Like many show-business stars, Bridget Everett (shown here) is from Manhattan.
But this is the other Manhattan, the one in Kansas. “They actually call it the Little Apple,” she said.
Now that’s the setting for “Somebody Somewhere,” which debuts at 10:35 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 16) on HBO, rerunning at 12:40 a.m. It’s a comedy-drama that faces a key fact:
Growing up in America’s mid-section, kids might see life divided into two phases: There are the school years, when they can do it all – arts, academics, sports, more. Then there’s … well, the rest of life.
“I was in show choir and I was on the swim team and did the high school musicals and things like that,” Everett, 49, said. “But … it’s really sad when you graduate high school, because you’re like, ‘Well, that’s the thing I love most in the world. I don’t get to do it any more.”
In real life, she eventually found the other Manhattan and some fame. But the series imagines her staying home, seeking like-minded souls. “You can find your people, wherever you are,” writer-producer Hannah Bos said at a Television Critics Association virtual press conference.
Everett’s Manhattan isn’t exactly a prairie wasteland. It’s a college town (Kansas State), near a military base (Fort Riley), with a political scene. “My dad and my brother have both served as mayors, so I feel like hometown political royalty.”
But it has a modest size (population 54,000) and doesn’t stir excessive ambitions. “When I was little, I would be walking around the playground and we would sing ‘Hot Child in the City.’” Everett recalled. “And my mom brought me this sweater from New York …. It was like, ‘Maybe one day I’ll (visit) New York, … but it just felt so far away from where I was.”
She got a scholarship to Arizona State, studying opera, but wanted more. “I just started going to karaoke bars on the side and sort of unleashing and getting on top of bars and ripping off my shirt.”
The catch? “I was like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do, but you can’t do karaoke for a living.’”
In New York, she could at least make a partial living with a cabaret act and performance art. The rest was getting by; she had reportedly been a restaurant worker for 25 years, before stopping in 2015.
By then, she was working in all directions. She did comedy (opening for Amy Schumer on tour) … and music (including big Janis Joplin songs, “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee”) … and acting. She combined them all, co-starring in the 2017 indie film “Patti Cake$.”
And then, in a Brooklyn loft, people planned a show that has her still living in Kansas, groping for a place in life. It’s a turf the people involved seem to understand.
– Bos is from another Midwestern college town – Evanston, Ill., with 78,000 people, Northwestern University and her mom’s antique store.
– Paul Thureen, also a writer-producer, grew up on a farm near East Grand Forks, Minn., a town of 9,100, by the Nebraska border.
– And Everett talks fondly of her Manhattan, but don’t book her there. “I’m like a wild child …. I’ve never done a show in my hometown, ‘cause I’m scared to. But they’re also, like, warm and loving.”