Emmy spotlight: Hilary Duff’s journey from Disney girl on ‘Lizzie Maguire’ to Manhattan career gal in TV Land’s ‘Younger’

Sutton Foster is the ostensible lead of “Younger” as a secret 40-something book editor and divorced mom who continues to pass herself off as a hip millennial  — even as the Big Apple-based sitcom created by “Sex and the City’s” Darren Star just kicked off its sixth season this week. But her winsome yet duplicitous charade is starting to get old, especially when more and more of her colleagues are already in on her ruse.

Meanwhile, Hilary Duff as her editing partner Kelsey Peters – who is in the know about Liza’s real age and situation — is an actual millennial and acts as a supportive mentor to her. Her randy sexual escapades with rival editor Zane (Charles Michael Davis) and author client Jake Devereux (Jason Ralph) on last year’s fifth season sometimes recall the adventurous bedroom proclivities of Kim Cattrall’s PR pro Samantha Jones. For season 6, Kelsey is promoted to being the publisher of Millennial. But as they say with great power comes great responsibility.

Who is the bigger draw for the show’s fan base? While two-time Tony winner Foster, 44, is best known for her work in Broadway musicals such as “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and the revival of “Anything Goes” along with one season of the ballet-centric ABC Family sitcom “Bunheads.” Her character speaks to Gen-X and older women who have a harder time getting hired these days despite their years of experience.

But 31-year-old Duff, however, is the secret sauce for all those now grown-up tweens who devoured episodes of “Lizzie McGuire” a show about an insecure 13-year-old dealing with normal adolescent issues that aired on the Disney Channel from 2001 to 2004. A film based on the show, “The Lizzie Maguire Movie,” came out in May 2003 at No. 2 at the box office behind “X2: X-Men United.”

As one of the original Disney TV starlets,  Duff also has had a highly successful musical career that would inspire such future teen idols as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. It’s been estimated that she has sold 15 million records since her recording debut in 2002. She has even writen a trilogy of novels — “Elixir” (201o), which was a New York Times best-seller and spawned two sequels, “Devoted” (2011) and “True” (2013).

Duff has fared less well on the big screen as she tried to widen her fan base in films such as 2003’s “Agent Cody Banks” opposite Frankie Muniz and “Cheaper by the Dozen” with Steve Martin and its 2005 sequel and the 2004 rom-com “A Cinderella Story” with Chad Michael Murray. ” This year, she starred in and executive-produced “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” playing the doomed actress who was murdered by the Manson family in 1969. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating?  An unfortunate 15%.

SEE Emmy submissions for Paramount Network, Comedy Central, TV Land

Let’s face it. Some performers are just more relatable and enjoyable when they show up on our computers, phones, iPods and TV sets. Duff certainly fits that bill. Debi Mazar, who plays Foster’s artist roommate, was excited that she was acting opposite one of her daughters’ favorite actresses. Even more flattering, Duff initially turned down the role of Kelsey because “Younger” was going to be shot in New York and she was living in Los Angeles. But when Star called her, he explained that the role was hers and he would not take no for an answer. The rest is TV Land history. While Foster might attract eyeballs herself — especially when she is allowed to occasionally sing on the show — Duff has the stuff that draws a younger set of eyes that advertisers love.

Be sure to make your 2019 Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominations are announced on July 16. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s newsletter with experts’ latest predictions

More News from GoldDerby