"With all shows that take risks, there's going to be positive and negative attention. ... And I am grateful ... to be a part of a show that is willing to take those risks," Brianne Howey tells PEOPLE

By Andrea Wurzburger
March 26, 2021 09:30 AM
Advertisement
ginny and Georgia
Credit: SOPHIE GIRAUD/NETFLIX

For Brianne Howey, stepping into the role of a single mom in Netflix's mother-daughter dramedy Ginny and Georgia was one she understands well.

"I grew up with a young, single mom," the 31-year-old actress tells PEOPLE. "And I have a little sister who's 15 years younger than me. So a lot of these dynamics in the show, in these relationships, were already built-in for me."

"It felt oddly natural," says Howey, who drew inspiration from her love of family, her empathy for her own mom, and the experiences of her siblings.

The show follows 30-year-old Georgia (Howey), her 15-year-old daughter Ginny (Antonia Gentry) and 9-year-old son Austin (Diesel La Torraca) as they try to create a new life for themselves in the picture-perfect town of Wellsbury, Massachusetts. Though it all seems very Gilmore Girls on the surface, the new series dives deep into tackling serious and relevant issues, including abuse, self-harm, sexuality, growing up in a biracial family, and, of course, the general angst that comes with being new in town.

ginny and Georgia
Ginny and Georgia
| Credit: NETFLIX

While Howey played the sly and savvy matriarch Georgia, it was Ginny that the actress really related to, explaining that her relationship with her own mother isn't all that different.

"I may or may not have utilized the window outside of my bedroom also in high school," Howey jokes, recalling a scene in the series where Georgia catches one of her daughter's suitors climbing into her window: "I just thought, 'I can't believe how the tables have turned.'"

The show — which premiered on Feb. 24 — has been No. 1 on Netflix since its debut, according to Forbes, surpassing the record previously held by quarantine phenomenon Tiger King.

Howey describes the experience of the show's pandemic success as "going from zero to 100" adding, "We went from everything really laying low, not a ton going on to, 'Holy cow, Ginny and Georgia dropped and is being received so well.'"

Ginny and Georgia's success wasn't without some controversy, though — it became the subject of much internet debate after Taylor Swift spoke out against Netflix and the show on Twitter following an episode, which featured a joke about the singer's dating history.

"I think with all shows that take risks, there's going to be positive and negative attention. I think it comes with the territory. And I am grateful, incredibly grateful, to be a part of a show that is willing to take those risks," Howey explains. Still, she admits that it was "definitely unexpected," saying, "it was a surprising thing to wake up to that morning for sure."

And Ginny and Georgia does take risks. Though there is a healthy amount of fast-talking and mother-daughter dynamics, it's certainly not Gilmore Girls.

"I think what Debra [J. Fisher, the showrunner] and Sarah [Lampert, the show's creator] did so beautifully was really have this show reflect the world that we live in for better or for worse. And I think those are really important stories to tell because they aren't stories we always get to see," Howey says about the series, which doesn't shy away from showing how race impacts Ginny, who is biracial, and Georgia, who is white.

Howey adds, "We just wanted to honor these stories and hope that people feel seen and heard through watching it. And I think that's also what's really unique about the show, that it's this blend of catharsis, but also escapism. I don't know that I've ever really gotten to be a part of something like that. And it feels really special."

Though some of Howey's most notable scenes are the ones where she is leaning into her dark side and clawing her way to the top — "she's always a handful of steps ahead" — the actress' favorite ones to film were with her fictional kids, played by Gentry and La Torraca.

Brianne Howey
Credit: Photographed by Bret Lemke

She says that playing a mother got her "excited" for when she eventually becomes a parent. "Getting to spend so much time with Antonia and Diesel, it was really exciting to lean into our family relationship, doing living room dance party and the car picnic, and finding out what our family quirks were. And that got me excited. That's something I look forward to when my time comes for actual parenthood."

She jokes, "I think I'm going to leave some of the murder out of it. The poisonous smoothie ... I'm probably not going to embezzle from my kid's school. I don't think I'll punch their bullies, but I guess the jury is still out on that one."

While a second season hasn't yet been announced, Howey does have some hopes for Georgia's future. At the end of season 1, Georgia thinks she has won — she uses her connections and savvy to escape a private investigator's prying eyes, she is engaged to the newly reelected Mayor Paul Randolph (Scott Porter), and all seems to be well. But while she's celebrating, little does she know that her kids are leaving Wellsbury on a motorcycle.

Howey says that for Georgia, her kids will always come first — though that doesn't take romance totally off the table. "I think, first and foremost, [Georgia]'s always got a plan. She knows what she's doing ... she's playing a game with people who don't even know that they're a part of a game. So I think for now, Georgia is leading with her mind, not her heart," she says.

But if she was leading with her heart, Georgia has three men to choose from, and Howey can make a case for all of them. "On a personal level, I had no complaints," she quips.

GINNY & GEORGIA
Ginny and Georgia
| Credit: NETFLIX

First up, there's Paul, the town's mayor and Georgia's fiancé: "He sees her for this woman she's grown into. This woman who loves power and who loves control, and who is incredibly smart."

But what about Zion (Nathan Mitchell), Ginny's father who comes back and makes a pretty compelling case for giving it another try? "He's the first person to truly show Georgia what love is ... because Zion's love for her is so pure. That's also a part of her that was able to make her a really good mom."

And then there is sweet, lovable, cafe owner Joe (Raymond Ablack): "There's definitely a world in which you can see them run away together and live this beautiful, simple life that Georgia has never known."

If the series does get renewed for a season 2, "I would like [Georgia] to tap into her heart and figure out what she really wants," says Howey.

Ginny and Georgia is streaming on Netflix.