With ‘Life & Beth,’ Amy Schumer Is Still Learning

The Hulu series’ creator and costar Michael Cera tell TheWrap they’re sharing a different kind of autism spectrum story

"Life & Beth"
Beth (Amy Schumer) and John (Michael Cera) in "Life & Beth" (Photo Credit: Hulu)

When “Life & Beth” first premiered, the Hulu original was praised as being some of Amy Schumer and Michael Cera’s most nuanced and emotional work to date. But the creator and executive producer behind the romantic dramedy sees the series as less of a comedic evolution of her work and more of a professional one.

“It’s like the funniest comedies are always also tragedies. If I think about my sketch show, most scenes end with me screaming or crying,” Schumer told TheWrap. “You hit rock bottom, and then falling even further. As an artist, I love that you just get better and you learn more.”

Schumer has certainly learned more from her currently-running streaming entry. As well as starring and EPing the series, the comedy star directed four episodes in Season 1 and three in Season 2. This time around, that involved directing two highly emotional episodes that follow her titular character Beth and John (Cera) navigating a stressful pregnancy, communication problems and an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

“I just love getting better. It’s like an instrument where you learn more and more. I feel like all these lessons I’m learning creating this show and this content is evident,” Schumer said. “It’s just learning more about how to tell a story, even though everyone says that and I want to throw up. But it’s really true.”

Even though there are times that Schumer has to direct herself by virtue of the many hats she wears, both Schumer and Cera emphasized that the series is run by more of a directing team composed of Schumer, Ryan McFaul, Daniel Powell and Kevin Kane — “even though the union doesn’t love that,” Schumer noted. It’s all part of the “egoless” set that stands at the crux of the show.

“It’s a great way of working, actually,” Cera said. This collaboration and attention to detail has led to an on-set environment the star loves. “It’s very reassuring as an actor. Amy, Ryan, Dan and Kevin are all very vigilant about the quality control of the show. But Amy is really all over it.”

This attention to detail goes down to the set dressing, even if the area in question will never appear on camera. For example, each book in John’s bedroom was selected as a title that John would plausibly read. That level of collaboration also extended to the actors of “Life & Beth.”

“It’s such a fun dynamic to bring to life with Amy because there’s a lot of freedom, while we’re shooting, to discover things. Really, some of my favorite moments came up in the moment during a take even without a discussion and make it into the show,” Cera said, also taking care to praise the series’ writing. “Amy and everybody on the team have created a space for that kind of work to happen. That’s an exciting kind of work to get to do as an actor.”

“We both take it seriously. And I think you can always tell when work is inspired,” Schumer added.

Life and Beth
Beth (Amy Schumer) and John (Michael Cera) in “Life & Beth” (Photo Credit: Hulu)

Fans would be forgiven for thinking that “Life & Beth” is in some ways autobiographical, especially after its second season. Beth’s romance with John the farmer in many ways mirrors Schumer’s own relationship with her husband since 2018, chef and farmer Chris Fischer. The parallels are even more apparent in Season 2, an installment that includes John learning as an adult that he’s on the autism spectrum. Schumer has spoken at length about going on a similar journey with Fischer in her Netflix special, “Growing.”

Despite these similarities, however, Schumer told TheWrap the series is “definitely not a documentary about us.”

“Chris was a writing consultant and has been involved in every part of the process,” Schumer said. “His support and confidence to put himself out there is incredibly admirable, especially with how much autism is stigmatized and how there’s such little knowledge about it still, sadly. But the whole writers’ room, it really was an amalgamation of all of our stories. Most everyone has a connection to ASD in some way.”

Schumer also noted that she was “proud” of how this very personal season came out and praised Cera’s performance for giving John “such dignity and respect.”

“Often when we see someone portrayed on the spectrum, it’s a certain place on the spectrum or it’s done for a different sort of comedy. I think it’s nice to see another part of what is a very wide spectrum,” Schumer said.

As for Cera himself, he sees a universality in John’s journey to his diagnosis.

“It can be helpful to understand something about yourself. I’ve been, and continue to be, striving to understand myself a little better as an adult in millions of ways. So to understand your own reactions to things or your approach to relationships, it’s such a major key,” Cera said. “I feel like a lot of people can relate to that part of his journey because it’s just about understanding yourself and the inner workings of your relationship with yourself and with people you love.”

Both seasons of “Life & Beth” are now available to stream on Hulu.

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