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'The Girls on the Bus' stars Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore on pressure for women to 'balance' work, personal life

"There's no such thing as finding the balance," Elmore said.

The new Max series The Girls on the Bus (on Crave in Canada), starring Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore and Natasha Behnam is inspired by Amy Chozick's book "Chasing Hillary," but the journalist, author and executive producer stressed this project was never about reliving the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

"We knew early on, nobody wants to relive 2016," Chozick said. "It's a dramedy, but I do think a lot of the big meta themes that we have learned, that we're still frankly processing as a country, that came out of the 2016 election, are deeply ingrained into the show."

She added that some of those themes from the "watershed election" include "how we perceive powerful women," and the fragility of American democracy.

Watch The Girls on the Bus on Crave in Canada. Current promotion for 25% off for a standard 3 month plan, ending March 31, billed at $33 every 3 months.

$33 at Crave

What is 'The Girls on the Bus' about?

The Girls on the Bus starts with Sadie McCarthy (Benoist), a journalist at The New York Sentinel, seemingly getting arrested. Why was she arrested? The story goes back seven months for us to start to find out.

Sadie is an award-winning political reporter, but after her coverage of a previous political candidate, the first woman nominee for U.S. president, was deemed too "emotional" by the powers that be at the publication, she's been writing stories like an obit for a Central Park duck. But Sadie convinces her editor Bruce (Griffin Dunne) to put her back on the bus for a new campaign trail.

The other women on the bus include Grace Gordon Greene (Gugino), a veteran political reporter, taking after her father.

Kimberlyn Kendrick (Elmore) is a Black woman working for the right-wing network, who's competing with her colleague Nellie (Leslie Fray) for the best stories and exclusive interviews.

"One of the most interesting parts of playing Kimberlyn is that she and I have very different politics, but I understand that feeling of being an outsider in a space, and not knowing exactly how to toe the line of wanting to be somewhere where you feel ideologically attached, but not necessarily racially, or emotionally," Elmore said.

"I felt that at work sometimes, and so I felt like I understood that part of her, even though it was a very different context for it. ... It made it so that she was always trying to please one side or the other, either herself or her relationship, or her job. And trying to figure out where that tension was, was really one of my favourite things."

Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore, Natasha Behnam in Max's The Girls on the Bus, on Crave in Canada (Nicole Rivelli/Max)
Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore, Natasha Behnam in Max's The Girls on the Bus, on Crave in Canada (Nicole Rivelli/Max)

There's also Lola (Behnam), who is a social media influencer, and some people aren't particularly supportive of influencers playing in the same sandbox as more traditional, trained reporters.

"I felt actually quite close to the character of Lola, ... just in terms of what she's doing," Behnam said. "I feel like that's kind of what me and my friends do, we get our news from social media, I follow so many brilliant influencers, but they're ... teachers and activists on social media."

"I really look up to them, I admire them, and those are the people I go to when I need to figure something out or be like, what do they think about this particular piece of world news. ... So when I got the role of Lola, even when I first got the audition, I was like, this makes perfect sense to me. I understand the world that this character was coming from."

Christina Elmore in The Girls on the Bus, on Crave in Canada (Linda Kallerus/Max)
Christina Elmore in The Girls on the Bus, on Crave in Canada (Linda Kallerus/Max)

'There's no such thing as finding the balance'

In any sort of "working women" show, there's usually a frustrating concept of women trying to "have it all," a successful career and a robust family or personal life.

Something about The Girls on the Bus is that the series addresses the reality that women actually face, which is that maybe you can't actually "have it all" equally.

That's particularly true for Grace and Kimberlyn, who are, in some ways, on opposite ends of those decisions.

As we see unfold in the series, Grace having prioritized her career has had particularly impacts on her daughter and husband, and Kimberlyn, who plans to get married, starts facing some pressure to prioritize family more than she has previously.

"I think Kimberlyn is now realizing that those choices are coming up for her, and there isn't some right answer that she's striving to get to," Elmore said. "There's no rulebook and Kimberlyn follows the rules. She sets a goal, she has a plan and she's going to do it, but there's no way to plan for this."

"I think that this is the first time in her life and in her career where she's like, Oh I don't actually know what the next step is. I have to decide, I have to make the choices, I have to choose for myself. ... She knows she wants all of these things, she wants to be married and she wants to have this career that means something to her, but you can't do everything, well, at the same time. You can do it all, but you can't do it all well. ... There's no such thing as finding the balance and I think that's a really tricky thing to start to realize when you thought you were doing everything."

Watch The Girls on the Bus on Crave in Canada. Current promotion for 25% off for a standard 3 month plan, ending March 31, billed at $33 every 3 months.

$33 at Crave

For Gugino, she saw similarities between her perspective on prioritizing work throughout her career as an actor, and Grace's journey as a journalist.

"I started acting when I was very young and I really believed that in order to do it successfully, I had to sacrifice a lot of my life," Gugino said. "I think my family relationships did suffer from it and I really, as a young person, it was very much an excuse to not deal with certain things within myself, within personal relationships, because this was my priority. By the way, I think that some success did come from that, and that kind of work ethic and that sort of myopic focus."

"I think in Grace's case, she has an example of her father, who definitely put family second, and only as a grandfather has sort of come around, in a very frustrating way, to Grace. ... But she is now face-to-face with the ramifications of the area in her life where she feels like a failure, versus the area of her life where she has established herself as a success. It's a beautiful moment to explore and I was really interested in asking a lot of questions, and much more so than finding the answers, but sort of muddling her way through that process, and playing that was really interesting."