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Carsyn Rose, Bonnie Hunt: 'Amber Brown' respects viewers while making them laugh

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Carsyn Rose, Bonnie Hunt: 'Amber Brown' respects viewers while making them laugh
Carsyn Rose can now be seen in the family comedy series, "Amber Brown." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, July 29 (UPI) -- Actress Carsyn Rose and showrunner Bonnie Hunt say their new family comedy, Amber Brown, is intended to entertain viewers of all ages in the same way The Andy Griffith Show did decades ago.

Based on the late Paula Danziger's beloved 1990s book series, the show premieres Friday on Apple TV+

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It follows the titular tween, whose best friend, Justin (Joshua Gallup), moves away just as she begins middle school.

Adding to her adolescent angst is her divorced mom Sarah's (Sarah Drew) plan to marry her perfectly nice beau, Max (Darin Brooks), ending Amber's hopes of a reconciliation with her cherished dad, Philip (Michael Yo).

"It's so amazing to have a show that everyone in the family can watch together and parents can see how they're kids are feeling from [watching] Amber. Kids can see how their parents may be feeling from watching the adults," Carsyn told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"It's a show where you can connect the generations all in one place."

Jerry Maguire and Life with Bonnie veteran Hunt said she took inspiration from her childhood viewing to relay Amber's story.

"I would tell [the cast] about when I used to watch The Andy Griffith Show with my parents and how all of us just loved it," she recalled.

"It was just so powerful to see them have so much fun, forgetting all their stress and woes. There was a lot of pathos in that show and humor and it was character-driven. That definitely was my inspiration."

The show sends an important contemporary message by having Amber work through her feelings and record her thoughts in a private video diary as opposed to baring her soul on social media, where so many young people are bullied and emotionally crushed.

"She really just needs to talk to herself and express herself," Hunt said of Amber.

"It's not for 'likes' or for someone to condone what she is saying or give her a pat on the back or to criticize her. This is for her. Diaries were such a big thing when I was a kid."

Hunt said reviewing her old journals made her realize how cathartic it was to put her feelings down on paper instead of saying things she might regret and hurting people she loved.

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"They've helped me a lot through this show and been very therapeutic for me," Hunt said. "My mom was so full of wisdom and love and patience, and you always love each other as a family, but there were times when we didn't like each other."

Carsyn said Amber is grateful to have a positive outlet to vent about relatable frustrations like her mom not letting her pierce her ears or get a dog for a pet.

"She feels constricted, but I feel like a big, important part of the show is that it shows everyone's perspective. It shows kids how to have empathy for their parents and see where they are coming from and not be mad at them because they are just doing it because they love them," Carsyn said.

She added: "I'm so glad that this show is promoting this message of love and family and friendship because that is a big part of what helps Amber Brown through her problems -- the people around her.

"In my life, I have so many people who want to help me and take care of me. Sometimes, it's hard to see, especially if you are mad at a certain person."

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Hunt stressed she also wanted to let Amber enjoy being 11 and not have her act older than she is.

"We're all in such a hurry to grow up. I know this is true of every generation," the filmmaker said.

"[Kids] are exposed to so much now. You really are powerless over how fast they know and absorb things and have to deal with them. It's been lovely to keep Amber at her age because her mom is trying to keep that under wraps as much as she can."

Gone but not forgotten, Justin keeps in touch with Amber via cell phone and video conferencing, while Amber befriends Brandi (Liliana Inouye), the new girl who moves into his former house next door.

In a refreshing twist, there's no rivalry between the old and new best friends.

Both just want what's best for Amber.

"Another thing I liked about the script is that Justin is a platonic friend," Carsyn said.

Hunt added, "He's your buddy."

"Yeah! I feel like on a lot of TV shows, a boy and a girl can't be friends with each other and I love that, in this, they are just friends," Carsyn said. "It was so fun to be working with these people. They were so nice. Me and Lilianna are super close."

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Hunt said she appreciated the maturity of Justin and Amber's friendship.

"I had a friend like that when I was a kid. We protected each other and lifted each other when we were down or not included [by other kids]," she said.

Danziger's family gave Hunt creative license to take Amber's story into 2022.

"What I retained from the books is what I told the family there will be: heart, intelligence and humor," Hunt said.

"Other than that, they let me dive into it and bring my experience and Carsyn brings hers," she continued. "She brings her amazing talent and authenticity and just her goodness. I am so lucky that our paths have crossed, because you need somebody that respects your writing and brings it to life better than you could have ever imagined."

Carsyn enjoyed collaborating with a filmmaker who is also an actor because she understands what is going on on both sides of the camera.

"There are some differences in the paths people take behind the scenes and on screen," Carsyn said.

"It's super nice to have someone who has experienced it because that way they understand if there is some kind of conflict with different projects or if something is happening at school."

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Hunt, was an oncology nurse before the comedy bug bit her in the 1980s, maintains a healthy attitude towards the demands of the entertainment industry, especially when it comes to working with younger artists.

"Your personal life and you will always be a priority over show biz stuff on my set," Hunt told Carsyn.

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