On Tuesday's season five premiere, titled "#LizaToo," one of the last people in Liza's (Sutton Foster) inner circle who wasn't in on her ongoing ruse -- that she's a divorced 40-something mother pretending to be a 27-year-old editor -- discovered her big lie. Liza's boss and object of her lust, Charles (Peter Hermann), uncovered the devastating truth through an unlikely source: Empirical's top-selling author, Edward L.L. Moore, who brought the damaging revelation to him after his next book was shelved amid a sexual harassment scandal.
"We did some investigating. She represents herself as a young woman in her 20s. The fact is, she's a divorced 40-something housewife from New Jersey," Moore tells a stunned Charles in his office, sliding a photocopy of Liza's divorce papers across his desk. Uh oh.
Charles finding out about Liza's real age was a long time coming. Since the series began in 2015, a handful of Liza's close friends, significant others and colleagues have come to bear the weight of keeping Liza's secret, from Kelsey (Hilary Duff) to Josh (Nico Tortorella) to Maggie (Debi Mazar). Now that Charles knows the truth, what does this mean for their brewing romance and, more importantly, Liza's professional standing at Empirical and the Millennial imprint?
"We were like, 'Oh... OK. Here we go,'" Foster told ET of the premiere-ending bombshell moment. "I think it's an important thing for Charles to find out. For me, it's like, 'OK, let's get that out of the way,' as opposed to, 'Let's get them together and then, ohhh he finds out and then it's like, 'Ugh.' Right now, he knows the truth and it makes things even more complicated because she's still there at [Millennial]."
"At the end of the premiere, it is something that seems so impossible that it's very human to not admit the full implications of this tectonic shift, to not admit the full implications of what he's learned," Hermann told ET of Charles' reaction to Liza's secret. "There is so much happening in his brain at that moment. It is anger, betrayal, deep puzzlement, the possibility that [Edward] L.L. Moore is absolutely wrong. We watch this character look back at the life that he has had with this woman and he has to re-edit everything. Rethink everything."
Added co-star Molly Bernard: "It changes everything." "Everything," Miriam Shor agreed. "Like, rips off the bandage, rips the blindfold off in such a way that you have a whole new vision."
But could this be a good thing? After all, Charles and Liza's mutual attraction was complicated by many factors, one of which was the fact that he believed -- until now -- that she was much younger than she actually is. What could amplify the conflict is that Liza wasn't the one who told Charles.
"Part of me is frustrated because this is what you want," Duff told ET, referring to Charles. "This has been your problem with getting with her in the first place, thinking she is too young and that's inappropriate. Now, you find out she is age-appropriate and you're pissed. I'm like, get over it! Do the damn thing! But I guess I never thought about it if it didn't come from [Liza]... the betrayal."
Charles, who has been seen as an even-keeled, sympathetic boss, will have difficulties wrapping his head around this new piece of information. "The conflict is heavy all season long between the two of them and it's really hard to watch," Duff said of Charles and Liza's tension during another ET sit-down, "and it's really hard to watch him. He's such an understanding person, from what we know so far, and he is not handling it well."
"He loses his sh*t," Tortorella chimed in, prompting Duff to add: "In a bad way."
Foster shared her take on how complicated things have gotten for Liza professionally and personally now that her lie, which has manifested itself into a big, fiery mess, has put pals and co-workers in the line of fire.
"She went into this whole charade not to find a relationship, but to get a job. She didn't go into this to find a husband," Foster said. "But of course, it is part of it. I think if she continues to remember and to remind herself what her true intentions are... then we will see. I even asked [creator] Darren [Star], 'Do you know how it's gonna end? Like, what's the endgame?' It could very well [be] he doesn't even know, but I could very well see Liza just being with Liza."
"Liza really does love Josh and wants to be there for him, and she was there when he got married and was there with him the night before he got married," she said. "But she also has feelings for someone else too. So season five, I think, does explore those feelings for Charles, but also [she] wants to remain in Josh's life and be there for him as a friend primarily."
In the end, cast members praised the Younger writers for having the "cojones," asShor termed, to kick off season five with such a major development, the aftermath of which will be explored for the rest of the year.
"I thought it was a brave, bold move by the writers," Foster said. "It's definitely made it more fun. I will say, hands down, it's my favorite season so far. I feel like the whole series has sort of been leading up to a lot of these moments and I think it has a better payoff that [Charles] finds out."
Note: The Younger cast was interviewed at a press junket and an on-location set visit, both in New York. Quotes were compiled from both interviews for this article.
Younger, already renewed for season six, airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TV Land.