Tags: Q&A

“I’ve Never Had Trouble Getting Laid”

‘You’re the Worst’s hilarious star Aya Cash talks to DAME about the comfort of not being Megan Fox–hot, and embracing unlikeability.
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In the first season of FX’s sleeper hit show You're the Worst, we see main character Gretchen drunkenly sideswipe a cop car, have sex with a bouncer in an alleyway, shit her pants while out for a jog, and, in the final episode, burn down her apartment when her Hitachi Magic Wand malfunctions. She’s not your average leading lady … yet. But it’s a trail Aya Cash is happy to be blazing. After small but memorable roles in shows and movies like The Newsroom and The Wolf on Wall Street, the 32-year-old actor is killing it as the sarcastic music publicist with a fear of commitment and a mild coke problem. You’re the Worst isn’t your average rom-com either. The biting series focuses on Gretchen’s relationship with struggling novelist Jimmy (Chris Greere), whose own rap sheet is just as cringey, and their decidedly unorthodox coupling—one that hits more honest notes than the meet-cute romantic bullshit most media feeds us. Along with the couple’s two best friends, party-girl-turned-housewife Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and military vet Edgar (Desmin Borges), the show, created by Stephen Falk (OITNBWeeds), has a cast of weirdoes ripe for skewering Millennial culture and our ideas of what a relationship should be. The second season premieres tonight (Wednesday) so we caught up with Cash, from her home base of New York, to talk about getting laid, reverse objectification, and what it’s like to be followed by Jon Cryer on Twitter.

Gretchen and Jimmy are often described as “unlikeable,” which I think in television might just be code for human. But while unlikeable male characters are a dime a dozen, women as unlikeable characters feels a bit like uncharted territory. Do you think about Gretchen in that context?

Definitely. I think about it because I’m an actress and the characters that I audition to play are often “supportive wife” or “hooker with a heart of gold.” I appreciate when a role comes along that broadens our idea of womanhood. I hope it’s not a trend because obviously trends come and go, but there is a shift in our business’s thinking about women with Broad City and Trainwreck and Catastrophe. “Unlikeable” is sort of a catchall for not sweet and cute and loving at all times, which, I hate to let the cat out of the bag, but as a woman, we are not all sweet and loving and charming at every moment. However, I’ve also heard friends talk about pitching [projects] and people will be, “Oh, well, we’re not sure we’re going to like her.” So it’s still there. But I appreciate being part of what is changing.

I read that when you first came across the script you thought, “Oh, they’ll never let me do this.” How come?

Because I have been conditioned by our media as well. I was raised in a very non-traditional family environment, and as much as I would like to think I am not a part of the system, I absolutely am. I read it and I thought, They’re gonna cast someone who is traditionally a “hot” girl. Which is not what I look like. However I’ve never had trouble getting laid, I’m not like, “Oh, I’m so hideous.” But I’m not necessarily Megan Fox. I’m not gonna be the one who trades on her looks. I’m not saying Megan Fox trades on her looks, I’m saying the media trades on Megan Fox’s looks. Even on social media, people say terrible things. They’re like, “She’s not that hot”; “He’s much more attractive than her,” blah blah blah. What is nice is that Stephen [Falk, the show’s creator] doesn’t think that way and FX doesn’t think that way, so it was really me pigeonholing myself out of a job because of what I’ve internalized in the media. I think honestly the show works better without a supermodel in it because to have someone who looks like someone you might know is a much more interesting choice. 

These are also the first sex scenes you’ve said you felt comfortable doing. Why is that?

A lot of sex in film and TV is meant to titillate and I actually don’t think these sex scenes are meant to titillate. They’re not just like, Oh yeah, so sexy. It’s like, “Oh whoops! Um, ow, you hurt me,” and “What are you doing there? I don’t like that. Oh! Maybe I do like that.” That’s much more true to life and it’s funny. Look, I’ve been together with my husband for ten years, I haven’t had sex with anyone in a long time, maybe I’m completely wrong … I mean, I’ve had sex with him, Jesus Christ! I meant with anyone else. [laughs]

It does feel like Gretchen isn’t being objectified or if she is, not any more than Jimmy, which is kind of novel.

Completely. You know it’s funny, they can show butt on FX and I said, “Well, you can show his butt.” Obviously we show a lot, but that’s where I wanted to draw the line and they were totally respectful of it. So we get to see some Jimmy butt instead.

The show also gets really self-referential about feminism. There have been a couple of moments when Lindsay and Gretchen are talking about relationships and Lindsay will be like, “Is this feminism?” or, “Feminism exists so that we can sleep with other people!” Do you consider it a feminist show?

I do, but I’m also a feminist so there’s a part of me that feels like I wouldn’t want to be associated with anything that wasn’t—not necessarily overtly feminist but at least subversively. Again, it’s about broadening our expectations of women. I don’t think that the women on our show, me included, are the only representation of what it means to be a powerful woman or to be a woman in the media, it’s just one representation and it’s one that hasn’t been shown as much. But I also think there’s this interesting thing in third-wave feminism, and the sexual empowerment side of it, that has been confusing for a lot of people, like, “We can sleep around just like the boys.” The issue is the “just like the boys” part of it, because you’re using male norms as your barometer. But I think that these are women who grapple with that as well, in a very comical way. And that's the thing, ultimately we are a comedy and what I love about the show, just as a fan of the show—if that's not, like, too insanely gross to be a fan of your own show—when I read the scripts, I appreciate how far they're willing to go in to really interesting issues. We get into some stuff this year that gets very, very dark. It's sort of a real “issue” storyline and I hope we walk the balance of bringing that sort of levity to it as well. Like Edgar's PTSD—that’s a very serious issue and it’s handled with respect and yet it’s also hilarious. I don’t know how they do that, they magicians.

The show also addresses some big hot-button issues, but they’re presented in a nonchalant way that ends up normalizing them. In one episode Gretchen offhandedly mentions her past abortion. If you’re not paying attention you wouldn’t even catch it.

Yeah, I feel the same with Sam the rapper’s bisexuality and the way he, at the end of that episode [when Gretchen accidentally interrupts him mid-hookup with a gay character], I’m not gonna say the N-word but he’s like, “This N-word sucks really good dick.” And he’s like, What? What’s the issue? And that comes back in. At one point he says something to the extent of, “If someone offers you a really yummy salad, you eat it cause that's what's in front of you." And I appreciate that sort of nonchalance. You think it’s just a shock line and yet on the other hand it actually says something about the fluidity of sexuality. 

Jimmy and Gretchen are the crux of the show but with Gretchen and Lindsay’s relationship, it also feels like a show about female friendship.

Totally, their friendship reminds me of friendships that have been forged over many variations of self. Like your friendships with your oldest friends, when you’ve seen so many iterations of who someone is, and lived through all of them. That’s what the friendship between Lindsay and Gretchen feels like to me; they may present completely differently at different points and yet there’s this deep, deep love and respect for each other.

The promo for the new season spoofs Sixteen Candles in a very You’re the Worst way. Were John Hughes films a big part of your formative years?

I would actually say another John as well: John Waters. Of course Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink were a big part of my childhood—Jon Cryer followed me on Twitter a couple of months ago and I was like, “Holy fuck! Duckie’s following me!” But Crybaby and Hairspray, those were my movies that I watched over and over again. That dates me cause it’s not the John Travolta Hairspray by the way, the original. [laughs]

At the end of season 1, Jimmy and Gretchen had just moved in together. How will cohabitation get the You’re the Worst treatment in season 2?

It plays out in exactly the way you would expect and then takes a subversive turn. It digs deeper than just the cutesy, “He leaves the toilet seat up!” Don’t worry, that’s not a joke in this.