'You're the Worst' co-star Kether Donohue on the joys of being 'TV fat'
Last week, I posted a pair of "You're the Worst" interviews: one with creator Stephen Falk, one with stars Aya Cash and Chris Geere. I actually did a third interview about the show at press tour, but the transcript needed some extra time to get done, because it was conducted in the very noisy venue where FOX held its joint FOX/FX/FXX party.
While it wasn't conducive to transcription, the atmosphere felt appropriate for a conversation with the lively and candid Kether Donohue. And by waiting a week, I get to publish it a few hours before tonight's episode (at 10:30 on FXX) features Donohue in a terrific Lindsay subplot that, among other things, requires her to eat (as you can see from the picture above) a lot of wings.
We spoke about eating and drinking on camera (and the various tricks of the trade actors use to avoid having to do too much of either), about being "chunky" by Hollywood's very strange standards, why Lindsay won't cut poor Edgar a break, and more.
What were you told about the part when you came in to read for it in the first place?
Kether Donohue: I was in a hotel room shooting an Audi commercial in North Carolina that ("You're the Worst" director) Jordan Vogt-Roberts directed. I got an email from my agent about this audition. I read the breakdown. I think it just said something like "Gretchen’s partner in crime." It specified that she was supposed to be a little chunky. So of course there’s a part of me that was like, "Oh no, am I chunky?" And then the other part of me was like, "Hey, if I book the role, I’ll be chunky. I don’t care." I think I just remember it saying she was Gretchen’s partner in crime, her best friend who’s unhappy in her marriage, lives on the West Side but is really an East Side girl at heart. It was just very clear that she had conflicting external and internal lives. Sassy. I think it said “sassy.”
I want to talk about the chunky part of it. As an actress, you’re already constantly judged on your appearance. Is there a part of you that’s reluctant to take a role where that’s accentuated?
Kether Donohue: I’ll tell you this. I will never forget in 2010, the first guest star role I booked in LA was a guest star on "Perfect Couples," which was an NBC show. And that was the first time I had encountered something like this. I got an email from my agent with an audition, and it describes the character as a little chunky. I started to cry because I’m like, "Oh my God, do people think I’m chunky?" I’ll never forget, Christine Woods came up to me on set and she looked at me so seriously and held my hand, and she’s like, "Kether, look at me. In real life, we are beautiful, beautiful women. No one thinks we’re fat. In TV, we are TV fat and we just have to get used to it. Don’t ever take it personally. We’re TV fat. End of story." And I have to say after she said that, it actually alleviated a lot of anxiety. Because you know what? That’s true. In real everyday life, I don’t walk around feeling fat and if on TV I’m considered fat, honestly, I kind of like it, because I’m a big advocate of positive unique representations of women in media. And so I like how I’m able to represent a curvier body and still be beautiful.
Lindsay is absolutely portrayed as an attractive character.
Kether Donohue: That’s what I love. So I like how I’m able to be curvy and beautiful and represent that in media, because I don’t think it’s shown often enough. And a woman who eats. I love playing a character that eats on television. It’s so fun.
In one of the episodes I’ve seen, you eat a ton of wings.
Kether Donohue: Oh. there is more eating to come.
I’ve talked to actors and actresses about this often, where we in the audience think much more eating goes on than actually goes on. How many wings did you actually eat?
Kether Donohue: There was this bucket on set and in that situation the prop guy gives me a (chance to spit). However, when me and Aya shoot our fro-yo scenes, in between takes, I’m still eating, and Aya goes, "Kether, you know you don’t have to eat in between takes, right?" And I call her "Bya" when she’s being bossy, so I’m like, "Shut up, Bya. I want to eat this. I’m making a conscious choice to eat this fro-yo."
One of the better things of being the “TV chunky girl” is you can eat the fro-yo.
Kether Donohue: Yeah. The other day, the prop guy actually took the fro-yo away from me because he was concerned how much I was eating. He’s like, "You’re going to get sick. We haven’t even hit your close up yet."
Going in, did Stephen know you could sing, or was that something you told him?
Kether Donohue: When I got cast in the pilot, there was never any talk or thoughts of Lindsay singing. After we got picked up for season one, in my real personal life, I (had written) a song that I was very proud of, and for fun I just sent it to the cast and Stephen. And Stephen liked it and was like, "Oh wow, Kether can sing. How can we incorporate this in the show?"
Who picked “This Woman’s Work”?
Kether Donohue: So there’s a really great story. Stephen tells it better than I do, but I’ll tell it on his behalf. His girlfriend in college broke up with him and gave him a mix tape with the song "This Woman’s Work." And so Steve and FX reached out to Kate Bush, and she never gives the rights to her music. Her people said no. Stephen wrote her a personal passionate letter and she said yes. So now we joke that we picture her watching "You’re The Worst" from her castle in Ireland.
As it says in the title these people are the worst, and what Lindsay is doing to Desmin’s character is not nice, at least at the start of the season.
Kether Donohue: Yeah but, you know, I will never judge Lindsay. I love her, so I’m going to stick up for her and say that Lindsay’s really lonely and she’s just taking advantage of his friendliness.
But if she’s lonely, there’s a perfectly good guy right there in front of her.
Kether Donohue: You can’t force vagina tingles.
What is the show like to film? It seems like you guys get along very well.
Kether Donohue: It is so fun. The other day, Chris’s manager visited us on set, and she was like, "Is this what set is like all the time? I feel like I’m at a party." We just laugh until our stomachs hurt. We’re all so close. I haven’t seen them since we (arrived at this party), and I literally had separation anxiety for ten minutes, and I realized that we’re in a codependent cast.
What do you use as a substitute for all the alcohol that gets consumed?
Kether Donohue: We use tea, so if I’m having a chardonnay in the show, it’ll be green tea with water. Oh, and there’s this fake red wine that’s really tastes like wine. The prop guy got it for me. It’s so good.
What was the trash juice made of?
Kether Donohue: Oh god, I don’t want to know. I might puke if I think about it.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org