Over the years, FOX has introduced viewers to several colorful animated families, including the Simpsons, the Griffins of Family Guy and the Belchers of Bob’s Burgers.
Now they add one more to the mix – the Harts, a Southern family headed by a single mom Jenny, who often tangles with her mom Betty, her daughter Violet, and her long-term boyfriend Wayne.
Bless the Harts, from creator Emily Spivy, is voiced by Maya Rudoph as Betty, Jillian Bell as Violet and Ike Barinholtz as Wayne. Spivey also voices the part of Jenny.
Spivey admits that the series is a bit autobiographical, saying, “Well, this is my hometown and people I grew up with. Each one of these characters is somebody I knew. These are just all my people that I grew up with in a small, basically, mill town called High Point, North Carolina.”
She explains how her upbringing informed this new series, saying, “Growing up my gold standard for me was The Andy Griffith Show in terms of a show with compassion. But then there was, like, Hee Haw and Mama’s Family, that were good entertainment, but it just wasn’t, I felt, an honest depiction.Then, when I got a little older and saw [actress] Holly Hunter [in the movies] and Jan Hooks on Saturday Night Live I realized that you could be a Southern lady and be funny authentically without putting on a crazy wig. So I just want to keep it as real and authentic as possible.”
As someone who grew up below the Mason-Dixon line, Spivey is aware that sometimes people from this part of the country are mocked by others. “[With this show], the important thing to me, especially doing a Southern show, is that I really want to be laughing with the people and not at them.”
The creative team behind the series is also constantly aware of the surge in viewership for animated shows. They say that they’re working to reach all age groups, ‘from eight to 80.’
” The Simpsons is a good example of that idea of eight to 80,” said Rudolph. “I think the level of intelligence and quality that’s going on in animation really does speak to both sides of the spectrum in terms of age. My kids love a good Simpsons episode and speaking as a parent, I am able to enjoy a lot of things that my children enjoy.”
Spivey adds to this, saying, “I really wanted to make this show multigenerational, which is why we have the grandma, the mom, and then Violet. So we can explore her high school experience and experience women at all sorts of different phases in their lives, and hopefully, there will be something for everybody, to hook into.”
About the title, Spivey explains the thought behind the combination of the family name and the popular phrase, “Bless Your Heart,” this way, “Well, it’s such a wonderful catchall phrase. It can be phoney-baloney, l ike, if somebody comes in with a real ugly, new hairdo or a dress that’s not working, [you say] “bless her heart,” you know, but it also can mean compassion. So I sort of like the double meaning, the disparate double meanings of “bless your heart.” It makes me happy.
Growing up interested in comedy and writing gave Spivey the impetuous to be condstantly observing her surroundings, using them for inspiration. “Yeah, I sort of, took note of everything about the South that made me laugh because it’s a very funny, funny place.”
Nailing the proper North Carolina accent needed for her role in the series, came from years of association with Spivey, says Rudoulph. “We met in our twenties out here at The Groundlings. It didn’t dawn on me until we, later on, when were sharing an office in New York at Saturday Night Live that when I’d answer the phone, people would ask me if I was Southern. Because I spent so much time with her, I have absorbed her accent. So I don’t even know if that is a North Carolina accent, I’m just doing Spivey.”
Spivey is proud that she’s the first female showrunner on the first animation series that features a female-led family. She credits hard work, and maybe a little divine intervention for making it happen. “I don’t know. I’ve been working my buns off. Maybe someone had to look down and notice me. Maybe God. Maybe my prayers were answered.”
‘Bless the Harts’ airs Sundays at 8:30e/7:30c on FOX.