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Love’s Claudia O’Doherty on Bertie, Moving to America, and Pretending to Be Sad

Claudia O’Doherty. Photo: Eric Charbonneau/Netflix

Claudia O’Doherty knows a lot of people like Bertie, her character on Netflix’s sad-com Love, who’s moved from Australia to America and, in the show’s second season, is a feeling a little lost. In fact, she’s a lot like Bertie herself, though, unlike her character, she’s had a lot more success — she moved from Australia to London for her career and then, after a role in Trainwreck, finally to Silver Lake to act on Love and write for Inside Amy Schumer. After Love’s second season premiered on Netflix over the weekend, Vulture caught up with Doherty to talk about getting a too-good-to-be-true offer from Judd Apatow, learning how to pretend to be sad, and the difference between the comedy scenes in Australia, England, and America.

I feel like a lot of people first heard about you from your role in the first season of Love. How did it feel to have a lot more people suddenly discover your work?
It was the kind of thing you always hope will happen, which is someone will give you a really nice job. I also feel like it’s a dream situation for me, because I get to be silly and fun. Also, it’s not an agonizing acting job — it’s not the kind of thing where everyone in the world knows who I am and now my life is ruined.

Compared to shows that do a lot of hard, big jokes, Love’s more of a character comedy. How much of that comes from improv on the set and how much of it is written into the script?
It’s mainly written and then we’ll occasionally ad-lib and do a bit of improv. Judd is a huge fan of that, and it’s so fun to do that as an actor. But, it’s all pretty well-written. You never feel like, Oh God, I better do a lot of improvising, but you are allowed to do that some of the time.

Have you talked much about what exactly Bertie’s backstory is and why she ended up going from Australia to L.A.?
It’s fun because she and I have that in common. I live in Silverlake now, and I am also from Australia. I mean, I moved here for show business — in fact I moved here for this job in particular — and obviously Bertie didn’t do that. But she reached the point where she just wanted to make a big change in her life. It’s not unusual for Australians. Because our country is so far away from every other country, you feel like there’s a some of kind of imperative to live overseas for a little while to see what the rest of the world is about. So it’s completely understandable that something’s gone on in Australia, and she’s like, “I’m out — L.A. it is.”

Do those people you find end up eventually moving up back to Australia? Is it a Rumspringa sort of thing?
Usually, people go back. A lot of my friends are back now. They’ve gone back to Australia and gotten married or had kids and done very adult things because they did their stint in their early 20s. But show business is so important to me, so I’ve had to stay in Los Angeles. It’s true, there are no jobs where I come from.

Well, you know, who knows what will happen to the U.S. in the future.
I mean it’s horrifying obviously with who your president is right now. If anyone wants to move all of show business to Australia, I think that’s a cool idea.

I wanted to talk about your whole journey from Australia, because first you moved to England and made these videos called “What Is England?” And then those were discovered, and you came over and worked in the U.S.
I moved over to London because you can do a bit more live comedy over there. And so it was a very exciting place to live for a while, but rent is incredibly expensive, and I was in this really expensive house that was infested with mice. So, in some ways, it was also a living hell. I made those videos to for Channel 4 while I was living over there. Then Bill Hader shows them to Amy [Schumer], and then really quickly — like, the next day — I was at the table read for Trainwreck, and I was sitting with Judd.

Then I did Trainwreck, and on the last day of Trainwreck, he was like, “We’re making a show about Silverlake, do you wanna be in it?” I was like, “Yeah!” But I certainly didn’t think that he was telling the truth. Then I went back to England, and I was back in my mouse-infested house. I was kind of like, “I wonder if any of that will actually ever happen? Surely not. That would be insane.” So I love it. Now I’ve got no mice in my house, and it’s not cold.

You said England had a good live-comedy scene. What were the differences is between the kind of comedy worlds in Australia, England, and the U.S.?
In Australia, especially in terms of alternative comedy — and also, I may be saying the wrong things as I did leave in 2012 and I think it’s a little bit different now — there were not many places to do things. It was like, if your friends did a performance art festival, you could do something at that. The festival scene is a real thing in Australia. I would do the Melbourne Comedy Festival every year and do a monthly show there, and then take that show over to the Edinburgh Fringe. Then I would go to London for a month, which is how I started to know English people and see that maybe that would be the place to live. So then I moved over to London and you can do a million gigs there. It’s just so many more people who are interested in seeing stuff. It’s cold there. The people wanna go into venues and watch comedy.

But then once again, there’s not many TV shows, there’s not many movies getting made — not that I expected a movie. The kind of job I have on Love, you couldn’t really get over in London. Also, I can’t do a very good English accent, so it didn’t make that much sense to be there. And now I’m in L.A., I work on a TV show, and I’m trying to work on other stuff, but I do much less live comedy here because I’m lazy.

Watching this season of Love, I was trying to figure out why Bertie would stay with Mickey as a roommate, because Mickey can be so unreliable.
I think it’s what happens when you move overseas and you don’t know anyone. And also Bertie genuinely does like Mickey and think she’s cool. Then she’s also just terrified of having to find a new roommate. Sometimes you make friends really quickly, and not necessarily with the people you should be friends with. You got a real friendship vacuum, so you might fill it up with some real creeps. But that’s a great recipe for comedy on the show. Like, obviously, Bertie probably shouldn’t hang out with Mickey as much as she does, but she gets into funny situations.

Do people also tend to seize upon the first possible boyfriend or girlfriend? I was just thinking of Bertie’s relationship with Randy.
I think so. I mean I didn’t do that, but I think that is what happened [with Bertie]. I think it is just that she’s lonely. Then there’s this nice guy who’s like, “I’ll be your boyfriend.” Also she’s openhearted, so she’s excited about the idea of Randy, and then he quite easily reveals himself to be a psycho.

In addition to being on Love, you’ve written for Inside Amy Schumer. Do you see a difference between the kind of comedy you like to write and what you like to perform?
I guess my natural inclination is towards very silly stuff, like the videos I made for Channel 4. That definitely suited writing for Amy’s show as well, because you’re writing pitches and they’re all like high-concept ridiculous things usually. Acting-wise, I just love doing funny acting. I could never write Love. My brain couldn’t do it — you know, write a natural, true show about relationships. But it’s really fun to get to play a fairly normal person in a normal world.

This season, there’s a little bit more of Bertie’s less comedic side, dealing with Randy and and feeling more lost. Did you have to train yourself to do more of the dramatic scenes?
No, I just guessed, and I haven’t seen it yet, so maybe I’m terrible. Working with Gillian — who’s a properly highly trained Juilliard actress — sometimes I asked her, “Am I doing it wrong?” She’s always very nice.

Luckily, they created a character for me that’s not a million miles from who I am, or maybe who I was a few years ago. Acting’s just pretending — if you just pretend you’re sad, then hopefully you seem sad, or whatever the scene calls for. I’m pretty sure that’s how Meryl Streep feels about it as well.

Love’s Claudia O’Doherty on Moving to America