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Happy Endings Star Eliza Coupe on Feeling Up Guest Stars and Lusting for Michael Fassbender

Eliza Coupe. Photo © (ABC/CRAIG SJODIN). Photo: ABC/CRAIG SJODIN

Valentine’s Day may be over, but with a new episode of Happy Endings on tonight, it still feels like the appropriate time to celebrate the best married couple on TV: the lusty duo, blessed with amazing chemistry and comic timing, that is Eliza Coupe’s Jane and Damon Wayans Jr.’s Brad. When it comes to most romantic pairings, sitcoms often draw out the will-they-or-won’t-they phase and then have no idea what to do when the couple actually gets together, but somehow, Happy Endings finds comic gold every week with Jane and Brad, who’ve been together from the very start. (Take note, Jim and Pam.) We got Coupe on the phone yesterday to discuss her rapport with Wayans Jr., her frustration with ABC’s promotion of the show, and her romantic designs on the star of Shame.

Last year, you must have been nervous over whether Happy Endings would come back, but it feels like this year, people are really responding to it.
I think so too. Last year, did I think the show would come back? Fuck no! I thought, This is over, and I chopped all my hair off. I was like, Forget it, I’m done, and I started talking to my agents and manager and saying, “All right, let’s get those pilots!” We didn’t get any publicity, really, and this year … well, not to be a jerk, but they’re still not doing a lot. I mean, would it kill them to put a billboard up? But the network has gotten behind it a little bit more, I think, and also the word of mouth is big, because people really like this show.

I guess the upside there is that when people do catch onto the show, they feel something very proprietary, like they discovered it on their own.
No, it’s true. People feel like it’s underground, like, “Oh, I watch Happy Endings, and it’s not mainstream.” Although it’s on ABC! [Laughs.]

It will crush some of our readers to know that you are not actually spending Valentine’s Day with Damon Wayans Jr. Since the two of you are so convincing as a married couple on the show, do you ever find that people think you’re together in real life?
Yes. Oh my God, yes. I was e-mailed some comments thread where somebody wrote about how they had to Google us to see if we were together. It’s so funny because my husband actually was like, “So, people think you’re together.” But he’s funny. My husband’s, like, the biggest supporter of my fake marriage to Damon.

What keeps Brad and Jane so fresh and fun when we didn’t even get to go through their initial courtship phase?
They just are animals in the sack. [Laughs.] We did a scene yesterday where we ate so many mints before the scene because our noses were pressed against each other, and I think Damon bit my shoulder at one point. Damon and I are, like, best buddies in real life, too. We’re always texting each other, tweeting each other, doing something. We also will read scripts and text each other the night before, like on a Sunday night, and be like, “Hey, for this scene, let’s do this.” We come up with stuff, because you know our characters could have very well just been a married couple, and we were like, “No, fuck that. That’s not gonna be us.”

Tell me about the next episode. From all the photos I’ve seen, it looks like you ladies are objectifying James Wolk, getting him shirtless, and running your hands through his chest hair.
We were just supposed to take his shirt off in that scene, and then I, of course, got very uncomfortably close to him. And it was really funny because James, the actor, broke when I did that and he laughed, but it was such a good take that they used it because it works for his character. What’s funny is that there’s a scene where Damon’s coming down the stairs and I’m like basically groping this man, and when they yelled, “Cut,” Damon was like, “You should really just put your hands all over him.” And I’m like, “Okay. Done and done.” [Laughs.] So Damon and I, we help each other to do things to other men as well.

I would assume there would be a lot of breaking on this set, but Damon is so smooth, are you able to get him to break very often?
Damon breaks constantly! Are you kidding me? He is hilarious, and when he breaks, it gets to a point where there’s a laugh attack that’s just unstoppable. I think last season, Adam Pally recorded this one time on his iPhone where we must have done ten takes because Damon could not stop laughing. And he has such a contagious laugh that you can’t help but laugh, too.

In the last episode, Brad gets high and compares everyone to the characters from Friends, and you were the Monica. Is that fair? Do you owe a debt of gratitude to Courteney Cox?
I mean, I think every single TV show is somewhat of a carbon copy of a different show, but just done a different way. If we wanna take thing back to Real Dork Land, every single piece of anything on television, film, or theater is derived from Shakespeare or some Greek play, so we all owe those people for the archetypes that have been created. Friends definitely created a mold that we filled, but what I love about our show is that we’ve taken those archetypal characters and put them through a fun house mirror.

But the pressing question left unasked is, “Does this make Brad the Chandler of the group?”
I guess so? I guess it makes him the Chandler? At the same time, Alex being Rachel makes sense, but she’s also sort of the Phoebe, because they made her a little flightier this year.

One of your career goals when you were starting out was to be on Saturday Night Live. And now you’re on a show with someone who actually was on SNL, Casey Wilson. Has she demystified that for you?
I think it got demystified for me when I got this job at the Heartland Brewery in Times Square, where they have the after-parties for SNL. And that’s the only reason I worked there, because I thought, This is the way I can meet all of them and finagle my way onto the show. I ended up working one of those parties and I was also the bathroom attendant for some of their other parties — don’t ask — and I think that I saw those people then and thought, Huh. Like, I used to sneak downstairs on Saturday nights when I was a little kid to watch SNL on my parents’ little black-and-white TV in the kitchen … and no, I grew up in New Hampshire, I didn’t grow up in, like, 1905; they just had a black-and-white TV because they loved antiques. Whatever! Anyway, I was obsessed with that show, and I don’t really watch it that much anymore, but now it’s funny because I have friends on the show: I was in Groundlings with Taran Killam, and I used to do my one-person show right before Bobby Moynihan’s show at UCB. But it is interesting to hear Casey talk about it, and also Bobby Moynihan came on and did an episode of our show, so to hear him and Taran talk about it, it’s just so not what I thought it was going to be. [Whispers.] But of course, I’d still do it.

You’re writing a screenplay with Damon, I hear.
Let’s just say that it’s not Brad and Jane. It’s not them at all. It’s arguably the funniest thing EVER, in capital letters. We’re definitely pushing it forward as much as we can. Damon kind of came up with the idea and brought it to me, and we’ve taken it and run with it. It’s so hard to get anything made in this town, but we’re gonna work on it and work on it until we can hopefully do something with it.

You tweet a lot about Michael Fassbender, but in the last interview you gave, you said you hadn’t even seen Shame yet. Have you remedied that?
I know, and no I haven’t. But here’s the thing: You know it’s true love because I’ve never seen Shame.

So what did you start loving him from? X-Men? Jane Eyre?
I’ve seen Jane Eyre, I’ve seen Inglourious Basterds, I’ve seen this movie Angel that I only got halfway through but he was in it. But I do have a weird obsession with him, I do. It’s very bizarre. I just think he’s really talented, and I think it would be fun to be alone with him in a bedroom, naked. I don’t know why that’s weird to anybody. [Laughs.]

Happy Endings Star Eliza Coupe on Feeling Up Guest Stars and Lusting for Michael Fassbender