Katie Findlay on Joining ‘Man Seeking Woman’s Mad World and Finally Not Playing a Dead Girl

     February 16, 2017

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For the last two years, audiences have experienced the pitfalls and perils of the modern dating world through the surreal genius of Simon Rich and the comedic precision of Jay Baruchel. Through Baruchel’s awkward, earnest everyman Josh, Man Seeking Woman has taken us on dates with trolls and battles with dick monsters, rounded out with cameos from Jesus, Hitler, and Mrs. Clause. It’s been a wild ride, but it’s mostly been a string of heartbreak and humiliation. Until Now.

Enter Katie Findlay‘s Lucy — Josh’s ideal match. It’s been clear from the first episode we met Lucy, an episode told from her POV no less, and ‘Bagel’ made it official with a characteristically offbeat marriage proposal by way of indecent proposal. Lucy is the real deal, and her arrival marks a seismic shift in the structure and the narrative of the series.  Man Seeking Woman has always boasted strong female perspective and even though Lucy was created to be the perfect woman for Josh, she’s painted not as a fantasy figure, but a fully fleshed-out woman with her own drives, wants, and needs, and who’s willing to go just as all-in as he is. As the actress playing her, Findlay is all in too.

I recently caught up with Finlay to chat about her grand entrance to the series and what makes Man Seeking Woman such a singular show in the ever more crowded TV landscape. We also talked about when she realized Lucy was fundamentally changing Man Seeking Woman‘s DNA, working on a show where everyone’s so passionate about the material, leaning into the unique tone, and why she’s so thrilled to be playing a character who isn’t dead, naked, or damaged. Along those lines, we also talked about why she’s still ride-or-die for her divisive How to Get Away with Murder Character and why Rebecca was just misunderstood. Check it all out in the interview below.

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Image via FX

Hi, how are you?

KATIE FINDLAY: Under-caffeinated and terrified.

Oh, dear. Terrified? Hopefully not because of me.

FINDLAY: No, just because whenever I haven’t eaten and caffeinated then I’m always worried that I’m going to be like, “I hate babies.”, and they’re like, “Katie Findlay hates babies”.

Fair enough.

FINDLAY: You got to be careful these days.

Well, babies are overrated. You do a really cool thing with this season because I love the show-

FINDLAY: Oh, good.

And I’ve been a big supporter since the first season.

FINDLAY: Awesome.

But after a certain time, one bad date after the other started to become a bit redundant, even for all the show’s oddity. So your intervention this season is such an important step forward. How was your role in shifting the direction of the show pitched to you?

FINDLAY: Well, the show has been a really interesting learning experience for me because I didn’t really realize, it’s an odd way to explain it, but the depth or the tenderness of what was going to happen until I was there. Because I’d seen a couple of episodes of the first season, I haven’t seen the second season, so I didn’t really fully grasp the pattern of the show. When I saw it, they just said, “Josh is getting a girlfriend. Here’s a little bit about what she’s like”. It was very Lucy-centric, so I went into my audition understanding who this chick was a little bit.

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Image via FXX

I didn’t realize until the audition process started to stretch, get more intense, and more material was being sent to me, and I was re-taping it. Simon Rich, our creator, our genius little man creator — regular-size man creator — was kind enough to call me a couple of times. We had all these conversations about it and it slowly started to dawn on me that they were looking for a huge new piece of their show. Luckily, I had already done all of my auditions by that point, so it didn’t panic me as much as it could have. I didn’t really understand until I got in and started reading the scripts and realized that they really needed someone who was going to fill in Josh’s life and fill in the previous conceit of his struggles and his uproarious failures and embarrassments and tender moments with an entirely new thing. In a way, it was kind of beautiful because I got to, every day on the show, realize a little bit more exactly how much a part of it I was going to get to be.

That’s great.

FINDLAY: I consider myself very lucky, yeah.

It’s interesting to hear that you were having conversations with Simon because I noticed that he had not necessarily been writing the screenplays. But is he still heavily involved with shaping show?

FINDLAY: Oh my God, he’s always there. This is his baby. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve said before that part of the reason this show is so important to me is because I really do feel like Simon handed me someone, that was meant for someone he loves very much, which is Josh. This show is really his genius, this is him. So, he cares about everyone involved, he cares about all the characters, and I think that’s where the tenderness comes in. Whether or not he’s writing the screenplays because he knows this world, he knows these people, and he chose to create a person to make his main character happy. That care really shines through the season and he’s always around. If I don’t see suspenders for a day, I get nervous.

How does knowing how much care was given to that character, and how much he loves his characters, how does that affect your approach to going to the set every day.

FINDLAY: Well, I’ve got to tell you, people don’t think about the hours when they think about being on TV, they think about being in the movies because we all show up at interviews. It’s the best job in the world, I get to play in a playground every day, I get paid lots of money, but we’re there for 16 hours a day.

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Image via FX

And when I went to the set it was damn cold.

FINDLAY: Yeah, it’s freezing or it’s boiling, and 80 people are touching you at once, you’re never in your own clothes, you can’t touch your own face, you can’t touch your hair, you can’t eat, you can’t write, it’s hard on everyone. So after two months, it’s really possible, no matter how fantastic the thing you’re working on is, it’s really possible to be worn out, exhausted, socially flattened, you get sick and it doesn’t matter. Everyone, camera ops, actors, it doesn’t matter. There is a tone to this show, where every single person is there for the show 100%, and it makes it so much easier on those days where you’re tired, or you’re sick, coming in knowing everyone is grateful for each other. It really sincerely, no bullshit, is an absolute pleasure.

I have to give you the actor compliment, I think you guys like this one and it’s very true. I’m a big fan of How to Get Away with Murder.

FINDLAY: How cool!

It’s my indulgence. It’s my… no, I’m not even going to say guilty, it’s just my pleasure.

FINDLAY: I love it.

However, I watched all seven of the Man Seeking Women episodes I was provided and it didn’t ever occur to me that it was you in both worlds.

FINDLAY: Really? That’s amazing! Oh what a nice thing to say, thank you.

It’s very true. 

FINDLAY: People do that to me in real life on the bus sometimes. I live in Vancouver and I don’t have a car, so people come up to me on the bus and are like “Hi, you’re a bitch”. I was like, “I’m not, but thank you for that”.

Oh, wow. Are you very excited to be playing a lovable character now that people really like, then?

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Image via FX

FINDLAY: I thought Rebecca was lovable. Here’s my thing about Rebecca. She’s a disadvantaged person, who clearly grew up with a terrible family, living alone in a huge city. Who’s been taken advantage of, by literally, everybody on the show because she has piercings and eye makeup, and because she’s not warm. Everybody labels her as a sociopath, and as an outsider, because that’s not what I’m like as a human being, standing outside and looking at her, I think there are real people like this. There are real people who are prickly, guarded, who have been hurt, or who have been … and the fact that the internet would be so quick with these people, to say, “She’s a murderer, she’s crazy”. I was like, have you never met a person who had a difficult childhood, a bad relationship, or a drug problem before? My God, let’s just chill out a little bit.

Give her a break.

FINDLAY: I love Lucy. I think Lucy and Rebecca should hangout, that would be funny.

You make interesting points, because the people in How to Get Away with Murder, are sort of universally terrible people.

FINDLAY: They’re all horrible! It’s because they’re all super sexy, they’re all so attractive that you forget. That’s what it is.

You are not wrong. 

FINDLAY: I’m a big Rebecca advocate, I can’t help it.

As you should be.

FINDLAY: Right? She had good jokes.

[Laughs] Coming off a long run on a melodrama like How to Get Away with Murderwhen you come into a show like this that’s so surreal and unusual, how do you approach the more set-piece oriented moments? How do you balance the line between keeping it honest and getting ridiculous?

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Image via FX

FINDLAY: Well, first of all, that’s one of the best things about that show. It’s that so much stuff is practical that when you walk in, there’s really a 12-foot Muppet. That thing is really on fire. We really did push that guy off a bridge, it all really happened. So I spent the first 12 minutes walking around like “Oh my God, oh my God”. It takes me a while to get over. Sometimes I pick up props and show them to people, and they’re like “Yes, Katie. We know, we made them”.

Honestly, I think you just have to understand the tone of the show. So once you watch the show and you get an idea of how it all comes together, it doesn’t really feel like walking a tight rope because it becomes intuitive. It’s so well written, it’s so lovingly conceived, that once you get in there, you can tell what feels funny and what doesn’t. You can tell when you’re supposed to be freaking out and when you’re supposed to be acting like the fact that there is 12 tigers in the room is a little bit irritating because you really have to get to work. It’s self-evident, I think. It was tons of fun for me because I’ve never done comedy before, and being in a situation where I was encouraged to be huge, but could also move back to a comfort zone of not being a giant cartoon all the time, but reacting to things naturally, it gives you a way to be nuts and then ground yourself, every five seconds. Which is, a very soothing pattern as an actor, to be able to adopt.

Absolutely. It’s such an unusual thing, too. With your career so far, do you find you often audition for the same kinds of scripts, or the same kinds of roles?

FINDLAY: Well, I’m a young woman working in Hollywood. I get to be dead, naked, or troubled.

Fun. 

FINDLAY: It makes me very angry. I am so incredibly grateful … I was actually talking about this with my friend the other day. I said, “Where is the every woman in Hollywood?” because there is every man. There’s a slightly neurotic man, a slight every man, and there is no every woman. I feel like it’s very rare that you have a show that lets a woman move through the same cycles of triumph and disappointment, and every day grind, as we see men experiencing. Something I’m so grateful about on this show is that I’m never sexualized, and when I am, it’s in a normal situation that everybody else would be. I dressed up, I felt good.

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Image via FX

And it’s in a very mutual way. 

FINDLAY: Yeah, if I want to dress up and look nice she’s not “hot girl”. If I’m scared, I’m scared and unhappy, I’m not “troubled, dark girl with a past”. There’s not stereotyping on the show and I have agency and thoughts, and anxieties, and triumphs, in the exactly same way that Josh does, or Mike does, or Liz. Right?

Absolutely.

FINDLAY: Highly unbelievably professional, accomplished, still funny, still present. So it’s incredibly refreshing to come onto a show and not have to worry about being stuck in some, “Here’s what we do to young women on television, deal”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on shows where I’ve been all of those things and I’ve loved the story. I feel like it’s more a question of currency, pot currency, and awareness, when it comes to that kind of stuff. I have been stuck doing similar things, but I think I’ve been lucky that the times I’ve fallen into what could be considered a stereotypical role for young women, I’ve really believed in the content. But I know a lot of people don’t get that chance and they’re dead on the side of a street. They get to set and find out they have to have their boobs on, they had no idea, now they’re too uncomfortable to say something. So, lucky in all fronts.

I thought it was such a statement that the season opened from Lucy’s point of view. It was a really beautiful way to introduce a character and immediately put her on even footing.

FINDLAY: Again, I swear the people that make the show are such singularly wonderful people. I know it sounds like I’m a Hallmark card, but I really mean it. Talking to Simon about it, he said “We really need people to understand that this person is here to say, and that their perspective is here to stay, and that’s the best way to do it. It’s to frame her as though she is Josh, so that you wake up with this person, you have a terrible day with this person, and by the time you get to Josh, you’re as happy to see him as she is.” So it kind of sets them on an equal footing in terms of presence … if you’re an audience coming in from two seasons of a show with one perspective, it’s hard to shift, it’s hard to make you care about someone else. I understand, I wouldn’t care about me if I showed up halfway through. So I think it was a very valuable tool, just for a minute, to wake up first thing in the morning with this person, go through your day, and then meet your dude.

Man Seeking Woman airs Wednesdays at 10:30 P.M. ET/PT on FXX.

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