From show creator David Cross, the comedy series Bliss (available at BritBox) follows Andrew (Stephen Mangan), a successful travel writer who, as a result of extenuating circumstances, finds himself living a double life between two families. The two sets of wives (Heather Graham and Jo Hartley) and children don’t know about each other, which keeps Andrew in a constant state of moral crisis, balancing his time between two worlds that he’s finding it ever-harder to contain.
While at the BritBox portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with actress Heather Graham about why Bliss appealed to her, what she loves about David Cross’ comedy, exploring such a disturbing concept, what she enjoys about playing her character, why she’d be interested in doing future seasons, how she’s changed since she started in this business, and what motivates her for her own projects.
Collider: Thanks for chatting with me again! We last spoke for Half Magic, the film you wrote, directed and starred in.
HEATHER GRAHAM: Yeah, I remember talking to you. You were super cool and wrote a great piece. Thank you!
I really enjoyed that film and am definitely looking forward to whatever you do next, as a director.
GRAHAM: Yeah, knock on wood, I’m working on two things that I wrote, and hopefully, I’ll turn one into a TV show. I’ve also optioned a book that I’d like to turn into a TV show.
Do you find it easier to write with source material? Is it scarier to write something completely original?
GRAHAM: Writing your own, you’re like, “I don’t need to worry about whether the book writer will feel good about this.” The book option thing might be a different writer. Maybe I’ll just produce that and possibly act in it.
How did Bliss come about?
GRAHAM: Basically, they offered it to me, which is so cool ‘cause I’m a huge fan of David Cross from watching Arrested Development and I like his stand-up. I just think he’s a really smart, funny person. When I heard the premise, I thought it was disturbing ‘cause I consider myself a feminist. I was like, “This seems sexist.” But then, when I read it, I just think his writing is really good and I thought the character was really interesting. I thought [Stephen Mangan’s] character was interesting, in the way that you feel bad for him, even though he’s doing this terrible thing. You just feel like he’s this people-pleaser who can’t hurt anyone’s feelings. And I thought the way that David writes the women, they were cool.
Yeah, I have to admit that I want these two women to just team up and go out on their own.
GRAHAM: I know! I really want that to happen. At first, they were like, “We don’t think you should meet Jo [Hartley] ‘cause we wanna keep it that you guys never meet each other.” But by the end, I was like, “Screw it, I wanna meet her.” She’s so cool! We started hanging out, and I thought it would be fun if they teamed up and decided to torture him, or something. That would be cool.
What do you like about David Cross’ comedy?
GRAHAM: He manages to be smart and silly, at the same time. If you can be intellectual, but your humor is also super absurd and ridiculous and silly, that’s a cool mixture.
Obviously, the concept of this series is something that people are initially going to be a little bit weirded out about.
GRAHAM: It’s disturbing. Sadly, it does happen. You can do research. There are some pretty famous situations where people have done it. It’s so gross. That would be horrible.
Do you feel like, if you ended up in a situation like this, you would get clued in that something weird was going on a lot sooner than these people seem to?
GRAHAM: I hope so, yeah. You wouldn’t expect a person to be that deceptive, and maybe when you have a kid , you’re just distracted by taking care of them. I guess both of the women have their own issues. Jo’s character is in AA, and my character has social anxiety.
What do you enjoy about playing Kim?
GRAHAM: David had interesting journeys planned, for both my character and Jo’s character. Basically, Kim starts off really scared of the outside world and really afraid, especially of public speaking. And then, she gets really into local politics. She’s really bothered by the potholes and wants to fix the roads, so she starts speaking out about it, and then gets really empowered by it. And Jo has been this person who’s a confident, strong woman, but through his neglect, she starts losing her confidence. And then, she has this flirtation with the construction guy in later episodes, which is fun. I like that the women are cool. It’s not about, does he like one better than the other? It’s more about this guy being seriously screwed up.
How did he get in this whole situation, to begin with?
GRAHAM: In later episodes, you find out that Jo’s character gets pregnant, and then breaks up with him ‘cause she doesn’t wanna tell him that she’s pregnant. She thinks she’s gonna get an abortion. And then, he starts dating my character and she immediately gets pregnant. And then, Jo’s character tells him, “By the way, I’m pregnant,” so then he has two pregnant women and he’s just like, “I gotta be there for these kids.” He just starts doing it. There’s a part of me that can relate to sometimes being a people pleaser, or trying to not hurt other people’s feelings, but this is to the ridiculous extreme.