You’re the Worst star Chris Geere had known his costar Aya Cash for approximately 48 hours before they filmed their first sex scene. After scoring the role of frustrated novelist Jimmy Shive-Overly—love interest to Cash’s hedonistic music publicist Gretchen Cutler—he came back to America for the first read-through, had a day off and then had to shoot the pilot episode’s boozy hook-up centerpiece, which helped thrust the FX comedy into the running for most hilariously inappropriate show on television.
“That was a real baptism of fire,” Geere says. “It was not only my first job in America, but I’d never done a sex scene—never had to wear a sock before. I had to walk around in front of a crew of complete strangers, showing off all my wobbly bits.”
You’re the Worst is reminiscent of a more romantic It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or The Office with a vicious streak. There’s no naughty bits or f-bombs, but everything else is up for grabs. The Season 3 premiere, airing tonight, starts off with the most graphic sex scene Geere and Cash have done yet. At this point, Geere is deeply familiar with the modesty sock that actors have to wear during nude scenes. (Scenes involving another primal urge proved trickier: “The worst thing is the food! I almost had a heart-attack in the diner scene last year. We’re just eating loads and loads of bacon for two hours. I must have consumed 40 rations.”)
Known in England for the drama series Waterloo Road and then, to a much lesser extent, for starring in what he calls “a romcom for children” called The Prince and Me 4: The Elephant Adventure, Geere had been unemployed for a year and had started interviewing at pizza restaurants when his new manager asked if he had ever considered a career in America.
“‘No, I never have,’ I said. 'There’s no funds to go to America, and I don’t have any confidence at the moment, my American accent is awful, so I think it would be terrible.’ But she had so much belief in me that she paid for me to try out for pilot season and stay on her friend’s couch.” He almost got cast on The Vampire Diaries, but he ended up going back home and “didn’t work for the entire year again and really thought about giving up,” he says. “I thought, 'This might be it. I may have had my peak in England.’ And then You’re the Worst came in, and in the space of two weeks, everything changed.”
He still splits his time between the two continents, living with his wife and son in Manchester during breaks from filming. The character of Jimmy was originally written as an American, but Geere convinced series creator Stephen Falk that a British Jimmy would be more fun. “He’s quite a nasty character, but there still needs to be an element of likability, and when I did him with an American accent, he just sounded horrible.”
Geere’s louche charm and chemistry with Cash helps him remain likable even when he’s day-drinking (the constant ingestion of disgusting sugar water lends its own kind of buzz, he says), wallowing in self-pity for his stalled-out writing career and doling out caustic bon mots. (His freeloading roommate, troubled Iraq War veteran, is a frequent punching bag, as are most of L.A.’s dumber cultural trends.) “He gets to be the antithesis of what a usual British person is like. I come from the land of sublimating. We are people who sweep everything under the carpet,” he says. “It’s quite liberating to voice a lot of the issues that I’ve had with society myself for years, but never had the confidence to speak out about.”
One of the funny things about You’re the Worst is that it’s a comedy that commits to exploring why its characters are damaged and dysfunctional, often going defiantly serious for stretches at a time, including a storyline last season wherein Jimmy’s disastrous reaction to Gretchen’s clinical depression almost ends their relationship. This season will see Geere flexing his dramatic muscles more than ever as he struggles with a personal loss, revealed in the second episode.
“We don’t go in the direction that you think. Everyone’s grieving process is very different. Say if you go from a level one to ten trying to find closure in the grieving process; Jimmy goes backwards. It’s basically a season of re-evaluation for him,” he says, noting that he just read the script for the season finale and that even he was shocked by the direction storyline takes.
“The people who knew the show from the beginning knew that we weren’t a three-jokes a page studio sitcom. It was never pitched as that,” he says. “What we were trying to do is portray real relationships.”
Season two ends with Jimmy and Gretchen finally (and in Jimmy’s case, drunkenly) admitting they love each other, which Geere says was probably the hardest thing his character has ever done. The romantic-comedy format has seen better days, but You’re the Worst is breathing light into it by examining the ways that modern anxieties make it harder than ever to connect meaningfully. Instead of the contrivances that keep most romcom couples apart, the characters’ hangups and distrust of love are the main obstacles, which makes it matter much more when they finally manage to break through.
“People know that we earn the 'I love you’ at the end because of everything they’ve been through,” Geere says. “I’ve done romantic comedies before, and I’m like, 'I totally didn’t love this person after the only experience we had was a walk in the park, and I was hit in the head by a frisbee, and you thought it was funny, and that’s love.’ No, it’s not! Love is when you step up in the darkness, and you want to be there for that other person.
“I think people are onboard with us for that.”