When Aisha Dee was cast as social media director Kat on Freeform’s “The Bold Type,” it was of the utmost importance to her that the show “not be totally basic.”
So she decided to pitch the show’s writers some ideas of her own ― one involving her stretch marks, which most women have on their body, though they are rarely seen on TV. “I’m not covered in stretch marks, but I’m a human being woman, so I have some … on my ass and thighs,” Dee said. “I’ve never seen that in a young adult show. And I wish I had. So we found a way to [work them into ‘The Bold Type’] this season in a way that feels very organic.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking, like Dee, that “The Bold Type” is “basic.” On the surface, it is a story of three 20-somethings ― Kat, Sutton (Meghann Fahy) and Jane (Katie Stevens) ― who work at the fictional Scarlet Magazine in New York City. (The series is inspired by the Cosmopolitan office run by former editor-in-chief Joanna Coles.)
“Originally, when you hear the premise, at least for me, I was like … ‘Come on, seriously?’ It’s three girls in New York, and they’re trying to make it big in the big city, and I kind of called bullshit,” Dee explained during an interview with her co-stars at HuffPost’s office in Manhattan. “Then I realized, no, it’s actually more than that. It’s deeper than that, and it’s subverting every idea you thought you had about that as a genre.”
We’re living in a political time. It’s a show about now.”
Aisha Dee, who plays Kat on “The Bold Type”
Indeed, “The Bold Type,” which began its sophomore season this week, is so much more than a frothy romp about ~*ladies making it big*~. (Though it is fun and frothy in a way that’s highly refreshing, a relief during a moment where very little feels fun, frothy or refreshing.) What seems like a glossy series draped in haute couture and never-smudged eyeliner gladly gives way to pricklier plot points. Beyond stretch marks, the show’s second season tackles workplace romances in the Me Too era, gun control, the never-ending complexities of female friendships, sexual and racial identity ― all through the experiences of three young working women who ask more questions than they can answer.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t really ever see anything like this [show],” Stevens said, describing the series’ characters as constantly supportive, nonjudgmental and overtly complimentary as they tread through their arcs together. “All I saw on TV were girls backstabbing each other. Or you know, if somebody is super career-driven, they don’t have a love life. Or, if they have a love life, they’re not super career-driven. We can have our careers, we can have our personal lives, and not feel bad about it. And so I feel like that’s really what our show showcases.”
The most impressive accomplishment of “The Bold Type” is that it manages to tackle intense issues without beating any one message over viewers’ heads. There is a seamless integration of political themes with conversations about dating and job changes and family dynamics. In other words, the show reflects the way things happen in real life ― a messy mix of the political and personal on a day-to-day basis.
The first episodes of Season 2 epitomize this seamless integration. Sutton, who was previously involved with a colleague significantly senior to her, is trying to weigh the pros and cons of going public with a relationship. She has significantly more on the line, both personally and professionally, than her love interest, Richard, whose career is solidified and will face no slut-shaming or charges of profiting from favoritism.
Kat, who comes back from an extended trip abroad fully committed to Iranian activist and photographer Adena El Amin (Nikohl Boosheri), has to confront her nervousness about performing oral sex on her first-ever girlfriend. But rather than using the plot point as an anxiety-inducing evaluation of her sexual identity, “The Bold Type” makes it clear that Kat’s concerns are more mundane ― she’s mostly worried that she won’t be any good at something she’s never done before. The resolution of conflict is both relatable and deeply tender, solidifying Kat and Adena’s love story as one of the show’s most affecting.
Meanwhile, Jane, the intrepid reporter, has left her job at Scarlet Magazine for the trendier though significantly less familial online publication Incite. She finds herself grappling with the effect journalism can have on the lives of the people she reports on, trying to strike a balance between journalistic integrity and getting eyes on her stories.
“I don’t think that there is a show that speaks to like, the political realities and sexual realities of the generation the way that our show does,” Fahy said. Dee added that while “The Bold Type” is “not a political show… We’re living in a political time. It’s a show about now.”
I have to admit that this particular version of “now” feels especially seductive when you’re a female journalist who lives in New York watching a show about three women who work in media in New York. The show is serious-but-not-too-serious about offering a realistic peek inside an industry maligned by some and glorified by others. I wondered how Dee, Fahy and Stevens felt playing lady journos on television and then going on a press tour to be interviewed by them.
Stevens joked about using their press appearances as character research. “When we come to things like this and people are doing the whole like, pressing the button and recording and then they’re writing the stories about it, that’s more of what my job is [on the show],” she said. “So I more so watch what everybody does … This is research for me. I’m like, all right, how does she hit the button? Is she writing anything down?”
And therein lies the beauty of “The Bold Type”: There’s enough eye-winking to remind us that no one, not even the best-dressed of your colleagues, has everything figured out.
Watch the women of “The Bold Type” conduct a fake pitch meeting at HuffPost in the video above. Warning: Two-thirds of the ladies are self-identified plant killers.