In ‘Shrill,’ Aidy Bryant’s Annie Has a Plant-Packed Sunroom We Want to Steal
Hulu’s new series, “Shrill,” isn’t afraid to tackle tough topics. In fact—spoiler alert—Aidy Bryant’s character Annie gets an abortion in the first episode. It’s an experience that feminist author Lindy West recalled in detail in her hit 2016 memoir of the same name.
“I wanted the character to have an abortion and a difficult relationship with her boss,” West, who serves as a writer and producer for the show, explains to Apartment Therapy. “It was important that she have a complicated relationship with her body in some of the same ways that I write about in the book, and be at the beginning of this journey toward living in her body in a happier and more fulfilling way.”
Premiering March 15, “Shrill” sees Bryant’s character Annie as a fat young woman trying to figure out her life and career—without having to change her body. She’s an aspiring writer working at an alt-weekly called The Weekly Thorn, where she often gets dismissed by an irritable boss (played by John Cameron Mitchell), while juggling between a lazy boyfriend and aging parents.
West and Bryant collaborated to “create a fat character whose life is more similar to the reality of both of our lives,” says West. “We don’t actually spend all of our time hating ourselves. We do have ambitions and dreams beyond weight loss that don’t actually have anything to do with weight loss.” West notes that it was important for Annie to have a sex life, possess her own sense of personal style, and maintain close relationships with her best friend and family.
Adds West: “She’s trying to figure out her career, but she also has this added pressure to lose weight because she’s always been told there’s something wrong with her body.”
The show finds Annie living in Portland, Oregon, where she shares a home with her queer hairstylist best friend Fran (Lolly Adefope). Production designer Schuyler Telleen and his team found a foursquare house in Northeast Portland that was “integral to grounding us in the Northwest, but also economically with these characters,” he says. Agreeing with this vision, West adds, “It was important that we were making something grounded and authentic. Grounded was the directive that we kept coming back to.”
Like most twenty-somethings, Annie and Fran don’t necessarily have the means to outfit their sanctuary with new furniture. Instead, their residence is mostly decorated with second-hand furnishings that Telleen and set decorator Jenelle Giordano sourced from thrift shops and Goodwill, as well as Rose City Props.
“For the house, a lot of the aesthetic was driven by who Fran was in relation to Annie, as both a support and an empowered individual in her own right,” Telleen points out. He adds that Fran’s personality, more so than Annie’s, is expressed throughout the space — from the LGBTQ pride stickers (“Kiss Me I’m Gay” reads one decal) on a mirror in front of her hair salon station to a “Women Wimmin Womin Womyn” poster in the living room. “I think you see a lot of the support that Annie gets from Fran, in decorations, that were definitely leading us to believe that Fran is there more for Annie than Annie is for her.”
The kitchen serves as an area where Annie and Fran appear to be on “level ground,” hints Telleen. “It seemed as if Annie was a passenger in Fran’s world because she was hairstyling in the living room and Annie had her room upstairs, so [the kitchen] seemed like a communal place.” Telleen and his team renovated the room with a kitchen island, revamped the cabinets, redid the flooring, and covered the countertops with a self-adhesive film in a light wood butcher-block pattern, in order to “bring that whole place to life.”
Another element that Telleen appreciates about the kitchen is “you could see the sunroom where this day guest bed is. There’s where a lot of plants were placed.”
Their dwelling is decked out with green foliage—a commentary on Annie’s progress as she learns to be less apologetic and more confident. It was an “obvious choice for a growth-kind of environment,” admits Telleen. “It was important for us to have a lot of green elements that cascaded down. I think that really added to this idea of comfort in the house.”
Staghorn ferns, hanging spider plants, dwarf money trees, Zanzibar gems, various herbs and succulents, and a variety of air plants are among the many greens that brighten up the interior and exterior of the characters’ Portland address.
Most importantly, Telleen “wanted the house to feel like a comfortable environment where anybody could feel like they could have a conversation and not feel guarded in a way,” he says.
For anyone watching the series, West hopes it encourages people to be more kind to themselves and others.
“We’re all struggling. We’re all trying to be happy and take care of our families and get ahead at work and hopefully grab little moments of joy in the endless grind of capitalism,” West says with a laugh. “The idea that the public needs to spend its time obsessing over whether or not fat people should be allowed to be happy, like ‘Oh my gosh, go live your life!'”