The Hulu Sandra Oh and Awkwafina starrer comedy film ‘Quiz Lady’ takes the viewers on a fun ride with two polar opposite sisters as they embark on a chaotic adventure together. Anne Yum, a bright, introverted game show enthusiast, is brought back together with her estranged eccentric sister, Jenny after their mother’s gambling debts lead to a family crisis. Therefore, when Anne’s pet dog ends up getting kidnapped in retaliation, the sisters are left with no choice but to travel across the country and enter Anne into a gameshow to win the big cash prize.
A story with an earnest, if dysfunctional, family at its center, ‘Quiz Lady’ essays an entertaining watch revolving around the misadventures of two characters that the viewers can’t help but gravitate toward. Yet, the centerpiece in Anne and Jenny’s Odyssey— the game show and the sister’s participation in it— is bound to capture some attention and lead to speculation about the film’s basis in reality.
Creator’s Partial Real-life Inspiration
‘Quiz Lady’ is not based on a true story but mines inspiration for some crucial plot points from the real life of the people involved in its making. Particularly so, Jen D’Angelo, who helms the screenplay writing for the film, drew from her own life and family dynamics when coming up with the story’s initial premise and establishing building blocks. The film focuses on the relationship between Anne and Jenny, bringing much of its emotional authenticity from their dynamic. As such, D’Angelo’s personal connection with these characters ends up contributing largely to the same.
For Anne’s character, D’Angelo was inspired by her own brother, whom the writer refers to as a genius who “remembers literally every fact he’s ever learned.” Furthermore, like Anne, her brother has also always been obsessed with a particular game show, ‘Jeopardy,’ and even applied to be a contestant multiple times. “When I first moved to LA, I was working as an assistant on a Sony show, so I would have to drive on to the Sony lot all the time, and I would drive past the ‘Jeopardy’ stages, and I would just be like, it’s right there,” recalled the writer during an interview with ScreenRant. “If I could just get my brother onto the show, it would make his whole life.”
Inversely, when it came to fulfilling the other part of the dynamic, D’Angelo based whatever part of Jenny’s character she could after her own quirks. In the end, the most noticeable similarity that shined through was D’Angelo and Jenny’s shared identity as the “designated mom friend” in any group. Moreover, the writer couldn’t help but infuse some of herself in Anne as well, recognizing their shared qualities as homebodies. “I’m an introverted extrovert, and so always sort of bouncing in between those two things, and I’m also obsessed with my dog and would do anything for him, so there’s a little bit of me in both of them [Anne and Jenny],” said the writer.
However, D’Angelo wasn’t the only one to bring her own experiences and relatable ideas to the table in the making of this film. Although the writer finished the script on her own at first, once Director Jessica Yu and leading ladies Oh and Awkwafina entered the scene, the group spent a week together working through the script in London. From this session bloomed the idea of the gambling runaway mother, pitched by Yu, who may or may not have had the same thing happen in her family.
As for the other defining feature of the film, the game show is an obvious play on the trivia shows beloved across the country that exist in real life. Although the particular show depicted within the film is a work of fiction, it’s easy to see where D’Angelo would have gotten her inspiration from. “We wanted to make it a familiar show, but have this element at the end where there’s something that’s less controlled,” the writer said and divulged the fabricated show’s key role in the Yum sisters’ developing relationship further.
“And that’s the Charades idea where Anne cannot do it alone, so leaving the door open for her to need her sister. It was that kind of construction that really, I think, mirrored what we wanted to do with their relationship. We couldn’t do that, I think, with existing game shows, it needed to be created.” Ultimately, not a true story, ‘Quiz Lady’ draws from reality in small doses while maintaining a fictitious narrative.
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