TV

Go Over the Rainbow With the Safe Spaces of “Somebody Somewhere”

Bridget Everett, Murray Hill, and Jeff Hiller queer up Kansas in the new HBO series.

Cabaret queen Bridget Everett is finally back on our screens in the new HBO series Somebody Somewhere, a “coming of middle age story” inspired by Everett’s life and Kansas roots.

Co-created by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and executive produced by Jay and Mark Duplass and Everett, Somebody Somewhere follows Sam, a woman in her 40s who lives in Kansas and is dealing with family drama, including an alcoholic mother and her seemingly perfect sister, all while still mourning the recent death of her queer sister. At her day job, she meets Joel (Jeff Hiller), a gay man who introduces her to the underground world of “choir practice,” a sort of Island of Misfit Toys. Here, local members of the LGBTQ+ community and other townies who feel like they don’t fit in gather at an empty mall to sing and hang out together.

Series stars Bridget Everett, Murray Hill, and Jeff Hiller spoke with Logo about creating a queer safe space on the set of Somebody Somewhere, singing Kate Bush, and how Murray Hill lived their Large Marge bus driver fantasy.
 
https://youtu.be/AReWFGoUmHY

What was it like filming the choir practice scenes?

Bridget: Well, the idea came from Paul and Hannah, the showrunners. AI thought it was such a cool idea because when I go home to Kansas, there’s no… at least in my hometown, there’s no gay bar. There may be a gay night somewhere, but it’s not like choir practice is a gay thing. It’s a place where people can go and be themselves. And, for me, filming it was a really special moment because it’s like the character, Sam, is lost in her life and sort of drifting through. And then she walks through those doors and she’s like, who the fuck are these people? And also, where have they been? It’s a first step in finding her people, her community.

It felt very much like Dorothy entering Oz and everything turning to full color for the first time.

Bridget: That’s what we meant to do, Chris. That’s what we meant to do.

Murray, what about you? What was it like filming those scenes?

Murray: Well, I really enjoyed those scenes because when they said, “Action!” it felt like we were at a Bridget show, that we were at a gig, and that, you know, I was running my mouth on the side, talking to everybody, talking too much. Bridget’s getting ready to sing, had a little jitters. So, it felt very real in that Bridget has drawn from her life and her experience. I think when people are resonating with the show, it feels authentic because it is. So, when I was doing that scene, I’m like, oh, this feels like a show that we’ve done a million times. So, to be able to kind of capture that in a small-town, Kansas church basement and put that on a big screen.

Jeff, was that your first time performing a Kate Bush song?

Jeff: Yes. Oh my God. I mean, I probably shouldn’t be performing Kate Bush songs. She deserves someone better. But yeah. It was just like a gig. It was in a church basement, though. We literally shot that in a mall in the middle of the prairie land. So, it really did feel like that, when you see Sam walking through the mall to get to the church. That really was where we had to walk to get to the church. … It was like picking up Joe’s Pub and putting it in a mall. It did feel like, oh, right. If we weren’t in New York, if we couldn’t go to Lafayette, this is where we would come. This is how we find our people. And it was really magical. It was also my first duet with Bridget Everett, and I treasure that because it’s on film.

How was that? Were you nervous?

Jeff: I mean, honestly, I have notes for myself, but it’s still something that I treasure.

Bridget: I’ll tell you, I was super nervous, and I looked back at Jeff and Jeff was so composed and it gave me great comfort. So, I felt like I was the lucky one.

Courtesy of HBO

There’s one episode where you perform “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart,” and I wasn’t sure when this was filmed. So, had you performed recently before that?

Bridget: No. I hadn’t performed in front of anybody for 20 months or something at that point. And we were doing it at, like, 11am. Normally when I’m performing, it’s at night, and I’ve had a couple glasses of wine to grease the wheels.

Murray: And a couple of cigarettes too, clearly.

Bridget: Yeah. My friend Kim, who was working with us… I was so nervous. I was warming up, and I couldn’t get warm. I sort of lost my ability to sing like that. And then she flew to the rescue with a little whiskey, which I don’t normally care for, but in the moment it helped me just be like, okay, it’s going to be all right. I mean, I wasn’t drunk or anything. It just sort of put me back in the mood. And plus, when we were filming that scene, the music isn’t playing out loud. It’s just in my ear. So, you’re doing a rock song and they [the actors] can hear me singing because I sang live every time, but they can’t really clap. It’s just dead silent. And I’m just walking through the room… So, I needed a little help from Mr. Maker’s Mark.

When you weren’t filming, did you hang out? What was it like outside of filming?

Bridget: Well, there were a lot of COVID protocols, so we couldn’t really socialize or do anything. We got a house together, the three of us.

Murray: It was Bosom Buddies meets The Odd Couple meets Three’s Company.

Bridget: Coach Hill over here just making us drill our lines every night, which is good. And yeah, we had a whole routine. We ate meals together. We went to Target together. We laughed together. We cried together. We did a lot of stuff together.

Who was the messiest housemate?

Bridget: No comment, but it wasn’t me.

Jeff: You don’t need to look at me either, Chris.

Murray: They put me in the Cousin Oliver quarters. So, yeah. I was the messy one, but only to myself.

What’s the queer scene like in Kansas? Do you have a favorite gay bar there?

Bridget: There’s no gay bar in my hometown. And my friend Davis lives there. I’ll see him every once in a while. There’s just not really a gay bar. But I met a guy named Tyler who was really helpful. He’s the artistic director at the theater in Wamego, which is a smaller town just outside of my hometown, and he was telling me about the drag scene. It’s just in smaller doses, but it’s there. And there is a progressive element in my hometown because it’s a college town, but it is largely conservative.

Courtesy of HBO

Do each of you have a favorite scene from the season?

Bridget: Yeah. One of my favorite scenes is at the end of Episode 2, when Sam goes to Joel’s house to apologize, and they end up sort of really coming together. And then they do Zumba, which is Jeff in the moment just being like, “Let’s dance.” And I don’t know. Any of the moments when you see the two characters having another level of understanding for each other — I just happen to like that one a lot because I think it’s funny and sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time, which is the kind of shit I like.

Jeff: I really loved the scene where Sam takes Joel to church. And Joel doesn’t do much. He’s just sort of quiet, but Sam is really there for him. But also, on the day, Bridget looked at this gorgeous stained-glass window of Jesus holding a tiny lamb. She said, “Why is that guy holding that little poodle?” And the moment she said it, it looked exactly like a man holding a poodle. It just felt so right, and it truly makes me giggle to this day. But it also was such a heartwarming scene that that’s where the humor comes from. It’s in the moments of sadness, too. I loved it.

Murray: Well, my favorite scene was driving the bus. Because, I mean, if you’re a homosexual, you must love Pee-wee Herman. And Large Marge [from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure] driving the truck? That was my Marge moment. I just loved driving the bus. And I mean, Bridget and Jeff, the scenes where I drove around on the street, they weren’t in the back. It was just filmed from the front. And, Chris, I was doing it up. I was looking at them in the mirror. Nobody was in the damn car. It was just me!

Bridget: I love how Jeff and I just dragged our heart and soul through this show, and Murray’s like, “Well, I got to drive the bus.”

Jeff: By the way, it was just through a parking lot.

Murray: You know what? You two, let me have my joy. That was the best day of my life, driving that bus.

Live your Large Marge fantasy!

Murray: Exactly.

Somebody Somewhere premieres Sunday, January 16 on HBO and HBO Max.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer