Creator and star Frankie Shaw goes behind the scenes of the season 1 closer
Each episode of Showtime’s Golden Globe-nominated SMILF begins with a relevant quote — and the season 1 finale kicked off with one from Woody Allen, written in the same typeface the filmmaker uses for the credits in his movies: “The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to these things.” Seconds later, the screen cuts to a little girl in a therapist’s office making phone calls. “Hey Grandma? My father touched my vagina,” she says into the receiver. Soon, it’s clear that this little girl is a young Bridgette.
“I just thought it was so funny, the irony of that statement,” creator and star Frankie Shaw says of the decision to use that quote from Allen, noting the allegations against him from daughter Dylan Farrow, who says her father sexually abused her as a young girl. (Allen denies the allegations.) “It seemed so fitting to me,” she adds of going from that quote to Bridgette in the therapist’s office.
The young Bridgette — played by The Sinner‘s Jordana Rose, the daughter of one of Shaw’s friends — calls multiple people and tells them what her father did, a technique Shaw says the writing team learned therapists use to help young abuse victims. “The thing with sexual abuse is that the victims, if it’s someone they know or someone they’re related to [that abused them], think it’s their fault or they messed up the family by telling on them,” she explains. “It’s a way for victims of abuse to release any sort of shame. Like, ‘This was not me, this was just something that someone else did.’ So by telling everyone, it takes the weight off their back. A little bit.”
The rest of the episode centers on adult Bridgette confronting her past abuse from her now-estranged father, who she thinks she matches with on Tinder. That idea came from writer Jess Dweck, who proposed, “What if Bridgette goes on a date with her dad?” “It just made us laugh,” Shaw recalls. “We deal with such serious topics, so it’s like, what’s going to make us laugh the most?”
Although the man Bridgette matches with and ultimately meets is not her dad, the almost-confrontation does further her relationship with her mom, Tutu (Rosie O’Donnell). At first, Tutu is against Bridgette seeing her father, but she ends up showing at the bar where they’re supposed to meet in case her daughter needs the support.
“It’s really hard when you have a parent who is mentally ill,” Shaw says. “There’s a lot of child being the parent in that relationship, as you often hear about, and so when they’re in this sort of adulthood version of their relationship, there’s a lot of repairing that happens, especially because Tutu can show up for [Bridgette’s son Larry] in a way that she couldn’t for Bridgette — and then Tutu shows up for Bridgette in a crisis when it matters most.”
After Tutu points out that the man Bridgette thinks is her dad isn’t actually her dad, the women — Bridgette’s best friend Eliza (Raven Goodwin) and her ex’s girlfriend Nelson (Samara Weaving) included — decide to have some fun. What follows is a joyful montage of the four taking shots, singing, and dancing. “Bridgette having the women coming together to support each other is obviously a theme of the show and to end with all of us together was important,” Shaw notes.
And we can expect more of that in season 2, which SMILF was renewed for before season 1 even ended. Read more about how the show, based on Shaw’s Sundance award-winning short of the same name, came together here.