[Editor’s Note: This interview originally ran in June 2015. It has since been lightly edited to focus on pertinent issues.]
When “You’re the Worst” premiered on FX in the summer of 2014, it wasn’t an immediate smash. Soon, though, the series focusing on an atypical relationship’s journey from resentful guardedness to cautionary love was swooped up by a cult fandom and passionate critics. Before the series kicked off its second season, Indiewire sat down with stars Aya Cash and Chris Geere to discuss Emmys campaign strategies, challenging scenes and what’s coming next for everyone’s favorite “worst” friends.
On the critical support for “You’re the Worst,” and how they keep up with reviews:
Aya Cash: Yeah, I’m totally above that, I don’t read anything or engage in any— that’s what I’m supposed to say, right? No, I read everything. I was completely obsessed. I find that when you believe in something and you’re excited about something, I can’t help myself. […] So I read everything, and it was hugely exciting and nice that people liked it, because sometimes you think something’s great and then everybody else doesn’t, and that really sucks. But I feel like we partially got a Season 2 because of the critical support, so I have engaged in any way they’ve asked me to.
Chris Geere: Yeah, absolutely. I mean it was a crazy few weeks because when the series was airing, I’d never really paid particular attention to ratings before. But it’s a much bigger deal over here than it is in the U.K. […] We weren’t getting the coverage that we were hoping for, and so obviously I was like, “This is terrible, what’s going on?” And then, all of a sudden, a handful of critics just got hold of the admiration for the show, and it kind of snowballed into weeks and weeks of this amazing praise, and it was very overwhelming. It was incredible, and so obviously after that we started tweeting about the show much more, and then everyone got involved and then even while Episode 10 finished, the fanbase was still growing. So yeah, we’re very happy.
On how Gretchen (a publicist) would handle the “You’re the Worst” Emmys campaign:
Cash: I think Gretchen would probably go the TMZ route. I think Gretchen would probably be like, “Okay, I’m not wearing underwear tonight. I’m just going to go travel to all the places paparazzi are, and get out of the car and show my vagina every time, to try to get attention.” [laughs] But drinking and the debauchery route, and the negative attention in order to get any attention, is probably how she would go.
Geere: Well, if Gretchen was in charge, we wouldn’t win. [laughs] Because she’d probably be really interested at first and then kind of forget that she’s doing a job. I think if Jimmy and Gretchen were both in charge they wouldn’t fail because they can’t. They don’t like being second best. They would continue it and fight and do the best they could — whether illegal or legal — to gain the prize that they think it deserves.
On their proudest or most difficult scene:
Cash: You know, I’m almost sick of talking about the sex stuff since everyone brings it up, but, truthfully, that is the most challenging stuff for me because I think that there’s a lot of times that, as a woman in this business, you’re asked to be naked or be doing things that are degrading. And I really thought that the way the sex was used, and the side-boob or whatever, is great in our show and is very respectful, and it’s funny, and it’s playful, and it’s slightly sexy but very awkward and I really appreciated that. But I’ve never actually said yes to doing something like that before. I often turn down auditions that say “nudity required,” and I had never done a sex scene before, so that was pretty terrifying. I didn’t grow up as a dancer where you just walk around naked all the time, and it’s a scary thing to put pasties on and take off all your clothes and simulate sex with another person in front of a room full of crew members, so that was really terrifying for me. But I also really trusted the writing and I really trusted my other actor and director. So actually, it was much worse in anticipation that it was in reality. But I always get nervous doing those scenes, and I’ve said to Stephen before when I’ve had a question about something sexual, “I just don’t want to make her look pathetic.” I want it to be coming from a place of power and that she uses sex in her toolbox, but it’s never, in any way, something pathetic or sad. […] I love that she doesn’t give a shit about what people think of her and she’s gonna do her [thing] no matter what, even sometimes at the expense of other people. But it’s never malicious — she’s never out there trying to hurt people. But, you know, if someone gets trampled accidentally… oh well.
On key scenes to convey empathy in the “worst” characters:
Cash: I think the scene in Episode 10 last year, the finale, when she basically says “yes” to Jimmy’s non-proposal [was key]. I thought that was such a beautifully written scene, and it’s a very vulnerable moment for her. It’s filled with humor, but it’s also one of the few moments where she’s really open and being vulnerable with Jimmy and saying “yes” to getting married to him, and then finds out that he wasn’t actually proposing to her. So that was really important to hit that balance and to stay true to her really going with it and saying, “Yes, I’m going to marry you.” I try not to concern myself too much with what other people are going to think of her. As long as I believe in her and what she’s doing, I feel like that’s sort of enough. It’s not my business, necessarily, whether people like her or find her relatable because, ultimately, you can’t please everyone, and if you try to you’re gonna come out with something pretty tepid and boring –– and palatable, which is not the goal. I always feel like in theater, if someone doesn’t walk out, it means you haven’t done your job right. That doesn’t mean you want everyone to walk out, but you should be causing waves, you should be creating divides because you’re saying something. And as soon as you say something, people are going to react to it, and sometimes negatively.
Geere: Right at the beginning of the series — I think it was Episode 2 or 3 — I have quite a few heavy monologues, and I, as an actor, was trying to work out the tone of the show. I think all of us were. That had been my first week, and I’d come from a comedy series in the U.K. which was much more broad. […] So I look back on that and I think, “Well, actually, it’s quite interesting because you see the characters be bold and become more comfortable with each other,” but I think all of us became more comfortable with our performances as well, and that’s really evident this year. With the experience of last year has come an awful lot of confidence. We know the tone of the show, and we can just continue telling stories. The characters have evolved and the stories evolved and it’s brilliant. I’m really excited for this year.
On creator Stephen Falk’s penchant for keeping scripts secret:
Cash: I just have a lot of trust in [the writers], and they haven’t steered us wrong yet, so I don’t mind. If I was concerned about what they were going to do, I might have an issue with it, but I believe that it’s all a collaboration. Their job is to write it, and my job is to make it look like they didn’t. I stole that — that’s a really good line. Jeff Daniels said that to me once, and I thought that was so brilliant about working on “The Newsroom”; he said that what he loves about Sorkin is that he trusts Sorkin and that he says it’s his job to write it and it’s my job to make it look like he didn’t. And I think that’s kind of brilliant.
Geere: Individually, I don’t want to know anything. Some of the other guys want to know what happens in the series because they’re just very interested. If there’s something that I think is important or if Stephen thinks would be important to playing the scene that I’m shooting that day or if there’s something that happens later on that’s important, then he’ll tell me. He’s already on that. Usually I don’t want to know because I don’t want to make any decisions based on what will happen. We’ve got four episodes at a time. I’m all learned up and we’re shooting Episode 4 at the moment. Stephen is the key to the sequence because he’s written them all out, and so he knows where it is. I can’t imagine that it’s going to be a happy ending. I can’t imagine that they resolve all their issues and become great people and then we leave it at that. It’s only going to get worse for all these guys.
On goals for Gretchen and Jimmy in Season 2:
Cash: You know, it’s funny, because playing a character you have some ideas about what you want them to get through, but as an audience member, I would not want her to figure it all out because I think it’s much more interesting to watch someone searching and struggling than it is to watch someone who’s got it all figured out. I hope Gretchen finds some relaxation and quiet and peace, but for the show I hope she doesn’t. I hope she continues to make mistakes, and I hope that they as a couple continue to grow — but also destroy each other. I mean, it’s much more interesting to watch them struggle than to watch them figure it out, ultimately. So, hopefully, you get little moments of clarity or steps forward, but I think it’s sort of two steps forward, two steps back — or whatever, now I’m going to quote Paula Abdul — what is it? “Two steps forward, three steps back?” I can’t remember. [laughs] We stick together because opposites attract. Just trust Jeff Daniels and Paula Abdul, that’s where I get all my inspiration.
Geere: Yeah, I hope he finds success professionally because it’s all about trying to get his big novel done. That’s his big game. The first novel had a bit of a semi-positive review, and I just hope that he finds some success professionally, which may or may not have an impact on the relationship. But I don’t know, certainly I’d love for them to realize that they’ve fallen in love with each other. Will they do that? I don’t know. Probably not. That would be the hardest thing for either of them to say, but I think it’s definitely in the cards.