Aya Cash Interview
Aya Cash plays Gretchen Cutler on the series You’re the Worst on FX. We were part of a press call with the actress, below, an edited version of that conversation.
I really like that the sex scenes in the first episode feel as awkward as they are in real life after a first encounter. How different do you think movies like Titanic or something like that would have been, if the sex scenes would have been presented in a real way?
Now I’m trying to imagine Jimmy and Gretchen in Titanic; I feel like romance in movies is often not real including the sex and what’s so charming about the sex in You’re the Worst is that it is that awkward sort of like I can’t find the rhythm, let’s take a break and eat some food, have a great conversation and then sort of pick up where we left off and try to figure out where we’re at. And that’s really—I feel like in some ways that’s sweet and more romantic than like a beautifully shot passionate everything is perfect, we’re both having orgasms at the exact same time kind of sex scene.
Yes, so I feel like and I was not a fan of Titanic back in the day, although now I feel like I would be, but I appreciate how real it is and I’m glad that it’s awkward. It’s not porn. It’s funny and weird and once in a while slightly sexy, which is more like real life.
In the show we see a lot of your character saying something, but then your face or your body language is telling another thing. Can you talk about how much of that is in the script, how much do you work on showing us that double kind of language?
You know I think a lot of it is in the script, but not necessarily in the directions of the script. I think that comes from also the director. Just for me the most fun way to act is to try to be in the moment and react to the persons that you’re with, so often in awkward moments for what I’m saying might be slightly different from how I’m feeling. I feel like they come out of a moment where it’s maybe Jimmy has said something that’s insulted me, but I don’t want to tell him that. I want to be cool about something, but I can’t help but have a reaction. I don’t think it out too much. I’m not sitting there planning how can I show my subtext in this moment. And when you’re working with good actors, the thing that makes you look better is just paying attention to that and luckily I work with good actors.
At the very end of a recent episdoe, as they’re disposing the prophylactics, there’s that last look where you’re just like I don’t think this is going to go as peachy rosy as we think.
Yes, that was definitely a director’s thing. He wanted us to—and Steven wanted us to sort of have that moment. I haven’t seen this new episode, so I don’t know how it came out, but yes, we were definitely directed to keep the audience wondering if this will work out.
When you first got the script, what made you go, okay, I can do this and make a character who normally wouldn’t be likable in real life if you knew someone like this, quite enjoyable to watch and essentially participate with the show?
Reading the show I thought it was hilarious, which is sort of a generic answer, but it’s very true. I think the humor just ran towards my sense of humor. I thought this would be really, really fun. I also just don’t worry about making her likable. I feel like I liked her when I read her and I sort of trust that the audience will get behind her as well, and all you can do as an actor, such a douchey thing to say, as an actor is to look for the parts that you connect to and have empathy for. I thought Gretchen was fabulous and that’s what attracted me. I thought they’ll never let me do it and I had many auditions to convince them.
You did make her emphatic and actually quite likable because people like this we probably wouldn’t hang out with in real life.
Yes, no, although I think I would want to hang out with Gretchen in real life just like once a year; I’d be like show me what it’s like, take me out.
I wanted to ask about the relationship that both Jimmy and Gretchen have with Edgar. Both of you are so self-involved that maybe you don’t notice that you guys have a generally good thing, almost like a good pet in the house with Edgar. Can you talk about that relationship as it goes along this season and maybe in the future?
I think Edgar is probably the least worst of all of us and he is sort of the moral compass and the good guy. He has his own demons to fight as you’ve seen a little bit and will continue to see. I think it’s one of those friendships that is completely taken for granted and yet if Edgar needed anything, both Jimmy and Gretchen would jump for him. They’re just not going to volunteer because they’re so engaged in their own narcissism. But I think as a viewer of the show now, I just fall more in love with Edgar. He’s such a wonderful guy and funny and sweet and kind to everyone, so that’s sort of the relationship that I think gets played out for the rest of the season.
He and Lindsay have so much more to come. I’m so excited for the audience to see them develop because they’re both such fabulous actors and they get to do some crazy, crazy stuff.
What’s nice about Lindsay is that she does seem to have more to her than I think is letting on as we see her. She’s kind of living this dream lifestyle, but in reality I think she’s potentially more ugly than even your character.
I think that’s a good thing you picked up on. We get a lot of questions about who’s the worst and I think all of us answered Lindsay by the end and that’s really fun to see play out. I think in a lot of comedies the “side characters” are just there to support the “leads.” Everybody ends up being a lead in this and it truly turns into an ensemble and they both have really great arcs throughout the season.
The chemistry between you and Chris is incredible. You are just so much fun to watch on the screen. Did you know him before or did you meet on the set? How does that all work out for you?
Chris and I met during the chemistry read test, so before you get the job, sometimes they have actors read together. I read with both Kether and Chris and Chris read with Des and I, so that’s where we all met, but very little connection happens in those. You’re both so terrified that you are not going to get the part or that you’re going to screw it all up that we didn’t talk much. We really met the week before we shot the pilot, and I think all of us fell madly in love with each other. We had a great time. We’re all from not LA – so shooting in LA – we were all away from home and got to play and hang out and fully immerse ourselves into each other and that was really great. Shooting the season was similar.
I think Chris is just brilliant, which is the first thing that I care about when I’m acting with someone. He is great. He is also just the loveliest human being. He’s probably I would say the least like his character than all of us. I think he’s all light and love and very little darkness, which is what makes his performance so magical.
In that same vein how much are you like Gretchen if at all?
I think outwardly very, very different, but I think inwardly, there are probably more similarities than I would like.
I think she’s dark and funny and damaged and like we all are. She just manifests in a way that is not the healthiest. I’ve been through a lot more therapy than Gretchen has.
When I’m watching the series the first thing that comes to mind is always, how the heck do they make it through those scenes? Is there any in particular that gave you a really tough time, not just a sex scene? But just because they’re written so well, it’s tough to keep yourself under control when you’re doing the scene.
Are you talking about breaking and laughing?
Yes, breaking and laughing.
Yes, hopefully you’re totally immersed in a scene and you’re sort of like where your character is supposed to be, which is probably not laughing, but it’s pretty impossible. A lot of times, too, with our guest stars, we’ve had such amazing guest stars, Steve Agee, who plays a pizza guy; I was like, just look right between his eyes, because as soon as you look into his eyes, you’re going to laugh. We’ve had some time with the scripts, so we’ve also read the jokes over and over again and nothing kills a joke like hearing it over, which helps.
But yes, when Thomas Middleditch came in to do episode five and it was really hard to keep it together because he is just a master improviser, and I wanted to lose it a couple times.
Do you get any time to actually watch TV and if so, what do you like to watch?
You know I actually watch a lot of TV. I feel like the cool answer everyone is like I don’t watch TV, but I love television. I love what’s happening on Netflix. I love Orange is the New Black and House of Cards and all that. I also get down with a couple Real Housewives if I’m going to be totally honest. I like some trashy reality thrown in there. I’d say Louie is probably one of my favorite shows that’s currently on.
I feel like the best thing about TV now is that you can watch anything on Netflix, on Hulu, and catch up with old series. I’ve watched so many British crime dramas like Luther and Broadchurch and The Fall recently and really loved them and probably would never have discovered them if I didn’t have access in that way on the Internet, so I like TV.
I know that there’s a lot of emphasis on the relationship between Jimmy and Gretchen, but one thing I really like about Gretchen is her life as a PR rep is how much of that are we going to be able to explore or see or have that be the subject of her conflicts?
You definitely see more of that and you actually, a spoiler alert, there’s a flashback where you see sort of how she got the job that she got with Sam played by Brandon Mychal Smith, who I think is hilarious and so you definitely see more of that mainly with Sam and Honey Nutz. They’re definitely some of her main clients and play a part in her life, so you will see more; they’re coming back.
Have you ever spoken with certain PR folks just to try and get maybe some authentic kind of dark stories on being able to I guess babysit talent?
You know I didn’t really talk to PR people, if I’m going to be totally honest, I didn’t really talk to PR people before I started. I know a lot of musicians so I know that side of things better. Then of course as an actor like every couple years, you get a job and someone tells you to get a PR person, so you end up meeting with a bunch of PR people, so I met a ton of PR people. I’d say most of them are much more together than Gretchen and our lovely Adriana, who is probably on this call and is nothing like her and a doll.
I think the truth is Gretchen could be Gretchen anywhere and she just happens to be in PR, which in some ways suits her in terms of the lifestyle that she leads and debaucherous musicians is kind of suit her well.
Earlier you’d mentioned the awkward sex scenes and how real they are. As an actress, I know it’s awkward to do those kind of scenes, but how did you prepare to do them, say even for the first episode?
For the first episode as soon as I got it, I started working out. I don’t do that, so my first concern was pure vanity. Then we were terrified, both of us, going into them. I had never done one before. Chris had and we were saying like let’s do some shots beforehand and relax us and by the time we actually got there, we didn’t drink. We forgot because we were having fun and it wasn’t actually—you start to just get used to it. They put you in these ridiculous stickers to cover your bits as a woman and then he’s like wearing a sock. It’s the stupidest most awkward thing ever. It’s not sexy and it’s not even all that humiliating. It’s dark, but what shocked me most about the sex scenes I thought I was going to be so nervous and awkward and worried about stupid stuff. And then what I found is actually the weirdest part was taking all your clothes off in front of like 40 people and nobody looking at you.
I’m like usually this is a good thing, and it gets a reaction when I take my clothes off, but everybody is incredibly respectful in avoiding your gaze and trying to do their job, which is what they should do. But I said it was more like hey, what’s up, guys, I’m naked.
Since I got back from New York I haven’t been to the gym and I ate chocolate all the way home, so if we get to season II, I’ll start working out again.
What is it like to work with the rest of the cast? You guys seem to be—they’re obviously real friends off screen, but on the show, but you guys seem to connect really greatly off camera as well, so I wanted to see what is that dynamic in real life?
Honestly there’s sort of the douchey jokes that everyone makes like so and so is so hard to work with, just kidding. I can’t even make that joke, because I’m so enamored of everyone. We spend a lot of time off set together and hanging out and having dinners and having drinks. We did a Sunday, Sunday before we did the Sunday, Monday episode, which really meant I went home at 4 p.m. because I can’t hang. We hang out all the time and it’s nice because Des and Kether both live in New York most of the time, so we’re going to get to see each other and we’ve convinced Chris to come back to the States at some point this year with his wife and baby, but they’re just really good people.
I think it also stems from just mutual respect. It’s so fun watching each other and we have so much faith in each other that even if like something goes wrong one day, we trust each other to do the right thing. We’re also—I’m going to brag about us, the crew said we’re one of the most prepared cast that they’ve worked with. I think that’s also a function of respect, of like everyone wants to do their job and do it well, so everyone knows their lines and works their butt off.
You guys are all very active on social media and you’re great interacting with the fans. How important is social media in reaching your fans?
You know I sort of entered Twitter ambivalently and was not very into it until really the show. Being on set and wanting to connect and wanting to get people involved. I would do anything to make this show be watched and give us the opportunity to do more seasons and it’s been really fun.
I’ve been shocked at how nice Twitter is. I thought I would get let like horrible things sent to me and once in a while you do, although I find them more funny than insulting. But mostly people have just been really excited and I feel like that’s really great to hear and if I can make someone’s day or answer someone’s question by interacting with them, then absolutely I will do my best. It’s hard to keep up all the time without becoming too attached to your phone, which I try turn my phone off now for a portion of the day. But it’s absolutely necessary and it’s such an amazing thing that people can have access to people that they’re watching on TV or seeing in movies or seeing in plays or their politicians. I think Twitter is an amazing thing in that way.
Did you have any input at all into your character’s arc? How much did you know going into it?
Not much, I would love to take some credit, but it’s really all the mad genius of Stephen Falk. I had created a huge back story for myself that was completely wrong, but I trust Stephen more than I trust myself and basically listened to him. If there was anything that came up throughout the season that felt not genuine or something that I felt like was at odds with my character, I would discuss it with him and usually he could explain it in a way where I ended up agreeing with him afterwards. Some of the sex stuff I was worried about because I didn’t want her to be portrayed in any way pathetic with the sex stuff. There’s a sex scene in this coming week’s episode that I was like but I don’t want it to seem sad, like she’s not into it, but it’s not like because she’s having sex with him, she’s just sort of doing it for perfunctorily. But it’s not pathetic because I do think that often women who have a lot of sex are portrayed as like pathetic or like someone to look down upon, and I don’t think she is. I think her being sexual is powerful to her.