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Better Things: Mikey Madison recaps season 1, episode 5

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Jessica Brooks/FX

Every week, the cast and crew of FX’s Better Things — a semi-autobiographical comedy created by Pamela Adlon and Louie C.K., centered on Sam Fox (Adlon), an actress and gnarly single mom of three girls — is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, a cast or crew member is recapping, sharing thoughts on what went down, and walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. Here, actress Mikey Madison, who plays Sam’s eldest daughter, Max, walks us through episode 5, “Future Fever.”

On acing Max’s ballet scenes:

I used to dance, so when I found out I had a ballet scene, I quickly joined a dance class and tried to get back into the physical shape that was needed. I had a few private lessons and got back some of the flexibility I had lost, which was difficult. It was very exciting to see the scene — I think all of the work I did paid off. It looks really beautiful. 

On that awkward first date scene:

The actor who played the bad date improvised a lot of his monologue, which was incredibly hilarious. I think that scene was so interesting — Max is in her own little bubble and her mom tries to talk to her, but Max ignores her so she instantly tries to mother the woman on the horrible date. It really shows Sam’s character as a mother. Whenever Max is texting, I’m usually really texting my mom. That sounds really lame, but I try to make the texting scenes look as real as possible, so I’ll text her. 

On Max’s awakening — and fears — about her future: 

I felt a big connection to that scene. Trying to do all of the regular teenage things but also worrying about college, the future, and what you want to do is really delicate. Max is trying to figure out who she wants to be and who she doesn’t want to be. She’s realizing that maybe she’s with the wrong friends, and maybe she should have taken all of those SAT classes. It’s very stressful for her. In this episode, Max comes into her own and is seen not just as a bratty teenager, but someone who’s concerned about her future. 

On prepping for handling Max’s fears and realizations: 

Both of my parents are clinical psychologists, so I always talk about my feelings with them. I’ll say to them, I have these worries, as well — what am I going to do with my life? Hopefully, I’ll still get jobs and be an actor, but what if that doesn’t happen? We talked about what my character was going through and how she might feel in this big group of adults. She’s in a phase where she’s inbetween childhood and adulthood. Sitting in a circle of adults where they reassure her that even they’re not sure what they’re doing is helpful to her. 

On Max’s vulnerability: 

I think it was easier for Max to talk about her fears of the future surrounded by all of those people than it would if she was just with her mom. She wouldn’t be able to say all of those things if she was just with Sam. Max will talk about sex and drugs with her mother, but she feels different when it’s about something so deep and personal. She felt more protected being surrounded by friends and family. 

On that suit shopping scene: 

Our costume people are amazing. The suit we chose was tailored in the waist a bit, but they wanted the sleeves and pant legs to be longer to show that Max is still a little girl, but she also can look mature. I’m 5’3″, so anything is going to be long on me. She’s growing up, and we really see that when Sam tells her she can do whatever she puts her mind to. I hope that Max will continue to impress herself. 

Better Things airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.​

As told to Caitlin Brody