Phoebe Robinson Wants to Be Your New Carrie Bradshaw
Phoebe Robinson—a nationally touring comedian; a New York Times best-selling author with her own imprint, Tiny Reparations Books; and the former cohost of the popular podcast 2 Dope Queens, with Jessica Williams—is used to juggling several projects at once. But creating a sitcom has been her toughest challenge yet. “I have to be fully honest, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked,” Robinson tells V.F. over Zoom. “I definitely have had my moments where I had to go sit in a room and cry for five minutes, or just let the tears fall in a very dramatic ‘Demi Moore from Ghost’ way.”
The sweat and tears will all be worth it when Everything’s Trash—which Robinson cocreated with Jonathan Groff, executive-produced, and stars in—premieres on Freeform July 13. Inspired by her book Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay, the sitcom follows Robinson’s alter ego, Phoebe Hill, and her exploits in Brooklyn as an adventurous, free-spirited, sometimes messy young woman. Just don’t confuse the character and the actor: “I think Phoebe Robinson is a fantastic gift giver, and I would say that Phoebe Hill is not,” she jokes. Robinson chatted with V.F. about her favorite sitcoms, the world of podcasting, and Carrie Bradshaw.
Vanity Fair: A show called Everything’s Trash couldn’t come at a better time—or worse—time.
Phoebe Robinson: [Laughs.] Yeah, I mean, definitely things are not great, and that’s putting it mildly. Sometimes you need a little bit of levity, you need a little bit of joy to counteract how just cuckoo bananas everything is.
The first scene of the series shows you walking into a pharmacy to get Plan B. Did you think that would be such a topical reference with a show premiering in July 2022?
No. I’ve used Plan B a couple of times. And one time I used it, I ordered it via Postmates, just to emphasize how trashy I am. I thought it would be a great introduction into TV Phoebe, showing how she’s a little bit of a free spirit. I had no idea that everything that’s happened with the Supreme Court was going to happen. But I think sometimes stuff lines up. I’m very proud of that being in the show. I hope that resonates with people who watch, and makes them laugh a little bit.
You’re playing a version of yourself. How much of a difference is there between Phoebe Robinson and Phoebe Hill?
I think Phoebe Hill is a little bit more of a Tasmanian devil. She’s always like, “Oh, if I make a mistake, I can sort of charm my way out of it.” And I think she definitely operates using her id and thinks a little bit later. But that doesn’t mean that she’s just an agent of chaos. I think there’s a rhyme or reason for a lot of her behavior—her being bohemian or having a robust dating life. It’s like, “Well, why not? I live in New York. I should be able to taste all the foods that I want, I’m a single woman.”
I think the similarity between Phoebe Hill and Phoebe Robinson is the level of confidence—the self belief. But I pride myself on being responsible in a way that Phoebe Hill is a little bit more like, “Who has time to think about responsibility?” I live in a world where actions do have consequences. And even if I want to cuss a bitch out, maybe don’t. You know what I mean?
Your brother, Phil Robinson, is a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. Your character has a brother named Jayden (Jordan Carlos) who’s running for office in Brooklyn, which at times causes conflict between himself at Phoebe Hill. Has it ever gotten thorny in real life?
In real life it’s been really good. I do fundraising things for him—live comedy shows, raise money, and post about him on social media. I’ve never overstepped and been an embarrassment to him the way that Phoebe Hill was in the first episode. I like to push buttons in a way that my brother obviously does not, and I think he gets a kick out of it. But I always try to respect his life, because I’m like, “I’m out here as an open book—can do whatever I want. But I know that I don’t want anything to come back on you in a bad way.” So I try to make sure there are those boundaries and that separation.
Everything’s Trash feels like a classic sitcom in a way we haven’t seen too often lately in terms of Phoebe Hill and her crew getting into various hijinks, finding their way out of them, and learning an important lesson in the process. Were there any classic sitcoms you consulted or used as inspiration when creating the series?
My showrunner is Jonathan Groff, who showran Black-ish and Happy Endings. He worked on Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother; he was a head writer for Conan O’Brien. So, he is a tried and true genius at sitcoms. I grew up watching Living Single and Martin, and Seinfeld, and Moesha. I love All In The Family. I love sitcoms. I wanted to have sort of my spin on that where it’s like, maybe we can be a little bit edgier. Maybe talk about things from a Black female perspective that haven’t been explored in sitcoms in a certain way.