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Man Seeking Woman’s creator and star on the show’s life after marriage

Photo collage: Nick Wanserski/Getty Images

The third season of FXX’s Man Seeking Woman has now come to a close, and in marital bliss, no less. Weddings are a common enough occurrence on TV, especially for season closers, but given the premise of the show—which is right there in the title—this one had a real air of finality. After hilariously bad dates and heartbreaking near misses, Josh’s (Jay Baruchel) search is over. In fact, it was over from the beginning of season three, which introduced Katie Findlay as the no longer elusive “Woman.” It wasn’t just Josh who grew up in this latest batch of episodes, though he certainly matured—but the series progressed as well, providing even more thoughtful storylines for its multiple multifaceted female characters. Series creator Simon Rich commends the show’s writers and directors for the shift as well as the new co-lead, Findlay, who’s easily the season’s MVP. The A.V. Club spoke with Findlay and Rich about the finale, which aired Wednesday, and where they go from here.

The A.V. Club: Was it difficult for you to join a show that already had such a cohesive cast, especially once you learned how pivotal a role you’d play?


Katie Findlay: It’s funny for me sometimes, to remember that this show was running for two seasons without me. Because once I got there, no one made me feel that way for a hot second. Never. I immediately felt like family. Everybody was so wonderfully available and supportive, and it really is like climbing up into a treehouse, and there’s a bunch of people up there, and you open a door, and they go, “Hey!”

I’m incredibly honored that Simon picked me for bringing Lucy in and being that person for Josh. I felt new for a week, but then I could not have felt more at home.

AVC: How much advance info did you get about how serious the relationship was going to be?

KF: When I initially auditioned, I had no idea. But I thought it was a brilliant show, and the sides I got for it were hilarious. And the audition process ended up being much more extensive than it might be for a new side character—you know, someone who shows up for a few episodes and then leaves. I slowly realized through conversations with Simon how particular this girl had to be, how much she meant to the show, and how much she meant to the creator and the writers. So, at first, I had no idea, and then the enormity didn’t really hit me until I was there. But once I was there, I didn’t really have time to worry about fucking it up.

Jay Baruchel and Katie Findlay (Photo: Michael Gibson/FXX)

AVC: Even though she quickly becomes Josh’s girlfriend, Lucy’s never been just a girlfriend. She has this whole life outside of her relationship, which we see in the episodes told from her perspective. In fact, half of the episodes are from Lucy’s point of view. Was it communicated to you early on that you would be anchoring the show in a way that we’d seen Jay Baruchel do before?


KF: Very much so. Simon was incredibly generous and incredibly—he’s a very generous collaborator. He wants you to know exactly what you’re doing and why. I think it’s important for Lucy to have an interior life. Because to me, no character I’m playing is ever just a girlfriend. You can’t label the character as “just a girlfriend” in your own brain. If I’m playing somebody, she’s my gal, and I have to show up for her 100 percent. I have to have her interests at heart, and I have to be on her side. I’m on her team. I think it’s really important that you understood Lucy as a whole person, because you certainly see Josh as one. It helps to see Josh in love and as part of a team or relationship. But you have to really know the other person involved.

AVC: They really put you through the wringer. You were doing a bit of everything, touching on so many genres. There were parodies of adventure and horror movies but also nods to hot-button issues like immigration. How’d you feel about getting that kind of workout?


KF: I had seen the first season of the show before I joined the cast. And so I sort of knew what I was in for. But it’s like Christmas morning. It sounds hokey, but it’s true. As an actor, it’s just such an incredible gift of a show. You really do get to play pretend. You get to do a thousand different things, and they don’t half-ass anything. So whatever the genre, they’re gonna go all the way. If there are Muppets, they’re going to be 12 feet tall. If we’re throwing Eric Andre off a bridge, we’re all in. It’s just very genuine. It’s playtime. And it just energizes you, because working on a set is very hard, and the days are long, and everyone’s trying to get stuff done as fast as they can. So that kind of “dig your fingernails in and just jump off” kind of work I found energizing. It reminds you that you’re there. You’re not just talking heads in a room. It’s engaging as an actor and as an audience member as well.

AVC: The show removed the “seeking” part early on and switched narrators, in a sense. It was a big ask, in a way. How do you think that played out over the season?


KF: I think Simon and the writers room gave us the best basis for this that they could have. Josh and Lucy: One is never less important than the other in the relationship. And they’re similar and bizarre. Sometimes they behave really badly, but they’re really sweet to each other. Surprise each other by support. You’re showing up by proxy.

I really couldn’t ask for a better collaborator than Jay. We discovered that we do so many of the same things. We say things the same way, or if we’re in a scene and not looking at each other, we’ll end up making the exact same facial expression. I look at myself as someone who was hired to make sure they didn’t kill Jay. They have an option—they can either throw Jay off a bridge, or they can throw me off a bridge: “Chuck Katie over, because she can handle it.” It’s a nice feeling, showing up to a team and feeling like you’re pulling your weight. Something about how much everyone needed it to work that made me all the more pleased when we did get along well and had fun doing it.

Photo: Christos Kalohoridis/FXX

AVC: This is your first TV wedding, correct?

KF: It is my first TV wedding.

AVC: It’s your first TV wedding, and you have God in attendance. And he’s played by Richard Kind, who’s pissed. What was going through your mind when that was happening?


KF: It was so great. My big problem on the show is that I am not truly a professional, so when people do funny things, I laugh. I couldn’t keep it together when—there’s a moment when someone in the crowd says something to him, and he responds with “What?!” in that Richard Kind voice, and I just lost it.

AVC: This was such a great episode, and one that could serve as a series finale, not just a season one. If that’s the case, do you have any regrets, anything you wish you’d been able to film?


KF: It’s the kind of thing where you really do pinch yourself. If it’s the end of—I understand how people could assume that it’s the end of the series, but Simon jokes that Man Seeking Woman doesn’t necessarily stop when Josh finds a particular woman, because part of the show has always been people combing through their experiences with others, and trying to understand themselves and others. And figure out how to get close to people without screwing it up. And how you don’t leave your dick behind at a club. That’s a little season-one callback for you.

If it does continue, being married to someone is as insane as dating someone or being single—we just don’t like to show it that way on television, which does a great disservice to all the interesting married people of the world. Because now there’s someone around all the time, and you may even make a human with that person. So I have no doubt that there’s plenty more incredibly embarrassing material to go through.


But if this is the end, it’s just an absolute “catch a falling star and put it in your pocket” moment, that I ended up here for the end of this show. I keep saying that I’m lucky, but it’s really all that I’ve got. So, if it is the end, it’s unbelievable that I’m here for it. If it’s not, we’ll probably throw me off some more bridges in a couple months. I don’t think I’ve been beat up as much as everyone else, so everyone probably wants me to go another around.

AVC: Well, you haven’t left any body parts in any clubs yet.

KF: No, not yet.

AVC: But you were mauled by a puma in the first episode.

KF: There’s a super important factoid about my experience on the show that I need to make sure exists somewhere in the world out there. My very first day coming in for a costume fitting, I was at the production office, which looks like Sesame Street. There’s a big long hallway that’s painted five different colors, and there’s always some smiling, adorable person doing some weird thing in every office you walk by, like in a cartoon. And I kept thinking, “This isn’t my job. Come on, someone’s going to be boring. I’m going to pass a room with a guy in a chair, who’s, like, an accountant.” But that didn’t happen. I ended up walking past someone and overhearing them on the phone, asking about a puma permit.


For those reading at home, it’s the permit you need to put a puma in an office building. We couldn’t get that. So we had the world’s best puppet for that. But walking through all of that on my very first day, I really thought, “They’re going to kill me.”

AVC: “Blood” has God and secret societies and a beginning or an end, and… well, what exactly did we just watch?


Simon Rich: [Laughs.] I always saw season three of the show as a coming-of-age story disguised as a love story. I think that there’s a reason why we have so many episodes focused on our main characters’ relationships with their parents, because what we’re watching over the course of the season is Lucy and Josh growing up. Our two co-leads this year, they have a lot of immaturity they need to work through. They’re both in very different ways pretty stunted. And the season is very much about them helping one another grow, to the point where they can actually become mature enough to handle something as adult as marriage. I always wanted them to become allies, to have the show be about them growing, and have that next step where they grab the baton from their parents, then head out into adult life together.

Katie Findlay and Jay Baruchel (Photo: Michael Gibson/FXX)

AVC: This has never been a conventional romantic comedy or love story, so it makes sense that we’d also get the story of the couple growing up. And yet, some of this comes from your own life, right? Is that why season three focused on the wedding?

SR: I think the show has always been really autobiographical, but not just for me; it’s been that way for all of the writers and all of the people involved creatively with the show: the directors and cast as well. Our goal with the show from the very beginning was to tell stories that are the most humanly honest as possible, and this year, I think we really worked our hardest to make sure every story came from a place of honesty for at least one person in the room. Every flaw that you see in Josh or Lucy’s or Mike’s or Liz’s characters, it all stems from somebody’s real life experience.


AVC: The show’s really grown up alongside Josh over the last three years.

SR: Definitely. I think so, too.

AVC: What do you attribute that to?

SR: I think we just really wanted to push ourselves this year. I felt like if we weren’t being super ambitious, then what was the point? We wanted to do something that was higher stakes and more emotionally visceral than anything we had ever tried. We wanted to do something beyond workplace crushes or whether or not to send somebody a text. We wanted to focus on issues like faith and family and the nature of true love. So it was a much bigger swing for us. And we wanted to portray a relationship honestly and authentically, and we knew in order to do that, we’d have to do it from more than one perspective.


So, from moment one, we realized that if we’re going to portray a relationship with any authenticity, we need to do as many episodes from Lucy’s perspective as Josh’s. And that meant we would have to create a brand-new co-protagonist from scratch who was as three-dimensional and compelling and screwed-up as Josh. It was a tall order, and it took us a while to figure out the character, and I don’t think we were all the way there until we found Katie Findlay, and she really breathed so much life into the role, and helped us push it over the finish line. So I’m really grateful for the work the writers did, but also all the work Katie did, because she taught us a lot about the character as well.

Robin Duke, Katie Findlay, Jay Baruchel, and Mark McKinney (Photo: Michael Gibson/FXX)

AVC: That actually answers my next question, about how the show knew Katie Findlay was “the one.”

SR: She’s amazing, and it’s such a hard show for an actor. Jay [Baruchel] always says it’s like being in a repertory theater company, because you have to play within so many different genres. We have one episode where Eric Andre goes from being a celebrity to a campy supervillain—he’s a baseball player and a wounded best friend all in a span of 20 minutes. So being on the show requires a lot of versatility and bravery, and that was something I was really struck by the moment I saw Katie audition. She was totally fearless and trusting and willing to take big swings. And that’s something that we need on our show. So it’s been thrilling to get this chance to work with her. She fit in seamlessly with Eric and Jay and Britt [Lower].


I’m also so proud of the work our supporting cast did, you know, Mark McKinney, Robin Duke, Mark Moses, and Julie White. And of course, Lucy’s friend group who I thought by the end of the season really established themselves as interesting characters in their own right. It’s been really exciting this season, to expand their world and flesh out their other relationships.

AVC: I appreciate that the show made sure Lucy had a whole life outside of Josh: friends, career, dreams, etc. And I wonder if that isn’t because you have so many women behind the scenes on this show. Half the episodes were either written by women, directed by women, or both, correct?


SR: Yeah, I think some of our best episodes were written by, directed by, and starring women. I think the season owes a lot of its authenticity to that. Like I said, this is a very autobiographical show, and I think that having multiple perspectives behind the camera has really helped our show evolve and has enriched the world of the show.

I will also say that we’ve had great women writers from the beginning. Sofia Alvarez—who wrote the first two Liz episodes—I think in a lot of ways, she paved the way for this season. I think season three, we have so many episodes from the perspective of non-Josh protagonists, but we would never have had the guts to pull it off if we hadn’t test-driven that in the first two seasons. So, I think episode 109 and episode 204 were huge in the growth of our show, so a lot of credit goes to Sofia for writing those and Britt for proving that they could work. And also Marika Sawyer, who wrote our Rosa episode last year. We have done episodes from non-Josh perspectives, but never as much as we did this year. I think it was really cool to try to do it on a more regular basis.

Mark McKinney, Robin Duke, and Richard King (Photo: Michael Gibson/FXX)

AVC: Let’s talk about the big guest stars, who were all dads: Peter Gallagher as Liz’s and Josh’s father, and Richard Kind as the All Father. What made you think to cast Kind as God?


SR: I love Richard Kind. I think he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. I worked a little bit on Inside Out, and I remember hearing some Richard Kind performances and laughing so hard at his capacity to play wounded, you know? He’s so believable and lovable when he’s hurt, and when Dan Mirk turned in his script to me, the humor of that scene was so much about God’s woundedness and insecurity, and I thought Richard Kind would nail it, and everyone was just so excited to work with him. He was a Chicago Second City guy, so our producer, Mike O’Brien, had a lot of fun reminiscing with him about Chicago. They’re obviously from very different eras, but it was fun listening to them tell Second City stories.

AVC: It didn’t lose anything to shift away from the title—Man Seeking Woman—but with the finale, we do get a wedding, so presumably the search is over. There’s a great moment where Josh and Lucy hesitate to tackle their first challenge as a couple, and their parents basically tell them that they’re ready for anything now. So it’s certainly set up to continue, but my question right now is whether that will happen.


SR: It is the end of one story for Josh and Lucy, but it’s also the beginning of a lot of other stories. I’ve been married for a couple of years now, and although your wedding’s a pretty heavy experience and full of a lot of visceral moments, it’s not the last big thing that happens to a couple. There’s other stuff that comes up that, if anything, is ever-higher stakes. But also, I think the show isn’t just Josh and Lucy’s. I think season three was very much focused on Josh and Lucy, but I thought our Mike and Liz episodes were just as exciting to work on as the Josh and Lucy episodes. So I’m interested in exploring their lives a little bit more, as well as the lives of some of our other very compelling supporting characters. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had. And I think a lot more places to explore. Without getting too specific, I think one thing we’ve proven with our show is that we can change our protagonist and still keep the boat afloat. So, I would say if there’s more Man Seeking Woman, look out for more perspectives on dating and on love.

AVC: Well, you were able to reboot the show this season, so it could work as a kind of anthology series, right? Maybe there’s a different man seeking a partner or a woman who’s searching? For what it’s worth, I think “Blood” is a near-perfect ending to the show, if not the season.


SR: Thank you so much. It’s certainly an ending to the main story that we’ve been telling, and I do see it as the end of Josh’s dating story, but it’s the beginning of a new kind of story for Josh and Lucy, and there are a whole bunch of characters who are still single.

I’m also excited that our show has started to explore issues other than dating. We had an episode called “Card,” which is about Josh’s failure to become a video game designer. It was an episode about his insecurity with his career and very much about his relationship with his parents and his mother’s expectations of him. And it was exciting, because it was our very first attempt to do an episode that wasn’t just a dating story. That was a big risk for us at the time, and I think we grew a lot from it. Then in season three, we had several episodes that weren’t really focused on dating, like in our best man episode. It had very little to do with romance. It was about the relationship between these two men. And our Liz episode [this season] was about her relationship with her parents. So it’s exciting to focus on relationships that aren’t romantic. It’s just another way to expand the world of our show, and frankly, in ways that I didn’t think were possible in season one. I’m really excited by how much the show has grown and how much more ambitious it’s gotten.


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