Spoilers ahead for You’re the Worst season four.
Chris Geere didn’t expect Game of Thrones to affect his performance as Jimmy Shive-Overly on FXX’s You’re the Worst. When the 36-year-old British actor found himself with nine days off during the filming of season four, he binge-watched the HBO epic for the first time, but when he returned to work and delivered his lines, showrunner Stephen Falk had a note: “I’m getting a feeling that you’re over enunciating,” Geere recalled him saying. “I realized I was doing my Jaime Lannister impersonation everywhere! Jimmy suddenly became Jimmy Lannister.”
In the aftermath of the events of You’re the Worst season three, which ended with Jimmy proposing to Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash) and then abandoning her, Jimmy has fled Los Angeles to live off the grid in a retirement trailer-park community. There, his best friend is not Edgar Quintero (Desmin Borges) but Burt (Raymond J. Barry), a grouchy senior with a vintage sports car who refuses to accept his twilight years. Geere, who has a much sweeter disposition than his You’re the Worst character but just as much wit, spoke with Vulture over breakfast in West Hollywood about that horrible Jimmy-Gretchen breakup, Raymond J. Barry’s surprising tiny laugh, and how playing a narcissist has made him a better man.
After that first episode, I need a Jimmy and Burt spinoff, please.
I would love it. He was such a wonderful character. If anyone’s joining the cast, I take it on as a responsibility to welcome them straightaway and to know stuff about them. I did some IMDb, Googling, stalking. The amount of stuff he’s done! He played Tom Cruise’s dad in Born on the Fourth of July and he did a two-handed show with Meryl Streep on Broadway. He’s played bad guys forever, but he had the sweetest little laugh.
Yeah. On set, he sounds like that Batman type of character. Then off set I’d be like, “What are you doing this weekend?” He’d be like, “Nothing, hee-hee.” He had this little laugh. Insane! We’ve spoken about all of our wishes for him to return. Could you imagine in, like, season 12 when Jimmy and Gretchen finally get married, maybe he could marry them?
I would love that. It’s a tough one because you want Jimmy back with the gang, but when he drives off you realize you won’t see Burt anymore.
Yeah, and also the actress that played Gail [Dee Wallace], she was the mom in E.T. She had some stories. This season, I feel like I’ve worked with more guests than the other three. This season is so much about separation and everyone’s trying to navigate their own way to what they believe is happiness, which they always seem to fail at continuously. Lindsay and Edgar are focusing very much on their careers and their newfound affection for each other, which is disgusting to Jimmy. Then Jimmy and Gretchen are trying to find any distraction from taking responsibility for what happened last season.
Are you allowed to say if Jimmy moves back in with Edgar? It is his house.
Oh, yeah, he moves back in, but Gretchen hasn’t moved out.
Gretchen is there too?
She’s at Lindsay’s and then she moves back to the house because she’s still paying rent. That’s where the chaos begins because Jimmy doesn’t know what on Earth is going on. She’s saying, “Well, I still live here and we’re technically still engaged because you asked me to marry you, I said yes, and we haven’t broken up.” It’s messy.
Hold up, I thought they broke up. They didn’t?
Oh, yeah! She knows they’re broken up, but she’s just messing with him. She’s in a very interesting state.
That might be the worst breakup in TV history. There were some really bad ones on Sex and the City, but I think you win.
I think we trumped that. I hate using that word. I’m not going to use that word anymore.
Did you know ahead of time that Jimmy would propose and abandon her in a matter of seconds?
No, I read it as everyone sees it, so it’s jumping in front of the character as the bullet’s about to go in. Playing the character, I need to be empathetic to his decisions somehow, even though it goes against all of my personal instincts with what a coward he is. When I first read it, my thought was people are going to hate him. I was worried about that. The insecure actor side of me was like, “Oh no, we don’t want people hating one of the leads of the show. That’s not good.” Having done this season now, I think it was really important that people did hate him. He’s got such a lot of redeeming to do. You can’t excuse what happened, but we slowly understand where it’s all coming from. Gretchen is no angel either. The payback she gives Jimmy for what he did, I believe, is worse.
Are we going to see Jimmy and Gretchen dating other people?
I’ve had so many awkward sex scenes this year. It’s hilarious. I don’t know how much I can tell you, but I have one scene mid-season, possibly the most awkward, funniest sex scene I’ve ever done, and I’ve done quite a lot now. Kudos to the actress. It was a very awkward day.
Why was it so awkward?
Because it puts Jimmy out of his comfort zone. It’s not in any way sexy. It’s just awful. It was so much fun to do.
You get to a situation with sex scenes where if you don’t laugh, you cry. With Aya, we were always thrown in the deep end because our first sex scene together was day two of the pilot. We had known each other for about a week and then we had to do this thing. Now, I think both of us are not 100 percent comfortable with it, but it’s a bit more familiar than it was four years ago. It’s important to show whether they’re connected or not. If you look at all of the sex scenes, Jimmy and Gretchen are either heavily distant from each other emotionally or they’re falling in love with each other.
Did the events of the premiere surprise you? Were you expecting Jimmy to come back and they’d work through it?
No, I didn’t think that would happen for a long time. That would be a let-off. You’ve got to punish Jimmy. I think if he’s ever going to change, he has to start with letting his quite intelligent brain tell his mouth not to say anything sometimes.
What do you gather happened to him?
He’s been constantly escaping things in a quite British way, in that a lot of us sweep everything under the rug and fail to take responsibility for anything and play the victim. He’s always found faults in someone or something else. That in turn has made him the bitter, arrogant, narrow-minded character that he is.
Still, I see a lot of heart in him. She brings a lot of heart out in him. If they could keep chipping away at that, I genuinely hope that whenever the shows finishes — in season 84, I hope — they’re not going to walk off into the sunset as good people. They’re inherently not great, but I want them to have learned that they need to change in order to grow. I think they’re getting there a little bit.
Were you excited when you got the first script? It’s a great little movie.
That’s exactly what it felt like. I flew in from England. Production was out in Santa Clarita, where I had never been before. It was lovely. We had a camera on a crane in the middle of a deserted desert-type tract with the mountains in the background. They shut off the road and I was like, “It feels like we’re doing an indie.”
Jimmy and Burt are basically mirrors of each other. Jimmy has that great line, “It’s pathetic for anyone to live in anything but the truth.”
Burt reminded Jimmy that you can’t just carry on the way that he is. Ultimately, if you don’t recognize the flaws then one day they’ll probably kill you, like with his driving. I think Jimmy was also telling himself that unless he sorts this out — even though it goes against everything he stands for — he’s going to end up like Burt. It was fun for a little bit, but he doesn’t want a life like that. He wants to be with Gretchen.
You mentioned a season 84. Would you want to play Jimmy forever and ever?
I trust completely that Stephen’s got it all figured out. He’ll never do something for an effect. He’s just telling the truth of these characters. I think he has an ending-ending in his mind. When that is, I don’t know. He actually asked me this year how long do I want to keep doing it. I said, “Right now, I’d do it forever. If I’m being truthful to the characters and the story we want to tell, I’d say seven.”
I think there’s still so much to tell and for them to learn, or not learn, and the funny things we can play with along the way. It’s 100 percent important that they don’t confront all their fears, all their problems, all their flaws. They’ve still got to have them. They’re still inherently the same people, but I would like them to change in some way and sacrifice a bit more than they have. I think that will take us a few seasons and then it will be a very sad day when it’s all over.
What was your favorite part of that first episode?
Probably driving in the car.
They only used a little snippet of it, but we had some brilliant shots that went from underneath the car, then up to me, then craning into the sky that turns out. I really wanted to see it, but they always choose what’s best. Driving around in that car with Stephen next to me on the monitor giving me notes on stuff to think about.
He was in the car?
Yeah. Then the cameraman is in the back as well, and I was like, “Guys, we can just drive. We can just go. No one would catch us. We can go to the border and start a new life.”
What do you think of Jimmy’s decision to just vanish? It kind of sounds appealing.
I think all of us at some point in life just want to jump off the train that we’re apparently speeding so fast on. I’ve wanted to do it a couple of times, just to press pause and disappear for a little bit. As a rational human being, I’ve realized that life’s not like that. You can’t run away. If you do, you can’t run away forever.
Is it easy for you to play Jimmy? When he goes off, it can go for a while.
It is fun, as long as I remember all my lines. It is tricky, but the saving grace is that Jimmy doesn’t care who’s listening to him. He’s just saying it anyway. If there are five people in the scene and I’ve got a whole page of stuff, I can literally do the whole thing to the sky and don’t care who’s listening. It’s all just a stream of consciousness. The hardest thing I find about playing Jimmy is that he doesn’t listen to anyone else, and acting is all about listening and responding. Especially with Edgar, I either change the subject or talk over him in everything. That’s always tricky. I have to go against all of my instincts to make that truthful.
What did you think of Edgar’s imitation of Jimmy?
It was solid. I recorded it for him on his phone. He filmed me doing his lines so he could copy me.
Do you ever find yourself acting like Jimmy in normal life?
I do have far more opinions on things that I didn’t really care about before, but I don’t voice them. That’s the difference between us. Of course, I have to be his biggest fan to play him. I have to understand every flaw. I have to still like him even if I hate him.
I remember [after] season two, I had a discussion with my wife about something that was happening politically or whatever. It was something on the news. I remember talking back to it and I started and she went, “Right, Jimmy.” I basically started ranting like him. That delivery is something I’ve programmed myself into doing. Then we laughed and I was like, “Yeah, that’s not me.”
Do you feel like we saw a different side of Jimmy in this episode?
Yeah. He drops the facade a couple of times. That’s the side of him that I enjoy the most, because that’s the raw stuff. Everything else, all the bullshit he comes out with is the facade. It’s important to show both of the sides.
Do you think you’re a better person because of Jimmy?
He’s made me want to be more honest, but in a more constructive way than I’ve ever been. It’s good to be honest. It’s good to speak up.
I’m constantly grateful for what I’ve got. I’ve never lost sight of how cool this is, and that’s because of my wife and my friends around me. This town can take you down if you’re not too careful. I didn’t come to America until I was 32. I’m glad that happened then, and not when I was 22 and single. I would have ended up in a bad place. A writer friend of mine, Ben Wexler, recently told me when we were on a private jet — the first one I’ve ever been on, obviously — with John Landgraf, head of FX, and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Where were you going?
We were going from L.A. to New York for the upfronts. It was last year, actually. I got in and I was like a kid in Disneyland. I couldn’t stop. All these people sat round with their amazing résumés, and I’m just sitting there going, “He-he!” I’m just giddy with excitement.
We all sat there on these benches facing each other in the sky. It was ridiculous. I said to Ben, “I need to be cooler here, don’t I?” He said, “No, be you. This is lovely to see.” I said, “Why?” He said, “There’s an important lesson for you to learn: You should be grateful that you’ve earned your place at the table, but never ever lose sight of how cool it is.” From then on I was like, “This is brilliant.” This profession can offer you situations that make you so grateful, but also I remember the times when I got rejection after rejection. I remember being so much in debt when I got married and no jobs coming in or anything. Keeping that perspective I think has made me a better actor. I can go to places that I personally remember.
Okay, one last thing. Four years in, who is the worst?
Becca. She’s awful.
I did not expect that.
She just spouts evil.
But Lindsay stabbed her husband!
Fair enough. “He fell into my knife,” that’s what she says. I think all of them are continuously passing the baton.