By Sara Radin
American comedy series Younger chooses an unlikely focus compared to other shows on television today: the power of female friendship, particularly across generations. “I love that it’s the forefront of our show,” Hilary Duff told MTV News at the show’s press day in New York City, one morning in late April. While conversations around feminism and media that put powerful women front and center have become more common in recent times, Younger is distinct in how it portrays women navigating relationships, both friendly and professional, in the face of an ageist culture.
Still, according to Duff, characters Liza (played by Sutton Foster) and Kelsey, “have found their way into a real sisterhood, and they’ve got each other’s backs.” Now in its sixth season, audiences have witnessed the two female characters grow and evolve separately and together as the individuals have established strong sisterly love, even after many setbacks in their friendship, and highs and lows in their careers and romantic relationships. And this special bond is not something that has occurred just for the cameras; in fact it’s something Hilary and co-star Foster say is genuinely felt in real life. “We're able to connect with them in real ways,” explains Foster. And in the latest season, the bond between the two characters is going to be even more important as Charles departs Empirical Press, and Kelsey takes the helm.
With the new season underway, MTV News sat down with the co-stars to talk about how Younger champions the friendship between these women, and how their characters (and themselves) have grown alongside each other throughout the six seasons of the show.
MTV News: I wanted to start by talking to you two about the power of female friendship and how this show has put that at the heart of the story, especially when your two characters are from different age groups. What do you love most about the relationship between Liza and Kelsey as it's ebbed and flowed and gone through different stages?
Sutton Foster: I think, at first, Liza and Kelsey needed so much from each other. Liza was obviously lying about her age and needing a friend, confidant, and also someone she could learn how to be younger from. But also, I think Liza initially sort of treated Kelsey in a maternal way. I think it’s also interesting because obviously Hilary and me are so different and obviously in different places in our lives, but I think being on the show has helped us connect. The show breaks down generational barriers and you begin to see people just as people and respect where they are in their lives and not put such blanket statements on someone like, “Oh, well, you're in your twenties, so that you must, this must mean this or that.”
Hilary Duff: We are in such a rhythm, because we've worked side by side every single day. And I think that's the same for Kelsey and Liza now that everything's out on the table and Kelsey has healed from all of the little lies that Liza had to tell, I think she fully trusts her. Liza is always saving the day for Kelsey and boosting her up, always and giving her the confidence she needs to sit in the spot that she’s in now.
MTV News: How has this theme played a part in their relationships with other female characters on the show?
Duff: You know, the women [in the show] are always there for one another. Diana is excluded in that a little bit. But in the beginning, Maggie is constantly pushing Liza forward, saying things like, “You got this, you're fine.” It's so sweet. And now Lauren is in the office and her greatest goal is for Kelsey is to be a boss and she sees that in Diana, and she's bringing out that fun in Diana. There’s this awesome jolt of energy between each one of us and we believe in one another.
Foster: It’s all fueled by love. Liza and Diana love one another.
Duff: We find our drama in our men on this show and I love that.
Foster: We have our moments, but we always sort of choose the female friendship over the men, which I think is great.
MTV News: And even when there's those moments where you kind of butt heads, you always come back to each other, which is really powerful; in our culture today it's so easy to just disregard people. If they do one bad thing, you’re like bye.
Duff: Well I think that, you know, obviously everyone loves Liza and everyone is rooting for her to win even though she's lying. But I think Kelsey is always calling her on her shit, too, and bringing that out. Like, "That's not right and I'm not going to stand for that." But they do constantly fight for their relationship and grow from each little bump in the road that they have.
MTV News: What are you looking forward to the most with this season?
Foster: Things that we've been waiting for the whole series. Bombs drop this season. It's series-changing, which is cool.
Duff: At the end of last season, [in] a lot of episodes, it felt good and you were hopeful. And this season, at the end of every episode, it's like a big bomb goes off.
Foster: You get to see Liza and Charles together in a real relationship, which is interesting. What will happen now that it's no longer a secret romance? Is it still exciting? There's a lot more work drama. This season is very work-focussed. We've done more pitch meetings, and more scenes in the office — trying to save the company — so it's really more about the women trying to step up and stake their claim.
Duff: Fix what all the men broke.
MTV News: I feel like this show is authentic in the way that when it started there was a real desire to figure Millennials out and put them in boxes — and now over the course of six seasons they're the ones in power. It feels realistic.
Foster: In a fantastical way. Realism while wearing Gucci.
Duff: In a Gucci kind of way.
MTV News: The show is so optimistic, especially when it comes to Millennials. It's like, instead of mocking us for avocado toast, here's a show that depicts what Millennial women can really achieve when you empower them.
Duff: Millennials understand the new way. It's hard to navigate — this social media world and influencers, and things that are not going anywhere. It's hard for the older generation to grasp if these trends are real or not. It seems vapid and silly, but it's very much our future. [Millennials] still have questions. When we are put in positions of power, there's still a bit of flailing. But there's a confidence there and an understanding.
MTV News: The show depicts that. I watched the first two episodes [of Season 6] last night and I thought it was really interesting how you two figured out what to do with Quinn [Laura Benanti] together because we're used to a culture that's not that way. It’s very much like, I'm going to figure this out on my own. And so I feel like the show really emphasizes the power of community and sisterhood in scenes like that.
Foster: I'm proud of that, too.
Duff: It's like there's space for everyone to have a role.