NASTY WOMEN Girlboss
A visit to the set of Netflix’s in four scenes.
SCENE 1 Perched on a black canvas director’s chair, you’re squeezed in behind a giant plywood wall, a preposterous tangle of cables and wires at your feet. On the other side of the barrier, there are real-life people acting out a scene on a set designed to look like a disused boathouse in San Francisco. Wearing headphones, you focus intently on a desktop-monitor-size screen and listen as, Groundhog Day- like, the same 30 seconds of conversation is repeated over and over. In this particular scene in Netflix’s new series Girlboss, real-life Internet businesswoman Sophia Amoruso, played by Britt Robertson, is negotiating with someone about leasing her first office space. Accompanied by her best friend, played by newcomer Ellie Reed, Robertson’s Amoruso is ballsy, pushy and full of swagger and wearing bell-bottomed jeans and platforms. The spiel she delivers to her potential landlord runs something along the lines of “It’s because of, not in spite of, me being a female entrepreneur that I’ll never be late on rent.” It’s a bit stirring, even on the seventh or eighth take. SCENE 2 Kay Cannon, Girlboss’ creator, executive producer and writer, walks a group of international journalists through the set of Amoruso’s apartment. The eclectically decorated, slightly seedy apartment is a nice metaphor for this 13-part series: It’s loosely based on the San Fran digs that Amoruso lived in when she first launched her online vintage-clothing business, Nasty Gal, in 2006, but it has been adapted for the small screen (no ceilings!). Cannon, whom you might know as the mind behind the Pitch Perfect films, makes it clear that the series is also “loosely based” on Amoruso’s life story: “It’s a straight-up comedy,” says Cannon, standing near a decidedly second-hand-looking sofa. “I was so drawn to her story, and I was like, ‘That’s one I want to
tell.’” Amoruso’s story—she started out at 22 selling vintage clothing on eBay and became a millionaire by 27— had already been told once by the fashion mogul herself, in a bestselling motivational memoir called #Girlboss. Cannon approached the series from her own particular viewpoint. “I can’t write drama,” she says. “I see everything through a comedic lens, and it wasn’t a stretch for me to see the comedy in this.” Not so funny? All the networks who rejected her pitch for a female-centric comedy, despite the fact that Charlize Theron had signed on to executive-produce. “But in my first call with Netflix, they said they were hungry for something that would appeal to young women,” says Cannon. “Personally, I think this is a show for anyone who has ever been lost and needed to find themselves, but I was happy because I feel that sometimes young female audiences get ignored.” SCENE 3 Surrounded by rack upon rack of brightly coloured clothing, costume designer Audrey Fisher is standing in front of a group of rapt journalists. She has a hand on the right sleeve of a very Bowie-esque leather jacket that’s hanging at the front of one of the racks, clearly in pride of place. “This is a real hero piece,” the redhead comments, stroking the multicoloured jacket affectionately. “It is true vintage, so it was expensive. We only have one,” she continues, referring to the practice of making multiples of a costume. The walls of this tiny room—more of a landing, really, in between production-staff offices—are covered with images: fashion illustrations of original costumes that Fisher dreamed up, giant poster boards filled with pictures of the real Amoruso and her crew back in the mid’00s and mood boards plastered thick with images meant to evoke the ’70s-cool-girl vibe that both Amorusos (real and imagined for TV) exploit to build a fashion empire. SCENE 4 Cannon and Robertson, still in costume, sit in a windowless room as they walk us through the show’s message. The abundance of snacks and the room’s lack of natural light are a tipoff that this is the writers’ room. “It’s about being the boss of your own life,” says Cannon, adding that the character of Amoruso is sort of a universal cipher for not knowing what to do with your life. “We’ve all felt anger and sadness and had these growing pains, but when you find what you love, that anger goes away.” Robertson takes up the thought. “You don’t have to conform or be somebody for anyone other than yourself,” she says. “Make yourself feel good first.” While the show definitely has a feminist bent, Cannon goes on to say that she doesn’t want it to be all about being a “girl.” “It’s interesting that you watched that scene today,” she says, referring back to the office-renting episode filmed earlier. “That’s the only episode where we talk about gender. The other episodes are just, like, an individual’s struggles to get through life. I’ve certainly had that experience, where a landlord looks at me like I’m a child, so that’s what that episode is about. But it’s not actually our main thing.” Robertson nods in agreement. “One of my takeaways from the show is that I need to stop apologizing for myself,” she says. “I feel like I’m constantly making excuses, softening things. It’s so ingrained in me, but I’ll break out of it eventually.” n
PERSONALLY, I THINK THIS IS A SHOW FOR ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN LOST AND NEEDED TO FIND THEMSELVES.
SETTING A SOUND STAGE IN LOS ANGELES
The series is “loosely based” on Sophia Amoruso’s bestselling memoir, #Girlboss.
All 13 half-hour episodes of Girlboss are available on Netflix Canada now.