If it weren’t for FOMO (fear of missing out), Portia might not have been part of a murder cover-up in Season 2 of Search Party on TBS.
When her friends warn her not to go into a room because they’re doing something “very bad” without her (burying a dead body!), she must know what’s going on.
“I think there’s a fear of being left out,” says Meredith Hagner, who plays Portia on the series. “I think she’s scared and thinks, ‘Oh, they’re being dramatic.’”
But she learns they weren’t being over-the-top or extra: Dory (Alia Shawkat), Elliott (John Early), and Drew (John Reynolds) are trying to stuff a body into a pink-leopard-print travel bag, and soon Portia finds herself outside digging a hole, an accomplice to the crime.
Portia is that hypothetical friend you call when you need to bury a body.
“Her best quality is that she is deeply loyal. But her best quality is also her worst. I think about the insecurities that make her the way she is. I think that’s what makes her this way, including her relationship with her mother (Christine Ebersole). At her core, she has wonderful qualities that are buried. She’s a pathological people pleaser.”
What’s most ironic about the friendship between these four is that for years, it was based on nothing, an easy comfort to come back to. “Patterns helped keep them together,” says Hagner. But now they’re connected based on something big. “Friendships out of convenience turn into deep necessity.”
Portia, the Pathological People Pleaser
As someone eager to be agreeable, Portia in Season 2 falls prey to New York director Elijah (Jay Duplass) when she nabs a part in a play about Charles Manson.
“She’s naturally a vulnerable person, and her current situation just makes it worse. Elijah sniffs out what’s broken about her, and she’s thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’m being seen; someone gets me.’ She has no one she can talk to, and she thinks he’s the most brilliant, incredible person.”
In a particularly heartbreaking scene during Portia’s audition, Elijah makes her call a former friend and reveal what she really thinks about them. It feels like a hostage situation, with Portia forced to meet his demands.
“Portia could end up being the biggest movie star in the world and still never believe she’s good enough. A people pleaser who’s insecure is a perfect Petri dish for someone who can be manipulated.”
And in a post-#MeToo world, this scene feels like an especially poignant one, with a man in power using the situation to his advantage.
“There’s such a conversation of how people could let this happen, and you can see Elijah sniff out her insecurity.”
Season 3 of Search Party
Production for Season 3 of the critically acclaimed series will resume this fall. In the meantime, fans speculate over who ratted out Dory in the Season 2 finale. Could Portia be responsible for this betrayal?
“I think under the spell of Elijah, anything is possible,” says Hagner. “She reaches a breaking point, but she’s actually coming into her own.”
Search Party episodes, Season 1 and 2, are available to stream on TBS.com.