[This post contains plot details from the second season of Shrill, specifically the fourth episode, “Freak.”]
One of the strengths of Shrill’s second season, which arrived in full on Hulu today, is its eagerness to engage with more aspects of the life of Aidy Bryant’s Annie Easton—as Bryant told us, season one felt like a “character study... it was all about her getting from point A to point B with some sort of body image epiphany. This season, she can sort of move beyond that and start to focus on her actual goals or interests or relationships without being plagued by that looping monologue of self-hatred.” But it also sheds more light on some of the key supporting players, specifically Annie’s mom Vera (Julia Sweeney), and Fran (Lolly Adefope), Annie’s best friend and roommate, a heartbreaker who learns that maybe she’s not quite as okay with breaking hearts as she once was, and who is certainly no expert at having her own broken.
There are many soothing rites of passage when you’re going through something, and some are healthier and wiser than others. (Really think through those bangs before you go through with it.) One such rite of passage is the emotional, cathartic karaoke session. Enter Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow,” and Adefope’s no-joke pipes.
During the winter TCA press tour, The A.V. Club asked Bryant about how this scene came to be. To say her response was giddy would be overstating things, but not by much; her enthusiasm for the performer, the scene, and the fact that they got to include that song at all was palpable:
“We had thought about initially doing a karaoke thing where it would be Fran and [Annie] singing ‘Shallow’ together, and I would sing the Bradley Cooper part and she would sing Lady Gaga, of course. But then we started talking about her doing a sort of solo night, wandering on her own, that kind of thing. And then we thought, ‘What if she sings both parts?’ I had seen a video of Lolly doing [the song] at a karaoke night or something, and my jaw dropped. It was like, ‘What?! She can just wail on one of the hardest songs?’ So then we wrote it into the show, but I kept saying, ‘Well, we’ll never be able to clear this song.’ But we did! Thanks to our music supervisor, they cleared it.
“That day was really exciting. So many of us stayed on set even though we weren’t shooting, because we got watch, you know. She sang it live. It was so good. So good. That song’s a hit, I tell you. Maybe she should do a cover album!”
In her review of the show’s second season, our own Laura Bogart called Shrill “a deeply compassionate show, one that weds blade-sharp observations about culture and character with an abiding tenderness.” Find it on Hulu.