On FXX’s You’re The Worst, it’s still unclear who is actually the worst – although the show’s crude, egotistical, perpetually underemployed Lindsay appears to be leading the pack. Then how is she is also so darn lovable? It might be to the credit of actress Kether Donohue, who plays Lindsay with such profound hilarity and unabashed confidence that you’ll no doubt forget all the rest. (She also happens to get all the best lines. From last night’s episode: “I thought all English people were fancy, but these are like Alabama English people.”) So how does she do it? I asked Donohue about playing “the worst”, how the show recently took a surprising turn for the dark and why voicing a Pokémon prepared her to play basically any role.
How does it feel to be redeeming the name Lindsay? I feel like we have been dragged in the mud a little bit.
I know, I love it. Whenever I hear the name Lindsay, I actually have a literal reaction. Where I’m like, Oh, it’s me.
Well, there aren’t too many like Lindsay or Lindsey role models.
Totally. Wait, are you LindsAy or LindsEy?
I’m “E-Y”, as in Lindsey Buckingham. But it’s pronounced the same so I have learned to accept all spellings.
Yes, I agree that our portrayal of the “A-Y” is revolutionary.
You’re just changing history. You guys are also changing the perception of the TV rom-com. Did you kind of have any inkling that the show would would take a turn from wacky-dark, to a dark-dark?
That’s all Stephen [Falk, You’re The Worst’s creator]. And I don’t think anybody could have really prepared me for what we’re seeing now. All I knew from the get-go was, when I read the pilot script, that there were hints of darkness. But I’m blown away. I think [Stephen] and the writers allowed themselves to go into the unknown.
The audience knows what’s going on with Gretchen, but it feels like no one else does. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that, as her best friend, Lindsay is kind of blind to this very serious thing?
I love it because, I think it’s a realistic portrayal of depression. We all have something about us that makes us feel defective or like less than, or we’re not good enough. Gretchen’s depression is the story of her shame and guilt. It was amazing, reading all the Twitter comments. People who struggle with depression, they were really grateful for this episode. The reality is when someone is dealing with this dark depression they don’t always reach out for help. It’s a painful thing to deal with. It’s easier to just put it under the rug and pretend everything’s okay.
There’s this isolation, even though everyone’s around you. Gretchen probably has more close friends than she’s ever had. All of them seem so distant from her at this point.
I think, for me, the episode also tapped into that thing humans do – we idolize people, whether it’s actors or the Prince and Princess of England.
Seriously, though. We like to sit here and dwell over people and see how perfect everyone else’s lives are. Vicariously live through other people’s happiness.
We live in a very aspirational culture. Where you look at Beyoncé, but you also look at your friends Instagram photos.
Exactly! It’s kind of dangerous. It’s very dark.
And last night’s episode – still dark, but Lindsay is back with maybe a new career opportunity. Did you know you were going to be singing again?
What was hilarious was that Stephen came up to me on set to tell me that I wasn’t going to be in [last week’s episode]. He was so nervous to tell me I [wasn’t] in the episode. He was like, “You’re not in episode 9 … But you’re one of my favorite people, and you’re singing in season 2 – that makes up for it.” It does!
At the end of the episode, you get a hint of the song and you’re like, In the world of the show, is this a hit? So if Lindsay had to be one pop star, what pop star do you think she’d be?
Oh. Duh. She loves Beyoncé. I think Lindsay is idolizing lives here and Beyonce is a number one dream goal. Her hashtag goals. But I think in actuality she would try really hard to be like Beyoncé and it will definitely not work out.
It seems like kind of as Gretchen sinks lower, Lindsay gets higher – they’re passing ships in the night, in terms of one’s on an upswing while one’s on a downswing.
Yeah, exactly. It’s like I won. Yeah, I feel like Lindsay and Gretchen are both thinking in their heads like, Man, I wish we could both just be normal for a day.
I was kind of cruising your IMDb and you’re also the voice of a Pokémon. Did that voice work, that type of anime exaggeration, help you look toward real life characters?
Absolutely. It’s always been something I’ve done. I remember in middle school I would always imitate my teachers. Actually, it was my birthday on Halloween and my best friend flew in from New York, so I wanted it to be special. I wanted to go to a really nice restaurant and she called one tried to make a reservation. They turned us down. So I called them, and I’ve never done this before, but I was really in survival mode. I put on a really deep voice, I was like [does a deep voice] “Hi, I need to make a reservation.” I was like, “My client is being a pain in the ass. You want to go to a restaurant on your birthday, and what can we make this happen?” And it worked, it worked!
Oh my god. You did it.
My friend was like, Who’s this alter ego that came out of you? So I created this character named Phyllis Deegan. She really gets shit done. She can get you into any restaurant you want.
That could be a good side gig for you.
We went to a dance club later and I thought, I wonder what else Phyllis can do for us. So I went up to the waiter and I was like, “Hi, I really want to sing karaoke, what can you do?” And she was like, “No, we love you guys so much. Karaoke is on us.”
They gave us a karaoke room! I’m telling you, it’s all Phyllis Deegan. If you ever need to get into a really fancy restaurant, just call me.
Photo credit: Autumn De Wilde/FX