It’s Okay to Not “Find Yourself” Until You’re 30—This Younger Star Shares How the Show Transformed Her
We were first introduced to Molly Bernard on TV Land’s unsuspecting hit show Younger, where she currently plays the role of Lauren, a feisty redhead publicist. After debuting, the show quickly gained popularity, and consequently so did Molly’s character—one of the first pansexual characters publicly portrayed on television.
To be in such an important role, you have to have the acting chops to back it up; luckily, that is not something Molly is lacking in: She graduated from the Yale School of Drama, has performed in live theater, has appeared in numerous films, and boasts TV credits for groundbreaking shows like Transparent.
Off-screen, she’s not much different. Molly describes herself as a “complicated, driven woman who is fiercely pursuing her dreams [while] trying to be a stable and reliable human being.” We think it’s working for her; she’s breaking barriers in Hollywood and she is seriously fierce AF.
We got the chance to chat with Molly about the struggles of being in Hollywood, the importance of self-worth, the reality of anxiety and the mentors that have helped her along the way.
TV: What’s it like playing one of television’s first pansexual characters and why is it so important for the mainstream conversation?
MB: What is it like? It’s a delight, it’s a privilege. I don’t take it lightly and yet it’s not all that Lauren is—the writer’s are really smart in that regard. People notice her more for her quirkiness and her boldness way more than for her sexual orientation, and that’s a win as far as queer representation on television.
It’s incredibly important for the broader audience to see that a queer person can just be a cool, awesome young woman and she’s not leading with the fact that she sleeps with women or men. Or non-binary people. She sleeps with people regardless of their gender and that’s cool. There is an episode early on where Lauren’s mom just says “she’ll sleep with anything that moves, we love her.” It’s obviously a face definition of pansexual, but her parents just love and accept her for who she is and that’s crucial.
TV: In reading some of your past interviews, there was a quote that stood out to us: “Thank god we’re on this show that’s boldly f*cking representing the queer community in a light-hearted, yet, fierce way!”
MB: That’s how I feel queer representation should be. The thing our show does really well is it treats everyone equally and boldly. It is a light show, but everything happens in a size 72 font, rather than at a subtle 12. It’s so fucking rad to be on a show where those are the guiding principles. That’s a treat.
TV: One thing that has intrigued us about Lauren’s character is how she loves herself fully and is completely comfortable in her own skin, which is not always an easy place to get to. How do you think she accomplishes that?
MB: She’s got some divine sense of self-worth. Playing her has been a gift because it’s helped me channel a little bit. I think it starts with her parents; not a lot of characters on the show have parents other than Lauren and I think they are there for a reason. I think part of the reason they are there is to show us that she is unconditionally loved. I think that’s where her self-worth comes from.
TV: Has playing these characters—whether it be Lauren on Younger or Young Shelly on Transparent—changed the way you live your life and/or see yourself
MB: Yes, absolutely. I mean when I first started doing Younger, I was still sleeping with men and operating under mostly heteronormative structures. That’s out the window now. I mean, I think my truth just happened a little later in life. I was nearly 30 when I met the woman I loved, that I love, that I still love. That I live with.
It’s funny, Lauren, even though I play her and she’s a character, she is very dear to me. She’s taught me a lot. Especially being on Transparent, I have learned so much about the trans community and have trans friends and am in that conversation and curious and ready to be taught a lot. A lot of being an ally and an advocate is listening and not being noisy and just trying to be the best friend you can be.
TV: You recently wrapped production for the indie film Milkwater. In reading about the film, the Writer/Director, Morgan Ingari, talks a lot about challenging assumptions and opinions and giving a voice to people (and women) who are often reduced to a stereotype or a B-list character. What did it mean to you work alongside Morgan and to be part of a film like list?
MB: Morgan is one of the most confident people I have ever met in my life. It is amazing to know her because she is so bold. She just got her movie made, she got her dream team assembled. She is a fierce, fierce woman. Her guiding principle was that this was first and foremost a queer film made by a queer female filmmaker. She employed woman. We basically had a solidly female crew. All of the department heads were women. That was amazing, to work alongside her. You have to give over to that kind of ferocity and energy. We made this beautiful thing together and it was easy just to hop on board and do whatever she said.
TV: What is the importance of women supporting women for you?
MB: That is one of the great joys of being a woman: supporting other women. It’s unlike anything else. That’s also been one of the secret delights about realizing my own queerness. I have so many close, incredible female friends that I don’t want to sleep with, but I love them deeply and would step in front of busses for them and yet, I also love my partner, in this incredible way that I had never been able to love a man before.
Women are the coolest just like deeply the coolest creatures on the earth. Other than dogs. Maybe dogs then women.
TV: Tell us about a trying time in your career. What kept you moving and what pushed you forward to where you are today?
MB: I’d say the most trying time in my career was the very beginning. My first pilot season was pretty dark. It was very exciting, but it was also made me feel like, I will never be pretty enough, it will never work, Hollywood is for pretty people and pretty people only, there’s no room for quirkness or for me. It really dug deep. I went through the “I’m fat, I’m ugly” phase… it was so unlike me. It was really intense, and eventually I went upstate and spent a month with my favorite theater company, Siti Company, who are like my theater family. I adopted Henry, my dog, and I came back to New York a totally different woman. I just needed to be reminded of my own power as an artist and that my career will be whatever it’s going to be, but I have to stay true to myself and my heart. Ultimately, that’s what got me through it. The reality of Hollywood being a place for a certain kind of person is extremely daunting, and that feeling hasn’t gone away, but I just don’t engage with it anymore. I don’t give it as much power as I did when I was 24.
TV: What is the most important piece of advice you can share with women who are struggling right now?
MB: My most important piece of advice would be to have a strong community and to go to therapy. Learn some cognitive restructuring, because I know I struggle with very intense anxiety, without Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I wouldn't have the tools to reframe my thinking.
Spend good time with yourself; it’s really hard. It’s okay if you’re not feeling well right now. It will fall into place. Things didn’t get easy for me until I was almost 30. I worked really hard in therapy to learn how to live with it. No, overcome it. Not beat it, nothing like that, just learned how to let that anxiety be a part of my everyday life, too.
TV: In 50 years from now, what do you want to be remembered for?
MB: Oh wow. I guess for being a really strong, loving, talented actress who inspired other people to be healthy, good, and true to themselves.
You can catch Molly on TV Land’s Younger and make sure to follow her here for updates on all the awesome things she’s working on!
All photos courtesy of Peter Yang/TV Land