How The Bold Type’s Very Special Trump Episode Came Together

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Katie Stevens as Jane. Photo: ABC

Freeform’s The Bold Type, about millennials trying to make it at a Cosmo-like magazine, is full of delightful surprises — the most delightful of which may be the show’s constant roasting of our dear president, Donald J.
Trump, in last night’s penultimate episode of the season. The women of the show, both young and not so young, have a tendency to, ahem, boldly speak their minds; hence the clever title. And given what they do, one can assume their politics are pretty progressive. Still, no one could have predicted the Freeform dramedy would make eight separate Trump digs (by my count) over the course of 42 minutes — for a rate of presidential mockery that would make Samantha Bee proud.

Spoilers for season one, episode nine of The Bold Type ahead.

The episode, titled “Before Tequila Sunrise,” is centered around a chain reaction of events triggered by Trump making one of his many, very inconvenient visits to New York City. His motorcade messes up the commute into Scarlet magazine for our main protagonists — social-media director Kat (Aisha Dee), new fashion assistant Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and writer-on-the-rise Jane (Katie Stevens). Then the entire building gets stuck indoors when he decides to get dinner next door and the Secret Service shut down the street due to protesters. Everyone is annoyed. Editor-in-chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) has to run a pitch meeting with only two people present. Jane’s love interest, Ryan (Dan Jeannotte), has gotten laid off from his job at the GQ-like Pinstripe and can’t even walk out with his sad box full of lube samples and stolen office supplies. And Kat’s girlfriend, Muslim lesbian artist Adena (Nikohl Boosheri), has been turned away at customs trying to enter the country to be with Kat, and will have to go back to Iran — a country where she receives regular death threats. Jane is also weighing a job offer from a start-up website, Insight, where she’d be able to write about politics.

As day turns to night, Kat has managed to get to the airport for one last night with Adena, while the rest of the younguns break into the mag’s freebie liquor supply, strut around the office in gender-neutral clothing they were going to use for a story, and try to spot the “orange blur” of Trump’s head from their high-rise. Even Jacqueline can’t leave, though she does plenty of hilarious ranting while in constant contact with the restaurant owner, whom she implores to hurry Trump the fuck up: “How many courses can he eat?! He sent the steaks back because what he really wants is a burger.” In the end, as hundreds of people wait for him to finish eating, and two people in love get torn apart because of his Muslim travel ban, we’re left with the sense that this orange dude really, really sucks, but our fierce heroines will prevail. We spoke with The Bold Type creator Sarah Watson, who, along with Lynn Sternberger, wrote this very special, very Trump-y episode.

Had you had the idea to do a Trump-focused episode all along?
We had known from the beginning that we wanted to do a Before Sunrise – type episode. We wanted to see what conversations happen when all of our characters are stuck together. It’s a classic sitcom convention; they call it a “stuck in a.” In sitcoms it’s always kind of hokey whatever brings them all together. It’s like, “Oh, we all went down to the basement to get something and the door handle came off!” We only wanted to do an episode like this if we could figure out a really interesting, organic way to get them all in the building. So we probably brainstormed for a month. Like, “Oh, there’s a suspicious package found on the block.” But that’s not fun, that’s scary. And then we happened to be talking about this episode at the time when Trump was spending a lot of time in New York, and there were so many funny stories of people dealing with Trump traffic. And I had been staying at the London NYC, which is a couple blocks from Trump Tower, and I was there the day Kanye went to see Trump, and it’s like you couldn’t go anywhere!

Those of us in L.A., we’ve all dealt with the Obama-jam. I remember one day at the office, Obama changed his schedule and suddenly we were going to get caught in motorcade traffic, so the showrunner canceled the rest of the day. She was like, “Go! Go! Go!” and people were running, leaving laptops behind. Just the amount of drama around traffic was hilarious. We thought that would be such a fun, funny, interesting way to bring them all together. And then we added the level of the protesters because we couldn’t figure out why they would shut down the whole block.

You make so many digs at Trump. I think the first one is Jacqueline saying, “I refuse to cancel a pitch meeting on account of that man.”
[Laughs.] Well, I mean, come on! Everybody’s going to be annoyed that nobody can get to work. Obviously these are women working for a magazine that covers politics and they do have a certain attitude. But we tried to keep everything fun and light.

But you don’t actually keep everyone in the same room. Kat leaves because of Adena’s immigration crisis.
What is so funny about this episode is originally we had talked about doing it because these stuck-in-a episodes are a great way to save money because they’re in one standing set. So we’d conceived that everybody would be in the building together. But the way the whole Adena story evolved, we built in this beautiful airport moment, so I called our line producer, and was like, “Is there any way in the world we could get an airport?” And she was like, “Hold on.” And it went from this idea that we had that we were going to save money to being one of our most expensive episodes. But the airport stuff is so gorgeous, and I’m so proud that we got to do that.

What airport is that?
The Montreal airport. We shot that from 10 p.m. to 10 in the morning, it was so brutal! The actresses just brought their A-game the entire night. The airport lounge was a separate location, but everything else was in the actual airport. So we had to get all the crews through security, we all needed passports. My line producer was like, “great job on that bottle episode!” Sometimes the stories take you to a place you weren’t expecting to go.

Was Adena always going to have an immigration problem, or was that something you wrote to comment on Trump’s travel ban?
I mean, look, we had to play the reality of it. I wrote the pilot before the primaries, under the Obama administration, and we shot it last summer. But at the end of episode two, Adena is in the Middle East for a photo shoot and she’s an immigrant, so we had to play that reality. I feel like it would’ve been irresponsible not to. So, yeah, we were heavily influenced by that.

I’m terrified for her existence when she goes back! Is she going to be okay?
[Laughs.] Look, I set out to make this show because I wanted something people could watch and feel good about. You know, tune in for an hour and feel hopeful. So I promise you she will be okay.

And I also made a solemn promise that I will not kill lesbians off this show, because I know that’s a trope that gets a lot of negative attention. I promise! There will be lots of drama, but she will be okay.

The straight people can die!
[Laughs.] Exactly. No, I didn’t realize until a couple of years ago that there’s this trope that a lot of lesbians get killed off shows. So I promise not to do it.

The Trump jokes keep on coming. They look down from the office and think they see his orange head.
Or they’re trying to. How can you not go there about his hair?

Was Joanna Coles involved in consultation with this? Did her opinions influence how you talked about Trump?
It’s mainly me and the writers. We consult Joanna and we consult Holly Whidden from Hearst, who’s a co-EP on the show. They came to the writers’ room and gave us tons of stories. I’ve been out to Cosmo several times. She’s hugely supportive and always there as a resource as we need her, but the stories are coming from the writers’ room.

Any more plans for Trump to be a story line, especially as Jane looks like she’s going to move to a new website to focus on politics?
Not currently this season. We’re trying to stay away from going at that head on. And also, we don’t want to alienate viewers who might be Trump supporters. Sure, we’re going to take some funny digs and we’re going to have some fun, but we did not set out to be a massive political statement show.

These are the opinions of the characters and also this is the world we live in. I always hate when I watch a show and there’s a fake president or they never mention it. Obviously, politics are the forefront of everybody’s daily lives right now, so we have to mention it.

Jane did that piece in episode three about a female politician using fashion to obfuscate some unpopular political moves she was making. Where was the inspiration for that?
[Laughs.] Reality! I wish I were clever enough to make that up. I absolutely will not say the politician’s name, but when I was in my twenties I had a friend who worked for a female politician, and she one day gave a speech wearing this hideous pink suit; she had to deliver some bad news. And I called up my friend and I said, “Why on earth did she wear that horrible, horrible thing?” And he said to be, “Because right now you’re talking about what she wore instead of what she said.” And I was like, “Oh my god, I am part of the problem.” It was just such a smart, clever thing she did. I was just like, “That is, like, A-level politician.” I was both horrified and so impressed.

It’s interesting that you mention you didn’t want to alienate viewers who might be Trump supporters. I actually did a piece for Cosmo where I traveled around the country talking to readers about their dating lives and I met so many sexually-liberated women who were voting for Trump. This was right after the pussy-grabbing video, and they told me they wanted him because he wouldn’t raise the estate tax.
Yeah! Totally. We live on the coasts, so we’re used to being surrounded by a certain type of people, but I’m not surprised you got those perspectives. Even though the characters in the show are liberal — I’ve got to play the reality that women like that would be of a certain political leaning — there are women of other political leanings that we don’t want to alienate and we want to respect. That’s what The Bold Type is about. It’s all about respecting every definition of feminism, every level of feminism. Whatever your political beliefs are, whatever your religious beliefs are. This is women respecting women.

This is the penultimate episode. Where do you want to go next?
We just wrapped a few weeks ago, so right now my plans are just to lay around on the beach and not think about it. But I have thoughts about where I want the characters to go.

How do you think Trump will react?
[Laughs.] If he watches the show, that would be my dream. I mean, everything he tweets about — he tweeted about Vanity Fair and suddenly their circulation was up. He tweeted about the New York Times and their circulation numbers exploded. That would be my dream. Do I expect us to be on his radar? Probably not. Maybe we can get Ivanka to tune in.

Maybe encourage everybody to tweet at him to watch the episode?
Yeah, exactly. [Laughs.] Or maybe don’t. 

How The Bold Type’s Very Special Trump Episode Came Together