"You're the Worst" stars on why they'll never try to make Jimmy and Gretchen likable: "That’s just a recipe for failure"

Aya Cash and Chris Geere talk to Salon about romance in the Tinder age, fear and their new season on FXX

Published September 9, 2015 7:18PM (EDT)

  ("You're the Worst"/FXX)
("You're the Worst"/FXX)

When I started talking with Aya Cash and Chris Geere, the stars of FXX’s “You’re The Worst,” it took me a few minutes to remember that they weren’t the endearing messes they play in the sitcom. Jimmy and Gretchen are foul-mouthed, morally questionable, and rather reluctant lovers, approaching both coupledom and adulthood with the same cynical and terrified detachment. Geere and Cash, meanwhile, are delightful—a lot more functional, a lot less expletive-laden. Their performances and captivating dynamic made the first season into an unexpected gem—not the sex-driven comedy that the advertising and even the pilot suggested, but rather a romantic-comedy with refreshing bite.

“You’re The Worst,” which returns for season two tonight, was one of my best shows of last year. The upcoming season is taking Jimmy and Gretchen on a new and somewhat petrifying journey—cohabitation, complete with IKEA furniture and bedtime conversation. I talked to the Cash and Geere about “You’re The Worst”’s narrative of modern romance, and asked what advice they might give their endearingly flawed characters.

There’s been a little bit of talk in the media about how our generation’s dating is potentially even more fucked up that any other generation’s dating.

Aya Cash: I just read that article in Vanity Fair about Tinder and Hinge and all those other things, and it’s terrifying. I feel like, in some ways, it’s the danger of choice. It’s like going into a supermarket and there’s 95 jams to choose from, so you can’t choose a jam. What creates intimacy is generally small groups, and you sort of find your partner out of a small group. To have access to basically anyone anywhere, in some ways, makes people paralyzed by choice. If I was on Tinder, I would immediately dismiss people who I would be attracted to because, for me, attraction is a completely in-person experience. It’s about how someone touches you. It’s about sense of humor. I can’t possibly imagine having found my partner on one of those dating websites.

Chris Geere: It’s a very tricky time to find love, I think. Yeah, as Aya said, there’s just too much choice these days. I really encourage people to get out and talk to each other. Exactly what Aya said—I don’t believe that you can find attraction in a small little photo. That’s not what love is about. That’s not what finding love is about. I think it’s very difficult. I understand it’s a fad, but I really hope it’s just a fad and that people will go out and enjoy what romance is all about. That’s something very different.

That’s so much more idealistic than your character.

[Both laugh.]

AC: Chris is the least like his character.

How much do you see yourselves in these characters?

CG: There’s a very relatable thing about, you know, you might not be as as-they-come as Jimmy and Gretchen are, but everyone in any relationship has made a mistake somewhere. I’m not talking about cheating, I’m talking about stuff that you say or that you do, or that you believe to be right at the time, or don’t even think about it at all when you’re doing it. But to work out together that something needs to change is something that’s very common in relationships. Yes, we may follow some very typical relationship pitfalls, like moving in together or not finding enough space for each other’s stuff—but there’s also much deeper things as we get deeper into the series. Things about your personality and about your past that always come to the forefront in a relationship. And the strength of the relationship is how those two deal with that. That’s what I think people find endearing about the show is that we will go there in a comedy, and people are invested in the characters enough that they’ll stick with us.

I value very much that while show is this romantic comedy that we’ve seen many times before, it’s about characters that have difficulties that feel very real and very lived in, but also aren’t super dramatic or precious. How do you balance the heavier stuff with the comedy of the show?

CG: I always just trust my fellow actor, actually. We always discuss things beforehand—Aya and I would get together on weekends and discuss the scene and what the purpose of the scene is meant to be. It’s just a joy to play because in the morning, we’ll be doing something kind of slapstick-y — a theme-tune, catch-phrase type sitcom — and in the afternoon, we’re doing hard-hitting drama. It’s amazing that Stephen’s written that kind of stuff for us. The key to that is to both be on the same page, to which, touch wood, we always have been. We all want to get the truth out in the scene and to tell the story. I think my favorite scenes are always the dramatic ones toward the end of the episodes, where they both realize that they may have been wrong in some way and how are they going to get around that, and that sort of thing.

AC: I think that comedy and drama are very, very close to each other. I don’t really think of it as playing things differently. The writing sort of tells you if it’s comedic or dramatic because it’s funny or it’s dark—but it doesn’t change how I am thinking about playing a scene. What I like about this show is that even though there are some great lines, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times, it’s not joke-joke-joke. It’s very much comedy out of circumstance and out of character, as opposed to writing joke after joke. That makes it easier for us because I don’t feel like I have to hit a joke. I can just play a scene.

How do you continue to make these characters interior and also likable to the audience at home? I think that’s a difficult balance as an actor. Your characters, at times, are doing very terrible things. It’s often very funny, but then you also want them to care as well.

CG: I think the key is to never try to make them likable. I think you’d fail straight away if you do that. It looks like you’re trying too hard. I think where I kind of — it’s a big admission here, but maybe in a couple episodes early on in the first season, I was maybe playing the jokes a bit more, recognizing that there needed to be this in this scene and stuff like that. I think this season, because we’re far more comfortable with each other and ourselves, that we can just trust in the character far more. That has brought out the best in each other. We found some really funny bits that, at first, we didn’t think were there. We found some other moments or beats between us that just kind of happened on set. That’s amazing when you find that stuff because that makes everyone kind of reiterate how invested we all are and want to make it work.

AC: I don’t think of it as trying to make them likable. That’s just a recipe for failure. I don’t really care if people like them or not. That’s not the goal. We’re making something to entertain and maybe to subversively engage your mind unexpectedly, I would say. Not we — the writers are. We just are the flesh puppets that make it happen.

CG: Awesome flesh puppets.

AC: But I think it’s a trap and I don’t really feel the need to play that game. “Seinfeld” was quote-unquote “unlikable people,” but just because they’re not necessarily sweet and loving all the time doesn’t mean they’re not interesting or exciting people to watch. I’d rather be interesting than likable. Well, in real life I want to be likable, let’s be clear. Please like me! Please love me! But as a character, I’d much rather watch someone who’s interesting.

There must be something so freeing about being able to inhabit these personalities briefly.

CG: We’ve always said that they are the voice of un-reason, in a way. Also, they’re the envy of any — not shy or retiring person, but the normal person, really, who wouldn’t speak their mind in every situation that irritated them. So yeah, that’s great fun for us to do. We can go hell-for-leather trying to do it. [Pause.] That’s an English phrase, isn’t it?

AC: No idea.

CG: It means kind of “dive in headfirst.” Just to really go for it.

Speaking of, is “head wigglies” a real term? Or did you guys invent that?

CG: I think Stephen may have invented it himself, but what I found funny is that it’s something that totally would be said in this country. I said it the other day when I was selfishly trying to get a reaction. I really wanted someone to say, as Gretchen did, head wigglies? And there were four people at the table, and no one said anything. As if it were, like, perfectly acceptable.

Have you had viewers approach you about this show, that it says something more real or authentic about being young in a city than other shows have?

AC: Yeah, it’s funny. A lot of people who write about this show seem to express that — that they recently discovered it, have never heard of it, and they were like, “Oh my God, this is my life!” Especially people in LA, because LA is such a character in a show. It feels very real to people, especially people who live on the East Side. I think that’s great. No one’s come up to me and been like, “I have a cock-aholic addiction,” you know? This is real! But people definitely express, “This is my life. This is my friends, my life. We’ve just had ‘Sunday Funday.’” That’s really fun to see. I’m glad that they think it’s real. I’m worried for them, but I’m also glad.

What can you tell us about the upcoming season?

AC: Chris is silent, which usually means he wants me to answer.

CG: [Laughs.] She knows the rules!

AC: You see all this sort of mishegoss of them moving in and agita that they face of being in the same living space and having to share their space. And then, midway through the season, you’re going to get a reveal, I would say, and they start to deal with some real issues. You’re going to get to see Jimmy’s family, and that’s really brilliant. And tons more of Edgar and Lindsay, as well as a lot of world building. Characters that you saw briefly in season 1 come back, as well as all of that sort regular recurring stuff. I love the world that Stephen and all the writers have created. Even the barfly who was in one of the episodes is in the bar all the time. Or the frozen yogurt guy — we go to the frozen yogurt place again, and the frozen yogurt guy is there. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces.

The guy in episode two ["Crevasses" who’s really happy with his job as a security guard is the guy who was really happy with his pizza delivery job in “What Normal People Do,” right?

CG: That’s right! Steve Agee, we just love him. It was great to see him again. When I was working with him that day, we were trying to figure out what he could be next season, or how he could become a semi-regular or even a regular. He’s just brilliant. He brings this fantastic energy into it. But it’s not unheard of that a pizza deliveryman could suddenly become a security guard, so why not see that?

AC: “Sunday Funday” is epic this season. It’s so much fun. The little bits we’ve seen — we saw a little montage at the wrap party — I’m so excited to see it and to see how it came out. I feel like Sunday Funday last year was a real fan favorite, and Stephen is going to push you this year as fans to go to new places, and Sunday Funday is, I feel like, an episode that will be so joyous for the fans who were fans last year. I’m most excited for people to see.

CG: Absolutely, me too. You take these four characters that people have known to love or not love in their own way and then you add costumes, and music, and fear — it’s very funny.

Was fear the last thing? Fear of what?

CG: Fear of relationships, fear of others, fear of… something else.

AC: That’s all you get.

What advice do you have for your characters?

CG: Stop writing. Do something else.

AC: [To Geere.] No! You kidding?

CG: [Mock-shouting.] It’s not working out for you, mate. If I were Jimmy’s best friend—

AC: I disagree! I think that this year Jimmy has found his writing calling.

CG: [Laughs.] Oh yeah, I think he has! I can’t wait for people to—actually, that’s one of my top three things that I can’t wait for people to see, that scene. [Interviewer’s note: I have no idea what scene they’re talking about.] Aya and I have several scenes justin the bed together, in the morning, where we kind of set up what the episode is going to be about basically. I told Stephen that that would be a brilliant spinoff, just us bantering back and forth with each other in bed. They were very fun for us to do.

AC: And easy blocking! We like days where you don’t have to memorize where you’re going.

CG: [Laughs.] Again, the finale is immense. We revisit a certain place. Everyone in the whole show is in it, so that is something that I can’t wait for people to see.

Aya, do you have any advice for your character?

AC: I would say, just jump in! Just embrace it, being in a relationship. They try to avoid it and try to hide and go into their own little turtle modes. I would say “Just embrace it. I’m sure after 10 years if you want to fuck someone else, Jimmy will be cool with it, so you’re never going to get better than this.”

[Both laugh.]

I feel like Jimmy would be like, “Yeah, all right.”

CG: As long as he can shag someone as well.

AC: Exactly.

EXCLUSIVE! 'You're the Worst' Sneak Peek: Jimmy and Gretchen Are Still Awful in Season 2


By Sonia Saraiya

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