Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant plays Annie in Shrill, Hulu’s adaptation of the best-selling Lindy West memoir. The hilarious, wrenchingly real series is destined to become your new favorite show.
Here, Bryant shares how she connects to her character and why she doesn't consider Shrill a "plus-size show."
Marie Claire: What drew you to this material?
Aidy Bryant: I loved Lindy West’s essay collection, Shrill. It’s one of the first things I ever read where I was like, “Oh, this is my story in a lot of ways.” There was so much overlap. I also had the ability to help create the show with the showrunners—to write it and produce it with them—and that was huge for me, because I knew if I wanted to do something outside of SNL, I had to be as involved as I am at SNL.
MC: So some of the stories come from your own experiences? What was that like?
AB: A lot of it is very close to the bone, so it was very intense. But it definitely made it easier for me in some of these scenes to just tap into how I felt at those times in my life when I was really hating myself. It was not that far from the surface. Also, what made it easier was just to have a sense of how much it would have meant to me to hear these kinds of stories when I was younger.
MC: This is a show that can speak to so many people—like that scene when Annie’s roommate tells her she’s being so mean to herself and she replies, “That’s what’s going through my head all the time.” That felt uncomfortably familiar.
AB: It would be easy to put a label on the show and be like, “It’s a plus-size show.” You know? But I think that it really speaks to anyone who has a hyper critical voice inside their head, and sometimes when you’re getting messages from the outside it can be really hard to overcome and to get anything done. Some of it is just taking a moment to be like, “Hold on, I don’t have to listen to these skewed media voices that are coming my way. I can find things about myself of great value that aren’t just my appearance.” There’s a relief in that.
MC: I also love the best friend relationship. It's just really special and fun to watch.
AB: Yeah. It's my favorite part of the show, is the relationship between Annie and Fran. And honestly, even my favorite part of the show in making it was my relationship with Lolly [Adefope], the actress who plays Fran. I just adore her, and I'm so excited for America to meet her, because she is such a force, and she's also someone who has great principles in how she lives her life and what she thinks is right and wrong. I think it made it really easy to play this relationship because we just really did hit it off.
She's so wonderful, and I think for a lot of women, your backbone and your heartbeat is your friends. And at least for me I think especially like in developing my own self-confidence and even my sense of style and personality, it always came from my best, best friends. I think that's an important part of the show. She's not going it alone. She has someone in her corner, and she's in her friend's corner too and it's nice.
MC: What other aspects of the show are you excited about?
AB: Almost 80 percent of my wardrobe we made from scratch, and part of that was just not being able to find clothes that fit who this girl was. That’s really telling—that there are still these huge holes in the plus-size market clothing-wise that don’t give people a sense of choice in their style. I think that will be both empowering for people to see—here are all these cool clothes on this fat woman—but also a little bit of a statement and a question for the fashion industry: Why don’t these things exist? It’s changing, but there are holes, and it’s not fair.
MC: What would your elevator pitch be for why someone should watch this show and what makes you excited about it?
AB: God, I wish I had a prepared answer for this, but off the cuff? I think this show is something that I would have wanted to see when I was 15, 16, 17, because it really embodies the idea that you can make your life what you want it, and you don't have to accept what you've been told. It's funny and it's sweet along the way, and I think that's a nice show to watch.
Shrill premieres on Hulu March 15.
This article originally appears in the March issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.