Phoebe Robinson makes a great mess Everything’s TrashFreeform has her brand new sitcom, “The Sitcom.” Her character on the show—who also happens to be a podcaster named Phoebe—hides stacks of unpaid bills, exposes her nipple on Instagram Live and seems to shatter glass wherever she goes.
In real life, Robinson is a lot more composed and a “little bit more boring” than her fictional counterpart, she says, laughing, in a phone interview. Robinson is from New York. Times Bestseller author. Executive producer. Everything’s TrashHe also established a Penguin Random House publishing imprint. The podcasts and HBO series helped Robinson rise to prominence. 2 Dope QueensShe also hosted the show with Jessica Williams. Her all-encompassing, multimedia success led Trevor Noah to compare her to Shonda Rhimes or Oprah in her “mogul-ling” approach.
But for Robinson, highlighting the messiness of personal growth—especially in one’s 30s, when people are supposed to have their lives figured out—is just as important as highlighting excellence or achievement. “I hope people can be on the ride with this character without judgment,” she says.
Robinson was able to reach out by phone three days after finishing the first season. Everything’s Trash.She spoke about how she found humor in the local politics and sex positivity after-the election.RoeHer love for U2. Here are extracts from this conversation.
Register to Get More of the Story, TIME’s weekly entertainment newsletter, to get the context you need for the pop culture you love.
The show’s name is Everything’s Trash, What level of garbage do you think things have become today compared with all those times they were rubbish?
It’s so much trash: It’s really non-biodegradable trash right now. It’s hard to compartmentalize, which I think we’re all forced to do: go about your day and maintain your life while the world is on fire.
The show is meant to help you have a good time and make you smile for at least 30 minutes. This is what shows are to me. Have a happy endingOr MartinOr Friends: This is where you meet people. Even though every character on my show has their faults, they all remind me that we have the power to overcome them and get our lives back on track.
But right now, it’s like a 12 out of 10 in terms of trash.
Like is a better choice than your childhood sitcoms. Martin Oder SeinfeldWhich kind of television show do you wish to produce?
Many people believe that your life will be a complete rewrite once you reach your 30s. They think you are able to just go on autopilot and everything is done. I really just wanted to show that that’s not true, and that everyone’s version of adulting is different.
In one example, my brother married his college freshman and has now had two children. And I’m in NY, in an apartment, am not married, I don’t have kids. Both ways of life are special and valid. We get so caught up in how our lives should look.
I always think “should” can lead you to a world of trouble. This is why I wanted to share a celebration of the power to choose to live the life that you want.
What do you think most people misconstrue about life in one’s early 30s?
This mess is a bit different. It’s less, like, “I’m eating dollar pizza and I can’t pay my rent.” It’s more, “I think maybe I want to have kids, I’m not sure. So maybe I’ll date someone who also maybe wants kids?” I think the stakes are raised a little bit in terms of the mess.
You play the role of the character who asks her ex-partner to get her Plan B. What if the man she slept with asks your character to buy her Plan B? Roe V. Wade being overturned?
This scene was inspired by me and other women who used Plan B to deal with broken condoms or any other issues. It is only one aspect of the female experience. It is important to discuss it, and admit that it does exist. When I wrote the scene, I could have never imagined it would be airing during the time we’re living in now.
This is what I want to see. It is my hope that everyone can experience that moment and feel at ease with the character. I think that’s the biggest thing we’re contending with right now: There’s a lot of personal judgment and looking down on people instituted as law.
You have an older brother, just like the character in the TV series. He ran for local office. [Phoebe’s brother Phil Robinson is now a state representative in Ohio.]You learned a lot from this man about the political processes in your area.
Jayden has a neurotic personality. Jayden may be a bit more neurotic than his brother. Jayden is a good-hearted, do-gooder person. He has the kindness, intelligence, and fatherly love.
He was not a consultant on the show—he was too busy! However, I did canvass in 2006 after graduating from Pratt. I needed work while applying for various jobs at film companies. While Eliot Spitzer ran, Tom Suozzi was my boss. The whole canvassing thing—you’re knocking on doors and people don’t have time for you—we definitely mined for comedy in the show.
My phone banking skills were good, and that is no surprise since I became a podcaster. But after that I was like, “Oh, politics is not for me.” It’s so hard to get people to care. Especially on the local level, because rightfully so, a lot of people feel their voices aren’t heard. It takes someone with a special spirit to want to help their community.
You’re one of several Black women leading TV shows right now, including Quinta Brunson (Abbott ElementaryKatori Hall,P-ValleySam Jay (Sam Jay: PauseTracy Oliver (First Wives Club). Is this a moment or a movement?
I’m hesitant to label it a moment or movement or anything because the tides can always change very quickly. For me, I just want to be like, “OK, I have my show. Hopefully a couple people from the writers room will create their own shows and become showrunners and EPs.”
The number of shows that are Black-female-led or POC-led is encouraging. But I’ve been around long enough to see this has happened before and it sort of dried up. I don’t want to take a victory lap. It is important to stay on the gas.
Learn more How InsecureHollywood opens doors for black creatives
The summer 2020 saw a lot more demand for changes in the media. Are you able to see this momentum continuing?
The momentum has carried, but there’s still a lot of more of the same. It’s not just having people of color in front of the camera. It’s also, who’s on the publicity side and marketing? What executives are responsible for approving stuff? Is there a plethora of people who have access to the stuff? This part feels a bit slow to me.
I think that representation is great, but I don’t think it’s the only piece of the puzzle. I’m hoping that things will continue to change behind the scenes, too.
When you take a look at publishing, it is clear that the vast majority of editors assistants are white and well-off. That hasn’t changed that much since the summer of 2020. These are the things I desire to see happen. We need to bring in new generations to maintain this momentum.
How do you hope to use the writers’ room for Everything’s Trash to incubate talent?
Jonathan [Groff, the showrunner—not to be confused with the Hamilton star of the same name]It was important to me that there be a mixture of people who are experienced and others on the more green side. Because what’s the point of doing this if you’re not going to help bring in new voices?
It will be a great help in the writing process to know people who are former executive producers. But then it’s also good to give people their first staff writing job. They can bring a lot to a room because they don’t know any differently: they’re just going on instinct and the ideas in their head.
Ushering in new voices and new ideas has been one of the things that I’ve tried to advocate for across the board with my career. Most of my books are debut authors. These people are available. People are ready to share their skills.
When can we expect you will resume podcasting?
Oh my gosh, I’m so tired. Dare you. It was Friday.
All jokes aside, I do love podcasting. But I think there’s an overpopulation of podcasts right now. If I have something worthwhile to add, I would love to start podcasting again.
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask a U2 question, given that you’re a noted superfan. What did they think of their album? Songs of Innocence, which appeared on everyone’s iPhone in 2014 and because of that, is one of the most hated records in recent memory?
One of my most disliked? Does that really hold true? All of their albums are my favorites. It’s a great album that I enjoy and still listen to from time to other. I’m a fan through and through.
People were probably not happy about the fact that it was on their smartphones or other devices. However, they took the chance and gambled. Even if it doesn’t work, they learned something from it.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME