He’s the Best
by Jay S. Jacobs
In just under two seasons now, You’re the Worst on FXX (the first season ran on FX) has become one of the most intriguing comedies on TV – if not the most challenging series.
The first season was about millennial dating mores and the changing values in romance. It started when Jimmy (Chris Geere), a self-absorbed but obscure British novelist, hooked up with Gretchen (Aya Cash), a jaded music publicist, at a wedding. Of course, they weren’t there to celebrate. He wanted to tell off the bride, who was an ex who ended things badly. She was looking to steal a food processor.
Somehow, though, their one-night-stand turned into something of a relationship, despite the fact that both of them abhorred the very idea of romantic love. They tried to traverse these new waters with advice from their best friends – her friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue), a nymphomaniac party girl stuck in a loveless marriage, and his roommate Edgar (Desmin Borges), an Iraq veteran and former pot dealer who was trying stay clean from a past heroin habit.
I was able to catch up with the entire cast of You’re the Worst on a location set last summer. At that point, the show had not yet premiered and I’d only seen two episodes, though the cast was in the midst of filming a party scene for the season finale. While the series showed great promise as a jaded anti-romantic comedy, no one probably would have guessed the emotional depths the series would come to explore.
As good as the first season was, the second season has been something of a revelation. Show runner Stephen Falk has taken his supremely smart and interesting characters and given the new nuances. Not willing to skim along on the surfaces, the second season has been something of a dark night of the soul for the main characters, but despite some rocky going in their personal lives, the show remains as funny as ever.
“We’re super excited,” Desmin Borges told me when I recently caught up with him again to talk about the second season. “It’s going splendidly, we think.”
The second season has been able to dig much deeper into the four relationships. Lindsay is lost and depressed because her husband Paul left her. Edgar falls unrequitedly for Lindsay and finally starts to come to terms with his Iraq experience through improv comedy, and even find a new love in a neurotic improv comedienne named Dorothy. Jimmy’s literary career is sputtering and he is trying to deal with his Gretchen moving in with him, particularly after Gretchen starts showing signs of clinical depression.
In fact, in the recent episode, “LCD Soundsystem,” a stunning example of the changes afoot, the episode almost entirely revolved around two completely new characters, a neighbor couple who Gretchen became obsessed with. Gretchen was in less than half of the show. Jimmy was barely in it. The rest of the show’s characters did not appear at all. Yet the episode may have caused a seismic shift in all of the series characters’ relationships with each other.
As the second season is winding down to the last few episodes, I sat back down with Borges to catch up on the changes with the characters and the show.
For the most part, Edgar is the only really giving, thoughtful person in the group. Do you ever wish you could be as bad as the other characters?
Oh, yeah! Of course. I always throw in little pieces here and there to Stephen and the writers. Like have Edgar break bad, maybe. Maybe have something where we actually find this scene with him shooting up, although I don’t think that’s the direction people want me to go with the character. But I’d love to. I think at some point, if we’re lucky enough to keep this bad boy going, we’re going to have to see Edgar drop. That’s just the nature of mental conditions, PTSD. It’s like a rollercoaster. Right now he’s on a really great upward trajectory, but at some point, statistically speaking, there’s going to be something that rocks his world and brings him back down and he’s going to have to climb again. It will be interesting to see if we ever get to the point where I get to explore that.
On the other hand, do you feel that there is something heroic in Edgar that he can remain basically human when surrounded by such self-absorbed characters?
Yeah. Maybe that’s the key to the success. You surround yourself with people who are inevitably selfish and damaged, maybe even more so than you at the root, which causes you to continually be thankful that your side is brighter, off this day or this week.
Edgar has sort of found himself this season through improv comedy, though honestly he’s not very good at it. Why do you think that appeals to Edgar?
I think he thinks it is something that he’s actually good at. I mean, he’s not going to be Will Ferrell or Cheri Oteri breaking out over there with the group, but I feel like it’s something that gives him a lot of confidence within himself. It has opened up his world to new friendships. His overall journey for this season is to be as – and I’m putting quotes up here – “normal as possible.” Whatever that means to anybody. Last year we dealt a lot with him being labeled as a former vet with PTSD and a pot dealer, riddled with abusing heroin and constantly watching Rachael Ray. This season, we’re actually moving on to him really trying to transition into civilian life. Into a formal place in life, so he can interact with other people. I think he’s really enjoying it. And the improv comedy definitely opens up doors those for him. It gives him confidence.
The most recent episode aired, the second Sunday Funday episode, they showed Edgar relapsing a little bit with PTSD not under his control. Obviously that is a serious subject for a comedy, but do you think that will be explored more as the series continues?
Oh yeah. That mental condition lasts. It doesn’t really ever completely leave anybody, no matter how well that they are doing. Specifically within those circumstances, I mean we were acting in that haunted house and sometimes I was scared out of my mind. You can just imagine someone who is riddled with it, for the lights and the music to be going as it is. People popping out of anywhere to grab you and clinically do fake harm to you or whatever. I can imagine that that issue would arise. I’m guessing we’ll see more of it. But thankfully enough, Dorothy was so receptive and understanding, which is one of the reasons why he falls so hard for her, so quickly. She’s just really such a good person. Actually interested in him, and his life, and his past experiences. I don’t think it was the best place to divulge that sort of personal information to her, but I’m glad that she was as receptive as she was in that situation. Then Edgar actually got to have sex for the first time in three years, which is a hell of a milestone within itself, right?
I have to admit I’ve never seen a no-holds-barred haunted house quite like the one on your show. Is that a thing now, or did Stephen and the writers come up with it?
Oh, no, no, that’s a thing. The craziest one apparently is this one in San Diego. It’s a minimum of three hours. There is no safe word. I’ve gone through one similar when I was in Texas, when I was a little younger, where you do sign a waiver saying that you won’t sue them if you get hurt or you get too scared and you pee on yourself, or something like that. I think it’s basically like, unless if you have to be rushed to the hospital and you’re dying, they are not responsible for anything else other than that. So, it’s cool that it came off as well as it did. Our art department and our director, they did such a damned good job with that. Those seven minutes in that haunted house, I was there and I remember all those things, and it’s still scary to me. I can only imagine what it’s like for the viewers who weren’t actually there shooting.
With his own problems, Edgar also picked up on Gretchen’s depression very quickly and I think he sees it more seriously than Jimmy, who almost looks at it as mostly an inconvenience. Do we get more information on the source of Gretchen’s problem, and will she work towards getting better as the season goes on?
That’s a main storyline for Jimmy and Gretchen specifically, and the crew as a whole, for the rest of the season. Clinical depression isn’t really something that half-hour comedies, romantic comedies, anti-romantic comedies, really touch on. It’s a very realistic issue that you deal with in all sorts of different ways, whether you’re in a relationship or you are a friend of someone who is a relationship. The answer is yes, for the rest of this season we will continue to tell that story and monitor that storyline. Edgar, of course, will be as sympathetic as he can be, because he probably is the only one who truly understands personally what’s going on. Although Lindsay’s character in that scene in episode seven, we saw a whole different side of Lindsay and Gretchen’s relationship. How close they are, with the scene that happened on the bed before she came out and apologized and told everyone that she was clinically depressed.
Speaking of performances, the show sort of showed Edgar falling for Lindsay in the final episode when she sang “This Woman’s Work.” That continued into this season, but he was totally friend-zoned by her, in fact, she treated him more like a girlfriend than anything else.
Lindsay is obviously kind of a hot mess this season, missing Paul even though she never really loved him, overeating, not sure how to take care of herself. Do you think Edgar wanted to save her, or was he really in love?
I think he was really falling for her. If you remember back to season one, that meta episode when we realize we’re sidekicks. We realize that within our friendships with Jimmy and Gretchen that they never actually ask us anything about ourselves or listen to anything that we really have to say. Edgar and Lindsay found a really good friendship and had really great chemistry together. It’s like that old saying… I don’t even know if this is an old saying, but I’ve heard so many people saying, “I want to marry someone who is my best friend.” Somebody that you were friends with, that you built a foundation with. That you can do buddy-buddy things with, but also be super intimate with. Start a family and start a life with. Edgar in his mind thought that he was actually falling into what was an appropriate groove. Then, of course, she just didn’t want Edgar in that way. Although, now, she’s super jealous that he has somebody else.
So just looking at it from the outside, do you think that Edgar will try to end up with Dorothy or Lindsay? Dorothy is the sweet, perfect girl who would probably be better for him, but Lindsay is the one who he could never get, and that has a strong pull.
Yeah. I think that is ultimately a tug of war that we’re going to watch continue to develop as time goes on. You said it best, Dorothy is obviously the smarter, more mature choice in the relationship scenario, but we are creatures that always want what we can’t have. You tell me I can’t eat that candy bar, you better be damned sure that I’m going to do everything in my power to eat that candy bar. (laughs) I think that’s something we’ll see him continue to grapple with as the season progresses.
Have you ever had a situation like that, where you were interested in a girl and she just never got it or tried to keep you on the line as a fall back, and then when you became unavailable suddenly she was back?
Oh yes, very much so. Two specific instances, when I was in college. One of them happened to be one of my best lady friends. I thought everything was kind of falling into place. We had been friends for a couple of years. Then I started to develop feelings and she really didn’t. Then I started seeing someone else and she developed feelings. Then I broke that off and then I came to her and she didn’t want me anymore. She wanted somebody else. Which is unfortunate, but it’s also indicative of naïveté and the lack of maturity. I feel like that happens a lot more in younger relationships than it does once people get into their groove. Into their mid-30s. But with Edgar, he hadn’t had sex in three years. Probably hasn’t had a real girlfriend since maybe he was getting out of high school, right before he went to Iraq. So emotionally he’s still like an 18 to 20 year old kid. We’re witnessing the relationship aspect, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s something that he goes back and explores quite a bit.
The one episode in which Jimmy and Gretchen woke up and panicked when you were not there, if only because they didn’t know how to make breakfast for themselves, was interesting. Do you think that they could survive without Edgar?
It would be difficult for them. They would go through all the food and all the alcohol in the house first. They might figure out that GrubHub works – how to work GrubHub or Seamless.com. But they might die from starvation. Statistically, I’d give it like 76% that they would die from starvation. (laughs)
What would you do on your ideal Sunday Funday?
Right now it’s football season, so my ideal Sunday Funday is I usually have something in the kitchen that I have cooked, marinated for a night, whether it’s some crazy hot chili wings or some marinated skirt steak. I wake up in the morning and get some Bloody Marys going. I get some food going on the grill. Then I watch the first round of games with some friends. Then usually after the first round of games and eating and having some Bloody Marys, I fall asleep on the couch. Then I wake up to either watch the night game or if I’m too tired, I sleep all the way to Monday morning. That to me is a hell of a Sunday Funday. (laughs)
How is it that you think that You’re the Worst can touch on such serious issues and yet still stay funny?
That’s just the brilliance of the writing. Stephen and FX and John Landgraf [CEO of FX Networks], believing in Stephen and giving us a playground to continue to explore those things. I feel like every time I hear Stephen talking about notes that he’s getting from the network, it’s about: Let this sit longer. Make this a little bit more awkward. Go deeper with this situation. Let that scene hang for a little bit. It’s nice to have the network, FX’s vote of confidence in you. The thing is, with Edgar, PTSD is not a funny issue. With Gretchen, clinical depression is not a funny issue. But these people and the way they deal with them and the way that their friends react to them in a very selfish manner makes this sort of humorous. We’re commenting basically on the fact that the people around them are the ones who are disrespectful to the nature of what the beast is. Whereas, the people in them are really trying to work as hard as they can to fight through them and to come out on top. As the actors who are dealing with them, we take it very seriously. We allow the supporting cast to be the butt of the joke and to fill in the fun for us.
Last season when I interviewed the four of you, I asked who was the worst and everyone but you said it was Lindsay. You said Jimmy was probably the worst. Another season on, have you changed your mind on who is the worst?
I think Becca [Lindsay’s sister, played by Janet Varney] is the worst now. I know she hasn’t been in it lately as much. Her husband, Vern, I think Vern is the best. Him and Paul [Lindsay’s ex-husband] and Shitstain and Honey Nutz [the sidekicks of Gretchen’s rapper client], they are growing on me so fast. Every time those guys are on screen, I feel such a joyous surge that goes through my body. But every time Becca is on screen, man she is just inherently vicious all the time. It doesn’t matter to who it is. I understand she’s pregnant right now and sometimes there’s hormone imbalances happening and that, but I’d have to say I think ultimately Becca is the worst. I think Jimmy is still following right behind her, though.
Any word on a season three yet?
No word officially that I know of. I know that we all feel fairly confident that it will happen, based on what we’ve done and the response that we’ve received from the networks and from our fans. We know that we would love for there to be a season three, because we want to keep on telling this story. But there has been no official word from FX, so I’m waiting, just like you are.
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 5, 2015.
Photos ©2015 Courtesy of FXX. All rights reserved.