After playing the wonderfully quirky Lauren on Younger, the actress is starring in Morgan Ingari's surrogacy drama Milkwater.

By Ruth Kinane
June 02, 2021 at 03:00 PM EDT

When Molly Bernard's agent sent her up for TV Land's Younger in 2014, the then-first-time actress freaked out — but not for the reason you might think. "The audition was six lines where I talk about Liza's [Sutton Foster] bush," Bernard tells EW. "I was like, 'I can't do this. I worship Sutton Foster!'" (She's not exaggerating; she sent Foster fan mail as a teen.)

Younger Molly Bernard
Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Paramount +

Luckily, Bernard, who identifies as queer, got the part opposite her idol and has been playing the fabulously fierce Lauren Heller on the quirky comedy for seven seasons. Lauren's confidence in her sexuality has been an inspiration to fans — who reach out to share how they channel the character's attitude in moments of need — and even Bernard herself. "She's just a weird, bright light — a strange, neon light," she says. "I think that a neon light is sometimes going to make your life a lot more interesting than an incandescent one. She's given me that kind of confidence too. I want to just bottle that [attitude] up, put it into fairy dust, and give it to all."

Bernard feels particularly fortunate to get to work on projects with world views that align with her own. "I think it's really rare, right? Not to knock an FBI show, but I would have a hard time playing a cop, even if that cop were queer," she explains. "It would take a lot of work and research for me to do that gracefully and without judgment. So I've been really lucky to be in the projects that match with who I am."

With Younger's final season concluding on June 10, the 33-year-old actress is bringing her sparkly energy to new roles, like struggling millennial Milo in Morgan Ingari's surrogacy drama Milkwater. This time around, there was no reason to hesitate for Bernard. "They sent the script to me, and I was like, 'Yes!"" she says. "My brain immediately labeled it as an impossible project. The weight of it is a lot and it intimidated me, but the script was so good. We only had 21 days to shoot it and I was like, 'Okay, this is actually impossible and let's f---ing go.'"

Unlike Bernard, her Milkwater character is a lost, 20-something who doesn't really know what she wants to do with her life and, in an attempt to find more meaning in her life, agrees to be a surrogate for an older gay man longing to become a father. "She's boundary-less," says Bernard. "So during the process of surrogacy, she's trying to learn about boundaries and it's a bouncy ride."

With Younger wrapping and Milkwater out now, Bernard's own ride is taking an upward trajectory. Next up, she stars alongside actress Regina Hall in the occult drama Master. Though she can't say much about that project quite yet, Bernard describes working with Hall as "one of the most magical things" and adds, "there's nobody else like her. I am f—ing obsessed with her."

For now, Bernard's aim is to continue to play characters who shine that colorful neon light on all. "I foresee me only playing characters that are the epitome of queer representation for the rest of my life," she says. "The goal for me is to play characters whose queerness comes third, ninth, 100th on the list of descriptions. That's what Lauren does, and that's what Milkwater does. I had a taste of that. I can't go back."

To read more from EW's 2021 Pride Issue, order the June issue of Entertainment Weekly — with covers featuring Lil Nas XMj RodriguezBowen Yang, and Lena Waithe — or find it on newsstands now. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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