If you’ve ever endured the pain of finding out heartbreaking truths that your beloved parents have long tried to conceal, and if your entire life is defined as much by where you live as it is who you live with, then you’ll definitely identify with actor/writer/producer Raleigh Cain’s new series Story Of You. Its already produced pilot, which recently played at several festivals including this year’s all-virtual Stareable Fest, will premiere soon at a date to be announced. Seven more episodes are planned, but at present, Cain is seeking funding for their production.
Based on Cain’s memories of growing up between two families separated by geographic distance and personal beliefs, the series stars Cain as Jayne, a schoolteacher who zealously lived life by the book during her youth. Now grown up and wedded to an ex-party animal turned devoted husband (Brian, played by Peter Murphy), Jayne has arrived at a point of discontent with her marriage, so much so that she’s started to fall for her equally unfulfilled – and also taken – coworker/school P.E. teacher Ayden (Joseph Stromberg).
As Jayne’s illicit fling with Ayden threatens both of their careers and marriages, her life is shattered beyond recognition by several unbelievable developments.
On top of her being pregnant, Jayne discovers that she not only has a half-sister in Vivienne (Sara Silva), but that she never grew up with her now-deceased biological father, who committed adultery against her mother (Carol, played by Holly Gagnier), and gave her both Vivienne and a large cache of cash. Worse, the man Jayne long thought to be her real dad (Roy, played by Pete Gardner) isn’t her real dad at all.
At loggerheads over Roy’s true place in their lives, both Jayne and Vivienne attempt to become the supportive siblings they never got to be during their adolescences. As Jayne also deals with the inevitable wreckage that her pregnancy and affair with Ayden will have on her marriage to Brian, the half-sister and father she never knew will also define the future she creates for herself.
As Cain has said of Story Of You, “if Fleabag and This Is Us had an illegitimate baby that grew up in a flyover state, that would be this show.” For its creator and star, the concept of this funny and often bittersweet comedy/drama grew from her memories of having lived an interesting if not incredibly unorthodox childhood.
“I initially sat down to write about my uncommon family and formative years (when developing Story Of You),” she says. “While divorce isn’t all that unique, a 10 year-old girl flying solo between rural Kansas and Lake Tahoe (Nevada) to be a part of two families on a monthly basis is a little odd. Throw in 4 parents and 5 half siblings and you have the story of me.”
With her memories of that story in mind when scripting her series, Cain found that such uncommon parental units were surprisingly the norm. “I was exposed to an array of lifestyles and beliefs feeding my obsession over our origin of influence. However, when I pitched this theme to others, I realized very few of us come from a normal family.”
Cain created imperfect yet relatable personalities for Story Of You that would be just as welcome in any project from two of her biggest creative influences: Oscar-winning director Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia, Licorice Pizza) and Fleabag star/creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Though the series’ target demographic is millennials like Cain, she cites two reasons why it will appeal to many audiences: “(It’s for) anyone that comes from a weird family dynamic. I think it has heart but will also make you laugh and I love shows like that.”
While Story Of You was inspired by Cain’s own “weird family dynamic”, she based her most recent script on her professional brushes with the offbeat part of society. “Pretending is about my experience working the front desk at (popular fitness franchise) Soulcycle. The characters that came in there were pretty hysterical. I felt very out of place at times, but I made some of my best friends. Pretending is just at the pilot script and pitch level right now.”
Debuting at a time where political partisanship has damaged American civil society as much as it has American democracy, and at a moment where the living embodiment of the word “family” has evolved in ways that progressive-thinking citizens celebrate but traditionalists resent, Story Of You shows not just how once-hidden secrets can either define or destroy ourselves and our loved ones, but how the way we deal with the fallout from those secrets can ultimately rebuild those strained family ties.
Having witnessed much of what makes America and American families – such as her own – unique, Cain aims for Story Of You’s viewers to cherish what unites us, and to find common ground with those we disagree with rather than stay stuck in our familiar socio-political bubbles. “I hope they (Story of You’s viewers) can find a piece of themselves in the story. The more we can understand what makes us who we are, the more we can have empathy for others.”
NOTE: Story Of You is not currently closed-captioned. The show’s trailer can be viewed here:
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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly noted that Pete Gardner’s character, Roy, was Jayne (Raleigh Cain)’s biological father in Story Of You. He is not, and the identity of Jayne’s real father is not mentioned by name during the pilot episode.