MANHATTAN, KANSAS — In spring 2021, several Manhattan businesses and organizations were startled to be contacted for merchandise and permission to be featured in the then upcoming HBO comedy series Somebody Somewhere, featuring Manhattan native Bridget Everett as Sam Miller, a discouraged woman living in her hometown after the death of her sister. In addition to being the lead actress, Everett is also one of the show’s executive producers. (Photo by Elizabeth Sisson/HBO)
Many, at first, were uncertain whether the communications from HBO were real.
“When we got a call one day from HBO, we were working on something, and my partner asked me if I wanted to take the call, but I thought it was fishy, so I said we weren’t interested and I hung up,” said Manhattan Brewing Company co-owner Jake Voegeli.
“Then when we heard it was a legit show, we called them back and they asked us for some beer and merchandise for Bridget, but they didn’t say anything about it being used in the show. We sent her some beer and merchandise. A couple of months later, they called and said Bridget loved the beer and asked for permission to use it in the show.”
But when the show aired, they were surprised to see their business included as more than a prop.
“In Episode #4, when they go axe throwing and they’re holding our beer cans, we thought that was really cool,” Voegeli said. “Then when they showed our storefront on Poyntz Avenue in Episode #6, we were thrilled. We love that they wanted to include real businesses in the show.”
Alma Creamery had a similar story about how their Alma Cheese T-shirt ended up being worn by Mary Catherine Garrison, who plays Sam’s sister, Tricia. Cody Dillon, who handles business development for Alma Creamery, said their company was a bit suspicious when they first got an email from HBO, but when they later talked to the show’s props team by phone and learned that Everett was the lead actress, they sent a package of cheeses and merchandise and gave HBO permission to feature their logo.
They had no more communication with HBO for months, and frankly forgot about it, until one day people started sending them photos of Garrison wearing their shirt.
“We were happy to be a part of it, especially with Bridget being part of the Manhattan community,” Dillon said.
|Photo by Kristin Brighton|
Andy Streeter, owner of Vista Drive-in and other Streeter Family Businesses, said that he went to school with Everett, so when she asked if they could shoot some footage of Vista, he was more than pleased to agree. Streeter has had customers and friends from across the country mention they’ve seen Vista’s exterior in the series.
“The Everett family have been great customers as long as I can remember,” Streeter said. “It’s my understanding she wanted to include as many local landmarks as possible in the show. We obviously had no issues with them featuring us.”
The Chef: A Recurring Setting for Sam and Her Friends
Featured more than any local business in the show is The Chef. Actual images of the diner’s exteriors are used in multiple episodes, and the joint is Sam’s regular place to breakfast with friends Joel (played by Jeff Hiller) and Fred Rococo (Murray Hill).
While the interiors are not filmed at the actual restaurant, the set designer put in many details that are reminiscent of The Chef, down to the window-inspired art on the wall behind them, colorful mugs in diners’ hands, and fun vintage salt-and-pepper shakers on each table. The set’s walls also are decorated with a Kanas State University pennant and basketball jersey. The menus look just like those at the diner, and the chalkboard is advertising a Wildcat Burger.
|Photo by Kristin Brighton|
Missy Burke, a long-time manager of The Chef, said that Bridget’s mother Freddie used to be a regular and often brought Bridget there to eat when she visited, thus forming a relationship between the family and the restaurant. Freddie, who is retired as a music teacher in Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 schools, now lives in a retirement community, but when Bridget called and asked if The Chef would be willing to be featured, they were thrilled.
“It would be impossible to actually film here, as we’re a busy restaurant, but the interior details they included are definitely a ‘tip of the hat’ to us,” Burke said. “I sent her a bunch of shirts and things. I love that they feature local, independent businesses owned by people who actually live here. We were honored and thrilled to be included. It’s just a really good show.”
Adding Some K-State Purple to the Mix
Jeff Morris, recently retired vice president for communications and marketing at Kansas State University, said K-State received a call from HBO early in the series’ development about the university being represented in the show.
Morris said HBO sent some scripts so K-State could get a sense of how the university was going to be portrayed. Morris — who previously hadn’t met Everett but knew many of her fans and friends — said through discussion he got the sense she loves Manhattan and K-State and wanted both to be reflected positively. K-State signed off on the use of the university’s branding in the show.
|Photo courtesy of HBO|
“It was a great platform for the university to get national exposure,” Morris said. “They wanted to portray K-State balanced against daily life in Manhattan. It’s a great slice of everyday life in this community, not a commercial or promotion.”
K-State also allowed the crew to shoot some footage on campus, Morris said, but otherwise they sourced all the K-State-related props on their own. So far, it doesn’t appear any campus footage has been included, but season two is in the works.
“Overall, I think it’s an authentic portrayal of the university and town,” Morris said.
What Does Bridget’s Brother Brad Think of the Show?
|Courtesy of Brad Everett|
Bridget Everett’s older brother Brad is the general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn and a past mayor of the City of Manhattan. (Their father, Donn, was also mayor here in 1967-1969. Donn and their mother, Freddie, divorced when Bridget was 8 years old.)
Brad said when he first heard his sister was going to star in a show that drew upon elements of her family and childhood hometown, he admits, “a bead of sweat may have trickled down my face. I didn’t know what to expect.”
After graduating from Manhattan High School in 1990, Bridget went to college on a vocal scholarship to Arizona State University, before taking the leap to New York City. But hers was not a direct rise to stardom. Following a time-honored path, she worked in the restaurant industry before her entertainment career finally took off — but it took until 2015 before she could afford to quit the restaurant business entirely.
Like her character Sam, Bridget also lost her older sister too early in life. Bridget is the youngest of the six Everett children (Brinton, Brad, Alice, Brian, Brock, and Bridget). Brad said Bridget really bonded with their oldest sister, Brinton, during her illness and final days, and he can see elements of that experience in the show. Brinton, who lived in California in her adult life, passed away in 2008.
It just so happens that around this period in her life, Bridget’s star began to rise. Her earliest acting credits on Internet Movie Database start with the role of Drunk Party Girl on Sex and the City in 2008. Since, she’s been in several TV series and films, including Inside Amy Schumer, Lady Dynamite, and Patti Cake$. Prior to Somebody Somewhere, Bridget may be best known for her notoriously outrageous, over-the-top cabaret show at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York.
Brad said that each week after a new episode aired in 2022, Brad, his mother, and his other siblings met over Zoom to hash it over and try to figure out where things in the storyline were inspired from. He said his favorite character on the show is Joel, played by Jeff Hiller: “He does a beautiful job with that role.”
While the series was filmed in the Chicago area to tap into that metro’s entertainment-industry resources, Brad said that decision wasn’t meant to be a “slap in the face to Manhattan. It was just easier to do it there.”
He said he’s enjoyed seeing the little local touches worked into the show, especially the inclusion of local businesses their family has always been connected to, like Vista Drive-In and Reed and Elliott Jewelers. Including these real details was not a requirement to pull off the storyline, but something that meant a lot to Bridget, Brad said.
Brad said like the Miller family, when the Everett family gathers, it is often an event filled with music and giving one another “good-natured fun.”
“You have to have a strong constitution to hang with the Everett family,” Brad said. “But at the same time, we were very supportive of each other. I’m proud Bridget worked so hard for so long to succeed.”
While the Greater Manhattan Economic Partnership was unable to arrange to interview Bridget for this story, she had this comment on local response to the show in an article dated February 27, 2022 on vulture.com: “I was afraid they would be disappointed in some way. I still go home, and I have family that still lives there, and I wanted people in my hometown to not feel judged and for it to be something they could be proud of, but also to make a TV show that we could be proud of.”
Local consensus: Bridget has achieved what she set out to do.
Local photos by Kristin Brighton. Everett family photo provided by Brad Everett. Photos from Somebody Somewhere courtesy of Warner Media/HBO.
Read More About HBO’s Somebody Somewhere
Somebody Somewhere has received a lot of critical praise and national attention for the Greater Manhattan region in recent months, proving that Bridget truly is Manhattan’s current BFD (ICYMI, that’s a nod to the title of the first episode). The following articles include reviews, interviews and additional insights into Bridget Everett, the show’s storyline, and its autobiographical features. (No guarantees they’re free from plot spoilers!)