Based on the exploits of former Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles, Freeform’s The Bold Type introduces viewers to Scarlet magazine, a world of fashion, trending topics, and female empowerment. The female-led show from Parenthood writer Sarah Watson has gained a faithful following in its first season, with social media buzzing as fans discuss everything from the show’s relevance to its courage in tackling issues facing young women, and perhaps more than anything, how much fun it is.
“This is the kind of show I wanted to watch,” Watson tells EW. “We’ve been in the era of the anti-hero for the past few years and there are some sensational anti-hero shows out there, but at the same time, I want to come home and feel good and spend an hour with my friends. That’s how I used to feel watching Sex and the City, it’s how I felt when I watched Gilmore Girls. The hope to have that came out of the fact that that’s what I wanted to see on television.”
When it comes to balancing the fiction world of Scarlet with its real-world inspiration, Watson says “we start from a place of fiction” before figuring out how to add a bit of reality, something that often results in the writers’ room calling Holly Whidden, a co-executive producer on the show who also works at Hearst (the company that owns Cosmo). “We still want to tell the best, most interesting stories for the characters and then we call Holly and say, ‘This is what we’re thinking, how do we make that a little more real,'” Watson says.
And although much of the show falls into that area of “a little more real,” the show has also tackled a number of very real, important issues, from Twitter bullying to breast cancer. “Weirdly it wasn’t a conscious decision,” Watson says of taking on more serious stories. “I didn’t sit down and think, ‘How do I add weight?’ That was never where it came from. I think part of it is writing on Parenthood for six years — we always tackled these huge weighty stories so I think that’s in my writer DNA now.”
From the weighty stories to the not-so-much, we asked Watson to break down her inspirations for some of the show’s most memorable moments thus far.
The Subway Scream
The first scene of the pilot sees mag staffers Jane, Kat, and Sutton go underground to let out their frustrations by shrieking at a passing train.
“It’s a thing I always wished I’d done. When I lived in New York, my subway stop had an express train that went through so it was really loud. And every time it went through, I just wanted to scream at it. I was never bold enough. That’s been an image that’s been in my mind for a long time.”
The Yoni Egg
When Jane reveals she’s never had an orgasm, Kat takes her to see a sex therapist. Her prescription? A yoni egg — look it up — which Jane accidentally gets stuck, er, down there.
“We wanted to talk about how Jane has never had an orgasm. I asked my poor assistant to Google tips, and he found these and ordered a few. We’re like, ‘How do you get it out?’ You’re supposed to add your own string, but if you don’t read the directions, that’s a dangerous cocktail.”
(Fun fact: The Yoni eggs they ordered? “They’re on our key chains for our bathroom keys at the office.”)
The Twitter Trolls
With Kat serving as social media director for Scarlet, the show took on the issue of online bullying and the emotional impact it can have.
“I have never had anything to the extent that Kat had, but as writers, any time we tell stories that people don’t like, we get attacked. I do have a friend who is a woman working in video games and she has been mercilessly trolled and it’s such a powerless feeling. But that [story] was prompted by a showrunner who got lambasted about a decision fans didn’t like. She tweeted, ‘I’m a grown ass woman with a great job and a great life and I have cried myself to sleep over things people have said on Twitter.’ That shook me to my core. I felt like I had the opportunity to give Kat a little bit of a win. I wanted to show women that.”
The BRCA Gene
The show’s sixth episode tackled its biggest issue yet when Jane decided to get tested for the BRCA gene after losing her mother to breast cancer at a young age.
“A friend of mine lost her mother to breast cancer and struggled for a long time with whether or not to get the test. Jane’s fear and anger and contempt for pink breast cancer awareness balloons are all things she felt. Ultimately it was watching another friend get the test that inspired her to take control and find out her results. So in true Bold Type fashion, I was inspired by a friend who was inspired by a friend.”
The Super Friendly Boss
Much has been made of Melora Hardin’s Jacqueline, who seems to love her employees no matter how many times they mess up.
“Those are the kind of female bosses that I’ve had in my life, and we never see it on TV. We only see the dragon lady. So I felt like we deserve to get those awesome, inspiring bosses.”
The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform.