We know Hollywood is a landscape of dreams broken, delayed, and often unseen. It’s this fantasy that is at the heart of why we love watching television. But there’s something similarly satisfying with seeing hard work pay off, as it has with the HBO’s new series “Somebody Somewhere.” Comedienne Bridget Everett plays Sam, a Kansas woman struggling to find direction in the wake of her sister’s death. It’s been a long time coming for not just Everett, but the entire cast and creative team.
It’s a simple statement for a show that is seeking to buck the trend of what a television show looks like. It’s a show “where things happen in the cracks between what stories normally focus on,” co-creator Paul Thureen told IndieWire. Paul Thureen and Hannah Bos are both from the Midwest themselves and often write stuff about that part of the world, as well as examining lives that usually aren’t considered worthy of being on TV. The pair did not want to make something that felt like “a TV show”, but was the collision between hilarious and heartbreaking, that found the joy in the simple things that fill up our day. It’s not a spoiler, but the pair wanted to craft a series where there’s no grand epiphany for its characters. Small changes lead to growth, but not in a way that the narrative has to call to it.
In fact, it was crucial to Everett, who is part of the show’s writer’s room and whose life the show is loosely based on, that Sam wasn’t going to be changed by the end. “Every time we tried to make the show have bigger events, that’s when it felt like it was slipping away,” Everett said. “And Sam’s journey to come back to life is small steps, but they’re big moments.” Everett also didn’t want Sam to make any transformations out of a need for a romantic relationship. Which is why the central relationship that blossoms throughout the show is the friendship between Sam and Joel (Jeff Hiller), her optimistic coworker who pushes Sam to be a stronger version of herself.
Thureen and Bos, long-time best friends themselves, always knew they wanted to focus on a platonic relationship in the series and part of the show’s uniqueness is in watching Sam and Joel driving around in search of something to do. “That’s a very Midwest thing, being stuck in cars,” said Bos. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m just watching two people in a Le Sabre, and I’m dying laughing.” Whether one lives in the Midwest or not, it’s impossible not to be charmed and find something relatable in these moments of Joel and Sam bonding while driving. Thureen said he struggles to remember his prom but remembers the car rides, listening to music with his friends, and just searching for someplace to go.
Everett and Hiller’s indomitable chemistry keeps these moments compelling throughout the series, and both are actors whose work in Hollywood has paid off. Like Everett, Hiller also found commonalities between himself and Joel, though unlike Everett the part wasn’t written autobiographically. “[Joel] was this character that you really haven’t seen before, which is the the queer person who also is a member of a faith community and isn’t being persecuted by the faith community,” Hiller said. “And I’m a queer person. I grew up in a faith community. I was a theology major in college. He felt very similar to me.”
Since each had toured the same comedy clubs, Hiller knew Everett — “mainly we would trade cat and dog pictures” — but he initially felt intimidated working opposite her. “When you watch her on stage, you’re not like, ‘She seems sweet.’ You’re like, ‘Whoa, she’s fire and if I touch her I might get burned.’ So I was a little bit scared,” he said. Everyone associated with the project mentions the “Bridget-fication” of the show, especially Bos who was struck by the many sides of Everett. Sam can be sexy and confident, but also messy and struck with an inner hurt and depression that causes her to push people away.
“What I’ve discovered over the past 20 years of a lot of hustle is just that every time I’m clear[er] to who I am, and more specific to who I am, the better things are gonna go,” said Everett. She recalls playing basketball in Brooklyn with friends Murray Hill (who plays the wonderfully named Fred Rococo in the series), and musical artists Champagne Jerry and Adam Horvitz of the Beastie Boys. While playing Everett started singing a song about different kinds of breasts. “I was like, ‘This is silly, right?’ And Adam was like, ‘That sounds like a hit!'” Everett said. It was a moment Everett took to heart, especially as she understands she doesn’t fit the mold of what networks might be looking for.
It’s something Hiller also understands, joking that the majority of his career has seen him play a lot of waiters and bitchy customer service representatives. As he says, there are certainly jobs he’s taken to keep his health insurance going. But what sticks out to him about the series is how it’s filled with performers who have been waiting to make their big break. “Mary Katherine [Garrison, who plays Tricia], Murray Hill, Bridget, we’re all people who’ve been trying to make something happen for 25 years,” he said. Hiller even jokes that the dog who Joel meets during Episode 5, a middle-aged animal actor, was able to get her shot with this series.
The cast and creatives return to the word “hope” — hope of landing a job, hope of forming a connection, hope of finding where one belongs — which they want viewers to see within “Somebody Somewhere.”
“It’s a very lonely time,” said Bos. “A lot of people are lost within themselves…I hope there’s a feeling of connection in this show.” More importantly, everyone wants those who don’t feel seen to believe they can take the chances in life they’ve long denied themselves. “I hope the series inspires them to jump off the cliff and fly,” said Everett.
“Somebody Somewhere” airs Sundays on HBO.