“The Bold Type,” Freeform’s new series following the lives of three young female workers at a women’s magazine called Scarlet, started out as an almost diametrically opposed idea: it once focused on a man.
Series creator Sarah Watson told TheWrap that the show was once slated to air on NBC, where it would have focused on the Alex character (Matt Ward), a former Wall Street Journal-esque reporter who can only find work at Scarlet.
“It was more of a ‘West Wing-y’, fish out of water type thing,” Watson said.
But when NBC decided not to pursue it, and Freeform picked it up, that, Watson said, is when the show came alive. “The Bold Type” is still a drama, but the emphasis is different. It takes cues from journalism itself in 2017 — the reliance on social media, the self-insert nature of journalism and the resurgence of women’s publications to the front of the national conversation.
It also isn’t about a dude, but three young women, their careers and their relationships.
This makes sense considering the show is based on the experiences of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief and now Hearst chief content officer Joanna Coles. The idea has been bouncing around Hollywood for a few years and saw two incarnations before the current one, first as a comedy in 2014 then as the aforementioned drama in 2015. Both didn’t work out.
But what makes “The Bold Type” work, at least for Watson, is that new focus. Plus, being on Freeform, which has been a burgeoning home for shows targeted at millennials, has been a perfect match.
“[The move] allowed us to focus on the female friendships, which has just been the heart and soul of the show,” Watson said. “We started talking about what it’s like to be in your mid 20s and your career struggles and your dreams and your hopes and just how intense your friendships are and how intense everybody is and it just really came alive in this meeting.”
The women at the heart of “The Bold Type — Jane, Kat and Sutton — are attempting to trapeze through the high-pressure world of journalism (we can relate). While the pilot episode focuses primarily on some all-too-real conflicts from that industry (Jane, for example, has to figure out her plan when assigned a big, personal story by her editor), the longterm core is in regards to the relationships not only between the three main characters, but with others at the office. Sutton (Meghann Fahy) is engaging in an affair with the much older office lawyer, so that’s a literal relationship, but audiences also see the start of a connection between Jane (Katie Stevens) and her editor Jacqueline (Melora Hardin).
Jacqueline is a tough, hard worker in the vain of other famous magazine editors depicted on TV and in film, and is based on Coles herself. However, unlike Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” she seeks out to be a mentor for Jane and engages with her.
Watson said this was an intentional response to the trend of cold female bosses seen on TV. It was also a way to incorporate what Watson saw when she visited the Cosmo New York offices. She was struck by the people surrounding and working for Coles and how determined they were to not only impress the media maven but to work alongside her.
According to Watson, Coles creates an environment where people want to be a part of a team.
“Look, she’s intimidating as hell, but she also wants the best for her people,” Watson said. “I’ve had incredible mentors who have pushed me to be so much better at my job. But instead I feel like we’re only seeing the powerful women who are bitches… I want to show women this is the kind of boss you could have and this is the kind of boss you can strive to be.”
“The Bold Type” also couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Women’s magazines like Teen Vogue, Glamour, Cosmo and others have been around for decades, but have seen a popularity resurgence in the past year. Teen Vogue especially has made headlines for its heightened political voice and for writers like Lauren Duca, who’ve sparred with pundits such as Tucker Carlson.
Scarlet isn’t just about fashion and glamour, although that’s a huge part of the fictional magazine’s mission. In the pilot, Kat (Aisha Dee) chases a story about a Muslim photographer who was detained because a vibrator was found in her luggage. It’s in line with a lot of the women’s magazines in 2017.
“In terms of the fate of the journalism, even when we got the show picked up, I feel like journalism became so much more important,” Watson said. “With everything going on in the world right now, journalism has been front and center with everything.”
It wasn’t the source for “The Bold Type,” of course, but it became a well of inspiration.
“We’re sort of in the zeitgeist together. I just think being women at this time, these are the stories we want to tell,” Watson continued.
“The Bold Type” is very much a show about women and for women, but it’s also about journalism, the power of social media and sometimes salacious inter-office scandals. It’s not a dark, edgy drama about a hardened reporter thrust into a new world, but about three women trying to make it in that same world that’s emotionally intense and difficult.
“This is the kind of show I’ve always wanted to write,” Watson explained. “I was such a huge fan of ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Devil Wears Prada,’ but there’s just not a lot of real estate for shows like that at most other networks… it was just very serendipitous this sort of tv moment in history happened.”
“The Bold Type” premieres Tuesday, July 11, with a special two-hour premiere on Freeform.