On the highly entertaining TV Land original series Younger, Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) is newly divorced and decides she needs a life change, and with no job and no house she has nothing to lose. But when getting back into the game at 40 proves to be more difficult than she ever could have imagined, Liza realizes that the solution to all of her problems could be in pretending to be 26, which leads to a new job, a great new set of friends, and a hot younger guy who’s interested in her. From Sex and the City creator Darren Star, the show also stars Hilary Duff, Debi Mazar, Miriam Shor and Nico Tortorella.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Sutton Foster talked about what attracted her to Younger, why she found herself relating to this character, living vicariously through Liza but not wanting to relive her own 20s, what a great time she’s had working with this cast, shooting her first TV sex scenes, and how these new people in her life would react if they found out Liza’s secret.
Collider: How did this come about? Were you looking to do another TV show, after Bunheads?
SUTTON FOSTER: They waited about six months before they canceled Bunheads, so I couldn’t really audition or look around for stuff. I was holding out hope that Bunheads would come back. They canceled us in July of 2013, and then this script came across my plate in August or September. It was very close after we had gotten canceled, and I wasn’t necessarily looking for another TV show, but there was something about this script and the opportunity to work with Darren Star. The script was funny, witty, smart and different, and it reminded me of Bunheads, in many ways, just with the spirit of it. It just felt like the right fit. I felt like it was a character I could play and have fun doing. I met with Darren, we had lunch, and then I tested for the part with the network. It was one of those parts where I was like, “I have to play this part. How do I make that happen?”
Did you immediately get who Liza is? Was she on the page, this way, from the beginning, or did you have questions about anything?
FOSTER: I could relate to a woman who had the rug pulled out from under her and needed to re-evaluate her life. Those are just her circumstances. I could tell from the way she chose to do it that she’s a fighter, that she has a sense of humor, that she’s a good friend, that she’s someone who cares deeply, and that she’s someone who isn’t willing to compromise her true passions. As she’s rebuilding her life, she wanted to work in publishing, so if this is how she has to do it, that’s what she’s going to do. I found her incredibly empowering. And as we went along in filming, things evolved. Even before we started filming, a lot of the scripts were already written and mapped out, and character stuff just started flowing. From the first time of reading it, I recognized something in her that was also in me, so I knew who this woman was.
What’s it like to be in the hands of Darren Star, who created Sex and the City? What do you think it is about him that allows him to create such interesting, complex and complicated female characters?
FOSTER: I don’t know. He knows how to write for women, and he also knows how to entertain an audience, and create really interesting storylines and fantastical worlds. And he knows how to write love letters to New York City and fashion. I don’t know why he’s so good at writing for women. Maybe he just likes women. I’m not quite sure what the magic recipe is, other than he just knows how to entertain an audience, and he knows when to be gooey and sweet, and when to be provocative and naughty. He pushes the envelope in all directions, and it’s really fun. I felt like I was in amazing hands with Amy Sherman-Palladino with Bunheads, and I feel the same way with Darren. I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to work with these incredible creators.
Has it been a little bit of a mind trip to be the age of this character, and could you ever imagine wanting to or needing to be 26 again?
FOSTER: Oh, yeah! It’s crazy! Just having my own age and my own life mirror Liza, I’m facing it in my own reality while I’m living it in my work. It’s this idea of just getting older and what that means, and things changing. I’d never really thought about my age, in terms of my work, until now. Now, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh! How did this happen?!” I also feel like I’m excited about what this next chapter of my life is, what it will entail, and how it will unfold. You have to go with the flow of life, and the reality of life is that we get older, but then there are all these other opportunities that you can experience. I don’t know if I would have the balls or the guts to be able to pull off pretending to be in my 20s. I’m not a good story keeper or liar. I think I would crumble pretty fast. Liza definitely has more balls than I do. It’s fun to do it vicariously, but I don’t think I could ever do it in real life.
Does it make you appreciate having survived that time period?
FOSTER: People have asked if I would go back to my 20s, and I’m like, “Only if I could hold onto the wisdom and the things that I’ve learned.” But in reality, I don’t think I’d want to even go back then. I’m so happy with where I’m at. My life is very content. Everything feels really good. I like where I’m at. I wouldn’t want to change any of that. I’m happy for all the ups and the downs, and everything that has led me to where I am. I wouldn’t want to lose any of that.
Especially when she goes to work, she’s obviously dressing a little bit different than she would, if she were not pretending to be younger. Is it fun to get to explore a different style?
FOSTER: Oh, my gosh, it’s so fun! It’s in the safety of a television program. I realize that I would never be able to pull any of that off, but being able to play a character like this, it’s really fun. Some of the things they put me in are just outrageous and have such a sense of humor. It’s part of my character and defining who she is, so it’s been really cool.
One of the best things that Liza has in her life is this loyal and supportive best friend. Do you have a support system like that, in your own life, and what’s it like to have Debi Mazar be that for you, on TV?
FOSTER: Debi Mazar is so awesome. One of my favorite parts of this show are the relationships that I have with all these different characters. Maggie is the only character who knows Liza’s secret, so she is this rock and this touchstone. Debi is amazing, but I’ll say that about the entire cast. Hilary [Duff], Miriam [Shor], Nico [Tortorella], and everybody is really, genuinely fantastic. We all get along and love each other. It’s been really awesome. The thing I love about Debi is that she’s so tough, but she’s got such a gooey center. When I first met her, I was like, “I will never wrong her or cross her ‘cause she will cut me.” But, she is so gooey on the inside. She’s such a softy, but she’s got such a bad-ass exterior. And she is so fiercely loyal and will fight for her friends until the end. She’s an amazing person. And I have a totally amazing support system. I have two best girlfriends that are like sisters to me, who I could tell anything to and they would love me, no matter what. And I have an amazing husband. I got married in October, and he’s my rock. I feel supported, all around.
How surprising was the journey for you, this season? Were you surprised with where Liza ended up?
FOSTER: I guess. I had no idea. I knew a little bit about how things were going to end and where they were going to end up, but I had no idea how she was going to get there. There were definitely things where I was like, “Oh, my god, I had no idea that was coming!” As we were shooting it, we just had to let go and trust that we were in good hands. I never doubted that, for a second. I never once went, “No, I can’t do that!” It was always, “Okay, let’s do this!”
These were the first TV sex scenes that you had to do, and now you’ve had a lot of them, ranging from really funny to really sexy. Do they get any easier, or are they always just really awkward?
FOSTER: The first time I had to do it, it was more about the anticipation leading up to it. I didn’t know what to expect or what it was going to be like and, suddenly, I felt like I was 15 and incapable of kissing a boy. You regress. But ultimately, it ended up being a non-event. It’s definitely a strange thing, what we do, as actors, sometimes. The good thing is that Nico and I have such a great relationship and a genuinely great rapport with each other that it was really no big deal, which was nice. Any time we were asked to do anything on the show, it just became another day at the office. It was really okay. I think it helps when you genuinely like the person that you’re working with. If we had a different rapport, or we didn’t get along, than it would be more challenging, but it was nice. Also, for Liza, you’re like, “Go, Liza, go!” You root for her and you want to see her have a good time. She’s deserving of it.
With all of these new people in her life, who do you think would take it the best, if they found out her secret, and who do you think would freak out and take it the worst?
FOSTER: Everybody is going to have a reaction. Obviously, if Diana finds out, that’s not good because it affects her job. But then, Diana might respect her for it because of the creativity, and she might protect her and use it to her advantage. There are so many different variables. In a weird way, I think Diana might handle it the best, and I think Kelsey might handle it the worst. I think Kelsey would feel really betrayed, in a weird way. And I think Josh would feel very betrayed.
You’ve really done it all on stage and have had such a tremendous career in the theater, but does it feel that way to you? Do you feel like you’ve really only scratched the surface of what you want to do?
FOSTER: I don’t think I’m done. Of course, as I’m doing a lot of reflecting and looking back on my life, and the things I’ve done and the choices I’ve made, I feel very proud of my career, thus far. But I still feel like I want to keep going, keep growing and keep challenging myself. Hopefully, I’ve just scratched the surface. Wouldn’t that be cool? I hope that it’s just the beginning. I hope that I can keep going.
Younger airs on Tuesday nights on TV Land.