"Thank god we're on this show that's boldly f*cking representing the queer community in a light-hearted yet fierce way," Molly Bernard exclaims as we chat to discuss what's next for her and her character Lauren ahead of the season five premiere of Younger, returning on June 5.
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Playing one of television's first pansexual characters (who is best friends with Hilary Duff on the show), Bernard fully understands the privilege and importance of her trailblazing character and is eager for audiences to see her character evolve and grow with this new season. She too continues to grow personally, exploring with her sexuality as a queer woman.
In our chat below, Bernard opens up about Younger, her groundbreaking character, and where she's at in her personal life, including more about a new relationship.
OUT: You play a trailblazing character and one of the first pansexual characters on TV. What's it like to play a sexually fluid character, and what does it mean for the industry as a whole?
Molly Bernard: First of all, I have the privilege of playing the most fun character on the show. What I think it means for the industry and for Hollywood is that representation is crucial. And the thing that the creator Darren Star has been so responsible about is that he's made it so nobody ever questions Lauren's sexuality. It's never up for debate, and nobody ever judges it. Lauren just does whatever Lauren wants, and people just accept it, without defining her.
How have fans reacted to your character and the representation on the show?
MB: People often write about how they love that I play someone that really does love herself, and how inspiring that is. Young actresses will also reach out and say, 'thank you for playing someone so fearless'--and that is one of the highest compliments.
That's really powerful.
MB: It is really powerful. And I think in terms of representation, Lauren doesn't actually struggle with her sexuality -- and I know that that can often be a very difficult experience. She loves herself unconditionally.
Now, in term of yourself, how would you describe your sexuality today?
MB: That's a great question. I think in terms of the LGBTQ+ community--I'm definitely in line with the plus aspect, and am in a very happy relationship right now with a woman. I don't necessarily know what that means, but I've always identified as queer -- despite the fact that have been in a handful of heterosexual relationships. Sometimes I feel bi, sometimes I feel much more than bi and much more on the spectrum. It's sexuality, and sometimes people just don't have that definitive answer--maybe one day I will. But who knows.
Your co-star Nico Tortorella is very open about his sexuality and recently came out about how he's now exploring his gender identity and expression more. Do you chat with him about your character and personal development?
MB: Oh yes, we chat a lot. He helps me understands things I don't understand, and vice versa. I love Nico. I think he's incredibly brave--and I think in terms of representation, his thing is that he's a totally handsome, seemingly cis-presenting, cute white guy. And he's very aware of the privilege that comes with that. But he's really really interested in how he presents his hetero-normative beauty and he really is who he is. In fact, we were talking yesterday and he struggles with his sexual identity too--despite the fact that he's open about it. It's unclear, which is what non-binary is.
To that, I'm sure there are a ton of other people in the entertainment industry that have sexual fluid lives and aren't as open about it. But I think when people like Janelle Monae, or Nico, and others come out, more and more people are now understanding the importance of what it has on the world--representation is key. It makes the queer community stronger to know that there are allies and queer people in the spotlight.
But of course, there's still a long way to go in terms of queer representation in the entertainment industry in general.
And back to Younger, what can we expect on this new season?
MB: The season in general is so fantastic. It is the best season yet. If you're a fan--this season is unbelievable. What a privilege to be on a show for five seasons and let these characters live five years of life. Lauren dives real deep into spear-heading her own business, her own PR firm. She hires a gender-queer assistant played by Jesse James Keitel. And they are a beautiful together. One of my favorite scenes so far is when Lauren schools the entire cast of characters on gender pronouns.
Seriously. Sometimes I think, thank god we're on this show that's boldly representing the queer community, in a very generous, light-hearted yet fierce way. Because that's really key to visibility. Representation can't just be about preaching to the choir. The Younger audience really varies,it's not just young people in NYC and LA--so representation and how it's depicted is critical.
Watch the trailer for the new season below--and catch it live next week on TV Land.
Please note that parts of this interview have been modified for clarity.