Elisha Cuthbert and David Caspe talk HAPPY ENDINGS
I had the chance this week to listen in on a conference call with series creator David Caspe and series star Elisha Cuthbert from ABC’s all new (hilarious) comedy HAPPY ENDINGS, premiering tonight at 9:30/8:30c and they had so many great things to say about what’s to come and where the show ideas came from – check it out, and I’ll be back later today with an actual review of the show, and why I think YOU ALL should watch!
Melissa (moderator): HAPPY ENDINGS will premiere Wednesday, April 13, at 9:30 pm, after MODERN FAMILY and another new episode will air at 10:00 pm in the series regular time slot.
HAPPY ENDINGS offers a fresh and funny take on a modern friendship and what one urban family will do to stay friends after the perfect couple who brought them all together – Alex and Dave – break up on their wedding day. The failed wedding forces all of them to question their lives, Alex’s sister, a housewife and her buttoned-up husband, who are thinking about starting a family, Max, their gay friend, and Penny who both worry about never finding the right guy. Then there’s Alex and Dave themselves who strike a truce and must learn to live with the changes the breakup has brought.
David [Caspe, creator] is going to start off with telling you all about how he created the series. Then Elisha [Cuthbert, plays Alex] will tell us a little bit about how it was shooting the series. Then we’ll open up to questions.
David Caspe (DC): Well it was sort of two-fold. I kind of always had this idea. I was and still am a feature writer writing movies. I had this idea for a movie for a while where wanted to start a movie where all those romantic comedies end. They all end with someone either running in and breaking up a wedding or running to an airport and stopping a girl from getting on a plane. And I always felt like that would be an interesting place to start a movie since so many movies end that way, most famously The Graduate. So that was always an idea I had for the future and could never really craft what the feature was about. And then I thought it would be a cool start to a television show. I thought that’s a great way in and thinking more about it, I thought of how some – and actually a few times weirdly and a group of friends, I mean in my group of friends rather that when you’re close to people for a long time and there’s these issues of someone dating someone for ten years that you’ve known since you’re kids and they become as close to you as the person that you were friends with originally.
And then when they split up there is always that sort of thorny issue of who sides with whom. And in a lot of ways it just makes things very awkward. I thought that is also an interesting concept for a TV show. So it combines that with the breakup being the huge romantic comedy breakup of the wedding and then in trying to find the characters I just really based it on my group of friends in general. I’ve weirdly had the same friends since third grade. Actually believe it or not I’ve made some new friends also. I’m not just a guy that has the same friends since third grade. But I do weirdly hang out with a lot of the same guys and girls that I met in third grade. And I think they’re great (significantly) because that’s when I moved to Chicago. And I also have very close friends from college too which, at that point is – or at this point for me – is also ten years, wow. So that’s a long group of friends.
Anyway, I’ve had this sort of thing happen a few times in both those groups. But yes, I drew aspects. No character is based specifically on one of my friends. But they’re all amalgamations or aggravations of different people…I kind of felt like just putting a group of friends on that was, you know, I think a lot of the – you know, that wasn’t so sort of – wasn’t all white and straight. I think most people’s group of friends is not all white and straight. So that was another kind of goal of mine in creating a characters was making sure that there was some diversity in the group. And that is all the talking that I’m sure you want to hear from me because we have EC on the phone who is much more interesting…
Elisha Cuthbert (EC): Oh no.
DC: …who has a way cooler life, has a way cooler life and much more different than…
EC: Well just to touch on a little bit about the diversity of the group, I mean not even just the way we play our characters with the different sexual orientations and also different races, I mean it’s – the interesting thing is that our personalities have, I have really molded into and the characters are so personality different. We get on set and we all click really well. But at the same time each character is so different and each actor is so unique and brings their own thing to the table. So that’s been really fun to be a part of and get to work with this group. And we shot at the Paramount studios lot and it was terrific. And it has just been a lot of fun to shoot and be a part of. And obviously we’re doing a comedy. So with that it’s been terrific to find ourselves in situations where we’re coming up with things on our own and the writer’s listening to what we have to say and it’s a very open and collaborative environment.
And I know that a lot of our stuff has made it into the 12 shows that we’ve done. So it’s not even just being heard. It’s actually happening. And our staff of writers is the youngest group I’ve ever seen. So I think we’re coming from a – our voice is coming from a really honest place and hitting that generation that is in their, you know, mid to late 20s, early 30s, late 30s. It’s just – so it’s been good. It’s been good.
DC: I had the characters in my head, all these people we capture are so funny and so specific with their own personalities that they’ve all put their own stamp on the characters and …
DC: …Elisha especially. I mean she is very different probably than how everybody maybe knows here. She is just a super light-hearted funny person.
EC: Yes I guess it’s her personalities that you guys are able to take a look at and see and use. And the character isn’t quite where it was at the pilot. I mean I’ve been starting to realize in a comedy there’s this amazing process that happens where you really just start to figure out who these people are six episodes, seven, eight episodes into this process which with one hour drama I feel like here’s your characters, here’s the plot line, here’s where it’s going. And you really – you see true to that. And this has been a totally different process.
My first question is for David. A few days ago I came across an article I wrote in January of 2009 where I ranked Elisha as number one on the list of five Canadian actresses you should know. Can you talk a little more about the decision to cast her in this role and what you think she brings to the show?
EC: Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say that.
DC: Well just I don’t know who else was on that list but I think she should be on the top of the list because I think she’s awesome. She’s…
DC: …I mean first off she is hilarious. I think that people are going, you know, she’s been in some comedies but I think her role in those comedies was, in a lot of cases the Object of Desire which is awesome, you know, and a great thing too. But she’s so funny that I think people are going to see her in like a completely different light in this show.
I mean she obviously is very beautiful and plays that role as well. But really her main role in the show is just like a super funny kind of quirky out there friend of these girls and guys.
And I think that’s been the most exciting thing. In casting her for the show, we – in the pilot she doesn’t get the – and it’s a credit to her that she makes the character likable at all because in the pilot she doesn’t get a whole lot to do except basically, screw over one of the main guys and the entire group of friends almost and run out on a huge wedding. So it’s tough to gauge her character from that point. But as we move forward like Elisha said, when we can get rid of all that wedding business we were able to just let her have fun. And she’s just super cute and super fun. I think everyone’s going to be really, really excited. And so basically we expected a lot but we got way more than we expected when we cast her.
I also want to say one other – one quick correction is earlier when I was saying that a group of friends that I wanted to make it more diverse and not all white and straight, I am fully aware that we only have one African American in this group of six people and that it’s not the most diverse looking cast in the world. I meant more that that was sort of the theory. I think that having one of the friends being gay and having one of the friends not being white and having an interracial relationship, those are the type of things I meant that represent more of a group of friends that I think is more current.
But I am aware that most people’s groups of friends are even more diverse than that. But this is just sort of how it ended up in the casting. Sorry, does that answer your question and also cover my neurosis from five minutes ago?
My question for Elisha…
..with so many strong dramatic performances on your resume why did you decide to do a comedy?
EC: I think I felt like I did everything I needed to do in television with the one hour drama. I spent a lot of years working very hard and trying to bring this dramatic character to life. And I guess once that journey was over I sat for a really long time because actually 24 was over a little year in advance for me because I wasn’t quite in the last one there.
But I sat for like a year and a half going, you know, all of these one hour dramas are sort of coming at me and I just I didn’t sit well with it. And I just felt like what is this? Am I – have I decided that I’m not interested in doing TV anymore? I was really questioning what it was that I was sort of going through. And I just realized that I think I felt like I had completed this part of my acting career at this moment in time and really felt like there was one thing left to show and that was just a lighter side of myself to the fans and to, you know, anyone that would watch.
I mean I just felt like – David said so kindly earlier that, you know, there – I’m a pretty lighthearted person. With 24 you didn’t really get to smile all that much. So to be able to be a part of a show that I can show that part of me was exciting and also a challenge. And I think that’s what we need in our lives, you know, sort of like this challenge to keep things interesting. And after 17 years of acting I guess it was just – it was the next thing to conquer really.
I’ve seen the pilot and it’s really, really funny. I won’t have a problem tuning in obviously. But a lot of viewers don’t seem to want to start shows, to start new shows when they premier at odd times during the season. You know, this – we’re getting towards the end of the regular TV season.
So can you guys both give us a reason or two, a really good reason or two that they should tune in?
EC: I just feel like…
DC: I hope it’s funny.
EC: Yes you go Dave.
DC: Okay. I mean I hope it’s funny. I think it’s funny. I mean to me it feels like, I don’t know and maybe I’m just a less educated TV viewer but from when I was just consuming TV and movies before I was working in this business I don’t feel like I was aware of when stuff started such as the cable and everything. It seemed like I would just kind of be watching and see commercials. It’d be like oh that’s starting next week? Great, you know what I mean? So I’m hoping that there’s a little of that and it’s not so set. But I think it’s funny. I would say a huge, huge reason is the cast is hilarious. And I guess that sounds kind of weird for me to say but…
No, that’s great.
DC: But the cast is awesome. We tried to cast really funny people. And we really succeeded and they’re all funny in a different way. And some have standup background, some have improv background. You know, for Elisha, this is one of the few comedies she’s done but she is so awesome at it that – and she brings a completely different approach to it. It’s really like the people are super funny and I think that people would like it if they would give it a chance. I hope that they will. What do you think Elisha?
EC: Yes that’s all of that. I mean I – what else can I say? I feel like after – I haven’t seen all of our episodes. I’ve seen almost all. I have a fun time watching it and I was in it. We had a lot of fun and I think it shows. And when I think of other shows that are out there right now, we’re not bringing the same thing to the table. We’re bringing something totally different. And I think if anything that – that’s encouraging because you don’t want seven of the same shows out there and then you get into a place where it’s tough for people to really decide. But it stands out and it’s set apart from the group.
And of the half hour comedies for this sort of – with this sort of age group and cast I feel we’re just a little more edgy and a little bit more exciting. And I think even just for our premiere day on Wednesday, the fact that we’re showing two I think that’s all it’s going to take. I think people are going to get what our show is in two episodes. I think they’re going to understand where the group is. And if they enjoy it then hopefully they’ll come back next week.
Do you have one favorite part to any of the episodes that you shot so far, you know, something that really you liked most?
EC: I like doing the physical comedy. I’ve started to realize that I may not be as clever with the one liners as some of my other cast mates. I mean they are masters at what they do. But I feel like I really love really going outside of myself and doing things that I probably wouldn’t want to do or people would think I would be embarrassed to do. But I feel like I’m here. I’m a part of this show. I’m a part of this comedy. This is what I’ve wanted to do and I’m not – I’m going to sort of be fearless in taking risks and doing some fun stuff. And in saying that I was subject to some very ridiculous outfits and…
EC: …some fun scenes that involved a lot of drinking and a lot of food eating. But I don’t want to spoil them. I just feel like there’s a physical side of this comedy that I’m starting to realize is a whole lot of fun and I’m having fun doing it.
I have a question for each of you. I guess the first question is when it came to casting the show did you – were the characters flushed out that you cast for the parts or did you find – when you were casting did you find actors that you said okay this is this person or this can be this person? Like did you end up the actors that came in, in some cases?
DC: Well the characters were flushed out but we really just were trying to cast to make this last. And it was once we found those people and moved forward after the pilot in the episodes we wrote going forward, the characters became – we started to mold the characters to the actors we have a little bit more.
But in general they were pretty flushed out and we thought we knew what we were looking for. But really all we were looking for was people that mad us laugh. So I guess if they didn’t fit the specific physical image maybe that I had in my head although I didn’t really have a total physical image in my head for any of them but if they came in and made us laugh we were just like great you know what I mean?
And Elisha what are the challenges of meeting, you know, a group of actors and suddenly having to portray good friends? What do you do to prepare to actually make that come across in the screen?
EC: Lots of partying beforehand. No we all met once everyone was locked in and we were about a week away from shooting the pilot. We had a couple of dinners all together. We got to know each other – their lives, what they were up to, what they’ve done. It just – it helps to even if it had nothing to do with our characters per se it was just a matter of getting that chemistry.
And I have to tell you I feel like it was kind of this magical thing. I don’t know the TV Gods were on our side before we did this because with all of us being so completely different and having completely different careers and, you know, obviously different experiences we all got along extremely, extremely well. And I have to say it was very easy to jump in and to shoot the pilot. Plus our directors the Russo Brothers were just terrific also and fun and light-hearted and the atmosphere on set was just – it just was there was not tension. It was just a lot of fun. And the group was really clicked and we still click. I was in Canada. I came back to Los Angeles to do some press. They – we had a press junket. I hadn’t seen some of these actors in two months and it was like I saw them yesterday. We’re really, really lucky that the chemistry is there.
DC: They really I mean – from being involved with all them I’ve seen that they have all really become friends. It’s pretty cool.
I have sort of a two-part question. First part, with this being your first foray really into comedy did having costars known for comedy help you transition to the show and the character? And then the second part would be how would you say this type of a comedy ensemble’s different from the dramatic stuff that you’ve done on 24?
EC: Yes, I think that there’s a lot of differences. I mean it’s a totally different filming process. It’s as, you know, we shoot, you know, each episode in a week so it’s fresh and new. And with 24 hour obviously it took us two weeks. We did two episodes at a time, a lot of location work and so there – you know, there was that kind of differences. But also, you know, the plot being the star of the show when you’re doing a one hour drama because it’s really about the story and how you get to the finale of that story.
And with comedy it’s this collaborative thing where it’s about the characters. It’s not really about where they’re going ever single minute of the show. It’s about, you know, the chemistry between us. And, you know, every week we sort of kind of tackle, you know, someone else’s storyline. And it’s just it – so it’s been a different process. And to answer your question about the actors I was actually really excited to get involved and to be a part of the show because it was so different from what I’ve been a part of.
But at the same time I had – that sort of brewed these sort of fears that, you know, this is a – I started to realize that our cast had a really strong comedic background and rightfully so. And I was a little terrified to like, you know, how were they going to accept me into this group and were they going to kind of – was I going to be sort of cast off in the corner to, you know, with myself so that they were kind of pow-wowing and coming up with sticks and, you know, I was afraid that I’d be sort of left out. But it was the exact opposite.
And I have to say that even in the process of finding Alex and who this character is after she runs out on her wedding, you know, I remember Adam Pally there was – we shot a scene and it went really well. I felt really good about it. The crew was laughing. And I came back to my trailer and Adam Pally knocked on my trailer door and said – you’ve really got to keep using that. Whatever that was you’ve got to keep doing it because that’s Alex.
And I can, you know, you’re really finding this girl and this character. They’re so supportive. I’ve gone to Casey Wilson and said I got two ways I can deliver this line. Can I throw them at you and tell me what you think? And she’d say, yes let’s do it. They’ve been so incredible. And there’s a lot that you learn without even realizing it subconsciously watching them and then their process. And the wheels are always constantly turning with them. And I found myself doing the same thing and wanting to participate in that and finding new things and come up with fun stuff.
So yes they’ve been more than supportive. They’ve helped me through this process which is just incredible. They’re very good people and really good friends now because of it.
So Dave this is your first TV show. Is there anything you’re trying to avoid doing plot-wise, decision-wise — anything like that, you’re just like no, can’t do that?
EC: Oh good question.
DC: Wow that is a great question. What’s crazy about TV is the schedule is so insane and that it moves so quickly that there’s an element of what you want to do and then there’s an element of what you can actually do. There’s sometimes you’ve got to marry those two. But going into the show, my main goal is just to make it feel funny and real.
There have been so many great shows and there are so many great shows out there right now. But I’m not so focused on what not to do, just trying to keep my eye on making it funny and make it feel organic and real I guess would be the two things I’m focused on.
EC: I don’t mean to chime in but I just feel like I’ve also started to realize that in the process of comedy saying, can’t or won’t or not trying something is like that’s when it’s over, you know? There are things that you try and then they don’t work and you move on. But without the possibility of trying or tinkering with things, I mean it just – I don’t think it leaves you in a very good place don’t you think David?
DC: Yes, we’ll try anything. It’s weird because there’s a lot of stuff where it’s funny on the page or it’s funny in the writer’s room and then you shoot it and for some reason it’s not funny on set. Or you shoot it and it’s hilarious on set and then you get in the editing room and you’re like that’s not so great and then you cut it. So it’s sort of there is an element of just try a lot of different stuff and then you slowly sort of learn what works. And so yes, it’s been a constant learning process. What’s great about Elisha and the rest of the cast is they’re game for anything. We try everything and we do it improv on set and a lot of rewriting on set to try and find new jokes in the moment. So we do try a lot and a some of it does not work and hopefully some of it does.
It sounds like a very positive kind of environment. And speaking of positive…Elisha, despite the fact that your character abandons her fiancé at the altar and also very likeable. And I think she was probably maybe difficult to make very likeable. What do you think are her most positive traits and quirks where the audience is then like okay, we don’t hate her, we like her?
EC: I’m glad that you think that and I put a lot of thought into how do I make this character not incomplete, a mess and people just write her off? And I played it as truthfully as possible. But what I think helps a lot – I think it was really in the writing in that we had those little flashbacks of – yes I recall the flashback on Valentine’s Day where Dave gives her $40 cash, you know, in an envelope. And I think it was those little things that make you realize or like when I come back from the honeymoon which I explained to him I was not off with that guy. I was trying to figure my life out and in walks a naked girl. The writing was so clever that it did the work for me because it makes you realize that it takes two to make a relationship work and that yes I may have been the one to run out but we were having issues. And I think a lot of people can relate.
I mean it’s an extreme thing to do but it was a fun way to kick the show off and a lot of people can relate and realize that. We’re all asking these questions and we’re all trying to figure out is this the right person and am I making the right decisions? Am I on the right path? It really is those underlying questions about love. So I think people can have a little sympathy for that I think in the writing and in the flashbacks and whatnot. Well yes it was tough. I didn’t really put too much thought into it. I just said let’s do it and hopefully they’ll stick with me and they won’t hate me too much.
DC: When casting Elisha she’s just inherently likeable that. Her natural personality did a lot of the work for us in that pilot as far as making the character likeable despite doing this crazy thing.
And really quick, you mentioned coming back from the honeymoon. There was an interesting hairdo. Is – was that a wig?
EC: No that was real. That took 3-1/2 hours to do. And yes, that’s – and that was my – that’s kind of similar in the same vein as my point before that I’m – I’m here. I’m doing comedy. I’m not going to, you know, I want to do it and I want to do it all the way kind of thing, you know? So it’s like when they – you know, when that sort of came about I just remember going we got – there’s no other way. I don’t want it too look – I really don’t want it to look corny or cheesy. I want it really look like I went there and got the braids.
DC: You remember what happened with the braids? Remember what happened with the braids?
EC: Yes, we didn’t finish all the work on that scene because it was getting too late. And so we broke for the weekend. And the assistant director came to me and said we’re going to pick this scene up on Monday so do you want to take the braids out and redo them again on Monday morning at 3:30 am because it takes three hours or would you just want to wear them all weekend? I’m like you’ve got to be kidding me right? And I wore them all weekend. And not to mention it was a long weekend. So we came back Tuesday and I wore them for a whole long weekend — ridiculous.
I wanted to ask you guys, I’m guessing that eventually in the series Alex and Dave will reunite whether it’s long term or short term. I’m sure it’ll be determined. But do you think that exes can really reunite and make it work a second time around?
EC: It’s never worked in my life. I don’t know about you David but…
DC: Have you ever gotten back together with someone Elisha?
DC: I haven’t either. I burn the bridge and I’m out. Though, someone told me that if you break up with someone that you had a relationship with and get back together with them that’s the person that you’re supposed to marry. Now I don’t know who that was that gave me that advice or where they got the advice. But that’s an interesting theory I guess if you can come back to someone.
EC: Once it’s done it’s done. You know, it’s interesting because this is the whole point of the show is that every situation is completely different. What works for one person may not work for another. And also, under most circumstances this is a group of friends that probably would have not stayed friends after this situation except that they’re in a unique environment that they’ve all been friends for so long. And not one person sort of brought one person into the group, you know. It’s not like Alex is leaving and then Dave takes all his friends away. They were all collectively friends. So I think in this situation it makes it a little bit more difficult to just make that complete break. And but that’s love and live I guess. Everyone’s process is totally different.
I mean some people get married after, you know, two months of knowing each other. Some people get married after 11 years of being together. I mean it’s just there’s no right or wrong I don’t think.
Do you think that exes can really stay friends after a relationship ends?
DC: I know some people that are. There are a lot of reasons why people wouldn’t stay friends. But I think most people need to not be the person for a month or a couple months or something like that and then usually probably just kind of drift back into your separate lives and never really are forced to hang out with each other so you probably never do.
I think that it’s one of the things that relates to the show is they’re basically forced to hang out together again. And so that’s sort of the question like if forced to continue to hang out with someone that you had so much in common with for so long you probably if you could get past all the other stuff you probably would become friends.
This is ultimately the theory in the show is Alex and Dave were friends before they started dating so they go back to friends. I would say in general no. It seems like people can’t become friends after. But I don’t know, if they get forced to hang out for a long period of time and get passed that sort of desire to not be around each other, I think maybe right?
EC: This is also the genius in what comes and what’s ahead of us here in the show is that, you know, when Dave decides that he needs to start, you know, going out and dating again and then I’m sort of subjected to it or, you know, I go on my first date and it – all these little awkward moments are ensuing because of the awkwardness of us kind of trying to reconnect and be friends again. But then there are these really sweet moments where he needs me and – as a friend I’m there for him so there’s all these different little stories and feelings and it’s just – it’s great.
And lastly do either of you have a favorite sitcom romance or a television couple?
DC: That was interesting. Why don’t you start Elisha. Do you have one?
EC: I keep thinking of like I keep thinking of like the Flintstones and I don’t know why. But, you know, what I’m like I don’t know why The Flintstones came into my head the first when you asked me like my favorite show, I’m like The Flintstones. Is that ridiculous?
DC: No it’s amazing. That was an amazing answer.
EC: Fred Flintstone and what’s her name?
DC: Wilma. Fred and Wilma. That is an amazing answer. I love that answer.
I’ve got to hear though, why did you say The Flintstones. I’ve got to hear the why to this?
EC: I don’t know. I just remember watching that show as a kid all the time. I just loved it so much so that’s a good one. That’s a good one. The other – the only other thing too is I – my mom bought me all the Mary Tyler Moore episodes. And she had a lot of issues in love and all of that which is great for me to draw from and, you know, what a phenomenal actress and terrific, terrific show. So that’s my more serious answer. But I went with what the first thing I thought of which is The Flintstones baby.
And what about you Dave?
DC: I have to follow that answer? Now I’m trying to figure someone super creative and I can’t…
EC: Oh yes because it’s so genius.
I was going to say how about the Jetsons?
DC: The Jetsons yes. I know it’s not romantic completely but I love the relationship between Jerry and Elaine on Seinfeld I thought was awesome. It felt real and funny and…
DC: …and yes, complicated.
I just wanted to talk about you mentioned that it caters to the 20 to 30 year old generation. What does this show offer to captivate the audience or anyone else that wants to tune in and watch? How does that relate to them?
EC: It’s a more edgy portrayal, a more honest portrayal of our generation that is late 20s, early 30s. It’s a comedy and it’s fun and light-hearted. But we’re dealing with love and relationships and friendships. It has all the elements that are going on in our lives but with a funny take and a more honest portrayal.
DC: My goal was to make the characters sound like how people talk. If they come across like that, hopefully they will appeal to those people. You know what I mean? Not feel like I just sounding like a 60 year old like divorcee. I tried to make the young kids talk like the young kids so it’ll appeal to the young kids. The Facebook generation…
Melissa Elizaga: Thanks everyone. Tonight after MODERN FAMILY, 9:30, HAPPY ENDINGS on ABC.