The Bold Type isn’t a show that’s here to glorify the jealousy and backstabbing that film and television shows about the fashion industry tend to be rife with. Instead, Freeform’s new take on the world of high heels and Christian Dior delves deeper into the importance of female friendships and mentorship, especially when it comes to navigating the “messy years” of your twenties. We sat down with cast members Aisha Dee (Kat), Katie Stevens (Jane), and Melora Hardin (Jacqueline) at this year’s ATX Television Festival in Austin, to discuss their views on feminism, glamour, stressful work environments, and why they’re especially glad to see a show like this on the air.
I think the most obvious comparison that people are going to draw to the show is The Devil Wears Prada. Is that what you expected? Or did you have an idea that it was going to be very different?
KS: For me Sex and the City, rings the most true [as a comparison] because that was about strong females. But that was about women in their thirties and early-forties navigating their way through New York [whereas our show] is navigating the “messy years,” the years in your twenties spent trying to figure out your life, your relationships, your friendships, and your sexuality.
MH: I do think there is a Sex and the City comparison, but lately I’ve started comparing the show to Charlie’s Angels because I really do think that [Jacqueline] is Charlie, and [Kat, Sutton, and Jane] are [her] beautiful angels.
All of your characters have many scenes with lots of different sorts of costumes and outfits and different reasons to dress up or dress down. Is there anything that we can look forward to throughout the season (in this regard), like more glamorous parties?
MH: I will just say in general we have really incredible fashion on this show. We have an amazing costume designer (Frank Fleming) who is so talented and he just really gets all of our characters and we’re wearing just the most amazing things. So if you like fashion, you’re going to love this show.
KS: I’m gonna be honest, Frank puts us in the most amazing things, but sometimes I look at him and I’m like “Frank, how is Jane affording any of this?” and he’s like “she’s just pulling it out of the fashion closet,” and I’m like “okay, good. As long as we know that we’re taking things.”
MH: Also, I think the fun of the show is that it’s set in a glamorous world. But, we’re dealing with really important female-centric issues and I think that it’s really exciting to be on a show that is doing good in the world in that way, because young women get to look at this and say “wow, I’m twenty-six and I want to be a boss like that one day. Or I want a boss like that. I want to find my mentor.” When you hear about women who have been mentored, generally speaking, most of the time they are mentored by men. There’s nothing wrong with that, I think that’s fantastic. But, I am just very excited to see a woman of power on television who’s not a bitch, who’s not cutting her employee’s legs off at the knees when they do something wrong. It’s Jacqueline’s job to help inspire them, to push them, to force them to really rise to their own potential. I think that’s the exciting dichotomy of this show: to couch it in this very sexy, romantic, glamorous world of fashion, but also to be talking about some really serious shit that’s very modern.
AD: Just because you’re wearing lipstick and heels, doesn’t mean that you can’t be strong.
What is the message that you hope these characters will pass on to female viewers?
KS: What drew me so much to this script and to this show is the fact that these are women who are lifting each other up. So many shows, in order to create drama, show female friendships that are backstabbing and my friends aren’t like that. We raise each other up, and we’re so happy for each other’s successes and I think that’s something that girls need to see. If I see a woman that I think is beautiful, I’m going to go up to her and say “you look beautiful,” because I think that women need to hear that, and I think that our show is hopefully going to inspire, and show girls that you can be successful and support other women as well.
MH: We all have amazing women friends. Friends that actually help us and support us and love us. This is obviously not a question just about women. It’s about redefining a conversation that needs to continue being had, about feminism. It’s not man hating, it’s working together in a collaborative way, and honoring the male and female equally.
KS: But in that regard, we have some really incredible men on this show who are part of the fight as well. They’re feminists. All these men who are a part of our show compliment our stories.
At the end of the pilot we see your characters scream on the subway platform. What is something that you would do [like that] in your personal lives to relieve stress after a tough day?
KS: Mine would be food related. I would get a pint of Jeni’s ice cream (in Nashville) and a bottle of wine and lay with my dog, maybe cry, and watch some sad movies and/or Disney movies.
AD: I love to meditate. I had surgery a couple of years ago, and before my surgery someone was like “you should really meditate” and now it’s become a really big part of my life. I know that makes it sound like I have my life very together, but I promise you that I’m in my twenties so it’s all over the place.
We are at a TV festival, so what shows do you love that you would recommend that people watch?
AD: Fleabag on Amazon.
KS: Obviously, This is Us and Westworld even though they’re polar opposites. And Game of Thrones is coming back. I’m so excited about that.
MH: I watched all of Downton Abbey in three weeks. I was obsessed.
AD: And also you should binge Sweet/Vicious!
The Bold Type premieres its first hour TONIGHT 6/20 on Freeform @ 9/8c
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length – images courtesy of Disney ABC)