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In Younger‘s world, about a years’ worth of time has passed since viewers first met Liza. When the fourth season premiered Wednesday night, the show’s star, played by Sutton Foster, was 41 and continuing to lie to many of those around her about her age in order succeed in the publishing world.
Though it’s only been a year in Liza’s life, it’s been six months since the TV Land series went off the air. And in that time, creator Darren Star saw the world change in wake of the 2016 presidential election. The finale saw Liza confessing her age secret to best friend Kelsey (Hilary Duff), and the season four premiere showed the consequences of Liza facing up to her truth — a theme that he says happens to be timely.
“That is what the show is about, how someone defines truth,” Star tells The Hollywood Reporter. “What’s happening in this country just happens to coincide with what the theme of the Younger is.”
Below to THR, Star details the new love triangle up ahead on Younger, discusses his inspiration for Kristin Chenoweth’s guest starring character (hint: Kellyanne Conway) and details how the national conversation lined up to the biggest hurdles Liza will face during the “growing up” season.
When did you start filming this season and have you wrapped yet?
We filmed starting in April and wrapped filming in New York on Monday. We’ll be filming in Ireland next week for the final episode. Ireland is a story point that is yet to come. I’d have to do a lot of explaining to tell you why we end up in Ireland, but we do for a good reason. The first few episodes are really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s happening for the rest of the season. There’s a lot of story that proceeds in terms of where these characters are going.
After last season, you said that you planned to infuse social issues and the feelings of the current climate into this NYC show. How did you do that?
In a way, the zeitgeist and what the show is about is: What is the definition of truth and how important is truth? And “what is truth?” is very much about what the national conversation has become. I feel like we couldn’t ignore that in a sense and the first episode definitely addressed that and how it relates to our premise.
Did the current climate rush your timeline of having Liza face more of her truth and its consequences?
The wonderful thing about TV is the ability to be current and reflect what is going on. The whole idea of the conversation we’re having about truth right now is thematically what Younger is about in some ways, and what the show, story-wise, is about. That felt like a really good opportunity to address both. One other thing about this year is that we’re always drawing from a world of books and authors. People talk a lot about the love triangles and how it’s a show about romance, but it’s also a show about books and publishing. That’s a world we’re also always exploring.
How was Kristin Chenoweth’s author, whose book is titled It’s True Because I’m Shouting It: Confessions of a Washington Spin Doctor, inspired by Kellyanne Conway?
Kellyanne Conway and so many of the pundits on television right now were the inspiration for Kristin’s character. Kristin really just nailed it in the first episode. That was really our way of tackling fake news, and showing how it reflected on the stakes that Liza faces. Somebody like Charles (Peter Hermann) talks about how integrity still has meaning for him, and that’s a real stumbling block for Liza in her life.
While you were filming, was it a challenge to either react, or not to react, to headlines?
We’re not thinking about real headlines much. I was thinking about the idea of truth, creating your truth, how one creates one’s truth and the importance we put on truth. It wasn’t really about looking to try to reflect a headline but was actually thinking about: How does what the show is about coincide with the moment we’re living?
The first episode sees Kelsey reacting to Liza’s confession by throwing herself into her work. Is Kelsey more empowered this season?
No one is ever 100 percent secure in their life, but these women are already secure in their jobs. Kelsey is a very ambitious character and certainly part of her character this season is that her ambitions sometimes get in the way of her better judgment, and vice versa. Somebody who is given a lot of responsibility in their 20s doesn’t always have the judgment or the experience to not make mistakes. She’s a character who makes mistakes and learns from her mistakes and is impatient and makes bad calls, and she makes good calls also. But she’s someone whose career is really paramount.
Kelsey will continue to bond with Josh (Nico Tortorella) this season, since they have both been betrayed. Does Kelsey not see this as an equal betrayal — or potentially, if something happens between them, a greater betrayal to Liza?
I think she’s immediately thinking of herself, and she’s angry. I don’t think she cares in the beginning.
Was there debate in the writers room about where to take Kelsey and Josh this season?
Absolutely. And I think it’s going to be an interesting journey. It’s definitely a conversation. I don’t want to say too much because that’s part of the fun of watching this season.
How will Liza’s telling Kelsey help her to find redemption this season?
Liza being able to have an honest relationship with someone she’s come close to is a big plus for her. It also speaks to the growth of the show. It has a premise, and in some ways a big premise. It’s making a point about ageism. But at the same time, it’s an analogous show about the cost of telling a lie and how that lie grows and metastasizes. How a little lie can get bigger and bigger and have huge ramifications. So telling Kelsey is being able to have that relationship be honest and open, the same way it is with Josh. It opens up some really great places for both of those characters.
Where is Liza’s head at in the beginning of this season?
She’s in a pretty bad place in the beginning, and then it gets better — and it also gets worse.
You dropped this hint: “A passport does have one’s age on it, so that’s all I have to say.” Are more people going to find out Liza’s secret, and what does this show look like if she loses her job?
It’s important that she has her job. I think any show with terrific characters that are going to have relationships with each other is going to find a path as long as there is a reason to keep all these characters connected. Right now, Liza is very intent on having a job, somewhere. That’s her intent in doing this and this is a show about work and people whose work defines them and is really important. It’s why she did this in the first place. The one thing that happens this season is that Liza gets better at her job and she becomes more important to the company.
How does this secret no longer define the show — or is that something we will see next season?
I don’t think there’s a timeline for the “secret.” It does partly define the show, but there’s a big part of the show that is not defined by that premise. I think the show is defined by the characters, period. More than the premise of Liza keeping a secret. This season, it is a growing up season. Every episode of the show is not going to be about whether or not someone will find out.
What can you tease about Liza and Charles?
It’s definitely going to get complicated with those two. I can’t say how, but there will be some interesting complications in their relationship.
Is the door still open for Liza and Josh?
I don’t think you can ever shut that door between two characters who have definitely been in love. I sympathize with Josh having his heart broken. I’m always rooting for him.
The show is already renewed for another season, how does that impact the story you are telling in season four?
We know that we don’t have to wrap certain things up this season. There are certainly some cliffhangers at the end of this season that we’re going to be following next season and that we’re thinking about now. But it’s a long way from the first episode to the 12th. A lot happens. There is a lot of story this season.
What is this season building toward?
It’s building toward seeing more dimensionality with all the characters, and in a way, a little more complexity to what some of the dilemmas and obstacles are.
What did you think of the Younger premiere? Tell THR in the comments below and follow all show coverage here.
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Thomas Brodie Sangster