It’s no secret that Home Economics is loosely inspired by co-creator Michael Colton’s family, but the October 27 episode of the ABC comedy hits closer to, well, home than ever when Colton’s mom Ellen makes a Halloween cameo. “As soon as the show was greenlit, she started bugging me about when she’s going to be in it,” he admits with a laugh.
“I should back up and tell you that my mom is a professional actress in the Boston area,” he clarifies. “She does mostly theater and commercials and, you know, the occasional movie part that shoots in New England.” It’s not even the first time the Coltons have worked together. “When I used to do VH1’s Best Week Ever, I brought her in for a bit that we did together and then on a Netflix movie [Home Ec co-creator John Aboud and I] made, A Futile and Stupid Gesture, I cast her in a small role. So yeah, when the show came on the air, she was immediately hounding me.”
Because of COVID protocols that made guest roles tricky in its first season, it took some time to find “the right moment” to put his mom to work, Colton explains. “We’ve had this running joke in several episodes that Nora Dunn’s character [based on Ellen] has a rivalry with her friend, Brenda. And my mom was like, ‘I can play Brenda!’ But we haven’t had the opportunity to use Brenda on-screen, so when this Halloween thing came up, I said, ‘Let’s get her in now.'”
Currently in its second season, the fantastically sharp comedy is celebrating the spooky season as only the Hayworth clan can: at odds. Not over a group costume—shockingly, the siblings and their spouses agree to dress as Marvel superheroes—but over where to take the kids trick-or-treating. Wealthy Connor (Jimmy Tatro) wants to canvas his upscale neighborhood where they give out king-sized candy bars, while budget-minded Sarah (Caitlin McGee) and wife Denise (Sasheer Zamata) push for their apartment building, since that allows for quantity over quality…as well as an encounter with an unhappy Halloweener confused by a suffragette and Wakanda’s finest at her door. Which is where Mama Colton comes in.
“When we wrote this little bit for Sarah and Denise’s cranky neighbor, it seemed perfect for her,” jokes Colton, who clearly loves the idea of his own mom mocking the chronically-woke Sarah’s costume choice in her debut performance. So should we expect to see Ellen cause trouble for the ladies again? Maybe on a recurring basis?
“I mean, why stop with recurring character? Why are you not thinking spinoff?” teases Colton, adding that he’s happy to find his mom something to do on-screen — “if there’s ever another storyline involving Sarah and Denise’s apartment building” — or off. “She lives in Boston, but I always want to bring her back…to help watch my kids.”
Home Economics, Wednesdays, 9:30/8:30c, ABC