Alice — who just came out to her more-supportive-than-she-assumed immigrant parents — is navigating the world of stand-up for the first time as a queer woman. She's in a sweet relationship with Joey (Daisy Eagan), her partner who just came out to Alice as non-binary. To throw a wrench in Alice's love life and aspiring career, Alice's new comic mentor Lindsay Brady (Rhea Butcher), may just be working with Alice to seek revenge on Joey over some previous relationship drama.
Throughout all of it, Alice is coming into her own. She's taking the stand-up stage, speaking up in her relationship, and even embracing her "sexy" (and more confident) side, with the help of some burlesque dancers.
Refinery29 sat down with Cola (who stars next in Sick Girl, opposite Nina Dobrev) to discuss all things Good Trouble, why Alice's journey is so relatable, what it's like playing a newbie comic, and where she hopes it all goes from here.
Refinery29: You are a standup comedian, and Alice is just starting out. What's it like to play that aspect of her character?
Sherry Cola: "It's interesting portraying Alice as a standup. I'm not at the Ali Wong, Margaret Cho level yet — I'm not brilliant or anything. But it's fun playing Alice being 'bad' at standup. Alice is adorable. She's barely learned to express herself. She has finally found this method of telling jokes to release emotions. Even with [making jokes about] Joey's pronouns — she's still tip-toeing around things and is making bold decisions, joking about the wrong things maybe. She's trying to find herself. It's fun that this world is aligning. It was part of Alice's character description before I auditioned for the show."
Was Alice re-written at all, with you in mind, after you were cast?
"The role wasn't written around me, but Joanna [Johnson, one of our executive producers] did say very sweetly in a panel recently that 'We didn't think we would find our Alice until Sherry came into the room.' It was touching because when I read the description of the part, it was for a first-generation Asian-American lesbian, aspiring stand-up, not out to her parents yet. I was flattered that someone wrote this character that they wanted to see that on TV.
"At first, the character felt like pretty much me, like Alice is Sherry, and Sherry is Alice. However, the more the show has progressed, the more I pick up characteristics of Alice that I never knew about before. You discover things as you go. You realize you're pretty different."
Lindsay is a suspicious character — what are their motives with Alice? Is Lindsay attracted to Alice, or, as Joey suspects, is Lindsay just trying to get back at Joey?
"We don't even know yet. We've shot a few things, but that part hasn't fully been resolved yet. I think we still like both Lindsay and Joey. No one on this show is perfect. It's very much a reflection of real life, and about people going through messy things as they're trying to find themselves. It's going to be interesting seeing how all of that unfolds. We're barely getting started with Alice's story outside the Coterie, and meeting all sorts of new people."
Why do you think Alice struggled initially with Joey's they/them pronouns?
"I'm not surprised that Alice is struggling, as she just came out herself. Now she has to embrace two new things. More things are coming at her. Of course she's open to it. Every time that Joey and Alice have a conversation, it reminds you that it's healthy to communicate in a relationship. As much as there is conflict, there is always a touch-base of them getting on the same page, which I think is important. It's cool to see an Asian lesbian in a relationship with a non-binary person, to show the intersectionality [within the LGBTQ+ community.] It's a learning experience for both Alice and Joey. There are people in my DMs because they've never seen Alice before onscreen — Asian girls out there who have never seen themselves represented onscreen. They love that I am telling this story. Same with Daisy — Daisy is also getting feedback about Joey. All these people who felt invisible and ignored, are now represented onscreen."
You performed a burlesque dance as Alice for Malika's (Zuri Adele) birthday open mic. What was that like?
"There were so many layers to the outfit — we had to cut a hole in the bodysuit because there was no opportunity to pee. I never ended up peeing though, the adrenaline was too high. We had the fishnets, the high ponytail — Ariana, who? — and it was so fun. The choreographer is huge in the burlesque world, and she just killed it. She choreographed the crap out of this. It was so fun, but also a challenge. I'm not necessarily a dancer, and doing this in heels was a first. My knees have not been the same. They're really mad at me right now. We rehearsed six, seven times, for a couple of hours each time. I was so sore.
"It was actually inspired by one of our writers Ashley Perez, who, with Buzzfeed, made this video called 'I Learned How To Dance In 30 Days.' It was a challenge for her — she didn't know if she could embrace the word 'sexy.' It's the same thing for me — my whole life, I've been gambling on my personality. I know I'm cute. I'm adorable, but sexy? It's a weird word to own. It's about the evolution of feeling confident, and that being sexy, and being sexy in different ways outside of the typical. It was cool for Alice to experience and go through that. It was fun — my mom was impressed. Having the Coterie beauties rooting for me, it was hard to keep a straight face. I was smiling ear-to-ear."
Do you think Alice will ever leave the Coterie?
"I would say no. As much as Alice is diving into the standup world, it doesn't always pay the bills. I know that all too well. She can't leave the Coterie — who is going to plunge the toilets? If Alice hired someone that wants to get into the hospitality business, maybe! I think she's going to stick to her Coterie world for sure, because that's home. I think she's going to continue to find who is out there. What if standup doesn't work out? What if she becomes a talented performer? We don't know, and I'm excited of what's to come, and I want to see if there's a world where Alice is killing it on stage, where she's 100% confident. There's an evolution for her, to be comfortable in her own skin, which is very relatable."
Good Trouble airs Tuesdays at 8 pm on Freeform.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.