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Back in 2017, Freeform’s aspirational media workplace dramedy The Bold Type began with a scream. On Wednesday night, it ended with one — likely echoed by fans as they took in the final episode of the series. (Major spoilers for the finale are ahead.)
The show aired for five seasons, taking its central characters Kat (Aisha Dee), Jane (Katie Stevens), and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) through job promotions, mushroom trips, and fraught romances. Season 5 focuses heavily on work. Editor-in-chief Jacqueline is planning her departure from Scarlet magazine, Jane is preparing to fill her shoes, Sutton is figuring out how to do her job without crumbling from grief after her separation, and Kat and Adena are building their own activism-focused vertical. But the final episode brings everything back to the show’s central premise: that coworkers can become friends, who can then become something like family.
It’s a loaded idea in 2021, when we’ve spent the past year questioning the way we work.
“I think the show is referring to a fully functional family,” Aisha tells Teen Vogue during a group Zoom with Katie and Meghann. “But it is a very complicated subject matter to really look at how that kind of phrasing has manipulated people in the workplace, especially in corporate structures, for a long time. In the context of The Bold Type, I think it’s meant in the most earnest way.” And The Bold Type has always required some suspension of disbelief — Jane is still sending her stories to her editor-in-chief in a word processor for her to publish, after all.
Katie adds that not everyone’s family has the same level of functionality as Scarlet, but says, “If we are thinking in terms of a family, you have to have uncomfortable conversations, and at the end of the day find ways to still support each other and uplift each other.”
In that earnest, somewhat utopian world of the show, underpaid assistants need only ask for a raise or promotion to be given it, and generous mentors abound. And when it comes time to make a leadership choice, the show goes with the right one: Kat, not Jane, is the next leader of Scarlet. It’s a move that makes sense, even if it wasn’t always the plan. “I do feel like it’s been obvious from the beginning that Kat was always a very good [manager] and somebody who was a natural born leader,” Aisha says.
Meghann and Katie were also on board with the idea, though it was important to Katie that the big twist felt intentional. At the beginning of the finale, Jane looks at her notebook, where she’s mapped out her life goals. “Be editor in chief at Scarlet,” the final uncrossed entry reads. But all season, Jane has struggled to manage her team and seemed unhappy doing it; Kat, meanwhile, has thrived under pressure, making — ahem — bold decisions with relative ease. “Aisha and I talked a lot about it,” Katie says, “because I was like, I don’t want it to seem like, ‘Jane doesn’t want this, so here Kat have it.’ I wanted it to be that it was always supposed to be Kat, that she was born to do this.”
They joke about the speed in which the plot changes entirely. “Kat quits her job, gets her own vertical, and becomes editor in chief in the span of like three days. It’s amazing,” Katie says. Aisha laughs, “And wasn’t she just fired from there last season?”
Speaking of narrative speed, things were touch and go for two of the show’s central couples right up until the end. Sutton and Richard, who married last season, pivot away from their impending divorce and back to each other after Richard realizes he’d rather have her than the child he wanted. It was a last minute switch. “They were not supposed to end up together. That was the plan, was that Sutton is going to go off and be on her own,” Meghann says. “And then the night before we shot it, they rewrote it. So we had quite the little thrill with that.”
Jane doesn’t get a similar arc with Pinstripe, though he does pop in for closure before the series ends. Katie fought for that moment, pitching it like in the movie The Break-Up. “Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston see each other on the street and they’re both in good places,” Katie says, “and they have a moment of reminiscing and then they walk away from each other.” It’s meant to be open-ended as to whether they’ll see each other again.
And that brings us to Kat and Adena, a fan-favorite couple who have faced more than their fair share of obstacles across five seasons but ultimately overcame their fears. They even got a romantic grand gesture, as Kat assures Adena in her EIC speech that she’s ready to put her heart into this, later adding that Adena is and will always be her “person.”
“I had already decided if they weren’t going to let Kat and Adena be together I was going to throw hands. So it’s really lucky for them that they made the right choice,” Aisha says, laughing. “I’m happy for them, even though I know they’re not real people. Unfortunately, it’s really rare to see two female-identifying people of color in love on a mainstream television show, and it’s even more rare to get to see them have a happy ending. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it.”
It was a moment that was a long time coming, especially in light of Kat’s previous romance with Eva, a conservative Republican. The relationship made little sense to viewers, and it didn’t work for Aisha either. “The decision to have Kat enter into a relationship with a privileged conservative woman felt confusing and out of character,” Aisha wrote in a statement on Instagram last June. "It was heartbreaking to watch Kat's story turn into a redemption story for someone else, someone who is complicit in the oppression of so many. Someone whose politics are actively harmful to her communities."
Parallel to this idea of Scarlet as a family are the real-life workplace dynamics behind the show and in the entertainment industry at large. Aisha, Meghann, and Katie's friendship and support for each other is strong, which was important to Aisha when in that same statement, she called attention to the lack of Black, queer women in The Bold Type’s writers room, and how that affected the stories the series told. She shared that it took three seasons to get a hairstylist who knew how to work with textured hair. At the time, she wrote that she asked herself, “What would Kat do?”
The answer: speak out firmly, even though she was afraid of both repercussions at work and of “centering myself in a narrative that was much bigger.”
“The conversations we’re having are about things that are systemic. They literally live in the framework of the industry that we work for,” Aisha says. “The difficulty in getting into the union just to work on a set, it’s cliquey. Certain people have more access than other people, and then [it’s about] who are you related to? Who do you know? So if we’re talking about breaking down these systems, you don’t break them down with an Instagram post and a conference call. It doesn’t work that way. Having said that, I was honestly really terrified to post it, and I was like maybe I’ll lose my job, maybe people will call me a b*tch. All of the anxieties that a lot of women and people feel speaking up in the workplace, not just in the film industry, but across all industries. So I was really scared, but I think something that was encouraging to me was that everyone was willing to begin the conversation. I’m hopeful that by starting that conversation, it encourages more people to speak. Because I didn’t realize how much I was holding in.”
It was a meta moment of Aisha holding her workplace accountable just like Kat did so often during the series, with Meghann and Katie cheering her on — and learning from her, too.
“Part of the privilege that Katie and I have is that you’re not confronted with these kinds of things often. A lot of this stuff Aisha has dealt with her whole life,” Meghann says. “I’m really grateful that we were able to support her.” She looks toward Aisha on screen: “And I’m glad you feel supported by us because that matters a whole lot. I do think it will change how Katie and I move forward from here on different projects.”
Katie echoes Aisha’s words about how more Black people, POC, and queer people need to be in the rooms where narrative and casting decisions are made. “She’s telling the story of not only a woman of color but a queer woman of color, which I know she feels a great responsibility in telling. She tells it with so much care, and I think that it’s a lot of pressure," Katie says. "There needs to be more people that are in the room that have that experience, so that it doesn’t all fall on Aisha to be telling those stories. For her to feel the weight of being the person who has to tell that story authentically… there are so many experiences within that and we’re just telling one. Moving forward, I hope all of the people who are in a position to be creating these stories also take that responsibility with as much care and grace as Aisha has.”
Before Aisha posted her statement, she called Katie and Meghann and read it aloud to them. “It takes a lot of bravery and courage to [post what you did,” Katie says, speaking to Aisha directly. “And I know that it was scary, but we always have your back. She started a conversation that other people probably unfortunately would not have had unless it was placed in front of them. She did that.” Aisha smiles, “Thanks, boo.”
And so when the conversation turns to what’s next for the three leads of The Bold Type, it makes sense they’re thinking only of each other.
“Aisha is currently shooting a Netflix movie in Austin,” Meghann says, with Katie adding excitedly, “It’s called Plus/Minus, with the director who did Rafiki [Wanuri Kahiu], which she really loves.” (“They like to be my manager,” Aisha jokes.)
Katie says she’s “living where Jane’s at,” with no set plans, “which for someone like me can be paralyzing and scary at times, but also exciting because I wanna live in the world where whatever is meant for me is going to find me … and I know I’m gonna have these two in my life forever.”
One thing that is set? Meghann and Katie’s trip to Austin to visit Aisha next month.
“Basically what’s on the horizon is, how do I get back to my b*tches?” Aisha says. “I know the show is ending and everything, but I’m excited about the idea of working with Katie and Meghann in different spaces. I wanna make music with y’all, and I want to explore what else lives beyond this whole experience.”
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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: "The Bold Type" Star Aisha Dee Calls for More "Diverse Voices" in Writer's Room
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue