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Single Drunk Female's Lily Mae Harrington Refuses to Be the 'Funny Best Friend'

Harrington opens up about Felicia's new relationship and her big moment with Ally Sheedy in Season 2.
  • Single Drunk Female star Lily Mae Harrington (Photo: Freeform/Sami Drasin)
    Single Drunk Female star Lily Mae Harrington (Photo: Freeform/Sami Drasin)

    [Editor's Note: This interview contains spoilers for Single Drunk Female Season 2.]

    Underestimate Single Drunk Female's Felicia at your own risk. A single mother with a thick Boston accent and a killer sense of style, Felicia — played by scene-stealer Lily Mae Harrington — is the first to cheer on Sam (Sofia Black-D'Elia) as she begins her journey towards sobriety, but she's also willing to take her friend to task, when needed, and hold her accountable for her mistakes.

    In Season 2, which is now streaming in its entirety on Hulu, Felicia's story begins to develop independently of Sam: She renews her friendship with Brit (Sasha Compère) and finds a partner in Pete (Ben Thompson), a surgeon who inspires her to consider life beyond Malden, Massachusetts. Felicia even has an emotional confrontation with Sam's mother Carol (Ally Sheedy), who has long believed Felicia to be a bad influence, and the two come out on the other side with a mutual respect for one another.

    Harrington tells Primetimer that she's made it a priority to depict Felicia as the fun-loving, sexy woman she really is, "not as someone's funny best friend." In an interview, Harrington weighs in on Felicia's new relationship, her big moment with Sheedy, and the "special recipe" that makes Simone Finch's semi-autobiographical comedy so successful.

    Felicia is so much more than just a drinking buddy: Her relationship with Sam is so layered, and as we see in Season 1's roller rink scene, she's unafraid to call Sam out when she's being a bad friend. When you signed on to the show, was Felicia already this fully formed?

    This character has developed in so many different ways than when I first came on board. When I first auditioned for the role, there were a lot of options about what could go on with her. It was actually a very dramatic storyline of her also officially being an alcoholic and losing her kid. I remember I had this big dramatic scene when I auditioned doing all that.

    Before I got the part I heard from Simone and casting that it might only be one season for Felicia because they kind of wanted to show different privilege within the sober community and the people that get to go to rehab, and people that don't, and that's what they were going to show with Felicia. After we shot the pilot, everyone was like, "We can't get rid of Felicia. We've gotta figure out a way to keep her around."

    I'm not surprised they came to that realization.

    It was really interesting. Between the pilot and the actual shooting of Episode 2 and the full season, there were a lot of developmental talks about who she was going to be now, and how we were going to incorporate her fun drinking lifestyle with her friend, who is sober. Those are real things that when people get sober they have to do that inventory. We knew if we really just made it the basis of friendship and their overall connection, and [Felicia] being misjudged for how she was in the past – that's what I was always playing in my mind, and even you get to see it a little this season with Carol. How she was when she was younger and a teenager and how she was treated and how people judged her because of that, and constantly trying to prove that she's made a better life for herself. That's also how we developed it into, "Let's do the opposite — let's make her a really good mom. Let's make her an excellent mom compared to what we thought about her before of her being lackluster and drunk and distracted." It was a cool switch.

    It was one of those things, too, where I came into that audition with a Boston accent and throughout the casting process, it slowly formed into the Felicia character you see today. Whether that had to do with what I was wearing or having her be this super-femme icon, too, was something we developed throughout the whole thing, especially compared to Sam and that world in Massachusetts. I like to say sometimes that Massachusetts is kind of like the South of the Northeast. All those things where you think of the Southern belle stuff or the blue-collar workers, that is still Massachusetts. That is 100 percent what's still going on there. So we really tried to lean into that with [Felicia's] makeup and style and everything. She's still going for it, and she's the best friend that's going to give you the most amazing makeover.

    You get that sense with Felicia and Pete when she says, "You come from an entirely different world." There is this diversity of socioeconomic status and career paths within the show.

    100 percent. That's definitely something we wanted to show without beating it too hard like a dead horse, so I'm so glad that came across. The Pete relationship was really a big part of showing that and showing this teen mom that's turned her life around and is now dating a surgeon.

    You've said that you relate to Sam more than any other character, even Felicia. Why is that? Has that feeling shifted as Felicia's story has deepened over the past two seasons?

    Sofia just does such a great job of representing women in our generation, particularly. Regardless of the alcoholism, there's this push and pull of being in the workplace, wanting to be taken seriously.

    I still do relate to her, probably, most. I think what it is, and makes [Sam] in general so relatable to everyone, is she's complicated and complex, and she's never making the perfect decision, never really making the right choice. As time goes on, I've learned that a lot of stuff is trial and error, and a lot of stuff is still figuring it out. I don't know if you feel this way, but in my late-20s–

    I'm 28, so I feel you.

    Okay, so you totally get it! We're at this precipice where our friends have started to get married, everybody has seemingly figured out — or they're supposed to have figured out — what they're doing with their life, or finding their passion, or whatever that is. I'm lucky in my real life that I have multiple passions, but it's this precipice time. I relate to Sam because she just hasn't figured it out, and I'm still definitely figuring it out.

    Speaking of Sam, last season, Felicia and Sam were a ride-or-die duo, but in Season 2, they welcome Brit back into the fold. Did this new dynamic change your approach to the character? It's really nice to see Felicia and Brit develop their own relationship after years of tension over Joel (Charlie Hall).

    When we were shooting that first season, the three of us were always like, "Why do we always have to pit one against each other?" That also, too, shows these old friendships in a very real way. Even out in L.A. there's people that I kind of knew in high school but wasn't friends with, and now they're some of my closest friends. Because time's gone on, there's just a certain understanding, and you kind of let go of all that middle school, high school B.S.

    I love that we had that conflict — it was very fun to play in the first season. And with this, it was just kind of like, this is realistic, small-town stuff. There's only so many cool girls your age in your small town, you know? So I felt like it was very realistic. There's also a sense that Sam is on her own journey and really trying to figure out what's next for her in life, and Brit and Felicia have kind of figured out those things, or certain things that Sam hasn't. So there's a lot to relate on, and they can still go out and party together.

    In Episode 9, "Coming Clean," there's a great little moment with Brit and Felicia, just giving you the taste of what it is like with the two of them without Sam. And also, side note, I'm a musician, and one of my songs is in that episode, Episode 9.

    Oh wow, really?

    Yes! In that transition from the end of the salon scene into the scene with Sam.

    Actually, that song will be released on April 12, the same day as the premiere, too, so it lines up perfectly. It's called "The Way That It Goes," and I wrote it with my songwriting partner, Sam Woodbury.

    But with the Brit and Felicia of it all, it's only natural, and now, I have a friend of a friend who introduced her two best friends from separate places, and now they're even better friends than she is with the two of them. But it's just the way that it goes, all the time.

    The episode before that, "Darby," Felicia has a really emotional moment with Carol, which you mentioned. What was it like working with Ally Sheedy?

    I loved working with Ally in that scene and that day. I was really excited when I got that script. Her and I had been waiting for a long time to be in the same room and be in the same scene. We knew there was history there that was a little bit of a budding of heads. I was the teenage friend that was always getting Sam to do the crazy stuff. [It goes] back to this re-proving later in life that she has her stuff together, you know?

    Ally and I talked the weekend before. We really worked through every moment and every beat and what we both really wanted for our characters and what we thought we needed in that arc and the opportunities that we have in the scenes that we got. She's just really, especially her work this season, incredible. In-credible. I feel really lucky. That's probably my favorite scene, coming away from everything now, because I feel like with her, there's such a realness. Even though she pops off the screen and has kind of a wild edge, she's truly feeling everything that she says. As another actor, that is the best thing to be able to react to. There's not really much acting needed. It's really just feeling each other and what we both knew what we wanted to show with those characters.

    I remember that day shooting, too — we were both doing this great emotional work, and we were right near train tracks where we were shooting. I just remember looking deep into her eyes and then it literally sounded like a herd of elephants came through. So we were able to deal with that at the same time.

    But is that not the perfect distillation of what this show is? You can have the most emotional moment, and then Sam does something weird with her arms, and it's hilarious.

    Yes! And Ally really has an incredible balance of that. She's really able to feel those deep emotions and have the comedic timing at the same time. I'm so lucky that I got to do that with Ally — and Sofia. That's really how I feel with the both of them. And I think what makes this show so special is all of the emotions are so real and so rounded, while also giving hilarious moments. I think that's a really special recipe.

    In terms of that particular scene, why do you think Carol is comfortable being vulnerable with Felicia in a way she isn't with anyone else?

    There's a level of Carol always judging Felicia, and I think maybe there's a little of the perfectionism that Carol's willing to let go of with someone who she already feels, in her eyes, is not perfect, from everything she's seen over the years. There's just a certain level of vulnerability that's able to be there.

    And something we talked about, too, with trying to cut her hair, how intimate of a relationship everyone has with their hairdresser. That's a great representation of Carol and her inability to be too emotionally connected and her having to run out in the middle of it. Felicia being a hairdresser and experiencing a lot of people like that and knowing that it's a vulnerable state, it allowed Carol to open up in that way and maybe just be a little bit of a sounding board since Sam won't talk to her.

    Shifting gears, I was so happy to see Felicia's relationship with Pete carry over from that dance scene at Brit's wedding into Season 2. Were you excited to offer this new window into Felicia's character and her sexuality? You and Ben have such great chemistry.

    We got so lucky with Ben. Ben was literally cast 48 hours before that dancing scene, so I don't think anybody knew – that was never the plan. It was like, "Oh, let's give this fun thing to Lily at the end and it will be a good little upbeat button." And then people just loved it so much, and he and I got along so well, that, like you said, people were super happy to see it carried over, which I'm happy to hear about.

    The dynamic, character-wise, between Felicia and Sam is Felicia is Sam's ear; Felicia is Sam's fairy godmother, in a certain way. You could say that about Olivia [Sam's sponsor, played by Rebecca Henderson], as well. Being able to see Felicia not in that space, and being able to see Felicia as an independent single woman, and not someone's funny best friend, is really important. That storyline with Pete was able to do that.

    As an actress, my own type of activism is that of trying to just carve out the little moments and the little, special things that are outside of the box of what we're normally seeing with bigger characters on TV. Really leaning into the romantic side and the sexy side is a thing that I think is important for us to see more. I was really happy that Ben was so game and really happy that it gave a level of vulnerability to her that I don't think we were able to see before.

    I love when Felicia takes a picture of Pete's butt as he's walking away. It's such a great Felicia moment.

    That day was hilarious. Like you said, me and Sofia, we had a couple days together, but throughout this whole season, there were only a couple little pockets. And I remember that day was just so hilarious. We had to eat those pancakes for so long. I literally actually took so many pictures of Ben's butt when he was walking away on my actual phone. Literally, it was like 15 pictures of Ben's butt.

    Felicia and Pete are this season's most stable couple, but they end the finale on an uncertain note when Pete reveals he's been offered a job in Michigan. Felicia doesn't strike me as someone willing to uproot her life (or her son's life) for a man, but do you think there's a part of her that's considering it?

    I've entertained a lot of different options of what could happen. What's interesting about her and a lot of girls I know in Massachusetts – in my mind, I'm playing it that Felicia has never really been outside of New England. Like, at all. Especially not living somewhere else. Maybe she's been to New York once or twice. So, I think there's a level of her being excited about new possibilities and just trying something new that isn't living in the town that she grew up in.

    There's a real level of imagining this other life that she had never imagined, but there's also a level of not wanting to mess up her kid's set-up. But, also her trying to give her kid the highest level of set-up, too. Something we talked about was, he is going to get into middle school and high school soon — is she trying to get him into a private school to give him a better life? So, we played with a lot of different things.

    I mean, hey, I could maybe see her going to Michigan or could see the two of them carrying on a long-distance relationship. It's also unclear. [Zacky's father] Trent's back in town. There's a lot of options there. But I hope that Felicia and Pete's love will prevail.

    I know you incorporated improv into your performance last season. Were there any specific moments in Season 2 in which you were able to put your stamp on a scene?

    Yeah, that scene with Ally, actually. Just adding little details here and there. There's a moment when she says she "left Sam in a shopping cart," and to relate to her, in my mind, I was like, "Oh, wouldn't it be funny if Felicia did that at a CVS?" I just tried that, and everyone loved that, which I enjoyed. What's fun is we get what's written and once we know we got that and we have a little bit of time, I always love to just put my own little cherry on top.

    Also, the pancake day. We tried a lot of different stuff in that set-up, too, I remember. What's great is Ben, who plays Pete, was always just so game for anything. If I had an idea, sometimes I'd talk him through it and he'd be like, "Yeah, whatever you want. Whatever you want to do." I'm so lucky to have a bunch of scene partners who are just – every day, this whole cast is trying to make everything more real and funnier. Every day, we're entertaining those questions and those options and really pushing for the vibe and keeping that consistent and not leaning into possible saccharine moments. Sofia is really so good at that, and really leads the charge on all of that. [She] definitely inspires me to have a strong opinion. At the end of the day, we're just all trying to make the best show that we can.

    Where do you want to take Felicia's story in a potential third season? Is there anything you'd like to see more of? Personally, I want to see more karaoke with Sam.

    Oh my god, yes. We'd love another karaoke moment. But also what's great is Ben Thompson is an incredible Broadway actor. He has an incredible voice. So maybe there's a Pete and Felicia karaoke scene? I'm gonna throw that into the ether. It could be fun.

    I really want to see Felicia's business mode. I would love if she started her own hair care company, or really started to do targeting advertising. Trying to be a mogul in the hair world, I think would be so fun and just give so many options. Seeing that Boston girl at some type of business meeting or some high-end thing — I feel like I'm begging for that comedy and that juxtaposition. It could be a really cool thing.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    All 10 episodes of Single Drunk Female Season 2 are now streaming on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Single Drunk Female, Freeform, Hulu, Ally Sheedy, Ben Thompson, Lily Mae Harrington, Sasha Compère, Sofia Black-D'Elia