Watching The Bold Type as a writer is how I imagine medical professionals feel when watching ER or Grey’s Anatomy. There’s a lot of yelling at the screen (“That is absolutely not how that works!”). But whenever the show almost gets too far-fetched, it always reels me back in with plotlines that plant a single foot firmly in reality. The Freeform drama, which chronicles the life of three New York 20-somethings working for a fictional Cosmopolitan magazine clone called Scarlet, has tackled sexual assault, toxic female SHE-E-Os, cancer, addiction, and loss. The joy in watching a show like that, one that presents a markedly improved version of the world than our own, is that it makes for an hour of perfectly balanced escapism. An unintentionally perfect quarantine show, if there ever was one.
Ahead of The Bold Type’s season-four premiere Thursday night, I caught up with Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy, and Katie Stevens — who play social-media editor Kat, fashion stylist Sutton, and the reporter known as “tiny” Jane, respectively — to talk about the show’s delightfully loose interpretation of reality, the coronavirus, and, well, boobs. (A note: This interview was conducted prior to the Black Lives Matter protests erupting across the country and, as such, does not address them or the ongoing reckoning with media-industry racism.)
What have you all been up to in quarantine? How are you staying sane or, well, are you staying sane?
Katie Stevens: No one’s staying sane.
Aisha Dee: If you’re staying sane, you’re just bragging.
KS: I just spilled chili on my other white shirt that I was wearing, if that tells you anything. Just spilling stuff on myself and doing a whole lot of nothing.
AD: I put on some overalls for this interview because I felt weird about being in undies from here down.
What do you think your Bold Type characters would be getting up to right now?
AD: Kat would be doing TikTok dances and being really annoying about it.
Meghann Fahy: Sutton would be way more ambitious than I have been. I’m sure she would have launched some sort of digital thing with the help of Kat, like fashion, maybe a digital fashion show.
AD: Influencer stuff.
KS: Jane would be doing way more than I’ve been doing. She’d probably be interviewing people and writing articles.
AD: Katie says that, but Katie’s been super-productive.
MF: She cooks things all the time. She hosts a full Instagram talk show. She does workouts twice a week.
KS: You’re giving me too much credit. I do cook all the time but also have to be fed. I did do the Instagram Live stuff, but then I was waking up like, I forgot to pick somebody to interview today, so for my mental health I didn’t do it. And then I was feeling guilty, doing this mind back-and-forth, and then I just stopped doing it. I’ve been allowing myself to be unproductive if I want to be.
AD: That’s a good rule of thumb.
I’m envisioning a classic Jane personal essay where she’s like, “I said I was fine, but I am not fine.”
KS: That would definitely happen. She would do diary entries for the entire thing and then release them all.
AD: Like a novel or a book of essays. Or a play, even.
KS: Oh my God! She does a play and then all of the characters put the play on when quarantine is over. Sutton makes all the costumes.
I’ll invest. Count me in for $20.
AD: Sutton can make 14 outfits out of $20.
KS: I can make outfits out of pieces of garbage.
Does it feel significant to be a part of a show that’s debuting a new season right now, when we’re all pretty desperate for TV to watch?
AD: I think any show is an escape but especially The Bold Type. It’s a bit of a fantasy. That’s something that I’ve been looking for in the shows and movies that I watch. I’m not really looking to be challenged too much. I watched The Fighting Temptations last night. It just filled my heart up. I needed baby Beyoncé to sing to me. I hope that The Bold Type gives people that similar feeling of being wrapped up in a nice blanket.
MF: It’s great quarantine TV. We don’t have a ton of episodes where everything feels really dark and sad and hopeless and you have to wait till next week to see what happens. It’s the opposite of Breaking Bad or a show that’s physically taxing to watch. It’s kind of nice right now to watch something that’s not going to make you feel more heavy.
I watched the first two episodes of the season. I was like, “Ooh, they get to work IN an office. With people. Jealous.”
AD: Every time one of the girls enters a crowd of people, I’m like, Wait, be careful!
MF: I just finished Dead to Me, and when she’s in the nursing home with the guys, my impulse was, You’re not allowed to be in there. It’s so weird.
KS: For me, it’s weird because Nashville is opening up right now where I live. Seeing people go into a restaurant and sitting without their masks on, I’m kind of like, Is that allowed? I got my nails done this morning, and no one else was in the nail salon, but I felt wrong for being there even though I knew I was allowed to be.
When did you realize this would be a quarantine season, as it were?
MF: When we first were told that we were getting shut down, we all thought we would go home for a couple of weeks and then go back to finish. It took a little bit to realize, Oh, we’re not coming back at all.
KS: What was even worse was we got shut down over our weekend. It wasn’t even like we were able to say good-bye to everybody. That’s what I’m most sad about. We left Montreal March 13, and I was like, All right, we’ll just see where we are in April. And then April rolled around and you’re like, All right, it’s still not getting better. We’ll see where we’re at in May. And now I’m like, All right, things are opening, but I still feel like it’s going to be fall.
AD: I’m a naturally quiet, anxious person. I don’t mean to brag, but I am. And I was really nervous about the corona thing in December. When I first heard about it, I just went on a deep dive of articles and information. There was something weirdly comforting about being in my home and being like, Okay, this one time my anxiety was valid, and I was right.
I was glad to see that the season opens in the wintertime, because I don’t think I could bear to see the three of you having a New York City summer.
KS: Losing a New York City summer is just so heartbreaking.
AD: This is actually the first season, I think, where we’ve seen any weather in the show — snow and proper jackets and stuff like that.
Oh, please. None of you were actually dressed for a New York winter.
AD: Oh no, we were not.
MF: We were not at all dressed for a Montreal winter, and it was very fucking cold.
AD: If I had my way, I would be in one of those bubbles. That would be ideal.
KS: I think the cold could still get into the bubble.
The best thing about The Bold Type is that it’s only semi-grounded in reality — people pretty much always get happy endings. What are the most nonrealistic things your characters have gotten up to?
AD: The fact that Kat has done so many reckless things and has only now just been fired, even though she’s done 20 other things that are fireable offenses. In the pilot episode, she questions her superior and storms out of the office. You would be like, “You’re emotionally reckless. You cannot work here anymore.”
MF: Emotionally reckless!
AD: In the first season, every scene I would walk in to shoot, the line was like, “Sorry about the tweet,” or “Sorry about the Instagram with the tits on it or whatever.” I could rattle them all off, but we’d be here all day. I love the fact that she was brave enough to do that. It empowers me to be a little more brave and take risks, you know?
MF: The season opener of us stealing the magazine from the press is pretty fantastical. It was so fun to shoot, but that’s a highly unrealistic scenario.
KS: The timeline! When we were doing the breakup for Pinstripe and Jane, I was like, “All right, so they’ve been together for like two years now.” Somebody was like, “No, we actually did the research; it’s been six months since the pilot.” And I was like, “Hold on. What? There’s absofuckinglutely no way they could have done all of the things that they’ve done in this time.” Jane became a writer, got fired, went to another place, got fired from that place, came back to Scarlet after doing freelance for a little while, has been at Scarlet for one month, and now she’s editing her own vertical. None of that could have ever happened.
AD: Sutton’s like, “I’ve been an assistant for soooooo long.” It’s been six months.
MF: People are like, “Yeah, you’re an assistant for four years. For sure.”
KS: Sutton going to fashion school. You were in fashion school for like a week, and you did a fashion show and had all of these people wanting to wear your clothes immediately.
MF: Well, you saw the clothes!
Did you talk to anybody who does the specific media jobs that your characters do? There was an episode, Katie, where you had to write a quiz, and that was your task for the whole week. That cracked me up.
KS: It cracked me up too. I didn’t have to interview anybody to know that’s ludicrous. When we first booked it, I got to go to Cosmo and walk around the office and talk to some writers there. I wish I could still do that. I wish that we each had somebody who was a correspondent for the show for our specific jobs — for Meghann to have somebody who actually works in fashion as a stylist, or for Aisha to have somebody who actually works in social media. Kat does so many things we would have to have like 8,000. I wish that I could talk to a writer to be like, “How realistic is this?” There’s a lot we get right, there’s a lot we get wrong. Part of the fun of the show is getting to watch that in between. If it was exactly like what you do, I feel like it might lose some of the campy magic.
In the first or second episode, there’s a moment where Jane says, “I’m exhausted. Can’t believe we’ve got to do that all again next week.”
KS: I’m hoping they wrote that as a joke. I hope it gives journalists a laugh.
The media industry is very much hurting right now. Is that on your minds at all with this lovely fantasy world you play out?
AD: I assign special times in the day where I allow myself to read news. It’s not the first thing in the morning, and it’s not right when we go to bed. Reading the news can be kind of traumatizing, but also it does feel like this very important connection to other people and to what’s going on outside of ourselves. Being isolated, it’s so easy to just spiral in our own minds and thoughts.
KS: In terms of all of the coronavirus information, I just feel like you watch one thing, you hear this thing, and then you watch another thing, you hear another thing. I try to be as informed as I can be so that I know what I am supposed to be doing. I did really enjoy watching Some Good News, that John Krasinski thing.
A big trend in digital journalism is organizing unions in newsrooms. Which of your Bold Type characters do you think would lead the Scarlet-union drive?
KS: Kat. Kat. Kat.
AD: Kat would literally force her way back into the building. They’d be like, “You don’t have a key card,” and she’d be saying, “I don’t care.” Kat has always had this really strong sense of justice and what needs to be made right in the world. Sometimes it’s very misguided, and other times it’s really inspiring and definitely needed. In this case, especially because big corporations are really taking advantage of individuals, and many of us are not in a position to defend ourselves.
KS: Sutton and Jane would be onboard too.
This is the first season where the three of you don’t all work in the same office. How has that changed the show?
MF: When Kat left Scarlet, Aisha was obviously not in scenes in the bullpen anymore, which makes it feel really eerie. We miss her so much because all of a sudden, there’s all these scenes that are happening without her. That is such a strange feeling, but also now we go to The Belle, which is this beautiful, huge set that they built. It’s really cool to have a brand-new set to explore together.
AD: Everyone always complained about the fashion closet, but I always loved it. You didn’t have to walk very far, and you’re lying down if you’re lucky. Sometimes all three of us were lying down. I think that only happened once.
KS: Or all of us just sitting. I love scenes where we’re all sitting facing one way. We get crazy in there.
MF: All of the sets are windowless, but the lighting is different because it’s supposed to be windowless. We’re always having to figure out different ways to look busy. Usually that’s just trying on a lot of rings or hats. We get insane. It’s like you’re at a sleepover with your friends, and you hit that point where you have all this energy and you can’t stop laughing. That’s what happens to us in the fashion closet.
AD: Usually the giggles start in a scene that absolutely doesn’t call for it.
KS: Or it’s in a scene where we absolutely have to be done in 30 minutes. We’re like, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. We’re going to get it together. We’re going to get it together.” And then we just don’t and then they’re like, “All right, well that’s a wrap. I guess that’s just what the scene’s going to be.”
AD: It’s been cool to think back to the first season and how much they’ve grown up … in the space of six months.
MF: In Bold Type years, you have a decade to get on a “30 Under 30” list.
Do you feel like Sutton being a married lady changes the friend dynamic?
MF: I really don’t, because a big turning point was Sutton moving out of the apartment with Jane and in with Richard. That was more of a change than her getting married. I’m sure we’ve all had some version of that, but I remember living in Fort Greene with my best friend, Jen. We had lived together for like four years — two years in Queens and then two years in our Brooklyn apartment. She started dating this guy, and when she left, it was so sad because it was the end of that. You don’t get to do that ever again, really. It’s one of those rare life moments where you realize, Oh, this is over now. I don’t do this anymore. I don’t live with my friend. It’s a weird moment, but a beautiful moment too.
Kat is working as a bartender this season, so she’s often in scenes via FaceTime and AirPods while she’s working — which feels very apropos of our current times, but also another entry for the “reasons Kat should have been fired” list.
AD: Everyone was like, “It’s Bold Type — why are you asking questions? Just do it.” Initially, they just wanted me to be walking around with my phone, and I was like, “Shouldn’t she be a little discreet? Is there a back room?” There was no back room. So we incorporated the AirPods, and I was like, “Well, I can put the phone in my bra.”
Much of the new season takes place in The Belle, a women’s club in New York City that I can only assume is modeled on The Wing. Did you know much about it before this season?
MF: I did, because I had a friend who is a member, so I have been with her a few times.
KS: I knew nothing about it, but somebody was like, “It’s basically like Soho House but just for women.” And I was like, “Oh, sick.”
There’s been some controversy surrounding The Wing, particularly its treatment of staff and people of color. I’m curious: Will The Belle mirror its real-life counterpart this season?
AD: The Bold Type is this heightened version of reality. We know what The Wing is, but The Belle is not The Wing. There are definitely some similarities, but it’s not telling exactly the same story. I’ve read about that stuff, too, and it’s really disappointing and awful.
KS: The Bell is like the new fashion closet for these girls.
Are these three ever going to have an actual rift? Any fights between them have ended in about the span of six minutes, right?
KS: I have never understood massive, drag-out fights between friends, especially when they’re adults. All these girls are adults. In any of my friendships, even the friendship among the three of us in real life, we call each other out on our shit. It doesn’t need to be this big, massive, dramatic “I’m not talking to you for a couple of days.” These girls fighting and not talking to each other, that just doesn’t feel real to me.
AD: I think there is an interesting story to tell about friends that drift for different reasons, especially as people in their 20s. If we did explore that, hopefully it would be in a way that sheds light on how you can make your way back to someone. I love the way that Insecure is doing that this season.
MF: I think people would be disappointed if that’s the direction that the show went. So on that level, I agree with Aisha. They would do it to show how you can always move past a thing and get back to the original love that you have for a person. These girls really are each other’s family.
Are there scenes you hate to shoot?
MF: Any of the ones outside.
AD: Do you remember when Sutton and Kat are running to James? What did you get, a Mandy? Did you get a Mandy?
KS: I got a Mandy [award].
MF: Ah, yes. A “Mandy.”
AD: A scene they thought would be really cute. They thought it would be beautiful to see us running four blocks, was it? In heels.
KS: And gowns. And it was snowing.
What are you most excited for about the new season?
MF: Sutton’s story line in these next six episodes is really different from the things that we’ve seen before. You get to see a very different side of her.
AD: I love your stuff in the later part of this season, Meghann. It’s truly my favorite part.
KS: I was just talking about how beautifully executed you did everything. I literally watched it all and cried.
AD: There is something super-heartbreaking, but also comforting and uplifting, about everything that happens for Sutton. Since being quarantined in our homes, there are very few things that we’re all able to take comfort in. When an album gets released, my heart is like, Thank God I can listen to this today and feel okay. It’s the same thing for the shows that bring me comfort. I hope that The Bold Type can do that for other people.
KS: I’m also excited for people to see Jane’s postmastectomy journey. I was really happy that we got to tell that story, because a lot of people message me who are going through the same thing or have gone through the same thing. I was really happy that we showed the difficulty of that. Once you’re physically healed, how do you emotionally heal?
AD: I really like the fact that Kat is reckoning with her privilege. Everyone can connect with the idea that if you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head and clean running water to shower in and drink, then you are super-super-privileged. That’s one story that I think has been a long time coming.
That gets at why The Bold Type resonates so well. In the same show where you get moving story lines, you also get, “Hi, I’m bartending with an AirPod in my ear, and I’m not fired for this.”
AD: On its surface, you’re like, Oh, this is just a glossy magazine. I’ll be fine. Then it hits you right in the heart.
A glossy magazine and, of course, a dot-com.
AD: The “vertical” is the new “dot-com.” That’s the new drinking game.
KS: That might’ve been my least favorite part. Every time I did a scene and I was like, “Do I have to say ‘vertical’? I think they know what I’m talking about.” And they were like, “No, it’s very important that you say ‘the vertical.’”
AD: Katie, I love it. Don’t take it away from me.
KS: I’m sorry, I want you to have your drinking game. I’ll keep saying it.
AD: How am I going to go on if I don’t have my drinking game?
Having watched a little of this season, I think this drinking game might be too intense.
AD: Very small sips and everything’s going to be fine.
MF: You could also drink every time I whisper-cry, which is a thing I didn’t realize I did until recently. There’s plenty of that to go around, so I say we add that to the list.
AD: Every time someone does something that could be a fireable offense.
MF: Every time Aisha pours a beverage, you should pour yourself a beverage.
KS: Every time someone says “breasts.”
MF: “Breasts” is the new “vertical,” actually.
AD: Every time someone says “breasts,” you have to grab your own breasts.
KS: The guy who plays Scott, Mat Vairo, when he first got the first couple of scripts, he was like, “Wow, they really like to say ‘breasts.’” There’s not even a variant. There’s not, like, my boobs, my tits, my whatever. It’s always breasts.
MF: That’s probably the most …
KS: But if I was talking to you guys, it’d be like, “Yeah, my boobs.”
AD: You know I like to say “tittay.”
I didn’t plan to end talking about tits, but I don’t hate it.
AD: Feels right to me.