When we first meet Liza Miller, the protagonist played by Sutton Foster on Darren Star’s series Younger, she is caught up in quite a lie. Pretending to be younger to secure a job at a book publisher turns into pretending to be 25 to her new love interest—which then turns into telling a bunch of fibs to just about everyone she knows in order to keep up appearances. But by the time we arrive to the seventh and final season of the show, that lie (and any fallout from it) has been settled.
“There’s pressure to deliver a satisfying ending after all these years,” Star told W over the phone ahead of the Younger series finale. And he would know—Star has written, directed, and produced plenty of long-running shows with cult followings; Beverly Hills, 90210; Melrose Place, and Sex and the City, to name a few. “You’re grateful to an audience that has stuck with you for six seasons, so by the end of season seven you want to make the audience feel like their time was well spent.”
After many years on air, Carrie Bradshaw ends up with the love of her life in Sex and the City; Donna and David finally say “I do” in 90210, and deaths are dramatically faked at the end of Melrose Place. Is there a secret to sticking the landing? Not exactly, Star said. “Every show is different and it’s about being true to the characters, and thinking about what’s right for the characters, not just what the audience wants,” he said. “The audience doesn’t always know what they want. What they want to see is the characters behave in ways that feel right to them. Even if they’re making choices that they might feel disappointed by, they understand that the characters are making choices that feel true for them.”
In the series finale, titled “Older,” Liza may not be lying about her age anymore, but her other fibs have finally caught up with her. She and Charles, her boss-slash-ex (whom many fans have banked on as the endgame relationship to this series), reunite—only to realize they may not be compatible after all. “By the end, the lie is not without a cost to her life,” Star explained. “It was important to make that point because the whole premise of the show is this big ethical lapse, in a way. Sutton Foster is so likable that if you look at some of the things Liza does on the show, she can be completely unlikable. She uses her friends and lies for selfish reasons, and it’s in the face of injustice and ageism so the lie feels worthy, but in the end it has a cost and there is a consequence to it.”
And then there’s Kelsey (Hilary Duff), the actual Millennial behind the fictional publisher called Millennial Press, who emerged as a fan favorite early on and became just as central to the plot as Foster’s Liza. Her series finale fate is a careerist one—Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine imprint taps her to lead their West Coast offices. Kelsey ponders a move to L.A., and leaves open the door for spin-off possibilities.
Don’t get your hopes up too high just yet for a Kelsey-centric series, however, as Star admitted he’s not sure if it’s going to happen. But a Younger movie down the line is something the show runner has considered. “The wonderful thing about streaming is you have a lot of possibilities of coming back,” he teased. “Sex and the City is a great example, where you can revisit characters down the line. For me, the door is always open.”
Working on any series with romantic comedy roots is a no-brainer for Star. For example, take his latest foray into the genre, Emily in Paris, which recently began filming its second season for Netflix in the south of France. The series protagonist, played by Lily Collins, is another plucky heroine struggling in both the work and romance departments, and instead of a New York backdrop, she’s making plenty of faux pas in Paris. Star acknowledged that he likes writing the somewhat messy characters like Liza, Carrie, and Emily because “They’re not perfect people by a long shot, but they’re trying. They also acknowledge their mistakes.”
“The characters of Younger took us writers on a journey, and the premise lasted longer than I thought it would,” he reflected. “This was a special show for all of us.”