A deep sense of camaraderie filled the small space of indie theater Landmark Sunshine Cinemas on the Lower East Side on Tuesday night for the New York premiere of “Younger,” TV Land’s new comedy series from “Sex and the City” and “Beverly Hills, 90120” creator Darren Star.
The show, which revolves around a 40-year-old woman (Sutton Foster) attempting to pass for 26 in order to land and keep a competitive job at a Manhattan publishing house after years as a homemaker, is not so much about agism or sexism or the hazards of social media, as it is just about staying current, Star said. “It’s about how to stay relevant, and how not to be defined by one’s age,” he told Variety. “Part of the show is that, twentysomething culture is omnipresent. It’s not like you have to wonder what’s going on; it’s surrounding you, it drives our culture, in a way. When you’re 40, and you’re living in a world where the cultural significance is being in your 20s, how do you operate?”
Star also told reporters that he doesn’t want to compare this new show to his past accomplishments. “It’s a new chapter,” he declared.
Unlike “Sex and the City,” “Younger” was shot and takes place mostly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and star Hilary Duff joked with reporters about not even knowing where to begin when it came to looking for an apartment and moving to the area with her young son. “I’d never been to Brooklyn before!” said the 27-year-old actress, who sported her newly dyed, mermaid-inspired green hairdo that ironically matched the color of her co-star Nico Tortorella’s, who plays Foster’s younger love interest.
Were their matching locks a conspiracy? “I was already thinking about going blue, and I texted (Hilary) and she said cool, you should go blue,” Tortorella explained. “And then I showed up yesterday and she had gotten her hair redone, and my hair had faded a little, so I redyed my hair last night, but then yesterday they were exactly the same and it was adorable! We were like two little mermaid and merman running around.”
Duff — who plays a 26-year-old fellow editor who befriends Foster’s older character — said that for her, the show wasn’t about women being marginalized for their age, or about older people fumbling around with social media, although that naturally became one small source of humor for the writers.
“We’ve been getting this question a lot because the whole plot of the show is about age,” Duff told Variety. “But when you watch the episodes, there’s not so much, ‘Oh older women are not accepted anymore.’ It’s more about reinventing yourself at any age, and not getting stuck in a rut, and being brave.”
The chance to work with Star was a huge draw for Duff. “I was reading the script for the pilot, and it was so perfect, and that’s really rare,” she said. “When pilot season’s happening and you’re reading scripts, it’s like, there’s funny moments, but they need doctoring, and this one was really perfect.”
Star was very set on having Duff involved in the project, even though that meant she had to relocate from Los Angeles with a 3-year-old son who was about to start school. “He was calling my agent and saying, ‘I want Hilary for this and I think she could be great,'” Duff said. “To know that someone’s excited about you, that was a big jump for me.”
Also appealing to Duff was how relatable her character Kelsey was, but she stopped short of comparing “Younger” or Kelsey with her hit show “Lizzie McGuire.”
“(Kelsey) was such a relatable character, and she was really me at the time,” Duff said. “I love getting to play that super relatable part where she is really driven and super eye-on-the-prize, but she also screws up a lot and makes really questionable choices in her love life and everything, and I think that’s what your 20s is really about.”
Duff added that, because of her career and her inability to experience being able to decorate a locker in high school, or go out partying after a long day in the office in her 20s, the chance to play that onscreen was very fun.
For Tony Award winner Foster, the opportunity to work with Starr was also a huge incentive. “I thought the script was funny and smart and I thought it would be fun to play a character like this,” Foster said. “It seemed like it had a lot of ways the story could go.”
In a show and a world that’s so steeped with social media, Foster said she’s dipped her toe in, but is only just realizing how big the phenomenon is. “We did this event the other day and everyone in the audience was tweeting what we were saying and I went, ‘Oh wow, that has changed,'” she said. “I am from the age where the cell phone is like, my nemesis.”
Foster, who just turned 40 — the same age as her character, Liza said that she, like Duff, hasn’t yet experienced any of the story’s ageism for which Hollywood is faulted. “Maybe things will come up, but hopefully I can navigate it gracefully,” Foster said. “There’s a lot of great roles out there for women of all ages, and I hope that my career is only going to get better. I think I’m a lot more interesting now than I was when I was 20.”
When the entire cast — including costume designer Patricia Field, who rose to fame with Star’s “Sex and the City,” and “Entourage’s” Debi Mazar, who plays Foster’s same-aged friend — arrived for a photo op, there was so much hugging that bystanders felt like they were witnessing the reunion of old friends, not a group of ordinary colleagues. Both Star and Tortorella said that the cast got along famously. “It was like there were wrap parties after every episode!” said Star, who revealed that outings to bars in Williamsburg were commonplace after shooting had wrapped for the day. Tortorella said the actors would “goof around all the time. We were just laughing non-stop.”
Additional guests at the premiere and after-party presented by the Cinema Society included “The Good Wife’s” Ben Rappaport, “Eye Candy’s” Ryan Cooper, “Dom Hemingway’s” Madalina Ghenea, Carson Kressley, “Shameless’” Emily Bergl, Gabriel Day Lewis, June Ambrose, Minnie Mortimer and more.