Meet ‘Search Party’ and ‘Strangers’ Star Meredith Hagner, Millennial TV’s It Girl (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
After moving to New York City at 18 years old, Meredith Hagner has been busy working her way from one-time soap actress on As the World Turns -- which, after all, is where Julianne Moore got started -- to one of 2017’s breakouts. As star of the TBS dark comedy series, Search Party, and Facebook’s first scripted series, Strangers, and a recurring role on Younger’s fourth (and highest-rated) season, one could argue the actress is something of a millennial TV “It Girl.”
In fact, Strangers, which is now streaming in full on Facebook’s original video content platform, Watch, is very much a show about what’s happening now. Loosely inspired by creator Mia Lidofsky’s experiences of renting out her NYC apartment on Airbnb, the dramedy tells the emotional, sexual and professional adventures of two friends, Isobel (Zoe Chao) and Cam (Hagner), whose lives are impacted by the rotation of eccentric guests staying in their spare room.
“Mia’s story deals with sexuality, gender and identity,” Hagner says, revealing she’s close friends with the filmmaker who serves as inspiration for Cam and gave the actress the opportunity to play someone that she says she might not traditionally be cast as. “Mia is able to see beyond certain things and give me this opportunity.”
On the show, Cam is forced to deal with buried resentments in her friendship with Isobel as a move across the country looms. In all the chaos of growing up, there’s a coolness often reflected in Cam’s demeanor and style. “It’s really refreshing to play someone who is so themselves and so firm in their core of beliefs. It’s fun to play the character who knows what they want and how to get it,” Hagner says.
The character is also a complete 180 degrees from Portia on Search Party, which returns for a second season on Nov. 19. A partying Brooklynite and struggling actress desperately seeking attention and fame, she’s a quintessential narcissist -- but somehow still lovable. During the show’s first season about Dory’s (Alia Shawkat) quest to find out what happened to Chantal (Clare McNulty), Portia gets caught up in the thrill of the search even as her brush with stardom on a scripted detective series is cut short.
“I don’t know how much natural ability she does have,” Hagner says of Portia, who, like the rest of the group is reeling from the shocking end to their hunt to find Chantal, “but on season two, she goes through a deep, dark struggle and finds this catharsis in a performance and ends up being really good.”
Sharing most of her screen time with John Early, who plays an equally narcissistic gay hipster, Elliott, Hagner says it’s hard not to laugh when they filmed together. “But this season was easier since we were dealing with some really heavy stuff,” she adds.
When asked about what she thinks of starring on multiple shows that speak to the millennial experience, Hagner says that “they relate so specifically to these people” while recalling how she felt when she first watched HBO's Girls. “It was almost confronting for me to watch. I love that show so much, but at first, I was literally watching my experience in a way that -- it makes for really great art -- was almost hard to watch,” she says, adding: “I definitely have my own millennial issues.”
And given the fact that all these shows as well as the summer releases of Folk Hero & Funny Guy and Ingrid Goes Westare all seemingly happening at the same time, the actress is grateful to be a part of it. “It took a lot of training and work to get somewhere close to where I want to be,” says Hagner, who’s now at a tipping point of her career. “Every time I’m working as an actor on a part, it’s a dream.”