Kether Donohue, a fresh face and comic voice known for “Pitch Perfect” and “The Bay,” got a career boost when her FX show “You’re the Worst” got a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Comedy Series.
TheWrap: What’s distinctive about “You’re the Worst?”
Kether Donohue: It shows the darker sides of life that other romantic comedies do not. Stephen Falk, our creator and showrunner, is brilliant, and all of our writers push boundaries and aren’t afraid of showing the dark side — but you’re laughing the whole way through.
Stephen Falk is noted for producing “Weeds” and “Orange is the New Black.” Will fans of those shows find something to like?
Absolutely. It’s similar in the way it’s hilarious but it’s also really dark and honest, and you see yourself in these characters in the most genuine way. I think the thing that separates our show from other shows is that it’s not afraid to talk about the things we’re ashamed of. ‘Cause shame is a thing that no one really talks about, but we all have weird stuff that we do when we’re by ourselves that we don’t even want to tell our therapists, because we don’t want to be judged. And this show really goes there.
So the two lovers, Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are the stars, and you and Desmin Borges are the best friends.
Yes, they’re two toxic, self-destructive people who don’t believe in love but of course they fall in love. But they don’t know how to be in love. Who knows how to be in love, quite frankly? Nobody. There’s no rule book. They’re trying to figure it out.
The show got a Critics’ Choice nomination. Exciting?
All the reviews have been beyond, I mean–I’m speechless by the love we’ve gotten from them.
Tell me about the start of your career.
I’ve been auditioning since I’m nine years old. Honestly, most of my friends I’ve met in audition rooms, because you’re always auditioning. I’ve done commercials that Sam Mendes directed. Paul Feig directed me in a commercial. I was honored to work with Barry Levinson in a film called “The Bay.” Jordan Vogt-Roberts
What did he see in you? Do you think some of the spunk and irreverence of your character is actually part of you?
That’s kind of the cool thing about acting: It’s kind of a mystery, you don’t know where anything comes from. You have to draw from your personal experiences but also you use your imagination, and it’s kind of nice to not think about it too much and just play.
Did your friendship with Aya Cash contribute to the performance?
Absolutely. When we were testing for the show we had chemistry reads. I was testing with two other girls, Aya was testing with someone else. And when Aya and myself got in the room, we had genuine chemistry because we had known each other already. I think it was that whole New York bond.
What was your favorite scene in Season 1?
What I love about Lindsay is that on one hand I get to do funny, outrageous stuff, like in Episode 9 of Season 1 I snorted cocaine off my breast. So that’s funny. But then there’s also like sweet, touching, heartfelt stuff, like in the season finale Lindsay and Gretchen have a real heart-to-heart moment, and kind of a breakthrough moment in their friendship. And that was an honor to play out.
I love how I get to say outrageous funny things but also explore complexities of the human mind and share that with the other characters.
You’re going for the laugh and also the character arc.
Yeah. The show experience is the whole canvas of emotions on both ends, of funny and sad and confusing.
What’s funny and sad about Lindsay?
What’s funny about her is she’s spontaneous and just does things you don’t expect. What’s sad is I think what all people go through. You may think your life is going to play out one way, and decisions and behaviors and your everyday life are based on what your parents want for you or to impress people in society for external superficial factors. But then in all of our lives we’ll have something where things shatter and fall apart, and relationships fall apart, and you question who you are. And you feel lonely and you feel lost and you feel judged and you feel ashamed.
So she’s not just a cartoon caricature who snorts coke off her breasts. She’s a real person who’s confused just like everyone else.
Tell me how opportunity struck when you were a waitress.
I kind of wanted to be a waitress in New York City. I thought it was fun and glamorous in its own way. Like in the movie “Beaches” when Bette Midler is banging on the radiator and it’s cold and she’s poor. I kind of thought that would be fun to be like a poor struggling actor.
So I got a job at the oldest Irish pub in New York City. But they didn’t pay minimum wage, we just worked for tips. Which was great, if it was busy, you could walk away with 300 bucks. But once I worked a 12-hour shift and we only had one table so I made $6. So I tried to unionize the waitresses and then I got fired. The owner called me up and was like [in a thick Irish accent], “Let’s just call it a day, Kether, this just isn’t working out.”
But it was nice because simultaneously I had booked my first-ever play in New York at Ensemble Studio Theater
Are there spontaneous moments on the show?
All four of the actors in “You’re the Worst,” we all have strong theater backgrounds. We all play off of each other in that way that you would in theater. You kind of are up for anything out of the blue happening and getting it on film, you know? We’re all just open to playing. It kind of feels like we’re all playing a basketball game together and we’re all warmed up and passing the ball and we have a nice rhythm going on.