'SNL' 's Aidy Bryant on How 'Shrill' Changed TV: 'So Often Fat Characters Were the Punchline'

"I never felt like I saw a fat person's romantic life treated with any dignity on the screen," she tells PEOPLE

When Aidy Bryant first read Lindy West’s book Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, the Saturday Night Live star says the memoir struck a chord.

“Lindy had so perfectly verbalized stuff I had been thinking my entire life but never said out loud,” Bryant, 32, tells PEOPLE. “I was so inspired by the point of, ‘I’ve spent so much of my life trying to fit into a system that wasn’t built for me, and it doesn’t define my value as a person.’ I was like, ‘I agree. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m good. I like myself.'”

That’s when she signed on as co-creator, producer and star of Hulu’s series Shrill, which is also co-produced by Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks.

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Hulu "Shrill" FYC Screening
Aidy Bryant. Erik Voake/Getty

The series stars Bryant as Annie, whom Hulu describes as “a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body.”

Growing up, “So often fat characters were the punchline,” Bryant says. “Even if it wasn’t necessarily about their weight, it was about the way they lived their life or who they were is a joke. An example is the idea that a fat woman would see a man, feel attracted to him, and then she would jump on him and the whole chair would fall apart, or they would fall to the ground and she … And it’s like, that’s not how any fat person has ever interacted sexually in reality.”

Aidy Bryant
Frazer Harrison/Getty

So when Bryant got involved with the project, she knew she wanted to change the narrative.

“I never felt like I saw a fat person’s romantic life treated with any dignity on the screen,” she says. “That was one of the main reasons that one of the first scenes of the first episode is her having sex, and it’s normal, fine, like real sex. It’s not like mind blowing porn sex, It’s just pretty human, normal sex. That is a big part of a person’s relationship to their body and their identity, and so what we wanted to do, was show it with some respect.”

Aidy Bryant on Shrill.

Bryant adds that the response from fans has been amazing.

“I definitely assumed that young fat women would identify with it, but it’s really been a whole range of men, women, thin, fat,” she says. “People can relate to being really hard on themselves, being their own worst critic and being trapped in that mindset and wanting to get out of it. That is really universal.”

Season 2 of Shrill is available on Hulu Jan. 24.

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