Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke take us on a walk down Netflix's Firefly Lane
Nothing fuels the feels like BFFFFs (best fictional female friends forever)!
If you're in the mood for an epic love story between two besties, Netflix's Firefly Lane will be right up your, um, alley come February 3. Starring Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy) and Sarah Chalke (Scrubs), and based on the novel by Kristin Hannah, the series tells the story of two teens, initially brought together by loneliness. As the girls grow into women, their bond strengthens and they become truly inseparable best friends for life — well, we hope for life. We may need a second season to confirm.
Through decades of cute boys, career challenges, and questionable eye makeup, bold, beautiful but damaged Tully (Heigl) and shy, sweet, and more-than-a-little-bit-awkward Kate (Chalke) navigate '80s shoulder pads, career highs and lows, and common love interests, while Kate struggles to find her way out of the shadow of her boisterous friend and Tully tries to outrun her tumultuous past.
Ahead of the series' release on Netflix, we chatted with Heigl and Chalke about bringing these characters to life, whether they think they're more Tully or Kate in real life and, of course, that '80s fashion.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about how you got involved with this series and why you were excited to be a part of it?
KATHERINE HEIGL: I had been putting out there into the universe that this is the sort of story I really wanted to tell and be a part of and was just so thrilled when it came my way. It was pretty instant for me. I mean, as soon as I finished that pilot script, I was just like, "yeah, I would love to do this and be a part of this." It felt really familiar to me and I'm a big reader. So I went and got the book and read it and realized I had read it before years and years ago. But I was just so re-inspired and moved by the story of these women. I just felt like it was such an extraordinary opportunity to, not only get to play and dive into this person in her twenties, in her thirties, and then in her forties, but also get to tell the story of these two women in their sort of unbreakable bond — or is it?
SARAH CHALKE: I actually met Katie [Heigl] through our mutual friend Dulé Hill (The West Wing). Katie had gotten the part and was working on this new show shooting in Vancouver, this Netflix series. Dulé called me, he's like, "Vancouver's your hometown. You guys should chat." So Katie and I got on the phone to talk about where to live and kids and schools and ended up chatting for like an hour and got along so well right away. So when I got this script in my inbox about a month later, I couldn't believe it when I read it. I just fell in love with it. I laughed and I cried and then I laughed again and then I cried again and it just took me on this journey. I fell in love with the story of these two women and their incredible friendship over these 30 years. Then I fell in love with the role of Kate and how lucky it was to get to play somebody over these decades and how she changed and went from being awkward and shy and vulnerable to really finding herself and finding a voice in what she wanted. That all drew me to it and, of course, the eighties and the clothes and the music and the hair and the wigs!
Did you use the book much as a reference as you were filming or did you want to keep your focus on the script, since there are some pretty big changes?
HEIGL: Kristin [Hannah] was there a little bit, but she wasn't there a ton. She really gave Maggie carte blanche to evolve the story, however it best needed to evolve to be viewer versus read. That's a job I'm really glad I don't have. I don't know how Maggie [Freidman, creator] does that because, I get so invested in the book that it's really hard for me to imagine it any other way, but Maggie found this really beautiful way of broadening certain things, exploring a little more. She did such a gorgeous job of taking a few steps outside the realm of the book, but also really maintaining the spirit of the novel — which to me was the most important part — which was these women and their relationship.
So was Maggie a big part of the reason for signing on? Did she just feel like the right person to bring this story to the screen?
CHALKE: Yes. I actually had met Maggie through a friend, — actually through my real-life Tully — like, 20 years ago. So I already knew her and loved her and didn't know her well. The way that she writes for women is unbelievable. The way that she captured these two characters, like Katie said, and expanded on them and gave them these interesting journeys that creates a television season. She managed to have every episode end on this crazy cliffhanger where you just want to read read the next one, watch the next one. Reading the scripts was very much like sitting there bingeing on Netflix. You just wanted to binge the scripts. I'd finish one, and I'd be like, "Wait, I want more. I want more! What happens next?" It's obviously super rare and such a gift as an actor to get material like that.
Were there any scenes that you were particularly excited to get to when you were reading the script? Or anything you weren't looking forward to so much?
CHALKE: I can't even name the all the scenes that come to mind that when I read them, where I was like, "Oh, I can't wait to do this. Oh my God, I can't wait to try that. I can't wait to play that. That seems so scary and I can't wait to do it." The only one that I was actually so terrified about that I wasn't excited was karaoke. As Katie well knows, I was not born with the gift of song. My sister and I both were kicked out of choir in grade five. Mrs. McKinnon was like, "Chalke girls, — not just me, both of us — Chalke girls, just mouth the words for this performance." And we were only in a mall, singing Christmas carols — not a fancy choir, just the school choir — in front of our grandmother. So Maggie's like, "You're going to do karaoke. It's going to be Eminem and you're going to rap it." I was like, "So fun. Awesome." And then that song didn't clear and I was given five choices of songs where you'd have to sing. Terrifying. So definitely, as Katie can attest, there were so many times over that four and a half months that we jumped so far outside of our comfort zone and I think you can't really ask for more than that as an actor.
Out of Tully and Kate, who do you each think you're more like as both a teen and an adult?
HEIGL: Kate. Definitely as a young adolescent teenager. Total Kate. Awkward, uncomfortable in my own skin, super insecure and self-conscious. As an adult... I'm trying. I'm much better at 40 than I was at 20, though, I'll give you that. I'm getting stronger and just tired of it. Tired of my own self-doubt and neuroses.
CHALKE: One hundred percent Kate in so many ways. The people-pleaser piece of Kate that I feel like she starts to grow out of and let go of and finally says, "Okay, I can actually see what I want" and she makes those choices and decisions. I definitely [see myself] in that piece and the awkwardness and fumfering over her words constantly. Now, the motherhood piece of it, I can relate to so much. I have two kids and Kate — just as every mom is— is just trying to do her best and you don't know what the best thing is to do in so many situations and you're not going to know until they're grown. There's just that feeling of absolute one hundred percent love, that you would just do anything for your kid. I thought that whole piece was really fun to explore in Kate; her wanting a baby more than anything then going, "Oh my God, what's going to happen? How's motherhood going to change me?" And then you have this perfect newborn in your hands and you're like, how do I not screw this up? On the show, Kate's daughter Marah does not give her an easy road.
Did you guys each have a favorite look from the '80s section of the show or a favorite wig maybe? A certain bridesmaid dress is springing to mind...
CHALKE: It's so fun to read in the script, "the biggest puffy sleeves and the giant-est bow" and then you try it on it's the giant-est bow and the puffiest sleeves. For me though, it was when we did the aerobics. I read that in the script and I was terrified and then we had so much fun. We put them on and we were dancing. We're in these headbands and the leotards and the tights and leg warmers and it just felt so eighties and just everything great about the 1980s.
HEIGL: I agree. I feel like that leotard thing just made me feel sassy. I just felt so Tully sassy in that ensemble. The 2000's bootcut jean was the worst look on me ever. I would burn every pair of bootlegged jeans ever in the world.
Firefly Lane is available to stream on Netflix beginning Wednesday.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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