Cody Heller’s “Dummy” Is No Ordinary Sex Doll

Cody Heller’s “Dummy” Is No Ordinary Sex Doll
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When TV writer Cody Heller (Deadbeat, Kidding, Wilfred) began dating fellow TV Writer Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty, Community), they made the conscious decision to be completely honest and open with each other. Sound like a solid foundation for a relationship? Absolutely. “We didn’t keep any secrets and wanted to get everything out there as soon as possible,” confessed Heller.


I humanized what Dan objectified  in Dummy – Cody Heller


This is confession time when Cody and Dan reveal their astonishing habits to each other to bring them closer together. Harman’s major confession was that he owned and operated a sex doll. “About six months into our relationship, I found some glitter on Dan’s face and he told me about his sex doll,” added Heller. This could have sparked a number of responses from Cody Heller such as disgust and anger. But Heller perceived the doll as a kind of competition. What does she have that Cody didn’t?

Rather than causing friction between Heller and Harmon, the sex doll became the springboard for Dummy, one of Quibi’s first television series. It could have been a piece of tacky, voyeuristic entertainment, but instead, Cody Heller chose to use the TV series as a way to explore her early insecurities, vulnerabilities, and jealousies when she met veteran TV writer Dan Harmon. “I felt intimidated by Dan’s writing career and inferior to him,” confessed Heller.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine

Cody Heller

When it was time for Heller to write a new sample spec script for her manager to circulate, she wrote Dummy to explore and understand her feelings toward an inanimate object. It was vital that Dummy was not a gimmick, but rather a larger than life character. “I think she represents a part of you that wants to heal,” Cody’s therapist advised.

Barbara, the Dummy (played by Meredith Hagner) was more like an imaginary friend for Cody that came to life to help her navigate her fears and insecurities.

The pilot Heller wrote was raw and honest in its portrayal of her negative self-talk and anxieties. She was even worried that Dan would terminate the relationship once the pilot was shot. Their relationship is still going strong five years later. At the time of this article being published, team Heller and Harman are happily engaged, so the sex doll was never the other woman or the third person in their relationship.

Dummy was so close to home, the TV writer even chose to name her main characters Cody (Anna Kendrick) and Dan (Donal Logue) to inject even more authenticity in the show. This was a conscious decision not an act of laziness. There was no hiding behind fabricated characters’ names. Heller’s personal life was exposed.

Heller met Colin Davis, a late-night comedy development executive at TBS who was interested in producing Dummy. Heller wrote seven ten-minute episodes of Dummy for TBS. They never got made and the show was confined to the uncertain depths of the development vaults.

Davis joined the Quibi development staff and resurrected Dummy from the vaults. The ten-minute episode format of Cody’s show lent itself perfectly to the new “turnstyle” platform meaning you can watch it either vertically or horizontally on your cell phone. Anna Kendrick (who plays Cody) loved the concept and quickly signed on as lead actress and executive producer.

They discussed what the Quibi version of Dummy might look like. “How much reality did they want?” mused Heller. Dummy needed to stay grounded to Heller’s initial personal story, but it also needed a new splash of paint. They decided to make Dummy with, “A hint of reality taken to a very high-concept. The Quibi pilot was very real and then the show became fiction.” Anna Kendrick described it as “Punk Rock.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine

Barbara (Meredith Hagner) and Cody (Anna Kendrick)

The development machine kicked into overdrive. The character of Dan was cast based on a physicality similar to Dan Harmon and Barbara the talking sex doll was tweaked. “Barbara became meaner, more honest, and more brutal to Cody,” said Heller. She was Cody’s mirror and forced her to face her uncomfortable internal truths – not all of them pleasant. It was imperative that Barbara wasn’t an evil antagonist although she constantly antagonized Cody’s s character. All of Barbara’s barbs were delivered with sweetness and kindness to make Cody (both the actress and the writer) a better person. The show’s producers used CGI to superimpose Meredith’s face onto Barbara the doll to humanize her and make her Cody’s best friend and confidant. “Barbara also became the high-maintenance diva, more so than Cody,” Heller joked.

Cody Heller barricaded herself in a hotel room for a few weeks and outlined the first season of Dummy. She started the process by writing all the elements of her original pilot on index cards and expanded these ideas into a 7 x 15-minute format for Quibi.

Since Barbara was now a bestie for Cody, “I added more bonding episodes between the two early in the season,” said Heller. Her next step was to develop Dan’s character by giving him a backstory and a character arc. “Otherwise the show was too claustrophobic if it focused exclusively on Cody and Barbara,” said Heller.

Time will tell if the adventures of Barbara and Cody will continue into another season.

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