At the two emotional extremes of the season-one finale of HBO’s Somebody Somewhere are two performances by Bridget Everett’s Sam. In one, she stands up in a party bus with her new group of friends and sings about her plans to “wrap this pussy around every dick I can.” In the other, a few scenes earlier, she sings a ballad at a keyboard in her family’s barn, telling those friends how “you brought me home.” As different as they are, both moments mark steps toward emotional openness for Sam. The character had moved back to her hometown of Manhattan, Kansas (where Everett herself grew up, before becoming a fixture on the New York cabaret scene) to care for her sister, Holly, whose death left Sam directionless. Somebody Somewhere opens as Sam strikes up a friendship with Joel, her gay Christian colleague and former classmate, and he nudges her toward live performance, introducing her to a group of like-minded outsiders in town. By the finale, Sam has gotten comfortable enough to sing some of her original work for them, and, in the episode’s closing moments, to step back into Holly’s room and lie in her bed.
Everett talked with Vulture about her character’s slow “Bridget-ization,” where she imagines Somebody Somewhere might take Sam next, and her hometown’s response to seeing itself on HBO.
I wanted to start with the lovely moment in the finale when Sam sings to Joel “you brought me home” in the barn. What was it like filming that?
It’s hard for me to put it into words, because like Sam, I communicate best in music. It was a really special moment. I wrote that song with my friend Matt Ray. I remember when I was sitting in my apartment dreaming it up, thinking about that moment and the kinds of friends who have lifted me out of depression when I needed it most. That’s what Joel does for Sam. I remember sitting down at the keyboard to film it, and it was the only time I thought, I’m on HBO. I’m in a series. I’m No. 1 on the call sheet. This is a song I wrote. I can’t believe this is happening.
How did you approach the process of writing that song?
Throughout the course of the series, we kept trying to think about where the music would be and what it would be. Originally, we had a big event at the end of the season. It was going to be an Oktoberfest-like street fair, and it just felt a little too big and the show felt like it needed a more personal ending. Creators Paul Thureen and Hannah Bos and executive producers Carolyn Strauss and Patricia Breen were all in the room and we talked about it. It felt like it would be best if it was a love letter from Sam to Joel. I guess I wrote something, pitched the idea, they liked it, and I got lucky.
In the finale, Sam also lets out her filthier side when she’s performing for Joel and her friends. That’s closer to your own cabaret persona. How did you think about introducing that part of Sam?
We constantly talked about the Bridget-ization of Sam. Anybody familiar with my stage work, when they’re sitting down to watch the series, is probably like, “What the fuck is this?” But it was important to give Sam a little bit of spice and show the sides of her that she shut down because maybe they were too much for a conservative town. I love that we get to see a little bit of “Put Your Dick Away” and stuff, because that shit makes me laugh! It’s nice to be around people who let you be the person you want to be, and that’s exactly the group she has found.
Did you write out her actual notebook of lyrics?
I gave the props department lyrics to a lot of songs I already have with my band, the Tender Moments. I just sort of flipped through them and sang what I saw, because the lyrics of a lot of our original songs are ridiculous but they make you laugh. If somebody were to sit down and read a book full of the lyrics I’ve written in my life, what the fuck might they think?
The finale ends on the quieter moment of Sam going into her dead sister Holly’s bedroom and lying down. How did you think about where you wanted her as a character to end up?
We all agreed that having Sam earn the moment where she walks into her bedroom was what we were going for. We had it earlier and it just didn’t feel right, so we put it at the end of the season. This is it: She has met her people, and she’s beginning to accept herself a little bit and know that she’s going to survive past her grief with Holly — or probably through it, is the better way to say it. Holly was her lifeline and the only person she ever felt believed in her. Losing that left Sam very unmoored. But now she has met people in a place where she grew up, where she never really thought she could be herself. It’s thrilling and scary.
When she came back to take care of Holly, she didn’t think she was going to stay, and she found a reason to stay. They gave her a reason to stay. As anybody knows who deals with grief, Sam thinks that when she lies in Holly’s bed, that means that she’s gone. And she is gone. But she’s always with her. So that’s the range of emotions she experienced in that moment — oh God, I’m sorry, I’m crying. I just got my period. I’m a mess!
Everyone in Sam’s family has been deflecting the grief too. Her mother hasn’t bought a headstone.
That feels like a real reflection of where I’m from and my family. My sister died and we just don’t talk about it. When you’re doing everything you can to keep it at bay, the moments it hits you are huge tsunamis.
It must have felt surreal to act that experience out for TV.
It did. I’m sure a lot of people have lots of great strategies for how to do things like that. But for me, as far as knowing how to feel, instead of seeing a mental health care professional, I get it out this way. That’s what happened.
I talked to Jeff Hiller earlier this season, and he was saying that you all lived together with Murray Hill as you filmed the show. What was that like for you?
I’ve known Murray for 20 years and we’re really good friends and are constantly calling each other to talk about showbiz. We’ve been at similar stages in our career for a long time — well known in New York in a certain scene but not necessarily beyond that. Jeff I have known for some time downtown, but we weren’t that close. So we rented this house that Robert Cohen, our director, called the Ding-Dong Dorm. It was a huge house, and we had dinner every night and would run lines. The sweetest thing about it was having the shared experience. We’re all in our 40s having this HBO moment together. It helped it feel a little less daunting and a whole lot more fun.
How did you decide to have “Dust in the Wind” play over the closing credits?
I think Al LeVine, our editor, put that in. The final scene happens, and we were watching in the editing room, and that song came on and I was just like, “Oh!” I love Kansas, obviously, growing up. When he put that on, I remember us all being like, “Is this cheesy or is it wonderful?” Then everybody’s like, “Well, I like it. Do you like it? We like it!” Because we were working on a restricted budget, I thought there was no way we would get the song, but we did.
Do you know what you want to explore with Sam in season two?
I was just looking at it right now before you called. The first season was about grief and finding your chosen family. I think season two is: What happens when you start plugging yourself back into life? The challenges that come with that and the family dynamics that come when you’re not really addressing them. Finding out how and where Sam will sing is going to be a big challenge, but it’s such a part of her connective tissue. The show isn’t necessarily about big plot points. It’s more about slowly unraveling people’s emotional makeup. That seems really easy, but it’s like a chess game.
Honestly, that doesn’t sound easy at all!
As an outsider, watching TV sometimes I’d be like, “What the fuck is this plot point?” But now that I’m in the captain’s seat along with the rest of the writers and producers, it’s like, oh, shit, this is actually really fucking hard. Because you don’t want people to see the work and you don’t want it to feel written. Luckily, there’s a wide range of emotions that somebody like Sam, who has never seen a mental health care professional, might express. She’s ripe for the picking.
There’s a prickliness about her that comes out in parts of the first season, especially in relation to Joel’s breakup. It feels like she’s not really able to relate to his shit and engage with it as much as hers.
I think she has arrested development in that she doesn’t know how to have mature adult relationships and can be reactionary. These are all things I experienced in my life. When I moved to New York and met my group of friends, they were all so emo and connected to their feelings. I was like, “What the fuck is this?” Sam is experiencing some of those same things.
I lived with Mary Catherine Garrison, who plays Tricia, for eight years. She was one of those friends who took an ice pick and chiseled my heart open one day after another, and those are the kinds of people Sam is surrounded by. You know when you fuck up and think, how could anybody love you when you’ve fucked up? That is something Sam is going to struggle with.
There’s a moment in the finale when Sam and Joel are on the party bus and Joel goes, “This is church.” How did you talk with the writers about what faith meant to these characters? Especially Joel.
We thought it was interesting that Joel would be faith based and that he loved church. It wouldn’t be that religion was scorning him because he’s gay or whatever. Sam is the one who doesn’t see herself in God. It wasn’t trying to fuck with stereotypes; it was more, because Sam doesn’t like religion, is she going to trust somebody who has a relationship with God? Personally, I’m always a little suspicious when somebody is too religious, because in my experience growing up, sometimes religious people could say and do judgmental things. But my best friend from home is very involved in her church and I love her very much, so there’s a huge range of relationships that people can have.
What has the response been from people you know back home?
I was afraid they would be disappointed in some way. I still go home, and I have family that still lives there, and I wanted people in my hometown to not feel judged and for it to be something they could be proud of, but also to make a TV show that we could be proud of. I still have a Facebook account — which I’ve got to close down, because, you know — but I’ve been hearing from a lot of old friends. They’ve read press or they’ve seen the show, and I think people are excited whenever somebody from the hometown gets a little shine. There are a few seminal moments in my career that have reached that wider audience: being in People magazine, being on the Tonight Show, and being on HBO. That’s when Facebook lights up. They also love Watch What Happens Live!
A final Kansas City–related question from one of my co-workers: On the show Sam drinks a Boulevard Tank 7 beer. What is your favorite Boulevard Brewing Company beer?
There’s a Boulevard Wheat that I like quite a bit. Oddly enough, my second cousin is the founder of Boulevard. I don’t think the people at Boulevard know that connection. I was just back in Kansas City a few months ago and we went to get some Jack Stack barbecue, and I got myself a Boulevard Wheat on tap. I got my afternoon nap in and all was right.