Dina Fox is not someone you want to mess with. She runs a tight ship at Cloud 9, and Lauren Ash embodies her with such confidence and whip smart candor that you both fear her and yearn for her respect. Ash allowed us to see Dina lower her defenses over the course of Superstore‘s six seasons, and she remains one of the most well-drawn characters on any sitcom. I will miss Dina most of all.
Dina has complicated relationships with all of her co-workers, but the two she abuses the most are Glenn and Sandra. It made me wonder what would happen if Dina committed a crime and the only witness was someone she took frustration out on. Would she prefer to be at the mercy of Glenn or Sandra?
“Ohhh, great question. I doubt she would ever get caught. I think she’d prefer to manipulate Sandra from the stand. Glenn is a bogie. He’s hard to nail down. He panics when he has to lie.”
Instead of hammering the same jokes over and over between Dina and Glenn, the creators evolved their working relationship by allowing them to become co-managers of the store together. Season one Dina would never give up control but season six Dina can allow for some concessions, and that’s a huge move for her character. Ash was eager and thrilled to have that work bond evolve in that direction.
“My main thing with Glenn and Dina the entire show was that I never wanted her to seem like a caricature or a sociopath. There has to be a realness to her and there are feeling there. She’s just an eccentric. With this storyline I think it was interesting because it was the next natural thing. I know people love patterns and being able to count on things but if you see the same thing, it becomes boring and rote. It was a way to honor them but explore this dynamic. There are little nuggets where you remember they have been working in this partnership, like it not, for many, many years before the show even starts. In spite of themselves, they do have that shared past. Yes, he infuriates her, but they’re family. It was a joy.”
Of all the shows that continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, Superstore was the one that confronted it head-on in almost every episode. Season six incorporated the plight of essential workers unlike any other show could do. It skillfully showed how corporations didn’t understand the needs of the workers in the field, and Ash explained how surreal the experience was.
“It was exceedingly bizarre. We went back in August when it was really scary in Los Angeles. When you’re working in TV anyway, it’s very magical and surreal at the best of times, but at the worst of times you’re on this island. It was very odd and very scary. We were lucky and we never had any outbreaks on set and we were one of the few shows that didn’t have one. It’s a testament to how dedicated everyone was. When we were done it was like, ‘Let’s go to work–fingers crossed!’ It was such an awesome opportunity for story and an honor to see these characters in this world, but the physical act of doing it was very scary. Then the show ended and we couldn’t hug anyone. A real ‘don’t let the door hit you’ moment.”
Think about the people you work with on a daily basis. They truly become your family whether you want them to or not, and that connection is what makes Superstore so special. The employees go through so much as a collective group and that’s what made the series finale resonate so deeply with fans.
“There was a moment in the pilot where Cheyenne was eating a giant jug of cheese balls and America [Ferrera] does this motion to her that there was cheese dust on her face. That was the first time that I knew there was this caring undertow. You spend a lot of time with these people. You see these people more than you see your loved ones or your friends. I don’t know how much was intentional but I thought small acting choices like that were brilliant. As that kind of happened, the friendship that grew between us bled into the show. There are million reasons why people love Superstore, but the intangible quality is the bond between the people who spend this much time together.”
Even though Ash’s time playing Dina has come to an end, she hasn’t left her totally behind. We joked that we could all infuse a little bit of Dina into our everyday lives in terms of her assertiveness and directness. Ash may not be direct in Dina’s harsh way, but maybe we all would be better served to live a little bit like Dina.
“It’s been inspiring me in my real life. Dina inspires me in a way about knowing that she is hot and the world is lucky to have me. She’s right most of the time, though. Some people say that Dina is a bitch, but she is just really honestly. She wants to get shit done and that was really freeing. I wouldn’t do it the way she does it, but there is an efficiency to how she talks. That kind of blatant honesty and telling what’s on your mind that is ultimately not malicious. A lot of people think she was written on the spectrum because she doesn’t play the social grace games that a lot of people do. Dina was, to my knowledge, ever written that way, but I think it’s great that people can take that away from Dina. If you can see yourself in someone who functions that way, I think that’s awesome.”
We spoke a lot about the episodes that took place outside the store but carried the energy of the people inside Cloud 9. My personal favorite is “Sandra’s Wedding,” because Amy and Dina are balancing their work lives with helping Sandra spend her special day. Ash pointed out an arc that doesn’t get the credit that it deserves and that’s the evolution of Dina and Amy.
“Female friendships are very important to me and I love to see friendships rooted in conflict. It’s more interesting to me if they are just buddies and seeing them play that dynamic was fun for me. The Golden Globes episode where Dina eats meat for her despite being a vegan is a very honest example of what Dina is willing to do for Amy. I was skeptical when I read that script because that’s a tough line to tow because I would buy that. That mirrors “Wedding Day Sale” and it’s when they share a personal moment with each other. Shooting that scene in the finale was very tough. The take they used was a very cry-y episode. I know people love Jonah and Amy, but I believe the Amy and Dina friendship is the real love story of Superstore. There’s all kinds of love and that’s the one that really gets me. Dina tells Amy in season one that she doesn’t like her and in season six they are making plans to hike in the woods together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a friendship like this on television in a long time. It’s two ladies that just become friends and genuinely respect each other.”
Superstore is available to stream on Peacock and Hulu.