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Frankie Shaw adds directing to her plate on 'SMILF'

Frankie Shaw adds directing to her plate on 'SMILF'
Frankie Shaw, creator, writer and star of Showtime's "SMILF," says that directing has allowed her "to bring to life the stories about women that I wasn’t seeing." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Frankie Shaw, deep in the throes of production last fall on her Showtime series, "SMILF," finds herself contemplating the techniques of haircutting.

The 31-year-old wunderkind show maker, who also stars as the dramedy's protagonist, is filming a scene in which her character, Bridgette, is getting her hair trimmed at her mother's house. As the scene unfolds on a soundstage in Hollywood, Shaw starts to wonder if her tresses are wet enough and whether the actor playing the stylist is touching her hair like a professional coiffurist might.

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In case it isn't apparent, Shaw's other role — as director — is out of power-saving mode.

Director Frankie Shaw on the set of "SMILF."
Director Frankie Shaw on the set of "SMILF." (Lacey Terrell / Showtime)

"OK, let's cut — can we watch playback, please?" Shaw says as she moves from in front of the camera to behind, where an assortment of monitors are stationed. She reviews the footage and determines that, yes, her hair could use a few more spritzes of water and its handling needs some finesse.

The Boston native's role-shifting was a repeat occurrence on the set of "SMILF." Shaw directed three installments in the show's eight-episode debut season. [The remaining episodes were also directed by women: Leslye Headland ("Bachelorette") and Amy York Rubin ("Casual").]

I think it'd be cool to make some big studio movie — to get in there and have my take on a splashy blockbuster.


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Writing and directing — and sometimes starring in — her own material is nothing new for Shaw. She performed all three jobs on the 2015 short on which "SMILF" is based and wrote and directed the 2016 short "Too Legit." The approach, she says, has enabled her to realize frank portrayals of womanhood onscreen.

"Filmmaking is where I feel most at home," Shaw says. "I was never really all that confident as an actress and felt a little uninspired by some of the roles that were out there. Directing allowed me to bring to life the stories about women that I wasn't seeing."

So, what are her ambitions from here?

"I think it'd be cool to make some big studio movie — to get in there and have my take on a splashy blockbuster," she says. "But even just thinking in the now, there's stuff that I'm excited to do bigger on the show."

This story is part of our package on women directors. For more stories from the series see here.

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