As Tawny St. John in the first season of the Paul Scheer-produced Hulu series, The Hotwives of Orlando, Happy Endings star Casey Wilson excelled as the constantly quarreling money-hungry trophy wife, but, in season two (which premieres today on Hulu), everything is different. Literally, everything. Gone is St. John, her dysfunctional social circle, and the city of Orlando. In its place, Las Vegas and a host of new characters portrayed by the same company of talented comedic actresses from the last adventure.
This time around, Wilson is playing Jenfer, a character that she described as “just trash” in her conversation with us. She also discussed the creative motives behind the show’s move to the strip for The Hotwives of Las Vegas, the impact of the show’s brief shooting window, and her hopes and prayers for more Happy Endings before time runs out.
What can you tell me about the new locale and your new character on Hotwives of Las Vegas?
We’re in Las Vegas, and it’s the same actresses playing different characters. And it’s kind of like an American Horror Story, or a comedy spoof. We’re so obviously spoofing The Real Housewives, but we’re in the classy, dignified city of Las Vegas. I play Jenfer, J-E-N F-E-R, and I am just trash… is the best way to describe my character. She’s a husky-voiced, drinking and smoking pregnant woman.
Did you use the city of Las Vegas and the strip as a sort of character on the show?
Yeah, the strip is its own character, that’s a good way to put it. We went to Vegas and filmed there, which was really fun and horrifying. We got to film in casinos, and I did what can only be described as a walk of shame up the strip, and I was nine months pregnant when we were shooting and holding a sign that said, “Will flash my boobs for cash.” We really put our hearts and souls into it this year.
Are you pulling primarily from the world of reality TV when you’re constructing these characters?
All the characters are kind of compilations of different Real Housewives, I think. I think I have a dash of Kim Zolciak and these are all very loving, loving portrayals. And some Tamra Barney in me and also some Kenya Moore, and yeah, it’s an homage, but it’s a really loving homage. I love these shows, and so it was really fun to spoof them.
Was there ever talk about doing a second season of Hotwives of Orlando? Or was the plan always to branch off after the first season and kind of go elsewhere with new characters?
The writers, Dannah Feinglass Phirman (who plays Leona this season and Alli last season) and Danielle Schneider (who plays Denise this season and Shauna last season), I think kind of felt like — especially when you’re doing a spoof and the shows themselves are already so crazy — that they had maxed out of story lines and such in Orlando, and it would just give them more fun to kind of take it to a different city. So, I think that was always their plan. And it was actually really fun to see everyone do different characters, except Tymberlee Hill, who continues to play Phe Phe. She’s moved to Las Vegas from Orlando.
Can we expect to see any other characters from Orlando? What about guest stars?
Yes, I think the party planner for the stars in Orlando, played by Jeff Hiller, is back. We also have some new guest stars that are amazing which are Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele, who plays my boyfriend, and Paul Scheer is back playing kind of our version of Andy Cohen, Matty Greene. Paul also produces the show and he plays a house husband. So, he’s doing double-duty. Playing two roles, and in the reunion he plays both parts. It’s really funny. We also got Lisa Rinna to play a former housewife in Las Vegas. That was really fun.
If Real Hotwives gets a third season, are you hopeful that you’ll get to change it up with a new character and a new city again?
Yeah, of course. I mean, who knows if they’ll do it again. The writers are so talented that they may go on to other pursuits, but I know everyone will want to do it again. We shot seven episodes in 10 days, and I was just at the premier, and I saw the first two episodes, and they’re actually really well done. The directing is amazing, and obviously the writing is so good. It’s just kind of one and done, and it’s just really fun to do it. You don’t always get to perform with seven really funny women, so I know we… It’s like camp. It was like coming back to camp. We all had a ball.
I saw the first episode. The first season was great, but this feels a little crisper.
It is. I think it’s just like any show… I think it just came together, and it’s even better this year, and I loved it last year, but, for some reason, I agree. I think it’s even better. Ya know, we had a little bit more money this year, we had a few more days to shoot, and I think that made a huge difference. Everyone kind of knew what we were getting into. I mean, it’s a lot to shoot seven 22-minute episodes in 10 days. I think everyone kind of just had their head wrapped around it this year. And the editors are so amazing. We have some guys who have done reality TV, and I think it’s just great. It came together really well this year.
Can you talk a little about the challenges that you face with that kind of shooting window?
Yeah, I mean, it’s just really quick. On network television, you get maybe four or five takes on every scene. And, for this, literally, your first take is maybe a rehearsal, but the second take, they’re done. They’re moving on. So, it’s actually really freeing and fun, and it’s kind of just like you’re forced to throw yourself into a character and just go for it. It feels really collaborative and funny, but there’s certainly no looking back or regrets on a scene. The minute you’re kind of wondering “Should I have done it differently?” you’re done, because you’re moving on to the next. It’s kind of fun in that way, there’s not long lighting set-ups. But, you know, it’s really long hours in kind of the middle of nowhere. But we had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.
Would you say that the experience of working on SNL helped you to embrace that chaos a little?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s just such an ensemble. The Hotwives, to me, is such a fun ensemble and similar to SNL in that way, which is, you know, it’s just fun to work in a big group and everybody’s getting to be really funny. And certainly the writer’s… the writer’s write 100 percent of it, but they give us the freedom to play a little bit, and that’s really fun, too.
Moving to what you’re working on now, are you looking for more drama roles following Gone Girl? Are you trying to develop another project with your husband (Happy Endings creator David Caspe)?
I just had a baby two months ago, so I’m kind of just getting back out there and figuring out what the next move is, but I’d love to do more drama. So, we’ll see. I’m definitely writing something with my writing partner, June Diane Raphael, and working on trying to write something for us to star in. And my husband’s writing something else with some friends. So, I think we’ll just see what turns up, but I’m sure we’ll work together again.
On that note, we’ve seen shows come back after a long period of time, but do you feel like, at some point, there’s just going to be a point with Happy Endings where it’s just not possible?
I don’t know. It’s so funny because, every once in a while, there will be, like, this interest to do it again, and then it doesn’t fully come together, but it’s never because the cast and writing staff don’t want to do it. Everybody wants to come back. So, maybe we’ll be in, like, a nursing home and it’ll be very strange, but I still have hope. That’s just because I love that show so much. But I don’t know what’s going to happen, I hope it does. But there’s probably a moratorium on when, you know, when it should come back. But I hope and pray.
The Hotwives of Las Vegas premieres on Hulu today, August 18.