Thomas Haden Church Talks About ‘Divorce’ And His Surf Cop Past

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After spending six seasons on NBC’s Wings as airplane mechanic Lowell Mather and following up with two seasons on Fox’s Ned and Stacey as Debra Messing’s husband of convenience, Thomas Haden Church appeared to have permanently broken the surly bonds of the small screen when he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the 2004 film Sideways. Indeed, that acclaim did put him in a position where he was able to find gainful employment in the film world on a regular basis, but when HBO comes calling with a half-hour comedy that provides you with the opportunity to work with one of the most high-profile comedic actresses in the business – we’re referring to Sarah Jessica Parker, of course – and on a well-written TV series to boot, you do exactly what Church did: you say yes. (That the show is created by Catastrophe‘s Sharon Horgan and executive produced by Paul Simms probably didn’t hurt.)

Church sat down with Uproxx during this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour to discuss the tone of Divorce, whose first season finale airs this Sunday, and how he found his way into the series in the first place, but he was also kind enough to indulge the whims of an aging pop culture journalist, reminiscing about his first-ever TV gig, his cameo in Monkeybone, and the bond he built with Johnny Depp as a result of guesting on 21 Jump Street once upon a long ago.

Divorce is kind of a dark series.

Is it?

It’s certainly a bit dark, anyway. Did you not think so?

Well, you know, it’s not supposed to be a straight-ahead comedy. And while we try to balance sort of the absurdity and the pathos of going through what these people are going through, it’s going to… I would say yeah. I think everybody set out to kind of have a dark comedic tone or, conversely, a light dramatic tone. But sometimes the drama gets a little tense. And that’s okay, too, because Sarah Jessica and I always set out… Well, not just us. The whole team. But S.J. and I, as the lead actors, we always set out to be very purposeful in its always being accessible in a human way, that you see behavior that can easily typify people going through a divorce that don’t want to go through a divorce.

Even in the pilot, when she announces that she wants a divorce, she literally the next morning regrets it and tries to fix it all and change it all and do a 180 and try to… make nice. [Laughs.] And to act like it was a ridiculous bump in the road, it was insignificant, and let’s just move on. And that’s because she doesn’t know what she wants, and she blindsides him with it. But as we peel off all of the layers throughout the season, we see Robert’s path, what his engine was, and how much of it was designed for destruction of the marriage. And he’s not even aware of it. That’s the thing: It’s not all her. There’s no one to blame. And you love to play that game in a relationship of going, “Yeah, well, I might’ve done that, but what you did was worse.” “No, no, no, no. Remember that thing you did…”