There’s Paige, the tell-it-as-it-is pragmatist with a mouth full of big opinions and even bigger Southernisms. There’s Chris, the longtime family friend who sidelines Allison’s mom at a bar and almost makes her miss the family camping trip. And then there’s Mickey, the DeMarcus’ personal chef, who storms off in an expletive-laden huff when Jay fails to appreciate the finer points of his cheese platters and personal S’mores recipe.
But though the family’s gaggle of friends may seem like fictional characters ripped straight from the pages of a quirky country song, Jay and Allison swear that their portrayal in the show is absolutely true to life.
“One thousand percent,” Jay insists to Country Now. “There is nothing put on about anything you see on the screen, even though some people will think that way. Mickey’s like that. Chris is like that. Paige is definitely like that.
“I guess lunatics attract lunatics,” he deadpans, as Allison lets out a large, open-mouthed laugh.
“He’s hilarious. It’s so funny. And I just love that he draws Jay’s name out into, like, four syllables. Jaaaaaay,” she adds.
They’re all old friends. Chris has been an unofficial part of the DeMarcus family for years now, and the couple has known Mickey and Paige for about a decade and a half each.
“Mickey’s been with us for 15 years. We met him at a dinner party. He was the chef at the dinner party,” Jay remembers. “We loved the food so much we asked who was making [it], and they said, ‘He’s back there in the kitchen. His name’s Mickey.’ We got up, took our classes of wine, hung out with Mickey and hired him.”
But amid all its goofball antics and larger-than-life characters, DeMarcus Family Rules offers an honest snapshot into the superstar couple’s life: Good and bad. The show celebrates the tough moments along with the highlights, with Jay and Allison opening up about tender subjects like their tumultuous journey toward becoming parents and the way they grapple with grief in the years that have followed Allison’s dad’s death.
For example, a light-hearted conversation between Allison and Paige about Jay’s suggestion that the couple have another baby quickly turns serious as the two women remember their own fertility struggles.
“It took us three years to have our first child. There were so many ups and downs, and I remember when I first started telling people, they were like, ‘Do you talk about it?’ You have to,” Allison shares. “But that’s just kind of how Jay and I are: We needed to talk about it. Otherwise, you just keep it bottled up.”
The couple now have two young children, Madeline and Dylan, who star in DeMarcus Family Rules alongside them. But Allison knows that not everyone struggling with infertility is lucky enough to get that outcome.
“I’ve had friends who’ve been on that journey who weren’t fortunate enough to be able to be parents,” she continues. “That [conversation with Paige] was just a natural thing that got brought up, because she struggled to have children. And she lost a child who was stillborn, and I wrote an obituary for her child. She wanted to be a parent. She just needed the push to get back out there, walk back out on the limb, take the dive in.”
Paige’s story has a happy ending: She ultimately welcomed twins, who were about to turn 1 year old when the show was filmed.
Allison’s experience of losing her dad was another topic that came up naturally in the course of filming. “Since we did shoot this in October-December — the fall’s always really difficult for me anyway, since I lost my dad in 2016 at Thanksgiving…This was our first Thanksgiving we got to have at home, because we felt like we needed to start establishing traditions for our kids now. They’re getting a little older to where we remember these times,” she says.
“And that he would want that from us, too,” adds Jay.
At ages 9 and 10, the DeMarcus children add energy and adorable fun to the show’s storyline. The couple say that the decision to include their kids on DeMarcus Family Rules was one they didn’t take lightly, though.
“We sat them down early on in the process and asked them if it was something that would be fun and that they would wanna do,” Jay explains. “If they had said, ‘No, we don’t really wanna do that,’ or ‘I don’t think I can do that, daddy or mommy,’ we would have had a much different conversation.”
The two kids had already appeared with their family in a few episodes of reality show Chrisley Knows Best, and star Todd Chrisley executive produced DeMarcus Family Rules. The couple trusted their friend to work within the kids’ comfort levels.
“We strategically picked episodes they would be in and how much they would be in it, because we also wanted to protect their innocence, and they are very, very young,” Jay adds. “ I think we and Todd did a good job making sure we had a good balance there, of letting them be involved in the process but also letting them be kids.”
Striking the right balance is a major theme for this self-described odd couple. They don’t sugarcoat their differences in the show, but at its heart, DeMarcus Family Rules has important marriage lessons to share.
“We have learned a lot over 16 years of being married,” Jay says. “Nobody gives you a textbook to follow of how to be married, how to be parents, any of that.”
The show is open about the fact that the couple are in therapy: In fact, the opening scene of the series shows a meeting with their marriage coach. “We started with a marriage coach in about our second year of marriage, not because we had these major insurmountable problems, but because we needed to find ways to keep the connection between each other going, “ Jay adds.
“We’ve never had trouble being honest about [being in therapy.] I think if more people were honest about that, more people would get the help they really need,” he reflects. “It’s not that…the sky is falling, the world is falling apart. It’s just maintenance. Even a great relationship needs maintenance.”