Instead of a FTWinsday this week, we're doing a BTWaysday. Because I have a pretty big one for y'all: By The Way, I was on the set of Happy Endings when last night's episode was being filmed, doing some cast interviews, talking with aaaalll the crew, and eating aaalll the Kraft services (tiny bags of mini donut holes especially). I’m going to write up the full interviews I got to conduct with the cast, but since the episode I saw them film aired last night, I thought I’d give y'all FTWinners some BTWs all the way through.
Like, for instance, BTW—Happy Endings is filmed at Paramount Studios, a grand setting to walk through, it looks unchanged from press photos of the studios' glory days. It's essentially several blocks of Los Angeles streets fenced in by the high white stucco studio walls, so the sounds of the city, the traffic, the helicopters fade away once you get a few "streets" in. The building Mae West had her offices in still stands, there are small tree-lined avenues and groups of touring visitors escorted by pages just like Kenneth from 30 Rock. As you go deeper into the mazes of studios and production offices, you pass crews of burly men putting together outrageous sets, giant fans like turbines waiting alongside their generators for the next time a storm is needed, and important-looking crew people moving by you silently on bicycles and golf carts on their way to the giant hangars where the TV is actually made.
Once you're in the giant hangar studio, it's incredibly cold. The Happy Endings crew dresses in layers of Patagonia and fingerless gloves and hats. The actresses, when they are not about to jump in front of the toasty stage lights, stay bundled up in parkas. Eliza Coupe, who plays Jane, had a blue puffy coat on that went down to her ankles. Producers, writers assistants, costume people with tool belts weighed down by portable irons and sewing kits, editors, they swirl around the dark set and many of them have fold-out camper chairs. You know, the kind made out of waterproof canvas? Only instead of keeping drinks in the cup holders, they have their silent-mode iPhones constantly glowing as incoming messages inundate their small screens.
Last night's episode, "Big White Lies," started when Penny revealed that a childhood friend, Daphne (guest-star Mary Elizabeth Ellis), had moved to the neighborhood. Penny was trying desperately to avoid hanging out with Daphne without explicitly telling her she didn't want to hang out. Apparently, since childhood, Penny has been sidestepping invitations to tea and otherwise from Daphne. And Brad and Jane were considering a lake house.
BTW—have you ever wondered how Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe actually relate off-screen? Eliza is known for her blue humor, and Damon loves that about her. Damon is super appreciative of a good line because he, BTW, was one of the youngest writers for TV ever and is now working on a project with Eliza. When some other bloggers and I got a chance to talk to Damon he said, “We wrote a sketch and she did a sketch with me, and it just came out really well and we’re trying to see what we can do with it. It's a comedy sketch, totally different characters, but we are playing opposite each other. Eliza gets to be as wild as she wants in this character, it's cool.” When I asked him if she's as uptight as Jane, or if the character is more of a foil, Damon had some more really cool things to say about her. “She’s definitely a neat freak and she’s very organized, but she’s not as anal at all. But she is a nasty little lady. She says the craziest things. You know like usually guys can beat girls at nasty? Not her. She wins all the awards. Very blue, but VERY funny. Some of the hardest laughs I’ve had on set were because of her... She’s on another level funny.” So they're a cute on-screen couple, but in real life they're kind of writing buddies and scene pals. It really makes Brad and Jane that much more charming that they like each other so much in real life.
Back to the episode: Penny told the gang later on that she had a "Greetings Feline" diary (LOL) in which she kept all of her lies to Daphne straight. And sure enough, each character in turn hatched a lie and implicated someone else into a big pulsating web of non-truths:
– Brad and Jane have a tiny lake house and are going to have a baby!
– Alex is a lesbian.
– Dave is dying.
– And Max just threw in that he lost all his money because he wanted to feel included.
Daphne/Mary Elizabeth Ellis really brought it out in people. She managed to corner ever member of the gang and just compel these lies out of them. It was a little cartoony but as a device to get to the full French farce that emerges, it was effective.
BTW, when I got a chance to sit down with Adam Pally (Max) and Zachary Knighton (Dave), they also had some thoughts on why the cast works so well. Adam is not very far removed from his character on the show: He’s very funny, very quick, and hums with energy. It was hard to go through his interview segment and try to piece together everything through the laughter he was generating from the bloggers. But when I asked him how the group keeps such a fun chemistry, he started with a joke:
“Alcohol and drugs.” But then he got more serious: “We would go out, we still do—we try to make it a thing to hang out. A little bit. We still try to make it a point to go out and get ripped up. I think that that helps out with bonding. Just having FUN—I really think that is the key to it, when you see a cast that doesn’t work it because they’re not comfortable with each other, and I think at this point we know each other so well we can be comfortable with anything. I mean, once you’ve held someone’s hair while they’re puking on someone else...” Then another blogger asked “Who!?” and he answered quickly, “Damon. I was holding Damon’s hair.” So yeah, BTW, Adam Pally does not need a writer to come off as fast and fresh as Max.
In this episode Max and Dave had to deal with their hateful landlord, who wouldn’t help them fix their stove, leading Max to cook things in the trash can, or “trove.” The landlord's orneriness basically boiled down to sexual frustration, and in an attempt to keep from getting evicted, Max led him on that he had a chance in hell with Alex, going so far as to invite him to the fake baby shower that everyone and their lie was going to have to attend.
You’d think a fake baby shower would be the point at which you come clean to the friend you are trying to avoid, because who wants to explain to their parents/friends/coworkers that they’re pretending to have a baby? But the unsinkable Penny had thought ahead and staffed the party with professional seat-fillers. I was laughing hysterically when Jane’s fake boss came up to her and told her to get back to them soon or they’d cry more than the baby would. And Alex decided to evoke being a lesbian by going “straight for the top!” and doing an Ellen DeGeneres impersonation.
BTW, Elisha Cuthbert is super tiny in real life. You knew that, but you don’t KNOW that until you see her. She’s also kind of the breakout comedian of this season? And this episode in particular, everything she said made me laugh. Whether it's doing physical comedy or a perfect deadpan, Elisha really holds her own in a room full of comedians. Off-screen she really enjoys her co-stars, laughing a lot at inside jokes with her “roommate” Casey Wilson. And also BTW, not only are they roommates on the show, they're neighbors on the set. Casey and Elisha had a lot of stories to tell about their across-the-way trailers. Oh, and also also BTW? Eliza told me that she and Elisha had talked about wanting Kiefer Sutherland coming in to guest-star as their dad (Elisha said Kiefer had actually suggested it). How adorable would that be? The show does have a history of bringing in celebrity cameos for the gang’s older relatives. (More on that later, y’all.)
Brad had a cute bit last night where he would unwrap and react to the little baby clothes. His delight at the tiny tux and tiny karate outfit was what they were filming when I first got to the set. But both Eliza and Damon told me not to look for a Brad and Jane kid anytime soon. Eliza said, “I think that nobody needs a baby. Brane—(she misspeaks, causing hilarious laughter) Brad and Jane! Whoa! Look what I just did! Brane is not going to have a baby, mostly because Eliza doesn’t want to go near a child.” Damon agreed, saying “Me personally, I don’t think kids are funny on TV. The last funny kid was Raven Simone on The Cosby Show. And the little Spanish dude from Modern Family.”
And while Brad and Jane on the show don’t seem to be in any hurry to have a baby, their disagreements over how they would raise an imaginary baby led to the ultimate reveal of all the lies to Mary Elizabeth Ellis, excuse me, Daphne, who actually was pretty cool about it and all like “No bigs, didn’t want to hang out with you anyway, Penny.”
Although all the faking definitely led Brad and Jane to decide to actually get a lake house. I honestly would love to see that episode. And hey, BTW if y'all film at an actual lake house I am so there! This cast is as fun to hang out with in person as they are to spend time with on-screen. More on that, later, BTW.
– What did you think of last night's episode?
– What member(s) of the cast would you want to hang out with in real life?
– Did the story take things to a too-cartoony place or have you accepted Happy Endings as a heightened reality? – Elisha: funny! So funny! She should be in more comedies! Why hasn't she done more comedies before?
– What's the weirdest thing you've cooked food in?