Everyone with money problems, raise your hand. Everyone fed up with your money problems, raise the other hand. Everyone willing to tell someone else to stick ’em up to solve your money problems … well, we don’t really want to know. But such is the plight of Annie Marks (Mae Whitman), Beth Boland (Christina Hendricks) and Ruby Hill (Retta), the titular “Good Girls” of NBC’s new dramedy from Shondaland alum Jenna Bans.
The ladies are devoted moms, each with her own cross to bear. Immature Annie’s responsible ex wants custody of their bullied daughter Sadie (Izzy Stannard), a sweet, sensitive Shiloh Jolie-Pitt doppelgänger. Beth, Annie’s suburban-housewife sister, discovers that her “good provider” is not only shagging his comely young coworker but has run them into financial ruin. And diner waitress Ruby’s young daughter needs an astronomically priced medicine to keep her kidney disease at bay. Pushed to the brink, the ladies act on grocery cashier Annie’s suggestion that they knock off her workplace to score just enough cash to tide them over till they can make a better — and, you know, legal — plan.
Except their haul is far larger than Annie banked on. And it didn’t come from peddling pancake mix. And she wasn’t as disguised as she thought. And extricating themselves from their Breaking Bad moment proves far, far tougher than they planned — testing the trio’s mettle, their friendship and their ability to recognize a blessing in disguise.
For the show’s premise to work, the chemistry between the ladies playing the Girls must be money, too — and it is. For good reason, says Whitman. The actresses were, er, thick as thieves from the get-go. “We, all three, went out to drinks and dinner and had a million wines and then ended up back at one of our houses,” Whitman recalls of their initial meeting, which has since blossomed into regular dates, sleepovers and on-set hangouts. “We just sat around and talked until literally the wee hours of the morning. It was an instant connection — and then, somehow, I left Christina’s home without my pants. I think I borrowed some of her sweatpants, but all I know is the next day she texted me and was like, ‘I mean, your pants are here.’ I was like, ‘Well, you know … sometimes things happen.’ It set up the whole [onscreen] relationship perfectly.”
For the 29-year-old Whitman, last seen on TV as Parenthood’s Amber Holt, playing a not-quite-grownup grownup is sheer exhilaration. “I had so much fun playing this character because I usually end up playing the responsible, wise-beyond-your-years, brooding teenager that’s always making the right choice and is intelligent and wise,” she explains. “To be able to play a character who is so brazen and rash and really just intuitive, it’s been wonderful. … It’s like everything appeals to her like a video game: The consequences don’t really sink in immediately, and there’s maybe a little bit of a lack of foresight as far as how things are going to settle after you make these bold choices.”
Apt for a gal whose credo is inked into her skin via a massive “All You Need Is ♥” tramp-stamp tattoo.
“I love it so much! That was one of my favorite things when I first read the script,” an envious Whitman exclaims. “She’s so bubbly and effusive and impulsive and moves truly from her gut and her heart. If I wasn’t an actor, I feel like I would have tattoos and piercings all over my body at this point, because I was very impulsive. When you have a lot of energy as a kid, you want to express it somehow and it’s not always easy to do that when you don’t have healthy outlets.”
Which, Whitman says, is why former teen mom Annie is so protective of her own creative girl — the one thing that might save her from herself. “Now that her kid’s old enough to be taking care of herself, Annie’s having to face all of her decisions and face herself as a person, not just as a mom,” Whitman says. “It’s fun to be able to see that switch, that whenever Sadie needs something, Annie really flips it on and becomes way responsible and strong.”
And make no mistake, the Good Girls all find something empowering in their newly, if inadvertently, badass ways, keeping viewers on our toes about the empathy we feel — and more importantly when and why we feel it — for these ladies.
“The reasons that these women are doing these things are [what] a lot of people in America, in the world, feel right now,” Whitman says. “There is a sense of helplessness. People are being backed into corners financially, medically. The world doesn’t feel like we’re being taken care of or supported in so many ways. I just hope that, in this positive, funny and yet emotional way, maybe we can inspire that strength in people that otherwise feel stuck. Or at least make people feel less alone that are in this situation.”
Good Girls > NBC > Mondays beginning Feb. 26