This interview discusses in detail the plot of the You’re The Worst season-three premiere.
Viewers have come to expect that emotional damage will be inflicted in You’re The Worst, but bodily harm? Not so much. (Outside of the occasional hangover, of course) The premiere of the show’s third season changes that. Lindsay (Kether Donohue) violently stabs her husband Paul (Allan McLeod) in the side while chopping mushrooms as they prepare a dinner that, to her, symbolizes the dreadful monotony of domestic life. The couple reunited in season two, after Paul learns that Lindsay is pregnant with his child (thanks to either artificial insemination via turkey baster or pre-ejaculate); now she’s trying to settle back into the marriage, and it’s clearly not going well. The A.V. Club spoke to Donohue about Lindsay’s knife attack and the character’s current state of mind.
The A.V. Club: This will run after the premiere, so I want to ask you about what happens in that episode. Namely, Lindsay stabs Paul.
KD: Yeah, you know that little thing. No biggie, just stabbed her husband.
AVC: When I saw that moment, I was shocked and could not stop laughing.
KD: I know! FX PR sent us screeners so before we do interviews we could see what we’re talking about. I was in awe of how that whole scene was—the build-up to it! I’m impressed with—I was just floored by—I’m speechless, I’m mumbling right now. Just write, blah blah blah, Kether is babbling because she loved the scene so much.
AVC: So that was when you saw it. What was it like when you read it for the first time?
KD: Oh my God. It was kind of a build-up. When [creator Stephen Falk] and the writers are in the writers’ room, the actors are so excited we always text Stephen. At the FX upfront Stephen said to me, “You are going to be excited. Lindsay does even more fucked-up stuff this season than she did last season.” My response was, “How do you get more fucked-up than artificially inseminating yourself with a turkey baster?” So when I sat down to read the first episode, I knew that something big was going to come.When I found out that she stabbed him I was just so excited and couldn’t wait to shoot that, and just explore the psychology behind why Lindsay does that and the aftermath of it. We’re all very lucky as actors that we have so much wonderful material. There’s just so much to play with.
AVC: You see Lindsay go through this process in the scene. It ends on her face and this moment of relief. What did you touch on when you dug into that psychology and decided where she was?
KD: It’s all in the writing. The way season two left off was on this great note of you see Lindsay in the sidecar and you see the conflict going on in her face. The thing for me that was exciting to explore was how her external world and her internal world are completely at odds with each other. She’s verbally agreed to get back together with Paul and have this baby, but when she’s driving away in the sidecar [at the end of season two] you can see that she’s dying a slow death on the inside. So when episode one [of season three] starts, it’s that build of the friction. She’s telling Gretchen, “Yep, I’m having this baby.” She’s really trying to convince herself to buy into this idea of family. On the inside, she knows that this life and and this man are not right for her. There’s a lot of suffering in silence. Stephen was guiding me through the whole process. He would call out certain things during the scene, reactions he wanted to give. My favorite was at the end, after I stab Paul, Stephen was like, “Now just have a look on your face of all the tension has been released. You just got out all of the tension and now back to chopping, back to normal.”
AVC: Was the scene intensely choreographed beforehand?
KD: What I really love about working with Stephen, is he has a very precise vision for things. A lot of our scenes are very very precisely choreographed, kind of like a dance number in a way. Especially with the stabbing, we had a stunt guy on set, and he had to we had to strap Allan in this padding. I had to stab him in this exact right spot or else he could get hurt. It was a very choreographed scene, and it was fun to find the emotional life within that. There was a nice framework set up and then I was able to play within that. It was a blast to shoot.
AVD: What does this portend for Lindsay’s journey this season? Where is her headspace now?
KD: The stakes are increased. It leaves a very fun playground throughout the rest of the season to explore what that means when you’re not being authentic to yourself as a human. All of the choices she was making and commitments that she’s making are completely at odds with who she really is and what she really wants. She is trying hard to buy into this idea of family and what that means from what’s “normal” in society and what her family expects from her, and her sister, and it’s just not who she is. The rest of the season is exploring how far you go in choices you make to hold on to this life you think you’re supposed to have.
AVC: Should we assume that she is going to become a mother?
KD: Absolutely. Lindsay has decided to to have this family, have this baby, even though she’s still wrestling with hesitations she has about the marriage, and this life, she is absolutely moving forward with having the family.
AVC: Why do you think the idea of family is so important to her? Is it just that she know what else her role could be?
KD: I think a lot of it is how she was brought up. She’s competing with her sister. Every human being needs to feel safe and secure in their life, and I think that part of her life is very misplaced. This idea of having a family and Paul gives her that sense of safety and security that she so desperately needs. She really needs to find it within herself. I think she’s seeking it in outer things in the world to validate her existence.
AVC: What do you think Lindsay took away from last season? Did she decide she can’t be alone?
KD: In season two she did find parts of herself and she did learn that she could do things on her own. She admitted to herself that perhaps Amy, the beer kooz girl, was a better fit for Paul. She did do some soul searching and did let Paul go out of a place of genuine love.
I think in society and especially in movies and media we’re fed this idea that there’s the one or the right person. I think it brings great ambiguity and confusion for people. I myself and many friends are currently or have been in long-term relationships. You’re with somebody you love with all your heart and soul but you can still have extreme reservations where you’re petrified, like: Oh, no once I say yes and walk down the aisle is this the only person I’m going to fuck for the rest of my life? Or the only person I’m going to be with for the rest of my life? Is this the right choice?
What’s really interesting for me about exploring Lindsay’s world in season three, that takes it to a different level than season two, is more things are being taken into account with her decision-making. She made the commitment to be with Paul from a genuine place, but still has extreme reservations, but now there’s a baby involved and she’s also trying to convince herself that she can handle that. There’s just a lot of fun conflict to explore, and also just hilarious situations her and Paul get into. Allan McLeod is such a brilliant actor, and I’m so excited for people to see his work this season.
AVC: So are we not supposed to take the stabbing as Lindsay legitimately wants to murder Paul?
KD: No, she doesn’t want to murder Paul. I think sometimes she wishes he would just disappear for sure.
AVC: Will there be another musical number?
KD: Ooo! I don’t know what I’m allowed to tell you. I feel like I have to ask Stephen what I’m allowed to tell you.
AVD: How has Lindsay’s relationship with Gretchen changed, since Gretchen’s depressive episode in which she said some mean things to Lindsay?
KD: Particularly in the first part of season three, because Lindsay has gotten herself into a very big rut here, I think she’s too self-involved to kind of pay attention to Gretchen or anybody else. You definitely do see more tension progress between Lindsay and Gretchen. But also as is true of strong female bonds and friendships oftentimes we have the most friction with our best friends who are closest to us. You definitely see more tension, but also the love and support that’s always there.