Shining Vale: Merrin Dungey, Co-Creator Jeff Astrof Talk STARZ Series

Shining Vale, the upcoming Starz horror-comedy series, brings in both a unique co-creator, Jeff Astrof, to the scene and a character navigating the trials of friendship & business with Merrin Dungey who plays Kam. I got to ask a few questions from these two fascinating individuals about the upcoming series and getting into character.

Shining Vale's Merrin Dungey & Co-Creator Jeff Astrof [Interview]
(l-r) Merrin Dungey as Kam & series co-creator Jeff Astrof. Sources: Starz & YouTube
Shining Vale premieres with two episodes Sunday, March 6, 2022, at midnight on the STARZ app, all STARZ streaming, and on-demand platforms, and internationally on the STARZPLAY premium streaming platform across Europe, Latina America, and Japan. On linear, it will debut on STARZ at 10:20 pm ET/PT in the U.S. and Canada.

Kam is Pat's oldest friend and book editor, a no-bulls**t straight talker who knows and loves Pat more than Pat does herself. Kam has been with Pat through the highs of Pat selling her first novel to the lows of everything that has happened since. She is the one person Pat can rely on for tough love, but Kam is running out of patience: If Pat does not give Kam a book she can sell, then Kam will have no choice but to leave her — this time for good.

Bleeding Cool: With your character, Kam, there's a line between friendship and then also being Pat's book agent trying to find that straddle that line. What do you think is the most kind of critical part of kind of maintaining a long-term friendship like her and Pat's?

Merrin Dungey: Love and patience, she really does love her and sees her. Again, how deep is the back story? There's a long history, she probably was there for the birth of some of the kids, and they have a long-time relationship and you don't just abandon that. There does come a point at which Kam has to draw a line and it's tough because they are so close. But also again, I hate to say it, she is truly financially responsible now. She's, you know, put this out there and believes in Pat, but Kam has bosses too. So, you've got to deliver a fish or cut bait. There is a point at which the patience runs out.

BC: In terms of costuming, did that part help kind of bring out your character even more? Or was that something that you struggled with and with trying to fit the personality you were trying to convey?

MD: The greatest news about Kam is that she's not a detective, and I'm really tired of playing detectives because they wear pants and boring outfits and belts. When I did Lucifer, I had to wear that police belt and I wanted to die because it's 15 pounds. It's not Once Upon a Time where I'm in a corset and a giant wig. Kam's clothes were fantastic and I love clothes. As my boyfriend says, "nobody likes an outfit like you!" So I had a great time with the wardrobe department, with finding her look and she's from New York so she gets to wear fantastic stuff. But the thing is you don't get to see a lot of it because we're always sort of sitting down and having these different conversations. But I mean, Kam had coats, shoes, purses like Kam needed a runway. We need a whole separate B story or just a bonus reel of Kam's wardrobe fittings.

BC: Was there a moment when working on "Shining Vale" where you fell in love with TV all over again? Or something similar that really struck you?

Jeff Astrof: Oh, that's such a good question. So one of the reasons I wanted to do something that was genre-bending was because, I've been doing this for like a long time, and maybe there'll be another multi-camera that kind of gets people excited. But for me, it's just very difficult, I've written enough shows where it's the guy's 40th birthday, and he just wants to sleep with his wife. and that's the big conflict of it. I felt like, well right here we're dealing with the stakes of a woman's soul. It took a while to write the script, and Sharon was very, very brutal with her notes and in a direct way. She is very, very direct and she's like "oh that's sitcom-like", which is the worst thing she could say, or something like "are you going to do a callback?" and I was like, "my house is built on callbacks." I think it's just seeing the excitement of all of us getting together to do this, none of us had done horror before, and I think it was just like doing it made it exciting.


There's a great story from shooting the pilot where I went to the scene and wanted the family to be laughing and having fun and I wanted to pull out and have a big, wide shot of the house and you just see this gigantic light go off in the attic. The house wasn't built that way. We shot in a real house and the house is just really long with a big weird tree in front of it. Nobody We had these two like giant cranes, but one of them didn't work and the other one, we were on such a tight schedule because of COVID and we were never going to get that shot. We wound up getting a similar shot and the cops were there saying, "Shut it down" I just said, "Keep rolling, just tilt up there." We wound up doing some post magic, but I needed something there. So, I said let's do a scene from The Changeling, where the ball drops down the stairs and that'll be creepy and we'll figure out how to do it. The B camera operator said, "My father shot 'The Changeling'" and he showed me a video clip of his father on the 50th anniversary of 'The Changeling', sitting on the stairs, holding up a ball and saying, "This is the ball that we bounced on the stairs and this has changed my life and everything and has become so iconic. So the guy who bounced the ball who shot this held up the yellow ball that we used and said, "Dad, this is the ball that we're using for Shining Vale. It's a new horror-comedy. This is for you." I was like this is fucking great, man.

I love this and seeing how into it everybody was and working with Courteney again and getting her to do crazy things. There's other stuff that's very personal, but I grew up with parents that did not have a great marriage. The scene in the second episode where Pat and Terry are fighting in the kitchen, I was in their scene, and I guess the director said, you need to pull way back there and I moved into the other room, into the dining room, and I heard them fighting. It was like I was back as a kid again and my parents were fighting in the other room. If we can get people to feel this and then also make people laugh, it's going to be great. The whole thing made me fall in love. I love it so much.

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Brittney BenderAbout Brittney Bender

In love with media, from TV to film, you'll find me writing recaps, reviews, TV news, "Top 5" content, opinion pieces are everything and anything, and more! Bisexual creative mess with a love for dark humor, promoting important projects, and sharing interesting finds.
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