Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Gillian Jacobs explain why the latest installment of their Netflix comedy isn’t as awkward as you think.
The second season of Love—Judd Apatow and Paul Rust’s Netflix comedy about two Los Angelenos navigating the ups and downs of a new relationship—picks up exactly where the first left off: Gus (Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) standing in a gas station parking lot, trying to figure out what to do next after the former interrupted the latter’s admission to struggling with sex and love addiction with a passionate (and questionably appropriate) kiss.
From there, Love’s sophomore bow finds its characters stumbling (and occasionally succeeding) through matters of the heart, all while balancing extra romantic concerns ranging from addiction-treatment programs, to professional struggles, to dogs shitting on expensive rugs. The show’s scope expands, too—Mickey’s roommate Bertie (a scene-stealing Claudia O’Doherty) is given a romantic plot of her own—but Gus and Mickey remain at the center, growing as lovers and adults with a distinct lack of grace that feels all too real.
VICE caught up with Apatow, Rust, and Jacobs last month in New York City. Read on for our conversation about how the show deals with substance abuse, the notion of "unlikable" TV characters, and the ever-changing face of comedy.
VICE: Something that sticks out in this season is how the show tackles addiction and treatment. It’s a more progressive approach than I’ve seen in the past.
Judd Apatow: We’re not satirizing it. There’s a way to do it where it’s funny and everyone’s breaking all the rules, but early on we just said, "This is good. You can take from it what you will." There are all sorts of messes that happen when you put a lot of people together who are struggling with a similar problem, but we wanted [the season] to be more about [Mickey’s] struggle to be consistent in her behavior.
I spent the entire season asking myself, "OK, so when is Mickey going to relapse?" It didn’t happen, which was surprising to me. It made me kind of feel bad that that’s what I’ve been trained to expect from TV and movies in general.
We didn’t want the show to be about falling on and off the wagon. It’s more about the type of person and the type of wounds that Mickey’s bringing into a relationship. Even though Gus isn’t an addict, he might have a whole different set of behaviors and neuroses. At first, you’re like, "She’s the messed up one," and the more you watch, you’re like, "They’re perfectly balanced in how fucked up they are."
There are many moments in this season where Gus and Mickey are equally at fault.
Paul Rust: We’re always making sure that you understand why a character is doing what they’re doing—whether you agree with them or not. I remember Larry David saying about Curb Your Enthusiasm, "The best arguments are the ones where you see both sides of the argument—and you agree with both of them." I remember talking to people who had seen [the first season episode, "Magic,"] and they were like, "I guess I’d take both of their sides? Even though both of them are wrong?"
In the writer’s room, we’re just trying to write what we think would be authentic, so when the response is, "That was such a cringe-y moment," I’m always like, "It was?" We’re just trying to show what it would be like to go to a party and be the first person there—we aren’t thinking, "How are we going to make people uncomfortable with this?" It’s honestly a surprise to hear people are uncomfortable. I’m like, "Hmm, I guess my experiences are very uncomfortable for people."
I think some of that discomfort comes from the fact that there are no characters on the show that are explicitly good or bad. It reminds me of the scene in Knocked Up where Seth Rogen’s character is yelling at the doctor in the hospital, his stomach gurgles, and there’s that moment where the two of them are like, "Alright, now we’re just going to move on."
Judd Apatow: It’s exactly like that. That’s literally the most truthful moment in that movie.
Paul Rust: When I saw Knocked Up in the theater, I remember the scene with Craig Robinson as the bouncer was so exhilarating to watch. You’re like, "OK, I’ve seen this type of scene where the bouncer has to be rude to people," but with Judd’s touch, it goes a little bit longer, and you find out that this bouncer hates that he has to do this. The bouncer is suddenly as complex as everyone else. We try to do that as much as possible.
Gillian, your performance as Mickey is very empathetic. How do you approach your portrayal of the character?
Gillian Jacobs: I really enjoyed this season because you see a lot of Mickey’s vulnerabilities. She has a hard exterior and can come on strong to people, but underneath that is someone who desperately wants to be liked and is worried that maybe she’s not that interesting of a person. I find that endearing because I’ve felt similarly myself. I also enjoy the fact that you see her try really for the first time at work, instead of coasting by on charm and an "I don’t give a fuck" attitude. It was refreshing.
Paul, I saw you on a panel yesterday where the moderator called the show "a comedy without jokes," which seemed really reductive.
Paul Rust: Yeah, when he said that, I was like, "Hey!"
But there are a lot of different types of "funny" lately, and I think that confuses audiences as we see more different types of comedies airing on TV.
I mean, I love stuff like Airplane, too—where it’s hard jokes, and I’m laughing from beginning to end for 85 minutes. It’s the best thing in the world. But we chose this tone, which I obviously love.
Judd Apatow: It’s like Say Anything. When I saw that movie as a kid, I thought, Oh, that’s the vibe I love. It’s funny, and the characters are very colorful, but they really just care about the truth more than anything.
Gillian Jacobs: I didn’t start out in comedy, so it’s been fun for me to discover all these different types of comedy as I’ve worked with different people. What’s fun about it for the audience is to be like, "Oh, that’s this person’s point of view on the world." It’s great to have a lot of different types of comedy on TV, because not everybody finds the same things funny. As a kid, there were the sitcoms on the major networks, and if that wasn’t your cup of tea, you really had to seek it out. I envy kids growing up now that have access to all these different shows.