You’re the Worst’s Stephen Falk and Aya Cash on Leg-Washing, ‘I Love You,’ and the Last Sunday Funday

Tonight’s third-season premiere of FXX’s You’re the Worst picks up three days after three words, “I love you,” entered Gretchen and Jimmy’s unconventional relationship. They’re on the other side of Gretchen’s dark period, and clearly in a good place again, but neither is prepared for the inevitable changes in their eight- or nine-month-old relationship. Jimmy (Chris Greer) would rather pretend “I love you” never happened; and Gretchen (Aya Cash), who will soon begin therapy for her depression, doesn’t think it has to mean that much.

The rest of the season will continue to delve into this dynamic, showrunner and creator Stephen Falk told Vulture in a recent interview. “This season is exploring the notion of that moment when your relationship transforms from just the dude or girl that you’re hanging out with to your family — that moment when they become family,” he said. “What is that line, and how terrifying that is, and what does that mean? We’re really going deep into that.”

In separate interviews, Falk and Cash discussed how the show will move on from Gretchen’s lowest period, her leg-washing habits (or lack thereof), where things are headed for a newly violent Lindsay (Kether Donohue), and the last Sunday Funday.

Last season, Jimmy — and viewers — discovered Gretchen’s depression. Even though she’s recovered from that low, it’s an ongoing issue in her life and in her relationship.
Stephen Falk:
From the outset, my desire was always to create characters that were very complex and could represent a lot of different sides of all of us. The dark, forbidden, unspoken, dirty little secrets we all have. And at the same time the deep yearnings that we all have and the loneliness, and the desire for love, and the fear of being rejected. Those are two sides of the same coin. When you desire a relationship, when you want someone to love you or you want to be loved, at the exact same time there’s almost an equal amount of fear that they’re gonna discover something about you or you’re gonna do something or they’re just gonna get bored of you or they’re gonna learn who you actually are. And then if you flash forward to a relationship a year later, it looks really different.

And so, for me, inherent to the show is the fact that these two people met and did that. They went, “I’m kinda shitty. Don’t date me. You don’t want to date me.” And yet they did. The joy then of last season was to go, Oh no, actually here’s another closet that’s still dark. Going with that premise, we almost took them back a little bit to a step that they missed of discovering things about each other that are more difficult and ugly and unpleasant than they were told. We’re showing that Jimmy and Gretchen have almost a harder road. By having been so honest at the beginning, they denied the fact that humans are complicated and relationships are difficult and life gets really hard sometimes.

Aya Cash: Gretchen’s depression was an a-ha moment. It’s like, we see them in all their fun coping mechanisms, which are really fun to watch, and then to have an explanation, I went, Oh yeah! Of course, duh! Not that I saw it coming, but once it came, it was very clear and made a lot of sense. She’s really on a path to try to get better. Clinical depression can come and go very quickly, but it comes back. She’s building the tools to help herself so that it doesn’t get to the low lows again. During her therapy, I think she buys in at moments. You hear a little bit about her background, her family. And she starts to really believe that maybe I can help myself, but in the way that often when you’re starting to learn about yourself or reading a self-help book or getting into some religion or going to therapy, where she’s just sort of hitting on the surface level. She will try to fix everyone but everything sort of falls apart.

The fans went nuts over “I love you,” but, as Gretchen and Jimmy, show us in the season premiere, does it mean all that much?
SF: Clinging to this “I love you” thing is maybe a false premise. It seems monumental and we ended last season with it, even though it’s very small. It’s just three words and anyone can say it to anyone. So we said it and it was romantic and cute and nice. But then this season, what does that actually mean? What does it mean to the relationship now? Although it’s played romantically at the end of the first episode of this season, it’s sad in a way, that idea that they can bail. After the depression we didn’t want to do just another depression season. We wanted to move on from that, but still have that play out with the therapy. But the bigger part of that, the depression story line and what it does to a relationship — we wanted to this season move away from that a little bit and just keep charting the course of this relationship, and “I love you” is a big one.

AC: Love means a lot of different things to different people and they’re going to define it for themselves, and love does not necessarily mean forever. Just because you love someone does not mean you stay with them forever. And I think especially my generation and younger — I mean, God, the ‘60s happened let’s not pretend that it’s just our generation. But whatever is happening right now, marriage is not even necessarily a forever thing. Commitment is not the same thing as it once was in our culture, and I think you can say, Wow, I can have many great loves in my life but it might not be with the same person for the rest of my life. I mean, I’m hoping to stay with my husband forever but who knows! [Laughs.]

Jimmy also has to confront the fact that his girlfriend doesn’t wash her legs.
This came out one of our writers. She said she doesn’t wash her legs. We all were like, What are you talking about? That’s insane. And we thought that would be a good thing for Gretchen. It’s starting a debate, even on the crew. We’re all talking about it. One of my directors said, “I don’t wash my legs.” One of my FX executives said she doesn’t wash her legs. I think it’s disgusting. I think all of you who don’t wash your legs should be ashamed of yourselves. Half of your body, and they’re directly connected to your butt.

AC: I only do once a week. But not like consciously. I just realized I don’t, and it’s not like I have a leg-washing thing. Water falls on them. The thing about Gretchen and Jimmy is that they’re incredibly connected, but they also still don’t know much about each other and that’s what’s really fun about these different reveals in the first episode, from the washing of the legs thing to, Oh, you speak Spanish? I had to learn that monologue, and I do not speak Spanish. I had a lovely coach that I met for an hour at the West Hollywood Library and he taught me. All I can say in Spanish is “seafood platter” and “I’m going to lose my job if you don’t show up to a concert.”

Can you talk about casting Samira Wiley, who will debut her recurring role as Gretchen’s therapist, Justina, in the second episode?
I wanted her. I worked with her on Orange Is the New Black. I got to write [Poussey’s] backstory episode in season two. When you think of TV therapists, you think one thing. I wanted someone young, and I wanted a woman, and I wanted someone of color. I want her to be a formidable opponent to Gretchen, but not in a combative way. Gretchen doesn’t know herself at all. Hers is a mind completely unexplored. Even the most rudimentary things that we think about ourselves and that we hold to be true, I don’t think she’s ever even contemplated. So we will see her start to think about very normal things, like how things in the past may affect you now. She’s never even considered that.

AC: I was suggesting casting choices when I first heard about it and they were like, Oh, no, it’s going to be Samira Wiley and I was like, What? She’s younger than me! Funny enough, I pictured Julie White, who actually is doing an episode as a different character.

But besides the fact that you just like stare at Samira because she’s so beautiful, she’s such a wonderful woman. She’s so kind and warm and smart, and I think it’s great casting for Gretchen’s therapist. Obviously Gretchen is very resistant, and to have someone who’s so lovely and engaging and interesting — it’s hard to turn away from. It’s hard to say no to. And that’s helpful for Gretchen to keep her in therapy. She’s really interested in who this woman is, too, and you get little pieces of Justina’s backstory as well. Justina makes some mistakes and realizes some things about her own life. And to have her be younger, you’re more understanding that she’s also trying to figure out this new dynamic. She’s probably never had a client like Gretchen, so she’s also figuring it out.

Let’s talk about Lindsay. From turkey-basting insemination to stabbing Paul in the kitchen, she seems to be spiraling.
SF: Lindsay’s pregnant and now violent! She’s made a terrible mistake [reconciling with Paul], but she tries anyway. She should absolutely not have a baby. But she was raised very competitively with her sister. We haven’t met her mother yet, but I think her mother is a deep force in that. There’s a desire, despite what a complete mess of a human being she is in almost every aspect, to not admit defeat in this realm. She got married, and you try to make that work. And not really because she loves Paul, but because it’s embarrassing to say, “I’m getting divorced.”

AC: When we read what Lindsay does, we were all like, Whaaaat? It’s nice that Gretchen was struggling so much last season and the other characters had to deal with her but now she’s taking care of herself, and some of the other characters are falling off the ledge.

Even Edgar has gotten a bit more of an arc. What direction are you planning to take his character?
We’re getting pretty deep into Edgar’s psyche, or damaged psyche, this year. Last season, we let Edgar explore stand-up and find a girlfriend and do fun things. But I think we do have a responsibility to deal with his combat issues. We can’t just mention that and keep going, you know? I felt this season is the right time to do it, and we’re actually in the middle of telling that story right now.

Will there be another Sunday Funday this season?
The characters realize that Sunday Funday has been co-opted by the public — everybody’s doing it. Of course, we’ve noticed it in society and are ashamed of it, so we’re incorporating all of that into the episode, “The Last Sunday Funday.” But it’s the last time.

YTW’s Falk & Cash on Leg-Washing, ‘I Love You’