'Christine McConnell' Netflix: How a Viral Reddit Creator Landed a Series
Talking to Christine McConnell, the soft-spoken producer and star of a Netflix series that defies description, is like conversing with Halloween itself. Equal parts warm and witty, with a dash of mischief, McConnell is the living avatar of the dusk of seasons. But ancient as Halloween is, it was through internet communities like Reddit where McConnell found her way to television.
Since the October 12 premiere of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell on Netflix, the puppet sitcom/cooking series has become a sleeper hit with an emerging online following. As it taps into McConnell’s opposite personalities — think Donna Reed crossed with Tim Burton — the series adds more unique influences to the mix, with an inclusive atmosphere (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), oddball creatures (The Muppets), and soft R-rated humor (uh, South Park?).
It’s honestly really hard to describe Curious Creations without seeing it yourself. Even McConnell herself has trouble explaining it.
“I don’t know if we can label it,” McConnell tells Inverse. “It’s ‘Marilyn Munster grew up and had a cooking show.’ That’s the character I am. She lives in a world where things are very strange and odd but it doesn’t phase her.”
She adds there was never a “defined outline” of what the show would become. “We just loved all these elements and started working them together. Everything complimented one another, which was unexpected.”
While the show’s ensemble of Jim Henson puppets sometimes eclipse their ever-patient den mother (Rose, a “thirsty mess” of a raccoon in a pink bow, is easily the show’s breakout star), the main attraction is McConnell giving viewers step-by-broad step instructions in how to craft intricate yet edible concoctions, like peanut butter pretzel bones and shortbread Ouijia boards.
“The sort of joke is these things take so long to do,” McConnell says. “But it’s fun to watch and disappear into the possibility of things that can happen.”
McConnell’s eye-popping creations are what earned her fame in the first place. Since 2013, her viral John Carpenter spins on Martha Stewart living gave McConnell an audience on websites like Reddit and Imgur, where original content can turn clever craftspeople into branded stars. (It’s also how she landed a book deal in 2016.)
It becomes just a skosh easier to land a TV show that way.
“My brother told me about Reddit. I never heard of it,” she remembers. “I started posting there, and I had an immense amount of success for a period of time. It brought this whole audience into my life. That opened a lot of doors.”
As McConnell kept making and baking (and uploading), she was approached on several occasions to star in a reality series. But Keeping Up with Christine McConnell just didn’t suit her. “It just wasn’t what I was interested in,” she says. Eventually, emails with Jessica Grimshaw, the VP of Original Programming at NBC, planted the seeds for Curious Creations.
While all distribution options were considered, McConnell herself pushed for Netflix. She charmed the streaming giant by going overdrive on a Stranger Things photo series and presented Netflix with Stranger Things goods and treats. “I really wanted Netflix. I was pulling out all the stops and doing everything in my power to make Netflix happen.”
It worked. “They called right after we left.”
Born and raised in southern California, McConnell found her identity almost in spite of her sunny surroundings.
“I’m not a huge California fan,” she says. “I love the people. But I like old buildings. The world of [the TV show] Dark Shadows and those things have naturally appealed to me more. I think people gravitate towards what you’re so unfamiliar with. I always felt like a misfit here.” (She currently resides in northern California.)
Her family lived in an old Victorian home, of which there are many in California. The attic was her bedroom. “I think I wanted a coffin as a bed at one point,” she says, laughing. “I wanted to be a mermaid or a vampire when I grew up. I used to sneak watch horror movies.”
While her horror influences can sound unsurprising, including everything from Tim Burton, the actor Vincent Price, to The Addams Family, she credits her parents for influencing her other side. Her father was “was enamored with women from the 1950s,” while her mother was a general contractor who did work while looking fab.
“She would always look nice but didn’t care about getting dirty. She was put up dry walls while wearing pearls.”
While most of Netflix’s offerings of the season run the gamut of dark horror thrillers, with films like Apostle, the gothic anime Castlevania, or its hyper-stylish reboot series Sabrina, McConnell’s show feels like wholesome counter-programming that doesn’t forget the time of year.
“Having fun with this stuff makes things less scary, because the world is scary,” McConnell says. “I don’t know what the future holds. It jus seems like everything’s coming up roses.”
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is streaming now on Netflix.