LOS ANGELES, March 5 (UPI) -- While writing the fourth season of her FX comedy, Better Things, Pamela Adlon found room to include incidents she witnessed in real life. In Episode 3 of the new season, Sam Fox (Adlon) and her oldest daughter, Max (Mikey Madison), help a distraught mother locate her missing son in a department store.
"I was at a store with my youngest daughter and a mom was screaming, looking for her son, frantically," Adlon said on a Television Critics Association panel. "Nobody left their place in line, except for me and my daughter. That just stayed with me, and so I wanted to talk about that."
However, Adlon is quick to explain that Better Things is not a documentary. Although she plays a divorced single mother who is an actor, and she is a single mother in real life, Sam is not directly based on her life.
"I am not doing a reality show," Adlon said. "It's very much constructed just for this show. I find that little details that stick with me work in the show and have a lot more traction than something that you're creating from out of the ether."
Adlon said she began the fourth season by outlining themes she wanted to address. Then she opened it up to her four-writer staff.
"I knew I wanted to call the first episode 'Rain,'" Adlon said. "I wanted rain to be a theme through the season. Couples, togetherness, being alone, these were all things that I wanted to build on."
The writing sessions Adlon describes sound more like brainstorming than formal pitches. Those are where she and others can share real-life stories that could be useful to scripts.
"The process of writing is more about just talking and socializing," Adlon said. "It's little tiny details that I would walk in with and say, 'This thing happened.'"
Another example of a story from Adlon's real life was in the Season 3 premiere. Sam returned home from a trip to find out her middle child, Frankie (Hannah Alligood), had to read A Raisin in the Sun for school the next morning.
"I was really tired, and my daughter didn't read an entire play that was due the next day," Adlon said. "So I put that into the show, and then I can illustrate a way to do things."
Sam read the play with Frankie. Adlon says other parents have taken a cue from her show.
"I remember showing that first episode of last season to the whole crew," Adlon said. "Celia Imrie was there, and she came up to me after, and she said, 'Oh, God. I wish I had done that with Angs,' her son Angus."
In addition to writing, producing and starring, Adlon directs every episode of Season 4. She says she still is learning technical aspects of directing, with which her cinematographer helps her. However, Adlon said she thrives working with actors.
"I don't have the technical prowess that other people who have been through film school and always knew they wanted to be a director do," Adlon said. "What I do have is something else that is as powerful, if not more so -- the power of being an actor's director. The difference between a good actor and a bad actor is the director."
Better Things returns Thursday at 10 p.m on FX, and becomes available on Hulu on Friday.