The cast and creators of “Girls5Eva” have discovered the key to making a successful sitcom in 2022 — and it's one they sound absolutely fabulous singing.
Centered on a failed 1990s girl group who are rediscovered later in life, the Peacock show's quartet — played by Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Renée Elise Goldsberry — are all middle-aged women still trying to achieve their dreams while balancing the stresses of real life, which are much less glamorous than a pop star fantasy.
Created by Meredith Scardino, the series was picked up for another season after its May 2021 premiere. Season Two drops on Peacock on May 5, 2022. Here's hoping they preserved that earworm of a theme song come Season Two, in addition to incorporating more original Girls5Eva bops.
“It was just relief,” Bareilles told TODAY via Zoom of her reaction upon learning of the renewal. “After day one of shooting, we were all crossing our fingers, hoping we were going to get to do it again. Just as soon as we began, it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want this to end.’"
A Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter, Bareilles grew up a musical theater kid and wrote the musical "Waitress," so she wasn’t a stranger to acting. But her role in “Girls5Eva” is the most acting she’s had to do for a project, and the task continues to challenge and surprise her.
“I am a junkie for getting to do something new,” Bareilles said. “I like the discovery of something you’re not an expert at. When we get into those places where we’re really comfortable, it’s easy to get kind of complacent. So I love trying new things.”
“This season for me was so fun because I was a little bit past the white knuckling of season one.”
Bareilles plays Dawn, the peacemaker of the group, who is trying to figure out how to add “pop star” to her already hectic life that includes being a mom and wife. This next season follows her as she tries to lead the group's attempt to write and release a full album — on their own terms.
“This season for me was so fun because I was a little bit past the white-knuckling of season one,” she said. “TV is its own monster. I was struggling to figure out the rhythms of being on a set at all. So I felt more comfortable this season. We’ve also bonded so much. I’ve just really loved trying to find the surprising truth from moment to moment on-set.”
Part of Bareilles' "intense bond" is with Goldsberry, who plays opposite Bareilles as Wickie, the self-proclaimed “fierce one” of the group who keeps viewers (and bandmates) on edge with her diva-like behavior and absurd antics.
Speaking to TODAY, Goldsberry said she is just as surprised by Wickie's behavior as the other characters on the show.
“I’m always looking to our writers room wondering what in the world are they going to do with this woman?” Goldsberry said. “I often feel like I have an idea of what would be good for a character. In this situation, I don’t know what to want for her sometimes, because it’s so funny to see her trying to figure it out and kind of just missing it. You don’t necessarily want her to win everything, because it’s kind of fun to see her scrap."
Ultimately, Goldsberry feels nothing but affection for her on-screen diva. "I love her. I’m always surprised. I laugh at her a lot," she added.
"Girls5Eva" is executive produced by Tina Fey, and its creative ties to Fey's shows like "30 Rock" and "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" are apparent in each of its rapid-fire jokes, grounded in both zaniness and pop culture. Showrunner Scardino says her roots in late-night are what informs the jokes' quick cadence, which has viewers laughing at one while the punchline of the next is being delivered.
“To get that call from Tina (Fey) when I did, it changed everything for me.”
“You can write insane amounts of jokes in late night or improve but there’s always another one,” Scardino told TODAY. “You just throw so much at the wall and so that muscle — actually the only muscle in my body right now because I haven’t worked out in a long time — is one I have flexed for so many years. High jokes per minute, references and just wanting to live at that high-tempo is something I'm very comfortable with.”
Pell also has her roots in writing for late-night comedy. She wrote for “Saturday Night Live” from 1995 to 2013, creating some of the sketch show’s most iconic characters like the Spartan Cheerleaders and Debbie Downer. In “Girls5Eva,” Pell is in front of the camera playing Gloria, a dentist by day, lesbian divorcée.
“Coming from my background as a comedy writer, it’s really fun to relax and not have anything to worry about with the scripts because I don’t have to add nothing,” Pell said. “There’s no need to fill it with more jokes. Usually when you do things you go, 'Oh, this needs a few more jokes or it needs a couple of good hard jokes.' This is so filled with them already we don’t need it.”
Philipps agrees with Pell that the cast rarely has to ad-lib. With a career that reads like a CVS receipt, spanning from "Freaks and Geeks" to "Courage Town," Philipps has perfected the art of playing the best friend.
While her "Girls5Eva" character, Summer, a wealthy and disaffected housewife, fits into past precedent, the role is extra special for Philipps. It all comes down to the opportunity's timing — the first season was filmed in New York during the pandemic.
“Everyone’s had a really wild few years," she said. "Just in life, that’s our baseline that we have to move forward from there. What the show offered me in a time of such intense grief and upheaval was just pure friendship, comfort, love and support. I never in a million years could have imagined this scenario. It truly was a dream. To get that call from Tina (Fey) when I did, it changed everything for me.”
For now, the women are excited to be embarking on this next chapter — but most of all, that they get to do it together.
"Now after filming Season Two, I just hope we get to do it again," Bareilles said. "It is such a deep joy.”
Peacock and TODAY are owned by the same parent company, NBCUniversal.