Just because you’re an accomplished 40-something woman who wins major publishing awards and wears giant floral neckpieces doesn’t mean that you don’t have growing pains. At least, that’s what happened to our dear Diana Trout on Wednesday’s Younger episode, “It’s Love, Actually,” when she made the very grown-up decision to break up with her boyfriend Richard after realizing that she deserved better. Vulture got on the phone with the actor Miriam Shor, best known for her role as Yitzhak in the cult favorite Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to talk about how she wanted Diana’s breakup to go down, ad-libbing an “anal” line, ageism, and why she’d rather play the Wicked Witch than Dorothy.
I love the scene where Diana is looking at herself in the mirror after she breaks up with Richard. What was going through her mind at that moment?
What I’m curious about is your perception. What did you read into that moment? Because, you know, as an actor you make these choices, but ultimately you’re not there with the person who’s watching the show. What did you feel when you saw it? Not to turn the interview over, but I’m curious.
To me, she was working through multiple emotions. I felt like she was proud that she chose to be single, even though there’s a part of her really wants to be in a relationship. But at the same time, she’s sad that she had to end something. It sucks when relationships end. And then there’s another wave of, “All right let’s pull your shit together because you’ve got a party to go to.”
This is what I have to say to you, Alex: I feel like I accomplished what I was trying to do. This episode was important to me on a personal level. I talked with the writers a lot about it and they were very receptive to how I felt. I didn’t want Diana to be ending this relationship and be like, “Aw, poor Diana, she’s alone.” Because I don’t think that a woman, alone, is a sad thing. I know that it’s sad to end a relationship, because there’s heartbreak in that, so I wanted to convey that. I wanted that sense of, “I know who I am and I don’t deserve to have this kind of relationship. I deserve a better one and I’m ending it because of that.” I wanted her to feel proud of herself and to find herself again, because I feel like she learned a lot through being vulnerable in this relationship, but at the same time, she was losing a little bit of herself and this guy was manipulating her. It was her way to find herself and then to say, “Yeah, get your shit together. Put on this massive flower and go get your fucking award that you deserve.”
We need to talk about the flower.
Yes, the beautiful flower. When we tried on the dress, I loved the dress right away. Doing wardrobe with Jackie [Demetrio] and Pat [Field] and getting to come up with what my character wears is such a joy. Fashion isn’t how I express myself usually in my actual life, and anyone who knows me would laugh hysterically at that statement because it is such an understatement. I’m literally the person who goes to walk out the door and my husband is like, “Those are not outside pants. Dress like a grown-up and look then go outside.” Because, you know, I’m just a schlub. Comfort over glamour. Which is the antithesis of Diana Trout. Diana is like, “If this piece makes me feel powerful, beautiful, fabulous, perhaps I’ll have to go to the hospital after taking it off, but it’s worth it.”
Did you give input about the flower necklace?
Yes. I literally said, “What if we have a ginormous fucking flower right here?” You know that’s an expletive that’s worthy of the necklace. We all know that Diana has a penchant for large necklaces — they’re who she is, part of her identity. I wanted to have a moment where she put the necklace on and was stronger than ever. I thought, “What if we had literally the biggest flower that any human being has put around their neck?” We had to have it made because no human in their right mind would actually construct that flower for sale, but we did. It’s a funny moment, but it is also this strangely triumphant moment of like, “I got this.”
There’s a line in episode eight when Diana is reading the tell-all book, and she tells Liza to get coffee, but then you just say anal accidentally. Did you ad-lib that?
Yeah, that was an ad-libbed line.
Do you do that a lot?
Yes. First of all, we spend our entire day trying to make each other laugh, so that’s just my sweet spot. That’s a joy for me. Just goofing around on set. And when you do enough takes of something, sometimes it helps to just [keep it] fresh. Sutton’s wonderful at it too. I remember I was wearing a necklace that just had big huge balls hanging off of it and in the middle of a scene, she just looked at me and was like, “Balls.” That just made me pee my pants laughing and then freed me up to get through the scene.
But yes, that was an ad-lib that I thought would be fun for the gag reel. And there I am watching the episode and there it was and I was like, “Oh my God, they kept it in.” I love it. Why not? I come from theater, so I’m always very respectful of the script and I want to do what the writers have written, but I’m allowed to play, which is fun. It helps with the comedy. It helps keep it light in moments like that.
And why not just try a joke when you’re doing a take?
Yeah, and it’s not just jokes. With the episode, I had input. It was important to me because I was showing a woman in her 40s going through something. If it’s a dude, they just call them a happy bachelor. But for a woman there’s this, like, “Oh, she’s alone.” I remember someone saying, “Oh, Cher is alone,” and I was like, “She’s fucking Cher, man!” She’s the coolest human being on the planet, I think she’s fine. And you know, no one’s saying that about a famous man in his 70s who’s alone.
Speaking of Cher, she did say a man is not a necessity, a man is a luxury, like dessert.
I had the opportunity to meet and briefly work with Cher for like five minutes and I was over the freaking moon. I remember just being like, “Yes, she’s a human being and she has a life of heartache, but for anyone to be like, ‘Poor Cher,’ is like, ‘Mmm, yeah. I don’t think so.’”
When did you meet Cher?
I did a quick reading of a musical they’re trying to make with her last year, and so I got to hang out with her for a brief moment. It was awesome. They’ve since moved on. You know you do readings for things; somebody else did another reading of it. And it’s not like you’re playing Cher forever or something. It was just an opportunity to play Cher for Cher. What was I going to be like, “No?” The greatest thing about what I do for a living is I’ve had the opportunity to have these surreal, amazing moments, where I get to be in a situation that is wonderful and magical and bizarre and scary and interesting all at the same time. And that was one of them.
Does the ageism that Diana experiences in the publishing industry relate to the kind that women experience in Hollywood?
No, there’s no ageism in Hollywood. So, yeah, this is new to me. All this idea of ageism. No, I’m kidding.
Yeah, there’s obvious resonances. What I have found to be so interesting in my life and with my friends and family who have “normal jobs” where they don’t play pretend for a living is that … Hollywood is absurd, but very open about its absurdity. They’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to cast the one with the biggest boobs, okay?” It’s ridiculous and you should call it ridiculous, but they weirdly don’t hide it. Whereas that’s not what you would expect in academia or in the publishing industry or in hedge funds — or maybe you would expect it at a hedge fund.
I really am enjoying the fact that I feel like women are having more and more say in Hollywood, in television particular. I think we have a long way to go in the entertainment industry, particularly in movies, but I feel like in television, there’s somebody is finally saying, “Hey, women have stories to tell and oddly enough women want to hear them.” How bizarre. You’re like, “Wait, women are consumers of entertainment? Fifty percent of the population also likes to hear stories? And have wallets?” Wow, mind blown.
Ageism is interesting for me because I’ve been playing someone in my 40s since I was 20 or so, but I have experienced it. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to play the ingénue and feel that slip away. So I have to count myself lucky because I don’t feel like anyone is penalizing me for getting older. No one’s ever had that slow-moving end shot where the music swells and one beautiful teardrop falls from my eye and they’re like, “That’s the shot.” That’s never happened in my life. And I’m fine with that. I’d abhor relying on what I look like to convey a story. I hope I have other tools. Obviously what I look like is part of it, but I want to look like a person. I don’t want to look like a goddess because people are real and goddesses aren’t.
What are some of the first roles where you realized that?
You’re trying to get me to talk about Wizard of Oz. When I was 16, I went to go audition for The Wizard of Oz and I was sure I was the perfect Dorothy and they were like, “Would you care to play the Wicked Witch of the West? That’s really how the rest of the world sees you.” It was such a blow to my sense of self. I was just a kid, but I realized, “Ah shit, they’re right. I’m pretty good at this witch thing.” And you know the witch is going to work until she’s 90. There ain’t no 90-year-old Dorothy, you know what I’m saying? Although it would be lovely and I would like to see it.
A continual lesson that went through my career is that I’m a character actress. Ultimately, what I came to realize is that’s what all actors are. They’re all characters. Everything you play is a character and it shouldn’t be delineated as ingénue or character actor. But I have more leeway to be multidimensional as a character actress and that’s unfortunate because I genuinely would rather just be an ingénue who’s multidimensional and maybe not with perfect features. But yeah, that started my trip. Always the witch, never the Dorothy.
Younger resonates with a lot of people because there’s a comforting aspect to it. Do you feel like it’s comfort TV?
Yeah. We enjoy storytelling for a lot of reasons. One of them is for comfort, to be reassured of human behavior that is familiar to us, or that we crave seeing what we haven’t been seeing, which I think is going on right now. There’s a lot of negativity. There’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of violence and hatred and there’s no shortage of that coming at our eyeballs 24/7. To be able to sit down and watch a show that is a delightful confection that’s also actually about something is like taking a deep breath and relaxing, but there’s moments that really resonate so we can sort of grab onto them. Watching strong women tell their stories and be complicated and multidimensional, this is a sell for a lot of people right now.
Our show is not a cynical show. I’m very grateful for that because there’s a lot of cynicism out there. We’ve often been told that women only interact in catty, negative, competitive ways. Not that that’s not a part of women’s behavior because women are human beings, but they also care a lot about each other. My female friends have been unbelievably supportive of me and have changed my life for the better in so many ways. And so, watching that reflected in my entertainment is important to me because that’s a truth that I feel like has been buried. It’s nice to see it — it’s more than nice, it’s self-affirming to see that. We’re searching for an anchor and a way into our own behavior with each other and a reminder of who we can be and who we are.
This interview has been edited and condensed.