Sutton Foster and Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann and Molly Bernard
Hillary Duff and Molly Bernard
Molly Bernard and Hillary Duff
Molly Bernard and Hillary Duff
Younger is all grown up.
When the comedy first premiered on March 31, 2015, viewers met Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), a 40-something, recently divorced woman looking to land a job in the publishing world. But no one wanted to hire a mature woman for an entry level position. So Liza lied and took a couple of decades off her age.
The ruse worked, and Liza was quickly hired by Empirical Publishing, where she befriends her youthful co-worker Kelsey (Hillary Duff) and Kelsey's best friend Lauren (Molly Bernard). Liza also became enmeshed in a love triangle with Josh (Nico Tortorella), a 20-something tattoo artist and Charles (Peter Hermann), her more stoic, reserved boss.
"I hope people take away this idea that age isn't a limitation," says series executive producer and creator Darren Star. "You don't want it to define you in terms of what you can do with your life. I think sometimes society can be ageist in some ways. So Liza does this work around but ultimately what she proves is that her age doesn't define her."
Over the course of six seasons, everyone in Liza's life eventually learned her secret. Now the series, which moved from TV Land to Paramount TV+ in its seventh and final season, is faced with the challenge of giving all its beloved characters a satisfactory ending.
"The beauty of the show is that it ended up moving beyond the original conceit of Liza's lie," Hermann says. "And in the larger sense you end up looking at all these people who are trying to live authentically."
The show was just about to commence filming its final season in New York last year when the pandemic shut down all productions. Star says that even though a lot of time passed before production resumed, one thing that didn't change is the series' final scene.
"There was definitely a lot of debate in the writer's room about how things were going to go," Star says. "We had this sort of scene in mind which still made it as the final scene of the series. The last moment, how we wanted to end didn't change. How we got there might have but how we ended didn't."
The ending resonated for the stars of the show who were also curious to know how their characters' journeys would end. "When I got the last episode I remember reading it, putting it down and being so satisfied by the ending that they gave me," Bernard says. "It is just so quintessentially Lauren and for fans of the show, I think people are just going to eat it up. It's so funny and so good."
COVID protocols meant they were filming four episodes concurrently. "We had to keep this giant jigsaw puzzle of the actual arc of the whole season of the story being told," Bernard explains. "It was a mind trip. We finished it and we are really proud of it, but I'm not going to lie. This was a really difficult season to shoot.
"But coming together and being together during the pandemic, we were each other's pods for the five months that we were shooting. It was nice that we got to be together and finish the show in the middle of the global pandemic. I think it speaks to our love for each other, our love for the show, our love for the fans."
All were aware of giving the fans the gift of the final season. "I think that's where television can be a beautiful escape," Hermann says. "It's a welcome break. If we can provide entertainment or a moment of lightness for what people are going through on a daily basis all of our work will have been worth it. New York is such an elegant and resilient and bad ass character in this season especially."
Hermann was struck by the fact that he never even got to actually see all of the people who made this season possible.
"Everybody was masked all the time with face shields," he says. "We had certain protocols about who could be with whom throughout the season. We didn't see any of their faces. There are some crew members who have been with us for seven years and we knew their faces but we didn't see them once this entire season, and there were some people who were new this year and we never saw what they looked like."
Hermann says it is Star's "uncanny track record of putting his finger on a pulse" of what people want to see and the show's unwavering positivity is the secret to its success. "I know that we all had a really deep sense that we were doing something special and we made the show with a tremendous amount of affection for each other and for the show and for the story and I think that somehow that travelled over the airways," Hermann says.
"I think that a certain cynicism and sarcasm has become the language of the day. It has infused the way that we talk to a degree that we don't even hear it anymore. I think the show is a welcome break from all of that. It's optimistic without being naïve. It's optimistic without being simplistic. It's optimistic about people. It's optimistic about relationships."
Bernard booked the role of Lauren shortly after graduating from the Yale School of Drama. She confesses she was still very much in student mode. "That diligent student operating system was very much how I was functioning and I researched fashion publicists ... I came up with a big life objective for Lauren. I put in all of that work. I hired a coach. I really took it very seriously," she says.
"Then midway through Season Two I was like, 'I got this. I'm just going to let her soar. She can run the show.' It was at that point I felt the ease of playing her. Thank goodness I put that work in because the past five seasons have been just like a paradise."
Younger is also fairly groundbreaking in the topics it covered, particularly with Lauren who is one of television's few pansexual characters.
"It's just been so meaningful to me to play a character who loves herself unconditionally and has an insane amount of confidence," says Bernard who can also be seen in the upcoming film Milkwater.
"She's empowered. She's queer. She's not traumatized by her sexuality. May I continue to play characters who are working to flatten that curve and normalize how queer people are represented and may a person being queer be the last on the list of interesting facts about them."
In the final season, Liza and Charles break up because Charles wants to get married but Liza does not. Charles begins to date Quinn Tyler (Laura Benanti), a self-made millionaire who also happens to be Liza's nemesis. Hermann says it was hard to wrap his mind around some of Charles' choices in the final season.
"I looked at the scripts and there were certainly times where I said, 'Wait a second. They could work it out this way or they could work it out that way.' That ended up being my thinking and not his thinking.
"I would bet there are moments where Charles would look back, as we do in life, and say, 'Why was I so rigid then? Why didn't I bend more? Just because somebody behaves a certain way in the moment doesn't mean they don't look back on that and say, 'Wow I could have done that better.'"
Before the show ends, viewers should expect some resolution to the its central love triangle.
"I've actually changed my mind a lot," Star says of the #TeamCharles versus #TeamJosh debate that rages among fans. "They are two truly viable options. I think that they activate different parts of Liza and who she is. By the very last episode and the last moment of the show, we really kind of think about what is important to Liza.
"Where the show ends I think is going to be hopefully satisfying for all the characters and their relationships."
Watch all seven seasons of Younger on Paramount+