vulture festival 2017

Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham Turned a Battle With Breast Cancer Into a Hilarious Sitcom Season

Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair. Photo: Roger Kisby/Vulture

It’s easy to assume that soul mates only exist in fairy tales and the diaries of teenagers. Then you meet Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, co-creators and stars of USA’s Playing House, the sadly short-lived Best Friends Forever, and real-life best friends. They don’t just finish each other’s sentences so much as they weave their sentences together, making every story they tell bounce back and forth like a honed vaudeville routine. That relationship only deepened after St. Clair was diagnosed with breast cancer. Parham was by St. Clair and her husband’s side through the entire process, taking notes and stopping her from going down a Google rabbit hole. When they finally found themselves on the other side of the ordeal, it was St. Clair who felt they should work all of it into the third season of their show — an incredible season of television that premieres tonight on USA.

Ahead of the premiere, St. Clair and Parham joined me at this year’s Vulture Festival in the nicest pajamas they could find at Target for brunch with a room filled with similarly dressed fans. Together we talked about St. Clair’s new boobs, how strange and hot Zach Woods is, and how easy it would be for Parham and St. Clair to move in together in one big house. You can watch the talk and read an edited transcript of the conversation below.

To prepare for this, I talked to some of your writers.
Jessica St. Clair: What!? Who did you get to?

I know [Playing House writer and longtime friend] Anthony King.
St. Clair: How dare he.

Lennon Parham: Oh no, he knows everything.

St. Clair: Did Anthony tell you how we make him be our love interest? Lennon has the hottest love interest this season. He is British. His name is Ben Willbond. We texted our only British friend and said, “Please ask your best girlfriend who she would most like to have sex with.” She wrote back one name and we cast him sight unseen. I tell you I was behind the camera just like it was a soft-core porno like, “Take it again!”

Parham: Take it again?

St. Clair: And we make Anthony be him in the room and he’s like, “Oh god, this is so gross.”

Writer Andrew Barbot.
Parham: A.k.a. Barbotron.

St. Clair: That little rat.

He wanted me to talk to Lennon about Game of Thrones in front of Jessica, specifically what did you think when the Red Witch took off her necklace and she was an old lady?
St. Clair: I was only allowed to watch the first season of it.

Parham: She’s seen a meme. The last season was happening during our writers room, so we would come in and start talking and Jess would have to leave, or she’d be like, “Wait, what happened?”

St. Clair: My second question is always like, “Then they did something to his butt or something?” They’re always like, “Why do you go there?” Like, “Then they put a hot poker up his butt?”

Parham: That was assumed.

St. Clair: The other thing I do with Lennon is I can’t watch any movie really. I just don’t have the attention span. I’ll have Lennon on a long car ride just tell me the plot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We have been interrupted so many times that all I hear is, “Well, she was a ward of the state.” That’s how it begins and I don’t know what happens next!

Parham: I don’t talk like that! “Well, she was a ward of the state.” So anyway, Melisandre, the one who is the Red Witch and had a smoke baby.

St. Clair: And didn’t she turn to dust when she took off her shit or something?

Parham: No, she didn’t turn to dust. She takes off her necklace and I guess that was what was keeping her young and beautiful. Then she got into the bed naked.

St. Clair: With a man?

Parham: No, with herself. It was her secret. I guess she has to recharge the necklace every night or something.

St. Clair: Sisters doing it for themselves. In this season, I’m just so afraid because Keegan-Michael Key’s character Mark hasn’t seen my body since I was 18 or 19. I’m like, “Is it going to be like the Red Witch?” I kept saying that having never seen the show. But yeah, then we do it. Don’t worry.

Parham: I was just like, “Take it again. Let’s take it from the top on that. Let’s go slower.” You do say in a former life I was a director for a lady porn.

St. Clair: One-hundred percent in the ’70s. You just love it.

Parham: I started watching it. I was like, “This isn’t for me.”

St. Clair: Lennon was like, “I don’t want to watch it because then we would seriously be ripping it off.”

Parham: I can say that I haven’t seen it and I co-write the show so we aren’t do anything based on that, because I put my stank all over our stuff.

St. Clair: We’re really specific about our girl porn, as we call it. It’s not the girl porn most people think of, although that has its place. It’s about having a charming town that you want to live in. You want to live in that house. You want to live in that place where everybody cares about each other. Now this season more than ever, everybody comes together.

Parham: Shit’s gonna get real, like in a real way like it happened in real life.

St. Clair: I think your friends are always important, but when shit goes down, that’s when you need people and you realize how much people love you. We had built that already, and then it kind of came easily.

A maybe lighthearted way to get into that is Anthony thought I should ask you about the time you flashed all the writers.
Parham: Oh, god. Well, that was uncomfortable.

St. Clair: Honestly, I skip all of the sexual-harassment seminars, because I’m like, “I don’t want to know what I’m supposed to do.”

Parham: Don’t say that out loud! Are you crazy? Your name is on those sheets.

St. Clair: Someone signs them. I don’t want to know. One time I described a Real Sex segment to John Lutz — who played Lutz on 30 Rock [and has written on Playing House].

Parham: No, don’t tell this story.

St. Clair: It was about one of those Atlantic City Chippendales clubs where they can do anything. I remember seeing this woman and this man took it out and just was going like this to her. [St. Clair pantomimes … well…]

Parham: You just slapped me with your real dick hand. Is my nose bleeding?

St. Clair: Then we had a seminar a day later, and I was like, “Oh god, that was not right of me.” Anyway, I went and got myself the big C right after we wrapped the second season. It was quite a situation. I had to get new boobs within like three weeks of finding out. Lennon of course was with me at every single appointment.

Parham: Because we’re real-life best friends if you can’t tell.

St. Clair: Yes. [Laughs.] The first day and a half my husband was in New York and he was trying to get home. Lennon was with me at every appointment, so they thought Lennon was my partner because she showed up wearing this momma bear sweatshirt. It was very strange.

Parham: Well, if you best friend texts you at 9:15, “It’s cancer,” do you think about what you’re going to wear? And then she makes fun of you for like a year? I put on clothes.

St. Clair: I’m like, “Oh my god, I might die!” Then I’m like, “This is what you chose? I thought I threw that out. That’s very unattractive.” Then she’s like, “We have good insurance.” We were being treated like queens. They were like, “These are two sisters who are doing it for themselves.” Then my husband walks in the next day and they were like, “Who the fuck is this?” We’re in some sort of queen-bee scenario where I have two spouses. Then cut to we find these phenomenal doctors. In the show, Laurie Metcalf plays my oncology surgeon and Michaela Watkins plays my plastic surgeon, and they embodied these real-life kick-ass women. I swear to god, these women have revolutionized the way this is going. We’re like, “Oh god, mastectomy, this sounds terrible.” Then we go in and she goes, “You see how your nipple is pointing down like it’s sad?” I was like, “Yeah.” She was like, “We’re going to perk that right up.” I was like, “All right!” Then you had to choose out of three implants which one felt the most like your real boob. This is something that’s going to be in your body for the rest of your life. I was like, “I don’t know what they feel like.” My husband went over and he just poked it from the side, and I was like, “Get out of here.” I asked Lennon.

Parham: I was like, “That’s not appropriate.”

St. Clair: This also happens in the show.

Parham: I’m just here to take notes.

St. Clair: She was in the corner, so she stepped forward and felt each one like a sommelier would, waited a beat, and then just goes, “It’s number two.” She dropped the mic. Without question. I didn’t even feel number two again. I went, “Put it in my body.” It was perfect.

Parham: Anyway, cut to our writers room.

St. Clair: My boobs are so good. I wish I could show them to you.

Parham: That’s not a joke.

St. Clair: I showed them to three people already before 9 a.m. But anyway, I was trying to explain to everybody what this phenomenal surgery was and how great they were. I have no scar, literally. So I take my boob out and we had this staff writer, he’d never been in a room before — Shaun Diston from UCB — I locked eyes with him. He was like, “Why is this happening to me?”

Parham: ’Cause he was like, “I’m not gonna look right at it. I’ll look in your eyes, but I can’t look down.” That was before the sexual-harassment seminar.

Was it easier or harder than you expected to incorporate those stories into the show?
St. Clair: Easier. We thought it was going to be terrible.

Parham: C’mon man, it was the worst thing in the whole world.

St. Clair: Well, it was the worst but …

Parham: But it was also good.

St. Clair: We thought it was not going to be able to be funny. We didn’t wanna ruin what is amazing about the show.

Parham: People come for the …

St. Clair: Charming and fun.

Parham: They love you, ya know. It’s like getting punched in the face. Why would you wanna come and see the person that you love get hurt.

St. Clair: You were a little more on the fence.

Parham: I was straight up, “I don’t think we should do this.” And then we talked about it ’cause not only do we have to talk about it in a room for 14 weeks but then we have to act in out.

St. Clair: Reenact it.

Parham: We record ourselves reenacting it, which is hard, and then we have to chose which beats of really hard stuff do we want in the show, and how we are gonna make it funny. And then we have to perform it.

St. Clair: Hope it’s not gonna bum everyone out.

Parham: Then we have to edit it, and pick the perfect music written by the perfect composer to go with the perfect saddest, hardest moment in our entire lives.

St. Clair: There was a lot of just sitting and weeping.

Parham: Now we have to talk about it. But it is straight up the thing I am the proudest of.

St. Clair: It is funny. Even when we were going through it, we would laugh.

Parham: Even when you’re at your grandmother’s funeral and you’re so sad and then your Uncle Charlie comes in and is like, “Where are the biscuits?”

St. Clair: It’s fucking funny.

Parham: And everyone just loses it because tragedy and comedy go so nicely hand in hand.

St. Clair: We also do write, literally, only about what we live, so we had no choice. I wish we had a better imagination, but, like, we don’t.

Parham: That’s not true, c’mon. I’ve never gotten divorced and, like, seen my husband’s lover ass pop up on the computer.

St. Clair: That’s true. Yeah. I think people are going to love it. Don’t be afraid. I don’t want you to be afraid because everybody is going to be okay. Everyone is okay. In fact, we’re fucking happier now than we were before. We live a “fuck yes” life. We say “fuck yes” to everything now because we don’t give a fuck.

Rewatching Playing House before this, it felt, at least to me, like the show could handle this story line. Do you think that BFF could have?
St. Clair: We really have evolved, as performers first of all. I don’t know if I ever could have done what we had to do. Like getting put back in a hospital bed was uncomfortable. But we have assembled the right team now.

Parham: It felt really safe.

St. Clair: We have the right director, Jeffrey Blitz, who directed these episodes, and Chris Addison. The people we cast — Michaela, Laurie — were perfect. Keegan-Michael Key [who plays Mark] is as funny as he is an accomplished dramatic actor. Lindsay Sloane [who plays Bird Bones] same thing. Everyone just brought their A game, so I feel like it was the perfect.

Do you guys still write the show the same way, where you tape-record yourselves improvising and then trim it down?
Parham: I wish we had come up with a better way.

St. Clair: It’s exhausting.

Parham: We just can’t figure out another way to capture the way that we like finish each other’s sentences. Like the scene with you and Keegs on a date.

St. Clair: Yes.

Parham: You’re on your first date and he starts to take down your dress and you break off.

St. Clair: ’Cause I’m afraid he’s going to see my body at 40.

Parham: And you say, “Oh no no no no, pay the toll, find the troll.” I’m like what?

St. Clair: And I’m like, “You gotta find that troll.” And he’s like, “What’s the troll?”

Parham: But, like, that’s crazy. That’s not a phrase somebody says, but that’s what we said when we were acting out the scene and it made us laugh so hard.

So after you do that, after you improvisor, what do you give the writers to do?
 St. Clair: So now, the one thing that’s different is that we make them sit there and watch it. And a lot of times they are just like, “We don’t want to do this.”

Parham: We pay them to be there. It gets recorded and then it gets transcribed and they are making notes while they are watching. What we are laughing at. What’s working for them.

St. Clair: Sometimes they’ll write a first draft of some scenes and then they’ll go, “Hey, you know, like in these scene I’m having trouble with dialogue,” so we’ll act it. Or they’ll say, “Put the top of it here and the end of it here.” It’’s good for us too because I am already bored all the time sitting in a writers room.

Parham: It’s a lot of intense focus.

St. Clair: Yeah, I hate it. We get a break to perform and then we go back. We also filled the writers room with a lot of improvisers, so we can call them in when we need it.

Parham: Barbatron is really good at playing Jane Kaczmarek.

So essentially every character that exists in this world at some point is part of your brains.
St. Clair: Absolutely out of our mouths. Everybody.

Parham: And that’s why, a lot of times we write for people that we know because, like I could improvise as ZacH Woods if I had to. You know what I mean?

St. Clair: Yeah, you’ve known him that long. Or Keegan, same thing. Or Lindsay is one of our closest friends, so we know what she would do.

Keegan, because he is so good on the show. He’s so good in everything.
St. Clair: Hopefully we are back for it. He is just the most charming man alive. We always say, he is the next romantic-comedy star. Where is our next Bridget Jones’s Diary?

Parham: We have Keegan in Game of Thrones–wear.

St. Clair: Oh yeah, he plays the Dothraki Lord. Horse lord.

What context is that?
St. Clair: Well, Bird Bones and I go into an event-planning business together, and guess whose sweet thirteen we plan? For the BFF fans — the girl who played Queenetta!

Parham: She’s a woman now.

St. Clair: We say she’s like from the Connecticut Kardashians and so we are getting in with this, like, amazing circuit of sweet thirteens. She’s like, “I want Game of Thrones. I want a White Walker. I want a man without a hand.”

Parham: And then the Khal Drogo pulls out because he booked a Pantene commercial, so she asks Mark to do it.

St. Clair: Because Mark has always wanted to see what he looks like with hair. There’s a scene where he speaks Dothraki to me and it’s so gross. He’s like [Dothraki noises].

Parham: In episode five, which is the episode where, ugh, Emma get’s surgery …

St. Clair: This scene is gonna kill you. There are a couple scenes that are gonna kill you.

Parham: I mean, super funny and then just like, ooh. Take your breath away.

St. Clair: This is so weird looking back on it, but I did not let Lennon come to the hospital the day of my surgery because I knew if I saw her I would lose my mind. This poor thing was at home, texting with my husband every 30 seconds.

Parham: I was like, “Can I bring a casserole, what do you need? What do you need? What do you need? I just need to get eyes on her.”

St. Clair: Yeah. And the text that she ended up getting was, “Lennon, I’m freaking out, the doctors came out and they said that they underestimated how incredibly tiny Jess’s actual boobs are.” In fact when they weighed it, it was less than a Sicilian grandmother who was 84, and they do not make implants that size.

Parham: They just ordered a little bit of an upgrade.

St. Clair: So my husband is like, “They are worried they are gonna be bigger when she wakes up!” And Lennon wrote back: “That’s gonna be all right!” So, in the show, I tell Mark, “I can’t have you at the hospital,” and he ends up sitting outside. I really don’t wanna spoil too much of it but that scene on the bench outside the house that I have with him where I tell him I can’t have him come, that was something that really happened to Lennon and I, only we were at a parking garage, and we were both sobbing while people were trying to pay. That’s how we do all our emotional breakdowns. In a parking lot. Usually at a Baja Fresh. Why am I always at a Baja Fresh?

Parham: Or near it. The smell of shrimp is comforting.

How much is Zach Woods in this season?
Parham: He’s in two episodes, because of Silicon Valley.

St. Clair: But they are very him-heavy. He is the best performer in the world. Also, by the way, something’s happening with him, and he is like sexy as hell now.

Parham: He was always sexy as hell.

St. Clair: But I was like, “Excuse me, looky-looky, who stole the cookie now?” and he makes out with someone near and dear with us.

Parham: No! No! No.

St. Clair: And it was hot.

Parham: Save it, save it.

When did you meet Zach Woods?
St. Clair: When he was 16 years old, he used to take the bus into UCB from Bucks County, and we were like, “Who is this skinny Ichabod Crane?” The funniest performer anyone had ever seen at 16.

Parham: He was on my first improv team.

St. Clair: You’ve always felt brother-sister with Zach.

Parham: He’s like ten years younger than me but we love each other so deeply we give each other hugs and we vibrate and we go, “hoooooooooh.” We are just made of same gangly cloth.

St. Clair: When I got my boobs done, someone delivered the most heinous floral arrangement. It looked like what you would get in a funeral home, like so big and lots of spikes and I was like, “What the fuck, is this Zach?”  He’ll give you like a caricature of yourself driving a tiny Corvette as a present. He’s always going into a chamber where you sit in water for an hour and a half and meditate. He is just very strange.

Like you said, you can write these characters and improvise as them, because you know the actors so well. And, in this case, how strange they are.
St. Clair: This season, Zach’s character went to Greece and he came back with many treasures that he got from an old fisherman who had one eye but a mind full of wisdom. He’s really into mystical healing now. And he makes me do something called “soul stares.” Socratic stares, where he stares into my soul and asks it a question.

Parham: It’s really weird.

St. Clair: But again, that’s not too far from what the real Zach was going up to.

Parham: No, but I think the thing we love about Zach is that he’s always examining different worlds. The fact that one day he’s got his doula certification and then the next day he’s teaching …

Parham and St. Clair: Bike safety.

Parham: Zach Woods loves to go jet-skiing. That’s a real thing in his real life. He’s obsessed with it. And then the next time you meet him he’s on a trip to Croatia.

It seems like you have specific ideas for this world and who should be in it. Are there people you know would be perfect, but who hasn’t done the show yet?
Parham: Amy Poehler.

St. Clair: We ask every season.

Parham: We ask Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

St. Clair: Yes. Every time.

Parham: We’ve worked with both of them. They know our names.

St. Clair: No, they’re just so busy it’s impossible.We wanted Lennon to fall in love with Hugh Laurie at one point. ’Cause he worked with her on Veep.

Parham: I wanted to throw him out.

Bird Bones seems like such a specific part of your minds. Where did she come from?
St. Clair: It’s not based on a real person, but everybody has that girl from high school that had perfect attendance. Won the attendance award. Got a 4.0 but only because they took the lowest level of math and are just like, “I can’t believe that I’m number 22.”

Parham: The thing that we were pulling for with her was that when you are a girl-girl. When you have girlfriends and you get into it and you share your flaws and you’re like, “Oh my god. I almost had my period all over that chair” or whatever. That’s how we connect, right? We see each other and we’re immediately like, “This is why it’s hard for me.” “Me too.” So there are girls that for which it is never hard, or they don’t want to ever show you that it is hard.

St. Clair: Or you say: “That’s a great sweater. Where’d you get it.” She’s like, “My birthday.”

Parham: You have to say where you got it, and how cheap you got it, and does it even look good?

St. Clair: That’s the currency that most women bond over. I’m a mess, so are you. When you peel back the layers we’re all bleeding all over things. One time I sat on chocolate in Lennon’s house and then sat all over her house and she was like, “I just refinished those chairs. You better have not had your period on them.”

Parham: It was chocolate. I still got down and scratched it and smelled it.

St. Clair: That’s disgusting.

Parham: I was like, “Oh, that’s Jess. That’s Jess.” My husband thought there were rats in the house because she leaves every bag open when she goes into the pantry.

St. Clair: A little bit of a nibble. And then I’d throw it back in.

Parham: My husband was like, “Baby, we gotta get an exterminator.” And I’m like, “We can’t get rid of her.”

St. Clair: We didn’t think people would be obsessed with Bird Bones, but then we cast Lindsay who is so likeable in real life. She and Lennon and Melissa Rauch were the three people that froze me head to toe.

Parham: Explain that.

St. Clair: For chemo, we heard about all these hacks that people had tried and I’m like, “I’m not gonna just try one of them, I’m gonna try all of them and see if they work.” Freeze your head to keep my hair, cause c’mon. Then I froze my hands and feet, so I wouldn’t get neuropathy, and then my eyes so that I wouldn’t lose my eyelashes. I was essentially packed like a mummy, or as Lennon used to say a choice piece of holiday meat. They would read out loud from Oprah magazine or like an old In Touch and I was on so many drugs.

Parham: Like Khloe and Lamar, old school, like when he was still in the hospital. You kept asking to see the trailer for “Kitten Please.”

St. Clair: You have to explain it.

Parham: Asking to see the trailer for [Key’s cat-starring film] Keanu, which she was referring to as “Kitten Please.”

St. Clair: I was so mad at you! I was like, “Just show Kitten Please!” But, in the show, we have this amazing nurse the first day with these beautiful blue eyes and Bird Bones is like, “Excuse me, can we request you every time?” And she was like, “Uh, no one has ever done that but I guess so?” So we had a concierge type of experience because Bird Bones was in there, like working deals.

Parham: Yeah, Lindsay was amazing.

St. Clair: This season, now she’s divorced, she’s really wanting to get a career. She unfortunately gets involved in a makeup Ponzi scheme. And the person, the overlord, of it is June Diane Raphael. When we go to see her, she is sitting in a hotel eating hotel spaghetti wearing a white blazer and I’m like, “This bitch be fierce.”

Vera was telling me about the creation of Bosephus, and how everyone else on staff, was like, “Um, are we sure about this?”
Parham: Okay, so I pitched Bosephus in season one of Best Friends Forever.

St. Clair: And I was like, “No!”
Parham: It was an episode that never saw the light of day where Joe, my boyfriend, had gotten himself into gambling trouble, and he was at a poker table in like Bay Ridge or something, with a Filipino pool shark, a Haitian …

St. Clair: And an old Southern guy who you never saw his eyes.

Parham: And so Jess bails him out and then they end up back at the apartment and I’m like none the wiser essentially, and then you shut the door and on the back of the door is hanging the Bosephus hat. It was me all along. Then the tag was going to be a flashback of me in drag, slapping her ass like they never knew it was me. So I pitched it again.

St. Clair: She would always put it up it on the board — “Bosephus,” “Bosephus” — and I was like “No,” “No,” “No!” So my hatred of Bosephus was real. I don’t like her when she’s dressed like that, she’s so offensive to me, and yet at the same time, I’ve never felt more attracted to anything. I’m just like warring with myself about it. Vera and Anthony were like, “If we do this insanity, we have to ground it in some sort of reality, so that took two months trying to figure out how somebody could possibly believe she was a real man.”

Parham: Well, that was the point: Nobody ever does, but I was doing it out of love for you. I would dress up like Bosephus in order to protect you from awful dates.

St. Clair: Lennon is from Atlanta, so she transforms into someone like her dad a little bit.

Parham: Hornier, way hornier. But yeah, he’s sort of inside me at all times. He pops out, like, on the street when someone pushes you. When I was a teacher, he would come out a lot towards the kids like, “I don’t want to see that behavior.”

You met in New York years ago, but you didn’t become best friends until later. Can you believe you were ever not best friends?
St. Clair: No.

Parham: We got married a week apart from each other, before we really knew each other.

St. Clair: That’s right. When I met Lennon, I felt like we had known each other in other lifetimes. You know when you meet your best friend and you’re just like, “Wait, we’ve been together before. I know you.” It’s the same thing as falling in love and I felt that with her. Then when we went through this together, I was like “God, this feels like it was written in the stars in this crazy way,” because I literally could not have survived — and I mean that from the most literal sense — without my best friend. I could not have done it. I hid it from my daughter, because she was only 2 and she would have lost her mind if she had known I was sick. It feels like this is my friendship soul mate.

Parham: It was kind of bananas because how could we possibly get closer? And then we go through something like that and it’s like there are literally no boundaries and also no time for the bullshit.

St. Clair: Or she’ll apologize for something and I’m like, “Don’t you realize you never have to apologize to me ever again?”

Parham: But I do.

St. Clair: But you don’t. I asked you the other day, “Am I being so annoying? Like you’d never want to work with me again?” And she goes, “Well, that would presuppose you haven’t been annoying in the past.” And I was like, “Truth.”

How quickly do you think you guys could transition to unite your families and live in one house?
St. Clair: Like no time would have passed.

Parham: It would probably be very similar to the way it is now.

St. Clair: We spend not only every day, for ten hours a day, during the work week together, then we spend the weekends together.

Parham: Our daughters love each other too.

St. Clair: It’s easier for us because then we can talk and ignore them, until there’s a scream and someone’s stolen something from somebody.

Parham: She would leave me straight crazy, we know that, because you leave the cashews out. If you went to our hotel rooms right now, you would see my stuff hung neatly …

St. Clair: We would never do hair and makeup in my room because it looks like a rock star has destroyed it within hours. Minutes.

How do you think your husbands would react?
St. Clair: They’ve just accepted all of it.

Parham: All of it.

St. Clair: And Dan, my husband, especially through this process. He was like, “Lennon has to be at every meeting.”

Parham: I was just taking notes and asking lots of questions and then later she was like, “They said I was going to die.” And I was like, that’s not what they said.

St. Clair: I was like, “Well, time to die!” Like after every meeting I was like, “Nice knowing you!” And then there was this obsessive Googling.

Parham: She would be like, “Hey, Lennon, log on to this Medical Board website …”

St. Clair: I had gotten a password like I was working.

Parham: “… and tell me what percent chance I’m going to die.”

St. Clair: You’re good with math. Then at one point, I became obsessed with “what did Deborah Winger die of in every movie?” I’m on forums, I’m cross-referencing, so my husband needs Lennon.

Parham: When she started Googling, too, we had an SOS thing that would go out. We were like, “She’s Googling,” so one of us we would be like, “Let’s go for a jog!”

St. Clair: Tony Award–winning actress Marissa Winokur has insomnia, so she was onboard after 10 p.m. I would just send her what I would like to Google and she would cull the information and deliver back to me what I needed. Yeah, women are phenomenal by the way. They just …

Parham: They show up.

St. Clair: They show up in a major way.

How Jessica St. Clair Worked Her Cancer Into Playing House