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Jewish Journal

Rhea Kohan: The Hollywood Mother behind ‘Weeds’ and ‘Will and Grace’

by Danielle Berrin

May 8, 2011 | 11:04 am

All In The Family: Jenji Kohan, the creator of "Weeds", David Kohan, the creator of "Will and Grace" and their mother, Rhea Kohan, a novelist.

Sunday afternoon at the Kohan home is one of those classic portraits of familial bliss: Children are screaming, singing and scurrying about, clamoring for attention, eager to play, while the adults assembled in the kitchen are trying to have a coherent conversation. Clearly, a tall order.

“Chris backed up an off ramp!” Jenji Kohan exclaims as she bursts into the kitchen 20 minutes late for the interview, in jeans and a T-shirt, her two sons in tow. “There was an accident in front of us, and we would have literally been on another hour, and so he backed up the off ramp.” Charlie, 11, is ecstatic at his father’s heroics: “My brother and sister were like, ‘Yeah, go Dad!’ ” This being the Kohan household, an ordeal on the freeway is nothing if it begets a good story.

Jenji and Co.’s arrival brings a swirl of energy into the room —Charlie wants to perform his latest magic trick (he’s telepathic), and Oscar, a playful, teasing 5-year-old, is hungry. “Have some cheese and crackers,” his grandmother, Rhea, directs with classic motherly insistence. “Would you like some cereal? Some raisins?”

Jenji and David, Rhea’s two writer offspring (son Jono is a music entrepreneur and day trader) have gathered today at The Journal’s behest to talk about their mother in honor of Mother’s Day. A novelist by profession, among her notable accomplishments is the fact that she managed to raise three well-adjusted, unpretentious children in Beverly Hills.

“Sorry, is this disrupting?” Jenji asks.

Well, yes, but the chaos of different characters all descending upon the family kitchen is where this family’s story begins. And even though the Kohan children — twins Jono and David, 47, and Jenji, 41, are all grown up with sizable homes of their own, their parents’ home is still family ground zero. It is here, amid a blend of California modern and deco interiors, that their talents were incubated and nurtured — the original writers’ room.

In fact, the drama that unfolded within these walls launched four enviable Hollywood careers: Buz Kohan, the family patriarch, is a television writer for variety shows and specials with 13 Emmys to his credit; Rhea is an author of three novels and a screenplay; David is the creator of the eight-season hit sitcom “Will & Grace”; and Jenji is the brain behind Showtime’s wickedly subversive comedy “Weeds.” A mere 10 minutes in their midst and it becomes obvious why so much of David and Jenji’s success flows from family spectacle, literally and creatively: Both modeled their career choice on their parents’ vocation, and both have found endless inspiration filtering their own refracted experience of family and turning it into entertainment.

Read the rest here: No one spits in her kids’ kasha

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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