The Bold Type’s Leading Ladies Want to Save Young-Adult TV

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Meghann Fahy as Sutton, Aisha Dee as Kat, and Katie Stevens as Jane. Photo: Freeform

Even when we declared The Bold Type one of the best surprises on television last year, we had no idea just how effortlessly it would blossom into must-see television for teens and adults alike. The goings-on in this Freeform series about millennial magazine women are as relevant as ever, thanks to weaving a whip-smart narrative tapestry that perfectly encapsulates the 2018 experience. Ahead of Tuesday’s season-two premiere, Vulture invited stars Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, and Meghann Fahy out for a cocktail at the Palm Court, a place we imagine the ladies of Scarlet (er, and Incite) would enjoy an expensed drink after a long week. We quickly dove into a conversation about how The Bold Type is forging its place in the grander scheme of young-adult TV shows like RiverdaleYou watch other shows become massive hits and you’re like, What is it about that show that made that show as successful as it is?” says Fahy — and how they cope with the uncertainty that sometimes comes along with that.

What a fun time in New York you’ve all been having!
Katie Stevens: The networks normally expect that actors do all the press for season one, and they don’t really do anything from season two because it’s more about a carry-over. But that’s why a lot of shows fail. It’s been great and game-changing in terms of my feelings. I came in skeptical, like, “Okay, how are they going to promote us and do they care we’re coming back?” And people do.

Aisha Dee: People are hype! We were in Austin this weekend and we were shocked how hyped up people were.

Meghann Fahy: We’ve spent so much time in Canada working, and have had such limited interactions and expectations. To meet and interact with fans who have questions and are interested, that’s so exciting. Beyond that, you’re just making it, and a part of me is like, Well, this show just goes into a closet now. No one watches it.

Dee: In Canada, customs officials ask you, “What do you do?”

Fahy: Bold Type, you’ve never heard of it.”

Stevens: The men at customs aren’t really the demographic. [Laughs.] The funniest thing was, Meghann said that after arriving on a late flight, and she was like, “I’m an actor on The Bold Type, you’ve never heard of it.” And Aisha walked up and this customs official was like, “Hey, you really gotta perk up your friend, she’s really down on her career.” [Everyone laughs.]

You still haven’t had a moment when you realized this show is becoming a big deal?
Fahy: I haven’t had that moment.

Stevens: I haven’t felt it yet. I’m starting to become more aware that it’s getting more hyped up and successful. Before this show came out, I was so used to being on networks that didn’t really publicize the work we were doing. To now come to Freeform and see our billboards all over New York — in Times Square, in the subway, all over the streets. You walk five feet and there’s another poster with the three of us. For me, that was, Wow, this is gonna happen.

Dee: I need to show my mom the posters. I’m such a cynic. I’m guarding my heart because I love the show so much — the things I love the most I’m protective of! The people who do watch it, numbers are irrelevant, at least to me. For me, it’s the process of being there and shooting it. We have the most amazing crew, and I consider them family now, and these two are my support system. I don’t know what I would do without them. We sat in a hotel lobby a few weeks ago, holding hands, all three crying over a bottle of rosé about how much we love and appreciate each other. Obviously, I want people to watch the show, but that part makes my heart swell.

Numbers are pretty arbitrary, anyway. Some of the best shows on TV get pretty low viewership.
Dee: Think of Freaks and Geeks now.

Fahy: That’s the thing, our show was really well-reviewed the first season, which was something to be incredibly proud of. But at the same time, in this day and age, that doesn’t necessarily assure you success. Riverdale is one of the most famous shows right now. All of those kids have totally blown up. Millions of followers. Covers of every magazine. Not to compare shows, but our show is really speaking about important issues that are really relevant. Sometimes I wonder, What is the reason? People want to escape sometimes. I think our show has a really good balance of political relevance and entertainment, but sometimes that’s one of my fears. Will it turn people off that we’re trying to have conversations about this, or will they be excited by it? You never really know. You watch other shows become massive hits and you’re like, What is it about that show that made that show as successful as it is?

Dee: I would choose our show over everything.

Fahy: Me too. And I wouldn’t necessarily want that kind of fame on myself or the show, but it’s interesting to dissect what’s working.

Stevens: The magical formula that people want.

Fahy: There’s something a lot of people want that they’re getting out of certain shows.

Stevens: It’s interesting because there’s something like Riverdale that’s huge and something like Game of Thrones that’s huge. Westworld and Broad City and Girls and Disney’s Descendants. They have millions and millions of followers. And you’re like, What is that secret formula?

I had no idea what that Descendants film was until a few weeks ago. I was like, why are teens suddenly interested in a George Clooney movie?
Stevens and Dee: Same!

Fahy: That’s what I thought it was, with Shailene Woodley!

Stevens: It’s a new High School Musical kind of thing; they’re on a third movie. It’s about Disney villains’ children.

It’s definitely worth exploring why younger viewers gravitate to certain shows. I think there’s a soapy-ness factor in there, right?
Dee: I maybe see it as nostalgia for people. We all remember the Riverdale comics and the old Sabrina show. People love to feel nostalgia.

Fahy: There’s a new theme now with our generation, and I’m a part of this, to being addicted to trashy TV. It’s a part of our culture now to love it and understand it. Understanding the humor that is The Bachelor, for instance. That show is more famous now than it’s ever been. Everyone is in on the joke now.

Stevens: It’s so easy to watch something soapy. Part of the joy in watching something soapy is to go, “Oh, come on! Now this is happening, of course!”

Dee: I love a hate-watch.

Fahy: We don’t have bad people on our show doing bad things. We have good people dealing with real-life circumstances. The drama is within the circumstance and not between people, for the most part. Which I think is an asset and a fresh spin on a show, but very different than what we’re all normally used to seeing — there’s always a good girl and a bad guy, and someone that you’re rooting for and someone you’re rooting against.

Stevens: That being said, there are so many people who have come to us in recent days and are like, “I’ve spent my entire day yesterday binge-watching the whole thing; a friend told me to watch it.” When people are turned onto the show, they realize why it’s good. Because there’s no real drama and no “Did you see that massive twist last night?!” moments. In general, people feel good watching our show. That’s weirdly less talked about.

There’s something pleasant about that lack of antagonism in the show. Not every 20-something woman is constantly fighting in bizarre conflicts.
Dee: That’s why people connect to it.

Fahy: There’s no bitch or mean girl or bully. Every show seems to have that. Where we’re coming from, everything that happens on the show is through the lens of the friendship. It all centers around, regardless what’s happening to each person individually, how did they deal with it as a team?

Stevens: I’m not blind to the fact that people in their 20s behave erratically and do some crazy shit.

Dee: You talking about me? [Everyone laughs.]

Stevens: When you’re navigating dating, the erratic behavior is going out and hooking up with the wrong guy or girl. Feeling like you’re in love and that gets pulled out from underneath you. Going to your job and things don’t pan out the way you want them to. They’re relatable issues. We tell these stories about these girls dating and about their work as realistic as possible. We’re not trying to heighten them for views. What the viewers love about our show is the relatability. How they feel like they’re seeing themselves and the experiences they’re going through at their age, or assume they’ll go through.

Fahy: What I think we get right is the communication between women. A lot of shows don’t have the scene where everyone is sitting in a room talking about a sexual encounter and what they liked about it and what made them feel weird. Or their bodies and the health of their bodies. That’s the core of our show. A lot of times in television, you’ll see people looking at each other from across the room and it’s unspoken stuff. We’re saying it out loud to each other.

Dee: Women are great communicators. Men are, too, but it’s more to our strength as women. I love how this show celebrates that in a way that feels realistic. Luckily, it’s just my job to look at the words and feel it emotionally. Every episode has been a wish-fulfillment episode, for me, in terms of what I want to see Kat, Sutton, or Jane do. The show is about three girls in their 20s and we also happen to be three girls in our 20s. You see people in their 20s playing high schoolers. And, look at their clothes!

I love flashback sequences, so I have to ask if we’ll ever get a flashback of the ladies meeting for the first time.
Fahy: This is our favorite question. We’ve been begging for someone to ask this! We want more than anything to have a flashback episode where we’re all wearing really embarrassing clothing and we’re totally different versions of ourselves. We want to see the moment when we meet each other and how it changes our lives forever. Our showrunner has told us, “Don’t worry.”

Dee: We really read into that.

Fahy: That made us think, season three!

Stevens: All of our characters, even though they harbor some insecurities, they’re all pretty confident with where they’re at with their lives. I’d love to see them before they develop that level of self-awareness and level of confidence. They all pretty much started at Scarlet together. Even though we’re navigating our way now, I’d love to see them the first day on the job being like, “Ahhhhh!”

Fahy: Freaking out, flailing.

Stevens: I’d love to know how Sutton and Jane decided to live together.

Dee: I bet Kat walked in like she owned the place, honestly.

Stevens: I’d also love to see them postcollege, right when they got the job. What was Jane’s life like as an assistant before she was promoted to a writer? Where did everyone start? I bet Kat didn’t start off right in social media.

Dee: I bet her ego has always been in the ceiling. She’s always believed in herself. It’s something I admire a lot.

Fahy: She has the talent and the passion and the drive to back it all up.

Dee: I’m not saying she was hot shit since day one, but she’s always walked around with a self-confidence and self-assuredness. But I’d really like to see the girls meet. And think of the fashion! Maybe their eyebrows are really thin.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

The Bold Type’s Leading Ladies Want to Save Young-Adult TV