The fifth season of Younger premieres tonight, and fresh out the gate, the series is tackling a very timely topic: sexual harassment in the workplace. Without giving away spoilers, the discussion kicks off when Liza (played by Sutton Foster) finds herself the subject of inappropriate advances from an author at her book company. Her reaction sets into motion a series of events that result in a major #MeToo moment at Empirical Press. And, as always, she has her BFF and co-worker Kelsey, played by Hilary Duff, there to support her through it all.
According to Duff, highlighting the power of the #MeToo movement in the season premiere was a no-brainer—although the storyline wasn’t initially planned to shake out this way. “Our writers are very clever, and I think we had the perfect set up to do this after the way that last season went,” she recently told InStyle. “But it was totally by accident. No one saw the #MeToo movement coming, so the writers saw it as an opportunity to use a current event in a way that didn’t feel forced. It was kind of perfect, actually, because we had this creepy-creep character that was always inappropriate with Liza. It felt like a very important thing to touch on and we had the perfect set up to do it, so timing-wise, I think we just got lucky.”
The moment of reckoning brings both the TV Land series’ male and female characters together, uniting them against the predator among them. And it again emphasizes the mutual support between the strong and driven female characters at its center, Kelsey and Liza. “I think that relationship is my favorite part of the show,” said Duff. “Of course there’s the love interests and hookups and guys that come and go, and that’s all fun to watch. But there’s such a sweetness to the fact that they have each other’s backs. Liza saves the day a lot; Kelsey’s the big-picture person and makes a lot happen. At the end of the day, they really just appreciate each other.”
And, as the revelation of Liza’s actual age once proved, nothing could get between them. Still, prepare to see their friendship tested repeatedly this season. “Their relationship is going to sustain all, and they really couldn’t do it without one another,” said Duff. “But midway through this season, someone very important finds out about Liza’s age and that’s very frustrating. The show’s about so much more than that now—and it’s very exciting to me that the whole lying-about-your-age thing isn’t the biggest topic. But it really puts Kelsey’s imprint and all that she’s worked for at risk, so I think she’s really frustrated with Liza that the lies are kind of bubbling to the top and making her life hard.”
Keep reading for our full chat with Duff about all things Younger, and tune into the season premiere on June 5 at 10 p.m. ET on TV Land.
Where do we find your character, Kelsey, when the show picks up? Empirical is struggling as a company—there’s a lot of internal stuff happening that we don’t know about. But [Kelsey’s imprint] Millennial is doing great. So Kelsey’s getting really frustrated that she has all of these ideas for the company but Charles is not really giving her what she needs to move forward. He’s also throwing Zane onto her projects or giving control over to him. It’s very frustrating for her. She also doesn’t see Zane’s worth yet. She knows what he’s capable of at another company, but he hasn’t had an author or a book in a long time. They obviously have this sexual tension and this tumultuous relationship, and I think she’s just at the end of her rope. She’s contemplating finally leaving and finding a different company.
Are you personally rooting for Kelsey and Zane to make it as a couple? No. I like having Zane around, but no he’s not good enough for her.
Kelsey is super competitive. How do you think that’s going to play a role in her relationship with Zane, moving forward? I think it’s the biggest attraction between the two of them, and also the biggest frustration. It’s like they’re constantly playing this cat and mouse game, because they’re super competitive with one another. But towards the middle of the season—not to give too much away—but this big shift happens where Kelsey starts to see other people and him at the same time, so she’s basically acting like a dude. The tables turn a bit. He becomes a little more sensitive and you really feel like he cares about her, but you still can’t trust his smile. You’re like, “What’s going on? Is this just to get ahead or do you really care?” And, we still don’t know! So it’s really interesting.
What do you love most about playing an ambitious twenty-something? I love the juxtaposition of the ages on the show—there’s like this reverse ageism thing happening. I love that Kelsey is smart as a whip and that she knows what she’s talking about, is extremely confident, and is a millennial. Millennials get so much shit for, like, paying $21 for avocado toast. I’m sure that every generation has been like, “Well, things are hard as hell! Look at all of these changes happening!” But in this day and age with the boom of social media, it’s a whole new world to navigate and profit on. So I feel like a lot of millennials deserve respect, especially the ones that are ambitious and doing amazing things. Kelsey is definitely one of them, so it’s cool to see her fight for her position and really know her worth. She’s been doing the same things for so long in this world, and that’s getting stagnant. It’s not working anymore.
Do you think her ambition ever gets the best of her? Yes. First of all, let me say that you’re always able to make mistakes. But she is in her twenties and that’s your time when you can really fall flat on your face because you take a risk. And God bless her for taking risks! That’s half the battle. People are so scared to fail now, and she will throw something out there and see what sticks. It doesn’t always stick, but she’s not afraid of that—and I love that about her. I also love that she goes out and parties and gets drunk and stays out too late, but she’s going to be there on Monday morning and she’s going to know what she needs to do to make things happen.
Clearly, Kelsey is very driven. But do you think she measures success in a healthy way? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with how much she works, and I think she really loves her job. I don’t think it’s just to be successful or get ahead—I think she’s actually passionate about books and what she does. I do think that she goes for the wrong guys, though. Earlier on in the show before she knows Liza’s age, she’s like, “Oh my God, we are not going to be young parents. That is just the kiss of death.” And, I don’t necessarily believe that.
Do you think motherhood is in the cards for Kelsey? I do not see her being a mother anytime soon [laughs]. God, no! People are always like, “What’s similar about your characters?” And I actually feel like we’re very similar and I totally relate to her if you take the motherhood out of my life. I don’t think she’s nurturing like I am. I knew I wanted to be a mom at a young age and that would be scary [if she was a mom right now].
What kind of mother do you think she’d be? I don’t think she’d be a bad mom. I just think she’s too young right now. I don’t see it for her future yet. If she could, I think she would have a lot of nannies and still be going out to a lot of publishing parties every night, and I’m, like, allergic to the parties. I just want to be home.