After meeting in a small town and deciding to become roommates, Perrie Voss and Heidi Lynch sparked a friendship that quickly became a robust creative partnership. Inspired by their respective personal challenges and what they saw as the simmering ideological tension between baby boomers and millennials (symbolized, oddly or fittingly enough, by avocado toast), the idea for Avocado Toast the series was born. Perrie and Heidi play Molly and Elle, two friends each struggling to adjust to huge revelations – both in their own lives and the lives of their parents. We spoke to Perrie and Heidi about the origins of their friendship, exploring sexuality, and trying to understand (and break down) our cultural hang ups around acknowledging our parents’ sex lives. Avocado Toast the series premieres on Amazon Prime May 18th.
Cliché: How did the two of you meet?
Heidi Lynch: We met on a theatre contract. It just happened that right after meeting our personal lives simultaneously exploded. We needed a friend, and we had both just relocated to a small town to do a play and only knew each other. We became each other’s source of support and laughter through hard times. The show is inspired by our real life events.
Perrie Voss: We met over a summer doing a brand new play together in southern Ontario! We decided to be roommates while we rehearsed the play and little did we know our lives were about to change forever! Ominous I know…
When did you realize you wanted to do a comedy together?
HL: In that dark time. Well specifically after it. We had gotten so used to making each other laugh and adding lightness to each other’s dark time that we wanted it to continue. Our contract ended so it felt natural to work on something together. We realized that we had never (especially at that time) seen bisexual coming out stories, or stories about how hard it is when you’re parents divorce, even when you’re an adult. We felt like other people needed the ability to watch something humorous that addressed those issues, if they were in the same position.
PV: This question somewhat needs to be informed by the ominous cliffhanger I just left you with. Avocado Toast the series is based on our real life events and us meeting at a very serendipitous time. We bonded immediately and decided to be roommates while we rehearsed the show – which in itself could have been a comical disaster. But it was amazing and we discovered we had a really similar sense of humour. During this time Heidi had been going through a really huge revelation about her sexuality and then extremely suddenly, two weeks into rehearsal, my parents told me they decided to get divorced after 38 years of marriage. We were both going through it and what we realized is that we had this incredible strength to draw on with one another. We realized that we were able to be there for each other but we made each other laugh a lot but there was a trust and a bond that I had never experienced before with a friend – especially that quickly. We just knew we had to write it – and it’s become this story!
Talk about your new show, Avocado Toast the series and your characters, Molly and Elle.
HL: This is a show about female relationships. Relationships between best friends and between mothers and daughters. It’s an example of how not to treat each other but how we so often do. We put unreal expectations on our best friends, our mothers, our daughters and Avocado Toast the series explores that, with a comedic lens, through Molly and Elle. Molly is coming out as bisexual when her mother tells her that she and Molly’s dad are totally fine with it because they are very sexually adventurous and have an open marriage. Elle is adjusting to her parents’ divorce while watching her mother date a much younger man. Molly and Elle lean on each other as they judge their mothers more harshly than they would any other woman until the crutch that is their friendship breaks.
PV: Molly and Elle are best friends and roommates – they’ve been friends since they were little but Molly had recently moved to England for two years to pursue a teaching career. Elle is an art director at her mom’s agency and focused on work and playing the field. She takes what she wants when she wants it. When Molly comes back, and moves back in with Elle they discover each is about to go through their biggest life-changes to date. Molly had fallen in love with a woman for the first time in England and Elle discovers her parents are getting divorced. While they try and re-establish their friendship, they’re also trying to sort through their new sense of reality. Elle is a hard-working party-girl and she comes across as a brash, tough cookie, but she has a very soft centre. Which is what she has to unexpectedly deal with throughout the season. What she discovers is that she doesn’t have to filter everything through aggression and anger.
Where did the name for the show come from? It’s peak millennial!
HL: Exactly! We started with some other names but after avocado toast was blamed for millennial mortgage woes, we felt like it was the perfect symbol for millennials and baby boomers not understanding each other.
PV: It is! Avocado toast (the food) has become the proverbial symbol of millennials! There was this article that came out some years ago – right when the avocado toast craze really took off written by a baby boomer for The Globe and Mail in Toronto (google it!) which talked about millennials not being able to afford to buy a house because they’re spending all their money on avocado toast, and if they saved their money they’d be able to buy a house. Which we found infuriating, and darkly hilarious but we also saw that as a thematic difference between millennials and baby-boomers – that if we just ‘saved up’ that would somehow make up for the housing market flux. But what we wanted to do was show that although these two generations are vastly different, we’re also not as different as we thought. It was like a symbolic clue: Avocado Toast! The intergenerational glue!
Had you ever worked together before this? How would you describe your dynamic as actors, and does it have any impact on your personal friendship or your creative collaboration?
HL: I think as actors we work together incredibly well! We have gone on a long journey together in the creative process. We have both learned more than we ever even knew we wanted to about every aspect of film making and we are still standing and have something incredible to show for it. We have watched each other learn and grow and struggle and achieve so much. I am beyond excited to share what we have made with the world on May 18th and I think that will be when we can really take stock of all that’s happened together.
PV: Back when we did that play was the first time we had worked together, and that was almost five years ago. We have a really fun natural chemistry which was a huge impetus for us wanting to make something together, and we’re also both really game to play in the moment as actors. And because of our history and understanding it allows us to be really available to each other as actors and make each other laugh. We know the joke we’re going after in the scene, and what the truth of the moment is. Within our relationship, I think the biggest thing was to learn how to communicate on multiple levels. Being able to combine our creative communication within our friendship communication was a learning curve for sure. But we knew that we were good at both separately so finding where that balance exists was key for us.
Heidi, your character Molly is coming to terms with being bisexual and dating a woman. She (and the audience) might think that her main focus would be coming out – until she realizes her parents are swingers. How does Molly wind up having to confront her own preconceived ideas about sexuality with respect to her parents, in addition to accepting her own?
HL: I think you’ve just hit on season two. In season one, Molly doesn’t really get to the stage of confronting her own preconceived ideas about sexuality with respect to her parents. She just freaks out, judges them and doesn’t turn back. I feel it’s crucially important to explore how characters are hypocritical. This also plays into the expectations that are put on mothers and older women in general and the things they CAN and CAN’T do. There is prejudice even within the LGBTQ+ community and I think that is also important to explore. We all need to continue learning acceptance with one another. I hope that season 2 leads Molly to a place of acceptance and learning about her mother.
Perrie, Elle has to deal with her own parental conflicts when she finds out that her mom is dating a much younger man in the wake of her parents’ new divorce. How does she react to that? It also brings up an interesting point – age gaps in a theoretical context are one thing, but it’s another thing when it involves your parents!
PV: Elle feels like she has a lot of her life together. She has a great job, home, she dates who she wants. She feels really free, like there isn’t anything holding her back. When she discovers that her mom has had an affair with a younger man, it does a few different things to her understanding of her own sense of reality. The sense of betrayal goes beyond her parent’s relationship and Elle also feels betrayed by her mom. There is a breach of trust and respect. Elle’s mom, Patricia, is doing what feels right for her but it’s ultimately extremely selfish. I think regardless of age, we have a difficult time seeing our parents as sexual beings, especially when we have to witness them in the new stages dating or the throes of passion. But what we also wanted to look at the double standard between older men dating younger women – which is quite a cliche in our society. But when older women date younger men there is a complete societal incomprehension. Elle is having to deal with betrayal of her mom’s affair and the safety of her family unit exploding, which is a huge personal unravelling, but also having to see her mom unabashedly and brazenly embracing her sexuality. Being around new cuddly couples is tough – when it’s one of your parents? It’s another level.
Did you draw inspiration from your own life experiences to make the show?
HL: 100% and we’ve been very vocal about that because we think it is important. As we came through our life experiences and were on the other side of them then the process of research and connecting with others online who went through similar experiences started. Molly and Elle have become amalgamations of lots of stories.
PV: Yes. Everything is based on real-life experiences and re-configured, re-imagined and re-packaged!
Would you say that there’s some similarities between Avocado Toast the series and other female driven comedies like Broad City?
HL: I honestly am the worst person to answer that. I have avoided Broad City as much as I can because we were writing. But I’m sure there are. The most I can say is that I think Avocado Toast the series leans to the serious more than Broad City. We aren’t even writing anymore and I can’t bring myself to watch Feel Good yet because there is a Canadian/Brit queer female love story. I am so happy queer female representation is becoming more mainstream and I can’t wait to binge so many things once we have launch on May 18th.
PV: I think artists and creators are constantly responding to their surroundings, so I guess on a sociological level being a woman creates a similar lens to look through, which can create a point of unity throughout female driven projects. Our project is written from our truth, and there are a lot of funny moments too, because often truth leans into humour. I love comedy and definitely want to make people laugh. But all we can do as human beings is speak from our individual perspectives and life-stories so it’s hard to say that it’s like anything that currently exists and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s similar to other female-lead projects aside from the fact that it’s also proudly female-lead.
Why was it so important for you to center narratives about sexuality and acceptance?
HL: For me, I enjoy watching content that makes me laugh, makes me cry and makes me feel like I’ve seen a story I haven’t seen before. That’s what I set out to create. We need these stories to affect larger societal changes. It would have helped me to have more bisexual characters to point to when I was navigating what to call myself and how I felt. As a general rule, we don’t like to think about or acknowledge our parents’ sex lives.
PV: I think anyone who goes through something new that often isn’t reflected back to them in standard media needs support shown to them so they can feel less alone. I think we need a community when we’re going through something new and scary. When you realize you have a different sexual orientation than what has commonly been reflected back to you on TV, you need something to hold onto, a narrative of people who have gone before you to know you’re not wrong or weird and you’re still loved. When your family falls apart and everything you knew crumbles away you need to know that other people have felt that way too, and you’re still able to carry on. We need community and that’s what we’re trying to create through stories like these.
Why did you decide to focus on the sexcapades of both Molly and Elle’s parents?
HL: That is totally a general rule that I definitely follow but on a larger stage(society), we desexualize women over the age of 40 and that is something we want to help change. How do we change that? Representation. We want to create female characters who are still discovering things about themselves and having awakenings as they age into incredible older women.
PV: I think it’s because we have a hard time imagining our parents as real people. They’re sort of make-believe characters and we create a fantasy-non-human world around them and who they are. It’s like when you would run into a teacher at the mall or something. It was hard to believe they existed outside of school. It also feels extremely taboo to integrate sex with parent-talk. But we also wanted to look at that head on and talk about the fact that we are weirded out by it. It was our way of drawing a line of connection between the two generations. Younger generations often feel like they’re the first person to ever do something kinky… and I can almost guarantee that your grandparents were freakier than you are. So let’s make it less taboo! We had some interesting talks with our multi-generational cast and crew in our additional content videos about sex and talking about it with our parents. Look out for those on our website and YouTube!
How do each of your characters progress throughout the season?
HL: Molly starts the season returning to Canada for a teaching job after having to live/work in the U.K. to get teaching experience. When she returns to her old Canadian life she is forced to come to terms with everything that has changed since she left, mainly the fact that she’s been dating a woman the entire time she was gone and none of her friends, family, or co-workers know. She falls prey to internalized homophobia as she gets outed through social media at school, and has a meltdown while teaching a conservative government restricted sex education class. She wants to lean on her best friend Elle but Elle is wrapped up in her own dilemma. She decides to end the relationship and repress her bisexuality to get back to her old Canadian life but the heartbreak from denying what she wants and who she loves starts to bleed into every aspect of her life. Finally Molly is forced to stop waiting in the wings and to act on her impulses.
PV: Elle goes through a personal softening in many ways. She’s quite brash and ‘take-no-prisoners’ off the top. She takes what she wants. But I think by the end she realizes how much she needs her friends and ultimately is forced into a place of vulnerability.
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“Avocado Toast the series” Spotlights Bisexuality, Parental Divorce, and the Generational Stigmas of Sex. Photo Credit (headshots): David Leyes Photography.