I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said to family and friends over the last year, “Do you watch Somebody Somewhere on HBO?”
For those who say no, their response is usually, “What’s it about?”
For the longest time, I couldn’t answer that question.
Then at the beginning of last December, as I made my annual watch of the classic Christmas show, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I found the answer. Since then, for those who ask about the show, I now reply, “Do you know the Island of Misfit Toys on Rudolph? And how you just love those toys and are rooting for them? It’s sort of like that!”
In the world of television, with slick and hyped shows with big stars (think Harrison Ford in Shrinking), Somebody Somewhere is an island of its own, with characters who are anything but misfit toys.
The word “authenticity” gets thrown around a lot these days. It’s become tiresome – apologies to those who are leading their authentic lives. Yet, that’s what makes the cast of Somebody Somewhere unique since they are so authentic. In fact, maybe the word authentic isn’t right; perhaps, the word normal is better suited.
The characters aren’t boastful. No one is a scene stealer. They might not have the standard model looks television usually goes for — meaning, they don't look like the cast of Friends. I say that with all due respect to the stars – and my friends – Bridget Everett, Jeff Hiller, and Murray Hill – to many of us you are all hotter than a July barbeque. And that’s where you’d find the characters of Sam (Everett), Joel (Hiller), and Fred (Hill), milling around a grill, having a beer, talking with friends and townsfolk. Just a simple day, in a simple neighborhood, in a simple backyard, with regular, everyday people in Manhattan, Kan.
There is no discussion about anyone’s sexuality, even though some are queer; identity, even though one is trans; and marital status, even though some aren’t married and should be at their age. There are no judgments. There are relationship problems. Everyday problems that trip every one of us up momentarily during a day, and issues with family members that you love despite their foibles.
While many of us in blue states might roll our eyes when watching a show like that which takes place in Kansas, there are real lessons to be learned. For people in red and blue states.
The show doesn’t set out to teach lessons. The show just happens. Like life. The characters are part of the fabric of their community, just living their lives. The show is about humanity, as it should be, and it portrays it beautifully, and it does it with an exact amount of humor. It’s a quiet hit now, but somebody, somewhere is going to realize that this show is Emmy-worthy.
So, if you haven’t seen the show, and wonder what it’s about, see the above.
Now, when it comes to the stars of the show themselves, i.e. Everett (whose life is the basis for the series and who is one of the executive producers), Hiller, and Hill, they all have a comedy and stage performance background, so in real-life, conversations with them can be a joke-a-thon.
That’s what happened to me when I sat down to speak with them about season two, which premieres on HBO on Sunday. And having been a one-time theater actor, and a very amateur stand-up comic, I couldn’t help but get caught up in all the fun. I had a lot of serious questions and got some answered, but for the most part, we just had a great time!
What follows is an edited version of our interview, including some stage direction.
The Advocate: Hello all! Jeff, I’ve spoken with you a couple of times already, so you don’t have to say anything.
Everett and Hill (simultaneously): Good!
Hiller: That’s easy for me to do!
The Advocate: And Murray nice to see you again, and nice to finally meet you, Bridget. How are you both dealing with the fact that Jeff might be the breakout star of the show, with his turns in the Netflix hit, The Watcher, and his creepy amazingly creepy performance in FX’s American Horror Story?
Everett: While Jeff’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing, the rest of us are still waiting for ours to ring and for a miracle to happen.
Hill: Nobody plays a s****y serial killer like this guy (pointing to Hiller).
Everett: From America’s sweetheart to a real sicko!
The Advocate: So, there’s no resentment for him becoming such a big star?
Everett: I’m all about love and healing!
The Advocate: You know so many shows, and even commercials nowadays “check the box,” meaning there’s a person of color in the cast, check, a queer person, check, an interracial couple, check. Your show checks all the boxes without you thinking about the fact that you are checking boxes. How do you do that?
Everett: Me? I thought I was going to be the one to get the cupcake questions? That’s a good question. It wasn’t the goal of the show to check boxes. Our only aim was to develop fully realized characters and portray people as they are. These characters lead with their hearts. It’s just about people getting together, laughing and farting and having a good time with each other.
Hill: Johnny, you talk about the boxes. I think representation is sometimes just translated into just checking the boxes, and I think what’s different about this show is that it doesn’t need to check boxes. We’re not tokenized. We love and hurt just like everyone else. You can look at Jeff’s character Joel, for example, he’s gay, but he’s not portrayed as some saggy queen – although he is in real life.
But seriously, the creators and writers didn’t sit down and plan on the fact that they were featuring these people who might be different. It’s just people existing in this world who happen to be queer. That’s it.
The Advocate: Well said. I had a hard time telling people who haven’t seen the show what it was about, and then I saw the Island of Misfits on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and I said, simplistically I guess, that’s it. Has anybody said that to you about the misfits?
Hill: My parents have been saying that to me since the day I was born.
Everett: The original idea of the show for me, was for it to reflect the people in my life. For example, Murray’s been in my life for a long time, and so that’s what my world is like: Try to do that in show. And that’s how it took shape.
The Advocate: Murray, this is not a cupcake question, so I’m putting you on the spot. You also star in Amy Schumer’s show on Hulu. I know Amy and Bridgett are close friends. Since you’re in both shows, who is easier to work for?
Hill: Well, I’m glad you didn’t ask me who pays more. Listen, Johnny, I don’t want any trouble. But either way, I answer that question will get me in trouble (pointing to Everett). She’s easier to work for, because she’s sitting right here. But I feel like I can say Bridgett since the other one won’t be looking at The Advocate.
Everett: Maybe she does. Why wouldn’t she?
Hill: Because Bridgett’s going to be on the cover, and this will be her coming out story. Coming out as what? We don’t know.
Everett: I just like to be touched. What is that? What do you call someone that just likes to be touched?
Hill: Ok, that’s it. She confessed. We just gave you the big scoop. Now we’re done!
The Advocate: Not so fast, Murray. I know that you all lived together while shooting during season one and season two. What’s it like for the three of you cohabitating?
Hill: Which one do you think is the messiest?
(Everett and Hiller both point to Hill)
Hill: Which one do you think orders take-out four times a day?
(Hill and Hiller point to Everett, who is pointing at herself)
Everett: I always order from Open Table. I grew up as one of six kids, and everyone got to the fridge before me, and I was always last, so I have this thing of making sure there’s always enough food in the refrigerator in case I get there last.
Hill: And which one do you think exercises – by choice?
(Hill and Everett point to Hiller.)
Hiller: For me, it’s always about getting in those steps.
Hill: Jeff’s always going up and down the steps, walking in place, and jumps at the chance to go get the mail. And spoiler alert, Jeff’s obsession with getting his steps in made it into season two.
The Advocate: Ok, folks, we have to get serious, and I hate to do that, but with all the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and trans hate, and conservative states like Kansas, which is where your show takes place, passing all of these laws. How do you think these characters would fight back?
Everett: You go first Murray.
Hill: When we shot season two during the summer of 2022, and from then till now, politics have gone completely to s**t. But I think that means the timing couldn’t be more perfect for this show because it shows that queer people are not threatening. I saw somewhere that for the last two years, queer representation on television was at an all-time high, but that trend is starting to reverse, so another reason why this show is important.
Everett: I look at it this way. My oldest brother Brad is very conservative, and this show has been a real introduction to people he has little to no experience with. I love him, and he’s a great guy, and what makes me laugh is that his favorite character (pointing at Hiller) is Joel. I’m like, ok, does my sister-in-law know this? But I feel like it’s enlightening and it’s an introduction to many different people. People from Kansas watch it because it’s a Kansas show. They want to watch it and be proud of it, and they see that everyone just wants to be loved and wants to be happy.
Hill: She just said the show is an introduction, and it just made me think politically, anyone who is against drag queens reading to children has never, ever been to one. So what Bridgett is saying, you know she’s from Kansas, and she’s been around people like Jeff and I since she moved to Kansas, so she’s introducing us as people she’s met and loves.
Hiller: And by the way, people like us are in Kansas, and it’s important to remind the world of that, so it’s not like “Oh let’s save us from these drag queens from New York coming in.” It’s not like that. We’re members of communities all over the place, and we have respect for the laws just like everybody else. And we have rights just like everyone else has.
The Advocate: That’s a great point, so it’s really an eye-opener for anyone from a red state like Kansas as well as people from blue states?
Hiller: I’m from Texas, which is, well, it’s its own thing.
Hill: And I’m from New England which is its own thing too.
Hiller: I really give props to Bridgett and the other creators and writers who made these characters. I feel like I know my character Joel, because there are queer people who are members of faith communities like Joel, and they're in communities and churches all over the country.
The Advocate: Do you think an Emmy nomination for this show, which it deserves, would change hearts and minds?
Everett: Hearts and minds, mmm. We are smaller and quieter, and we will find our audience in time. We’re not like some cultural heat missile.
Hill: We’re a cruise ship.
Everett: We’re impacting in our own way and in our own time. That’s what art is supposed to do. It’s not for winning an Emmy and putting it on a shelf like a knick-knack.
Hiller: I think they should give her an Emmy on the shelf anyway.
Hill: Whether she wins an Emmy or not all depends on your write-up, Johnny, so make sure you do a good job.