Aidy Bryant on Shrill: ‘We wanted to have a fat woman who’s a hero’

In March, Hulu released the six-episode first season of Shrill, based on Lindy West’s memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, starring Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant (who also serves with West as one of the show’s executive producers). Annie is an assistant calendar editor at a weekly newspaper that she’d prefer to be writing for instead, but is rebuffed by her boss when she tries to pitch him. She’s sleeping with a guy who makes her sneak out the back of his apartment so that she won’t meet his roommates, and she has to put up with comments from random strangers about how her weight is detrimental to her health. One of the few people she can count on to treat her with respect and love is her roommate and friend, Fran. I don’t want to spoil anything, but by the end of the first episode, she’s decided to make some changes in her life.

The show has gotten great reviews, and was renewed for a second season that will stream next year. Gold Derby spoke with journalists who think that Aidy is a shoo-in for an Emmy nomination for her work on Season 1. The site’s Dan Montgomery also recently video-chatted with Aidy about the show. You can watch that below and here are some excerpts.

On creating Shrill with author Lindy West
It’s about letting go of a lot of the shame we have about our bodies, fear of being labeled fat or shrill or any of these things. We wanted to have a fat woman at the center of the story who has a complicated, full life [without] sex or her body as a punchline.

On how people sometimes have nice intentions when commenting on weight
I think for anyone to assert anything about anyone else’s body is an intrusion. Often people feel like they’re right and they have a moral high ground to help this person. It makes a lot of assumptions about what that person wants. It assumes that person wants to change their body or that they’ve given up on something. For a lot of people that isn’t the truth or [they’ve] tried it all and it didn’t work. You’re getting messages constantly that being fat is not OK.

How does she start to change her life without changing her body?
Women try to make themselves smaller both physically and [mentally] more palatable, sweeter nicer. Part of what Annie is trying to learn how to do is still be herself or go after things without making herself small in those ways too.

Can you talk about your relationships on the show?
We wanted to show what the experience is for a lot of fat women. It’s complicated, messy. Part of being intimate with someone is showing them your body. Also people’s perception of your body. What we were trying to show is that if you find someone that you’re comfortable with it can be very hard to let them go, even if they’re not good for you in other ways. It’s a lot to open yourself and be intimate with someone especially if you’ve got to take what you can get. That’s a hard way to date.

[From Gold Derby]

I try to finish books before I watch their adaptations, though I sometimes fall short. (I nearly had finished Good Omens before the show premiered on Amazon.) I’m about three-quarters of the way through Shrill, and am loving it. I wanted to see how much of Lindy’s sensibility and voice–no pun intended–came across on screen, especially since the show is a fictionalized adaptation of her memoir, rather than a direct one. I enjoyed the first episode and am looking forward to finishing the season. I’m also appreciating Lindy’s work in a time when reproductive rights and women’s rights are under assault in this country. Though Lindy wrote the book 3 years ago, her messages are especially timely. She has unapologetic stances that women shouldn’t be afraid to be “shrill” and so claim their voices, their spaces, and love their bodies–no matter what size or shape they are. At the same time, she also recognizes that the world is full of cretins who make the world unsafe for women, and who make it difficult to shut out the noise–from others or ourselves–and accept ourselves as we are. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which is part of what makes the book so moving, and, to borrow Annie’s word, “powerful.”

Here’s the interview!


Episode 104

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31 Responses to “Aidy Bryant on Shrill: ‘We wanted to have a fat woman who’s a hero’”

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  1. Dorothy#1 says:

    I just watched it this weekend and LOVED it!!

    • Chica71 says:

      Binged watched on weekends. Can’t help but think this is what Girls was aiming for because Lena Dunham self-absorption and lack of awareness got in the way. Message on inclusivity was powerful without pandering.

      • Dorothy#1 says:

        I tried watching girls but it was so awful I couldn’t even get though the first season.

    • Bella Bella says:

      I watched the whole season a couple of months ago and loved it!! It just gets better and better, Quimby. All power to Aidy Bryant. She’s wonderful.

    • Tast says:

      The pool party scene is amazing – for everyone. Anyone who hasn’t left their house in comfortable clothes for fear of being harassed for whatever reason knows the feeling.

  2. Marcie says:

    I binged this when it first came out. It was great! I can’t wait for the second season.

  3. Arpeggi says:

    I wasn’t sure at first when I saw the description but I watched it anyway and ended up binging it! It’s great! And it hits close to home too

  4. Kersplasha says:

    It is an amazing show! The episode with the pool party had me sobbing with happiness and recognition. It just GETS the fat person perspective. I have been overweight all of my adult life due to many conflicting health issues and this show just makes my heart happy. Finally someone like me on the screen who isn’t a punchline. Love Love Love it!!

  5. Tara says:

    I really like her and I think she’s beautiful and very likable. And love the fact that she doesn’t call herself “curvy” (Monica Bellucci or dita von teese are).

  6. lucy2 says:

    I like Aidy a lot and enjoyed the show. She’s hilarious on SNL but it’s nice to see her get an acting opportunity like this one. I’m curious where they’ll go next season, because this was so closely based on the memoir.

  7. Wilma says:

    They also gave Annie an amazing wardrobe.

  8. Cee says:

    I saw her on Girls first and I loved her. She is funny, charming and has one of the most beautiful faces I’ve seen on screen.
    I sometimes miss out on shows due to license issues, but I hope to see this one someday.

  9. Renee says:

    I just watched it last week and loved it. It was the first time I’ve seen a “fat” person treated just like a regular person (sex scene and all). I love the character Fran, her roommate, and Aidy Bryant was brilliant. I’ve recommended this show to everyone I know.

  10. EG says:

    I love Lindy West’s writing—so happy that she’s found this level of success. I can’t wait to watch this.

    Check out the article about the Goop festival that made me a Lindy West Fan forever:

    • GreenTurtle says:

      Have you read her review of Love, Actually for Jezebel? It’s one of my favorite things ever.

      • Haapa says:

        I have loved Lindy since her Jezebel days as well and omg both of those articles are so so funny! Two of my favourites.

  11. EviesMom says:

    I really enjoyed Shrill. Aidy Bryant is funny & relatable. I’ll be adding the book to my summer reading list.

  12. tealily says:

    I’ve loved Lindy’s writing online, although I didn’t read the book (yet at least). I’d never seen Aidy Bryant in anything, but she’s just great! She comes across as someone you’d want to be friends with.

  13. BANANIE says:

    I have never commented to a person about their weight as though I was concerned about their health, and I never would. But I wish I knew more about how weight played into health. We’re trained from a young age that overweight people are fundamentally less healthy but the message now is you can be fat and in good health. But would it be true that while you can be in good health, you would be in less good health than you would be if you were average or thin or toned? I’m genuinely asking I promise.

    • lucy2 says:

      “you would be in less good health than you would be if you were average or thin or toned?” Well, sure, but there are SO many other factors that contribute to health too – genetics, environment, food/sleep, smoking/drinking/drugs. I think the message now is more like weight isn’t the only indicator of health, and that everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of their weight.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      You can also be skinny and be in poor health. For example, my friend is a man who is very “skinny”, but he has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A person’s weight isn’t necessarily tied to how well their organs are functioning, whether they have disease, etc.

    • Siedhr says:

      Doctor here. Weight has limited value as an indicator for health. Much less value, in fact, than popular opinion and unfortunately a good deal of other medical advice the establishment gives out. In my opinion, weight is only a definitive factor when the person can no longer move and take care of themselves properly.
      I’m a GP in occupational medicine and I see all of the patients, because OM is mandatory for all employees where I’m from. The biggest predictors and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemias, diabetes, etc are chronic stress and genetics. Body weight matters far less or not at all. The science behind it exists, but it needs a huge push forward to enter general discourse and start actually helping people.
      Exercise certainly helps and so does good, sufficient nutrition. And that goes for everyone, at any weight and at any age. But for a person who has a variant body shape and/or whose metabolism has been fucked up by restrictive eating and bullying, these measures will not make them thin. But they can still be healthy and in fact are. There is lots of muscle underneath that adipose tissue that isn’t visible. On the other hand, there are comparable numbers of people who look healthy, thin, toned etc, but when you get down to blood tests, blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, depression, anxiety etc, the health status does not match appearances. But nobody routinely quotes the prevalence of so called obesity induced disorders in standard bodied individuals next to the other ones where fat is equated to disease.
      So no, fat people wouldn’t be healthier if they were thinner. They would be healthy if they were active, if they nourished themselves properly, if chronic stress of whatever origin wasn’t a factor. Same goes for thin people.

  14. pyritedigger says:

    I couldn’t get past the stupid premise of the first episode, which was that even if a woman had low enough self-esteem to not use condoms with her hook-up, she would keep getting the morning after pill rather than going on birth control after say…the 2nd time. Especially a liberal lady in a liberal city like Portland. Absurd.

    • tealily says:

      Doesn’t seem like a stretch to me. People make all different kinds of choices for all different reasons. Plus, the show is based on a memoir, so perhaps it actually happened.

      I know some overweight folks avoid the doctor like the plague because they don’t like to be weighed or lectured about their weight during every single visit. If the pill was over the counter, maybe she would have been more likely to go that route.

      • pyritedigger says:

        A group of us women, who are a range of sizes (including some who are the size of the show’s protagonist) all watched it together and we all thought it was far fetched. We were anticipating the show, and wanted to like it. But all of us thought this was ridiculous to the point of taking everyone out of it. I personally could believe it once, even twice–but what was it? 5 times? What if the guy called her twice in one week? Or three times in the month? Or every other day? Was she going to take it every time? She clearly knew about contraception and how she could get it. What’s more embarrassing? Asking the dude behind the pharmacy counter for yet another box of emergency contraception or asking a doctor in private? I have friends the size of Aidy, and they are all on birth control and they all have “regular” sex lives, some who also don’t use condoms when some dumb guy says he prefers it “raw.”

      • tealily says:

        Don’t know what to tell ya. Thinking a character in a show based on a memoir is making bad choices isn’t the same thing as a show being bad. *shrug*

  15. pamsicle says:

    Just to say….I would find it much more empowering/meaningful…not if there was a “fat hero” but if there was a hero whose fatness was never even mentioned. Think Melissa McCarthy. She plays strong, interesting, funny characters….not strong, interesting, funny, fat characters. Was SO moved by an episode of Easy (on Netflix) in which an overweight teenager lived, loved, evolved, even (gasp!) was intimate and there was absolute no mention of her weight. It was so powerful to me. Representation matters.

  16. BANANIE says:

    Thank you so much for giving me a doctor’s perspective. I appreciate it!

  17. Parigo says:

    I absolutely love “Aidy Baby”, she’s been my snl fave for a long while (OK after Kenan). She also has the most amazing style. I will def try to watch this but I don’t have Hulu.