If you aren’t watching “Awkward.” on MTV by now, you’re missing out what is possibly the sharpest, funniest high school comedy ever. Yeah, we said it — and by the way, yes, there is punctuation in the show’s title. It’s kind of awkward, but we dig it.
We loved the series from the get-go, but what really sold us on the show was an early scene between our heroine Jenna (Ashley Rickards), her guidance counselor Valerie (Desi Lydic) and reigning school mean girl, Sadie (Molly Tarlov). Sadie had snapped a nude photo of Jenna in the locker room and, in a vengeful move that didn’t give her a moments pause, she sent it viral. Awful, right? And yet, in that counselor’s office, she somehow manipulated the situation until Val was practically on her knees begging to be Sadie’s BFF.
Molly Tarlov shines in the role as TV’s most unrelenting Queen Bee — but off-screen… we are practically on our knees begging to be her BFF. In tonight’s (Tuesday, August 23) episode, Sadie returns to wreak her own very special brand of havoc, but we may discover that our favorite mean girl has a heart of… uh. We may discover that our favorite mean girl has a heart, period.
At a charity event for her mother’s group The Knick-Knackers (“They’re just as obnoxious as they sound,” Tarlov tells us), Sadie is forced to allow Jenna into her home. “Jenna finds Sadie’s journal in her house,” Tarlov says. “And Tamara has the great idea to steal it. Basically, Jenna has found Sadie’s Achilles heel, and on Tuesday we’re going to see what’s going on underneath the show Sadie puts on. She’s always pretending to be something that she’s not; she’s always pretending to be stronger than she is. This week we’re going to see a scene between Sadie and her mom that really sheds light on what drives Sadie to do the things that she was.”
It’s a poignant moment that Tarlov has been waiting for since being asked perform it for her audition and screen tests before production began. “I’m so proud of it,” she tells us of the episode, which was directed by series creator Lauren Iungerich. “It’s the first episode of the season that she’s directed, and we had a magical moment doing this scene together. We’ve been talking about it for so long. We both felt that it’s so important to have this scene for all of the girls and the boys and the men and the women and everyone out there who has deep-rooted insecurities.”
The insecurity that fuels Sadie’s nastiness — the girl spread around unflattering naked photos and gave every cool kid in her grade pink-eye thanks to some well-placed dog poop — is, Tarlov says, one of the reasons she was drawn to the role. “It’s really important to me to kind of try to connect with girls at home who might be struggling with feeling comfortable with themselves, because I would have really loved to have seen someone like me on TV when I was growing up,” she says.
Oh, yes. Sadie isn’t exactly your cookie-cutter Regina George. While she rules the school with an iron fist, her underlings refer to her as “Sadie Six-ton” in whispers. She dreads the moment at parties when everyone decides to strip down and jump into the hot tub, and she stuffs chocolate-covered strawberries into her mouth while her mom’s back is turned.
“I have nothing but kind, warm feelings for skinny blonde girls,” Tarlov jokes, “but I am not one of them. The fact that the mean girl cheerleader isn’t the skinny blonde girl is really exciting. It’s nice to see a sassy girl in a position of power who is a normal size girl and doesn’t have the specifications of all the other mean popular girls that you see on TV.”
It goes without saying that Tarlov and her character don’t share their bad attitude (she’s super nice in real life, guys) but she can still understand Sadie’s behavior on some level. “I definitely relate to her. The way that our insecurities manifest themselves is kind of different because she goes outward with them and uses them negatively whereas I try to use my powers for good, but I definitely relate to her,” she says.
One thing that Tarlov can’t relate to? Sadie’s fashion sense. Ill-fitting cable-knits and polo shirts make it clear that Sadie has money, if not necessarily a sense of style. (Look at your high school yearbook. You’ll recognize the type.) “My friends die over the outfits,” Tarlov laughs. “They can’t wait for next season just to see what I’m wearing. Oh my god, it’s crazy. When we started shooting I brought in all this stuff for our designer, and I was like, ‘I think Sadie would love to wear bowties!’ and she was like ‘No.’ Everything I brought in, she goes, ‘This would be great! For Tamara.’ Jillian Rose Reed, you lucky girl.”
When it comes down to it, our favorite thing about Tarlov is that like us, she’s a fan at heart. We can’t help but ask her about the show’s central love triangle — and, unlike most TV stars, she actually gives us an answer instead of playing the “I love everyone!” card.
“Well, this might show how immature I am, and how much I have to learn, but I can’t help it!” she sighs. “I’m Team Matty. It’s crazy, when I read the scripts, I feel like I’m Jenna. When Matty came in at the end of episode two, I melted. It’s Matty McKibben! I guess I should be Team Jake for Sadie’s sake, but I can’t help it.”
Tune in to “Awkward.” Tuesday at 11 p.m. EST on MTV. Seriously.