The New V Girls: Frankie Shaw Nominated by Rosie O’Donnell

Inspired by her own status as a single mom, Shaw’s Showtime series, SMILF, is a testament to her dream-catching success.

As the Discovery Issue, V117 features our cast of the latest and greatest ahead, as nominated by the cultural forces of now. This feature appears in the pages of V117, our Spring Preview 2019 issue, on newsstands today!

Written by and starring Frankie Shaw, SMILF follows former South Boston basketball-star turned single-mother Bridgette through farcical but bleak realities. For instance, short on cash, she answers a personal ad from a creepy man who attempts to sexually assault her in a Walmart food court. When he gropes her, Bridgette punches him in the nose, knocking him to the ground. It’s clear she’s a woman who doesn’t let obstacles hinder her agency—something the show has in common with Chewing Gum or Fleabag or Insecure.

“We’re in this total renaissance,” says Shaw by phone. “I’m in full celebration and support of it.” But watching a show and making one in the golden age of TV are different stories: “Making a good TV show is really hard,” admits Shaw. “It’s this amazing time in history where so many women have been given this opportunity, and they’re delivering.”

At first brush, Shaw’s Bridgette might seem like an unlikely heroine. But her flaws are what give her depth—reminding us that for every textbook woman heroine, there are countless unsung women struggling in anonymity.

Ironically, on the day of our call, Shaw has just played a more exceptional kind of heroine—actress and mathematician Hedy Lamarr. She’s busier than ever after last year’s Golden Globe nomination—primarily on the show’s second season. “We get more into the supporting characters, and we get more into the backstory of Bridgette and [her son] Rafi, and we try to explore—in an abstract way—identity,” says Shaw. “When we have certain things in our lives that make up the identity we construct, and when those things go away, what’s left? It’s a season of bottoming out, in a way. There’s a lot of pain, and then these characters all, in their own way, are liberated.”

Though Bridgette and Frankie share a love of basketball, their struggles in single motherhood are only loosely related. “When I did [the college football comedy] Blue Mountain State, which was my first series regular job, for SpikeTV, I had a two-year-old, and made what they deemed ‘not a living wage,’” she says. “They couldn’t even contractually own me as a series regular, because it wasn’t a living wage. I was 28 with a two-year-old, and when I got to set with my toddler, they were like, ‘What?’ They all thought I was 23, because I was playing a freshman-in-college cheerleader.”

As the show has progressed, deeper real-life parallels have cropped up between Shaw and her character.“I’m calling this season, ‘Single MomIs Losing Faith,’ because there’s a big Virgin Mary motif this season, and a dark-horse motif, which is this shadow self, and how we repress the thing we don’t want anyone to know or see. It’s a Jungian analogy, the dark horse,” says Shaw. “I’m obsessed with the Virgin Mary and her actual real story, which no one really knows, so that hobby of mine made it into the show. My deep love of horses made it into the show, and obviously the optics of having my son, and co-parenting,” she says, referring to her son’s father, actor Mark Webber.

With the success of SMILF, and her real-life status as a single mom and equal-pay success story, Shaw is perhaps emerging as not so much a darkhorse, but the maladroit hero we never knew we needed.

Shaw wears dress and belt Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, gloves Wing + Weft
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