Kether Donohue Bruises and Abuses on FX’s ‘You’re the Worst’
Things are about to go from bad to Worst.
On Thursday, the channel behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League and Wilfred added a new comedy to its lineup: You’re the Worst, created by Stephen Falk, and centered on two self-destructive souls — unsuccessful author Jimmy (Chris Geere) and free-spirited publicist Gretchen (Aya Cash) — who gravitate toward each other despite their better judgment, and their shared belief that relationships can never work. That notion is put to the test as Jimmy and Gretchen embark on an unlikely romance, with obstacles like bad dates and worse friends around every corner.
One of those friends is Lindsay, Gretchen’s buttoned-up and married pal who used to be the life of the party before linking up with her stick-in-the-mud husband. Although she starts the series doing little more than reminiscing about her pre-marital sexual conquests, Lindsay will have more than her fair share of provocative material to handle as You’re the Worst moves forward — much to the chagrin of one unlucky and as-yet-unidentified individual.
Kether Donohue, the actress who plays Lindsay, spoke with Spinoff Online about what viewers can expect from the themes and gags of You’re the Worst, as well as how her career as a voice actress on shows like Pokémon and Ah! My Goddess prepared her for live-action comedy. Read with caution, however; you don’t want to get bruised …
Spinoff Online: Kether, the title really says it all. With a name like You’re the Worst, it’s clear that this is a show that’s going to go all in on the worst parts of human nature and relationships, even while it’s trying to make you laugh.
Kether Donohue: Absolutely. It reminds me of before we all went to the FX upfronts, Stephen and the cast went out to dinner. This was before any of us did any interviews. We asked him, “Hey, when we start getting interviewed, what should we say when we’re asked what the show is about?” We didn’t really know how to articulate it, because there’s so much to say.
But he summed it up in a much more articulate way than I’m about to. He said something along the lines of how we all have different parts of our brain and there’s this part of our brain that’s the darker part of our humanity, the side that lies, the side that has these sexual desires. And then there’s another part of our brain that’s very hopeful about love, and believes in monogyny and marriage. And that’s in conflict with the part of our brain that’s animalistic and just wants to go around fucking everybody. [Laughs] We all have these parts of our brain that are in conflict with each other.
The show does a great job of examining the inner conflict and how that’s magnified in society. Society is ultimately a reflection of who we are as individuals. I think society puts these crazy expectations on what relationships and marriages should be, what’s appropriate and what’s not. The show does a great job of examining society and our characters as individuals, and how we fit in that larger picture. As the season progresses, you’ll see the darker sides of my character, Lindsay, for sure. She’s a bit of a mess. She’s definitely, definitely a little bit of a mess.
Yeah, she seems … interesting.
Playing Lindsay is such a dream. [Laughs] I love playing Lindsey. Not only do I get to say super funny lines, and not only is Lindsay such a super funny character, but on the other end of the spectrum, Stephen and all the other writers do such a great job telling the depth and tragedy and humanity of the characters as well. There’s a lot of comedy and there’s a lot of drama. There’s also a lot of physical comedy. I’ve gotten to do a lot of physical comedy on this show and I can’t wait for everybody to see.
It’s pretty racy! FX never shies away from pushing the boundaries, but just looking at that first episode, it’s pretty sexed up.
I know! [Laughs] Actually, it’s funny. In the pilot, Aya is the one who … she doesn’t get nude or show anything, but she has a lot of nudity as far as you can get [on cable]. I was kind of laughing at her, and then Stephen turned to me and said, “You’re next.” I’ve done a few different sex scenes now. I actually like doing it. They’re funny. The sex scenes I’ve done are really funny ones. I don’t want to give too much away, because if I tell you, you’ll know what happens in the season — but the sex scenes I’m in are very funny.
I actually ended up bruising an actor during a sex scene. I was kind of rough. In the script, it says I destroy the character. “Lindsey destroys so-and-so.” So we’re in the middle of the scene, and the actor doing the scene was so sweet. He didn’t want to say anything. Midway through he looks at me, almost as if he’s about to cry, and he’s like, “Hey, Kether. I’m really sorry, but on the next take, would you mind grabbing me here instead of here?” And I was like, sure, why? And he opened his shirt and he literally had bruises. Really bad bruises. Not just a little booboo; it looked like someone had beat him. Stephen took a picture of the bruises and texted it to us: “Destruction complete.”
I guess you have to kick some butt to get a TV show made.
Yeah. You know, I really committed. [Laughs] You gotta do what you gotta do.
You have an extensive background as a voice actress. Does any of that work, recording by yourself in a voice booth and having to create the world around you, help you when you’re doing comedy, or even when you’re doing something as extreme as the sex scene you described?
Acting on-screen and on-stage is my main thing, but voice-acting and particularly animation is 100 percent one of my passions, and something I love to do. I can’t imagine not doing it. I think it helps a lot with comedy. Especially when it comes to putting on character voices. When I was doing the sex scene, I kept doing this high-pitched moaning. Stephen’s note to me was, “This time, can you do it a little less porny?” I felt like I was doing my high-pitched Japanese animation voice.
I think voice-acting, especially with animation characters, is helpful, especially with sketch comedy. If you go to UCB or Groundling comedy shows, or SNL, doing character voices is essential. Knowing how to manipulate my voice and sound like different people definitely helps for live-action.
We talked about how the show focuses on some of the darker sides of relationships, society, and the conflicting parts of the brain — but do you feel there’s an equal focus on the hopeful qualities of relationships? Even though these two main characters are such hot messes, is their hope for them?
Yes, and that’s why this show is a success. Ultimately, we want to go to the movies and we want to tune into television shows and listen to our favorite songs on our iPods because we ultimately want to escape. We want to believe that true love exists. That’s something else Stephen said to us at that dinner. We explore the darker sides of humanity; the writers write from the perspective of, at the core, really wanting to believe true love exists. I don’t think anybody would want to tune in if we’re all just a bunch of assholes. Yes, we are assholes, but we’re also really vulnerable. We’re just like everybody else: we want to be seen and heard and loved.
Another thing that Stephen said to us at dinner is that all of these characters, what they have in common, is that they don’t believe that they’re worthy of love. That’s very powerful. You’re only going to be involved in a loving marriage or union with someone if you feel you deserve that. You seek out what you deserve.
Well, I was going to end by asking you what’s the craziest thing you’ve done on set, but I feel like bruising your co-star in a sex scene maybe takes the cake.
I don’t know, you’d be surprised. [Laughs] I’ve done some other crazy things. I’ve been attacked by goats, and the goats bruised me. I won’t tell you in what context, but I’ve hung off of aerial yoga scarves, I’ve been attacked by goats, I’ve bruised people in sex scenes … I’ve done a lot of crazy things in the last few months.
You’re the Worst airs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on FX.