A few years ago, Ally Sheedy stepped away from acting because, she says, “Things came into my life that were not acting in television and in movies,” including a teaching job at City College and a freelance book-editing job. Combine those with being a mother and, as the St. Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club actress succinctly puts it, “My life took different shapes.”

“I did want to keep acting because I love it and I miss it when I don’t do it, but it just had to be the right thing,” she continues. “If it wasn’t going to be the right thing, I have other things that I love to do that I find really fulfilling. And then this just came along, this show, and I thought, ‘Oh no, this is exactly what I want to do! This is what I was missing!”

That show is Single Drunk Female, the dramedy from creator Simone Finch and executive producers Jenni Konner and Daisy Gardner that premieres Thursday on Freeform. The story revolves around Sam Fink (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a journalist who moves back home to Boston after a booze-fueled meltdown at her New York media company. Forced into sobriety in order to dodge jail time, Sam reluctantly moves back in with her mother Carol (Sheedy), picks up a job at a grocery store, and befriends fellow AAers as she attempts to reinvent herself at the ripe old age of 28. It’s a story about sobriety that’s told in uniquely funny, tender fashion; there’s a hint of Konner’s Girls in the quirky comedic performances, but there’s also an amiability fitted to a younger-skewing network like Freeform.

Sheedy calls it “an absolutely delicious, wonderful” role, in part because she’s not only playing Sam’s mom; the series also lets Carol be a fully realized woman, one who’s trying to rebuild her life and dip her toe into the dating pool after her husband died of cancer. Forced back into the role of being a parent after Sam moves in, she’s at once overbearing and dispassionate, dryly telling her daughter in the series premiere, “It’s hard to be a person. The rest of us have been doing the best we can the whole time you were drinking.”

“Carol is trying to figure out who she is,” Sheedy explains of her character. “‘Who am I as a woman in the world who isn’t attached to a man? Can I function in this world without taking care of a man or having a man take care of me?’ I’m just trying to negotiate with myself, who is Carol without anybody, or without being a parent of a young adult who disappeared and came back, and without being tied up with a guy? Who am I just alone? What do I do with myself at night, what do I do with myself on the weekends? I like all those questions, especially for a woman in her fifties who doesn’t have little kids at home. It’s complicated.”

Single Drunk Female is largely an ensemble show–there are scene-stealing performances from Sam’s party-loving BFF Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington), her impossibly cool sponsor Olivia (Rebecca Henderson), her off-limits crush James (Garrick Bernard), and her tough but compassionate boss (Jojo Brown). But Sam and Carol are indubitably the beating heart of the show, embodying a dynamic that, as I told Black-D’Elia, reminded me a bit of Gilmore Girls, even though they’re a far cry from the weirdly tight-knit BFF/mother-daughter duo of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.

“It’s so funny you say that because I’ve been saying that all day–how the only show my mom and I watched together was Gilmore Girls. And when I first read the script, I did think of Emily and Lorelai, actually, not Lorelai and Rory. Especially in the later seasons, when they kind of have more warmth toward each other, but it’s always complicated, it’s always kind of a fraught history,” she says. “Those are my favorite kinds of relationships, and you just don’t see them very often in television and film. At least, not the nuanced, really complex, messy version of it. So it’s been such a joy for us to explore that and really just try to get under each other’s skin… I love honest mother-daughter relationships, and [this show] felt like this could be that.”

Sam and Carol definitely enjoy their share of conflict throughout season one, from passive-aggressive jabs to full-on blow-ups, like the scene in episode 2 where they scream at each other in a closet after Sam finds out her mom is dating a chipper new guy named Bob (“You lied, you want me out so you can slut, slut, slut!” she screams). But she and Carol are a lot more alike than they realize–as Black-D’Elia puts it, “They’re so similar and they think the other person is from a different planet”–which means they also know how best to hurt each other.

“Sofia’s very inventive and Sofia will go to a place where you’re just messy and awful,” Sheedy says. “And I love that because that’s what I like. I like being able to just be messy and awful, as we all are on the moments of our days when we think nobody is watching us.”

I like being able to just be messy and awful, as we all are on the moments of our days when we think nobody is watching us.

“Doing scenes like that with somebody that you don’t trust completely can be really challenging. But when you have the trust that Ally and I have with each other, and we genuinely love each other so much, you just go into that closet and have fun for two hours,” Black-D’Elia adds. “And we really like pushing each other. We get great joy out of driving each other nuts. So we would just go as hard as we could, and that is really freeing. It’s rare to have that experience with someone on a set.”

Lucky for Black-D’Elia and Sheedy, they’re only the anti-Lorelai and Rory on screen. In real life, they found that chemistry and that trust immediately upon meeting each other in Chicago, where the pilot was shot—in the back of a van, of all places.

“You have to understand, I’ve been a fan of Ally Sheedy’s for so long, and I was so excited to meet her and very nervous,” Black-D’Elia recalls of their first meeting. “Then I found out that it was going to be in this van, and you know, obviously we’re trying to be very safe with COVID protocols and we have masks and shields on. I thought, ‘How am I going to connect to her and make her like me with all of these things going on?!’ And somehow, she got in, we looked at each other, and we’re like, ‘I love you!’ ‘I love you too!’”

Single Drunk Female stars Ally Sheedy, Rebecca Henderson, Sasha Compere, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Lily Mae Harrington, and Garrick Bernard.

Koury Angelo/Freeform

“I was sitting in the van waiting for Sophia thinking, ‘Where’s my daughter, where’s my daughter? I’m gonna get to meet my daughter!’ I was so excited,” Sheedy chimes in. “And then she came in and I just thought, ‘OK, be cool, Ally. Don’t be too much right away.’”

Black-D’Elia adds, “I think we both knew that if the show was going to work, this had to work, you know? Carol and Sam are the heart of the show, and if our dynamic doesn’t feel believable or make sense to people… I think we were nervous to meet each other but we were also nervous, like, ‘I hope this works.’ And for some reason, the second Ally and I met each other, it just clicked into place.”

Whether Sam and Carol will ever be able to unlock that kind of genuine warmth toward each other is questionable; Sam, justifiably, seems to be more focused on keeping her “sobriety calendar” in check, while also learning how to go out, work, have sex, and basically just exist as a person without a drink in her hand. But hey, Lorelai and Emily made it work eventually.

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