Married has been praised widely for its uniquely unromantic portrayal of married life. Nat Faxon and Judy Greer portray Russ and Lina Bowman, through whom we explore what a marriage really is. While their characters are best friends and clearly truly love each other, they are also damaged and, as a result, complications arise. Much to its credit, Married avoids all trite pitfalls of sitcoms about married life – there is no unreasonably paired couple, no problems arise that are solved by one of the leads simply being lovably wacky, and (most importantly) the plots appear to truthfully depict the struggles of married life in the 21st century.
Faxon and Greer are also stretching their legs as leads, as both have tended towards co-starring roles in the past. Greer recently explored the life of a serial co-star in her book, I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star. You might recognize Greer as Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development, Karen Mitchell in Jurassic World, and the voice of Cheryl Tunt in Archer. Faxon has appeared in Reno 911!, The Way, Way Back, and Party Down.
A look at what marriage means in the modern era seemed all the more relevant during our interview, which took place the same day as the SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality. I had the opportunity to talk to them over the phone to hear how they felt about season one and how their perspectives on the show and their characters have developed going into season two.
What better occasion for a conversation about Married, right?
Judy Greer: Oh, yeah! I read the email this morning.
Nat Faxon: Quite contextual.
Judy Greer: I know. They’re going to have fire Nat and hire a woman for season three.
Nat Faxon: It is going to be great.
Turn the show around.
Nat Faxon: It’s what the show has needed from the start. I think we all felt it, and we know it. That’s the real thing that it was something special. That was the real tension the entire time. It’s like, if we could just be Gay Married instead!
Judy Greer: You can still produce, Nat.
So you guys just wrapped up taping season two. How was the experience of that compared to season one?
Judy Greer: I think better. I feel like season one of any television show that you do is always kind of like finding its sea legs a bit, you know? Trying to figure out especially – and I don’t want to speak for the writers – but I think the writers are really getting a sense of our voices and trying to write to them. Then when you get into a second season, even if you have new writers, they can watch the first season or maybe they just can hang out and get to know us a little bit. Then they can kind of start to write for us a little bit more. So, I would say that’s different.
Nat Faxon: Judy has a lot of weaknesses, so it was important for the writers to play to that.
Judy Greer: Yeah. Nat has a really hard time remembering his lines, so it’s really helpful for them to know to not write as many lines for him.
Nat Faxon: True. I struggle with anything over three lines…
Judy Greer: And I do have so many weaknesses with my acting, so it’s been really great for them to cater to us.
Learning to read must be really helpful, though.
Nat Faxon: Yes, yeah. It’s been a challenge. My daughter and I read together.
Judy Greer: Nat goes into the tutor trailer with the kids who play our kids on the show when they have to go to school. So that was something we started doing this season, learning how to read, which has been really great.
Nat Faxon: Yeah. I’m at a third grade level, so that’s fun.
Judy, this past year has also been your first year of marriage, yeah? Has this show had any effect on how you think about your actual marriage?
Judy Greer: Well, I think I’m a little bit more conscious about not falling into some of the habits that our characters fall into. Hearing people on set talk about what their marriage is like, I’m like, “Oh, god. What have I done?” But, I don’t know. I think it hasn’t really affected much, except that I have to make sure to do it with my husband so he’s happy. Apparently that’s a major thing in a marriage.
Nat Faxon: Do it, meaning sex?
Judy Greer: Yeah.
Nat Faxon: Oh, got it.
You’re living in kind of two worlds, the newlywed world and also a world where you have to kind of pretend like you’re in a struggling marriage. But the show is, I think, very realistic. I think that’s the most exciting thing about it.
Judy Greer: Yeah. Sometimes people say it’s too realistic.
Nat Faxon: Yeah. I think there’s some people that probably watch the show and feel comforted by the fact of like, oh, this makes me feel more normal because I identify with it. This is like a clear representation of what I go through on a daily basis. And then there are probably those people that watch it where it freaks them out, that they just want something that’s glossier and more make believe and takes them out of what their daily life looks like. But hopefully, it’s more of the former and not the latter.
So, you were talking about how the writers are kind of learning more of what your characters sound like, et cetera. How closely are you developing with the writers? How much leeway do you have while you’re taping?
Nat Faxon: I think it’s as much or as little as we want really. Andrew Gurland, the creator of the show, is extremely collaborative and very open. Obviously they have ideas and directions that they want to explore, but I think it’s really on us how much we want to be involved or not, and I think obviously we like being involved and so it’s a balance between offering suggestions or ideas or personal stories that we feel connect to the show thematically and then also sort of allowing them space to create and do what they do without us badgering them. But it works well, I think, because they’re so open. It’s really fun to sort of talk about different stuff.
Judy Greer: I love when we would have a table read for a new script, and reading the episode and thinking it’s so crazy, and then hearing that it actually happened to one of the writers. Like, oh, no, this is like a real thing that happened. Because so many times something crazy will happen in real life, and you’ll think, “This is so crazy that if it was on a TV show no one would believe it,” but I feel like in the case of our writers, I don’t know if they’re just really weird or have bad luck or they’re… They have some really wild shit happen to them, and so we get to act it out. I also like when we’re running lines with Andrew [Gurland] before shooting a scene. They’re always open to last-minute on-set changes, alterations, things like that. That’s helpful, you know. Sometimes it’s more about finessing things than coming up with a whole new idea that is ours. Thankfully the well is not dry in the writer’s room yet. They have all kinds of awesome ideas.
And obviously you guys are both experienced, but there has to be somewhat new territory, because in your position as lead role people are feeding into you rather than you feeding into them.
Judy Greer: Yeah. It’s different because I’m not really used to having… well, I have loads of opinions. I’m not used to people at work caring about them as much, so that’s fun. Or at least pretending to.
What exactly were you expecting, going into the second season, that was different from the first season?
Nat Faxon: You know, I think it was important, for me, that the show maintain consistency in its tone and in its theme and in its subject matter and really just wanting to build off of where we left off, and continue to explore our relationship and also our individualism within the show. They did really a masterful job at that this year. I feel like it’s a funnier season than it was, and I agree with Judy. There’s always a little bit that finding your sea-legs in season one where you’re sort of making sure you’re all sort of going in one direction. I think the benefit of doing more seasons is that just becomes more fine-tuned, and it just runs smoother and you have an easier time, and you have a shorthand with each other, and you sort of know where the characters have already been and where you’re trying to go to. You know? And it’s fun to explore new stuff, especially, like, last season was a lot for me about sort of feeling like I was in a rut and wanting to get out of it. This season I feel like my character has created more opportunity and gotten a better job, but now they’re dealing with a host of other issues as a result, which is not spending enough time at home and sort of being at work so much and feeling like sort of burdened by this new responsibility that I have.
So I think for me it was really just about maintaining what we had built in the first season and making sure that the episodes link together and made sense as a whole and fit with the season that we had already shot. I think we met all those expectation at least on our side, and then I think as far as production and the writers, I felt really good about what we did.