'Drop Dead Diva's' Berman Gives the Scoop on His Baby

Today's cuppa: hotel coffee

Drop_Dead_Diva_Brooke_Elliott_full Taking a break from the TCA Press Tour to give you an update on the new Lifetime Sunday-night show "Drop Dead Diva," which premiered July 12.

It stars Brooke Elliott as Jane, a plus-size, whip-smart attorney with a somewhat atrophied social life that takes a bullet for one of her bosses.

Instead of remaining dead, she becomes the repository for another recently deceased woman, the thin, pretty but not-exactly-a-rocket-scientist Deb, who takes a U-turn in the hereafter and winds up in Jane's body.

She has Deb's memories and personality, combined with elements of Jane's personality, plus Jane's knowledge and smarts.

Unfortunately for Deb, she also has to live in Jane's body and deal with her own attitudes about that, along with the attitudes of those around her.

"Drop Dead Diva" is the creation of Josh Berman, a Los Angeles-area native who's an attorney, a business-school graduate and a Fulbright scholar, whose resume includes "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," his own Fox series, "Vanished," which included elements of secret societies, and a stint on Fox's forensic-mystery series "Bones."

I recently shot Berman some questions, and got back some interesting answers. Check it out...

Q: What inspired you to create the show?


A: My grandmother. She was a short large woman with the spirit of a super model.  She was a holocaust survivor -- only woman in her family to survive.  Yet, she believed she could do anything and she tried to teach her children and grandchildren that they could do anything, as well.


Q: What sort of research did you do to write the pilot, and what are you continuing to do?


A: We have legal researchers on the show.  The same duo that does the forensic research for "CSI" and "Bones."  We like our law stories to be grounded in real cases, but we take liberty in how the cases are adjudicated as everything is through the prism of our lead character, Jane.


Q: Obviously, you're a lawyer, so you're a bit biased, but what does the legal aspect add to the show as a whole?


A: It's a franchise.  It provides the story engine that pushes the series forward.  The themes and characters in the legal stories help inform and motivate our core group of characters.


Q: How did you find Brooke, and what did you love about her?


A: There was a national search for the role of Jane.  We had casting directors in LA (the amazing Susan Edelman) and in New York, executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("Chicago," "Hairspray") helped in the process.  Brooke is brilliant.  She understands the character and the duality of playing both Jane and Deb.  With Brooke, it was love at first sight.


Q: What does the show have to say to people who may not be overweight?


A: It tells people that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  Think twice before you judge someone based on their appearance.  The show is for anyone that's ever felt like an outsider.  At the core, the show is about identity.   It's NOT about being overweight, per se.  It's about feeling like you don't belong.


Q: In particular, what do you hope men take away from it in thinking about the women in their lives?


A: I hope men enjoy the show.  Television is about entertainment and I believe the show is very entertaining.  If men or women learn something by watching, then terrific.


Q: Will secret societies play a role in the show at any point? (OK, you don't HAVE to answer that one if you don't want to).


A: Ha!  We all have secrets, don't we?


Q: Give us a few hints of what's to come ...


A: Liza Minnelli and Delta Burke play psychic sisters.  Have you ever got a better tease than that?

To flesh out that tease ... on the Sept. 20 episode, Minnelli plays a psychic who sues her sister (Burke) for opening a competing psychic shop across the street. Rosie O'Donnell reprises her role as a judge.