When Good Trouble premiered on Freeform in 2018, among the 20-somethings viewers met residing at the show’s communal living space The Coterie was Emma Hunton’s teacher and body-positive influencer, Davia. Early in the show’s run, Davia proudly claimed her space by creating and posting a DIY music video of her song “Fat Bitch.” In the video that is a reclamation of self and a challenge to conventional standards, she sings, raps, and poses sexily in a bikini and faux fur jacket by the railroad tracks in downtown Los Angeles. A viral hit within the show, the video cemented Davia and Hunton (for those unfamiliar with her extensive musical theater background) as a force on and off-screen.
Now in its fourth season and leading up to the mid-season finale of the wildly queer-inclusive series (it is a spin-off of the beloved The Fosters, after all), Davia has embraced her body and sexuality through learning stunningly choreographed burlesque. Last week’s episode featured Davia in a burlesque number in which she arrives on a swing in a giant birdcage — surely a metaphor for the spreading of her wings by engaging in the art form. The experience of performing burlesque is something the out star of shows including Spring Awakening on Broadway and the national tours of Next to Normal and Wicked says has helped her further come into herself.
“After four seasons, Davia and I in so many ways have melded into the same person. We’re very different, but a lot of our core personality traits are the same,” Hunton tells The Advocate. “I’ve really found my competence and my sexuality and love for my body even more than I have before through the doing burlesque storyline. It’s given me freedom and agency to be proud and loud about it.”
Booboo Stewart as Luca and Emma Hunton as Davia in Good Trouble
Good Trouble returned for its fourth season as one of its executive producers and legacy stars of The Fosters, Maia Mitchell, who played Callie since 2013, was departing the series to return home to Australia. With social justice warrior Callie headed to D.C. to work for the American Civil Liberties Union, the remaining ensemble characters embark on new journeys. Davia, having been fired from her teaching job for sharing her body-positive Instagram page (which includes the “Fat Bitch” video) with a student struggling with self-esteem, is at a crossroads with her career that leads her to burlesque. Hunton has dozens of theater credits to her name, including performing in several of the hilarious and heartfelt “unauthorized” musicals at the former Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles, including Cruel Intentions and Scissorhands, and directing a few, including UMPO: A League of Their Own and Never Been Kissed. But she arrived at burlesque fairly new to the form.
“I have one other experience of doing Burlesque in my life. There’s a company I work with to this day called the Cherry Poppins. They’re an L.A.-based burlesque company, and I did their New Year’s Eve show with them just before the shutdown,” Hunton says, adding that the stylized work she’s done with choreographer Donna Hood for Good Trouble makes her feel “confident and sexy.”
Since its premiere, the series has strived to incorporate the actors’ lived experiences in some ways into its stories (Coterie manager Alice becomes a stand-up comic like Sherry Cola, who plays her). As Hunton underwent changes in her life over the past few years, Good Trouble’s story has reflected some of that in empowering ways, including with burlesque.
“It’s been interesting for Davia because I lost weight over the pandemic. I went through a lot of hard personal stuff. Instead of Good Trouble saying, ‘Hey, you’ve been playing a body-positive, bigger girl,’ they were just like, ‘As long as you are healthy and happy….” Hunton says. “Weight fluctuates. I might be bigger next year. I might be smaller, who knows. I’ve been very fortunate that they’ve been so cool with that and allowing the sort of body positivity to continue through weight loss because I think that’s the important takeaway is that you can be body-positive at all sizes.”
“I think Davia similarly, in the same way that Emma doesn’t really quite know who she is in this new body, is finding her confidence in her sexiness,” she adds.
From creators Joanna Johnson, Peter Paige, and Bradley Bredeweg, Good Trouble continually serves each character with layered plots. For instance, this season, Davia’s Coterie mate Malika (Zuri Adele) explores polyamory and new-found queerness while switching careers from a nonprofit to politics, where she seeks to get a center for underserved women off the ground. Layered in Davia’s body-positivity story is one that features Booboo Stewart as Luca, an unhoused Gen Zer who happens to be a stellar dancer. They meet when Coterie newcomer Joaquin (Bryan Craig) encounters Luca on the streets and offers up his loft for a few days. After learning of Luca’s dance background, Davia suggests he work with her troupe. It’s an empathetic storyline that highlights the humanity and beauty of so many unhoused due to lousy circumstances.
“What’s interesting is that this is not my first time, sort of crossing paths with the unhoused community. I’ve done a couple of shows where I’ve played an unhoused person of society,” Hunton says. “I also have a good friend who runs the Sidewalk Project in downtown L.A. I was happy to see Good Trouble handle it in such a truthful and positive way.”
“It’s important to humanize the unhoused because I think people have a tendency to not and to not want to hear their stories,” she adds. “I love that we are putting a spotlight on those stories and giving agency to those people because they’re there. They’re real. They exist. And they deserve just as much respect as anybody else.”
Good Trouble airs Wednesdays on Freeform. Catch up with the series on Hulu, and watch Davia rehearse burlesque below.