HitFix Interview: Eliza Coupe and Casey Wilson talk 'Happy Endings'
ABC comedy's leading ladies talk on the eve of the Season 2 finale
"Happy Endings" finishes its season season on Wednesday (April 4) night with a finale that totally delivers on the promise of its title, "Four Weddings and a Funeral (Minus Three Weddings and One Funeral)."
It's a madcap episode that includes Madonna impersonators, Brian Austin Green and even a couple surprising relationship zigs and zags. It's also a terrific showcase for Eliza Coupe and Casey Wilson, who never hesitate to make themselves look ridiculous in the name of hilarity.
Last week, I ran my recent interview with Damon Wayans Jr. and Zachary Knighton, who talked about the show's Season 2 improvements, its impressive punchline pace and more.
This conversation with Coupe and Wilson continues on those themes, with a lot of amusing and interesting back-and-forths between the two stars.
HitFix: I was talking with Zach and Damon. They agreed with me that the show has taken a jump this season, that it has become more confident and more consistent. How do you guys feel like this season was different from the small batch you did last year?
Eliza Coupe: I won't speak for everyone, but I feel like every person upped their game, not that they needed to, but I think you just get more comfortable in the character and I think that through that, it just kinda changes the whole dynamic a little bit. It's like with people: If you're secure as a person, you're gonna be able to be a lot more flexible. So I think that as these characters have become more defined, they're able to play more. We also have incredible writers to help us with that. As we were defined, they defined us more and it was a great kind of back-and-forth.
Casey Wilson: Yeah, I think the writers found the characters a lot more this year, what was funny about each of them. And then Eliza's right, everyone just upped their game, I think. And I think the show really took on its own style and rhythm and really solidified it more, which is a very fast pace. And the look of the show is very poppy. I think it just sorta all congealed better this year. There are a lot more jokes and I think it became it became a little weirder.
Eliza Coupe: But I think "weirder" in a great way, where we're hitting something... Everything I read, if it's on Twitter or whatever, people are like, "Oh my God, that's so how I think!" Not to compare us to any iconic show, but when I would watch "Seinfeld," I'd be like, "How are they? That's exactly the way I would react to something." People have been saying that it makes you feel like you're in on the joke, it also makes you feel like, "Oh, these people are like my friends. This is who I would hang out with."
Casey Wilson: Yeah, it's weirdly specific stuff. And every storyline's obviously traditional in the sense that it's a sitcom, but I think they're very creative.
HitFix: You mentioned the pacing and that was another thing I talked about with the guys. The show gets more punchlines in per-minute than just about any live-action show on TV. How does that feel on set? Does it ever feel frenzied?
Casey Wilson: I think a lot of it is that we might shoot things one way, but they edit that show to its teeth. I'll be like, "It seems like I didn't take any pauses there."
Eliza Coupe: It's so true. They take all the air out.
Casey Wilson: They fit six storylines. I think the fact that there are six characters, to service all of them, where they're able to do that is in the editing. Normally it would have to be an A and a B story, but they're able to do A/B/C.
Eliza Coupe: It's pretty phenomenal what they're able to do in the editing. I never am on-set being like, "Oh my God!" I don't think I've ever felt that.
Casey Wilson: They did tell me... They called me one night and they're like, "You're talking too fast." They told that to me and [Adam] Pally and Elisha [Cuthbert]. We all got these calls like, "You're talking too fast." So we're like, "OK." Genuinely. Like, "OK. We'll slow down." And then they were like, "Actually, you're gonna have to talk a little bit faster."
Eliza Coupe: That's so funny. I didn't know that!
Casey Wilson: They're like, "Not as fast as you were. But faster."
Eliza Coupe: That's amazing.
HitFix: So there actually is like a "Happy Endings" Standard Speed?
Casey Wilson: Joe Russo, our executive producer, told us that for that for the pilot. "Social Network" had just come out and he's like, "That's the clip it should go." And David Caspe, our creator, he edits all of the episodes himself and he had just started cutting down to the frame and so it was kinda like if it's not fast, he says he can't use takes because literally they'll need to get one second off of the show. So if things are too long, it really can't be used.
Eliza Coupe: Wow. I'm going to take auctioneer classes.
Casey Wilson: My dad tells me constantly, "I loved it. Can't understand you."
Eliza Coupe: My parents are like, "We watched again. And again. And then again and we got it."
Casey Wilson: But most people don't care to watch the show that many times if they're not our parents.
HitFix: One of the things I most appreciate about the show is that nobody in the cast has any ego when it comes to looking utterly ridiculous at times. Is that something you guys enjoy doing? Just throwing yourself out there?
Eliza Coupe: I don't have any problem with it. There are certain things I think every actor, especially female actors, there are certain things you do not want the camera to get. You do not want the camera to get that angle, to get that thing. But as far as putting on a crazy outfit or putting on something? No. I would do and wear pretty much anything. And I have on this show. I've worn the most ridiculous things and in the finale, I wear something even more ridiculous that is the most unflattering thing I've ever put on my body and I love it, because it's funny. It's great, too, because to put my character in that position, the reason that I'm wearing that crazy outfit is because it completely juxtaposes with who I am and who Jane is, so it works.
Casey Wilson: Yeah, I think there's almost nothing that I won't, sadly, do for a laugh. It's a problem, actually. I wish I had more standards.
HitFix: Is that something that the writers have caught onto?
Casey Wilson: I think so. I think about all of us, yeah.
Eliza Coupe: I think they also know that we're not too proud. We're not too concerned with looking good. Make a fool of yourself! They also know that they can throw anything at us. We're not trying to look like beauty queens out there, although...
Casey Wilson: And I think that is, not in any bad way about anyone else, what separates comedians from actors, in a way. A strength of our show is that it's pretty much all comedians. Maybe Elisha and Zach wouldn't have self-identified as "comedians" when they started, but they certainly are now. 100 percent. The comedian just wants to get a laugh.
Eliza Coupe: And to do whatever's gonna be good for the health of the show.
HitFix: What has it been like for the overall show having Zach and Elisha get to become funny characters this season, as opposed to always having to be the straight man/woman?
Casey Wilson: It's only helped the show. It's been amazing. I think they both were always hilarious to us. I think the writers are really writing for them and writing what's specifically funny for them to do and it's unbelievable to have six characters hitting it out of the park.
Eliza Coupe: It's been really cool to watch each character find... their character, really, to find the personality of the character. They were all there, of course. They were written and they were there, but for everyone to put their own spin on it has been pretty great to watch. I feel like I learn something every time I watch a scene when it's all of us. I'm like, "Wow. When I read that, I didn't know they were going to say it that way." You kinda know how they're going to say things, how each character is going to say something, but then you're surprised, because all of us are not trying to just do it by rote.
HitFix: It seems like we're constantly learning very weird and absurd things from the backstories of these characters. Do you have any favorite things that you've learned about Jane and Penny this season?
Eliza Coupe: I guess Jane was an ice dancer, figure skater from what I understand, and she was competitive.
Casey Wilson: I feel like they've alluded to the fact that Penny may or may not have been molested 10 times. It's very dark, but it also does make a lot of sense.
Eliza Coupe: It does. Which is why she has so many man issues.
Casey Wilson: Yeah. And unwittingly molested. Always like, "Wait..."
HitFix: You guys have had so many guest stars. Who has come in and meshed particularly well?
Eliza Coupe: Seth Morris.
Casey Wilson: He plays Scotty.
Eliza Coupe: There were so many funny things that he did. Also Stephen, who plays Derrick.
Casey Wilson: Stephen Guarino.
Eliza Coupe: Guarino. I couldn't say his last name, so I didn't attempt it.
Casey Wilson: They're just like cast members, almost.
Eliza Coupe: There's a scene that he did, none of us could keep a straight face. What's amazing is that we actually let him get the whole take and then we all burst out laughing, it was so incredible.
Casey Wilson: He's technically just amazing.
Eliza Coupe: He's an amazing, amazing actor and a wonderful person. Those guys stand out a lot.
Casey Wilson: Obviously, Megan Mullally was like one of the gang, in a great way, comedically.
HitFix: Now that you guys know each other better, do you make each other break more frequently or less frequently? Is it easier to keep straight when you may know what the other person's instincts are like?
Casey Wilson: More frequently, I think.
Eliza Coupe: Weirdly frequently, yeah. When we all get in a giddy mood, we start getting silly and we can't stop and we all start doing bits and you know that they're just back there at the monitor just like, "Come on, you guys! It's one in the morning!" and we're just having fun.
HitFix: Have the biggest breakers and breakees changed at all?
Casey Wilson: Oh no.
Eliza Coupe: Nope.
Casey Wilson: It's always been Damon and Eliza.
Eliza Coupe: Always Damon and Eliza. That's it. I actually think Damon wins over me.
Casey Wilson: Damon wins.
HitFix: For breaking or making people break?
Casey Wilson: For both.
Eliza Coupe: For breaking.
Casey Wilson: For breaking 100 percent.
Eliza Coupe: Pally makes people break all the time and I think he does it purposely.
Casey Wilson: I do too. But Damon, he can't get through stuff when he's not on camera and when he is on camera?
Eliza Coupe: And what's funny is he'll throw out some brilliant lines off-camera and we're like, "Why didn't you that when the camera was on you?" Or he'll start doing the craziest things off-camera.
Casey Wilson: Really weird stuff.
Eliza Coupe: When it's our coverage. I love it. It makes me laugh so much.
Casey: He's the king of breaking.
The "Happy Endings" season finale airs on Wednesday, April 4 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.