'Younger' star Miriam Shor talks season 5, directing for the first time and tackling the #MeToo movement
For five seasons now, Miriam Shor has been playing Diana Trout, a sharp-tongued, powerful literary executive, on TV Land's hit show, "Younger," and she's still finding ways to make the dream gig exciting.
At the end of last season, during which her character went through a devastating, but ultimately transformative, breakup, Shor approached the show's creator Darren Star to put her hat in the ring to potentially direct an episode during the forthcoming season. He responded, without hesitation, that she'd do a "great job."
So, two decades into her career, Shor continues to push herself to try new things, while also being able to play more fleshed-out characters that were few and far between for 46-year-old actresses even just 10 years ago.
AOL recently caught up with Miriam Shor over the phone to talk about the current fifth season of "Younger," what her experience as a director was like and how she's seen the roles offered for women evolve over the course of her career. Check out our full conversation below:
First off, talk us through where we find your character, Diana Trout, this season.
As you know, she had a breakup last season, which I thought was kind of great, actually. It was a moving but triumphant moment for her, where she was like, “You know what? This isn’t right for me. It costs me emotionally, but it’s also a moment where I really know what’s right for me, which is empowering.” So, it’s great, but I also don’t think she trusts herself in relationships. So, she’s back to work and all about that. There is romance for her on the horizon, though.
Diana does so well on her own and she's such a career woman, but, for me, it feels like what she really wants at the end of the day is that happily after ever.
I think we all want connection. That’s a human desire, and she is human, even though she likes to look at herself as super-human. [Laughs] But, yeah, I think that’s definitely right. It’s also a place where she’s vulnerable, and I enjoy playing that. It was bound to happen sooner or later -- that she would meet someone. But I really like what’s been going on for her with work, where she’s so devoted. Empirical is going through something right now, and it’s on shaky ground and she’s there supporting it. I also love that we’re addressing issues of women in the workplace, because obviously this is someone who has had to deal with some bullsh-t in her career, you know? I love that she gets to talk about that. The writers did a great job. It’s funny, but it speaks to what she had to go through.
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She and Liza have come a long way, too. Their relationship has progressed a lot, almost to the point where I want to say that maybe Diana cherishes that friendship more than she would let on?
For sure. And there are glimpses of that this season, which I love! You see how much this person means to her.
But she’s also the last major character that doesn’t know Liza's secret…
Exactly! Look, there are a lot of questions around how Diana would react to the news, so there is a lot of fear. She is scary, and it could go so many ways. I’ve always said that I would love if and when Diana found out, that she would say, “Of course you are [older than you say you are]. I’ve always known that. What do you think, I’m a moron? Whatever you have to do to get ahead in this business is fine with me. Now, go get my f--king coffee.” Right? That would be wonderful, but it’s hard to know. Women in power -- people in power -- don’t like to be deceived. People who view themselves as in control of a situation really don’t like being deceived. So, it will be interesting.
As an actress, you stepped into a new role this season when you directed an episode. Talk to me about that role reversal and how your first directing experience was.
It was an incredible experience. I loved it even more than I thought I would. I was excited, but also nervous and terrified. Which is great, by the way -- you should keep doing things that make you nervous and terrify you, certainly artistically. I couldn’t have been surrounded by a more loving and supportive group of people than the cast and crew, who are just incredible. I love them so much -- they’re my family -- but, really, doing this with them made it even more so. It’s such a great group of talented people. It was a dream come true to work on something with people who were 100 percent there to make this work.
You directed the fifth episode of this fifth season and, obviously, Diana isn't in every single scene. What was it like being part of certain scenes that you wouldn't have normally been present for during filming?
That is actually one of the most thrilling things. It was like, “I get to watch Josh and Liza!” I got to see all of these places that I never get to go to, which I loved being part of. It was a window into a world that I hadn’t gotten to participate in before. It was also challenging, because I obviously knew the Empirical set backwards and forwards, which made planning my shot list easy. I’ve been there for five seasons. But shooting in Josh’s apartment, where I hadn’t shot before, was a challenge. It was the best film school ever. [Laughs]
How did you go about asking for the directing role?
I had seen a lot of my male friends delving into the role of director, and fewer of my female friends [doing the same]. I questioned that and then I had to question myself as to why I wasn’t asking myself, “Do I have the desire to do it? Or am I not asking because I don’t want to? Which is fine, but am I [really] not asking because this doesn’t seem viable? Or am I afraid?”
Asking Darren Star at the end of last season, I just put it out there, and he was so generous and said, "Yeah, I think you’d do a great job." It’s really wonderful to have someone, who you’ve worked with for a while now, believe in you. It means a lot.
What was the biggest learning curve for you in your first directing experience?
Trusting myself and trusting my gut and what I bring to the table. I was underserving myself by not valuing the 20 years of experience that I’ve had on a television set. That’s no small thing. Obviously there’s lots behind the camera that I didn’t know, but I had been paying attention. Last season I had been shadowing our directors, and this season I shadowed our director. There was a lot that I knew, and there was a lot that I had to bring to the table of how much of this world I understood. Talking to actors is something that I was very comfortable with and that’s a challenge to a lot of directors. I was very passionate and comfortable with it. I’ve been acting for decades. There were also a couple times where I didn’t go with my gut, but I learned pretty quickly not to do that.
In the episode that you directed, Lauren hires a gender-fluid assistant. How did you go about treating that storyline? It's more sensitive subject matter for the show.
I was excited by it. I was thrilled that it was in our show and that I was the person that got to tell that story. I have a lot of experience with the newness of that and, to me, it feels normal and natural and part of the world, because I’m an artist who lives in New York City who has friends who are gender-neutral or gender-fluid, and it was exciting for me to be able to introduce that into the world of "Younger." It felt really right and really natural, and Molly Bernard playing Lauren felt exactly like the right person introducing this person into our world. It is a sensitive subject, because it’s a comedy, but you want to treat it fairly. The comedy didn’t come from making fun of how a gender-fluid person sees themselves; the comedy came from other characters’ inability to see them correctly. I loved that. There’s nothing funny about being gender-fluid, but there’s humor in people struggling to understand it.
I recently talked to Molly [Bernard] about"Younger" having a female-driven cast who play female characters that are imperfect and messy and who talk about everything from their loves lives to work and everything in between. Talk to me about being part of this show in that regard. It feels really important.
It’s great, the conversations we can bring to the table through a light rom-com, which I think is actually really difficult -- to walk that line, like we did with the #MeToo movement and now with gender fluidity and with Molly’s character, who is polyamorous. It’s been really great. I’ve been in this business for 20 years now, and the difference between how my characters are treated now versus 20 years ago, being women, is night-and-day. I’m allowed to be a 46-year-old woman playing a 46 year old, which was not the case when I started. When I started, I was playing an older woman and I was 27 years old, which is absurd. I remember having auditions for roles for people who were 42 and I was in my early thirties! It’s exciting now. There are roles for 46-year-old women now, which was not really the case before. Darren Star was the only person who really had a show about women in their 30s or 40s, “Sex and the City,” and now it feels like you see more and more of these characters. My fear that roles were going to dry up hasn’t been the case in television.
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This interview has been edited and condensed.
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