[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for the “Single Drunk Female” Season 1 finale, including the ending.]
Over the course of the first season of “Single Drunk Female,” success comes in wildly different forms. Whether it’s the incremental steps that multiple characters take toward maintaining sobriety or learning how to say sorry, it’s sometimes hard for Sam (Sofia Black-D’Elia) to gauge how much she should actually celebrate.
After some early stumbles and a string of stressful moments that could have kept her from getting to that point, Sam finishes Season 1 with over a year of sobriety. That wasn’t necessarily part of series creator Simone Finch’s original plan. But in working with fellow executive producer Jenni Konner, Finch found a season-ending symmetry in the journeys of Sam and sobriety pal-turned-romantic interest James (Garrick Bernard).
“I wanted Sam to relapse, originally. But she was so right about that. That’s boring. What we did is way more interesting,” Finch said. “The scene where they’re outside and he goes back into AA and she’s outside. It’s interesting that, at the end of the season, he’s outside and she’s going in, in a way.”
In addition to focusing on Sam surpassing that year milestone, the last episode of this “Single Drunk Female” season finds two unexpected characters facing an uncertain future side-by-side. After leaving the wedding of her former best friend Brit (Sasha Compère) for the refuge of her mother’s living room, Sam gets an unexpected visitor at the front door: Brit herself. In another case of Sam switching metaphorical places with someone close to her, she now finds herself on the opposite side of a dynamic established early in the season.
“We had always talked about how there is a love story kind of underlying the season, this story of this person that she had this intense close personal friendship with and she betrayed,” said Daisy Gardner, who along with Konner served as co-showrunners on this season. “If she can get Brit back, that almost means her life is whole, in a weird way. If this perfect person approves of her, then this means that she’s done something, she’s achieved something. She can get that relationship back, and she’s on good footing.”
“We built this idea from the beginning, that Sam’s at her bottom and Brit’s up here. She’s a doctor, she’s getting married. Everything’s going great. And they kind of switch places by the end,” Konner said. “It’s uncomfortable for both of them to have this role reversal, for Sam to try to care for Brit and not be very good at it, and for Brit to accept that Sam is the one getting her shit together. They kind of don’t know who they are in these new roles, which will if we get a second season be deeply explored.”
Aside from a tiny end credits dance-break coda to cap it off, the season ends with Brit and Sam sitting in silence. What could easily have been a tricky on-screen situation meant a wealth of options for rounding out the finale.
“It’s great. Who wants to write words? They’re so much work,” Konner joked. “It’s a really lucky thing to be able to do a show where we’re allowed to do that, where we just put them in their childlike positions, the way they grew up playing video games. That really does say a lot, and I think we’re all really excited to be able to do that whenever we can.”
“It was fun to film it, because you could see the two of them finding different things in the silence. There were so many choices to find the one that’s kind of eerie, that stays with you, that seems resonant. They gave us so much,” Gardner said.
If this season defied certain expectations, the same was true for Finch, who also had a much different plan for another character in Sam’s orbit. She explained how, even through the time when Lily Mae Harrington got the call that she would be playing Sam’s close friend Felicia, Harrington was told that she wouldn’t be on the show for long.
“I thought I wanted Felicia to die of a drug overdose. This was going dark. Jenni was like, ‘We can’t kill Felicia. She’s the best character ever. What are you doing to yourself?’ We kept her alive, obviously, because she’s amazing,” Finch said. “We gave her that scene in [Episode 3] where she’s like, ‘I’m not just your drinking buddy.’ That, to me, changed the trajectory for Felicia. She drinks and she’s supportive and they’re friends, and they’ve been through hell together. I think that’s really cool. Now that we took away the alcohol, there really was a real friendship there. That was awesome to see.”
That flow of insight and addition worked both ways amongst the creative team. Konner talked about the way that Finch’s personal experiences with getting sober have helped inform some of the honesty in these character interactions, particularly when it comes to the relationships that Sam has with James and her sponsor Olivia (Rebecca Henderson).
“Simone’s our biggest story generator. She’s coming in and telling us these details,” Konner said. “I didn’t know about the informal [dating] rule of a year and a day. That was new to us. When we started breaking the season and Daisy came in, that became a thing, obviously, we hooked our wagon onto. It’s been great because I do think in the end, we we are telling a truthful version without being depressing.”
“Another thing Jenni and I talked about in the pilot was we wanted AA to look attractive,” Finch said. “Instead of this ‘old man smoking cigarettes’ kind of thing, which it hasn’t been for a long time.”
Of course, no overview of “Single Drunk Female” is quite complete without an acknowledgment of its guest star ensemble. Konner saluted Tami Sagher’s turn as the wedding dress expert who pops up again to be Brit’s wedding day impromptu therapist. Jojo Brown helps to anchor the season’s early episodes as Sam’s grocery store boss Mindy, who’s in the program herself. After hearing about Sam’s dad for an entire season, he appears in the finale-opening dream sequence, played by longtime TV vet Mitchell Hurwitz.
And then there’s Josh, Olivia’s 27-pound cat, who became an instant fan favorite.
“I’ve never seen Jenni dig in so hard or so much about something,” Gardner said. “They were like, ‘We found some big cats for you, Jenni.’ And she said, ‘Not big enough.'”
“I didn’t stop until we got Josh. I don’t even know why I was so obsessed with it. But I was just like, ‘If we’re gonna get a big cat, let’s get a big cat,'” Konner said.
But beyond the St. Patrick’s Day jokes and the flashback hookups and the awkward roller rink encounters, another pillar of “Single Drunk Female” so far has been the ongoing, uneasy truce between Sam and her mother Carol (Ally Sheedy). After almost a whole season of building up to a meaningful apology, Sam finally arrives at the point where she can give an apology and truly mean it, regardless of how Carol might respond.
“I’m really proud of the amends in Episode 9. It kind of does come from my life. And I think it was beautiful. And I think it was sad. And I think it was a moment of connection and disconnection,” Finch said. “So many people on Twitter were like, ‘Oh my God, that was exactly my experience! They always make it about themselves!’ It’s really funny and really true and I love that part.”
The ending of this season tees up a bevy of possibilities for Season 2, including James’ road back to sobriety and Sam following through on the progress she’s made in various areas of her life. Another part of that is an emerging triangle of friendship that could keep the core of this show even closer together than they already are.
“Next season, knock on wood, you now have this new interesting configuration, which is Brit, Sam, and Felicia. There’s a new trio that we don’t have to figure out how to get together because they want to be together,” Gardner said.
Regardless of where things go, the full group of people surrounding Sam and helping her along the way seems to get bigger with each episode.
“I think of Mindy telling James how she sees life as kind of this video game quest. To me, that’s a little bit like how we’ve set up sobriety,” Gardner said. “There’s this amazing treasure and you can get it. It’s going to be an adventure, and there’s gonna be twists and turns. But there’s help if you need it, and you just have to reach out and you have to avoid the obstacles.”
“It’s also important to show, at least for me that, AA is a support system, if you use it that way, if you do the work,” Finch said. “I joke that it takes a village to keep me sober. That togetherness, that whole thing, whether or not you believe in it, it works.”
“Single Drunk Female” Season 1 is now available to watch on Freeform and Hulu.