Frankie Shaw's Boston: The TV Star Unpacks Her Home Town

Screen phenom Frankie Shaw talks Boston hotspots and the new season of "SMILF"

You can take the girl out of Boston, as the local saying goes, but you can’t take Boston out of the girl. Fast-rising actor Frankie Shaw, 31, lives in Los Angeles these days, but her edgy hit Showtime series “SMILF” is set in South Boston. It’s a spot the young Frankie knew well. Besides, her cell phone still has a 617 area code. The first, eight-episode season, which was nominated for two Golden Globe awards, was shot in Hollywood, with exteriors done in Boston. But for season two, the cast and crew returned to Boston full-time.

So, Frankie, tell us about growing up in Brookline.

I love Brookline. My old hood! I loved my street, Winthrop Road, and there’s this park, Schick Park, where I really learned how to play basketball.

Bridgette’s basketball life is part of “SMILF” too. How good where you?

It was really my life. My mom was a single mom and she wasn’t home a lot so it was what I did to pass the time. I’d always been a very focused person, so that was the thing. When I got to college [Barnard], I was going to try and play, but I was in New York City and I was exposed to so many new things. So, the dream kind of died there.

Brookline

You were raised in both Southie and Brookline—do you feel split between those neighborhoods?

Yeah. It also plays on the character— that outsider feeling. My mom is Irish Catholic and she decided to raise me Jewish. I was the only one to go to a good school so [in Southie] they would make fun of me. When I then became an actor it was like, “Where’s yah Oscah?”

Like you were trying to punch above your weight?

One thing is I’m the youngest of everyone. I was always the quiet one. I feel like I could slip by without being noticed in my family dynamic so on one hand that worked well and there was that whole other side that was a little bit of a surprise.

Castle Island

What do you enjoy doing in Boston when you come back here?

I love going running around Castle Island. That’s my number one thing. I love the Brookline Booksmith. I’ll go and get all of my Christmas presents and then they’ll ship me a big box back.

Any nightclubbing?

No, I’m the most homebody person. My family, we like to go to Amrheins in Southie, the oldest bar in South Boston. I love Capo in Southie, which is new and part of the gentrification, but it has good food. I really like to go to the North End. There’s one restaurant that I love: Mamma Maria.

Capo

Are you a shopper? Will we spot you on Newbury Street buying $1000 handbags?

No, I’m really not. I’m more of the athlete type. When I have to go to events, I rely on someone else to help me figure out [what to wear].

To what degree does “SMILF” walk the line between truth and fiction?

I think it’s nice to remain anonymous within the art. There are a lot of things, either plot or emotional, that are very true. And then there are completely fictionalized things that were either situations or dynamics or politics that we wanted to explore.

Bridgette has a supermarket moment

We like that “SMILF” is not just all Bridgette. Every character has a complicated life and arc.

My intention for season two— now that we’ve established the world and Bridgette—is let’s dig down deeper into these very diverse supporting characters that are around her. It’s this journey of identity. Each of these characters will have a loss of some kind, where they question how they see themselves in the world and how the world views them. There’s going to be a death: a few deaths actually.

So, it will be a darker season. Tell us there will still be comedy.

Oh, I feel like it’s going to hit the comedy even harder.

Jim Sullivan
About the author
As former staff music writer for The Boston Globe and a contributor to myriad publications including The Boston Phoenix ...