivering barely a season’s worth of episodes (or slightly more, in the latter’s case). True, you don’t need 22 installments of something for it to endure long after its airing (just ask Firefly fans), but the limited number of opportunities to spend time with those characters means every scene and plot line takes on added significance in the minds of the people who still talk about it, watch it on streaming or Blu-ray, and name their pets after the cast. Clearly, MSCL is a show ripe for receiving the oral history treatment, which Elle magazine has just done. And, surprisingly, it turns out it’s possible to have an engaging and informative history of making the show even when you’re lacking an interview with the star—or the dude who went on to send dead pigs and used condoms to his cast mates.


This fond recounting of that yearlong stretch in 1994-95 when My So-Called Life was in production is online, and it doesn’t include a single quote from either Claire Danes or Jared Leto. While it seems entirely possible that Leto’s absence could be chalked up to nobody wanting to talk to him, perhaps the actor simply picked up the phone, said, “Fuck you,” and hung up again. But Danes’ experience as Angela Chase is a pretty big hole in the otherwise interesting history. Still, creator Winnie Holzman provides a lot of background about the seat-of-the-pants nature of writing and shooting the series. Other cast members, like Devon Gummersall (who played next-door neighbor dork Brian Krakow) and Devon Odessa (Sharon Cherski), have anecdotes about Holzman incorporating their real-life experiences into the scripts. Wilson Cruz, who played Ricky, has one of the most personal examples: “I do remember having a conversation with her early on where I confessed to her that I had been living in my car before we started shooting, and she probably filed that away in her subconscious. That’s what she does.”

It somehow seems fitting that an oral history of one of the best series of the early ’90s would have a blank space left for Jordan Catalano and Angela Chase—he’s probably out doing something stupid, and she’s wasting her time going after the brooding hot guy, to the detriment of her actual life and friends. Not that we’re still emotionally involved with that story, or anything.