EXCLUSIVE: Peter Hermann Explains Why 'Younger' Embraces Complicated Love Triangles
By Philiana Ng
Younger isn’t getting any younger, deep in its fourth-season run, but it’s been on an upward trajectory since its debut more than two years ago.
TV Land’s salaciously sexy and unbelievably addictive Manhattan-based half-hour dramedy -- centered on a 40-something mother, Liza (Sutton Foster), who pretends to be 26 to land a publishing job -- has perfected the art of the “OMG” moment and embraced the complexities of dreamy romantic entanglements, and viewers have responded in kind. The Aug. 9 episode, “Fever Pitch,” set series highs as the most-watched episode in the show’s young history.
“We are so amazed and so taken with what our writers have stitched together for us and have created for us. There’s been nothing but enthusiasm and gratitude,” Peter Hermann, who plays Liza’s boss and secret boy toy, Charles, tells ET of the show’s continued success. As Younger marches toward the final three episodes of the season, Hermann talks to ET about getting punched in the face (on the show!), Charles’ romantic predicament (is he Team Liza or Team Pauline?) and why he’s the worst at keeping a straight face on set.
ET: What has been the most surprising plot point or character moment that made you have to go back and reread the script immediately?
Peter Hermann: This season, when I read that I got popped in the face -- that was certainly something. (Laughs.) I thought, “Wait a second!” It was funny, because the first thing, my hackles go up. I was like, “Wait a second, that can’t happen. I can’t get punched!” In a sense, we live these stories and we absolutely share those reactions that the fans have.
You mentioned the punch Charles suffers at the hand of Josh in the last episode. Was that surprising to you? What was it like filming that scene?
As a parent, sometimes you say, “Use your words, instead of [your fists].” It’s probably good that Nico [Tortorella] and I don’t have more scenes together, because we somehow become boisterous 9th graders whenever we film together. I think that production would probably grind to a halt if we had more scenes together, because we revert to some sort of preposterous level of immaturity. He kept getting closer and closer and closer, and then finally, I was like, “You can chill a little bit.” And then they had to do one more take and I swear to you, I was like, “Put the ambulance on standby, because he’s gonna break my nose, break my jaw and god knows what else." (Laughs.) He was oddly enthusiastic, put it that way, but it was really fun to do.
But when the punch happened, Charles hadn’t quite put together that Josh had seen him and Liza kissing outside the hotel room in the Hamptons. That came later…
Because we have only 24 minutes to tell the story, some moments get condensed. When we actually shot [the punching scene], there’s a moment when I actually get up and I’m about to square off [with Josh]. Then the penny drops for Charles a little bit, and he decides to walk away.
This season really leaned into the love triangle between Liza, Charles and Josh, and complicated it even further with the arrival of Charles’ ex, Pauline (Jennifer Westfeldt). What has been the best part about playing this growing love square?
The more complicated it gets, the more fun it is to play, and that’s what we love to watch. We love to watch people work through things, because life is complicated. In that sense, it’s very true to how tricky life can get. I don’t know how often any of us can look back at a three-month stretch or even a month or a week and go, “That was a really easy week! I didn’t really have to work through anything!” That’s the beauty of the writing and that’s the beauty of [creator] Darren [Star]’s ear of that fine line of complications/comedy/drama.
What is your advice to Charles for how he should navigate the Liza and Pauline of it all?
Oh boy. It’s not just two women; it’s also two daughters, so it certainly expands far beyond a square. My advice to him would be to keep what’s most important, most important. There are some pretty basic rules that’ll get you pretty far. Keep his priorities straight. He’s deeply unsettled by having this book [by Pauline] coming out; he’s a private person and the decision to publish that, and to have Liza, who he’s so deeply attracted to, working with his ex-wife, it’s nice to be able to leave that complication at the end of the day and go home. But then it’s fun to go back the next day.
I think of people in my life, who I assume their age to be true, and then I think of someone telling me they’re much older or much younger than they claim to be. The obvious question that comes up: Why didn’t you trust me enough to tell me? There are so many reasons for Liza [to keep the secret] and that’s the beautiful thing about the show. As soon as she feels like she’s hurting somebody, she opts to tell the truth. On the one end, yes, it’s great news because the age is a bit of a barrier and when that barrier’s out of the way. But it’s also that feeling of “Aha! I knew there was something different about you. I knew there was something wise beyond your years.” It’ll probably be a nice justification of his intuition.
Does Charles make a choice between Liza and Pauline by the end of the season? Who is your personal pick?
My personal pick for the show is that complications are great. (Laughs.) If I weren’t on the show and I were watching it, which I would, that’s what I would want. I would yearn for it all to be solved, but in the same way that the snack that you’re not supposed to have in the refrigerator, like, “Yeah, I want that one.” I would yearn for more complications in that way.
You’ve also had to film some steamy sex scenes -- albeit dream sequences -- this season with Sutton. What was that like?
It’s good to do those scenes with someone that you get along with and the director was fantastic. There was such a great spirit on the set and before any of those scenes, Sutton and I would look at each other and we’re like, “All right, here we go.” And then you dive in and hope that you put a team together.
Fashion is also a big part of the show. How excited do you get when you see the suits that you’ll be wearing?
I always want to wear them home and wear them to bed. [Costume designer] Jacqueline Demeterio is absolutely remarkable. My suits are probably a little weirded out by me because I touch them a lot.
Are we ever going to see Charles super casual on a lazy Sunday in a raggedy T-shirt and sweatpants?
That’ll be season 17.
Charles is often really serious on the show. How often do you break character and what causes you to laugh the most?
When I go, I really, really go. There was one moment where, at the hygge party [in the second episode of the season, “Getting’ Hygge With It”], I just completely went to pieces. And I was also wearing the hottest sweater ever. Everyone thinks it’s funny for five minutes, but when you still can’t get it together an hour later and you have sweat tears on the side of the set because everything is so preposterously funny, but you’re getting the death stare from the first A.D., like, “Dude, we gotta go.” The problem is then that makes it even funnier, but we somehow got through it. I’m working with Miriam [Shor] and with Sutton and with Hilary [Duff] -- you try working with Miriam and her doing one of those small sublime gestures and try keeping a straight face. It’s impossible.
Younger airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TV Land.