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'A League of Their Own' star Abbi Jacobson focuses on the film's untold queer stories

Abbi Jacobson attends the Los Angeles premiere of her new Amazon Prime Video Series <em>A League of Their Own</em> earlier this month.
Leon Bennett/Getty Images
Abbi Jacobson attends the Los Angeles premiere of her new Amazon Prime Video Series A League of Their Own earlier this month.

Updated August 14, 2022 at 9:16 AM ET

It's not every day you get the blessing from the director of one of your favorite childhood films to reimagine her movie in a new light.

Comedian and actor Abbi Jacobson did.

The co-creator of the new A League of Their Own series was able to speak to Penny Marshall, the original director of the 1992 film. Marshall, who died in 2018, gave the greenlight after Jacobson said the show was not going to be an exact replica of the movie.

"We told her how much we love the film and ... that we were shifting focus and really trying to tell the story of a generation of women who played baseball," Jacobson tells NPR. "And she said, 'Well go and do it already. Like go and do it.'"

Now it's available on Amazon Prime Video.

Both the film and the show are about the women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which started during World War II.

In order to get a feel for what it was like to be a female baseball player in that era, Jacobson says she and fellow co-creator Will Graham consulted with Maybelle Blair, an original player in the league who came out publicly as the show prepared to launch. The 95-year-old shared her identity during the Q&A portion of the pilot's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Jacobson says she hopes the untold stories about queer and racial experiences that weren't fully present in the film can now be highlighted in her series and help other come to their own truth — like Blair did.

Jacobson shares more about what she wanted the focus of the show to be on, the character she portrays in the series, and what she wants audiences to experience with this adaption of the film.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On how she, Graham and other show staff approached the movie's material

From our initial conversation, it was like, we don't need to remake this movie at all. We're not trying to do these characters again. But there is so much in the film that we felt like Marshall was nodding to.

This is an iconic queer film, but no one in the film is openly gay and it's not really that clear. But it is beloved by the queer community.

There's an iconic scene in the movie where a Black woman picks up a foul ball and chucks it back to Dottie [Hinson, played by Geena Davis]. And you're sort of meant to know the historical fact that Black women were not even allowed to try out for this league.

We're really excited to dive into the stories that were not told in the film, the other people that we weren't focused on. We're kind of pulling focus in other directions. And so I always think of it as like a reimagining.

On how she relates to her character, Carson Shaw

I came into my queerness pretty late in life. And also I say that in a non-judgy way, like it's never too late.

But my character, Carson, is going through a very different but similar journey of coming to know herself. I really relate in so many ways to Carson and that figuring out of oneself and that experience of having the world sort of all of a sudden feel a lot bigger than it did before, which I think is what that felt like for me and in a great way.

On what she hopes people take away from the show

It really is about finding your team, and these characters, a lot of them are finding their team on the field, which is a place that they've never really had that kind of camaraderie.

But the show is also so much about finding your team in life, in your people, and I hope that whether you play baseball or not, I think this is a really analogous thing to whatever your passion is to go and find those people.

I feel like this is very analogous to my story in finding my people in comedy. Once I found them, I was like, "I can do this. I found other people that love this as much as I do."

And then in the same way is finding your people who see you. And that's the queer community. Whatever people you need, I hope an audience will watch and if they have their community, maybe they're watching with their community and they see themselves already. And if they don't have those communities yet, they know that it's never too late to find them.

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Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
Magaly Muñoz