Younger Star Sutton Foster on Ageism in Hollywood: Ive Experienced It

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She’s one of the most successful Broadway actresses…ever. On Tv Land’s Younger , she plays a 41 -year-old pretending to be 26. Sutton Foster tells us what both ages have taught her.


Theres advice that Sutton Foster gives the high school and college student she works with. It sounds like the hardest thing to do, but: You are enough. Be yourself, she tells them. Your individuality and singularity is whats going to construct you.

Its hard advice to take from the two-time Tony-winning actress and star of TV Lands Younger , after whom many of those students model their audition anthems, let alone their career aspirations. Dont be me; be yourself, she tells them. Thats whats helped me. And I think its helped my career.

Scanning Fosters professional resume, which jumpstarted when the then-unknown 27 -year-old actress was plucked from the chorus to resulted the $9.5 million production of Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway in 2002, and its hard to argue against the actresss advice. Its also what attains her success in the role of Liza on Younger all the more intriguing.

Debuting its third season Wednesday on TV Land, Younger centers on a 40 -year-old recent divorcee who cant find a job in the publishing world, dismissed because of her 15 years as a stay-at-a-home. Mistaken for a fellow twentysomething by a young hunk( Nico Tortorella) at a bar one night, she has an epiphany, then a makeover, and then an elaborated ruse: she pretends to be 26 in order to land a task.( And, it turns out, said hunk, too .)

We catch up with Liza in Wednesday’s premiere with her delicately built house of cards a breath away from crumblingand her remorse complex about lying already having sent a wrecking ball to her conscience. As her 26 -year-old self continues to make friends, fall in love, and succeed at work, her 40 -year-old self grapplings with whether its time to tell the truth.

In the Tv age of antiheroes and moral ambiguity, Liza and Fosters performance signal a fascinating dichotomy: a protagonist you love and root for, but who is a liar and deceives those closest to her.

In contrast to the gritty, angsty Dexters and Walts and Dons, Liza lives in a lush, colorful world that is heightened to be a stilettos lift more fabulous than the real onecourtesy of Sex and the City designer Patricia Fields high-fashion wares and Carrie Bradshaw mastermind Darren Stars quippy dialogue.

And its all played by an actress whose real-life earnestness and warmth has underwritten her entire career.

Its a clich, but Ive never felt like Ive had to look a certain way or be anyone other than who I am, and that is something that constructs me feel special or singular, Foster says. So theres something fantastical and exciting and dangerous about[ playing Liza] that Im enjoying. She lets out one of her infectious chuckles: It stimulates me feel like Im an undercover agent or something.

The trick to Younger , though, is that Liza isnt an undercover agent or even painted as ridiculous or a joke for pretending to be someone 20 years her junior. Her desperation is relatable, and her resourcefulness is admirable. And the conditions that drove her to a double life? Upsettingly real.

Ageism is a thing, and Ive experienced it, where you judge a situation because of what you consider, Foster says. Someone says, Theyre too young. Theyre too old. Theyre irrelevant. Without thinking about it, youre making assumptions that are based on no sense of reality. Because of this depict, I dont do that anymore. Especially with the younger generation, I only have a whole new respect and appreciation for them, and its because of this show.

In person, Foster could be as believably confused for the states members of that younger generation as her character is on the show, whether its because, between interviews on a press day, shes chuckling in a corner with 28 -year-old Younger co-star Hilary Duff or because her appearance is astonishingly youthful. Theres much that could be said about her amazing scalp and spritely demeanor, sure, but largely its a radiancean undeniable happinessthat reflects a woman who happens to be 41 but also simply content: busy, in love, and satisfied.

In 2014, just before Younger premiered, Foster marriage screenwriter Ted Griffin. They co-parent her rescue puppy, Mabel. On Tuesday, the day before Younger premieres, Foster will start her first official day of work on the off-Broadway production of Sweet Charity , stepping into the song-and-dance shoes first worn by Gwen Verdon and then Shirley Maclaine in the film, and most recently inhabited by Christina Applegate.

She isnt sure how playing Liza and Charity Valentine so close to each other will advise either performance, but she knows they will somehow: All the characters I have played are associated, in some sense, merely because I try to pull as much of myself into every character I play.

We go back to that advice she devotes students she speaks to at workshops, the insisting they be themselves. Charity is another iconic character Foster will take on that, at first blush, might not seem like obvious casting for the superstar, but which she will, we have no doubt, somehow reinvent by injecting her undeniable Sutton Fosterness into it.

There was the notion that an untested twentysomething couldnt pull off the guaranteed tour de force required for Thoroughly Modern Millie ; Foster won a Tony for her performance. Or that Fosters natural gawkiness wouldnt translate as glamour madam Reno Sweeney when she resulted the recent resurgence of Anything Goes .

Even I was like, Im miscast! Foster chuckles. But it turns out that Fosters erstwhile goofiness and, yes, inner diva, mixed to disclose new tints of the classic musical theater role. Again, she won the Tony. If I tried doing Patti LuPone, it wouldnt have worked, she says. How do you infuse every character with your own authentic ego. Its like psychoanalysis. But its necessary.

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Not every role is ripe for Sutton Fosterness. One of the Broadway communitys favorite storiesand merely because Foster tells it so adorablyis how, early in her career, she auditioned for Rent 15 days, using a photo booth strip as her head shot in an attempt to be edgy, singing along to a cassette tape of Janis Joplin, and lying on her resume to make it seem like she had more experience.

Sure, she got called back to the very end, but her big break would ultimately still be 525,600 minutes( and some change) away.

But as fans of Younger know, few things are as wonderful as when Foster jibes with a role. Her work on the short-lived ABC Family series Bunheads , in which she played a showgirl turned small-town dance teacher, earned her a rabid fanbase among TV fans and a deep friendship with inventor Amy Sherman-Palladino, who will bring Foster along for a guest spot on the upcoming Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls .

Its an embarrassment of riches for an actress who, because of the role she is playing on Younger , is constantly being confronted with the idea that the well could one day run dry. Because of Younger s discussion of ageism and sexism, Fosters been forced to go through therapy by way of press tour, in effect, with so many dialogues about her role in the show turning to her personal supposes about her age and aging in the amusement business.

When we started doing press I was aware of get older, but I never genuinely “ve thought about it”, she says. I dont know if that constructs me ignorant or nave or in denial but, plainly, doing the prove, I was like, Oh, its this issue and I should be feeling feelings.

Three years in, shes both more careful in articulating her feelings about it, but also more in tune with those impressions. Im grateful to be doing a depict like this, and I definitely am getting older, she says. My bodys changing; things are changing. The violins are playing! I think Im navigating it well. I dont feel like, Oh , no, the end is in sight! Im like, Well, whats next? Where do we go now?

Im excited about the second half of my career, she continues. So far, its better than the first half. I feel like my life right now is better than its ever been, personally and professionally. So I have more wrinkles on my face. Its been interesting.

She chuckled when she talks about the biggest changes in their own lives. There are people who are fans of Younger who are only now becoming aware that she can sing, which she detects especially hilariousespecially holding shes spent the better part of a decade with Broadway fans playing out videos of her performing Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie on YouTube.

In a route, shes grateful that her face is on the sides of buses and that shes more recognizable at this time in her life when shes older, more settled, and grounded enough to know that this is a simply a task and fame is not a lifestyle.

I think that helps me to be able to look at my career as a whole, she says. I want to work until Im 80, or beyond. She laughs. I want the Angela Lansbury life. I do.

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