The Way We Get By: Frankie Shaw on Dave (and Looking for Lorraine and Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen)

While she's been stuck indoors during the lockdown, the SMILF creator-actress has been escaping into the world of Lil Dicky's FX comedy show.

Most of us are sequestered in our homes, doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes some of our favorite artists, so we’re asking them to tell us about one thing — a book, a movie, a record, whatever — that’s helping them get through this difficult time.

I’m staying home, spending a lot of appreciated time with my husband and son. The gravity of it hits at different moments, and it can be up and down emotionally. John Prine dying had me weeping. I try to take news/social media breaks and keep expectations of myself low, while not falling into complete self-sabotage and paralysis. Writing, when I find the focus, is a nice escape. I just finished a pilot script and am about to try to start a new one. The beginning of a project – when you’re at the base of the mountain, looking up and trying to work out what path you’re going to take – always makes you feel a little crazy and that’s when you’re not experiencing a global pandemic.

Recently, I have been revisiting comforting movies I love, like Good Will Hunting, Silver Linings Playbook, Logan Lucky, The Talented Mr. Ripley to name a few. We’re also currently watching the FX show Dave, a new half-hour comedy about a very white, very Jewish rapper, starring Lil Dicky, which is a fun, surprisingly soulful distraction. When FX does it right, their shows are so singular and distinctive. There’s an honesty and a self-awareness to the friendships in the show that is so satisfying. Lil Dicky’s character is neurotic and insecure, and is upfront about it in a way that recalls Woody Allen in his prime.

The show is set in the underground hip hop community, which is a world I love to be in. My son is super into underground rap, and there are rappers in the show who make cameos who he is a huge fan of. Even though we skip some parts of the show that are not age-appropriate, we’ve really bonded over watching it together. One of the actors in Dave is a rapper named GaTa and in one episode gives the most moving, heartbreaking performance; his character talks about his struggles with mental illness, all of which is based on GaTa’s real experiences. Dave airs every Wednesday and is one of the only shows I’m watching in real time. I really appreciate its brand of humor and watching it has been a nice escape.

I’d like to recommend Looking for Lorraine by Imani Perry, which I read it over the summer and is really moving. It’s a biography of the playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote A Raisin in the Sun, and Perry writes in such a way that you are completely immersed in Hansberry’s life. Hansberry died of cancer tragically young – she was 34 – and you are filled with a sadness and a longing for what she might have achieved had she not died then. But even for her short life, she accomplished so much. Her relationship with James Baldwin was really moving. It was deeply inspiring to read about someone who lived with such intense passion and artistry. I’ve been working on a miniseries of The Bell Jar so it was interesting to read about a contemporary of Sylvia Plath’s, another young woman who was a writer in New York City around the same time, although Hansberry’s work was way more politically impactful. By the end of the book, I was sobbing in my bed, just guttural sobs.

A book that I’ve reread during the pandemic is Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. It was a favorite of mine in high school and my mom sent me my copy, knowing I might want it in quarantine. Highly recommended. Yoshimoto has a subversive and fun voice and she wrote the book in her twenties. She was way ahead of her time in subject matter and perspective.

Frankie Shaw is a Golden Globe-nominated actor, writer, director and producer. Most recently she served as executive producer, creator and director of her critically acclaimed Showtime series SMILF. Shaw portrayed Bridgett Bird, a 20-something single mom struggling to find a happy work-life balance. The show was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2018. Up next, Shaw will write and direct Ultraluminous produced by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh, which will mark her directorial feature debut. Additionally, Shaw will develop a limited series adaptation of the Judy Blume novel Wifey for HBO which chronicles one life-changing summer of Sandy Pressman, a 1970s suburban housewife whose predictable existence compels her to make her rich sexual fantasies a reality. She will also co-write, executive produce and direct the first episode. As an actor, Shaw has also appeared in Amazon Prime’s Homecoming as Dara, USA’s Mr. Robot portraying Shayla Nico and the 2019 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.