An early critic favorite of the fall TV crop is “Better Things,” a half-hour comedy from Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon that is the first show from FX with a female lead. The sitcom follows divorced working mother of three, Sam Fox, a character loosely based on Adlon. The combined comedic power of C.K. and Adlon has drawn guest stars such as Julie Bowen, Lenny Kravitz, David Duchovny and Constance Zimmer.
Breaking out in the cast is 17-year-old Mikey Madison, who plays Adlon’s eldest daughter, Max. The role is the first major part for Madison, who hadn’t considered acting until her sister married a film writer. Madison left behind the world of competitive horseback riding to try her hand at acting, easing in with short films and independents before landing “Better Things.”
The show airs again tonight as the storyline of Max picks up. “I don’t know if this is a cliche,” Madison says, “but every time I’m on set or I read these scripts, I feel very floaty.”
WWD: What drew you to Max?
Mikey Madison: I loved how brash and boisterous she was. She didn’t lie, she really just said what she was feeling. It’s really delicate being that age and trying to do all the teenage stuff, but also trying to figure out who you want to be and who you don’t want to be. And the way she was going about it was very interesting to me.
WWD: You and Max are both teenage girls — did you rebel like she did growing up?
M.M.: I’m 17 right now and I think that we’re similar in a lot of ways. We feel emotion very strongly — the way we go about showing it is quite different. She is much more unabashed. I grew up in a household with two clinical psychologists so we’re always talking about our feelings — ever since I was little, if I was crying or upset, my mom or dad were like, “OK, what are you feeling? Tell me what it feels like,” all of that.
WWD: Why do you think the show has earned such a following so early on?
M.M.: Well, it’s the first show on FX with a female lead, and with a whole female cast. I think that’s something very exciting for people. Pamela is different and unique and I think people can relate to that. She doesn’t sugarcoat things — everything on the show is talked about and it’s real and raw and I think because she’s not afraid to show those things on TV, people can relate to it. I think people want to see characters who are as messed up as they are and I think that’s what the show really does.
WWD: What is it like being part of a group of actors portraying such liked characters on this show — flawed, funny, relatable women?
M.M.: We see some of these characters going through puberty and becoming women, we see women growing older — it’s all of those things combined. I think it’s so beautiful seeing all of these gorgeous, handsome, funny women on TV. I love being part of this show that shows women in such a great light.