Much like her character Brooke on The Other Two, Heléne Yorke is a fan of a good, sudden career transition. On the Comedy Central show, Brooke’s a former ballet dancer who’s enjoying life as an aimless 20-something until her younger brother suddenly becomes famous as a YouTube singer, and she starts having to take some responsibility to protect him from the chaos that comes with celebrity — also, she just thinks it would be fun to be his assistant. Yorke, like Brooke, started out as a dancer, but her career really began in musical theater, where she’s sung and danced in shows like Wicked, Bullets Over Broadway, and American Psycho. If you’ve seen Yorke before on television, it was probably on High Maintenance, where she played one half of a terrible, codependent friendship between a straight girl and her gay best friend. Yorke played the darkest possible version of a character she’s played before — oblivious, entitled, heavy on vocal fry — and it was the part that convinced The Other Two’s creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider to cast her as Brooke, who’s comparatively very well-adjusted.
On Thursday night’s episode of The Other Two, “Chase Shoots a Music Video,” Brooke falls back into her dancing, subbing in on one of her brother’s music videos after accidentally convincing another dancer to drop out, which means that Yorke also had to learn the steps to perform on TV. As it turned out, going from theater to hip-hop wasn’t as easy as she expected. Vulture caught up with Yorke to discuss keeping up with dancers who have danced with Beyoncé, going from musical theater to TV comedy, and how to mine the comedy in vocal fry.
I feel like I’m cursed, because anytime anything bad happens, I respond to it in my brain with Brooke saying, “In this climate?”
There’s so many good little soundbites on the show now. Also, “My Brother’s Gay” I think is becoming a sensation. It’s very exciting. Leland, who wrote that song, is, you know, a genius. He wrote a good chunk of the Bloom album with Troye Sivan.
In this week’s episode, we see Brooke try to get back into dancing, if only to upstage Greta Lee. I know you’ve done a lot of musical theater. What was it like to dance for the show?
Kathryn Burns, who choreographs on My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, had sent a video of her and her assistant doing the choreography. They set up a rehearsal and I was shooting that day with the show. I was like, I’m really fast at picking up choreography. This isn’t going to be a big deal. I was dragging my feet about getting downtown to go to this rehearsal.
We start doing it, and I was like, “Ohhh.” My brain knows how to learn musical theater dancing, but learning hip-hop? It was so hard for my body to understand how to move in that way. These girls that danced in this video were unreal-good. We’re doing this lineup and I was like “You guys, this is so fun! I feel like I’m in a Beyoncé video.” Kat goes, “Oh, that’s so funny. A lot of these girls dance for Beyoncé.” My face dropped, and there were two doors in the rehearsal room and I just left. I needed a minute to collect myself.
In my head I’m like, “I know how to dance,” and I think I got a massive schooling. I had this rehearsal video. Kat taped it so that she could send it to the creators to be like, “This is what we’re doing.” Everybody got the video and was like, “Where’s Heléne?” Which was the proudest moment of my life, because they couldn’t tell that I was the blonde one in the overalls. Brooke was excited to be included in the music video, but Heléne was even more excited to be included in the music video.
Growing up, was it always specifically musical theater that you wanted to do?
No. When I was 3 years old, my parents put me in ballet and I really thought I was gonna be a ballet dancer for a long time. I went to Westside School of Ballet in L.A. and I was climbing through the ranks. Then I got to pointe shoes and I was like, “This is not cool, you guys. This is gonna be in textbooks, someday, along with Chinese foot-binding.” Anyway, it’s not for me, so I got into doing different kinds of dance. Then, through school, I did choir and then acting classes. I had a dream one night that was like, Why aren’t you just combining all of these things? You should be going to school for musical theater. I went to Michigan for that. I graduated with Benj and Justin [Pasek and Paul], who have Tonys and Oscars and Golden Globes. Those are two of my best friends from college.
What’s funny is that they write [on The Other Two] that Brooke broke her ankle in ballet school and now doesn’t really know what to do with herself. I got hurt and broke my ankle doing something and sort of thought, I’m gonna have to pivot a little now. I hobbled to Los Angeles in my cast and my crutches and was like, “I’m gonna try to be in television now.” I was in physical therapy and trying to make this other thing happen that didn’t require me bouncing around like a lunatic all the time. But I healed and I got into television and I went back and I’m still dancing. Now [dance] feels like a fun back-pocket skill, whereas before it was the center of my life and universe.
The Other Two is fully in the TV comedy world — Molly Shannon’s in it, Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider wrote on SNL. Was it intimidating to go from theater to that?
The crazy thing about working with Chris and Sarah and Molly is that that’s something that I didn’t even have the guts to wish for myself. I auditioned and I thought, There’s no way I’ll get this. They’ll get somebody that they know from this world. We’re doing a second season, and I’m like, “I hope that they ask me back.”
Chris and Sarah have said that they’d seen you in those episodes of High Maintenance with Max Jenkins, where you two had a terrible codependent relationship. What do you think that character’s up to now?
High Maintenance became my calling card for the bulk of my television career. The character’s name is Lainey and that is my nickname, and Max is obviously Max’s name. Max and I met the day that we shot the online episode and embraced and immediately fell in love and we’re best friends now.
Part of me hopes that Max came out from under her thumb, but also thinks maybe that relationship … I don’t know. Now that they’re in their 30s, you know, maybe they understand themselves better and they understand themselves as individuals a little bit better. I hope that there’s more life and there’s more to be seen from the two of them.
I think the other thing that you see in Brooke and Lainey that you rarely see on TV are these close relationships between straight women and gay men, where there’s this mix of them supporting each other and taking advantage of each other. Brooke’s the girl who thinks all the guys love her at the gay club and is disappointed she’s not even bi because she thinks that would give her cachet. Is there something you find interesting in that type of character?
Oh gosh, nobody’s asked me that. I remember being in my early 20s and thinking it was hilarious that I was at a gay club. I think treating gay culture as a novelty is wrong, as something that you can say, like, “This is cool and fun and I’m a part of it.” You’re a straight woman, no you’re not. I have so many gay friends. I don’t know about how I feel about that kind of character. I think that that’s the joke, right? Is the fact that there’s nothing more annoying than a girl at a gay club being like, “Yeah,” and they’re like, “Get out of my way, I’m trying to have my evening. You’re in my way.” I think the character more than anything is somebody that’s, like, blithely unaware of what’s actually happening around her.
Between Brooke and Cary there’s still a real friendship and closeness, in comparison to something like the dynamic in High Maintenance.
I think that with Lainey, she’s leeching off of the fact that there’s the idea, Oh, my gay friend. He’s obsessed with me. In any relationship, if you’re thinking about yourself within the relationship, then that’s not a successful relationship. What makes Brooke so different is that I think she is thinking about what’s good for her brothers.
On a lighter note, I love the dynamic between Brooke and Josh Segarra, who’s playing your her dorky boyfriend.
Is he not the best? Josh Segarra and I have known each other since we were 22 and brand-new in the city, because he does musical theater as well. He’s the star of On Your Feet on Broadway, and, you know, Lysistrata Jones. I hadn’t seen him in a while and what’s cool about Josh is that that character originally was supposed to be a guy that’s worked for a Renaissance fair and he came in and was just Josh. They met Josh and they were like, How do we get this guy in the show?
You were in the American Psycho musical playing Patrick Bateman’s snooty girlfriend, and you had a very specific pronunciation of “Patrick.”
Yes! I wanted to know the backstory of that line reading, because you also have a few lines with Brooke in The Other Two where you’re using vocal fry for comedic effect in a similar way.
It’s the idea that you’re so above everything that your speech is lazy. That’s what I think is funny about vocal fry. I’m rich, I’m fine, I don’t even have to work hard at speaking. “Paaahtrick” came out in a way where she was just lazy about saying his name, and I got a titter [from the audience]. The creative team, God bless them, was like, “We’re only gonna let you push this so far.” But I pushed it right to the limit. It became a bit of a little fan fave. I’ll get people who say it to me and it’s a very stupid, proud career moment.
I have another important question I feel obligated to ask anyone who’s ever been in Wicked. You were Glinda on a national tour, right?
I opened the second national tour.
So my question is, Universal claims the Wicked movie is maybe, potentially, theoretically happening in 2021. (A) Do you think it will happen? (B) Would you like to be in contention for being Glinda?
Do I think it will happen? I don’t think it’ll happen yet. I’ve had many conversations with people and especially people that are the powers that be. My favorite thing is that Kristin Chenoweth, I have heard, is saying that she wants to play Madame Morrible, and more than anything I want that to happen because I think she is hilarious and brilliant and that that would be so fantastic and perfect, so I want to put that into the universe. But they’re still killing it on Broadway. I can’t imagine that they would do a movie yet.
Since The Other Two got renewed for a second season, is there anything you hope Brooke gets to do in it?
Anything I could think I’d wish for her, the producers are gonna come up with something smarter than I would ever say.
Any funny stories or humiliations from your own life you imagine Brooke might experience?
I had a humiliation where, with Sarah, after shooting it, I thought that I was gonna walk the red carpet for the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiere and was brutally denied. I went up with so much confidence and the security guard was like, “Excuse me?” It’s like, Oh, cool, I’m not that important. After the season’s been released, we’re getting recognized here and there. But you know what I think is most funny, is thinking, I’m awesome, I’m great, and then getting a funny reminder that you’re not. The four of us talk all the time and tell stories of how you can think you’re everything and the next day you’re back on a subway train still looking over audition sides.