'We're making the record now, and you're popping through all these songs, and it is just a joy,' Sara Bareilles tells Metacritic.
At the end of the first season of Girls5eva, Peacock's musical comedy about four women in their 40s who put their girl group back together after one of their songs is a surprise sample in a younger artist's track, the eponymous group crashed the Jingle Ball stage and performed to cheers. So while they didn't skyrocket back to fame, their comeback was certainly inching closer.
In the eight-episode second season bowing May 5 on the streamer, the women are being talked about on TV (well, Taxi TV, but it's something!) and have record executives asking for their new album to be delivered within six weeks. But as they have to step back into a recording studio to work (and work fast) with a new producer, they have a lot to work out in their personal lives, too.
"There's a ton of music in this season — We have one episode where you're watching us at the final stages. We're making the record now, and you're popping through all these songs, and it is just a joy — but we are really getting to know these women in a more three-dimensional way. We're getting to know their personal lives, what their struggles are, and juggling this personal-professional equation, as so many of us struggle with," series star Sara Bareilles tells Metacritic.
Here, the women of Girls5eva set the scene for where Season 2 finds their characters — both inside and out of the recording booth.
As a young mother, last we saw Dawn, she was worried about her son becoming a "New York Lonely Boy." In Season 2, she is feeling "the creative tension of the creative process and home life," Bareilles explains.
"She's trying to really juggle being a good mom and a good wife and being present in her home life, and then, for the first time, she really is allowing herself to care about making a meaningful contribution to this group. She really, really wants this and is driving a lot of the momentum of the creative process here. So, it's about her finding balance and not getting lost in one world or the other."
More specifically, Dawn finds a passion (and a bit of pressure) in being the songwriter of the group, something that gets challenged by the new group's new producer. However, perhaps surprisingly, one area that is full of fun, rather than challenges, is having Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry) live with her family.
"They're family. There's such a sisterly bond," Bareilles says of those two characters. "They really razz each other in a good way. Dawn is very non-confrontational and Wickie, for some reason, is the person she clearly feel safe enough with to be like, 'Hey, what are you doing?' They have a fun, playful energy."
Bareilles' favorite Season 2 song: "'Bend [Not] Break' is about Gloria's knee surgery, but its parallel meaning is about staying together; we're stronger as a unit; we can handle a lot if we don't let go of each other. They're processing their lost beloved Ashley, they're processing their collaborators at the at the record label, and a little bit, they're throwing sh-- at the wall."
Goldsberry believes that at this point in the characters' relationship, Dawn's family recognizes" the value of [Wickie] being around."
"I think she could move if she chose to do something with a record label advance, but she I think she thinks that they need her," she says.
Wickie's big vocals and even bigger personality was always an asset to the group, but after the group first disbanded, she tried to hold onto her 15 minutes of fame much longer past when that clock rang out. That led to misleading social media posts and a desperation to get back on top that helped propelled the rest of the women in the first season. But Wickie is more than just attention-seeking; she is also smart when it comes to the business of the industry, finding a way to take a negatively viral moment in Season 1 and turn a profit, and in Season 2, taking control of the publicity arm of the machine that is Girls5eva.
Knowing her value is a big part of what Wickie bring to the table, and this season she takes on a lot of the solos in the songs, as well as bringing a literal "riff Rolodex" to the studio. While previously her job was "to be the engine moving this car forward," Goldsberry says, because she needed success, money, and fame more than any of the other women, now, "the car has momentum, and so, she doesn't have to be that." That leaves her with a bit of unexpected time on her hands in Season 2.
"She clearly is not the songwriter, she's not looking for an apartment, and so, what do you do with that time? Do you date? Do you find out who you love? Do you start asking yourselves those kinds of questions that I think the other woman have asked and answered at least a few more times? And she has and I think it's funny to see some of the answers she comes up with," Goldsberry says.
Goldsberry's favorite Season 2 song: "'Momentum' is one that makes me laugh a lot because it's just so literal: 'We're contenders but ... we're courageous, don't care what our age is.'"
"They're figuring out what would make a hit song maybe if we write a song about a city that knows. They work really hard. You gotta root for somebody that has thought that much about, 'What could we do to get attention?'" she adds with a laugh.
Arguably, it seemed like Gloria had come the longest way from her girl group days to her adulthood. When Girls5eva was originally performing together in the early-aughts, Gloria was keeping her sexuality quiet, but after, she married the love of her life (Caroline, played by Janine Brito) and opened a successful dentist practice.
She and Caroline ended up divorcing, but Gloria isn't fully over her, which led to her pretending to accidentally run into her at a farmer's market in the first season. So although it can seem on the surface that Gloria has things together, "she's not admitting what all the little turmoils [in her life] are," Pell says.
In Season 2, "Gloria is finally speaking her truths, but she also hits it too hard," Pell continues. Literally. In trying to ensure Girls5eva grabs enough interest from record executives, Gloria performs an unexpected dance move in the second season premiere that leaves her injured.
"She just wants more and more and more; she's voracious about, 'Now that I can admit what I want in life, interpersonally and also what I want in this career, I'm gonna go for it so hard,' and you can go too hard on all those levels and you can hurt those aspirations. So, I think she's always learning the lesson of, 'I guess I gotta cool it,'" Pell says.
This applies to her relationships, past and present too, including her theory that Ashley (Ashley Park) faked her death, which she dropped at the end of Season 1, and thinking that getting back together with her ex-wife will make everything in her life magically click into place. Now, encouraged by Summer, who is going through her own divorce, Gloria is going to consider other romantic partners.
"Summer keeps reminding her and pushing her, 'Maybe you haven't been with enough people. Maybe you need to go explore,'" Pell says. "And there's lots of fun this season to be had [with] me trying to explore if I even have game, if I am able to flirt, if I'm able to interact with other women."
Pell's favorite Season 2 song: "There's one song I can't really give away the joke of it, but we sang it at the beginning of the season, and it was just a snippet in the beginning of the season. We were all like, That is the most random song' and we kind of didn't get it [but] in true fashion of [creator] Meredith Scardino, towards the end of the season there's this big payoff for what that song is for."
Summer and Kev (Andrew Rannells) were pop royalty as a couple, but over the years they drifted far, far apart. (He spent most of his time living in another state, barely seeing her or their tween daughter). Despite that distance, though, Summer kept thinking of herself as part of a unit with him.
At the end of Season 1, when Kev finally confessed his secret — that he quit his entertainment job to work with crabs — she realized she wanted more out of life and asked him for a divorce. And while she'll have to learn to stand on her own, she also has to fight deeply-ingrained (limiting and unfair) ideas about who she is and what she can accomplish.
For her, "the challenge continues to be being able to find her place in terms of who she actually is and what she brings," Philipps says. "She's really on a journey to try to figure out where she lives and to be comfortable [and] to be at home in her body and in her literal home. And then I think that really carries over into her friendships and her own insecurities about, 'What is my value even in this group? Do I have one?' Or is she still stuck with what she was told many, many years ago by a creepy manager named Larry?"
Philipps finds Summer's storyline in Season 2 extremely relatable, especially for women of her own generation, because of how much prioritization there has been on self-work of late. Summer "graduated salad school" in Season 1, and now she's learning to take care of herself in other ways.
But where there was a new challenge for Philipps in Season 2 was in the musical performances.
"We do a lot of actually live singing this season, as opposed to pre-recording it in a studio and then lip syncing on set," she reveals. "I'm just trying to get my part right, but I always know when I'm getting overexcited because [executive producer] Jeff Richmond will come in and he'll be like, 'Just crank that volume down.' When I get excited, and it's so joyful, I am just loud."
"There is a thing about singing with microphones that obviously Sara and Renée know so much better than us," she continues, speaking about herself and Pell. "We're choir and musical theater from high school and college girls who are like, 'They gotta hear me in the back!'"
Philipps' favorite Season 2 song: "I loved all of the music this season and honestly didn't quite know how they were going to top it from last year because I felt like last year was such a win, but they did; they managed to just top it in such an intense, amazing way. And one of my new faves from this season is a song that I actually think Sara Bareilles wrote called 'Bend Not Break,' but I also love the song 'Larry.'"
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