Cast calls 'Girls on the Bus' dramedy a unifying break from real news

From left to right, Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino,Christina Elmore and Natasha Behnam star in "The Girls On The Bus." Photo courtesy of Max
1 of 5 | From left to right, Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino,Christina Elmore and Natasha Behnam star in "The Girls On The Bus." Photo courtesy of Max

NEW YORK, March 14 (UPI) -- Carla Gugino says the diverse women journalists at the heart of her new political dramedy The Girls on the Bus have a lot to learn from each other.

Premiering Thursday on Max, the series is executive produced by Amy Chozick and loosely inspired by her election-campaign memoir Chasing Hillary.


The 10-episode show follows the road-trip adventures of Grace (Gugino), Kimberlyn (Christina Elmore), Sadie (Melissa Benoist) and Lola (Natasha Behnam) -- journalists with different reporting styles and backgrounds -- as they cover the presidential campaigns of fictional Democrat candidates.

"It's a world that requires dialogue and contemplation and action and it's not reductive. I really appreciate that about it," Gugino, 52, who plays a veteran newspaper reporter, told UPI about the series in a recent Zoom interview.


"When you think you have somebody's number, you end up realizing there is a lot more there," she said. "We allow characters to organically -- not in an artificial way -- see the world through another person's eyes."

The entertaining series looks at important real-world media issues such as where objectivity ends and activism begins.

Elmore, 36, whose Kimberlyn is a conservative cable TV journalist, said she wanted to explore the nuances of journalism as it is practiced by women from varying generations and news outlets.

"The themes deepen as we go into the season," she said. "There are so many dichotomies that we are wrestling with in the show. It makes it interesting to watch and relatable."

Elmore said the fact the show is premiering in the midst of a presidential election year makes it timely, but the politics aren't the main focus.

"It's about family. It's about friendship. It's about the bonds between these characters," she said.

"It's actually super refreshing that you can escape the news and turn on our show and see people actually come together over their politics and that their differences don't segregate, but unite them in a way. I hope people use it as a reprieve from watching the news all day."


Gugino agreed.

"We're in such an agitated moment in the world right now and, certainly... politics is by nature divisive and, ultimately, people are asked to take sides and it creates a lot of reactivity," she said.

"It doesn't create an environment in which we can have communication and conversation," Gugino said. "Hopefully, this [show] opens up a conversation in this moment and, as Christina said, the fact that we have created this world that is very close to reality, but actually fiction, allows us to tell a lot of truths without having to liken it to any specific candidate or party."

Benoist, 35, who plays a newspaper journalist who needs to believe in the people she covers, told UPI Behnam's TikTok influencer has a lot to teach the older women about how "not to be afraid to ruffle more feathers" as they inform the public.

"Sadie envies that about Lola," Benoist said about her own character.

"She's jealous that Lola just fights for what she believes in publicly," Benoist said, adding Sadie can likewise teach Grace and Kimberlyn how "to hold more space" and not get scooped as they play by what Sadie thinks are antiquated rules in pursuit of their stories.


Like Gugino, Benoist said the show asks big questions about the role media should play in society and how people digest news.

But there are no easy answers here.

"What's beautiful is that they make mistakes and take accountability for the mistakes and move on. It's not the end of the world," said Behnam, 25.

In this world, the line is blurred between the jobs the women have and the friendships they form.

"They all have this shared, collective understanding of what they are all passionate about," Benoist said.

"There is a unity in what they are all fighting for and it's to find the truth and to effectuate change and to be a part of writing history."

Whether they intend to or not, they also seem incapable of finding work-life balance.

"They don't got it," Behnam joked. "That's real life."

Benoist added, "That's a lot of pressure to put on women to have it figured out.

"From any perspective, any woman, in any phase of her life, in any season, you can't," she said.

Benoist and Behnam said at the same time, laughing, "You just try your best."

Behnam said this was the first time she saw someone who looks like her in the role of an independent journalist, accountable only to her huge, young online following.


The actress also loved Lola's back story because it shows how she tried to make the best of a bad situation, but is doing something with no training that wasn't even her goal in the first place.

"She survived this mass shooting, a trauma, way too young, which is an unfortunate, horrific reality," Behnam said.

"That's where Lola got her following because she started speaking out against gun violence and that's where she got famous," she said. "Now, what we see is her grappling with, 'What do I do with this audience that I've got?'"

Behnam said she was also happy her and Lola's shared Iranian heritage are included in the show.

"We are one of the first Iranian American families on TV," she said.

"You get to meet Lola's family. We're all Iranian actors. We speak Farsi in the show. I never saw that on my TV before, so that is a really cool element I am really excited about."

Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino attend 'Girls on the Bus' premiere in NYC

Left to right, Christina Elmore, Natasha Behnam, Carla Gugino and Melissa Benoist arrive on the red carpet for the premiere of Max's "The Girls On The Bus" at the DGA Theater in New York City on March 12, 2024. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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