I LOVE Grace and Frankie, but the best thing about the series is Brianna Hanson, a character by actress June Diane Raphael. The eldest daughter of Grace and Robert Hanson (Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen), she is cynical, cruel, and “scary”. She is a woman in her early 40s, independent, successful, and not demeaned by society’s usual criticisms of people like her. I’m more romantic than her, I would make different choices, but she is sensational and deserves her spin-off. Which may even exist!
Grace and Frankie was the longest-running series on Netflix, which is a double milestone because the platform invests in short-lived content. It debuted in 2015, bringing the theme of the elderly and their challenges to the screen with humor and sensitivity. In seven years, she addressed several important topics, such as sex, health, friendship, lies, prejudice, a fresh start, and choices, but who always stole the show was Brianna Hanson, a “woman who is admittedly powerful and really has her sexuality and strength”, as the actress, herself describes perfectly.
The character arc was incredible, with the executive slightly opening up to love and a relationship of complicity with Barry (Peter Campbell), who SPOILER ALERT, reaches a final impasse that is precisely the seed for a well-deserved spin-off that can happen.
June, who is an excellent comedian – and also a screenwriter and signed the film Bride Wars, – may already be working on the project. She signaled this possibility in interviews about the end of the series, mentioning that she developed the proposal with one of the co-creators of Grace and Frankie, Howard Morris, and is awaiting a response from Netflix. “Fans will see that the way the show ends, there’s more to say about Brianna’s story – in the same way, that the original tackles what it means to be in the 70s and 80s, I think exploring what it means to be a middle personage. woman [like Brianna] without children or husband is equally exciting,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.
The actress liked the solution that Marta Kauffman and Howard found for Brianna, who was always indomitable and was in a domestic life with Barry that seemed to be heading towards an (almost) conventional marriage. “I didn’t know what it would be like, but I’m excited about what happened. It felt really true to the character.”
The spin-off idea came up in Season 4 when the character’s transformation became more evident. “I felt like I had more to say and that I wanted to sink my teeth in a bigger way. I’m so happy with everything I’ve done on Grace and Frankie, but I kept thinking her story wouldn’t end. There is still a stigma around women not having children and what it does to people a lot. So I approached [the producers of] Skydance asking, “Hey, is this something you’d like to do?” I’m very close with Dana Goldberg and Bill Bost, they’re amazing producers, and they said they wanted me to meet with Howard about it. Marta [Kauffman] also gave her blessing,” he revealed in the same interview.
To some, Brianna could have been a comical relief only, her almost sociopathy putting her distance from the pain of even the ones she truly loved. At first, only with Frankie (Lily Tomlin), she was near to putting her guard down (with marijuana help). The truth is, Brianna’s authenticity and strength were to always look at things objectively. She did give in to some of the things she hoped to avoid, such as a committed and monogamic relationship with Barry, crossing a line in perhaps the greatest taboos amongst women: choosing not to embrace motherhood. She gave up her career, she even managed to be hugged and called crying a “feeling spam”, showing some vulnerability, but, ultimately, she had to be herself. Does that make her horrible? I want so much to know more!
The pandemic hiatus provided the necessary time for the idea for the spin-off to take shape. “We’ve spent months, honestly, just talking about the idea that women’s currency is devalued for our culture as we get older, and it’s often the opposite for men. And we talk about what Brianna is potentially losing and gaining as she grows older alone, and how a single woman can create a deep fear in so many people. Once we felt we had the pilot story, we spent the next few months writing it.” For her, writing about the character linked her to her early days in Hollywood, when sexist prejudice was so imperative that only writing her own material could have a chance. “Take the back door (laughs), because it’s the only way this city will have me,” she laughed. “But it’s really tiring. I don’t really want to do this alone. That, to me, feels lonely. I don’t think I would get up and do that. But on the spinoff, I got to work with Howard and we laughed all day. He’s also more focused on the story than I am, so he kept the trains on track. I’ve written a lot of pilots, but never a full series like this. It’s not glamorous. Especially when we started filming Grace and Frankie again, we would meet before I went to the set, and then we would have a full day of work,” he continued.
We are rooting for Netflix to bet on this idea because Brianna has a lot to say. His relationship with Mallory (Brooklyn Decker) has also evolved and that sisterhood deserves to be developed as well. “I think Marta and Howard did a beautiful job: just because you have a broken heart, and just because something doesn’t go far, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth it and it wasn’t a beautiful relationship and you couldn’t have grown out of it. . She has so much more in store for her in her life. And everything is fine? Do we accept that she continues to get everything she wants from men, from her professional life, from the family she has without necessarily subscribing to some of the rules we impose on women?”, the actress shared with Vanity Fair.
And the spin-off proposal is exactly to start where we said goodbye to Brianna in Grace and Frankie, with the sisters coming together to start a new venture and, who knows, new loves? “I really can’t talk much,” says June. “The script is written and I’m very, very hopeful and excited, but it’s in the hands of Netflix. Then we’ll see. But I’m obsessed with it.”
So do we!