The Emmy nominated star talks about the importance of her Hulu comedy, Shrill, and what drag queen she’d go on tour with.
We have been fortunate to see Aidy Bryant on Saturday Night Live for years now, but we have never seen her as the protagonist to a popular series or a feature film. She constantly pops up in small parts, and her warm presence and smart comic delivery make her a welcome addition to anything. Seriously, we need more of her in everything. With Hulu’s Shrill, however, Bryant graces our televisions in a way that we’ve never seen her before. Aidy Bryant is the leading lady we’ve been waiting for.
Based on Lindy West’s memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, the comedy series follows Annie, an aspiring writer who makes the conscious decision to be happy without changing how she looks. From the very first moments of the pilot, Annie has cringeworthy interactions with total strangers who feel the need to talk to her about how she looks, and then she gets her own troll posting horrible comments about her online. The trouble with so much social media is that we think we need to spill our guts about everything all the time. We have access to tell people everything, but we never take a moment to wonder if we should.
Watching Annie’s transformation through Bryant is delightful. There are some really lovely introspective moments where Annie is alone on screen and she doesn’t say a word. Annie isn’t demure or shy, though. In the scenes where she confronts her personal feelings towards her body or the man who is tormenting her, Bryant showcases an emotional rawness like we’ve never seen. Annie might be on a journey of self-love, but her performance only enhances the love we’ve always had of her.
Since there’s some distance from when the show made its debut, have people approached you about their connection with the show? It’s been received so well.
Oh, yeah. It’s been really overwhelming. People have been so open and so lovely about their own experiences and their own feelings about their bodies. I think I didn’t really expect that especially because typically when people come up to me, they say something like, ‘Thanks for the laugh!’ This has been something much deeper and more personal. So that’s been really lovely.
You have a lot of scenes with Julia Sweeney. Had you met her before since she’s an SNL alum?
No, I had never met her, but I have always loved her from afar!
How is it building that chemistry with her?
In a lot of ways, it was really easy. SNL, whether you were there 20 years ago or right now, it’s kind of the same. The day-to-day experience is the same. Some of the people are the same people. It was really awesome to have that shorthand with her. That was one of the reasons why we asked her to make a tape. I’ve always adored her—she’s sweet but with a bit, you know?
That overlap there was the best. I just loved working with her.
Have you personally experienced Internet trolls?
Oh, my god, yes! Who hasn’t?
We do have some trolls on our site, and there is one gentleman in particular who always feels the need to comment on any post about a comedy series.
Oh, my God…
So, I can’t imagine what it would be like to endure the kind of things that Annie has to go through because they are much more personal.
I used to have Twitter, and I don’t have it anymore. That was the one space where I just thought, ‘Oh, this is just abuse.’ I don’t want this in my life, especially living in the world we live in today. With SNL, we do a lot of politics, and I play Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I would get all kinds of tweets—positive and negative—but a lot of them would just have hateful energy. I didn’t want to engage in that, you know?
I wish more of the total assholes online would just adopt that mentality. Step away from Twitter and leave us all alone.
One of the most celebrated episodes was “Pool.”
Your introspective moments on the show are some of my absolute favorites. I love the moment where you’re eating the spaghetti late at night after Annie hooks up with Lamar.
Thank you. That’s one of my favorite parts, too.
The dancing moment at the pool is a huge highlight of the series. I’ve seen animated versions of that and so many articles reacting to that.
Did you know that that was going to be so iconic, and what was it like shooting that whole episode?
Well, I didn’t not know that anything I would do would be considered “iconic.”
I’m declaring it iconic right now.
Well, I’ll take it! I will tell people you said that. On the day of shooting it, everybody was feeling it. It was really emotional. Even with that dance scene, it took a long time to shoot and the ladies were dancing their asses off. It was the coolest, you know. Certainly, a lot of the crew had tears in their eyes, and I’m talking big, burly guys carrying equipment. We definitely felt like something special was happening.
This is one of the first times you executive produced a season of television. What can you tell us about your experience doing that?
That was, in some ways, my favorite part.
I loved working with the costume designers and the set designers and looking at the whole thing. The whole picture. That’s what you really do on SNL but on a much smaller scale, so to do it at this scale, with a story that was so important to me, it was a guiding principle. It took a lot of the scariness out of it because I had a lot of feelings of how the story should be told.
At the end of the season, Annie has the confrontation with her troll, and I honestly didn’t expect the series to go there. Sometimes characters never get to get that vindication.
The stunning thing about that interaction is that really happened to Lindy. She really did get to speak with someone who was really hitting her with unbelievable targeted harassment. That person did express some did remorse and pain of their own. A lot of our show is about empathy and creating empathy for someone who is easy to dismiss. I think that’s what that moment is about. But it’s also about being aggressive and being confrontational and trying to find comfort in doing that. And finding a way to say, ‘You will not talk to me like that.’ For a lot of women, that’s incredibly challenging, and seeing someone else do that can really help.
Not to incite violence, but I think it would be perfectly acceptable if we destroyed cars of troll-y assholes all over the country.
Congratulations on the show being renewed for a second season.
What are you looking forward to showing us in the second season? Are you basing more on Lindy’s personal experiences, or do you have a direction you want to take Annie’s story now?
We’ve already started writing—we’re about halfway through that. We start shooting in July. I definitely am excited about going further into this world that we’ve built. We’re pulling things from Lindy’s life, but we’re excited to further the characters that we pulled out of nothing!
Super random question…do you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Of course! I’m not insane.
You’re a living, breathing, true American.
I’m not a monster.
Did you watch this last season?
Can you and Nina West go on a Sarah Huckabee Sanders tour to spread love all across America?
That would be a true honor. I’m all in.
I’ll set it up!
Season one of Shrill is now streaming on Hulu.