Boy meets girl. Boy sleeps with girl. Girl essentially never leaves said boy’s house after that, particularly after her own apartment burns down in a fire of her own making. Fast forward through near-constant chaos and a series of incidents that make clear both parties’ inability to sustain a relationship: Boy proposes to girl. Girl says yes. Boy ... disappears.
Such is the flash summary of the first three seasons of “You’re the Worst,” the FXX comedy starring Chris Geere as the over-confident British author Jimmy Shive-Overly and Aya Cash as his feral, on-again, off-again love interest, Gretchen. After episode upon episode seemed to be building toward the two jaded and unlikely partners finally making it work, the Season 3 finale saw Jimmy propose marriage and then promptly disappear. Now, according to some IMDB synopses of Season 4, he’ll reappear in a trailer park with a swath of mismanaged hair across his face.
In true rom-com fashion, though, it’s not the end of their story.
“You’re the Worst” has been dissecting the romantic comedy genre since 2014, pulling apart its glossy edges and leaving heavily scarred tissue in its wake. Through the relationship of fast-talking Jimmy and razor sharp Gretchen ― and their reliance on perfectly bizarre friends Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue) ― the show has thrown serious discussions of depression and PTSD at its viewers, along with less serious discussions of gentrification in LA, abortion, therapy, insufferable hipster culture and parental disdain. Season 4 promises equal bits darkness and introspection, and will-they-or-won’t-they hesitation, but in a conversation with HuffPost ahead of the series’ Sept. 6 premiere, Geere made this clear ― Jimmy and Gretch will end up together.
Here’s what the Cambridge-born actor had to say about the couple’s future, his own fear of failure and how his show taps into the politics of today.
Can you tell me a little bit about Jimmy Shive-Overly’s decision to grow a beard for Season 4?
When I met up with [showrunner] Stephen [Falk] in New York for the upfronts, which are about three months before we started filming, we went for dinner and he said, “Can you not shave?” I said, “OK, do you want like a cultivated [look]?” Because I’ve never, ever not shaved past three days before, because I knew that my hair would grow sporadically and in turn look awful. So, he said, “Don’t shave it. Don’t groom it. Don’t do anything.” Of course, a month passed and I felt like I was eating hairs from the top of my lip. It was disgusting. I was like, “This is gross. Why am I going this?”
I called Stephen, and I said, “Why are we doing this again?” He said, “It’s Jimmy’s way of punishing himself for what he did to Gretchen.” He hates the whole idea of hipsters and grooming, and all these kind of very Los Angelian things, so he’s basically ... it’s a combination of him attempting to be someone else, attempting to escape from everything that’s happened with Gretchen, and also, yeah, he’s punishing himself for everything. That’s his way of doing it. But don’t fret. It does get shaved down by Episode 3. Now I have this kind of semi-trendy stubble, which is a lot better.
Well, outside of his facial hair preferences, what can you tell us about where Jimmy stands in his personal life, and how he’s coping emotionally with the aftermath of the Season 3 finale?
Well, in typical Jimmy style, he’s not coping emotionally, which is very true to his character and also to quite an awful lot of British people in general. They have this mentality of sweeping everything under the carpet. The majority of the first part of the season is him truly believing that despite the terrible things that he did to Gretchen, in terms of the proposal thing, he truly believes that a simple apology will be enough. Gretchen just doesn’t let him get away with that, so it’s gonna be a long fight, a long road to get them back to where they were. He slowly realizes that he has to change in order to progress, and change quite a bit.
So obviously “You’re the Worst” has revolved around the will-they-or-won’t-they nature of Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship, which is a staple rom-com plot point. What do you think sets “You’re the Worst” apart from other shows? In terms of its ability to make this back-and-forth dynamic seem real and honest, rather than fan-baity?
The tagline to any romantic comedy is “will they or won’t they,” but from the very beginning of the [“You’re the Worst”] pilot, this is: “they will.” They have to. But how hard that’s gonna be! They’re perfect for each other, but they have so many obstacles to confront through the course of their relationship and their professional life, that that makes it so much more difficult. I think that Jimmy especially needs to reevaluate everything. The reason this is so different from other rom-coms is that you know they have to get back together, but the only way that they’re going to do that is that they need to appreciate that they need to change. It’s sticking with them while they navigate through all these problems.
I noticed on IMDB that we’re going to be meeting a few new characters in Season 4, including Burt (Raymond J. Barry), who’s been described as aggressively independent. I think he lives in a trailer park. Is he going to be usurping Edgar’s role as Jimmy’s unlikely companion, or is this a different dynamic?
It’s a very different dynamic indeed, in that Burt seriously doesn’t care about Jimmy’s past. He doesn’t ask questions as to why he disappeared, because he says it’s none of his business. So, he’s been quite an independent force, and I think without knowing it, Jimmy becomes inspired by him. Not for great reasons, but inspired that being independent is how he wants to be. So, you have this dynamic of these two people who share common interests such as watching old TV shows, or walking around the trailer park together, but both of them are escaping the truth. And [...] they’ve got to confront those things, otherwise it’s going to end so badly ― so much worse than they anticipated. You can hide, everyone hides, but only for so long. You have to go and face the music at some point.
So it’s safe to say we’ll still be seeing Edgar.
This season, Edgar’s so much stronger than he’s ever been and he doesn’t take any of the crap that he’s taken before, which at first, Jimmy’s oblivious to, being a narcissist. Throughout the season, we realize that that dynamic has changed as well, and Edgar kind of becomes the boss rather than Jimmy bossing him around all the time, which is great. It’s growth ― growth within friendship.
Stephen Falk has mentioned in interviews that Season 4 was influenced a little bit by the “serious politics of our time,” but he made it very clear that the show won’t be mentioning Donald Trump, for example. I was wondering if you could give us a little insight into how politics has shaped the story of Season 4?
I think it’s important that we haven’t mentioned anything too political. There are the odd one-liners, but I think in terms of the attitude of the characters, the story of Season 4 is basically looking deeper into how, whether we like it or not, we are a product of our parents. We are a product of our environment. As with politics, we think, “Well, this is the way it is now. We should just conform.” I think the point is that you don’t have to conform. You have a voice. You can live your life how you want to. For all four characters, there’s a point where they all reveal that their parents have made them who they are and therefore this is who they should be. But all of them, at some point, say, “Do you know what, I don’t want to be like that anymore. I don’t want to behave like my parents behave just because I was taught that.”
That realization is so important. I think it’s really important for everyone, especially our age. It’s weird, they used to call it a midlife crisis, where you’re like, “I’ve got to this point in my life. I haven’t got married, or I haven’t had children, or I haven’t got a house,” and all these things. You have a point where you sit there, and go, “What have I achieved in my 35, 40 years on this earth?” You can go two ways with that: into deep depression, which a lot of people do, or anger and resentment, or you can try and do something about it. The four characters, all individually, go through these things.
I think the fans are really rooting for us this year, because you know the show, in nutshell, it demonstrates how broken the world is at the moment. It’s not just these four people. It’s everyone. Yes, they do say and do awful things, but they’re broken people due to their upbringings and their surroundings and the politically chaotic world that we live in at the moment. Appreciating that everyone is broken is quite a beautiful thing, and knowing that we’re all in this mess together, rather than pretending that you’re not, or that you’re the only person who is broken within a perfect world. You’re not. The world is a crazy place at the moment. What we have to do is stick together.
One of my favorite reviews of the Season 3 finale touched on these deeper themes in the show, and it made a comparison between “You’re the Worst” and “The Leftovers.” Have you seen that show?
No, I haven’t. No. What was the comparison?
“The Leftovers” is an incredibly deep, existential, near-apocalyptic sci-fi show that also happens to involve some love stories. But the comparison was essentially that the characters in both “You’re the Worst” and “The Leftovers” are motivated by this fear of death.
I think it’s not just death. I think it’s fear of failure. Fear of failing their parents, their position in society. So, they’re confronting that fear by standing up to it and ignoring it, but sometimes that’s not the best thing. This fear of death is actually mentioned a couple of times, because rather than, “Oh I’m just so worried, it’s all going to end some day,” it’s more, “Well, you know, I might as well do the best I can right now, because it’s all going to end at any moment,” which some people can take as a positive approach.
Has the show made you think about this sort of fear of failure, or fear of death, in your own life?
Yeah, absolutely. I have. I think it’s made me constantly grateful. Yet, I’m filled with trepidation and excitement every single time I go to set. I think I have, of course, an anxiety about not working again, but all four of us do. We started together. One of our funny stories that we tell sometimes is that we did the table read for Episode 1 ― which, funny enough, was the only table read we’ve ever done for this show. We did a table read for Episode 1 in front of all the executive producers and people from FX, the heads of departments, all of which we didn’t know. All of us got in an Uber afterward and went to In-N-Out Burger and sat there thinking that we were going to get fired.
Aya said to me, “You know what, we might do the pilot and then it just disappears, or we could be doing this for the next seven years. You never know.” Thankfully, we’re doing the latter, so far. But since the four of us had that same sort of excited energy at the beginning, that stayed throughout. These guys are friends for life now. It’s, as they say, a proper family.
Do you expect a Season 5, Season 6, as much as they’ll let you do?
Yes, absolutely. I think there’s just so much more to tell. I know that it’s definitely ... It can’t end this year, because the fans would be so annoyed that things haven’t been resolved. I’m hoping for 10 seasons. Why not? Because it’s a love story that I think needs to be told. I think it’s important that people know that they’re not alone in feeling lost, and yes, it’s called “You’re the Worst.” They say and do horrible things, but they’re still deserving of love. They’re still deserving of happiness. Their route to getting there is just so hard, but constantly I’m getting tweets and messages from people saying, “You and Gretchen are just like me and my girlfriend, or me and my boyfriend.” It’s not living happily ever after. It’s existing as best as you can, and trying to find some happiness in what is quite a broken world.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.