Brat Pack actress Ally Sheedy tackles her first-ever TV series role playing the mom of the title character in Single Drunk Female (on Freeform cable channel Jan. 20 and Hulu Jan. 21). “This script was wonderful and the character was complicated and great,” says Sheedy. “It was exactly the right thing at the right time.”
AARP talked to Sheedy about her new role, which TV shows got her through the pandemic, and how the next generation may have it better than she did.
Her new role on Single Drunk Female, explained
In real life a mom to a 27-year-old son, Sheedy plays Carol, an overbearing mother whose alcoholic daughter is forced to move in with her to avoid jail. “It’s a transitional time for mother and daughter,” Sheedy says. “It’s about having to navigate the mundane, the frustrating, the painful of daily life and relationships for a young woman who has to start her life all over again at about 30. And everything in Carol’s life is thrown into chaos.”
Finding the value in TV during the pandemic
Sheedy herself didn’t have many cable or streaming services before the pandemic, but with time on her hands during COVID lockdown she discovered “wonderful stuff”: Succession, Fleabag, The Crown, My Brilliant Friend, Empire, Atlanta, The Underground Railroad, When They See Us, I May Destroy You and Fauda. A high school and college film teacher in New York, Sheedy says she was finally able to take the advice of her students to find new favorites. “They love Euphoria,” she says, adding that she is now a fan. “I used to watch the news all the time. Now I watch these shows.
”While she sees the movies overrun by superheroes, Sheedy says it was revelatory to see amazing opportunities for actresses on TV. “There are different audiences watching everything,” she notes. “It isn’t always a comic book; everything isn’t always about cops and detectives. It’s actually more interesting stories about women and women’s experiences. There are myriad stories to be told with so many different people watching so many different things on online streaming platforms. It isn’t just like having three network channels trying to get the broadest possible audiences. Now it’s a niche show. I love finding them and watching them.”
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Lessons from Brat Pack life
Sheedy draws on her own often “disempowering” youth while making The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire and WarGames as cautionary tales for her own students, encouraging them to trust themselves. “That was not the message that I got when I was their age,” she says. “It was ‘make so-and-so happy’; 'look this way’; ‘behave this way’; ‘say the line this way,’” she says. “They need to be resilient and very self-reliant.”
Sheedy, who spoke out and wrote about the #MeToo movement, sees change in the points of view of the coming generation, but says it remains slow going. “There’s some behavior that’s getting called out, obviously,” she says, “but mostly the kids that I work with do feel, in spite of everything that’s on Instagram and social media, that there’s a place and opportunity for them. I’m not working with kids who think that they need to be skinny and blond. They have a completely different perspective and they don’t take a lot of crap. I’m not saying it’s totally changed, but the landscape is totally different now.”
Things were different for her. “When I was in my teens and all the way up through most of my 30s, I really felt like I was ugly. Now I’m 59½ and I see photographs of myself when I was 18, 19, 20, 25, torturing myself about what I look like, and I think, ‘My god, you were beautiful!’ What a waste of time, what a waste of time. All these untruths were really painful and diminishing, and now I wish that I could have seen myself not just for what I looked like but for the person who I am, for what I could contribute. Hollywood in the ’80s was a place where you were kept objectified. I also felt manipulation from people who were in control of young actors, especially young women. I had to figure it out on my own.”
Turning 60 is all good
As Sheedy conquers new ground on TV in 2022, she credits acting, teaching and her work as a freelance book editor under an anonymous name with keeping her mentally fit. “I just keep thinking, ‘Oh, wait, I’m going to be 50.’ Then I realized, ‘No, no — I’m going to be 60!’ I know it happened, I’m glad I lived it, but it still feels like I should be 10 years younger than I am. But no, it’s OK. I like where my life is right now. I love the work that I do and I wouldn’t go back in time for anything.”
Gayle Jo Carter, the former entertainment editor at USA WEEKEND magazine, has interviewed newsmakers for AARP, USA WEEKEND, USA Today, Parade, Aspire and Washington Jewish Week.