I can’t believe how great the chemistry is between Aya Cash and Chris Geere. How’d that casting come about?
I’d seen every actor that could be right for [Jimmy]. I’d actually written him to be a little more schlubby, but I couldn’t find the guy. The guy has to have incredible verbal proficiency because Jimmy is a very eloquent, if at times pretentious, talker, so you have to have that verbal ability. [He has to] be very charming but able to be nasty, but not be repellant, so I think you [need to] have a misanthropic douchebag quality to you as an actor. To find that person is incredibly hard. I got to see a tape of this tall handsome British guy and within the first sentence I knew that was him. That’s where the casting completely changed the concept of the character. The network, while they loved him, had a hard time because I had convinced them that he was this one guy and then they had to shift their thinking. But they were on board.
I’d been aware of [Aya], so she came to read for me on this. We had met on a previous project that didn’t work out. She just blew me away. I don’t think I’m out of step saying this: The network was hesitant. We had to have her audition again and to her credit she was game for it. She had been offered a role on a very lucrative crime drama, and it was a very harrowing 24-hours where her time limit on that offer was about to be up. It was an offer that would set her for life. Seven years, make a lot of money — she could retire and open an antiques shop upstate — but she really wanted to do this. I actually flew out to New York and did a private taping with her and sent it to FX. We had an hour left; it was very dramatic. To their credit, FX watched her again, gave her another shot, and loved her. This was after we had done a chemistry read and they saw what I saw. It took a little convincing, but once they saw the pilot, they were like, “You were completely right.”
They’re just so fantastic together. I think that it helps that they’re both such amazing, lovely human beings, and they’re both married so there’s never any weirdness. And they’re both incredible actors.
Do you have a clear idea of where the story will go if the show is renewed for Season 2? Jimmy and Gretchen are starting a new chapter, but there’s always a problem with shows about “bad” characters: It’s going to feel false if you reform them, but they can’t stay the same way forever.
That’s the eternal question with television that isn’t a procedural. You have to make the characters stay true to themselves, but you also have to keep reinventing the show or it gets boring — not only for the audience but for you. On Weeds, where we literally blew up the entire concept at the end of Season 3, some people were really upset by that. I don’t blame them, but at the same time, no one would be watching if we had had five seasons in Agrestic selling pot. You have to keep moving.
Once you see the finale and you see what happens at the end, I think it gives a very clear vision of what the next season can look like. At the same time, Jimmy and Gretchen are very, very difficult people; I’m not worried about finding issues or conflicts. We’ll hopefully explore more of the ensemble, which is something I love. I think all the supporting players, particularly Edgar and Lindsay, will keep having stuff to do. But, again, this is a very traditional romantic comedy in wolves’ clothing, so we’re going to continue to follow the normal course of a relationship but with a very strange worldview.
When Gretchen and Jimmy move in together, they’re taking small steps toward adulthood and normalcy but still aren’t wholly comfortable with it.
I think you see it in the second-to-last shot in Episode 10. You see that split-screen, you see the looks on their faces, and I think that tells the whole story.
There’s a great contrast throughout the series, where Lindsay is a perfect wife who then cheats, while Gretchen isn’t into relationships but then ends up in one.
Something that struck the writers as very funny and true is that, at the end of the season, Jimmy and Gretchen are the ones that are happy and, in the process of kind of finding each other, have destroyed the lives of everyone around them. There’s something funny about two human beings, who are such narcissists and nightmares of people, seeing the damage that everyone else has to take on and emerging happy. That makes me laugh.
Edgar is an interesting character. It’s usually a personal choice to include a character like him.
I think it’s a very strange choice in a comedy to touch on a subject like that. It’s potentially really tricky because there’s nothing inherently funny in PTSD or what we do to our veterans after we’ve used them.
Like the VA scene.
Yeah, the VA scene where he was trying to get his meds. I think we approached it trying to take very serious things that vets go through, but take them as a day-to-day task that Edgar has to do and see how hard the Veterans Administration makes it — something as simple as getting the meds that you need and deserve.
It’s tragic and, sure, you could show it as a tragedy, but that’s not fun. Who wants to see that? With this comedy, we have the ability to tackle a real subject, a serious subject, and shed light on it while also enjoying watching it. That’s the only way I can respond to serious subjects: through comedy. That’s just how I’m wired, which is maybe weird, but that’s just who I am.
I’m very sensitive to the subject and we did have a guest in the writers’ room — a veteran with PTSD — who talked to us. He was very adamant on wanting to see the subject tackled in a not incredibly somber way. Hopefully we’ve done that.
You’ve worked on Weeds and Orange Is the New Black, with Jenji Kohan. Did she teach you anything that’s carried over to your approach to You’re the Worst?
I don’t mean to be flip when I say there isn’t really an answer to that, because she’s pretty much taught me everything. If you give me a couple of minutes I could come up with a top five.
Jenji is fearless when it comes to staying true to her characters and telling the best possible story. She’s just fearless in that way. I could tell you stories from casting to writing to editing to music — ten things about each of those she’s taught me. She’s an amazing teacher, and I’m incredibly happy that my name and hers appear next to each other sometimes. It’s just incredibly gratifying.