NOC Interview: Brenda Song on Hulu’s Female-Led Series, ‘Dollface’

Brenda Song portrays Madison Maxwell in the female-driven comedy, Dollface. The new season is now streaming on Hulu! I had an amazing discussion with the actress about which of her past roles she would include in her Dollface inspired friend group, the importance of representation in the media, Madison’s season 2 storyline, and much more. Keep reading for everything she shared with me!

Season Two follows Jules (Kat Dennings) and her best friends – post pandemic, post heartbreak, heading toward turning thirty. Having successfully reunited with her friends (Brenda Song, Shay Mitchell, and Esther Povitsky), Jules must now balance keeping their group together as the women navigate work, love, and a deeper relationship with each of themselves.

Jessica Brooks/Hulu

If you could create a friend group like in Dollface with only characters that you’ve played, who would you include?
Brenda Song: Oh my goodness. Wow, that’s actually tough. Okay, well, I think Madison would obviously be Madison. I think the Stella character would have to be London because hello, I feel like adult London would be crazy and wild. Who would be Izzy? Oh my gosh, I haven’t gotten to do someone really fun. Let me think. Oh, Izzy would be my character from Dads because she worked at a comic, she was really weird, such a nerd. I feel like that’d totally be her. Who would be Jules? Jules is Brenda in real life. She would be me in real life, that’s my friend group. It’s weird, we all look so much alike! It’s gonna be very difficult to differentiate us.

It is so rare to see a female-led show nowadays. So, what does it mean to you to be part of a show that is not only female-led but portrays them and tells their stories in such a real way? I actually feel so connected to the stories and characters as a female viewer.
Oh, well first of all, same. When I first read the script, it made me almost sad because I connected so much to it and I related so much to it, and I realized that I haven’t had this in so long. The only other show that I really felt that way for my age was New Girl and that was one of my favorite shows of all time. And when I read it, I mean, I live in LA, this was like my group of girlfriends and I think it’s just so important because as with everything, it’s so important to see proper representation in media, on TV, and on the big screen. The media and TV should reflect what the world actually looks like. Of course, obviously, we’re in a fantastical dramatized world, but I was like, “Why can’t we just watch a show about girls living their lives, having fun, and making mistakes? It’s okay. Why does it need to be this crazy, outlandish tagline? Why does it have to always be about a guy,” you know what I mean? Why can’t we just be girls? So yeah, of course, I think that’s the most important thing is just whatever that we do in media, it should reflect what the world actually looks like.

Ultimately, what are you hoping that Madison gives to fans of the show, whether that’s a lesson or something to relate to?
Well, this year, especially because I think obviously the show is post-pandemic and Madison is going through what a lot of people are going through; they lost their jobs, relationships are unknown. She’s at her lowest low and I think this season, Madison’s real storyline and her arc is all about redefining herself, figuring out that she can go wherever she wants to go, she doesn’t have to be on the path that she thought she had to be on, that it’s okay to not be okay, and that even when she needed to find her self-worth, you don’t need to find self-worth in a guy, your job, or the success you think you need to have. You can just love yourself for you, especially at this time when everything is just so weird. I think of all the characters this season, Madison is really feeling that kind of like, “I don’t know what to do because my life was so together before all this and now my life is a complete mess.” So yeah, it’s just to keep pushing on, to keep trucking on because at the end of the day, I think when you start saying no to your old habits, the right doors start opening up, no matter how small they may be, and to celebrate all the small victories.

How rewarding is that for you to do a storyline with your character at their lowest and then be able to raise them back up? You’re also going to give a visual of how so many of us are currently feeling because a lot of shows that are doing their stories set during the pandemic or post-pandemic brush over it quickly and everything is fine.
It’s so much fun because actually, what I really loved is when I talked to Michelle Nader, our showrunner, about the finale, the thing is there’s no huge happy ending. At the end of the season, there’s no like all of a sudden, the girls are fine and everything is great. That’s what’s really wonderful about this season and this show is that even though it’s obviously very fantastical, there is this kind of real element, where in life, those small little things, those are the big things for us. That’s what I loved. When we read the finale, I was like, this is not about having a crazy party at the end, everyone is like “everything’s fine,” or you find a great guy at the end. It’s about looking around and being like, “no, my life is pretty great as it is and it doesn’t need to be what I thought it needed to be for it to be good.” I need that lesson in my life!

I really love the show’s friendships, they’re just so beautifully done. It isn’t always shown like that anymore when it comes to female friendships on television. So what is your favorite aspects of Madison’s relationships?
What I really love about all the girls’ relationships, in general, is that we allow each other to make mistakes and we fight over petty things because that’s what friends do. You can’t get over small things, you let the big things go. It feels really real to me because that’s something that when we read the scripts, we always really talk about like, “does it feel real? Why are we mad at each other for this? Why would we do this?” I really appreciate that about our creative team and especially our showrunner, Michelle. She really allows us to have that creative freedom and that voice in the room, because she’s like, “This all needs to feel real and natural.” The thing is the three girls and I are all actually friends. Kat Dennings is one of my best friends and the funny thing is we are all those kinds of people in our friend group, we’re actually our characters in the friend group, which is really funny. I think that’s the thing again, it’s about just being able to sort of represent a somewhat realistic representation of what women friendships are.

Jesse Fiorino

This season, I think people can be really surprised by Malin’s character, who plays Celeste. We’ve got a lot of comments about how she doesn’t react the way that most people portray bitchy women reacting and I was like, “No, not all women react that way.” Women don’t get vindictive and angry with each other. It’s like why are we not allowed to just let people be, make mistakes, and talk to one another? Because I feel like that’s what we do in normal life. I mean, don’t get me wrong, not all the time, but that’s human. I think that’s what I really love is with each friendship, we really allow each girl to be whoever they need to be. Letting Stella figure her life out, Izzie making her mistakes, pulling Jules out of her shell, pulling her out of her funk. I think it is just really representative of different parts of people’s real relationships because that’s how I look at it. When I look at Madison’s relationship with Stella or Jules, it’s like those are aspects and relationships that I have with my best friend.

I’ve had the pleasure of growing up with you and your work, you’re one of the first actresses I ever saw on my screen. So it is a real honor and full-circle moment to interview you, especially about one of my comfort shows. What is it like having that kind of connection with your fans and growing with them? Do you ever look back at your career’s evolution and the different roles you’ve played?
I always say like I grew up on a set and sort of grew up on TV, and been very fortunate to have always sort of been able to look at my career like a staircase and every job grew with me or I grew with it. So I feel really lucky because I feel like wherever I was in my life, the whole art imitates life, life imitates art has really been my career so far. I feel really grateful because I feel like it’s been a great representation of where I’ve been in my life and I’ve never had to do something I felt uncomfortable doing or try to be someone that I’m not. So it is weird when I look back on it because in my early 20s I was playing an assistant on Scandal or Dads and I was like that’s what I would be doing in my early 20s if I were to actually have a job, I’d be doing that. So it makes me laugh because when I kind of look back, everything happens for a reason but it’s funny that the characters that I played sort of represented where I’d be in life.

Obviously, I want more of Dollface and more of Madison. So what would be your dream storyline for her in a third season?
For Madison, I would really love her to take from this season and me personally, I don’t know what the perfect storyline would be but I know where I’d love her to go and that’s really settling into herself because this season was about her dealing with all of her issues, being so uncomfortable, and feeling a bunch of things that Madison has never felt before. I would love to see the person that she turns out to be out of all of that and see where she wants to go in her career. I would love to see the next person that Madison decides to date because there’s a great storyline in an episode where she basically dates her ex-boyfriend, and I think we’ve all sort of done that before, repeating the same habit. With that storyline, I was like, “oh, sometimes we do that, don’t we?” I love to see how she progresses and what kind of person she becomes out of all of this because I think at the end of the season, there’s still a lot more growth to go, but she gets to a place where she really understands what Jules has been telling her this whole time, which is a lot of this is not that big of a deal; we’re so young, we have so many opportunities in front of us, just keep trucking on, it’s okay because Madison doesn’t know how to stop. She just needs to drive forward like when you’re stressed, you keep going. So I just would love to see where she goes. I’m not sure where I’d like to see her go, but I would love to know.

I really hope you stick with this character.
Same! It would be really fun. I love these girls. Working on this show has been such a dream, not even just character-wise but also just going to set every day. We have a very female-driven crew, which is really amazing because I think it’s really hard, we have so many talented women in this industry that don’t get the opportunity because people are just used to using their own crews that they always use. So to be a part of a set where we had all-female directors this season, a female-dominated writing staff, female producers just feels really amazing and to see all these amazing women get the opportunity to shine on and off-camera. So it’s just such a wonderful, positive set to be on and a place where you feel really creative. Everyone shines, everyone gets a moment to shine, and everyone has a voice in the room, it’s such a dream job on and off-screen. I hope we see more of these girls.

Brenda, you just made me emotional.
Well, girl, you know the struggle! As women in this industry or women in general, to have a voice in the room and to have an opportunity. It’s what I always say, I just want the opportunity. I don’t need people to hand me a job, I just want my day in court.

Jesse Fiorino

Speaking of the set, I cannot imagine how fun it is because seriously, you cannot have a better cast!
We have way too much fun. Our poor group text is like a mess, it’s all over the place. Most of its food, it’s like first thing in the morning, “what are we having for coffee? What is everyone eating?” It’s the most random but so much fun because it’s what girlfriends do. What I love about it is I literally get to go to work every day and that sounds so cheesy, but I get to do what I love to do, what I’ve always wanted to do with people I love, respect and have so much fun with. I can’t even imagine what our blooper reel is because the truth is you’re talking right up until they call action. Sometimes I don’t know how we get work done.

Luckily, we are going over our lines so much because we just talk all day. Even when we’re doing press, I feel like sometimes they have to shut us up to actually move on interviews, but I haven’t seen these girls since we finished filming because everyone has lives and things. It’s a really fun set and it’s really silly because we are all very different, but we all get along really well. We have a lot in common but again, we’re so different. We kind of vicariously live through each other in different ways. So it’s fun, our favorite thing to do when we come back is like, “Shay where did you go this weekend?” It’s just really fun, we have a good time. I love these girls. It’s been such an honor and such a dream to work with them. Here’s the thing, I’ve been talking about how great humans they are, but they’re also such great actresses. I couldn’t ask for better scene partners, to be able to go to work and trust these people so much, it’s really rare, it’s hard, especially a female-driven show, where people always want to put women down and always want to try to cause drama with girls. It’s like no, we actually just really like each other. We just have fun.

Lastly, I have seen the excitement for the new season. It is such an amazing feeling to see the anticipation but also how many people say that they’ve discovered the show over quarantine. What is that like for you to see leading up to the release?
Honestly, it’s really humbling and it’s really exciting, simply because we put a lot of love into the show. It’s not for everyone and it’s always lovely when people enjoy all the hard work that the people you love and respect put into something. We love making the show so much so when people enjoy it, you can’t help but be happy and excited. It’s always lovely when you hear people who relate to it and enjoy seeing female representation in media. It’s nice because that’s how I felt. So I can sit here and we can talk about it all day because that’s exactly how I feel when I read these scripts every week, going “Oh my God, I feel the same way!” So yeah, honestly, it’s just humbling and very exciting, especially during quarantine and for me, just finding a little bit of escapism, whether it’s half an hour or a couple of hours of a good time.

To me, it’s part of what I love doing about my job is that you get to help people escape reality for a little bit, whether that’s just someone having a stressed day, someone having a bad day, or someone who wants to just go to sleep and have a fun show on. It’s something that I really love about the job that I’m able to do is helping people be able to just for a little bit, escape their lives, jump into someone else’s drama and someone else’s life problems, especially during these past almost two years, which is crazy. It’s been really lovely and it’s really just reaffirmed why I feel so lucky that I get to do what I do because it’s what I do. When I’m having a tough day, what do I do? I turn on RuPaul’s Drag Race or The Great British Bakeoff, something that makes me happy, smile, and let’s me forget about my problems for just a little bit.