Yes, Drew Scott's combat reel was real.
In only eight episodes, the women of Girls5eva went from being in album mode to tour mode.
After signing with Property Records, the newest arm of Drew and Jonathan Scott's media empire, Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Summer (Busy Philipps), and Gloria (Paula Pell) juggled their personal life changes (Wickie fell for "a normal!"; Summer's parents wanted her to be abstinent after her divorce!) with hours upon hours in the studio, laying down new tracks for "Returnity."
Many songs, from "Bend Not Break" about Gloria injuring herself on stage and needing knee surgery, to "Larry," about their toxic former manager, were inspired by what they were really going through, but they also had some fun bops and an anthem ("BPE") thrown in, too.
By the end of the season, their album was complete, and they were officially ready for the next step in their ascension. Only, the tour they embarked upon at the end of the finale wasn't the glamorous, globe-trotting one they once thought it would be. After performing a little too well as the opening act for Property Records' boy band during a trial run, the Property Brothers went a different way. It took a literal, physical fight between Drew Scott and Gloria for them to admit they just needed an opener who would be bad enough people would go out to the lobby and buy their new products instead of watching that part of the concert.
So, instead, Girls5eva got in a van and headed to Texas, as it turned out Dawn's little ditty about Fort Worth was an actual hole in the market, and now that they filled it, they were stars in the South.
"It felt like such an organic bookend for a season. That to create the album is as the backdrop, and then you'd have stories hanging around it and it'd be fun to see them in the studio and see what they could make. That felt like the logical next step," creator and showrunner Meredith Scardino tells Metacritic.
Season 2 leaves each of the women after a very important piece of growth. For Wickie, it is that she was able to say "I love you" for only the second time in her life (and first time to a romantic partner, and not just "a golf cart that [she] thought contained Billy Porter"), while Gloria finally let go of her ex-wife (Janine Brito) and her conspiracy theory about Ashley (Ashley Park); Summer put her foot down and told Kev (Andrew Rannells) he had to be the full-time parent for once (and evolved from student to teacher of salad school); and Dawn successfully wrote the songs on their album and found out she is pregnant with her second child.
Here, Scardino talks to Metacritic about creating so much more music for Season 2, casting the Scotts, and plans for the tour in Season 3.
How far have you arced out what tour mode will look like in Season 3, if you get renewed?
Part of me would love a tourism council to reach out to me and be like, "We would love to house your production in New Zealand." But the way I keep approaching the show is I try not to box myself in. Once you start writing, things have a life of their own and you don't want to shut things down if they lead you somewhere. The whole Property Brothers thing, if I can derail for a second —
Yes, please, I was going to ask soon about casting them anyway.
We set up Property Records because it felt like the kind of celebrity brand expansion thing that felt of the time, and we wrote it not knowing if we'd get the Property Brothers. But I thought, "Well, there's a lot of guys that kind of look like the Property Brothers. Maybe we'll get Adam Scott, maybe we'll get John Mulaney. Obviously the ideal situation is to get them, but if we can't get them, maybe we can find some guys with beards." But we got them.
Drew has a lot of different talents and was like, "Just so you know a little bit about me, here's some things I can do." And he sent some music and some animated voiceover, and then he also sent that combat reel. And I was just like, "This is the greatest, most unexpected thing I've ever seen in my life." We were not ever expecting to end up with a fight scene with Paula and Drew, but Drew and Jonathan, I guess, were martial arts champions back in the day, so it's definitely in their quiver of talents.
And so, if we were so boxed in, we wouldn't have like been open to that and "yes and-ed" it in an improv way and found ourselves in a story that culminated with Gloria and him having a full fistfight and demolishing a newly renovated kitchen, which was one of the highlights of my life, being on set that day.
And it wraps up Gloria's story really poignantly, too, from having a knee injury to showing how much stronger she is now.
The knee got stronger, in a way. So, that's just an example of how I have a fuzzy picture or even little funny details that I just keep throwing in a file. I always wanted them to hit the road at a certain point, and it just felt like, "What are the steps you would take?" And then we find the fun and the insanity and the heart and all that within the confines of what might logically have happen.
And where did Dawn's pregnancy fall in there? Did you hesitate to have it happen right when they were about to go on tour, or did it feel like it's the perfect moment to do it because she wanted that from the pilot and now it's a chance to do a story about someone really trying to have it all?
It's just such a reality of life. I had my son at 41, and when I was pregnant I felt like I was studied like the Montauk Monster a little bit. So many scans. You get labeled AMA, advanced maternal age; I even heard "geriatric," the old term. The stats of having a healthy baby are great, but you just feel, "Am I too old to do this?" Other women in my writers' room have had babies in their 40s, so it felt like the kind of thing we had stuff to say about, so why not? It's also interesting when you're 20 and touring and partying your face off Düsseldorf, but now you're pregnant and you can't drink and your feet are too swollen for your heels, stuff like that will likely come up without being too much of a bummer. It just felt like a natural extension for Dawn's character.
You already brought up Drew and Jonathan, but I do want to go back to a few other guest stars from earlier in the season and talk about how they happened for a minute. And I think we have to start with one of the first ones: Joey Sasso from The Circle.
We were trying to figure out who would be on Raya in New York that would be the right person that Wickie might end up getting matched with or be interested in or whatever. And so, I was looking up who's on Raya in New York [at the time] and I feel like I was seeing a lot of John Mayer. I'm going to credit this to the room, but it could have been Anne Davison and Cindy Tolan, our casting directors. I had not seen The Circle, but now I love Joey Sasso. He's wonderful. He was like, "I'll be there for you, no matter what you need!"
And you had Amy Sedaris and Neil Flynn as Summer's parents, who were complicated characters because they had to have convinced Summer they were such goodie-goodies their whole lives, but also be believable that they weren't, which can be a complicated dichotomy.
There's a cool Christian aesthetic out there that is good costume fodder, but I am obsessed with Amy Sedaris. You know like in cartoon when they go in your mind and it's like a frog on a bicycle? Inside me, I just see various Amy Sedaris characters. I just want to work with her all of the time. And Neil Flynn is just such a hilarious sitcom actor. We wanted to cast a couple that had warmth because the premise is very controlling, and so, in different hands it comes off way creepier.
There was just such a spate of, I felt like, in the late '90s and early aughts, making virginity the story and making these girls talk about how virginal they were, as if that gave them permission to be sexy and be sex symbols. I have nothing against anyone who wants to be abstinent or wait for marriage, but it always felt so gross to me to see an entertainment reporter be like, "Let's talk about your career — are you a virgin?" What does that have to do with anything!? So, it felt like the kind of thing that, in a heightened reality, would come back to Summer, and "Do I want to be lead and not necessarily listen to what maybe I think I should do, or do I want to try out potentially a harder road for myself and then stand up to my parents?" Because it's hard to not have your parents on your side. So it's a conundrum for her because they might have good intentions, but it's not the best thing for her.
How did you decide when pieces of the women's stories this season would end up inspiring the music they created? For example, Gloria getting hurt turns into one, but Summer doesn't get a divorce anthem.
In some ways they've been in the game for a long time, but they're also new to songwriting. So, what are the kinds of things that felt organic to when they sit down to try to figure out an album? And then some stuff are one-off jokes, like, "Oh we'll just give one to the Property Brothers, kitchen reveal, the couple liked it."
I think, generally, you write about the things that are on your mind or things you've always wanted to write about like it. It felt very natural to us that they would write their Larry song to talk about, "We don't need you anymore." And then of course, he would insert himself back and be like, "That's my story." "BPE" was one [because] I wanted them to have an anthem — a fun, big, bold f--- it anthem -- and that one was always in my head from Season 1.
But we gave Kev that "cheated on me" song, and yes, I could see that there could be a breakup song from Summer's perspective that makes sense to me, and that could be on the album. It also felt in some ways, even though they're not in a romantic relationship with Larry, that felt like the breakup song. So it's also just picking and choosing because you don't want to have three episodes where they all write breakup songs. You're trying to weight it to give us stories, feel organic, and feel like the kind of things they'd be influenced by.
Also outside of their lives?
Yeah, I feel like they're influenced by Olivia Rodrigo, Adele, Lizzo, and I feel like "Bend Not Break" is influenced by The Weeknd a little bit. They're taking in the sounds of what's current and trying to make it their own.
Can we expect full versions of every song at some point? There are some over the credits at the end of episodes, but not for the epic "Set" or the Christmas song, for example.
There is one that's not in the credits that we recorded a longer version of that may come out. I wanted to write ["Set"], but here's the thing: There's not enough time to write all the things I want to write! We wanted to write "White Jazz" last year; I'm dying to write the Christmas song for Jesus' birthday. But our show, for a sitcom, is pretty ambitious with the flashbacks and the music and all that, so we just don't have the ability to do full-size versions of all of the 30 or 50 song snippets you end up hearing. We try to pick and choose one song per episode that then becomes the credits' songs. Like going back to the abstinence thing, we wrote that one for the credits, which turned out to be one of my favorites.
[Editor's Note: At the time of conducting this interview, the Season 2 soundtrack had not been produced or announced. However, it was released on 6/10/22 and
Get to know Meredith Scardino:
Before Scardino created Girls5eva, she was best known for working with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Metascore: 80) and Mr. Mayor (54). She has also worked as a writer on At Home with Amy Sedaris (82), The Colbert Report (65), Saturday Night Live, and Late Show with David Letterman.
UPDATED: This story was updated on 6/10/22 to include the link to the soundtrack.