“I wasn’t pursuing television. I wanted to be onstage. And I was very lucky there. But my career’s unfolding . . . exactly as it’s supposed to.” – Sutton Foster
To be fair, Broadway veteran Sutton Foster doesn’t actually play her age on the TV Land series Younger, which just began its second season. After all, the concept of the series is that Foster plays a youthful-looking forty year old who pretends to be 26 years old in order to jumpstart several aspects of her life, including her career and love life. In a conversation with Newsday, Foster reveals the challenges she face of adapting to acting for television on her thoughts on the difficulty middle-aged actresses face with finding strong roles.
Though Foster is a longtime Broadway star, Younger is her second television series after the 2012 ABC Family drama Bunheads. She admits that she is still adapting to acting for television after so many years of live theater. She explains, “It’s been a real learning curve, figuring out how to work in TV. It’s totally different from theater… the idea of the audience is different. Onstage, the audience is right in front of you. But for TV you’re playing to an invisible audience behind a camera, so you have to change your idea about it.”
She elaborates, “When I first started working in front of a camera, I was so used to performing to everyone — because onstage, everyone sees what you do. But in TV, instead of interacting with . . . [she puts on a grand theatrical voice] the entire THEATAHHH . . . you’re just interacting with one person behind the camera sitting in their home. I learned quickly I could be giving the performance of a lifetime but no one’s gonna see it if the camera is pointed at my back. (She chuckles.) That was a new concept.”
Foster points out that since the show first aired she has been asked to talk about the difficulty with finding substantive roles that many actresses begin to face as they approach 40, which is similar to the premise of Younger. While Foster understands that dilemma, she points out that she has made an effort to pursue roles that reflect her actual age. She says, “I wasn’t pursuing television. I wanted to be onstage. And I was very lucky there. But my career’s unfolding . . . exactly as it’s supposed to. Oddly, the only time I felt pressure was when we premiered the first season of Younger and the press asked about ageism and getting older, and I thought . . . ‘Ohmygod, am I supposed to be panicking? I haven’t panicked yet.’ But I’ve never felt that way. I don’t know if that makes me naive. But I’m gonna hold onto that naiveté as long as possible. So far, great opportunities have come my way. I’m actually excited to be a 40-year-old on TV. There are great roles out there for women, older and younger. I don’t need to be playing the ingénue forever.”