Brianne Howey: I love Gilmore Girls! It’s incredibly flattering. I grew up watching it, and my mom and I compared ourselves to them. But this is not Gilmore Girls. It’s edgier, it’s darker. Tonally it’s different, the messaging is different. I would say there’s a little bit of Desperate Housewives meets Pretty Little Liars.
Toni Gentry: Definitely those. That was the one! [Laughs.]
Brianne: And Little Fires Everywhere is a great one that keeps coming up too.
What do you remember about the first time you met?
Brianne: I remember seeing this beautiful, petite, young woman with gorgeous eyebrows. She gave me a hug, and I felt like I was at home. I looked around the room, and it was all women. It was our creator Sarah Lampert, the showrunner Debra Fisher, the casting people, executive producers, directors. I have never been in an audition experience where the majority of people in the room were all women. It was incredibly empowering and exciting.
Toni: Same. I had gone in and was very, very nervous, but Sarah, Deb, and [director and executive producer] Anya Adams made it so welcoming. I read with 20 actresses who were called in to test for the role of Georgia, and Brianne was the last one. She was it. She walked in, turned on that smile—which is part of Georgia’s charm, but it’s also who Brianne is. She’s so gorgeous and talented and beautiful inside and out. I forgot it was an audition. It’s been like that ever since.
You’re both closer in age than your characters, so what is your dynamic like off-screen?
Toni: Brianne’s only eight years older than I am. [Laughs.] My own brother is much older than I am. More like a Georgia kind of age difference than Brianne is to me.
Brianne: I have a bigger age gap with my siblings than I do with Toni. I would say it’s less mother-daughter and more friends and sisters.
The show does a good job of exploring microaggressions in our culture—something that Toni has written about in her own life. What do you hope viewers take away from Ginny and Georgia’s story?
Toni: I think Ginny has such a specific story, but it’s in specificity that we find universality. I think that’s why the show will resonate across the board and speak to a lot of people of different backgrounds. Particularly for Ginny’s background, it felt so refreshing to be able to authentically portray a person who I relate to, in a way that I haven’t necessarily been able to experience in my childhood. Ginny goes through a lot of identity crises, sexual exploration, racial exploration. I think it’s really important to normalize these conversations and to show the complexities, especially in a multiracial family.