TV Land's comedy-drama, Younger season 3's finale airs on Wednesday. The show starring Hillary Duff, Sutton Foster and Molly Bernard, is based on Pamela Redmond Satran’s novel Younger, and was created and produced by Darren Star.
Bernard, who plays publicist Lauren Heller, began her acting career in 2000 in the comedy drama Pay It Forward alongside Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment and she has a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama.
Bernard spoke about her career ambitions, overcoming rejection and what advice she has for other aspiring actresses.
What inspired you to become an actress?
I was very lucky. I learned to read going to my grandfather's acting classes. I don’t know that there was an exact moment I just know that my grandfather offered it to me and I took the bait. I just ran with it.
How important is it to have someone support you as an artist?
It's everything. Having a mentor is everything. Anne Bogart is a very well respected theater director. I met her when I was an undergrad and I was a senior and she said, “What are you going to do when you leave college? Are you going to apply to grad school?” I said I would probably wait for two years and then apply to grad school and she said no apply now and get it over with. That way you can be young and empowered as you can possibly be and then proceed to helping other people do this.
I asked her why she was helping me? She said, “Because you have it in you to help others. So you have to be helped so you can learn that this is your calling in the world. You are going to be in a position in life where you will empower other young women and you have to have a model to set that.”
In terms of your career trajectory, do you have any advice for aspiring actresses who don’t have mentors? What would you tell yourself when you were just starting out?
I think you have to unconditionally be yourself. You have to kind of be uncompromising in what you want and how you want to get it. You have to be kind in that process. And you must find mentors and people that believe in you. You have to then also be your own champion. A lot of it is believing you can actually do it.
Yale is one of the hardest acting schools in the world to get into. I was delusional when I auditioned for that school. I just believed I would get in. I walked into the room and I was like I already go here. That is so not my personality or disposition. I am totally self-doubting. But with my ability as an actress, I walked into Yale and believed I would get in there and I am deserving of this.
Confidence is a challenge for women, who often feel like a fraud or an impostor. Believing in yourself is a hard thing to do in practice. How do you overcome this?
I suffer with the Impostor Syndrome so very much. We are all trying to figure it out every day. What helped me is when I realized I wasn’t special or unique or alone in that. Like when I saw other cast members doubt themselves in scenes they are shooting. I am the biggest doubter on set, and my cast-mate on Younger have been my biggest champions.
The biggest lesson I learned from them is we are all feeling this. You don’t have to go home and worry about it. I have navigated around the Impostor Syndrome is by normalizing what I do. It is now work. It is complicated when work is tied up with your dream. I am now a working actress. And this is my only dream and I am living it and it is amazing. But it is also my profession. So when I leave work, I now choose not to obsessively doubt what I did that day or put myself down. Or even if I feel condiment I also try not to bring that home. I just leave and I come back the next day and start again. Because then you are actually doing what is in front of you. This is so hard to do when you are on set and the stakes are so high.
Hillary (Duff) said to me one day on set, “Molly chill you have nothing to worry about.” Because she could sense I was losing it. She said, “Try not to do that anymore because it will drive you crazy and possibly everyone around you. You are good. You are good until someone tells you that you are not.”
It can be hard though because everyone wants feedback and positive reinforcement. How do you manage this need?
Everyone is worried about their own stuff. Just focus on what you are doing, be nice to the people around you and try and be present.
How do you overcome rejection, without internalizing it?
I have learned to assume that it is going to happen. So I accept it and kind of befriend it. There is no way that I could work in this industry and not be on friendly terms with rejection. It is never comfortable but it is a part of this world. I never take it personally because it acting it is always, "Are you the girl or are you not the girl?" You walk in the room and you are the part or you are not the part that that person wrote or envisioned.
The only thing I can control, especially with rejection, is how well I prepare for an audition and how prepared I am to work when I get on set. It is about focusing on the task at hand.
Knowing what it takes to succeed in this industry, do you have any thoughts on what more could be done to support the advancement of women?
There has to be more women executives. There has to be more women in control. There has to be more women show-runners. More women on set. More women producers.
I am very lucky that I am on a very female heavy set on Younger. I am not sure that I would go to work on a big network show run entirely by men.
The industry has to change from the top down. We can’t keep hoping it will get better. There has to be more yeses to women.