How The Bold Type Is Redefining Workplace Romance for the #MeToo Era
In its first season, The Bold Type lived up to its name. The series, which follows a trio of twenty-something BFFs working for a women’s magazine, didn’t shy away from tackling everything from Trump’s travel ban to genetic testing for the BRCA gene. That momentum is going strong in season two. The effects of the #MeToo movement were front and center in its first two episodes, which premiered last night on Freeform. And no one was more attuned to the current state of affairs—specifically, interoffice affairs—than Meghann Fahy’s character, Scarlet magazine fashion assistant Sutton Brady.
At the center of Sutton's drama last season was a secret relationship with Richard Hunter (Sam Page). Their passion was white-hot and their affection pure—just one snag: Richard is an influential board member of publishing company where Sutton is a low-ranking assistant. Which brings us to last night’s premiere. Sutton and Richard finally got the green light to date—publicly!—due to a #MeToo-era HR policy allowing them to go on record about a consensual sexual relationship. Sutton was all for it—until she got slut-shamed by fellow assistants for having previously slept with a different coworker, Alex, a writer who outranked her. So if #Suttard has any chance of succeeding, Sutton and Richard still have a lot to figure out about the fraught power dynamics of sexual harassment and sexist double standards.
Fahy, for one, has always taken the unequal power dynamic between the two characters into account. “Even before the #MeToo movement really became a thing, I think it was something that everybody was thinking about,” she tells InStyle. “Of course, there was an awareness of the fact that this [difference] existed. It was a huge part of Sutton’s storyline, and it’s an important story to call attention to.”
For the writers and actors, it was also important to make sure the relationship played out appropriately and rather than in an exploitative way. “We wanted to represent a relationship that is completely mutual,” says Fahy. “In no way was Sutton coerced or pressured into her relationship with Richard; these are two people who genuinely love and respect each other, and that was important for us to showcase. At no point does Richard do anything to make Sutton feel small or belittle her. He's never anything but kind and loving and supportive towards her, and I think that what's so exciting about the Sutton-Richard relationship. In film and television, we’ve all seen an older, more powerful man engage in a relationship with a younger, less powerful woman, so we really played against stereotype in a way that I’m really proud of.”
Can ethical office romances really exist in a #MeToo era? Fahy weighs in. Scroll down for our full chat about season two of The Bold Type, and tune into new episodes on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform.
Sutton and Richard's relationship feels pure to viewers—but their coworkers' perceptions almost toppled their romance. It’s a problem that a woman and a man in Sutton and Richard's positions have to think about, because they do really love and care about each other. The only thing keeping them apart is the fact that they both work at the same place. And in season two, we really get into the fact that Sutton is talented and working as hard as she can to succeed in the field that she’s passionate about—yet all of that could be discredited if anybody finds out about her relationship with Richard. That’s horrible to her, so horrible that she doesn't know if she can be with Richard. It's sad that a woman might have to sacrifice a loving, healthy relationship to protect her reputation. And that's a very real issue that I think a lot of women in the workplace deal with.
In the season premiere, Sutton is slut-shamed by a co-worker for sleeping with another coworker, Alex. What do you make of that? I remember growing up, the more people a woman had slept with, the less she was made to feel like she’s worth, and men are praised for having slept with a lot of women. It's an insane double standard, and it's important that we're showcasing this kind of thing. Alex is a friend and these two people really value each other. They got drunk and slept together, and for Sutton to be shamed for that is so crazy to me. But it happens all the time. We want to help re-write that narrative and empower women. Your body is your body—you are treating it however you choose, and your worth is not determined by any sexual experience that you've had. It's a bummer that anyone would say otherwise.
Ultimately, it’s Sutton’s boss, Jacqueline, who encourages her not to let anyone fault her for getting along well with men. How do you think that was handled? I loved that scene, because I've definitely struggled with that in particular. It’s really hard to feel like if you're nice to somebody, they're gonna think that you're flirting with them and then they’re going to expect something from you. So many women have felt that way before—guys think you're flirting with them if you just ask them how they're doing. So I loved that we touched on that a little bit, because it's true. Sutton is a people person and that is a power that she has. Jacqueline gave her permission to be herself and to lean into that instead of away from it. It spoke to me, so I'm sure that other people will be able to relate to that as well. I’m thrilled.
Are you shipping Sutton and Richard? Personally, I would love to see Sutton and Richard together because I do think that they're really a great couple. The intentions are pure on both sides of the relationship. In the first season we saw this push-pull with them, and it would be really lovely to see Sutton be happy with him. I'm team Suttard.
What season two moment are you most excited for? The first season on the show was shocking to some people, but in a great way—and there’s going to be more of that. We are talking about everything, pushing the envelope. There’s a body positivity episode that I'm really excited about, personally. The girls are involved in a photo shoot where they are highlighting their flaws, or things that they feel insecure about, and [costars] Katie [Stevens], Aisha [Dee], and I all picked real-life things about our real bodies that we wanted to share and say, “Hey, look, I've struggled with acne for my whole life and I want to say that I do.” Just sort of remove the stigma. Aisha did stretch marks and Katie did moles that she has on her body, and they're beautiful. So I'm really excited about that because it's so personal. We really brought ourselves to that episode, so I think people will be pretty excited to see that.
How do you think the dynamic between the three young women at the center of The Bold Type—Jane, Kat, and Sutton—redefines millennial female friendship? I think the big takeaway is that we don't have to tear someone else down to succeed. Two people can win, three people can win—there's room for everybody. I was speaking to Katie last night about all of this, and we were sort of reflecting on how supportive we all are of each other. And I said to her, “I want you to have everything that you want.” And she was like, “I want you to have everything you want.” I think a lot of times, young women are sort of taught to be competitive with each other—to compete for male attention, compete for popularity, and all kinds of things. Women are sort of pitted against each other without even really being aware of it at such a young age, and a lot of that has been reflected in film and TV for years. But what we're doing is different.