Freeform’s delightful (and yet-to-be-renewed) dramedy about a trio of aspiring 20-something best friends who work at a fictional women’s magazine, Scarlet, wrapped its 10-episode rookie season on Tuesday -- and left many questions unanswered.
After debating whether to leave the familiar halls of Scarlet, Jane (Katie Stevens) made the life-changing decision to part from the stability of her job for the unknown of an online magazine, Incite (think Buzzfeed meets Vice). Her exit from Scarlet didn’t come without its drama, of course, as Scarlet editor-in-chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) tasked Jane with one final assignment that revealed a pivotal piece of her past history: Jacqueline was a rape survivor.
For Sutton (Meghann Fahy), the fashion assistant nipped her brief hookup with Scarlet writer Alex (Matt Ward) in the bud after a highly uncomfortable meeting with HR that her secret ex and company lawyer, Richard (Sam Page), happened to sit in on. Sutton and Richard’s final moment in the elevator left a lot to be desired: Are they reconciling? Are they keeping things status quo?
Meanwhile, Kat (Aisha Dee) boarded a flight to South America to be with Adena (Nikohl Boosheri), but is she ever coming back to her job as Scarlet’s striving social media director?
Creator Sarah Watson, who also wrote the finale, jumped on the phone with ET to break down the biggest moments from the season’s final episode, what a hypothetical sophomore season would entail and why it was important to keep the core trio’s friendship intact.
ET: It’s really great to see a show embracing women in the workplace while trying to balance their personal lives, and not talking down to them. They don’t apologize for what they go through or how they resolve certain conflicts and obstacles. Was that a directive that you wanted to maintain throughout the season?
Sarah Watson: You definitely hit it on the head when you said they feel like real people. I really emulated them from my friends and my bosses. I’ve had such positive female friendships and female bosses, and that’s not what you normally see on TV. There’s sort of this lazy inclination that it’s like, oh, you need to create drama on a show about friends, so let’s have them all turn on each other. And I just think that it’s just so much more real and so much more true to life that when you have a challenge, you turn to your friends, you don’t turn on your friends. It was very intentional.
The reveal of Jacqueline as a rape survivor was really touching and something I didn’t expect. Why was it important to add that layer to that character?
It’s something we started talking about in the writers’ room in the first couple of weeks when we were still talking generally about the characters and getting to know the characters. We started with the three girls -- with Kat, Sutton and Jane -- talking about who are they and what are their experiences that have shaped them. Them being 25, we get the chance to see a lot of them go through a lot of the experiences that will shape them. So then when we got to Jacqueline, we started to talk about, like, “OK, well gosh, 20 years ago, she was basically Jane.” She was a puff reporter at a magazine and what did that look like? What were those experiences that she had that made her into who she is now? We started talking a lot about what a different landscape it was, and especially what a different landscape it was 20 years ago.
I don’t know how the conversation of sexual assault came up, but we started talking about [how] there’s so many stories from, not as often today, thank god, but especially from 20 years ago, if a woman came forward with a sexual assault in her workplace, she was the one who got damaged for it. We started to talk about that for Jacqueline. Would that be an interesting layer to her character? It was very intentional all season that we get to know the girls really well, but there’s always a little bit of an air of mystery to Jacqueline. Part of it is she’s the boss and she wants to be perceived a certain way, but she is a little bit guarded of a character. Once we came up with that sexual assault backstory, I got Melora Hardin -- who plays Jacqueline -- in and said, “This is a piece of your character,” and she was excited to play that and to really show that journey. It just seemed like an interesting story to tell, to add that layer to Jacqueline.
At the end of the finale, Jane makes the decision to leave Scarlet and start her new adventure at Incite. Do you already have an idea or have you thought through what kinds of hurdles she’ll face there?
No, not at all. That was a decision [Jane leaving Scarlet] that was almost like Jane hemming and hawing over that decision until the last minute. That was kind of like how it was in the writers’ room and talking with the network. Should she go? Should she not go? Is this the right decision or not? It’s going to be really exciting in season two, god willing, to see what challenges [she’ll face]: Is it the right fit? What different things is she experiencing [there] and what kind of boss is Victoria versus Jacqueline? I think there are a lot of interesting things to play, but we have not yet begun to talk about it.
So there were nerves about placing Jane outside of the Scarlet world?
Oh definitely, definitely.
Switching gears a little bit to Sutton and Alex. Early on, I didn’t expect them to be paired together romantically. Are they over for good or are there still remnants of something lingering between them?
(Laughs.) I think both. Relationships when you’re in your 20s are so tenuous and changing constantly, and I also feel like you’re changing constantly. One day, you’re like, “Yes, I’m super into this guy!” and the next day, you’re like, “How could I even think about him?” This season, it was an unexpected discovery for us -- this great Alex-Sutton friendship -- and we started talking about them becoming these very close work friends very early on in the season and we always had the idea that he had a bit of a crush on her. It just seemed interesting; here’s this great solid, dependable guy who always has her back, is totally good-looking, it’s like, “Ah! God, I wish I liked him.” Sometimes when you’re in your 20s, it’s like, “OK, that’s the kind of guy I should be with because that is not complicated, that is not Richard, it is simple, so I’m going to force myself to try it.” That was what her decision was here. But I think in the future, maybe her feelings will evolve for real. I don’t know. Hopefully we get a season two and get a chance to find out.
In the final scene between Sutton and Richard, they’re in the elevator and it’s left open-ended as to what may have been said or happened between the former couple. Where do you see that pairing potentially going?
The elevator moment is meant to be a glimmer of hope. These are two characters who are absolutely in love with each other, it’s just, is that enough? Because the work complications are still there. It’s not even just that, they’re in completely different life places. She’s just starting this career that she loves [as a fashion assistant] and he’s established in his [as a company attorney]. What does a relationship look like in those contexts? I’ll say there’s a glimmer of hope there, for sure.
What are we to surmise from Kat’s finale moment when she decides to board the plane and see Adena?
We do know that she’s flown there to see Adena. What we don’t know is did she go for the weekend? Did she up and leave her job? All we know is that Kat is in South America with Adena.
Were you surprised by the fan response to the Kat and Adena relationship?
The very first scene we shot of the pilot last summer was the scene of Kat and Adena, where they’re packing the vibrators, and the chemistry between them was so freaking unreal. I knew that if we got picked up, that that was going to be a huge part of the season. I am surprised and I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised because they’re so wonderful together. I’m not surprised that fans have really glommed on to them. What’s been really surprising and really touching is how many people are seeing themselves in that relationship and how many people feel connected to it. It’s special when people look at your show and say, “I’m able to see myself for the first time.” That relationship just works. A lot of it is actor chemistry, but everything clicked into place.
Things were left open-ended between Jane and laid-off Pinstripe writer, Ryan. If there is a season two, what are your intentions with Pinstripe? Could he return?
I would love that! Obviously it’ll depend on if we get a season two or if [actor Dan Jeannotte] gets another show. I love him, I love the way [the character] makes Jane insane. I think it’s so fun. I would love to figure out how to keep him woven into the fabric of the show, whether they’re romantically entangled or not. They’re so great together.
Speaking more broadly, each episode has tackled a topical issue like free speech, sexuality, sexual assault, immigration, breast cancer awareness and layoffs, just to name a few. How did the conceit of the show -- that Jane, Kat and Sutton work at a women’s magazine -- play into the format?
It’s interesting looking back and seeing how many social issues we explored because we never were like, “That’s an interesting social issue, let’s explore it.” It was more like, “This is an interesting thing for the character to go through” or “This is an interesting story to tell,” and I do think that the fact that they are at a magazine does lend itself to more stories like that, because it’s kind of like a character show with a little bit of a hidden procedural to it. Jane’s story is allowed to have a case of the week, so as she’s exploring these stories, they feel a little more issue-oriented because she’s writing about them. It always came from who these organic stories [would be best for]. The breast cancer gene [episode] is a perfect example of that. In the pilot, we know that Jane lost her mother, so we started talking about, well, how did that shape her? When did she lose her mother? How did her mother die?
What episode or scene was the toughest for you to write?
Probably the finale [the episode centered on sexual assault and rape survivors]. As a writer, that feels like a big, scary thing to face because that’s not my experience. I have not been raped, so to write about something that’s that deep and personal was a scary thing. I definitely felt the weight of that. I’m so grateful that we worked with amazing consultants and women who were very open about sharing their experiences and their stories. Every time I sat down to write the scene in the episode when Jane interviews Jacqueline, and Jacqueline opens up about her sexual assault, that was a very scary scene for me as a writer.
What are your hopes for a second season?
I really am looking forward to deepening the characters even more. We got to spend a lot of time with the core trio this year and I’d love to tell stories that are for the men. What is their equivalent of the fashion closet? Do we get to see them on their own without the women? I think that could be really interesting. Now that we’ve gotten an even bigger glimpse into Jacqueline’s life, I’d like to get more of a glimpse into her home life and also, what her relationship with the board members is like. It was really important to me in season one that we always saw Jacqueline as having her sh*t together. I didn’t want to see her struggle in any way. But in season two, it would be really interesting to see her actually having battles with the board. What does it look like with that power structure?