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‘Younger’ Boss Darren Star on the Open-Ended Optimism of the Series Finale and Movie Potential

The Hollywood Reporter logo The Hollywood Reporter 6/11/2021 Jackie Strause

[This story contains spoilers for the series finale of Younger, “Older.”]

In the world of Sutton Foster’s Liza, it might appear that everything has come full circle by the end of Younger. But, upon further inspection with creator Darren Star, the series finale of the Paramount+ comedy does so in a “limitless” way.

Seven seasons ago, Younger began with Liza, a divorcée and single mother in her 40s, telling a lie that she was in her 20s in order to land a junior position with the top New York City publishing firm run by Charles (Peter Hermann). By the end of the show’s run, everyone had moved on from Liza’s lie — except for Charles. In the series finale, he realizes that, despite their love for each other, he will never be able to fully trust Liza and the pair call off their engagement. But when Charles decides to quit his job to pursue a dream of writing his book, he credits Liza as his inspiration for it never being too late to start a second career. And he promptly names her as his replacement for editor in chief at Empirical Publishing.

The final scene then reunites Liza with Josh (Nico Tortorella). In a callback to how the pair met in the pilot, Josh approaches Liza as she struggles to get a bartender’s attention and they replay their own meet-cute from when they first met in a bar seven seasons ago. Now, with bright futures ahead for each of them, the old flames reclaim their spark: “I’ve been right here, by your side, all along,” he tells her.

A common thread through every season of Younger has been the love triangle between Charles, Josh and Liza. But, in the conversation below, Star makes it clear that Liza’s happy ending revolves around work, and that her romantic future — while simmering with potential — remains intentionally up in the air.

“Her happy ending would not be about finding a man,” Star tells The Hollywood Reporter of his starring character. “Her world has become limitless. I don’t think that her options are narrowed down to: is she going to be with Charles or is she going to be with Josh? Her world is completely opened up by the end of the series.”

In the chat below, the prolific TV creator discusses giving the entire ensemble cast of Younger satisfying endings, reveals the status of the spinoff with Hilary Duff’s Kelsey and leaves the door open for a potential Younger movie.

Finally, we know…you are Team Josh!

Well, I don’t think that’s a definitive. I feel like the ending is really about Liza getting her dream. She started this [lie] because she wanted to get back to work and be relevant. And I feel like, in the end, her real victory is at work. She and Josh have both been on big journeys and it started with Josh. The idea to be younger was really inspired by their first encounter. The ending can be interpreted in a lot of different ways and the most important thing to me about that last moment is that the two of them have come full circle in their lives and they’re still connecting. Where that connection goes could be a lot of places, but I think the most important thing is that it reinforces the influence the two of them have had on each other’s lives over the course of the series and how important they are to each other.

How long have you been working toward that final scene with Liza and Josh, and why did you want to keep them open-ended?

It was an idea we were aiming toward and thinking about in the writers room for the final season. I don’t think that Liza and Josh are at the point where we could say they are together or they could be together. They’ve each taken separate journeys for a while. But I think it speaks to their connection, and that connection is pretty permanent. Where it’s going to take them, I don’t know. It could take them in a lot of directions, including possibly getting back together. These are people who are very much in each other’s lives. For me, it was a really elegant way to end the series in a way that didn’t necessarily wrap things up in a neat bow. It gives feel for the imagination of all of the fans of the series.

In the end, Liza’s lie about being younger ends up costing her a romantic future with Charles. They don’t work out romantically, but she gets his job. How do you describe that ending for her?

Her relationship with Charles ended in a very bittersweet way and I do feel like the lie cost her the relationship. Even though it’s a small lie this time [about Inkubator], the theme of the series is the cost of a lie. The show thematically is about ageism, but it also deals with how important work is to people — these characters are all very passionate about work. But one of the biggest things is the cost of a lie. And it does cost her her relationship.

How much did you have planned out when it came to Liza and Charles and how much changed along the way?

We talked about a number of different endings, but we were always wanting to come back to the idea that her real victory would be at work. That her happy ending would be with the work, because that’s what she set out to do. Her happy ending would not be about finding a man.

How did the three actors react to how their love triangle ends?

I think they were all really satisfied with the way it ended. I think they all felt their characters got endings that felt kind of inevitable and set each of them off in really strong, optimistic directions. The idea that Liza influenced Charles to reinvent his life is something that was unexpected, but Peter really loved the idea that that’s where his character was going and that his character wasn’t being defined by his relationship with Liza. He was following a dream that he had when he was younger that got reawakened through his relationship with Liza.

When you picture Liza five years from now, or 20 years from now, how do you see her in the future?

Wow. I feel like she is going to be a powerful woman in her business and in the world of publishing. And I could see her with somebody else. I could possibly see her with Josh. I could also see her with somebody completely different. I think her world has become limitless. I don’t think that her options are narrowed down to: is she going to be with Charles or is she going to be with Josh? Her world is completely opened up by the end of the series.

In telling this love story between Liza and Charles, an employee and her boss, how much did living through the #MeToo era impact their story and their ending?

Telling this story in the #MeToo era really affected the storytelling and the stakes of the story in a way that didn’t exist when the series started, and I think it is responsible for a lot of big plot turns in the story. At one point, Charles had to basically give up his company in order to keep dating Liza. He had to step away from his company. This show is a show that definitely was not oblivious to the #MeToo movement. In fact, I think it became a really big part of our storytelling as the series progressed.

The finale felt like a mini-Younger movie. It was big and romantic, and extended. What was your intent when you approached it?

There’s been a lot of romance on the show and there’s been a lot of business on the show, and I think the tone of the finale hit both of those notes. There was a lot of ground to cover emotionally. Our ensemble has grown in terms of the depth of the characters. We had to tell a lot of story for all of our characters who are all so terrific and have strong storylines. For me, it was important to give each of those characters great endings after all these seasons. With that in mind, that last episode would have to be an hour. Really, it was just about telling the story. I hope viewers leave the series feeling like they’ve spent seven seasons with these characters and that their time has not been wasted, that all of the characters have been given really satisfying endings.

Kelsey is set on a new path in the finale — her plan is to move to Los Angeles and launch her content incubator company, thanks to backers Hello Sunshine. Why was this the right ending for her?

She had come to the end of the road in terms of work and publishing, and I think as people talked about the fact that publishing is not the shiny, sexy glamorous business that it was, she’s heading to L.A. where she’s going to make her mark in a new, shiny, sexy and glamorous business, which is somewhere in the entertainment industry. But, beyond that, it’s Kelsey’s turn to reinvent herself and I think that’s what she’s doing.

What is the status of your Kelsey spinoff with Hilary Duff?

We’re not pursuing it now. I think she’s off doing something else [she will be starring in Hulu’s How I Met Your Father] and regardless of a spinoff or not, this was always our ending for Kelsey. It wasn’t driven by the idea of a spinoff. If the timing is right at some point in the future, but at the moment it’s not something that we’re pursuing.

Molly Bernard has spoken about how playing a pansexual character has changed her life. Why is Lauren’s ending so perfect, and do you imagine her relationship with Max (Ben Rappaport) and his fiance will be a lasting one?

Lauren got a bit of a twist, or a surprise, ending. I think that she unintentionally had a big impact on Max, her ex-boyfriend, in a way that she never expected and that speaks to who Lauren is. I think it was a touching and surprising place for her to end her story, and to also think about what’s next in her life. She’s not someone who is headed for any kind of traditional relationship. I’m not sure how the fiance is going to feel about it, but I think she’ll be in their lives. Maybe not in the way she’d like to be, but I think she’ll be in their lives!

When you wrote Lauren many years ago, did you envision she would be a groundbreaking character?

You can never really foresee that a series is going to run as long as this one did. You sort of think about it as one season at a time. But I thought from the beginning that Molly brought such a fresh character to the series and I really wanted to include that voice on the show. As the series continued, her character just grew and grew, and I give so much credit to her that she inspires us.

Debi Mazar’s Maggie was also among the optimistic sendoffs; she pursues a romance with Janeane Garofalo’s character. Can you talk about focusing more on Maggie’s storyline in the final season?

I love Debi Mazar and I thought that she has been, for a lot of episodes, the best friend. She had storylines of her own, but she never found somebody. They’ve been short-lived romances. We wanted to do something that was speaking to where she was in her life — her age and her career — and finding that she was compatible with somebody in a surprising way.

When you take into account how much the world has changed from when Younger premiered in 2015 on TV Land to now, what do you hope the show’s legacy will be?

For me, I just hope it inspires people to chase their dreams and to take chances. I also feel like it’s a show that’s about books and that encourages people to read and get excited about literature. But beyond that, it’s about characters who are very passionate about work and age should not be a barrier in following those dreams.

With Younger and The Bold Type both wrapping up, columns have been written about this moment ushering in the end of seeing glamorous and escapist media worlds on TV. Do you view this as the end of that era?

I don’t know. Writing this show in the present tense, it’s hard to predict the future. We were always referring to the idea in all of our storylines about how the publishing industry was on shaky ground. That was always a constant in the series, so I don’t think we were ignoring the idea that publishing was going through some tough times right now. I don’t know where that business goes.

Where are your personal emotions about saying goodbye to Younger?

Personally it’s about not seeing these writers and this super-fantastic cast every year. It’s always something to look forward to that’s been a really wonderful experience and I think the camaraderie between the cast comes through on screen. It’s a type of people who really enjoy each other and we had a lot of fun doing it all these years. I’ll miss that.

After making the final season of Younger, launching Netflix’s Emily in Paris (which is in production on season two) and experiencing life in 2020, how has the pandemic impacted the type of storyteller you want to be?

It makes me want to double down on telling stories about relationships and people, because it makes people come out of this realizing how interpersonal relationships are so key. And also just telling optimistic stories. I think now more than ever, I want to tell optimistic stories.

Younger is ending and Sex and the City is returning. As the creator of both shows, how do you feel about that timing and what do you hope to see from the SATC reboot?

It’s amazing how the audience still has such love for those characters, and I think it’s a testament to the characters and to the actors that the show keeps giving life to the series. I think it’s exciting to revisit that.

Could that mean that a Younger movie is in your future?

It’s the biggest compliment you can have that the audience still cares about these characters so many years later. You cannot have a bigger compliment than that. I feel like it’s still a little too fresh to think about, but I think it would be something fun for all of us to revisit in the future if there was the opportunity. We loved working together and, though it’s time to end the series, I think a movie could be a really fun special treat for all of us.

Miriam Shor couldn’t come back due to scheduling conflicts. Diana got her happy ending, but can you share what her final season arc would have been?

I think we’ll see her storyline in the movie, if that happens!

Interview edited for length and clarity.

The entire series is now streaming on Paramount+, with the final season of Younger set to debut on TV Land later this summer.


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