Before our intrepid TV Club correspondents traveled to this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, we asked readers to submit questions that we could pose to the TV pros attending the event. (And we made one up ourselves.) With those questions and the answers they prompted, we bring you the TV Club Questionnaire.
In the first season of You’re The Worst, Edgar (Desmin Borges) makes a startling realization: He, along with his dining companion Lindsay (Kether Donohue), is a sidekick, forever doomed to be flaked on by new flames Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash). But if there’s a show where the sidekicks aren’t second-class citizens, it’s You’re The Worst, which wound up weaving a poignant arc about Edgar’s military service—and the PTSD and drug abuse that came with it. And yet the show retained its razor-sharp sense of humor throughout, thanks in no small part to an energetic performance from Borges, whose character is now working past those traumas (and working through his feelings for Lindsay) in You’re The Worst’s second season.
If you could be working on any other television series currently on the air, which one would it be, and why?
Desmin Borges: The Walking Dead. Without a doubt. I would come in like I was part of Michonne’s past—I’m the one who taught her how to use the swords and shit.
There’s something about killing some zombies that’s really fun. I love the dynamic of things that happen on that show. I want to say something like Veep—which I think is amazing—but I just think I’d get the biggest kick out of The Walking Dead.
The A.V. Club: How do you think you would fare in an actual zombie apocalypse?
DB: I think I’d do pretty well. I’m not afraid to cut a bitch if my life’s on the line [Laughs.] and I feel like I’m fairly resourceful. I grew up in Chicago, in rough neighborhoods. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but I have a lot of older cousins and they always used to beat the shit out of me. Then I learned how to defend myself: I had one cousin who would always pick on me, and I, at one point—resourcefulness here—I was like “Hold on, hold on: You want to fight?” And I just got down to my underwear. I was like, “C’mon, let’s fight,” and he wouldn’t fight me, because what if he actually touched my penis, right? So from that point on if someone wanted to fight me, I’d just take my pants off and they would not want to fight me anymore. Same thing with zombies.
AVC: And since no character is safe on this show, how would you want to die on The Walking Dead?
DB: In the worst way possible. I think it would be really great if there was a moment where I took down 10 or 12 zombies. Let’s say I’m saving Carl—his hat fell off, Rick’s over somewhere else with Daryl, they’re taking care of somebody. There’s a big attack coming, I save Carl, we’re looking at each other—all of a sudden, he doesn’t see it, and a zombie bites my neck and 80 of them pull me away. And he just sits there watching me get eaten in front of him. That’d be cool.
Or, which they haven’t done yet: Having sex with someone on the show—because remember when they had that virus?—and they turn into a zombie while you’re having sex, and then kill you that way. I’m just saying: That might be a cool way to go.
What are your earliest memories of TV, and did they have any bearing on you wanting to have a career in TV?
DB: My earliest memories of television were Saturday morning cartoons, with wrestling and Pee-wee’s Playhouse going on. I got my Ninja Turtles in there for the entertainment value, I got Pee-wee Herman in there for—I guess entertainment value. Wrestling, very early on, taught me good and bad, right and wrong—it’s always the bad guy versus the good guy. It’s soap operas for men. That gave me a keen eye of telling very basic stories that can be given to a broad range of people.
Then I remember things that really hit home, like The Wonder Years. That might be one of the most impactful shows on me as a child. I had a huge crush on Winnie, of course. But the voice-over with Kevin Arnold, the relationships with the father and the brother and the dichotomy that happened there. That gave me a really solid idea of what it was like to be a part of a fake family, and how to make that float.
And things like Golden Girls: Hands down, best sitcom ever on television. We can argue semantics and say Seinfeld or Arrested Development—Friends if you want to. I loved Friends, but I’m not really sure it’s up there as the best. Golden Girls was just every line—how is every line such an amazing punchline? And the four of them together? Absolutely remarkable.
AVC: Not to make you play favorites, but who’s your Girl?
DB: Estelle Getty. You want to say Betty White, because she was the best. But man, Estelle Getty. My grandmother was from Sicily, and she was really fun but had a hard edge to her, so I think I related [to Getty’s character, Sophia] in that way.
AVC: And talk about every punchline landing. She’s like a sniper.
DB: And she was the youngest out of the four! And I didn’t find that out until years later, but that was remarkable to me, for someone to take on that transformation and just be, like you said, a sniper. It was pure gold every time.
What efforts does your show take to promote diverse viewpoints, and how do you think that has affected storytelling, either on your show or the television medium as a whole?
DB: If you look at my face, and then I tell you that I’m Puerto Rican, Italian, and Greek, a lot of me isn’t on television. So that right there gives me the opportunity to have a diverse version of storytelling, because a lot of people who are like me don’t get to see themselves a lot. I always try to keep that in the back of my mind, to see that I’m representing my people the best way that I can within the confines of the story that we’re trying to tell.
And specifically, within the show, we’re telling a story that’s really never been told before. I know the gentlemen’s story on Enlisted was somewhat similar, but the issues of PTSD that we were tackling in the first season and the issues of normalcy and breaking out of a mold and becoming your own man and understanding what it’s like to transform yourself into the civilian lifestyle after going on two tours of Iraq—you don’t see that a lot on TV. And we definitely don’t see it through a dark-comedic lens. So I think that really gives us the opportunity to tell the story of those vets who never get the opportunity to have their stories told. Because they’re not just meatheads and alcoholics beating the shit out of people at Best Buy and doughnut shops, you know?
As far as television as a whole: I hope we see more of what Stephen’s doing. Even though I’m the best friend, I’m not the ethnic best friend. We very rarely ever label me as that. Even when I was on Stephen’s other show, Next Caller on NBC—that didn’t quite make it to air—I was Dane Cook’s best friend in it, but I was never the ethnic best friend. I think it’s time that we can just give good actors good stories to tell regardless of what their background is. And I hope that this is a great example for everybody to just kind of bounce from and elevate toward.
If you could add something to the show you’re working on, without anyone knowing about it beforehand and free from any consequences from upset co-workers/networks/viewers, what would it be?
DB: I would have liked to shoot a scene actually being on heroin. I’ve never done that before, I’m not interested in doing that, but I feel sometimes it’s hard to understand the darker levels of characters if you don’t actually get to go there with it. And because I don’t like needles and I’ll never stick anything in my arm and I’m not really interested in possibly OD’ing—free of consequences? Yeah, I would really like to be really doped up on heroin and shoot a scene that way.
AVC: So then how do you research a character trait like that?
DB: When I was in college, I experimented with things, so I’m able to pull back on the days of yore. [Laughs.] I do a lot of reading, I do a lot of watching. I don’t drink a whole lot in my life, but I know a lot of people that do, and I watch them and I care about them and I’m usually the one who drives people home and everything. So I get to hear all of the shit that they say and take in their mannerisms and their little tics that happen. I try to implement it as much as possible.
And like I said, I grew up in a rough neighborhood, so I knew a bunch of drug dealers that were actually really good people, and I would watch the people that they would sell drugs to, and I would see those people high, and the next day not high, searching for that high. So all of that together, I can pull from it, and then let my acting training do what it does.
If any character from your show could be given a spin-off, who would it be and what would be the premise of the new show?
DB: I’ve been thinking about this question a lot, because I really don’t know the answer. Without a doubt, Lindsay could have her own show. It’d be like a talk show where she’s drunk the whole time, and then sleeps with people in the audience. And craziness ensues.
But I would like to see a spin-off happen with Vernon. Very similar to what they did with Frasier with Kelsey Grammer, how they came over [from Cheers] and it was about his life and his work environment. I think we could do the same with Vernon and make a workplace comedy happen out of that. Nothing but trash juice, bunch of ridiculous shit coming out of his mouth. Maybe by then he’ll have a couple of ginger-haired kids that are doing drugs or whatever.