When Happy Endings debuted last season, some viewers preemptively judged it as yet another would-be Friends, a sitcom about six young people looking for love. But I was instantly smitten by the crisp writing, relatable characters, and unique take on the genre—so I jumped at the chance to attend the Paley Center’s Evening with Happy Endings last month, where I spoke briefly with the cast (Elisha Cuthbert, Eliza Coupe, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans, Jr., Casey Wilson, and Zachary Knighton) about convincing people to give the show a chance and what's planned for Season 2.
It seems like everyone has basically forgiven Alex for leaving Dave at the altar. Would you forgive her? How do you find the sympathy for a decision like that?
I think a lot of women are going to relate to Alex in that way. It may not be as extreme as leaving someone at the altar, but this is television. I feel like a lot of people, a lot of women and a lot of men, can relate to being in a long-term relationship in their twenties, and really having to have that crunch time and decide, “Is this person the one or not?” So I feel like yes, there was redeeming to do, but at the same time, I hope people can relate.
There are a lot of obvious comparisons between Friends and Happy Endings that might have deterred people from watching Season 1. How does Happy Endings distinguish itself?
It’s funny. There are a lot of shows that are like Friends. I mean, Seinfeld’s like Friends—a group of people that really got along well. Friends is a real, true format to TV. Are we better, are we not? I don’t know. But I feel like we’re our own thing. I feel like we’re in a different place. We’re breaking down a few sort-of barriers in TV. Max’s character is obviously a gay man, but he plays it in a way that is sort of ironically straight—which is speaking to a whole new audience, and showing a whole new group of people that there’s more to it than what they think, as far as stereotypes go. Interracial couple—I mean, we’re not doing anything so different that it’s crazy. People know interracial couples. But I feel like we’re in a different place and we’re just a little edgier.
I think Max is probably the sluttiest character on the show. Do you see him settling down at all, or do you like that he’s slutty?
No, I like that he’s a slut for dudes. And thank you for saying that, by the way, because I think if Casey heard you say that Penny was not the sluttiest, she’d be upset. Yeah, Max is the sluttiest.
You think Casey thinks Penny's sluttier?
Yes, I think she does. I think she would say that to you, but I would disagree.
For those who missed the first season because there were so many romantic-comedy ensembles to choose from, how would you convince them to watch the DVDs?
I always say that, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter about the Friends concept or the young-in-love concept, because if it’s funny, it’s funny. I spend most of my time at the Upright Citizens Brigade on a blackbox stage. So it’s really just about the writing and the acting, and I think the show is funny, so I’d say, just watch it.
We’ve seen some UCB guest-stars already. Will we see more in the coming season?
Yeah, always. Matt Besser’s coming on this year, Seth Morris comes back, Paul Scheer’s coming back, Rob Huebel, Brett Gelman—all those people, they just added so much in all those roles that we had to bring them back.
Jane and Brad are currently the only couple in the group, so they don’t really have to worry about going out and dating. What’s it like playing the marital situations for laughs?
I love it, because I think that Damon and I have so much fun together, and we bounce off each other so well. In real life, we just love each other, so he’s a great partner. I like that we’re both quite young in real life, and we’re late-twenties in the show, so to play a married couple that’s young is, I think, a really nice thing to show. Because usually it’s the traditional, 'we’re married.' But we get to be hot and cool and crazy.
We’ve seen Jane get pretty controlling and competitive. Do you find yourself judging her behavior?
When I first decided to do this, I didn’t like that she was so uptight and everything. But then I realized that I’m very much like Jane. It’s just wrapped in a tattooed package. So it was kind of fun to be able to take that and channel it in a different way. You know, she’s gonna kind of unravel a little this year.
We’ve seen you interact with Alex and with Brad, of course, but are there any other character pairings you’re excited to explore?
Until this new season, Dave and Jane had not said one word to each other, which is hilarious. I was telling the writers, “You guys realize we haven’t spoken, right?” And they were like, “Ahh, let’s get you guys together,” so then we ended up having a scene.
You and Eliza Coupe play the only happily married couple on the show. What’s it like finding the comedy in that?
I think Eliza and I are just really funny people. We definitely like to make each other laugh, and I think this season, they’ve kind of turned it up as far as the storylines go with our couple. It’s not as simple, so I think that we’re gonna get to show the fun that we have.
Will there be any bumps in the road?
So far, it’s smooth sailing. I think we kind of balance each other out really well. She’s kind of crazy and I’m kind of chill. And we’re super into each other still, so that’s good.
Will we see your dad come back as your dad?
Perhaps. I think I know a couple of people who know him. I’ll talk to some people. His assistant. Been that way my whole life.
How are you convincing people to pick up and watch those Season 1 DVDs?
I’m just breaking down doors and giving everyone happy endings. You know what I mean? Just knocking down the door and [mimes masturbation]. And then I’ll just stop. “If you want me to finish, you watch this show.” And they’ll go, “Okay, okay, I don’t want Avatar balls, so…”
Adam and I were discussing which Happy Endings character is the sluttiest, and we agreed that it's Max, but he said you’d be upset about that.
You think it’s Penny?
By far. I think Penny is probably the sluttiest. Sluttiest with the most hopes of finding love.
What do you think she needs in a partner, other than a warm body?
She needs someone who will stay with her. I think she needs someone to make her laugh. I basically think she’s looking for a straight Max.
What can you tell us about Megan Mullally coming on the show as Penny’s mom?
Oh my gosh, it was such a thrill. She's like, the one thing on my bucket list I’ve crossed off. We got to do a song-and-dance number together, which was outrageous. It was simply outrageous. And amazing.
Do you feel like Dave has recovered from his traumatic wedding experience?
I don’t know if anybody would ever really recover from something like that, but Dave’s moving on. This season he’s definitely moving on.
Does he have better taste in women? It seems like he often picks the wrong ones.
He does, he does. But I think everybody does that in a rebound kind of situation. I think he’s going to have better luck this year.
Will we see him in a longer-term relationship?
Probably not. Probably not. He’ll just have maybe two dates instead of one.
So he's stepping it up. Maybe in Season 3, it’ll be three dates.
What would you say to people who thought Happy Endings was going to be just another Friends rip-off and consequently missed out on a great first season?
You know, so many stories have been retold over and over again, and I understand that. I just feel like people will relate to these characters. The cast really sets it apart, the writing is great, and if people just give us a chance, I think they’ll really enjoy the show.
Happy Endings Season 1 is available on DVD today. Season 2 premieres Wednesday, September 28, at 9:30pm on ABC.