Viewers tuning into Shrill, which debuts on Hulu this week, are likely to recognize a lot of familiar faces. Longtime Saturday Night Live star Aidy Bryant plays the show’s lead, Annie, whose journey toward self-acceptance and self-actualization forms the backbone of the series; Luka Jones, previously of People of Earth, plays her romantic interest, Ryan; and TV utility player Leslie Grossman even appears for a quick second.
The British comedian-slash-actress plays Annie’s best friend and roommate, Fran, infusing her character with a quiet warmth and well-practiced comedic timing that makes her banter with Bryant feel authentic.
Adefope’s jump to Hulu follows her first Stateside appearances last year in The Spy Who Dumped Me and Mission: Impossible — Fallout; she also has a role on TBS’s Miracle Workers. In an interview, Adefope said she’s loved all of the projects she’s worked on—but in Shrill, she saw something particularly special.
As she put it, “It just seemed from the get-go that this was going to be a very cool, important, great thing to be a part of.”
There is obviously the “black best friend” stereotype, but I think Fran’s a little bit different—because you see a very real example of female friendship. It’s not like, “Yas, queen, go get your man!” She calls out Annie when she doesn’t agree with what she’s doing.
And also, Annie calls her out when she doesn’t agree with what Fran’s doing. It’s very real and good to see—not two women as rivals, but just two women trying to be their best selves and the complications that come with that.
Did you find yourself getting emotional at any point while filming Season 1?
There’s a moment when Annie does a speech to me and Melanie [Field], who plays my girlfriend. And both Melanie and I were like—I wiped tears from my eyes because, one, Aidy’s an amazing actress, and also just because what she was saying spoke to us and, I think, would speak to so many women.
And also just . .
And done in a really sensitive way, and also a really funny and cool and zeitgeist-y way.
Is there anything you’re hoping viewers will take away from Shrill, or your performance in particular?
I hope they’ll see it for what it is.
It’s easy to look at a show with a diverse cast that’s touching on topics that haven’t been talked about and to think, ‘Oh, this is just political correctness; this is just box ticking.’ But I hope people see it for what it is, which is just a very interesting story of a woman trying to realize who she is in a world that’s telling her that she shouldn’t be the way she is.
Fat people aren’t just fat people; they have so many layers to them, just like anybody else, that I think should be explored.
Have you found that the types of characters you play or that you gravitate toward have shifted over time?
Maybe because I was doing character comedy shows, and I was doing slightly weird, oddball characters with weird accents, those were the characters that I got cast to play—which made perfect sense. And now, I’m getting older and doing more stuff, I think.
Fran is the most normal person I think I’ve ever played. But I also find that much more challenging than playing a weird person that nobody can say if it’s realistic or not.
It was so much fun.
So yeah, it was really fun; that was maybe one of the first times [in my career] that I was like, “Wow, this is somebody that my family has heard of.” You know, Daniel Radcliffe, from Harry Potter! A significant thing that people know about.
We had a little Miracle Workers group chat that we would send each other.
One of your first Stateside roles was in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, where you briefly appeared sitting behind a desk while Ethan Hunt crashes through the window behind you. Do you have any fun Tom Cruise stories?
Oh my god, it was that day!
It was that day—that scene. So I was just there for one day, everybody’s having a great time.
He had to jump and go back to keep doing the scene, and when he went back to the other side he was hobbling and we were like, “Is he O.K.
?” He was not O.K.
, and they had to stop filming. We didn’t really know what was happening, and then later that day I got home and there’s—someone from TMZ had taken a picture.
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