Sutton Foster

Sutton Foster on Returning to Broadway and Embracing Aging

Plus, she discusses Younger’s seventh and final season.

Upon meeting with Younger star Sutton Foster over Zoom, it’s easy to see why she got cast to play protagonist Liza Miller, a 40-year-old who could convincingly pass for 26. Granted, Zoom cameras aren’t exactly high-def, but still: Even with minimal makeup ("I mean, I’m wearing makeup today, but I normally don’t even wear makeup," Foster clarifies), she looks glowing.

We are here to talk about Younger’s seventh and final season, which premieres on April 15. While Liza’s situation has undergone some changes over the last decade (for instance, she no longer has to fake being in her twenties), she continues to represent an archetype actresses over 35 rarely get to play: an ingenue coming into her own. Even as Foster—a musical theater veteran with multiple Tony Awards to her name—prepares to return to Broadway this fall, it’s hard to accept Liza’s story is coming to an end. Still, I have a feeling Foster will continue to carry her Younger character wherever she goes next. Read on for Foster’s thoughts on moving between TV and theater, maintaining a skincare routine that’ll let her get away with pretending to be 14 years younger, and coming of age at any age.

The Music Man on Broadway is set for this fall, and you’re playing Marian the Librarian. I know you’ve done some concert performances of shows since you started on Younger, but this is the first long-term theatrical engagement that you’ve done since then, isn’t it?

Yeah, it is. Well—we did a production of Sweet Charity between seasons 3 and 4 in New York, but that was an off-Broadway show. This will be my first time back on Broadway since Violet, which we did right after we shot the pilot for Younger, so this will be my first time doing a long-running show as a mom, as well. So that'll be a whole new thing, one more interesting thing to navigate.

I imagine it’s bittersweet, both returning to the theater but also saying goodbye to this show that’s been your home for the last several years.

It is very bittersweet. I mean, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I just feel incredibly grateful for the experience that I had on Younger and how much I learned because I had been in theater for so long, and I know what that life is like, and I did not know what working in front of a camera was like—or doing TV. It was just this whole new experience and a wonderful change of pace as well. I would love to incorporate both things in my career moving forward, that would be incredible, but I am looking forward to being back on stage. I feel like it’s part of the fabric of who I am as a person.

Sutton Foster

Sutton Foster

Because of the pandemic, you’re returning to the theater at a big time of transition for the industry. I imagine it’s also kind of nice that this period of reopening is coinciding with your transition into a new chapter.

Yeah! I mean, completely. I feel like I’ll never take live theater for granted again. [Laughs] But yeah, it is, it’s like this whole new chapter. I feel especially lucky to start that chapter with Music Man, which is about community, uniting a community with music, and having faith. There’s something very, very cool about that, I think. I’m very excited to be able to return at this time with that show.

What are some of the things that you're going to miss about working in TV? What are some of the things that you’ve missed about working in theater that you’re excited to go back to?

That’s such a cool question. What will I miss? I’ll miss my weekends. [Laughs] That seems so silly, but now that I have a daughter, I was like, "Oh yeah, my days off will be on Mondays." And I’ll miss the holidays. I had been in the theater for so long—I'd been pretty much doing live theater for 20 years—and I had never had a Christmas off until I did Younger. Because we were the entertainment for the holiday, right? We work on Thanksgiving, and we work on Christmas Day or whatever, and we do extra shows. That’s just sort of part of what we do. 

So being in TV and having time off, I’ll miss that. The thing that I love about the theater is that you get the opportunity to try something again. Every day, even though you're doing the same thing, there's this opportunity to mine a moment or make a discovery. And things evolve. There’s something really cool, especially on a long-running show, when you realize something six months into a run, and you’ll be like, "Oh, wow!" This opportunity to kind of discover anew—that’s very, very cool, and you don’t get that in TV. 

There are pluses to both. In TV, one of the things I’ll miss is that every day is something new, but you're never fully prepared. You don't really rehearse, so you don't get that chance to go back and try to do it better the next day. You have to make strong decisions and leap into the work, and you can't really let in your ego or your fear. You have to push everything aside because time is money, and the train is moving. And if you're scared, there are like 50 people waiting for you to do your job. [Laughs] 

That’s interesting—the idea that the two experiences are foils of each other. With theater, you sort of get to stay in the same moment forever, but TV is really the only medium where you get to grow with a character over several years.

Yeah. I’ve played Liza for seven years.

What is it like to say goodbye to Liza and to look back at the ways she’s grown over that time?

It’s so funny because I've grown up with her too. I mean, that seems so odd, but in many ways, my journey with Liza and with Younger was running parallel with my own life as we both kind of emerged into this new chapter. When I started doing Younger, I was 39, and then I met my husband, I got married, we had a family—so much of my life has changed. I feel like I have more of an authentic sense of self, or I don’t know, I’ve just grown up. With Liza, there’s been so much growth, but that’s been me too. So much of Liza and I are one and the same, and our trajectory was sort of the same. I can sort of see it as I watch it. You know, I’m like, "Oh, wow, I’ve watched myself grow up."

One of the things that have always been special about Younger is the idea that you can sort of "come of age" at any age. It’s the kind of show where the maturity isn’t always coming from the oldest person in the room.

Yeah, I agree. I love that you said that it's not always the oldest person in the room who’s acting the most mature because it's true.

Sutton Foster

How has playing someone almost fifteen years younger than you for seven years changed your beauty habits?

I’ve never been a person of vanity, and I’ve also never had a job that depended so much on how I looked. Thank god the premise has evolved, and I do not still have to pretend like I’m in my 20s because there’s only so much I can do. I think I have no desire to hold onto some type of beauty ideal, especially from my 20s; I just would like to age gracefully. I’m 46 now, and I really don’t want to transform my face in any way. I’m completely fine with wrinkles and under-eye bags and stuff. It’s interesting, it’s a mindfuck, and I struggle with it because it’s ultimately not what I want, yet I’m in a business where so much is focused on beauty and how people look at it. I look at movie stars, and I don’t even know what a real 46-year-old looks like anymore, you know? I’ve decided that what I would really like to do as I get older is just try to take the best care of my skin possible. 

What is your usual skincare routine?

I try to keep nice clean skin, and I exfoliate a couple of times a week. The exfoliant that I like is from Dr. Lancer. I think it’s called The Polish ($75) and it’s really fine and gentle. I like anything that’s super hydrating. There’s a line called Biography, and their face oils are just beautiful. I use eye cream and night cream. I love Clarins Plant Gold Nutri-Revitalizing Oil Emulsion ($62) in the daytime because I don’t want anything too heavy, but Clarins also has a nice undereye cream. For night cream, I like the whole Sisley Black Rose line. They have a really great mask, but I use it as a night cream. And on the way to set, because my eyes get puffy, I would have my roller in the freezer, and I’d be rolling underneath my mask in the car trying to depuff my face. The big challenge this season for me was the masking, which is this whole new thing. We’d have makeup, and then we'd have to put our masks on, and I would get really bad zits on my nose and my chin, and I was like, Oh my god, because I’ve never really dealt with acne. The only thing that's saved my life is the Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads ($10). I just wash my face, swipe those where the mask goes, and that has taken care of that problem.

I want to go back to what you said before about not wanting to do anything to your face, yet you're in an industry that's very much focused on looks. I think it’s a surreal experience that these beauty ideals may feel arbitrary when you’re in society at large. Still, it’s not quite as arbitrary for the industry itself because it actually relates to the job.

No, but that’s what I struggle with. The only time I care about it or even think about it is the four months I’m on set. It’s not the healthiest thing for me, you know? It doesn’t feel very healthy, thinking of my self-worth based on my face. That doesn’t feel very good. So it’s a very interesting thing to navigate because it’s all sort of part of the work. But how do I navigate it in a way that feels true to me and doesn't feel unhealthy or feel like I’m compromising my ideals? And what I would love to do is to be someone who represents someone who chooses not to conform to some sense of ideal, so I’m also grappling with that. You know, what does that look like? Sorry, this is getting—I should have a therapy session on it.

It’s an interesting conversation, especially given the nature of the show you've been on for seven years.

I know. I mean, I joke like, "Oh, I can't wait to be on a show where it's not focused on that, and you don’t have that extra pressure or responsibility." And yet how fabulous it has been to be on Younger!

Photographer: DJ Quintero

Hairstylist: DJ Quintero

Makeup artist: Lisa Aharon

Stylist: Emily Sanchez

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