Broad City’s Paul W. Downs on His Character’s Big Reveal, Voicing Abbi’s Stuffed Animal, and Writing the Pegging Episode

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Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

The following interview contains spoilers for tonight’s episode of Broad City.

Broad City viewers now know where Soulstice trainer and BodyByTrey.biz founder Trey (Paul W. Downs) picked up his camerawork — amateur porn. In tonight’s episode, newly informed Abbi used this leverage against her boss to evade pube-cleaning duty at their health club (played by Chalk Gyms in Williamsburg). Earlier this season, Downs — also a writer and co-producer on the show — voiced Bingo Bronson, Abbi’s stuffed animal who comes to life during a post-oral-surgery Vicodin trip. Vulture spoke with Downs about dick-sock woes, his character’s feelings for Abbi, and writing the pegging episode.

Are you ready for the Twittersphere to explode?
As long as my mom’s head doesn’t explode.

Did you tell her anything about the episode?
I warned her that there is basically a full act of me completely nude [laughs]. And that it is pornographic. But I think as long as she has a warning it’s pretty cool. Both my parents are very funny themselves.

In all fairness, Abbi and Ilana each previously disrobed this season — Abbi danced around her apartment naked singing Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” and Ilana was a nude model for one of Abbi’s art classes.
Yes. They’ve set a good example and a high bar for nudity on television.

How did you react when you first read the script for this episode, “Kirk Steele”?
I think I probably put down the doughnut I was eating [laughs]. But I had heard about it. At the beginning of the season-two writing period, Ilana was basically like, “Trey does porn.” And she said that it was very important to her [laughs]. I loved the idea, and I thought it was really great.

Do you know why it was important to her?
I think she just was so tickled by it, and also thought it would serve this character’s history. This was a stroke of inspiration that — ugh, stroke — she definitely wanted to do. In the writer’s room we pitch a million things, it’s a big puzzle until we have an episode. But this is one that she was like, “This story line means a lot to me” [laughs].

Did the script say, “Trey has sex with beach balls, a pool noodle, and an inflatable Shamu,” or just, “Crazy sex stuff”?
The script said a lot of it. The Shamu was an idea that the director, Lucia Aniello, who is also my girlfriend, had. But I think the floaties and the fact that it was [shot on] December 25 [laughs], there’s a little time stamp. Jen Statsky, a writer for Parks & Recreation [and Broad City], pitched that very sad detail. I don’t think it ended up in the final version, but he is jerking off into a Santa hat at one point, which is also, I think, in the script.

So having your girlfriend direct the porn scene made it less awkward, right?
Much less awkward, especially because the dick sock that I had on kept falling off [laughs]. It was no big that she was directing it, but our poor DP Chris [laughs] — he got probably more than he asked for in shooting this one.

Where were you guys when you shot the pool stuff?
Lucia and I both live in L.A., and we go back to New York for the writers’ room and to shoot the show. But this is one that, between writing and production, we were like, Oh, this is kind of a perfect place to put it. Somewhere like Van Nuys, in the Valley, at some random house. It was actually a really lovely old couple that owned the house. So nice. We wanted to find a place that kind of looked porn-y, and their pool was just nondescript and worked well. But their house is really cute, and they’re very sweet and left us alone, but I think every once in a while would peek out [laughs] and were actually totally down.

What was the trickiest part about shooting the porn sequence?
Well, the dick sock staying on was pretty [laughs] tricky, as was staying on that Shamu, because there was a lot of baby oil involved. So getting me on that and actually setting up some of the shots [was] kind of tricky. But for the most part, it was just us playing around for a couple of hours.

Did you have to wear special underwear?
I wore no underwear. Just sort of literally like a stocking — like a sock — over my dick and balls [laughs]. They had a couple different options for that, one was a thong type of thing with, like, fishing wire. But it was weird, I was like, Ehh, fine. Lucia’s directing it, it’s not a ton of people.

You said that porn sort of jived with the backstory that the writers came up with for Trey. How?
He just seems like the kind of guy that might have this kind of skeleton in his closet. There was actually a whole explanation for how he got into it, which didn’t end up in the final cut. In the initial script, he got into porn because he was trying to make it as an actor/model/host. Then he hit rock bottom after not getting a Kirkland Signature campaign. And he was kind of forced into it because he was broke at the time, and very ominously, he just says, “And that’s when I met Chet Decker.” This porn producer kind of coerced him to do it. But as you saw, it was just soft-core porn, you didn’t get anything hard-core. Yeah, probably the most — I guess entry-level for porn? [laughs]. Entry solo porn, which, as you heard in the show, is Ilana’s go-to to watch, because it’s like [laughs] the least violent and aggressive, and she can watch that and be happy with herself.

A lot of other things happened in this week’s episode. When Abbi broke the mirror with the kettlebell, did she land that the first try?
We had three cameras going, because, “Okay, it’s gonna happen once! We gotta get it.” But I think it took like four takes. The kettlebell just kept bouncing off the mirror, despite it being a real mirror and a real kettlebell. She had a stunt coordinator, it was a whole planned-out thing, because we didn’t know exactly how it would shatter. But yeah, I think it was the fourth take that finally the thing broke. You knew it was coming. Jesus, that whole mirror just smashes.

Meanwhile, you’re so excited for Abbi — she’s finally getting the chance to teach a class.
That’s the thing: It’s a win. I mean, it’s so nice to see Abbi win, but of course it only lasts for two seconds [laughs]. Literally she walks in the room and boom, wrecks the whole job.

You meet Abbi and Ilana at UCB. Was Trey a character in the original web series?
I was in the web series, but not as Trey. I think Trey’s become much more of a nuanced character, and I think there’s more of me in Trey this season. He’s a little bit less of a dick to Abbi.

He’s vulnerable.
In one of the last episodes, Abbi hears from Gemma [that Abbi is] his best friend. And I think that’s true! He’s one of these people that can be obnoxious inadvertently because of the job he has, and deep down means really well. I think Abbi is one of the people that he likes hanging out with and seeing everyday. So it’s nice to get to see some of that, as funny as it is to see Abbi get shit on. I think that’s just part of the character game. I also think she’s a really great cleaner [laughs], so in some ways, he needs her to make sure that the ship sails smoothly.

What’s Trey’s career goal these days? 
He has BodyByTrey.biz [laughs], and I think that’s now become his goal. Trey has always wanted to be somebody who inspires people, whether that’s [as] an actor/model/host or trainer. I think he wants to eventually run his own chain of gyms and have his own smoothie line and [laughs] exercise gear, and help people be their best selves. He thinks of himself as the fitness version of Oprah [laughs], kind of. I think he’s the kind of guy whose like, “I want to be remembered, I want to make an impact.” I think he found some success in the fitness world, so that’s just [chuckles] where it’s happening right now.

Do you think Trey’s gay or straight?
He is worried about paternity suits. I would say that there aren’t too many characters on Broad City you can categorize as strictly gay or straight.

That’s true.
In the Broad City world, everyone kind of falls somewhere on the spectrum. But Trey is straight, and I kind of think he’s not cool enough to be gay [laughs] is the truth.

Does Trey have feelings for Abbi?
I like to consider Abbi and Trey like the Ross and Rachel of Broad City [laughs]. And I think a lot of people kind of do, like if you look at things people tweet and say. All I can say is that from the point of view of the character, Trey picks up on vibes [laughs] and pheromones that Abbi emits, whether or not she intends to. And I think he does care about her. There’s definitely a love there.  

At a Broad City panel in November, Amy Poehler said, “I don’t like to say ‘never been seen on television’ because that’s not usually true, but there are a couple of them” — meaning TV firsts. What do you think she was referencing?
I think she was talking about the pegging from “Knockoffs.”

Were you there when they shot the pegging episode?
Yeah, Lucia and I wrote that episode. It was crazy. It really turned out so well. That episode was a lot of fun. Stephen Schneider, who plays Jeremy, was so great and so down. And actually, I think that one, [Abbi] wearing a strap-on dildo in her underwear, was even more sort of like, Oh, jeez. This is going to be quite a feat.

Did that really happen to someone in the writers’ room — wrecking a dildo in a dishwasher?
No, I don’t think so. I think it’s probably true [that a dishwasher would morph a dildo’s shape]. I think that’s like a thing you can’t do. Many things are true to life to some of the writers, but there was a lot of inventing in that episode [laughs].