From real-life married couple Paul Rust and Lesley Arfin, and shepherded by Judd Apatow, Netflix original series Love addresses the tricky details of modern dating, as a gas station meet-cute evolves into something far more complicated. A triple threat, writer-producer Rust also stars in the series opposite Community’s Gillian Jacobs; and in person, as the pair effortlessly whip one-liners back and forth in perfect synchrony, it’s immediately clear how and why Apatow was lured back to television, in his first gig as show creator since 2001’s cult classic Undeclared. While Apatow-driven series like Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks were largely appreciated in hindsight, Love seemed to kindle affection from the get-go. Taking a breather from production on Season 2, Rust and Jacobs discuss Jacobs’ particular sense of humor, guest star Andy Dick’s impressive vulnerability on-screen and the perks of working for Netflix.
The series is shot at a lot of signature Los Angeles locations. How was it shooting at the notoriously private Magic Castle?
Paul Rust: I’ve worked on previous shows where they were trying to shoot there and it was impossible.
Gillian Jacobs: How’d you guys get it?
Rust: I think two magic words…
Jacobs: Let me guess! Were they, Judd…Apatow. [Laughs]
Rust: [Laughs] Yeah. Judd, Apatow. Well, three magic words. Judd, Apatow,
Rust: Yeah, that opened up some doors.
Jacobs: I was shocked when I saw it in the script—I didn’t think there was any way that we’d actually be shooting there.
Rust: We put it in expecting not to get it, but we did.
Jacobs: Pretty cool.
Rust: And then Gillian and I got to spend four days walking around the Magic Castle.
Jacobs: More than any other non-magician has ever stepped foot.
As you began working together, how quickly did you find a comedic rapport?
Jacobs: We were lucky enough to have time to do rehearsals before we started shooting the first season and I felt like as soon as we just started working, it all fell into place. Starting a new show, you do have those first-day-of-school jitters of like, “What is this?” But I think that the relationship between Gus and Mickey—and myself and Paul—that all felt very easy.
Rust: It’s nice—Gillian occupies this great space of being both a student of Juilliard but then also a big fan of weirdo, surreal comedy. Somehow she’s in the middle of the Venn diagram—the shared circles of Juilliard students and fans of Adult Swim.
Jacobs: I was making Paul do very weird videos on my Snapchat the other day, and he’s like, “You like very surreal strange humor, don’t you?” And I was like, “Uh huh,” making him sing songs and play videos backwards. And obviously, Paul and I had met a while ago because he was a writer on Comedy Bang! Bang!, and I appeared on that show. I never really hung out with you.
Jacobs: I think our wider circles of people we worked with had overlapped. But yeah, I guess I don’t really socialize that much. [Laughs]
Rust: [Laughs] Me neither, me neither.
You both worked with some major scene-stealers this season; particularly notable are Mickey’s scenes with Andy Dick, playing himself, and Gus’s scenes with Iris Apatow’s spoiled child starlet, Arya. What was it like working with these actors?
Jacobs: Working with Andy was doubly fun because I’d always also wanted to work with Joe Swanberg, and he was directing that episode. For me, it was like, what a weird combination, to do Joe Swanberg, me and Andy Dick. [Laughs] It was fun because I felt like it was so different from the movies that he makes, but he really just embraced it, and I think that it’s one of my favorite episodes. I felt like Andy, in the spirit of just bringing things on the day, was giving you more than you could’ve ever used. It was this mixture of him being very funny in a way people are used to seeing him, but also incredibly vulnerable and much more open, emotionally, than I’ve ever seen him in anything. It was really powerful to watch him open up in that way.
Rust: With Iris, every bit of praise she’s gotten is, I think, so well deserved. It’s actually a really rare performance by a child, where it’s not sort of overly precocious or cutesy. It’s somebody being real, but also compelling. I think also what’s fun about working with somebody who’s younger is…well, it’s probably similar to working with Andy Dick. [Laughs] It brings a wide-eyed spontaneity to scenes that keeps you on your toes.
Jacobs: She taught me how to use Snapchat on the set, so she’s useful as well.
It’s interesting to recognize that the pace of technological change is dizzying, even for millenials.
Jacobs: Yeah. I loved that line where (Iris) is talking about her two Instagram accounts—her public one and her private one. I think you see a bit of that in the Arya character, where the rest of us are like, “What is she doing? What’s happening?”
Rust: I know that’s definitely a preoccupation with us when we’re making this show. I think the thing that bonds Gillian and myself and Lesley [Arfin] and Judd is that the four of us, in our personal lives or just out in the world, get a little exhausted by people frontin’—putting out an image of themselves as like, “I’m cool,” or “I have it together,” or “I’m smart. You should get with me.” There’s something that’s really been exciting about doing scenes together, seeing how much we can be bold enough to strip that away and make people look vulnerable, or not so cool or not so smart.
What makes Netflix the right berth for the show?
Jacobs: On Community, we would have to just cut chunks of episodes, and things that Dan Harmon absolutely loved—jokes or runs that were great, but it had to be twenty-two minutes on the dot. It’s nice, with this, to feel like, when you’re reading the script, that’s pretty much what you’re going to see in the episode.
Rust: When I’ve acted on other things, there was always the “pace it up” note. Just on a technical level, being able to be slow and act the scenes at whatever length feels best, as opposed to, “How are we going to cram this into a minute and a half?”
Jacobs: You don’t have a metronome in the back of your head.
Rust: Yeah. I know all of us in the writers’ room really thank our lucky stars that we get to work on something that feels like it’s scratching the surface of a new way of telling a story—being able to do episodes of varying degrees [of length], and consider ten episodes as one whole story, as opposed to ten separate chunks. Also what feels good is, with Netflix, there’s no commercials or product placement, so we can use a product name in a way that’s not always flattering. [Laughs] That was actually a really great liberation. We said something about McDonalds a couple weeks ago, and I was like, “Oh, I’m so glad that we have the freedom to even make a joke like that.”
Jacobs: We were so dependent on those deals at Community to even just keep going sometimes. [Laughs]
Rust: You gotta say the nice thing about Subway?
Jacobs: Honda saved our butt in Season 6. They’re like, “Do you ever want to be able to shoot outside?” I always felt like Dan did them in such a smart and interesting way, but it’s nice to feel completely separate from all of that. Even just knowing that we were doing two seasons up front was such a mental relief. People aren’t operating out of fear as much.
Rust: It affected everything, knowing that we had 22 episodes guaranteed ahead of us. It not only let us stretch our legs with the storytelling and do something that was a little more patient, but also push it a little further in terms of, will you like the characterizations of these people? I think if we were going week to week, we would have been like, “All right, we have to have it by episodes two and three that they save the cat!”
Jacobs: Instead, in episode 10 we save the cat!
What can we expect from the second season?
Rust: Season 2 is still continuing this thing that we set up in a way that resembles our experiences, which is like, missed connections, expectations that are either met or unfulfilled. And with this one, I think it’s specifically just the two characters recognizing that they want to try to make it work.
Jacobs: The thing that I like about this show is that there are no neat resolutions to issues that these characters are facing; they continue to grapple with them, and they might make progress, but they’re still struggling with other things. And, a lot of great actors. That’s the other thing—beyond Iris and Claudia, there’s just so many great actors on this show, and selfishly, that’s just so much fun.