Episode 156 - Even More Of The Worst
Published March 24, 2015
SPECIAL GUEST Desmin Borges. In episode 143, Matt and Mike reviewed FX's 2014 show You're The Worst. In this episode, we're joined by Desmin Borges, who plays Edgar in the show, to talk about You're The Worst, being an actor in a changing world, relationships, comedy, and #sexrobots. Join us and find out more about this great show. Recorded 3/18/2015.
Mike & Matt's Recommended Reading:
You're The Worst on FXNetworks.com
You're The Worst on IMDB
You're The Worst Red Band Trailer
You're The Worst on Wikipedia
You're The Worst on Twitter
You're The Worst on Facebook
Desmin Borges on IMDB
Desmin Borges on Twitter
Episode 143 - Worst Love, where Matt and Mike reviewed You're The Worst (2/5/2015)
Alpha: Welcome to another episode of Robot Overlordz, episode #156. On the show, we take a look at how society is changing, everything from pop culture reviews to political commentary, technology trends to social norms, all in about thirty minutes or less, every Tuesday and Thursday.
Mike Johnston: Greetings cyborgs, robots, and natural humans. I’m Mike Johnston.
Matt Bolton: And I’m Matt Bolton. Tonight, we have a very special guest from the TV show You're the Worst, which is on FX. We’re proud to present Desmin Borges. Desmin, thank you so much for joining us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Desmin Borges: Thank you guys for having me. Let’s see, I’m originally from Chicago, born and raised there. I’m Puerto Rican, Italian, and Greek. I grew up in Logan Square, spent some time in Elmwood Park. Then I spent a little time in Houston, Texas around high school, and then back to Chicago for college at the theatre school at DePaul University. Now I find myself between New York and L.A. I travel a lot domestically. [Laughs]
MB: You must have really good food at family functions, I’m assuming.
DB: Oh yeah, I love it. That’s the first thing everyone says and you’re all completely correct. My grandmother, she’s southern Sicilian and she would make her own biscotti and lasagna. My dad’s side of the family would come with a traditional Puerto Rican rice and beans dish. Then the Greek side of my family, they would just come with whatever--usually a lot of alcohol, so… Always festive, merry, and tasty.
MB: [Laughs] Your show, You're the Worst, obviously that films in California. What about the show drew you to it?
DB: This was my second time working with the creator, Stephen Faulk. I was previously cast in the very first show that he had sold to NBC, called Next Caller starring Dane Cook, Jeffrey Tambor, Collette Wolfe, Joy Osmanski, and myself. But about five episodes in shooting, they decided that it wasn’t going in the direction that they liked and they pulled the plug on it before it ever made it to the air. So, when I got the call from Stephen saying that there was a part here in You're the Worst that he would like me to read and audition for the network, I was totally on board. Once I read it--the writing is absolutely brilliant, and the direction that they want to go in… I was floored from the beginning. And then getting to play a character that’s ethnic but not technically like “the Latino best friend” or “the Black best friend,” just someone who is a regular guy who’s going through the effects of what it’s like to transition back to civilian life after spending two tours in Iraq and dealing with PTSD and everything that comes along with that, but trying to fit it into a comedic lense or specifically Edgar’s view of what the world is like, it just seems like it was a really nice balance of serio and comedy. I jumped on board as soon as the offer came up.
MB: Is it hard doing a comedy when you’re the guy who has a heroin addiction and PTSD? [Laughs]
DB: Oh no, not at all! Stunting for the role is a blast! No, I’m joking. The best part about it is we’re dealing with real human issues within their world. Thus far, we haven’t really delved into the idea of me actually shooting heroin, which I’ve been telling Stephen from the beginning that I would like to break bad at some point. So, if there was a moment where that could happen, that would be fun to do. But I don’t know, I feel like all four of the characters, not just Edgar, are very real human beings. I see a lot of them in my everyday life; a lot of them are just like me and my friends, so I feel like the comedic elements of the show are easy to jump into and easy to play along with. Not to mention the actual cast--Aya, Chris, Kether and our supporting cast--they’re amazing to play with on camera. And our writers, they’re just pumping out pure gold. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in the second season.
MJ: The characters of the show have actually been one of the huge draws of it. Matt discovered the show first of the two of us and introduced me to it. The characters, like you said, they seem like such real people. Playing that role with PTSD, do you really feel the responsibility to the veterans that come back, to play that with a little bit of seriousness even though it is sort of a comedic take on things?
DB: Oh, of course. Without a doubt. One of the things that I find to be really interesting with anybody who’s dealing with any sort of, for lack of a better term, illness--I’ve known quite a few people in my life who’ve had PTSD but I was completely unaware that they actually had it; a couple of them were the fathers of friends of mine. When you’re dealing with any other sort of issue or illness, it isn’t always readily apparent on their face or in their demeanor or in the way that they act, but we’ve always said from the beginning that we never want to make a joke of it. We just want to give those veterans who are dealing with any sort of those issues a respectable outlet in which to see their stories be told and lived through. So, I feel like sometimes with how we’re able to stretch the show out and push the envelope, sometimes it gets a little dicey, but for the most part I know there’s people that are dealing with the same exact thing that Edgar’s dealing with and I hope we’re telling it as truthfully as possible. Hopefully they can laugh along with us because, while I’m not going to downplay it, it’s also definitely not the end of the world and there are outlets out there in order for them to better their lives and to try to make a livable situation out of the issues that they have. I think that’s a lot of what we’re going to be seeing Edgar jump into in the second season--I hope, I haven’t read anything yet. So, I’m waiting with open arms. [Laughs]
MB: Aw, I was going to ask you some questions about season two but I guess I’ll have to wait. I’ll be honest, I was literally addicted to the show within the first five minutes of the pilot. I’m with you, I think the writing is absolutely amazing; very realistic characters. I think the four main characters, whoever did the casting for the show, they definitely should be commended. I feel like an Amway salesman with my friends when it comes to the show.
DB: And we appreciate it very much, thank you. I’ll send you some knives when you’re done with it.
MB: [Laughs] And cleaning supplies. Yeah, I do--with everybody, I’m like “Oh my God, you have to watch this show, it’s so funny.” The other thing too is all the press on the show, all the reviews that I’ve read online, I don’t think I’ve read a single negative review. It’s almost like a cult show at this point. Were you a little surprised it wasn’t a huge hit?
DB: No, not really. You never really quite know what’s going to happen with TV shows, especially new ones. But we know that we liked shooting it so much and that we loved the material so much that we were going to be really surprised if it didn’t find an audience somewhere. The fact that it ended up doing so well critically, that was the huge surprise. You really never know quite well exactly how television critics are going to take something. But they jumped on our back, and I think from around episode four or five and on, every week it was just rave review after rave review for the episode. That’s really just a testament to the writing, because like you said, within the first five minutes you were pulled in. Within the first few minutes of me even reading the pilot, I didn’t even have to read it anymore, I knew that I wanted to do it. I was just hoping that FX was going to offer it to me. So, I think we’ve been really lucky with what we have so far and hopefully it continues to grow. Word of mouth is actually a really great way for us, considering that not everyone has FX on the cable package or necessarily tuned into it originally. I hope that with the second season, with us coming out on Hulu Plus pretty soon along with word of mouth, that the viewership will grow and that our Worst-y family will just get stronger.
MJ: Matt and I have talked a lot about the way society is changing. For us as fans, from this side of the table, the way that TV shows get made, it looks like we’re in this weird flux period where no one has quite worked out the rules, there’s a lot of really experimental things going on like Kickstarter projects and people taking things directly to the web. What is that experience like for you as an actor now that you’re involved in the show? You mentioned the other show that the creator of You’re the Worst had tried, where they only did five episodes and nobody ever saw them. It seems like right now the TV studios are still playing that weird middleman role and yet somehow gradually we’re taking these steps to maybe a more direct-to-audience or a more fan-based community. Do you see a lot of potential in things like that for shows that build a grassroots following but they don’t quite make the numbers that the studio expects, for them to be able to continue to have life by going the “fan route”?
DB: I think so. With Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and now Yahoo bringing Community over for the sixth season, first of all, it’s like a relief as an actor. There’s a flooding of good television that’s starting to happen. If you’re already not scooped up on a television show, now is the time to be auditioning, getting yourself in wherever you can. With that new platform that Netflix began, with that straight 13 with Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, there’s no delayed gratification anymore for audience members for the most part. They can sit down and binge and watch 6, 7, 10, 13 episodes in two or three days and really soak up that whole story and live that life with those characters and with those writers. I think it’s pretty exciting and I think it’s opening up genres for more female writers and for more actors of color to have more job opportunities. The networks are still going to hold to their formats because they’re still pinned down by advertising sales, whereas FX, HBO, AMC, Showtime, Sundance, they get to push the envelope in one direction, and then you have people like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu who continue to push the envelope in that same direction but broadening it even more. It’s exciting, it’s liberating, and I look forward to more programming like that. I think my favorite television show this year was Transparent. Did you guys see that?
MJ: I didn’t.
MB: I have not actually.
DB: It’s on Amazon Prime, starring Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light is in it.
MJ: Was that the transgender one?
DB: Yes, yes! It is absolutely, unbelievably good. It’s tied in, the production, the writing, the casting--the music is an element. You know how Los Angeles is like a character within You’re the Worst, because we’re all over the city and it’s very much integrated into the story? I feel like the music was like that in Transparent. It was beautifully done and it seamlessly took you through every scene. So, I think it’s exciting when you have things like You’re the Worst and Orange is the New Black, and obviously House of Cards, and now Transparent coming out and pushing the envelope that way. We’re getting a lot of bang for our buck, and hopefully enough people watch these shows to give them the opportunity to continue to grow.
MB: I’ll definitely check that out. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Transparent.
DB: It’s beautiful.
MB: I have Amazon Prime, so there’s really no excuse for not checking it out.
MJ: Yeah, we both do.
MB: There’s another new show that they’re developing, called The Man in the High Castle, which looks like it has huge potential.
DB: Sure. Well, one thing that’s amazing about working at FX is they really give Stephen creative control over the show. They’ve done their work, they know that Stephen is the writer that they want to work with. The writers and Stephen, they write all of our episodes in advance to us shooting, FX reads them over, gives whatever notes that they give, and then during the shooting process they just kind of let us do our thing. We don’t even do table reads the week before. We get a few scripts in advance and then we just start going, because we shoot three episodes simultaneously at a time.
MB: Oh, wow.
DB: Yeah, it’s this thing that they call “block shooting.” Some series block shoot an entire season, where they could be shooting a scene from episode one and episode nine in the same day. We break it down to three episodes at a time. So, we shoot episode one, two, and three, and then four, five, and six, and then so on. But it’s all based on location. In one week, we’re shooting everything in the first three episodes from mine and Jimmy’s apartment and then we move to the yogurt shop or Gretchen’s job, or wherever the case may be. It’s pretty exciting.
MB: Do you think that the show would work at all on broadcast TV? I can’t imagine that it would, just because of the way the show is.
DB: We’d have to widen the net too much and take away a lot of the edge, which I feel is kind of the most relatable part to the show. These people, they’re not horrible per se, they just don’t always go about things in the most appropriate way. But that’s how we are. I know that’s how I am, I know that’s how my friends are, so I can only speak from those experiences. The language would have to be toned down, the sex would definitely have to be toned down within the show. I don’t really think the sexual element is always necessary but I really feel like it pushes the story forward within this case, especially within Jimmy and Gretchen’s trajectory. And Lindsay of course--we can’t forget what she went through at the end of that first season.
MB: You don’t know because you haven’t seen the script, but do you think Lindsay and Edgar are going to get together in season two? There was a little spark there at the end of season one.
DB: I will say that I went back recently and I completely rewatched the whole first season, a few months now removed, because I wanted to see the stories unfold not while we were shooting them and give it a fresh set of eyes. The scenes between Edgar and Lindsay, they have some really good chemistry together. I don’t know if Edgar is ready for a relationship though, and I know Lindsay still has to work out stuff with her husband. What’s that phrase that he used? Gwyneth Paltrow and beginning the phase of “conscious uncoupling.” So I’m guessing that they’re probably going to still have to deal with a little bit of that. I think first I have to figure out how we’re going to live as a trio in Jimmy’s apartment with Gretchen moving in. So, we’ll see. I hope at some point that Edgar gets a chance to have a little love in his life. Maybe that will help him get out of his rut a little bit and to stop using heroin so much--and watching Rachel Ray all the time.
MB: [Laughs] I’m almost positive, but the song at the end of season one, that was Kether actually singing that, correct?
DB: Oh yeah! Kether has an amazing voice. Yeah, she’s brilliant. We were really lucky to get that song, “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush. I remember reading in an interview where Stephen was talking to I think the Hollywood Reporter or something--he actually wrote Kate Bush a personalized letter, saying how big of a fan he was of her work and how they really wanted to use this song for a pretty poignant point in the show, and she graciously accepted and let us use it. Then Kether just knocked it way out of the park.
MB: Yeah, she did an absolutely brilliant job. It was so good that you almost had to assume that somebody else was doing the singing in the background.
DB: Yeah, and that’s her singing live in the shop. Like totally live. We shot it fairly quickly, we didn’t do a lot of takes of that. We had the camera coming over my shoulder on a dolly with her up there and we did a few takes. Then we turned it around and got me listening to her and having my breath taken away by her awesomeness. I feel like we only had a few takes on each side and that’s what ended up. Matt Shakman was directing that episode, and man, he killed it with that ending montage, just the way it’s edited and cut. Our editors did such a damn good job with that. It really “got you in the feels,” as they like to say in the Twitter universe. [Laughs]
MJ: [Laughs] So Desmond, obviously the show is about relationships, relating what the show is saying about relationships to maybe your experience or your friends’ experiences out in the world, do you think that it’s a pretty accurate commentary on how relationships are changing in society these days?
DB: I do. I think it’s really speaking a lot to the relationship scope that’s specifically happening around Silver Lake in Los Angeles. I don’t live there, nor am I single at this point in my life, but my friends who are and who do live there, they basically tell me that the show is a verbatim echoing of their everyday life. So yeah, I definitely do.
MJ: Do you think relationships in general are changing a lot? We mentioned already how the TV industry is in flux. It seems to me, and this is really what our show is about, that a lot of things seem to be in flux and are changing. The kinds of stories about relationships that have been portrayed in the media in the past seem very sitcom-y. One of the things that struck me when Matt recommended the show to me was that it’s sort of the anti-sitcom. It just felt more real.
DB: Yeah. Well, I think with the way technology has evolved… I remember back in the day, running home to check the message machine because that was the only way I could find out if a friend of mine called while I wasn’t there, so that I could go meet him or go play basketball or ride bikes or something, you know? Now I can get ahold of anyone at almost any time that I want to, they can get ahold of me. And with text messaging… I mean, I know people who break up with people over text messaging. I don’t even get that. You’ve been intimate with somebody, I think the least you could do is tell them face to face that you don’t want to be with them anymore. But there are people who find it to be much more time efficient to just send a swift text, and some people are okay with that and some people aren’t. Let’s talk about the world of Tinder. I don’t know if you guys have been privy to it, but that’s just a whole ball of ridiculousness, I think. It’s amazing on one end and it’s completely sad to think about on the other end. It gives great opportunity, but at the same time I find it to be a little bit scary. My girlfriend who I’ve been with now for about a year and a half, after we met, do you know what I did that first night? I went home and I googled her.
DB: I just think that statement says everything about the way that relationships are going to continue to go in the future. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. For me, it’s been wonderful, I’m in a great relationship. But for the rest of us, I don’t know… Sometimes I think you get too much information about people too quickly and you don’t get to actually learn and listen to them enough.
MJ: Well, and there’s also a tendency, specifically with Tinder, to just move on to the next swipe. Both Matt and I are older single guys now and Tinder is absolutely brutal to older people, especially because I think the ratio to women to guys on there is skewed sort of in favor to women as far as finding people. I played around on it a little bit, we have a friend who’s a female, she gets a ton of replies and responses. I didn’t get a single one. I read some stuff about the privacy implications of Tinder and I was like “You know what? I’m too old for this crap” and deleted it.
MJ: But it’s absolutely brutal, that sense of being swiped away and onto the next one. It definitely has something to say about how the intimacy in our culture is changing.
DB: Oh, definitely. I was reading something on Thrillist Eat New York, it’s this thing that I subscribe to that tells you the new bars, the new restaurants that are popping up in or around New York City, and they asked 100 people on Tinder, 100 males and 100 females--they had two of their writers just message them what their first date would be like. Half the men responded with a joke about going to “poundtown,” like straight to it. Like “Hey, where would you take me on my first date?” “Oh, we’d go have sex.” The funny thing is is guys that I know on Tinder are like 60% in the positive of this happening. I know guys that are like “Hey, you want to hang out?” and I’m like “Yeah, let’s hang out.” And then I get a text 20 minutes later, “Sorry dude, I’m going to hook up with this girl from Tinder. She’s in the area.” I’m just like “Whoa… Alright.” But I guess with the swiping thing, you just swipe left, right? Like it’s a numbers game? Like you just say yes to everyone and hopefully somebody will connect with you? [Laughs]
MJ: That’s what it seems to have become. If they don’t say yes, you’re on to the next one. I found it very dehumanizing, I guess. Online dating--I know a couple of people who are married now; my brother met his wife that way and they have a daughter now, so I know people that it works for. But it hasn’t at all worked for me. It seems like all of that is in flux too.
DB: Oh, sure. Have you guys seen the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix?
MJ: Yes, we’re big fans of that.
DB: On one end, my frontal lobe was so pissed off at him for falling in love with an operating system, yet the whole rest of my brain could understand people out there falling in love with operating systems. That’s kind of, unfortunately, the place we’re going to go. What was that movie a long time ago with Sandra Bullock and maybe it was Sylvester Stallone, where they had cybersex with these glasses on?
MJ: Demolition Man--where they put the little caps on?
DB: Yeah, and they had crazy intimate sex through these goggles. I don’t think we’re too far away from that. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I don’t know. For single people, I’m sure it’s going to be great because you alleviate the potential risk for any sort of STD or unwanted pregnancy. But what’s going to happen to any actual human contact? I think that’s pretty necessary in life.
MJ: There’s a whole field, teledildonics, that is actually working on those devices. One of our most popular episodes was one that we did on sex robots with a lady futurist. The topic was her idea. But that was our most popular episode.
DB: [Laughs] I’m going to have to go back and listen to that. That sounds amazing.
MB: There’s actually a video on the internet, if you can find it, where they take these elderly people and give them virtual reality headsets and have them watch porn. The video is absolutely hilarious--you don’t actually see the porn, you just see their reaction and they’re looking around, trying to get away from it.
MJ: I liked the one old guy who tries to hug the lady in front of him.
DB: [Laughs] Oh, that’s great! He just wanted to spread the love, that’s all it was. He was feeling a lot of love and he just wanted to spread it. It’s the Brooklyn way.
MB: Do you have a favorite episode of You’re the Worst?
DB: Oh yes. Sunday Funday.
MJ: That’s an awesome one.
MB: I actually thought you would say that. That’s probably mine, too.
DB: Why would you think that I would say that?
MB: Just because I thought it was the funniest of the episodes, and it seems to be the one that most people know about. I’ll see on Facebook, people posting “Sunday funday!”
DB: It was just a riot. That was actually the first episode that all four of us were together almost the entire time. Most of the time, it’s split up into twosome scenes, like Jimmy and Gretchen, or Gretech and Lindsay, or me and Jimmy. So for us, it was just super exciting that all four of us were working together for most of the entire episode. We just had a blast with that. And then adding Thomas Middleditch and that other hipster crew… We had a blast. Episode ten might be my second favorite there. I don’t have any particular reason why. But the finale episode, maybe it was because we knew that was the last episode of the season, you get kind of nostalgic at how quickly we went through shooting the first season. So that might have factored into it. Plus, watching Kether make that burger with shrimp and M&Ms on it…
MB: And having her smash the Billy Bass.
DB: Oh yeah. And then I got to put Vernon in a sleeper hold and choke him out completely. That was hella awesome. Todd Robert Anderson, he’s hilarious, Vernon is by far one of my most favorite characters on the show, it was great getting to work with him. And any time you get to choke someone out…
MB: That’s the other thing that makes the show so great, is the secondary characters are so funny--Becca, and even Killian, the little kid. They’re just hilarious. Like I said, whoever did the casting should be commended because I think they nailed every character.
DB: I think we had a change of the guard in casting from the pilot to the actual season. I know Wendy O’Brien cast the season from episodes two through ten, but I think we had a different casting director for the pilot originally. But yeah, I totally agree with you--Shitstain and Honey Nutz, those guys could easily have a spin off. Them and Sam, they’re gold. It’s pure gold. The thing is is so many of those actors are wanted, like Allan and Darrell, who play Shitstain and Honey Nutz, and Brandon, who plays Sam, and Janet Varney who plays Becca--I think they’re all shooting pilots right now. Actually, Brandon is on that new NBC show, One Big Happy. So, hopefully things work out and we have them back for the second season, because you never really know what’s going to happen. But that’s just a testament to how talented those folks are.
MB: The last question is would you come back right before season three?
DB: If people who are listening to this and they haven’t seen the show yet, you can check it out on iTunes, Amazon Prime, and we’ll be up on Hulu Plus soon. I believe they’re showing reruns on FX, although when the second season starts, we’ll be moved to FXX.
MB: I think you can also watch it on FXNOW, correct?
DB: Oh yea, on FXNOW. If anybody is interested in hearing any more of my ridiculous thoughts, they can follow me @DesminBorges for Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I think that’s the only way people can get in touch with my publicly, but if that changes, I’ll let you know.
MJ: Desmin, thanks so much for joining us.
MB: Thank you very much, this was awesome.
DB: Thank you, I appreciate it.
A: That’s all for this episode of Robot Overlordz. Are you interested in the future and how society is changing? We’d love to have you join our community. Visit our website to learn more and to connect with others that share that interest. You can find us at RobotOverlordz.FM. The site includes all of the show’s old episodes along with complete transcripts, links to more information about the topics and guests in each episode, and our mailing list and forums. We’d also love to hear what you think about the show. You can review us on iTunes or email us.
A: We hope to see you again in the future…
MJ: Thanks everyone for listening.
Image Credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Aaron Peterson. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons