“You’re the Worst,” the great romantic comedy about two awful people struggling to accept that they have real feelings for each other, returns for a new season, on a new channel (so you will probably have to make new DVR season passes), tonight at 10:30 on FXX.
Yesterday, I spoke with the show’s creator, Stephen Falk, about what makes “You’re the Worst” tick. Today, it’s the turn of stars Aya Cash and Chris Geere, who have their own takes on Gretchen and Jimmy’s relationship, the explicit sex scenes of the pilot (and why they’re relieved that didn’t continue), Jimmy’s fake mustache, and a lot more.
When did you guys first meet in the process of doing this, and how?
Aya Cash: We met during the test for “You”re the Worst,” but barely remember each other because we were both so narcissistically in our own heads and nervous about the test.
Chris Geere: There was only, I think, two actors up for each role. I read with another actress and with Aya. And then it was the just the waiting.
Do you even remember what you had to read for the chemistry test?
Aya Cash: I remember we had to do the phone call. Remember that? The phone call at the end of the pilot. And then had to do the scene in episode two with Lindsay where she”s like doing a juice cleanse.
Chris Geere: I had to do a couple of scenes with Edgar, that stuff. That was tricky actually, because when you do the test and you”re making a show for the first time, I had no idea what the tone was, what the comedy was. And I really struggled with that last year, trying to identify what it was. And what I recognize this year is that there is no one single tone and we”re allowed to be, you know, goony faces and physical comedy in one scene and then the next bit it”s just her and I, you know, interacting calmly. She”s lovely.
So were there moments when you saw the final version in season one, where you realized, “Oh, that was funny, and I didn”t realize it when I was playing it”?
Aya Cash: Most of my comedy is accidental, I would say. If I don”t know what the joke is, I”m going to play it better than if I do. I mean I say that sort of self-deprecatingly, but I do think that there”s something to be said – Kether (Donohue)”s a little similar, like sometimes Kether in the middle of takes will be like, “So is what I’m saying funny?,” and she”s been nailing it every take because she”s just like got a natural instinct for that sort of comedy. So sometimes it”s better not to think something”s hilarious because you”re not trying to play the joke. I”ll know something”s a joke but I”m not trying to hit the rhythms of it and it”ll come out much better than if I was.
Can either of you think of an example of something where you watched the first season where you said, “Oh wow, that was funny”?
Chris Geere: I think the sex stuff was much funnier when I watched it. When we were doing it, we were so kind of so awkward that I never thought of that as a funny, funny scene. But I think it really is.
Aya Cash: Oh I thought it was hilarious.
How long did it take to do that? That”s a tough one.
Aya Cash: Ten hours.
Chris Geere: Yeah, you asked when did we first meet. We really only knew each other four days when we did that stuff, which was weird. And I”d never been on a closed set before, so to see that, to see how there”s only four or five people there. But it was so technical, wasn”t it?
Aya Cash: Yeah, we were both terrified. I think they acted it out with dolls for us. Like, “You”re going to be doing this and this and this, and then the doll”s doing this position.”
Chris Geere: (Director) Jordan (Vogt-Roberts) and Stephen are holding Transformers, saying, “Do this, and then you do this.”
Aya Cash: And I was like, “I can”t do that with my body.” I remember they wanted me to do one move, and it was like my ass in the air, and I just kept pretending that I couldn”t do it because I really didn”t want it on screen. So I kept just falling and being like, “Oh, I can”t do that. Oh my god it”s so, oops I fell.” But other than that, it was fun.
Do you think having been through that extreme circumstance together so early in the working relationship helped?
Chris Geere: I think it did.
Aya Cash: Totally.
Chris Geere: It really did because, it was throwing us in the deep end properly, and we”ve only known each other as long as Jimmy and Gretchen have known each other, so let”s do this. And then it was just a really original thing to get that out of the way and then concentrate on the story.
Aya Cash: And also, we both are married. Chris has a kid, so there was real respect there and we were both being as respectful and just open hearted about it as possible and supportive of each other. So that I think helped. Yeah, of course it bonds you to take off all your clothes with someone and simulate oral sex. I generally don”t do that upon meeting people.
Any scene you play with someone is going to depend on some level on chemistry. But a romantic comedy leans on it so much more. How long do you feel it took the two of you to really feel comfortable with each other and your rhythms as performers?
Aya Cash: Pretty quickly. Chris and I really enjoy working together, and we”re different in many ways as actors but the core of what we get off on acting is reaction and response and listening. We both really like to sort of see what happens in a scene and play off what the other person gives. Neither of us are necessarily people who craft a performance before we come to set. That”s not what we”re good at. What we”re good at is being in the moment and listening to each other.
Chris Geere: It”s really nice that we were really rooting for each other as actors to do the best work that we can. I remember a scene, Aya”s got a scene towards the end of the (season) and she just is beautiful. It”s brilliantly performed and at the end when they cut, I just felt, “Yes, this is great. It”s great for the show. It”s great for her.” I knew that she would feel really good about it. So it”s lovely. I think that”s the case for all four of us.
Aya Cash: Yeah, we enjoy each other”s performances and that keeps things…
Chris Geere: There”s no egos whatsoever. We just want the show to succeed because we know how great it is and we all come from no expectations whatsoever.
Aya Cash: And it clicked very quickly.
It took FX a little while to say they were going to do a new season. How nervous were you towards the end there waiting for that decision to happen?
Aya Cash: Terrified.
Chris Geere: Yeah. There”s always that insecurity whenever you finish a job where you”re like, “Oh, no.” And especially this one because we just want to carry on telling the story.
Aya Cash: It”s been the best job I”ve ever had in my life, so the idea that it might not continue, last year I was a wreck. I drove across country immediately after we finished shooting and I was like on stops, and the episode would air and I”d see the numbers and I”d be like, “What happens?” I was a wreck and a nightmare to be around because I was so freaked out. And then when we got picked up, I was over the moon and I still feel that way. To get on a job where you genuinely love the people and you”re not just bullshitting to press about how much you love the people. You believe in the writing and trust them so completely, you know. Maybe we”re not making big network money, but we”re making enough to live on. To have all these elements come together is so incredibly rare, I would do this until the end of time.
Audiences always run into this problem when they start blurring the line between actor and character. Over the course of that season or the time since have you run into people who just assume Chris is into feet or that Aya’s a slob?
Chris Geere: I am into feet, so that”s…
Let”s talk more about that.
Chris Geere: (It happens), especially on social media. If I ever have an opinion where I need to kind of rant about something or something just annoys me and I”ve cooked that, it would go, “Oh, you were so Jimmy then,” you know? And I think I have embodied a little bit this kind of acerbicness, I suppose.
Aya Cash: There”s elements I think of these characters in us even if they”re not what we present just necessarily. I”m a huge eater. I like food. I go to Taco Bell. There”s a certain amount of that. Gretchen”s not caring what she puts in her body. I”m learning because I”m getting older that I have to be better, but I love food. I”m not the tidiest person in the world. I”ve gotten better with age. But me at 16 was Gretchen”s apartment, so there are elements that are there. But yeah, I mean we”re both married obviously. We”re not sleeping around. I live a very tame, very quiet life. I don”t go out and party.
The characters drink a lot, and in the premiere you’re also doing a lot of drugs. What do they use as substitutes for you guys to ingest?
Aya Cash: So normally cocaine is lactose powder. I just had to snort sugar because it had to be blue and there was…
Chris Geere: We even did 20 takes on that.
Aya Cash: Oh my god. I couldn”t get anymore up. So that”s what they use. And everything else is usually colored water. We did once have to drink like a mayonnaise mixture. Remember that?
Chris Geere: In an episode Edgar”s not there on Sunday morning and we freak out because who”s going to make the Bloody Marys? And so we attempt to make them ourselves, you know, just squeezing a tomato and putting it in with like a pint of vodka.
Aya Cash: And mayonnaise.
Chris Geere: And mayonnaise. And we have to try it to make due. So we did a few takes. And it”s warm.
Aya Cash: Gross. But our props department is really good about trying to take care of us and just make things look disgusting as opposed to actually taste disgusting.
Chris Geere: I have a couple of scenes where we drank so much that I have another drink and it”s got to be like I”m forcing it down. And I got the props department to put tabasco in it for me just to give me a little jolt.
Aya Cash: Chris is much more method than I am. I”m like, “No, I can just act like it”s gross.”
What was your reaction the first time you saw the prop mustache?
Chris Geere: It”s a brilliant – a great gag. From the start I just thought this has got to be so itchy. It was so itchy and strange.
Aya Cash: It”s made out of merkin right? Oh strike that, right. It”s a merkinstache.
Chris Geere: I love that. That”s one of my favorite little silly gags is Jimmy”s go-to disguise box. I mean it”s a different kind of tone of joke to everything else.
Aya Cash: I don”t think it”s a spoiler to say the disguise box comes back.
I want to go back to what you were talking about before, about the tone and the shift between absurdity like the mustache and fairly serious moments. Sometimes it”s not within a scene, but how do you guys try to navigate that and find the point at which Jimmy and Gretchen at their most ridiculous are the same person as the two of them at their most sincere?
Aya Cash: I think the writing does so much for us. If you follow the writing and are true to it, it tells you how to play the scene. I think that life is not one tone, and I think in America there”s been this weird trend of like needing things to be one thing or pitchable in a way: “It”s just like this. And that”s what it is.” Whereas I feel like in England you can see shows like “Misfits,” which is kind of a horror/sci-fi genre show that”s incredibly funny and also very dramatic. We”re obviously not a horror show, but we walk those lines and ultimately – this might make me sound like an asshole but whatever – we”re all actors. I don”t do standup. So as actors, I think you just approach a scene like you approach a scene. And there”s comedy and drama in life, and that”s what”s really fun. And you can be ridiculous. We”ll spend a night at two in the morning dancing in the trailer to pop music and then the next night I”ll be very calm and very studious. You”re many things, and I think the show is many things and you just trust that that”s okay.
Chris Geere: Block shooting, which we”ve done the last two seasons is great and not great in equal measures, because I find that tricky sometimes because you have to make a decision. If you”re doing episode 12 and then you”re doing episode 9, you have to make a decision on where we would be. And it”s just amazing to have Stephen there to ask, “Is this too soon to be at this level?” And then doing a scene in (season 1) where there was the tennis match, and we break up at the end; there was one take which I thought was brilliant and I really felt it. Both of us in tears and Stephen was like, “It”s great, but way too soon. We”ll get there. We don”t need to be here yet. That”s maybe season three, you know.” So he”s always there to bring the reins back or put us in a different situation.
How has their relationship changed now that they”re living together? They”re never going to be a conventional couple, but they”re dealing with even more conventionally couple-y things.
Aya Cash: We deal with the typical tropes of what happens when you move in with someone. Like, where do you put your stuff and who gets to decorate and, you know, who wants to go to bed early and who wants to go out. And all those typical things. But I think that just living with someone, my experience is you reach another level of vulnerability with someone, and I think they end up seeing a lot more of who each other is.
Chris Geere: Sure, because the big word compromise has to come into play. And Jimmy and Gretchen are not people that are happy to compromise. So they get themselves to a situation whether we”ve drunk way too much or we”re in each other”s face with too much where something has to be done. Something has to be said.
It’s baked into the title that your characters are both the worst in theory. You’ve been playing them a while now. Do you feel protective of the characters in some way, where you see something in the script that is especially terrible and you say, “I don”t know that I”m comfortable doing that,” or is that just the nature of the job?
Aya Cash: I don”t have that because I just trust the writers. It”s just rare to feel, “No, no, no.” You know better than me. You are a writer. I am an actor. We do different things and it”s my job to make what you do look like you didn”t do it. And I really just believe in the writing. I also just don”t even know where I can go until they tell me I can go somewhere. And I think it”s super exciting to be like, “Oh shit, she”s doing that – great. I didn”t even know I could go there.”
Chris Geere: Stephen”s very protective of the characters that he created. He”s also protective of us as actors as well. He knows us so well now that he”ll go, “Yeah, that was a good idea, but I don”t want them to do that.”
Aya Cash: I hate taking my clothes off, and he”s let me put shirts on.
Yeah, the sex scenes in the pilot are pretty much as explicit as the show has ever gotten.
Aya Cash: But that”s the point: that your relationship is usually not that explicit after a while, either. Things calm down. But I think it was absolutely necessary, and that”s why it”s the only time I”ve done it, because I thought it was right and good for the story and funny and weird. But it”s not my favorite choice to be like, “It”s naked day!” And Stephen”s let me keep my clothes on a little more.
Chris Geere: When I see my cock sock just sitting there, before, I was like, “Oh my god, I”m so self-conscious.” And now I”m like, “Hello, old friend. There you are.”
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org