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Bridget Everett Is Still Learning From Sam In Somebody Somewhere

Apr 18, 2023

We get it. Describing a television program as a “gem” isn’t necessarily hype inducing. It doesn’t scream fireworks or gigantic fire-breathing dragons, but “Somebody Somewhere,” returning for its second season this weekend, may be the epitome of the word. And sparking at the center of HBO’s critically addored dramedy is its unexpected but charismatic lead, Bridget Everett.
READ MORE: “Somebody Somewhere” Season 2 Review: The Bridget Everett HBO comedy quietly becomes one of TV’s best
A Peabody Award nominee this year, “Somebody Somewhere” centers on Sam (Everett), a fortysomething woman who finds herself back in her Kansas hometown after initially returning to take care of a sibling who soon passes away. As she tries to adjust to living back home, she finds an unlikely friendship with the ever optimistic Joel (Jeff Hiller), a former High School classmate she doesn’t remember, and grows a small, but close group of friends. Over the course of the first season (and the upcoming second) the stakes are real, but depicted in a naturalistic tone rarely seen on television.
Everett, best known for her stand-up and cabaret performances, was born and raised in the Sunflower State, but says much of the show’s storylines are generated from creators Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and its writer’s room. She also credits the pair for crafting a role that’s catered to her talents.
“I’m not a trained actor, but I’ve been knocking around on stages and show business for a while,” Everett says. “So, I have an idea of how to do it, but this particular medium is newer for me. But I also feel like my live stage shows they show a great part of me that I’m really proud of. But this shows probably more complex, different sides, and it’s all very personal. Even if it hasn’t happened to me specifically, I’m so invested in Sam’s ride and kind of learning from her. So, sometimes there are things that she says and that I’m like, ‘God, I wish I could be this brave.’ And she’s not even that brave, but I feel like I’m learning from her.”
Everett continues, “So it’s kind of like go in there, go in the room, vomit it all out, hope for the best, and also just try to also, I don’t know, I just feel like I’m always learning from her. And I’m always very nervous when I do acting stuff. I feel more comfortable singing, but because I get to sort of hide behind this thing of God, I wish I was Sam,’ which is kind of f**ked up because she’s shut down, but I wish I were her because she’s growing and she’s learning and I’m stuck on the couch with my dog and whatever’s on the wall to look at.”
Over the course of our conversation, Everett discusses how the show dealt with the passing of season one star Mike Haggerty, a potential rough patch in Sam and Joel’s friendship, and, yes, how Laura Branigan’s glorious “Gloria” became a key part of season two.
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The Playlist: I know you’ve talked about it previously, but for some context, how did the idea of making a show about your life come about?
Bridget Everett: I had a deal with HBO and I called Carolyn Straus, who was a friend of mine, and I was like, “I got a deal.” And she’s a big fucking deal in Hollywood, “Game of Thrones,” “Last of Us,” and all sorts of things. And anyway, she suggested we call Paul and Hannah and they created the world. I never would’ve thought to do any of this stuff. To do a show about being at home. But everything they were saying when they pitched it was making perfect sense and really resonated with me. And I felt like I’d been kicking around for a long time and people being like, “Oh, we should do something with you.” And I’m like, “Yeah, all right.” I’d heard that a number of times. But HBO put their money where their mouth was and has really been thoughtful about their critiques and their curation of our show. So, I feel like I’m in the best place in the world living my dream right now.
What is the most important aspect of the show to you?
Yeah, I just want it to feel natural, and authentic. And I think we, Paul, Hannah, Carolyn, and I, were all on the same page that way. We want the dialogue to not be boring but naturalistic and to let people laugh and sort of let a scene linger or something. And Carolyn has such a sharp eye and Paul and Hannah and I all have a very similar sort of vibe of what we’re looking for. And I feel like we just kind of got lucky that we all had a vision that kind of, not coagulated whatsoever, took a shape and I don’t know, we don’t want to do anything snarky. That was another big thing.
Now that I think about it, there is so little snark in it considering Sam and Joel’s friendship. But the big change from season one is that sadly, Mike Hagerty, who played Sam’s father, is no longer with us. What were your thoughts on the narrative solution that was made to explain his character’s absence from the show?
I thought that we should deal with it, because in real life, my dad died one year and then my sister died the next, and I was like, this happens. And season one deals with so much grief I think that we can think of a different way to do it. And then [Hannah] pitched the idea, which is how we deal with it in season two. And I admit it took me a second to come around to it, but I’m so happy was the absolute right way to do it. We love Mike and he was such a huge vital presence on set and on screen. And it’s like we don’t want to do it without him. So, getting to have him be a part of it is anytime that we can have just a little Mike moment or the Ed nugget, it’s meaningful to us. And even if we just know it’s there, it’s really special.
Sam has another tough arc this season. How would you tease what she goes through?
Well, I think that season two starts off and Sam is very much in love with Joel. They’re in their bubble. They’re living their life co-dependent, having lots of cutie, little teeny teenies [moments], and kind of like what we loved about them in season one. Sam can kind of love only one person at a time at a time and Joel has a larger capacity and a bigger freedom with his heart. So, that could cause some problems. And it’s just the way they navigate through that I think is what’s special.
One of the things I enjoyed about Sam’s arc in season two is she realizes that if you push too many people away, you will be very much alone. Was that something that came from the writer’s room? Was that a personal contribution at all?
Is this Bridget Everett’s life? [Laughs.] I think for me personally, Sam is much more emotionally progressive than I am, but we have a lot of the same struggles and battles. And I understand that feeling of wanting somebody to alter yourself. I think a lot of people can relate to that, but maybe other people can function better. I think Sam is an emotional toddler in a lot of ways, and Joel has a larger capacity to love and learn. And even Tricia [Mary Catherine Garrison], her sister who she’s had such a fraught relationship with, has the capacity to move through pain and love and it’s just really difficult for Sam. And I can certainly relate to that.
Sam reconnects with her High School singing teacher this season and there is a moment where the instructor is trying to get her to do breathing lessons. It doesn’t go well. From your perspective, why does Sam react the way she does in that scene?
Well, singing for Sam is personal and it’s like her safety blanket, is that what you call it when you’re a kid?
Yeah.
Being in a room with a teacher who sees Sam for what she was, she remembered her as a special young girl. And the fact that she sees that part of her is very meaningful to Sam. And there’s the scene, she touches her, which is hard for Sam to be in that personal [kind] of environment. It’s like Sam just can’t let love in. It’s really hard. And then she’s something that she says about being in love. And I don’t think Sam ever has been in love. And so they’re small moments maybe, but they’re huge to Sam because, again, she’s kind of an emotional toddler and everything. The way I think about it with Sam and probably for myself too is everything is all lumped together. So, it’s like when you start to rip off the bandaid of what might be one issue, it’s like everything is all one big ball of emotional fire and she can’t really separate them. And it oftentimes comes out with music or through singing.
Do you find it difficult to reach those emotional moments on the show?
Well, I think it’s really helpful that it’s sort of catered to me. Cause I’m not a trained actor, but I’ve been knocking around on stages and show business for a while. So, I have an idea of how to do it, but this particular medium is newer for me. But I also feel like my live stage shows they show a great part of me that I’m really proud of. But this shows probably more complex, different sides, and it’s all very personal. Even if it hasn’t happened to me specifically, I’m so invested in Sam’s ride and kind of learning from her. So, sometimes there are things that she says and that I’m like, “God, I wish I could be this brave.” And she’s not even that brave, but I feel like I’m learning from her.
So it’s kind of like go in there, go in the room, vomit it all out, hope for the best, and also just try to also, I don’t know, I just feel like I’m always learning from her. And I’m always very nervous when I do acting stuff. I feel more comfortable singing, but because I get to sort of hide behind this thing of “God, I wish I was Sam,” which is kind of f**ked up because she’s shut down, but I wish I were her because she’s growing and she’s learning and I’m stuck on the couch with my dog and whatever’s on the wall to look at.
You’ve talked about how much you your stage work means to you. Have you enjoyed the very different process of making this show?
Well, I love it. I feel like I’ve grown and learned. I feel like I can call myself a writer. I feel like I can call myself an actor. I feel like I can call myself a lot of things so I enjoy that. I love that. I love that I’m on HBO, I can’t believe it. I think when this is all behind me, that’s when I’m going to finally give myself a pat on the back and be like, “Can you believe that just happened?” But right now I wake up and I think about what could happen the next season. And we all do. We all love doing this show and I’m working with really nice people and we can sit in the writer’s room and keep talking until something makes me cry. And then we’re like, okay, let’s do that. And I’m like but. I think that that’s important to face your fears, I guess, or whatever the fuck, I don’t know.
Do you know where you want to see Sam in the third or fourth season?
Yeah, we’ve been kicking around ideas. I want Sam to keep growing. And it’s kind of hard to think about it because some of the ideas feel very small, but especially because I feel like Joel and Tricia and some of the other characters on the show, they have the capacity to grow faster. And Sam was just sort of like, “Here I come, here I come, I’m growing, I’m learning. I’m this, that, and the other.” And Sam’s just like, “I’m just trying to catch up.” I would like to see Sam a little more up here where everybody else is kind of open and you can sit there and you talk to somebody and it’s like, “Well, why don’t you just love somebody?” Or “Why? I don’t know. It’s not that easy. It’s not easy for everybody.”
It’s not that easy at all. You said you really hadn’t seen yourself as an actor. How much did the Independent Spirit Award nomination you landed this year mean to you then?
I’m not doing it for the hardware, but it feels nice because I’m proud of our show and I feel like any kind of recognition we get is good for us. And it’s been kind of a real slow build for us and people are discovering it slowly. And I think anytime something like that happens, it’s helpful. But I don’t know again, I was sitting in that room and I’m just like, “Can we get another bottle of Rose?”
First of all, closing the bar the way they do before the ceremony is such a pain. People want another drink. Nope. You got to sit through two and a half hours of the show without one!
Yeah, I had a mule bringing us Rose on the side.
That’s what my table needed. Lastly, no spoilers, but it has been given away in the trailer that you sing Laura Branigan’s classic midtempo anthem, “Gloria.” How did that come about and how excited were you to integrate it into the show this year?
Well, we were driving around, me and Jeff and Murray [Hill], we all lived together during the filming and we the dingdong dorm and our activities were going to breakfast or going to Target. And so we were on our way to one of those and Jeff was driving and had on, I think it was called a Yes Girl playlist or something, and it was like all the hits, and “Gloria” came on and we like, what? No, I’m like, “Turn it up!” It was just kind of, it was just such a joyous moment in the car. I was like, we got to put this in the show.
“Somebody Somewhere” returns on Sunday, April 23

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