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How Bridget Everett has channeled grief over her real-life sister into that of her character on 'Somebody Somewhere'

"I've been thinking about grief a lot lately, and just the way that it stays with you," she shares. "It colors who you are."

Bridget Everett
"She always believed in me," Bridget Everett says of her late sister, who has been an inspiring force of Somebody Somewhere. (Photo: Getty Images)

HBO's Somebody Somewhere, airing its Season 2 finale on Sunday, has a knack for emotional accuracy, whether it's about the strangeness of returning to one's hometown as an adult or the largely uncelebrated platonic love between best friends.

Also notably pitch perfect is how the series portrays grief — not only in the big, fresh, sobbing ways, but in the lasting, less obvious undercurrents, too. That's because its creator and star Bridget Everett, whose life serves as inspiration for the quasi-autobiographical drama about a woman named Sam who returns to her Kansas hometown after the death of her sister, knows what it feels like: She lost her sister Brinton to cancer in 2008, just a year after their dad died.

"The way that we handle grief in the show is very personal," Everett tells Yahoo Life. "I feel like when my sister died, I didn't really grieve it properly … My family and I just didn't really talk about it. I just felt at sea a little bit, so I relate to Sam in that way."

It's not all she has in common with Sam: The show is set in Everett's real-life hometown, Manhattan, Kan., and Sam, like Everett, is a powerhouse vocalist, which is another source of pain.

"I think that there is a lot of grief for Sam in singing and in music, because that was something that she shared with her sister … and it's the way that Sam communicates with people, and how I communicate with people. But I also feel like it's love, singing. For Sam, it's love," she says, referring to a poignant scene in which Sam is unable to breathe in deeply, at her voice teacher's request, without falling apart.

(Photo: Sandy Morris/HBO)
Bridget Everett with co-star Barbara Robertson in a scene from Somebody Somewhere. (Photo: Sandy Morris/HBO)

Such "emotional tripwires," she admits, "are challenging, especially when, in between takes, you're thinking about your dead sister and they're like, 'Hey, are you good with what this guy's gonna wear at the coffee shop?'"

Everett, known by longtime fans for showcasing her pipes (and other assets) in a ribald cabaret show, shows a much different side of herself in the HBO series, which has been called "quiet," "gentle" and "subtle." And expressing herself in a way that's more emotionally vulnerable feels both "raw" and "kind of like a relief, in a way," she says.

"All the stage stuff… takes so much energy and so much fortitude, and this feels like it takes a lot of courage and strength but in a different way," Everett says.

But there are plenty of differences between the fact and fiction, the main ones being that Everett left Kansas, went to Arizona State University to study vocal performance and then settled in New York City, where, in 2015, she finally booked enough gigs to quit waitressing after 20-plus years.

Her sister Brinton was the oldest of six kids. Bridget, 13 years her junior, is the youngest (playing Sam, she is one of three kids).

Looking through old Everett family photos recently, she notes of Brinton, "there's all these pictures of her holding me. Like, she just always took me under her wing. She was like a protector."

That was necessary, she explains, as their household "was kind of like a war zone in a way … with everybody making fun of each other until someone cried. And I was the youngest, so I'd be the one that cried. But she just always kind of looked out for me. And she always believed in me. Even though I thought of myself as just a waitress, she would always ask how singing was going and remind me that I had something special."

Though Everett got that encouragement from her mom, too, Brinton, of all the siblings, was "the kind one." She was funny, too. "She was the first person to wet her pants when something was funny," Everett says. "She was very special to me."

This weekend, Everett, like Sam, will take her emotional baggage and head home to Manhattan, Kan., for a Somebody Somewhere finale watch party, organized at a local theater by a lifelong friend.

"I was like, well, we can do it, but I don't know if anybody's going to come. I don't know if people are watching it," she says. But the event sold out — 300 tickets — with local business on board to offer the Bridget donut and Choir Practice beer.

"I am a little nervous, mostly because crowds of people are tough for me sometimes. But I think it'll be rewarding. When I was home just a few weeks ago, I met a lot of people that loved the show," she says. "And that makes me happy, because I didn't want people from Kansas to feel misrepresented."

The visit is sure to bring reminders of both her sister and her dad, who was once the mayor of their hometown. Although the grief she feels over each loss is different, she explains, because "I always sought out my dad's love, and my sister gave it to me, generously and freely … I just wasn't close to my dad, we just never got there. But [both losses] hurt." That's still true now, after 15 years.

"And I think it's OK," she says. "It's something we've been talking about on the show, like, if you move on, it's like they're gone in a way. So, you just have to learn to live with it." Through that personal journey, Everett has noticed a cultural silence around sibling loss.

Bridget Everett as Sam, at the piano.
Bridget Everett as Sam, at the piano. (Photo: Sandy Morris/HBO)

"I know a lot of people that have lost siblings, and it's not really discussed as much," she says. "I feel like you talk about a dead parent or grandparent or a child or a husband or wife. But like, the sibling thing is kind of secondary, at least in discussions of grief that I've seen."

It's something she's been helping to change through the show, and aims to keep at, if given the chance.

"I've been thinking about grief a lot lately, and just the way that it stays with you," she shares — especially as the cast had to grapple with the sudden death of Mike Hagerty in 2022, who was the "sweet, open-hearted, gentle calming spirit" who played Sam's father.

"It colors who you are," says Everett, who has been conscious about expressing a "parallel to my experience with grief” through Sam. Still, she worried viewers would think, "'Season 1 is all about grief. Enough.' Right? But it doesn't work that way. It stays with you, and it pops up in certain ways. Even as we're talking about a potential Season 3, it's still there."

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