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Interview: Aya Cash

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The FX Network is no stranger to in your face comedy. Shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League definitely pushed the boundaries on cable television while still being funny. The latest offering from the network is You’re the Worst. Created by Stephen Falk, the series follows Jimmy and Gretchen, two self-destructive and self-involved individuals who meet at a wedding and attempt to start a relationship. One of the stars who bring these characters to life is actress Aya Cash.

Aya has guest starred on series such as Law & Order, We Are Men and The Newsroom. She was one of the main cast members on the short-lived, but hilarious comedy Traffic Light. On the big screen, she appeared in the films The Wolf of Wall Street, Deception and Begin Again. She was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss her new series You’re the Worst.

Pop Culture Principle – When you originally read the script, what was it about the script that made you want to be part of the project?

Aya Cash – First and foremost, it was the funniest thing I had ever read for television. I thought it was really smart and really funny. I had actually met Stephen Falk the year before and really liked him and knew he was a really lovely human being. I definitely wanted to work with Stephen. I thought the script was brilliant and I was thinking that if I am a part of it, then people will think I’m brilliant too!

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us the premise of You’re the Worst?

Aya Cash – It basically starts out as a one night stand between two very damaged, narcissistic human beings. It becomes a multiple night stand as they try to avoid being in a relationship with each other and yet fall for each other. As the series goes on, it actually becomes more of an ensemble comedy as our two best friends end up with their own plotlines and their own problems. So, that is what the show starts out as and I think it becomes something about four incredibly damaged people rather than two by the end.

YOU'RE THE WORST -- Pictured: Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler. CR. James Minchin/FX

Pop Culture Principle – You play Gretchen, a very independent and in your face type of character. How much are you like Gretchen in real life?

Aya Cash – As an actor, you are always bringing different sides of yourself whether you express them on a daily basis or not. What you have to work with is you and the people you know, so you draw from that. I really respond to Gretchen’s humor. I think she’s sort of dark and self-deprecating and I definitely appreciate that. Our lives look drastically different. She definitely leads with her sexuality in a way that I don’t and she does whatever the hell she wants and I don’t. All of this makes her really fun to play and I get to live out the fantasy that is not necessarily practical in reality.

Pop Culture Principle – Your character is so free and in the moment. How great is that for you as an actor to portray?

Aya Cash – It is super fun! She’s very smart and very much herself which I think is what I respond to in human beings in life as well. It doesn’t matter who you like or what you are into as long as you are very much yourself and I think she is very much herself without apologies. I really appreciate that quality in her and the fact that she is so confident in herself, I feel like I carry that with me now sometimes because I’ve played her for thirteen weeks.

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Pop Culture Principle – Would you like to see more characters like Gretchen on network and cable television?

Aya Cash – Absolutely! I think there is room in this world for many different kinds of people and they should all be represented on screen. What I really appreciate about this show is that as a woman, I get to behave as badly as the guy and that’s not something you usually see; that’s not true to life. I think people are many things and if we try and box in women to be sweet or the moral compass, that’s doing a disservice to reality.

Pop Culture Principle – Both lead characters can be rude and crude, but you make them likeable at the same time. Was that side of their personalities important to convey?

Aya Cash – Again, I think they are likeable because they are who they are without apology. Despite doing things that can be very hurtful, I don’t think either one is trying to be malicious on purpose. I think they are just selfish and don’t think things through. They are interesting, fun people and life can be boring if you are good all the time.

Pop Culture Principle – What do you think separates You’re the Worst from other comedies on television now?

Aya Cash – I don’t like to compare because there is room for a lot of things. Almost everything in some way is derivative; there are very few new ideas. What I do appreciate is the gender balance on the show and I also think it’s very dark and very funny. If you’re humor runs that way then you will appreciate it, but I don’t think it’s a show for everyone. It’s a market that I would respond to and I would watch this show even if I wasn’t on it. I actually tend to not watch a lot of comedies because I find the cutesy, jokey situational comedy often not true to life. I feel like our show is more of a hybrid. It’s definitely comedy, but it’s not played joke to joke and that makes it more interesting to me.

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Pop Culture Principle – Do you get to do any improvisation or do you have to stick strictly to the script?

Aya Cash – You know, mostly in comedy, improvisation has become a requirement. I have improved a ton in other jobs; this is not one of those jobs. The danger of improv can be that you just go for the funny at all cost as opposed to the story telling. This is really well written, so there’s not much that I feel I could add. I think Stephen is a much better writer than I am therefore I respect his writing. He’s not so interested in having us improv. Once in a while there is a line or two or he’ll have us lead into something and that’s fun, but there’s a very small amount of improve on the show.

Pop Culture Principle – With a show like You’re the Worst on FX, you get to push the envelope. Do you ever get concerned about the show going too far or does it do it just right?

Aya Cash – I think it walks the edge which is the only place to walk in my mind. It does push the envelope, but I don’t think it goes too far. It’s always funny and it’s always grounded in some sort of reality. The thing we hear about is the sex and pushing the boundary in that way. My feeling is that we see graphic sex on basic cable all the time, but just in drama. This is a comedy so it feel suddenly new, but again this is a comedy about a relationship. If you have a relationship, you are going to have sex. If you are going to have sex, most likely your clothes are going to be off. I am in full support of showing the reality. I don’t do nudity and FX can’t show real nudity. I’m not interested in doing that for many internet based reasons, but I think it’s really important to show things that might be more graphic to support who these people are and the way they live their lives.

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Pop Culture Principle – You’ve worked on network television and now on cable. Do you see any major differences between the two?

Aya Cash – I’m not sure if it’s a function of where I am at in my life in terms of feeling comfortable or whether it’s a function of cable versus network, but I have to say the network executives at FX have been incredibly friendly. We’ve all gone out and hung out together and I barely knew the FOX executives when I was working at that network. I knew the FOX executives by face at the table reads. FX is just known as an incredibly warm and friendly network. There are so few people who work there, maybe seven executives, so that helps because it’s a small community as opposed to a network show where you may have thirty people working on something. So, that is the difference that I see as an actor.

I know our creator Stephen Falk has had an incredible experience in terms of his artistic process at FX and their support. For him, that was very different when he was working in network television. If you want to read his rant against NBC, it’s out there somewhere on the internet. So, as a writer I think it’s also a different experience; at least it was for him.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to for the rest of the season on You’re the Worst?

Aya Cash – Oh my God, there is so much good stuff. In the coming weeks, you are going to see a lot more of Lindsay and Edgar and their struggles. I think that the two of them, Kether Donohue and Desmin Borges steal the show by the end of the season. They have so much fun, interesting stuff and they are both brilliant. It’s really fun that their lives will get flushed out more. I will say you that you are going to meet Gretchen’s family at some point in the future. Stay tuned!

Pop Culture Principle – The final obvious question is who is the worst?

Aya Cash – Jimmy and I start out being the worst, but I think Lindsay ends up the worst. I cannot wait for the fans to see what happens with Lindsay’s character. Kether Donohue just kills it. She is so funny and heart breaking and I think she’s probably the worst by the end of the season.

Pop Culture Principle would like to thank Aya for taking the time to talk with us. Watch new episodes of You're the Worst every Thursday night at 10:30 pm EST on FX! If you would like to keep up with her latest news and projects, you can follow her on Twitter @maybeAyaCash.

**Photos courtesy of FX Network**

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