Better Things Star Pamela Adlon Talks Season 5 Challenges, Final Impressions, and More

BETTER THINGS -- Pictured: Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox. CR: Pamela Littky/FX

Pamela Adlon isn’t a regular mom, she’s a cool mom.


*Descriptions provided by FX Networks Press Room*

In its fifth and final chapter, Better Things focuses on ‘the road ahead’ for its unconventional, unfiltered heroine, Sam Fox (Pamela Adlon), so devoted to her life as a working actor and single mother of three that she’s left little time for that one elusive thing: herself. As she navigates three daughters, each coming of age; the challenges of her chosen career; and her mother’s increasing signs of aging (as well as her own)—Sam embraces each moment, and each member of her family, with a fierce love, raw honesty and biting humor. As each of the Fox women come of age into the next phase of their life, they are inspired to reevaluate themselves, learn from the past and find their own direction.

Pamela Adlon is an Emmy® award-winning creator, actor, writer, producer and director with one of the most distinct and essential voices in Hollywood. A veteran of the business for over 40 years as a working actor, Better Things marks Adlon’s seismic shift into directing, showrunning, writing, producing and more, all at the highest level of her craft. In addition to a 2021 Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Comedy Series, Better Things has also been nominated for the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series, the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy and the WGA Award for Best New Series, as well as landing on the “best of” lists from TV Guide, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire and more.

Better Things returns with its first two episodes on Monday, February 28 at 10pm ET/PT on FX, Channel 136 with DISH, and streaming on Hulu.



What were the challenges of making the final season?

Pamela Adlon: I thought this would be an easy season. You’re like, ‘season 5, it’s gotta be a cakewalk.’ And it was the most challenging season. I wanted to be able to figure out how we’re going to address COVID but not address it, and put it in the body of the storylines and the characters. Like, we had all just been through something. And it was really a regrouping of going back to basics, and the preciousness of life, and holding on to what you have. And family and de-hoarding. And just the genesis of where you come from. So it was important for the writers, for us to really think about each character and say, ‘OK, what’s Duke’s arc? Frankie? Max? Sam? And Phil?’ 

And the show is a very fluid, organic thing. And so certain things can change while we’re shooting. But for the most part, we needed to have all of the drafts and be solid because of Celia [Imrie living in England]. We had to shoot the whole season without Phil, and then we had to pick up and go to the U.K. to do Phil’s parts. And it was stressful for me, because it was like, ‘this is not a complete season. We have to get all the rest of this.’ And there was always the fear that, God forbid, something would happen, we’d get shut down, we couldn’t go forward. And so when we got there and we were able to complete these stories and put all of the energy that we had for the first part into the rest of it, it was very profound and powerful. And I’m so happy to say that you can really see these characters go on this journey in this season and have a satisfying farewell.


How has Sam’s journey of self-discovery evolved since season 1?

PA: Season 1 you see Sam—she’s a mom in her 40s, a single mom—and once in a while she hooks up with a guy or there’s a promise of this side guy. And slowly that melts away and it really just becomes about her with her friends, and her family. And Sam is always very reflective and always very engaged with her family and her community. But you see her take on a little bit more of Phil’s traits in season 5.

Which is, ultimately, what happens: We really turn into our parents, you know? I mean, instead of Sam…offering [Phil] money to clear off one surface of her house, Phil is getting rid of things and Sam is going, ‘No you can’t get rid of it, I need to look at it!’ Which is the ultimate irony. She’s trying different things, she’s trying to take care of her health, and she’s pioneering her future by turning down a job, which is very shocking to her. Because she knows that she’s got to say “no” to something in order to open the door for something else. And that is really, for me, a [relatable] metaphor, because when I started my show seven years ago, I had to turn down significant other opportunities and just put my head down and focus on getting Better Things, written, picked up, and made. And so that takes sacrifice, and sometimes you have to say “no” to build a bigger picture for yourself down the road. 


What’s the biggest thing you want audiences to take away from the final season, or even the show as a whole?

PA: I hope that people look at it and they use it as a tool and a way to, kind of…if they feel out of control or they don’t know what to do, that you can check in with this show and see people messing up and see people winning and see people cooking and hear music and see the way you can live your life and not feel so alone. And the fact that there’s choices that you can make and watch somebody make the wrong choice, or watch somebody make a righteous choice, and you just go along for the ride and it will be worth it.