In the show, Shor plays publishing maven Diana Trout, a 40-something woman whose several flaws do not include a lack of confidence or a reluctance to put herself forward. In real life, however, Shor is much more like the rest of us, wrestling with all the issues Younger confronts. It is, Shor says, one of the real satisfactions of the show.
“It’s so important to me that we discuss these things,” she says. “I mean, the show is a delightful confection of a show. It’s so easy to watch. But it’s also intelligent. I’m a huge fan of a lot of the developments in television right now but it can be dark. So it’s nice to watch this because it explores the issues – women’s power and what we expect and what we don’t from women – but with a much lighter touch.”
That lightness of touch is certainly one of the keys to Younger‘s success. But it has also managed to tap into a bunch of issues at a particularly explosive moment in history, building itself around questions that would soon be topics of international conversation.
“The early conceit of the show is that here is a woman who has so much to offer and has the will to work and was shut out simply because the numbers didn’t compute for people: her age,” Shor says. “So she changes her age and suddenly everything’s fine. We really wanted to address that.”
In real life it’s something Shor has naturally had to deal with and she’s been struck by the change in attitude in just the last year or so. “As someone who started out in television in her 20s and is now in television in her 40s, I have seen things change for women, for the better,” she says.
And it’s not just the rest of the world that’s had a change in attitude The cast and crew of Younger have had their own woke moment, this season tackling #MeToo head on. “That happened very organically,” Shor says, “because everyone – the writers, directors, all of us – are looking back to past episodes and storylines. At the time we were thinking something was really funny or silly. Now, with this new perspective, we’re realising it’s not that funny. So let’s bring that back and have another look at it.”
The first episode to season five is, in fact, a work of genius in typical Younger style: nuanced, funny, and with a massive sting in the tale that manages to compress a thousand op-ed pieces into a series of wonderfully human moments. Meanwhile the show’s central themes continue to percolate throughout the season with even the indomitable Diana Trout experiencing a rare moment of doubt as she sees the next generation nipping at her heels.
It’s only a moment, of course. Nothing shakes Diana’s magnificent self-confidence for long – something Shor not only relishes about the role, but even learns from. In season five Shor directs an episode, after realising that while plenty of her friends and peers in the industry had gone on to direct, the vast majority of them were men.
“So I started asking myself why that was. Then I turned that around and asked, well, what’s my excuse? If it was just something that didn’t seem interesting to me, that’s fine. But if it was that I didn’t think I deserved it, or could handle it, or I was afraid, or just didn’t feel I had a place at that table – well, that’s a bullshit answer and I need to step up.”
For most of season four she shadowed her favourite directors, looking at the process with new eyes. At the end of the season she girded her loins to ask Darren Star if it would be OK if she directed an episode. To which he responded: “Yeah! Sure!”
Shor loved the experience, but unquestionably found it a challenge. Not so much the skills required (she discovered that after 20 years in television and four on the set of this particular show, she actually knew a lot already) but simply taking on the role of boss. Thankfully, Diana Trout was there to help: “I have to say I learned a lot from playing Diana about being in control. Almost by osmosis a character sort of seeps in to you.”
Their management style is not identical. “Kindness is very important to me. Diana puts kindness on the backburner,” Shor laughs. “But in terms of being confident? I learned a lot.”