Single Drunk Female Star Ally Sheedy Wants To Tell Sobriety Stories With A Different Point Of View [Interview]

Life is hard. Sometimes we stumble and need a helping hand getting back up, even if it's horribly embarrassing. That's the premise behind "Single Drunk Female," the new Freeform series starring Sofia Black-D'Elia as Samantha, an alcoholic in her twenties who moves back in with her overbearing mother Carol (Ally Sheedy) after an ugly public meltdown at a New York media company. While she gets sober and puts her life back together, she'll work at the local grocery store and do her very best to not fall back into old habits. The biggest problem? Her former best friend is now dating her ex, and being stuck in her hometown means seeing them all the time. Yikes. 

"Single Drunk Female" was written and created by Simone Finch ("The Connors"), and is executive produced by Jenni Konner ("Girls"), Daisy Gardner ("Silicon Valley"), Phil Traill ("Good Girls"), Nora Silver, and Leslye Headland. Headland, known for her work on the Netflix series "Russian Doll," also directed the pilot. 

Sheedy plays Carol, who wants the best for her daughter but is occasionally a little too much. Many fans know Sheedy best from '80s films like "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire," and playing the mom of a rebellious youth feels like her career coming full circle. I got the chance to speak to Sheedy via Zoom about the series, working with so many talented women, creating a series during a pandemic, and more.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

"Carol is just sort of bubbled up inside me."

Tell me a bit about your character. Where did you draw inspiration from for her?

Carol is just sort of bubbled up inside me, but I was noticing that there are things about my mom that's in there, there are things about myself as a mother that were in there, just bits and pieces all over, and then the writing just gave me the character. I mean, she just started coming together.

How did you build the mother/daughter relationship with Sofia Black-D'Elia? I know mother/daughter relationships are especially complicated and theirs is even more. So how did you two put that together?

Okay. Again, it starts with the writing. It really starts with that writing right away in the first script that Simone wrote, it's there. And then Sofia and I, for some reason have a, the word chemistry is just so overused, we have something, some kind of, I guess it's trust, playful, and enjoyment of working with each other, and that just let the relationship with Carol and Sam just get rich. And the longer I knew Sofia as we were working on the show, I could feel that relationship between Carol and Sam just coming clearer and clearer and clearer.

"It's anchored in an actual woman's experience of what her life is like sober."

Sobriety can be a really difficult topic to engage with, and I was wondering how "Single Drunk Female" managed to make that conversation both funny and heartfelt while being authentic.

Yeah. I'm really glad that you brought the authentic word in there. I think that was what Simone wanted to write and that's pretty much how everybody came together on the project was that this it's very much based on Simone. So she's using things that happened to her in her life and it's all structured around what feels true or not to her, and I think that those qualities, just that it's authentic, and that it's funny, but that it's not a broad comedy, it's the comedy to me seems to come I'm out of the situations that these characters are in. I just think it's anchored in an actual woman's experience of what her life is like sober, that's the point of view, as opposed to all the stories we've seen where somebody's just got a drinking problem, and then we're watching the drinking, drinking, drinking story. This is about, okay, what happens once you stop?

And following up on that, why do you think there are so many downward spiral stories, but we don't see as many redemption stories or redemption stories that are this messy?

Yes, yes, exactly. Messy, messy, messy. It's what I really love about the show. Yes. The relationships are messy. Sam is messy. Carol is messy. Everybody is. I don't think the show is so much about the final element is the person stops drinking, I don't think it's really just about yes forgiveness and redemption and exactly what you said. I think it's more about what is this daily process of having to get through life for Samantha without the alcohol, and then as far as I'm concerned with Carol, I have to re-figure out this entire relationship with her because we stopped having one over the years when she was drinking, and it takes me a while. And I'm speaking as Carol right now: "I don't completely trust any of this. I don't want to make any final decisions about anything because I really don't know what she's going to be able to pull off here."

"These are exactly the women I have always wanted to work with."

I love your line, "it's hard to be a person." It feels like that's always been the case, but maybe even more so in the past few years, how does "Single Drunk Female" reconcile just how difficult things have gotten?

Are you referring to the pandemic? Or to just life in general?

Both. The pandemic, life in general, the whole shebang. Just the fact that it feels a little apocalyptic lately.

It does. I agree with you. I think that Simone, Daisy, and Jenny have their greater overview of the show, all of the qualities about their writing are in there, so what you're picking up on there is what they were pulling from in the world in general, life in general, they narrow it down to in the context of the sobriety, and they were weaving all of that, every single thing that you just brought up, they were weaving into the writing.

What's it like working with so many incredibly talented women, both on screen and behind the camera? Because you just keep listening them off and it's like, yes, what's it like?

I know. I know. As soon as this script came along, these are exactly the women I have always wanted to work with. Exactly. And exactly the writing. And then Sofia's a dream. It was almost entirely women as far as the creative producing, mostly directing, not entirely, but a lot of the directors. So it's a show by women about women done for women, young women, but it's all coming from that place. And I haven't done that many projects where the orbit of the whole thing is women, it's women in positions of power making a show. It's great.

"It's a mother/daughter saga."

So filming during Covid is a unique challenge. Did you have any unique or weird or funny moments on set because of that?

To keep this set as safe as possible, the studio had all sorts of rules and requirements and this thing and that thing and the other thing, and we were all following it really closely because even if somebody picked up Covid, you just didn't want it spreading. So yeah, there was a lot, I mean every other day Covid tests, and then these crazy plastic shield things that once the makeup and everything is on for the character, especially for me, I mean, Carol has more on than Sofia does. So instead of wearing a mask and all of a sudden it's this bizarre plastic shield that kind of hooks around your neck. It's really strange. So walk around with that all day long. And the constant vigilance about distancing. So, it was a lot, but we adapted really quickly and I was just super hyper conscious about not getting sick and having a test every other day just kept me crazy disciplined.

So the other thing is I never left my hotel room. I was in my hotel room. I would go to work or I'd walk across the street to see my brother who was also getting tested every other day, that's it? That was the entire Atlanta experience. I didn't go anywhere. I didn't do anything.

What would you like people to know about Single Drunk Female? What would you like the /Film readers to know?

So any character that you talk to, any actor that you talk to about their character is going to have a different idea about what the show really is, what the story is because there's so many different storylines. For me, this show is, because I'm Carol, this show is only about Carol and Sam. It's just about the mother and daughter trying to negotiate their relationship living together, and that's where all the conflict and the drama and the story are for me. It's a mother/daughter saga.

The first two episodes of "Single Drunk Female" will premiere on Thursday, January 20, 2022 at 10:00 P.M. EST.