Oh hello, Baby Diva. With Younger premiering the first four episodes of its final season this week, we get to see a new Empirical empress strutting around the hallways with a penchant for statement brooches and power suits: It’s none other than Lauren (Molly Bernard), head of publicity, who’s serving lewks as this season’s de facto Diana. (Miriam Shor, who portrays Diana Trout, will barely appear throughout the 12 episodes due to “scheduling and COVID related matters.” Take a freshwater moment of silence with us, please.) Seeing Lauren ascend and embrace the corporate ladder with her signature panache is an amusing shift for her character, who, if you recall, was last seen with her vagina stuck to an ice sculpture while coordinating Diana’s wedding. But why bother dwelling on the past? This new career of conference calls and 401ks seems to be treating Lauren pretty damn well, especially if it’s funding all of her new neckwear. Or as she puts it, “the symbol of the power that Diana has invested in me.”
Ahead of Younger’s premiere, Vulture chatted with Bernard (whose new film, Milkwater, is out May 21) about the best advice she received about emulating Diana, what her ideal spinoff would look like, and what’s it’s like to perform a quickie striptease 35 feet in the air.
So Younger finally begins filming after pandemic delays, and you not only find out that Miriam is gone this season, but you’ll essentially be emulating her character. What was your initial reaction?
I was so sad that Miriam couldn’t be with us due to COVID this season. I had to get over the emotional loss, and then I had to go on another emotional journey, which was entering the Empirical office wearing fabulous suits. I love how the writers created for Lauren this sense of noble duty and making sure that she’s taking good care of Diana’s office. It’s so sweet that her Diana worship goes to an all-out next level. It’s sweet but also very funny.
I loved the little wink of a line Lauren has about the situation: “I may be Diana’s stand-in, but I’m not her clone.” How did you want to create that happy medium?
I took it very seriously. I wanted to convey to the audience and to my performance that Lauren worships Diana, is taking her temporary position very seriously, and … well, I think there’s room for Lauren to turn into Diana and not know that she’s doing it. [Laughs] There were a few moments this season where I did my best Miriam incantation: And now I’m Miriam as Diana, and nothing can stop me.
Did Miriam impart any wisdom to you about the art and essence of embodying her character?
We texted a few times throughout the season. One day I texted her and was like, Miriam, I’m on set and trying to nail this particular moment. How would Diana say, “This is terrible coffee”? I’m your mini-me now. And she responded, It’s the eyes, honey! What if Diana wasn’t kidding and it really is terrible! We had this sweet little back-and-forth. I was blessed with Miriam’s friendship and her guidance and her humor. It was a privilege to emulate.
Eye acting is so underrated.
Miriam is always doing subtle eye acting, and I do not do subtle eye acting. [Laughs] It’s a soft, seductive, bossy eye for her.
Did all of those chunky necklaces give you any neck pain?
Oh my goodness, yes. Don’t even get me started. There was one necklace I wore that, when I took it off, I was like, How the hell does Miriam do this? She would always joke that she would do neck training before shooting a season, and I soon realized that wasn’t actually a joke. That’s just what you gotta do. They hurt my neck so bad. There was another necklace that when I took it off in Hilary [Duff]’s dressing room I was like, This fucking thing is so heavy I’m going to die. I gotta say, I didn’t do any neck training myself, and I regretted it. One of my favorite little moments this season is when Liza approaches Lauren in the office getting a coffee, and Liza sees that she’s wearing a giant necklace and just goes, No no no no no no no. The implication is: You’ve taken this way too far, girlie.
I think my favorite Lauren moment this season is when she signs her office selfie “Baby Diva.”
A glamorous selfie of Lauren outside of Diana’s office! It’s so good. [Laughs] Full Baby Diva.
Diana stuff aside, it was fun to see the return of Lauren throwing herself extravagant birthday parties and celebrating her fabulous self. How would you describe her growth over the past seven seasons? I have to admit I was surprised that she went corporate.
I think it’s been a really fascinating journey for her. It’s a show about ageism, so one thing that impacted Lauren a few seasons ago was when she realizes that she’s “old.” She’s at a party, and this other character says something to her along the lines of “Oh, you’re such a millennial — we don’t take selfies,” and Lauren realizes that there’s a younger and cooler generation behind her and she doesn’t totally speak their language. Part of her journey in going corporate is that’s what millennials are doing now. Start-ups become corporations every other day. Her passion for work translates. She’s always been a little corporate because, early in the show, she worked for our fictional version of Viktor & Rolf. She was their hot young publicist, and she marched to the beat of her own drum. Then she loses her job, but from the crisis creates her own firm.
Lauren’s story is one of independence, whereas Kelsey and Liza’s depends on Empirical. I love that Lauren started her own firm. Technically, she still has it, but she’s more in the office at this point. I genuinely think she’s gone corporate in the most Lauren way possible. She’s a radical at heart who can’t be tamed. Sometimes, let’s be real, I’m not sure she often knows what she’s doing in the office. [Laughs] I’m going to hold an iPad and be professional.
Do you think she’s actually good at her job?
I do think she does a great job, I swear. It’s funny sometimes, though. Filming all of those pitch meetings, between takes I’d be like, “Why is Lauren in this meeting?”
How difficult was it to perform your aerial striptease in the premiere? Because you looked fierce.
The raw truth is that I’m terrified of heights. We had a rehearsal for it about a week before we filmed the scene, and the story of that is I’d been on the couch for seven months in sweatpants and then found myself 35 feet in the air in a harness. I was like, This is insane! When we finally filmed it, I admitted to Kathy [Najimy] that I was so afraid to do it. And she was like, Molly, I’ve gotta tell you, the best part about filming Hocus Pocus was the flying scenes. You’re going to love it, and you’re not going to want to get down at the end of the day.
And was she correct?
Kind of. We did three or four takes of me flying, and I was so afraid. But by the last scene, I just went for it. You’re playing Lauren, honey; she wouldn’t be afraid of this, and she’d be eating up every second. It’s time to ham it up. Fear aside. Let’s fucking go.
I’m curious if you’ve heard any updates about the potential Younger spinoff with Hilary Duff? It seems like you would be the natural person to join her.
I really don’t know. I hope a spinoff happens and think that would be so fun. We’ll have to see what happens.
Do you have a dream spinoff scenario?
Move to Los Angeles and paint the town red! There’s endless possibilities with Lauren and Kelsey. If they’re involved, anything can happen. How about that move to Berlin and go to Berghain every month?
A few years ago, you spoke with us and said that you previously sent Sutton Foster fan mail as a kid, way before becoming part of the Younger family. To come somewhat full circle, what’s the best piece of fan mail you’ve received as part of the show?
I always try to respond to fan messages even if the DMs get a little too hard to manage at times. It’s so crazy, right? I tend to forget that I’m on television sometimes. This is probably the most meaningful story I have, even if it’s not fan mail: I’m a pretty shy and anxious person, so I’m always surprised when people fan-girl over me. I did an episode of Lip Sync Battle a couple years ago with Nico [Tortorella] and there was a fan in the audience who, during one of our commercial breaks, I happened to see her and lock eyes with her friends. They gestured me over. This girl couldn’t speak and was weeping. She was like, You’re my idol, you’re so incredible, I can’t believe you’re talking to me right now. I was like, What! I have fans?! It was crazy for me to see someone emotional about meeting me. I’ll truly never forget that.
But with that, and this is reflected in a lot of the messages I receive, I feel so blessed that I was able to play a small part in representing the queer community over the past seven years. I’ve been so pleased that Younger has done a great job at normalizing Lauren’s queerness and the fact that she’s pansexual. It was presented as the least interesting part about her. That’s not a dig. That’s a successful way of portraying a queer person — just leaving their queerness alone and letting them thrive as people. I feel lucky that I got to do that and Younger was ahead of the game with that type of representation. There’s so much focus on people’s sexuality. Leaving them alone in that regard is very empowering.