Feisty Females Play Ball In A League of Their Own

The beloved 1992 film returns as a new Prime Video series starring Abbi Jacobson and Nick Offerman

The beloved 1992 film returns as a new Prime Video series starring Abbi Jacobson and Nick Offerman 

When Broad City creator Abbi Jacobson and her good friend Will Graham decided to revisit the Rockford Peaches from Penny Marshall’s 1992 film, A League of Their Own, the question wasn’t whether or not to remake the classic, but how. In their eight-episode series adaptation, about a group of women in 1940s America who get a chance to play professional baseball while their male counterparts serve in the military overseas, the co-creators decided to widen the lens to include race relations and sexuality in the era.  A League of Their OwnPrime Video“I found the ambition of the project remarkable,” says one of the series’ stars, Canadian Kelly McCormack, who plays the team’s no-nonsense shortstop Jess McCready from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. “Abbi Jacobson’s pilot, so wonderfully in her voice, was going for broke in all directions with the story of the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.”

The Vancouver native found her character equally ambitious in terms of confidence and vulnerability. “She’s just cool as hell,” says McCormack. “Playing a character who’s all about swagger and smoking and drinking and spitting and playing ball, was a real pleasure. Jess is a person of few words but speaks on the field in the game. That kind of character was really fun to embody.” A League of Their OwnPrime VideoIn creating the characters for their series, Jacobson and Graham researched the real-life women that played in the league in the early 1940s, and created amalgamations of these players, while also allowing the actors to weigh in. “I found the research to be the most fruitful when looking at these real stories of the women who played the game,” says McCormack. “Some of them, like Faye Dancer and Bonnie Baker, you look at their baseball cards and there’s something about them that is really gnarly and intense and gritty and spitty. They had a quality that I didn’t feel was represented in the film. So I was moved to make a lane for myself and push it in that direction.”

The series also explores the Black experience, inspired by the scene in the film where a Black woman throws a wild ball past Geena Davis at an impressive speed. In a storyline that parallels the journey of the Rockford Peaches, Chanté Adams plays Max Chapman, a wildly talented player who is turned away because of her skin colour but is determined to play baseball whichever way she can. It is a departure from the film, which McCormack sees as an understandable omission at the time. “It’s difficult for a woman today to finance a film centered around women’s self-determination, so I can’t imagine the pressure that Penny Marshall was under in the ’90s,” she says. “To make a story about women existing outside of the expectant realm of femininity at the time, seems to be an impossibility. So I wouldn’t admonish Penny Marshall for not being able to explore the realities of the queer or the diversity of female baseball in the 40s. I think we’re finally ready to feel a little more honest about the multitudes and subtexts and struggles of these women.” A League of Their OwnPrime VideoWrapping these storylines into the existing franchise of one of the most beloved films in movie history means that the subject matters will reach a greater audience. “I think accessible comedy dramas based on really huge marquee IPs definitely have a power to reach the masses and present those messages in a more germane way,” says McCormack. “It’s also an opportunity to explore some clear joy. It not necessarily about the struggle or the trauma, it’s also about the celebration of women, queer people and people of colour, all defying impossible odds and finding a new team and a new family. I think that joy is a radical concept and happiness is the biggest F you to history.” 

This joy is further perpetuated by the comedic tone of the show, which McCormack says feel very emblematic of Jacobson. “It does have this fun ‘screwball’ nostalgia vibe to it, but there were times where we were saying stuff that felt very modern. I think that has to do with the charm and the endearing quality of Abbi Jacobson’s type of work,” she says. “The show itself feels very in-her-voice, which is fun and unregulated and awkward at times. But genuine as hell and so relatable.” A League of Their OwnPrime VideoAs for fans of the film, there are plenty of Easter eggs, the most obvious of them being the inclusion of original cast member Rosie O’Donnell. “It was a huge honour working with her,’” says McCormack, who grew up watching O’Donnell on television. “Hearing her talk about shooting the original film and what they were all feeling at the time and how crazy it was for themthey couldn’t believe that it was happening and that they were telling the story. I can’t understate how big of a deal it was for me.” 

A League of Their Own, streaming on Prime Video