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Kaia Gerber on “Devastating” Finale of ‘Palm Royale’ and Where Her Empathy Lies

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[This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Palm Royale.]

As Maxine Dellacorte (Kristen Wiig) tries her best to win the approval of the ladies she meets at the exclusive social club in Palm Royale, one of her most meaningful relationships comes in the form of a young nail technician-turned-friend named Mitzi (Kaia Gerber), who looks up to the aspiring socialite.

Over time, the pair form a unique bond, with Maxine bestowing her version of wisdom about how the world works upon Mitzi, and in turn, seeking the seemingly knowledgeable Palm Beach newbie’s guidance about her future — including her aspirations of becoming a model, much like the real-life actress and daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford.

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“I think that Mitzi is a young, naive, very optimistic and hopeful person in this world that is full of people who are more jaded, or who have very different approaches to life than she does,” Kaia Gerber tells The Hollywood Reporter in the conversation below. “I’m not sure she’s fully aware of what people are capable of yet.”

That observation comes to a head in the season finale of the Apple TV+ comedy when Mitzi, through tears, tells Maxine she’s pregnant at the urging of Norma Dellacorte (Carol Burnett), who’s eager to tear apart the lives of her nephew Douglas (Josh Lucas) and his wife. Maxine instantly goes into support mode by telling Mitzi, “If you’ve always wanted to be a mother, it’s not complicated. You go down there and you tell that man he needs to marry you.” Minutes later, however, her world is shattered when she learns that the father of Mitzi’s baby isn’t Dinah (Leslie Bibb)’s husband Perry Donahue (Jordan Bridges), as she suspected, but her husband, Douglas.

Below, Gerber chats with THR about shooting that “devastating” season one finale and why her greatest hope for the future of the series is that Maxine and Mitzi will have a chance to repair their friendship.

***

How did you land the role of Mitzi and is she a character in the original source material, Mr. and Mrs. American Pie?

I had started reading the book during the audition process, and then [director] Tate [Taylor] called me once I got the role and said, “Read the book, it’s a great book. But we are very loosely basing our show off of it.” So, Mitzi is a fictionalized character that comes in and gets to have this wonderful relationship with Maxine.

This is your first role in a TV comedy. Were you intimidated by the genre, especially with some of the heavy hitters in this cast?

I actually came right off of doing Bottoms, which is a comedic film, when I booked this, so I felt very lucky because I just had a really incredible experience surrounded by comedians that I find so funny and so smart. Getting to then go onto a set, just weeks after, and be surrounded by more comedy legends was very exciting for me.

The affair between Mitzi and Douglas comes as a surprise. What did you think when you first saw that storyline in the script?

I was very sad because, I, Kaia, love Kristen so much. I could never imagine hurting her. And Mitzi loves Maxine so much. So to create the relationship that we did, and to have the connection that we had in the show, made it all the more devastating knowing what was going on. But at the same time, I do believe that their friendship is real and that Mitzi cares so deeply for Maxine, and that Maxine cares so deeply for Mitzi. I didn’t want the affair to get in the way of their friendship — of course it does — but I wanted all those moments to feel real, because I really do think that they were real. So it was a matter of trying to figure out a way where both of those things can be true.

What do you think it is that led Mitzi to entertain Douglas?

Well, when Mitzi meets Douglas, she doesn’t know who he is. She hasn’t seen Maxine’s husband. But I think that Mitzi is a young, naive, very optimistic and hopeful person in this world that is full of people who are more jaded, or who have very different approaches to life than she does. I’m not sure she’s fully aware of what people are capable of yet. So I think that she meets Douglas, she thinks he’s successful and he’s a gentleman. She doesn’t know the extent of who he is and, as an optimistic person, even as things start to be revealed and start to go wrong, she’s holding onto this hope that she has. I empathize a lot with Mitzi, and I think she’s trying to navigate the situation she’s in the best she can with the resources that she has, or lack thereof.

Maxine Dellacorte (Kristen Wiig) with husband Douglas (Josh Lucas) in the Palm Royale finale. Apple TV+

In addition to Douglas misleading her, Mitzi also gets taken advantage of by Norma in a different way. What was it like being a pawn in Carol Burnett’s game during the finale?

That’s another example of Mitzi not being fully aware of the fact that people may have intentions that are not as pure as hers. I think you see Mitzi get affected by being in this world for a long time, and she maybe starts changing her intentions as well. Carol is so good at being nurturing and loving, and same with Norma. So in that moment, you really do want to find comfort with her. Mitzi is seeking comfort because the person that she normally gets advice from is Maxine, and she’s the one person she can’t go to about her situation. So when someone offers that for her, she takes the opportunity to lean on them.

We see Ricky Martin‘s character, Robert, show up as an unexpected source of support for Mitzi, despite his conflicted feelings as Maxine’s friend. What was it like working with him?

Ricky is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. He’s so humble and dedicated to his work. Like, it’s pop star Ricky Martin. I didn’t expect the amount of generosity and kindness that he brings. Beyond just doing that scene with him, he’s so present and caring. He has such a great memory, and he’s so curious about people and genuine. He’s truly a dream of a person. They say, don’t meet your heroes. But if your hero is Ricky Martin, meet him because you’ll fall more in love with him. Even if you don’t think it’s possible, you will.

The season finale was a huge lift, physically and emotionally, for all of the cast and crew. What was most challenging for you while filming the episode?

Honestly, the entire episode was very challenging, because it was the most serious and sad thing to happen all season. It was like, “okay, we all have to face it now.” And then Kristen gave what I think is such a beautiful, devastating and still funny performance, so it was wonderful to have a front row to watch her do that. But of course, Mitzi having a front row to that was less enjoyable.

The season ends with a question of whether Mitzi will stay in Palm Beach and realize her dream of being a mom, or move to New York to pursue her modeling career. What would you like to see happen with your character?

I really have no clue how it will progress, if it does progress. I’m really excited for audiences to watch the finale, because I want to know some of their theories. I’m so biased towards Mitzi that I’m not the person to ask, because I have so much empathy for her. But it devastated me to leave off where Maxine and Mitzi end things in the show. I hope there’s an opportunity for these women to have some kind of a connection beyond what happened, because it’s devastating to watch women hurt each other, especially at a time in history when women were not being supported by men.

Palm Royale is now streaming its entire season on Apple TV+. Read Kristen Wiig and Carol Burnett’s takes on the ending.

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