A Conversation with You’re the Worst Creator Stephen Falk

I am completely shameless when it comes to my love for You’re the Worst, and there aren’t enough words to describe how excited I am for its return tonight.

Back in the spring, I had the privilege of chatting with You’re the Worst creator and showrunner Stephen Falk during the Toronto Screenwriting Conference. He was one of this year’s guest speakers and gave a fascinating talk about the breakdown of the show’s second season. In our conversation, we talked about the first two seasons of the series, and Falk shared a bit about Season 3.

First off, I have to say that seeing how Season 2 of You’re the Worst came together was enthralling. It was different from the first season, but the DNA was there. When you were planning Season 2, what were the elements that absolutely had to be carried forward from Season 1?

Obviously the fundamental relationship had to stay and I wanted to keep Edgar and Lindsay involved. I wanted the relationship to progress. I didn’t want to tread water with them. I wanted to continue their jobs and wanted to make fun of writers because I think writers speak about writing very pretentiously. Even though I take it very seriously, obviously, I like taking the piss out of that. I wanted Gretchen to continue in PR for those guys because they’re a lot of fun. I wanted the show to stay romantic. I know that’s probably one of the last words people would use for this show but for me, it’s a deeply romantic show because it’s about how even the most flawed part of us is deserving of love. There’s an aspirational quality to Jimmy and Gretchen in that they don’t judge each other for their shit, and they’re allowed to be as messy and dark and self-involved and morbid. It’s cartoonish in a way, but they’re allowed to be that and not be rejected. For me, those elements were important to keep while we were still introducing something new and dangerous and scary that was going to test that.

“Crevasses” has to be one of my favorite episodes to date, and I loved Gretchen’s panic at having to buy things for her new home. What was it that inspired that story to have an overwhelming sense of dread?

The idea of cohabitation is deeply scary as is the idea of purchasing things to create a new life. If you think about it, it’s kind of daunting. Partially, when I go into stores, I get overwhelmed. There’s too much stuff, there’s too much choice. We originally wrote it as a Bed Bath and Beyond. “Stuff” is symbolic of your life and buying new things — daily things to live with — represents not only growing up, but creating a new life which means you’re leaving an old life, which is scary.

I definitely got the feeling that Gretchen saw purchasing these items as losing a bit of who she is.

She’s losing all of who she is. She moved into Jimmy’s house, and they were both fine with how it was — her keeping a couple of trash bags in a corner, “Gretchen’s corner” — but realizing if they were going to do this, it meant that he needed to give her some space, and she needed to take it and not be afraid to take it. I don’t know exactly where it came from but it resonated with me.

After that episode, I wanted to go to a mall and rent scooters. Maybe kick kids off the carousel and make out on it. Looks like so much fun! Speaking of fun, the Sunday Funday episodes in both seasons are so great, and “Spooky Sunday Funday” is so twisted. Making Buffalo Bill (from Silence of the Lambs) the person who teaches Lindsay how to adult couldn’t have been more brilliant. Was that fun house based on a real one?

Yes, there’s one in San Diego that’s pretty well-known and really extreme, and we watched some commercials for it online. We take it to a very heightened degree. In terms of an immersive experience, immersive theater is really big right now. There’s a show called Sleep No More in New York that’s been going on forever and it’s amazing. One of my writers is currently paying a theater company to fuck with her life. It’s the height of immersive theater. People call her in the middle of the night, weird shit’s happening, and she’s so into it.

I know exactly where I was when I heard You’re the Worst was picked up for a third season. I was waiting for a bus, and I jumped up and down when I read the news. At the end of Season 2, Gretchen admitted that she has depression and needs help. Acknowledging it is one of the hardest parts of dealing with mental illness, so what’s next? Where does that relationship go this coming season?

That’s the question in Season 3. One of the guiding principles of the show is to deal with things when they’re brought up. I get frustrated as a viewer when things happen and they just forget about them. So, we want to deal with it, we will deal with it. However, at the same time — and I’m sure you could appreciate it as an audience member — we wouldn’t want to just repeat ourselves. We don’t want to tell the same story over and over, so we’re finding a way to continue it and deal with the beginnings of trying to fix it while at the same time making sure the relationship moves forward. The acknowledgement of it is freeing to a certain extent. In Season 3, we begin to see Gretchen start to, for the first time, process how her brain is put together, and learn about herself which is something that she’s never done before.

Lindsay went through some of that self-discovery in Season 2 as well. Gretchen and Jimmy are phenomenal lead characters, but Edgar and Lindsay are so much more than just the sidekicks in this story. Just as Lindsay realized that maybe she can do things on her own, there was a bun in the oven with the “limp dishrag” as the dad.

Paul means well.

And of course Paul’s going to want to do what he thinks is the right thing.

Even though he’s found the perfect woman.

Poor Amy. Edgar’s improv arc was also an interesting part of Season 2, especially as a way for him to process his PTSD.

There are veterans that do that kind of stuff. They try different things to deal with PTSD because the VA is overrun and sometimes ineffective. Also, meds and talk therapy don’t work for everyone. We deal with it a lot more in Season 3 actually, but we also wanted to give Edgar an identity aside from just being a veteran, because I think that’s important. I think vets often want to integrate into life and society a little more. In general terms, it was always incredibly important to me. You need someone to bounce ideas off of — a friend, a confidant, and that goes back to Shakespeare — but I didn’t want that person to just be Jimmy’s sidekick, because no one lives their life like that. No one views themselves as not central to their own story. That’s why we did that episode where the sidekicks become self-aware in Season 1, when Edgar says, “Lindsay, I think we’re sidekicks,” and Lindsay’s like, “Ewww. I am not a sidekick.” She talks about how she doesn’t ride in the sidecar, she drives the motorcycle, and then [in the Season 2 finale], she’s in a sidecar.

The callbacks to Season 1 that happened in Season 2 were fantastic, like the sidecar and having another karaoke scene in the season finale. The duet with Linsday and Paul starts off so romantically — all rainbows and kittens — and then this look of horror comes over Linsday when she realizes exactly what she’s done. I can’t wait to see how that storyline plays out in Season 3.

Her last look in the sidecar was, “Oh shit.” It was pretty brutal. Season 3 for Lindsay is going to be pretty insane, and it starts off [that way]. We don’t waste any time. She realizes that she fucked up.

Has any time lapsed between where Season 2 ended and where Season 3 picks up?

It’s fairly immediate. I wanted it to literally continue right after Jimmy and Gretchen said, “I love you,” but it starts the next morning, like five hours later.

I’m always amazed at how much happens in a half-hour episode of this show. To me, it feels like so much more because the storylines are so full.

It’s important for me that there’s reason for everything and that it makes sense. I’m a believer in non-sloppy storytelling.

You’re the Worst Season 3 kicks off tonight at 10pm ET/PT on FXX in the US and Canada.


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