Aya Cash is not the kind of actress who’s desperate for awards attention.
When the “You’re the Worst” star says she’s just happy to be mentioned among the contenders, Cash uses the same statement to quickly shift focus to those other worthy women. She’s the kind of person who, mid-interview, will repeatedly ask if she’s doing okay. If she’s answering the questions properly. If she’s being a worthy contributor to the conversation.
And it’s not because she’s worried about how she’ll come across, but because she wants to genuinely help you, the interviewer, get whatever you want.
Here’s what we want: to see Cash win an Emmy for her monumental performance in “You’re the Worst” Season 2 — and plenty of other people do, too. The performance speaks for itself, and she’s letting it do just that, but such humility combined with a deep connection to the character makes Cash exactly the kind of person we should be heaping attention on, starting with an Emmy.
Not only was it a portrayal of groundbreaking significance — as Cash’s character, Gretchen, unflinchingly depicted the daily struggle of clinical depression — but the actress herself was fearless in attacking the darkest corners of her subject’s fragile psyche. Never before have we seen someone so beaten down by an unseen force — one that plagues so many of us on a daily basis —on TV, in a comedy, and the actress gave no credence to her own appearance or ego. IndieWire recently spoke with Cash, who has earned praise for depicting Gretchen with the same modesty and honesty she lives her life — humanizing herself, the character and the disease all at once.
When were your first presented with the idea of Gretchen being clinically depressed?
I got the first four scripts about two weeks before we started shooting, and I think I was on vacation. I remember reading them by a pool feeling semi-glamorous, you know? When does one get to read scripts for a TV show you’re on by a pool? And I got to the end of the fourth episode — when Gretchen is leaving in the middle of the night with no explanation — and I was like, “Well, you can’t do that to me!” That’s when I talked to Stephen about what was going on. He gave me a heads up of “This is what’s up. You’re crying in your car and this is why.”
Do you remember how much of that arc he gave to you ahead of time? How far down the rabbit hole she was going to go?
No, I didn’t know how far she was going to go. I didn’t know about the stalking episode with Justin Kirk and Tara Summers until I read it. I understood she was struggling with clinical depression and, even though there’s a spectrum on that, it’s a pretty serious issue and I knew that she was going to get dark. But I did joke with Stephen at one point: “So we’re doing a comedy and in every episode, she cries in her car?” I was like, “Wow, it’s going to be a lot.” But I loved it.
There’s a lot that goes into finding the truth and the authenticity in Gretchen while still staying true to the comedy format of the show.
I think it’s just as scary to be delivered a laugh-line as it is to be delivered lines that need emotional depth. They’re both terrifying. I’m not a naturally hilarious person. I’m not a storyteller. I’m not a joke-teller. I can barely remember jokes to save my life. I have decent comedic timing, and I have great writing.
It’s always intimidating when someone says — in the script — “I’m so sorry, I’m crying,” because you’re like, “Well fuck, I guess my decision is that I’m going to be crying in that moment.” And that can be intimidating, but you also can’t go in there and go, “I’m going to cry on this line,” because that would be fake. So I understand that it has to be emotional, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, “And…cue the tears!”
I feel like I haven’t done an interview in a couple months and I’m like, “Oh, what are these? What do I do?” You can just punch me up in any way you need. [laughs]
Perfect. It’s the ideal interview if I can just kind of make up the answers for you.
Great. “Dear Emmy Voters, Aya says she’s not very funny and not to vote for her for Best Comedy Actress.” [laughs]
It felt like this storyline opened things up a bit for Season 2; more (deserved) attention and there seemed to be a bit of a ground swell around the show in general.
I think Stephen and all the writers are really clued into something in the air. Like the amazing collective unconscious or something, because I feel like there’s a couple of shows that now have been talking about depression specifically in a very out way: “BoJack Horseman”; I think it was referenced in “Broad City.” There’s something in the air where it’s starting to come out, and we happened to be there at the beginning.
Was it daunting at all to be the face of that all of a sudden? I’m going to guess that you had to really engage with this conversation.
I felt a great responsibility and — I sound like such a ridiculous Miss America answer — but I felt honored to be a part of the conversation. It’s something that has hit very close to home for me and it’s really important to demystify because so many people struggle from depression of varying degrees.
I’m subject to that as well. I didn’t feel particularly brought down by the shooting of it, but I did actually have a very hard time, to be honest, when it aired; feeling sort of similar to how Gretchen was feeling. I had sort of a delayed reaction to it all and then felt I had to be sort of up for it when I actually myself felt down.
It’s just a big responsibility, and I felt so moved by people who reach out and said that they were struggling with depression and that it helped them. I was so excited that people, for the most part, seemed to be excited to see a fun, comedic character go through that and not be like, ‘Where’s my comedy? I wanted the sex and the fun. Where’s fun Gretchen?’ The truth is fun Gretchen is partly fun because of her depression. A lot her “fun” things that she does are self-medicating. So, it’s all tied together.
In Episode 7, “There’s Not Currently a Problem,” there was so much Gretchen had to go through — all in a moment. It was so vehement, I have to imagine that shooting that scene was pretty exhausting simply from a physical standpoint.
Yeah, I was actually very sick and they moved that shoot day a couple days so that I could at least be slightly coherent for it, which was so insanely lovely. I was a mess.
Don’t judge me for sounding like a pretentious asshole, but coming from “theáter,” [laughs] I actually really enjoy getting to roll into something, so I like a long take. It’s a lot of work and you have to make sure you’re really on top of it, but we’re pretty good about that anyway, so it’s really fun to take a five-page scene and be able to just go and rev up and try different things. We just played. Everyone else had to have stamina, too. I mean, watching me stutter for five pages takes some stamina.
Acting is so bizarre. I think the most important thing is to be there for someone else. Ultimately, if you’re there for someone else, you’ll make yourself look good, too, because you’ll be doing the right thing for what’s happening in the moment.
“You’re the Worst” Season 3 premieres August 31 on FXX.
[Editor’s Note: IndieWire’s Consider This campaign is an ongoing series meant to raise awareness for Emmy contenders our editorial staff and readership find compelling, fascinating and deserving. Running throughout awards season, Consider This contenders may be underdogs, frontrunners or somewhere in between. More importantly, they’re making damn good television we all should be watching, whether they’re nominated or not.]