Nobody brightens a room on Hulu’s “Shrill” like Lolly Adefope’s Fran. Always in the corner of series lead Annie (Aidy Bryant), Fran helps her navigate boyfriends, her career and her relationship with her micromanaging mother. Fran is confident in her support, but Season 2 allows her own worries to take center-stage, too. In the fifth episode, the show explores Fran’s history when she attends a family wedding and confronts her Nigerian mother (Patrice Johnson) on her judgmental stance toward her homosexuality and choice of profession.
Adefope: In Season 1, Fran seems kind of indestructible, which is a very inspiring character to see, but maybe not a whole picture. I was really glad that we got to see her showing some of her insecurities and not just being this sound adviser for Annie to take what she needs from. Fran was able to take what she needs from other characters as well.
[In the fifth episode] the setting of a Nigerian wedding — the common vibrance of that — enabled the natural tone. Shaka [King, the episode’s director] said, “This isn’t just one person saying a line and the other person saying a line. That kind of conversation you would never see in real life. It’s people chipping in, talking over each other, laughing. Lots of business going on.” As an actor, that helps you to relax into the role a little bit more.
It’s quite a relatable feeling where everyone’s laughing at something that you don’t find funny and you have to keep everything together. We were all eased into it by knowing that we could ad lib and chip in. It didn’t need to feel like this tense, dramatic scene. It was a natural family occasion. You can see the tension in Fran’s reactions to what they’re saying, but it’s not overly dramatic. It’s subtle moments of discomfort.
We had a little bit of time in the few days that we were filming that episode where we worked together on the subtleties of the accent and things like that. I thought Patrice was just an incredible actress, totally nailing it. In that scene where we’re both opening up to each other and apologizing to each other, it just happened straight away. She’s just incredible. I can’t really cry on command, but she can very well.
Annie and Fran both have these tense relationships with their mothers in completely different ways. With Annie, it’s more uncertain. There’s a lot of subtext to the conversations between Annie and her mum, whereas with Fran and her mother, it’s too direct. Both of them are very passionate people who say what they mean, so that blows up at the wedding. Both [Annie and Fran] are kind of jealous of the relationship the other has with their own mother. In Season 2, they both get to reconcile [those relationships] in some way. We see that it’s not all complete tension.