“I don’t consider myself a dancer,” says Sutton Foster. “I danced for a long time, but I don’t think of myself that way. Other people do, but I don’t.”
With two Tonys under her belt for leading roles with heavy dancing (see: an eight-minute tap dance break as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes and the tour-de-tap of Thoroughly Modern Millie), those “other people” certainly have cause. “[It’s] because dance is the thing that is the hardest for me to do,” she explains. “Singing or acting or telling a story comes a lot more naturally.”
For three seasons (the fourth premieres June 28) Foster has been in her zone on TVLand’s hit series Younger: telling the story of Liza, a 40-something posing as a 20-something to jumpstart her publishing career after taking time off to be a wife and mother.
Three seasons in, Liza has gotten more than a career out of her charade; she dates a younger man, she forges deep friendships with her 20-something peers, and she starts a dangerous dalliance with her more age-appropriate boss. Liza continues to evolve episode to episode—a far cry from the repetition of a complete theatrical narrative eight times a week. “I had no expectations for Liza because I’ve never played a character that’s grown and done this,” says Foster. As more people in Liza’s life find out about her lie, Younger has been forced to become more than a clever premise. “I feel like the more people that know [Liza’s secret], in a weird way, the longer we can keep going,” she says. “The show is built around this conceit of me lying about my age but the show … has also become more about these relationships with these characters.”
Just as fans have latched on to the cozeinss of Younger (from Sex and the City creator Darren Star), Foster has put down roots on set. “It just feels like that’s my desk,” she says, motioning to her desk on the set of Empirical Publishing’s office. “If someone sits in it I’m like ‘Get out of my desk!’” Still, the stage pulled her back (at least for a tryst) this past fall when she took on the title role in the Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity. “It is so hard and so demanding, what is the thing that keeps dragging me back?” she asks herself. “The stage…there’s just nothing like it. It’s like taking drugs and you’re chasing this high. Some of my greatest moments, when I look back on my life, they’re all from performing onstage.”
To that point, she says Charity is “probably my favorite thing I’ve ever done.”
Foster smiles, “I worked really really hard and I can look back and be like, ‘I did that,’” (and earned a Drama Desk nomination to boot). Charity may have been a risk, but Foster’s longevity feeds her daring. “I leap more now, which I’ve always thought of myself as a leaper, but I was very scared to do Charity.”
Part of calming the nerves was her creation of Charity from scratch. “I did that when I did Anything Goes,” she explains. “I tried to treat it as if it was a brand new show. I can’t compare myself to anyone else because I don’t know what I’m comparing myself to—which is maybe naïve, but I love that naïve place.”
That naïveté has always been part of Foster’s charm. It also plays into her latest role—one that she’s “been wanting to play for a while”—with the arrival of her adopted daughter.
“Becoming a mom, I realized that no one knows what they’re doing,” she says. “What a relief!”
Still, a quiet contentment comes over Foster when she talks about her new baby girl. “I can’t say I’ll ever master it,” she says, “but like a long-running show, I will try to keep figuring it out as I go along.”
Younger premieres June 28 10PM ET on TVLand. Catch up on Seasons 1–3 on TVLand.com or Hulu.