‘Younger’ returns with lesbian storyline

The second season of TV Land’s “Younger” is now underway. The comedy-drama points a satirical finger at the issue of aging, and questions the realities of how women are treated in the workforce. 

Sutton Foster heads the cast as 40-year-old Liza Miller, a divorced single mom. Saddled with a loser of an ex who leaves her in debt, Liza tries to get a job in publishing. It’s only when best friend Maggie (Debi Mazar) gives her a makeover that Liza is able to land a dream job — by lying about her age and passing herself off as 26. 

“I definitely think it’s problematic that Liza has to pretend to be a hot young 20-something to have a good job, but I think that is the message of the show,” said Molly Bernard, who plays Lauren, Maggie’s girlfriend. “The show highlights this very problem with every episode. The writers and creative team are constantly exploring how to navigate that issue situation by situation.”

The actress added that we live in an age-obsessed culture where women are validated based on their age and physical appearance.

“I think it’s important to expose the absurdity of that value system,” she said. “I think ‘Younger’ does a fantastic job illuminating this issue. It’s never too heady, and it’s always done in a good-spirited fashion. I do love that Empirical is an office filled with mostly women! And badass women at that!”

As “Younger’s” second season continues, viewers will see that, while some things remain the same, others have changed considerably. When Ellen DeGeneres — and her TV character — came out in 1997, headlines were made as shock waves reverberated across the country. In “Younger,” the lesbian relationship between Lauren and Maggie barely raises an eyebrow.

“We have come a long way since Ellen’s coming out, thank goodness,” said Bernard. “I think Lauren as a character is actually very impressive. The structure of who she is and how she functions is rare for TV, in my opinion. She is openly gay, straight and pansexual! Lauren is the character who best represents all of the societal and cultural changes that have happened and that are happening now without exploiting any of them.”

A character like Lauren, Bernard feels, is very much needed on the TV landscape.

“In my mind, Lauren is less defined by her sexuality and more defined by her bravery and lust for life,” the actress said. “She lives — fully, fast and furious!”

Bernard further describes Lauren as “a feisty fashion publicist without any inhibitions or boundaries.”

“She is a pansexual goddess,” Bernard added. “She passes no judgment. She’s an open book and always has insane and creative solutions to any problem. She has her finger on the pulse of all social media and digital communications. She is extremely practical, very smart and simultaneously wild. I think the thing that makes her tick is that she is purely about experience. She’ll try anything once, and she’s kicking ass at her career all the while!”

Bernard gives high marks to on-screen girlfriend Mazar. “Working with her is a gift!” she exclaimed. “She is beyond generous, and we always make sure our scenes are playful and honest. The two of us are always looking for moments where we can really connect in our scenes, large and small.”

Bernard told PGN that her grandfather had been co-artistic director of the Lee Strasberg Studio in Hollywood. Strasberg today is best remembered for his Oscar-winning role as Hyman Roth in “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and for being Marilyn Monroe’s acting teacher. It was in this environment that Bernard took her first acting classes.

“I learned how to read going to my grandfather’s acting classes,” she recalled. “He taught me from a young age that acting is a craft and that one must always work to hone it. I still operate under these principles, whether I’m in a play, or auditioning or filming a scene for ‘Younger.’ I graduated with an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, which was incredibly helpful in me understanding that good acting is linked to good being. Yale taught me to get comfortable with the not-knowing. So much of the fun I have on set is finding the scene with my castmates from a place of curiosity. As soon as I think I’ve figured it out, it changes!”

Bernard’s career is definitely on the rise. In addition to “Younger,” she recently filmed scenes for the upcoming film “Sully.” She’ll appear in the film with Tom Hanks, with cinema legend Clint Eastwood in the director’s chair.

“It was an incredibly special moment in my career to work with two of the greats!” she said. “I am so excited to see it on the big screen!”

New episodes of “Younger” are now airing Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on TV Land. Past episodes can be viewed at http://www.tvland.com/shows/younger