Interview: Younger’s Miriam Shor makes directorial debut

Miriam Shor of Younger. Courtesy of TV Land.
Miriam Shor of Younger. Courtesy of TV Land. /

Miriam Shor makes her director debut on an episode of Younger. We discuss her new role, Diana, and The Americans.

Miriam Shor has spent the last five seasons playing Diana on Younger. A female boss who is ready to take over the world.

Shor is taking over a new role in this Tuesday’s episode with the longtime actor taking over the director’s chair, making her directorial debut. For Shor, directing was a long time coming. Shor has spent 20 years on television and Broadway but didn’t realize she wanted to be at the helm until she really examined making the jump. For Shor, directing felt right as she discovered something new about the world of storytelling that she adores.

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Hidden Remote spoke to Shor about directing her first episode, the role of Diana on Younger, and The Americans, where she had a recurring role in the final season.

Hidden Remote: You got to direct an episode of Younger this season, what was that experience like?

Miriam Shor. It was pretty phenomenal. It’s quite the experience. I was really bowled over by the experience and looking to do it again. It’s great to discover that you’re interested and good at something challenging and new – even in your 40s.

HR: What made you want to get behind the camera?

MS: I love storytelling. When you’re in a series for a certain amount of time, you often see an actor or two get behind the camera and direct. I’ve seen it happen to friends of mine. I hadn’t seen it happen to many of my female friends. Some, but not a lot.

In light in some of the conversations we’ve been having in the workplace, in the world, in the entertainment industry over the past couple of years, I had to kind of question why I hadn’t asked or thought about it for myself. If it was because I wasn’t interested, I thought well that would be a good answer, so be it.

But if it was because I didn’t think I deserved it or didn’t think I had a place at that table then I thought that would be a bullshit answer and I had to look at that more closely.

I am always very interested in every aspect of being on a TV set and I always have been. I am always kind of hanging out in video village with the writers and directors I know. I am always asking questions. I was just talking to all the directors about it and I let it marinate. By the end of the season last year, I just asked (creator and producer) Darren Star, do you think this is something I would be able to do because I’m interested. He said, ‘Absolutely, go for it.’

It was an incredible response and not necessarily the norm. I’m grateful that he felt confident in my abilities as a new director to take this on.

Miriam Shor of Younger. Courtesy of TV Land.
Miriam Shor of Younger. Courtesy of TV Land. /

HR: You mentioned you had to ask yourself why you didn’t ask to direct before. What answer did you get after you asked yourself?

MS: I am sometimes a person that thinks if I am not going to be 100 percent great at something, then I don’t want to try it, which is ridiculous. If my kids came to me with that we would have a long talk about it because there isn’t any way to learn without trying.

There is an idea that men can come to a new job 60 percent prepared and learn as they go, and women have to be 100 percent prepared. I thought, why don’t I look into that. It’s fine to be scared and fine to be afraid to fail but don’t let that stop you from doing something. I think there is something to be said for having played a boss for all this time and that kind of confidence in your ability to be a boss is sort of not something I had. Between being a mother and playing this character, you tend to learn a lot about yourself.

The fun thing about being an actor, you get to put on another person’s skin for a while and dive into it, see what it feels like. You learn from doing that. That was one of the things I learned –
maybe I can be a boss. Not the kind of boss Diana is necessarily. I lead with generosity and kindness.

HR: What was one of the most challenging thing for you when you took up that role as director?

MS: Facing the fear of failure, which is a great challenge. Then also realizing there is not enough time in the world. Being a mother, an actor and a director is a lot. Juggling that is a big challenge. But what I found what was interesting instead of being aggravated and thrown for a loop for all of those things, I was energized by it. I had a great time.

HR: You had a largely female crew around you. Was that important to you?

MS: This is how it worked out, I was a female director, I had a female first AD, female editor, female script supervisor, female writer of the episode. I had a gender fluid character and cast a gender fluid actor to portray that character as well.

It was pretty spectacular. It was a pretty great feeling knowing it was a challenge in my industry, and let’s face it, most industries have. The episode I directed just happened to be one where there was a lot of women getting to participate in different roles. I am really proud of that.Mi

HR: What has been more difficult, watching yourself on screen as an actor or watching this episode you put everything into from so many different facets?

MS: I hate watching myself. You just see your flaws, it’s difficult to watch yourself. Luckily, I get to play characters often that are very different than me and look very different than what I would wear or the make up I would put on. It gets easier the further away from yourself the characters are.

What was hard for me was she is only 23 minutes. I would love to see it be a solid 30 minutes. That would another 7 minutes, a whole story line. I agree with the fans, it should be a little longer. Aa a director, you direct the whole script, and in my case it amounted to 27 minutes. I had to cut 4 minutes. That was like cutting off limbs. The difficult in that is massive because you’re going to lose things that can help you tell the story the way you want to tell the story. It’s really the time crunch. The challenge of the director was realizing there was a limit to the amount of time you have. That was really frustrating.

HR: You mentioned wanting to do it again, has that been lined up yet?

MS: It hasn’t been lined up yet, but it’s being discussed. It’s a while now. You get there, they haven’t written the episodes yet. Everyone was very positive about it, the network, everyone to a T. Everyone involved has been unbelievable supportive of that. I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from my co-workers and friends.

It was really so lovely and so heartening to be a part of that.

HR: When it comes to directing and giving actors cues, being that you worked side-by-side with these actors for so long, did you find that aspect of it difficult at all?

MS: No, I didn’t. I was curious and a little weary to make sure they are comfortable with it. It really ended up being incredible. I know them so well and know their characters so well. One of the things I learned coming into it was actually how much I had to offer as a director. In the area of knowing this world and these characters and actors, there is not a director that is going to come in and know them better than me.

In terms of knowing how to talk to actors, that’s something I have a lot of experience with. It ended up being something that went really well and we all really felt good about. So that was really great to learn. It was very fun to be around.

I just fell in love with my cast. There is huge lovefest going on on the set. You have that time limit, you have to get that shot. This is what I need from the scene. You can convey that to the actor in a way that is a collaboration. It’s a dance. Getting to watch them from that perspective, I was just in awe of their talent and I fell in love with the even more.
I just fell in love with my cast. There is huge lovefest going on on the set. You have that time limit, you have to get that shot. This is what I need from the scene. You can convey that to the actor in a way that is a collaboration. It’s a dance. Getting to watch them from that perspective, I was just in awe of their talent and I fell in love with the even more. /

HR: What kind of training did you go through to be director?

MS: I did what is called shadowing. Steven Tsuchida, he directed Younger a bunch of times. I really just followed his every move. Every meeting, every decision they make. Just prepare for every single thing. You see exactly what that is. I also went to a workshop that DGA requires you to do. That was fantastic with other directors who were incredible as well.

All last year, I took it upon myself to sort of shadow each director. I spent a lot of time in video village, the area where the director sits, and the writers and see where each scene is shot. That’s kind of where I always hung out because I am interested in telling stories and making television. I didn’t realize how much I picked up over the last several years. It was training I had even thought of, I had discounted it. A friend of mind was like, ‘What are you talking about, you have been television for over 20 years. You’re going to know more than someone who is coming to a television set for the first second, fifth or 40th time.’

I said, ‘You’re right.’

It was an interesting mix of being brand new and being old hat.

HR: What was some of the best advice given to you?

MS: That is one of the greatest things, I had an infinite amount of advice to glean from my friends, my coworkers, my mentors. I had so many friends in the business, who are amazing of every aspect of it. I could talk to and would – I am not afraid to ask questions – I got so much amazing advice. One I just quoted, ‘Don’t discount your own experience. Bring that with you because it’s valuable. Don’t devalue your experience.’

I realized I was doing that, so that was good advice.

I had another person who was a director who said you know you’re surrounded by people who are unbelievably good at their job. Don’t be afraid to delegate. That’s good advice for literally any job on the planet. Don’t be afraid to delegate. There are people who are skilled and have intelligence. Don’t afraid to use that. TV making is a collaborative effort, so collaborate. I was lucky to be working with these people, crew who I know so well and are so talented.

It was a gift to remember to be like, what do you think about this? I am happy to hear it, and if it’s better than mine, let’s do it. I don’t have any ego in this game. I want to make the story as good as you can make it.

I can tell you scores of it. Every day I got new advice, it was great.

HR: You’ve been playing Diana for several seasons now, how do you bring fire and energy every season?

MS: It’s interesting because season-to-season we take a big break. We don’t do 24 episodes. We do 12, so there is a big break. A lot happened in the world in between those seasons. A lot happens to a person in between those seasons. So you change, grow, look at things differently, and then you go back to this character and in the story, it’s the next day or the next week. You literally go nine months.

Each time I come back to playing Diana, it is a really fun interesting endeavor to work my way back into who she is, to put those clothes back on and walk in those very uncomfortable shoes again. Kind of see what has changed, what feels the same, see what I want to change, see what I am struggling to get back to. It’s great. It’s a really unique thing you get to do in the world of acting.

Often what happens is you get to play a character and then you leave that character and never get to revisit them again, and they stay with you. Characters you play stay with you in really strange ways for the rest of your life. It’s really a privilege to keep coming back to the same character and trying different things.

The Americans
THE AMERICANS — “Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” — Season 6, Episode 4 (Airs Wednesday, April 18, 10:00 pm/ep) — Pictured: Miriam Shor as Erica. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX /

HR: What was that experience like playing such a different character on The Americans?

MS: It was great. I am over the moon about that. That was such an incredible experience. I don’t want to play the same character the rest of my life. That’s why I am an actor, to have different experiences. That’s the beauty of what I do is things change. Invariably, I get to try different things each time, and that’s a challenge I love. Getting to play someone who is so different and then kind of curiously looking back at it as I got to talk to people about it, the difference between the character in The Americans and the character in Younger, there are some similarities that I might not have seen originally.

They’re both intelligent, stubborn women who believe in themselves.

I was playing someone who knew she was dying. That’s a challenge in itself. It’s a strange freedom because I wasn’t confined to struggles of what is going to happen next year because she had no next year. It was really painful but interesting journey, and it was so beautifully written. That show is beautifully written. And getting to work with Keri (Russell) who is an absolutely a joy of a person and an incredible actress, it was a really wonderful experience, artistically and personally, it was great.

HR: How did you feel about the ending (of The Americans)?

MS: I was on set and Keri was like, ‘Do you want to know how it ends?’ And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Of course, I want to know how it ends.’

I thought it was brilliant. What I love about The Americans is the willingness to live in the gray of it all and not have to over explain things. As someone who loves a good story, that is a more interesting place to be in as a viewer. They will let things sit in really an uncomfortable grey area and they don’t feel a need to clean that up. I love that. I think it’s really great storytelling. That is the pocket of where The Americans sat.

I feel like the ending was great with that. They took their time with it. That long car ride to me was just amazing. I know the scene with Noah in the parking garage, I thought was incredible. Everything you would hope you got to see on some level. I thought it was incredible, the acting was incredible. There is something to be said about the time they are willing to take with these people in their silences that I have always found riveting.

And then the cost – I could talk about this for hours – but the cost of the choices they made in their life. When Paige got off the train, to me as a parent, was just so powerful. It almost cost them everything. It made them look at their life and think what is everything for. You finished this show that is so incredible and the question is now what?

Next: Younger season 5, episode 5 preview: Will Kelsey cross the line with her new author?

HR: What is all worth it? That’s the question they wind up asking.

MS: Exactly. Meanwhile, I will be sending my 40-page dissertation on The Americans along with every other person who watched it.

Watch Miriam Shor’s directorial debut on Younger on Tuesday, July 11 on TV Land.