Bringing complexity to comedy isn’t easy.
The Hollywood Reporter has brought together stars Aidy Bryant, Kaley Cuoco, Lena Waithe, Cristin Milioti, Holly Hunter, and Jean Smart for their new TV Comedy Actress Roundtable.
During their conversation, the actresses address the difficulty of filming sex scenes for their shows.
“Particularly for intimate scenes because I’m a size 18 and there is a different process for an intimate scene with that size element,” says Bryant. “And, yeah, there’s a little bit of a freakiness to that because you feel like you’re going into uncharted territory in some ways. But I always felt very fortified by the story where I was like, ‘OK, I know what I’m here to achieve, and I was in the writers’ room, so I know why we’re doing this and what is funny about this.’ And that felt easier to grab onto than being like, ‘Oh, I’m in my underwear.'”
Milioti adds, “I was so afraid. Thank God I’ve known Billy [Magnussen] for 10 years. The worst part was, they had a camera right here [right up to her face] and they were like, ‘Great, now do an orgasm like it’s real. Now do it like you’re faking it for him. Now do it like you want it …’ They had me do, like, 20 orgasms, and I was so embarrassed. I drove home that day being like, ‘Whyyyy do I do this?!'”
For Cuoco, shooting an intimate scene like that was completely new.
“I had never done any sort of sex scene ever, and I had one in ‘Flight Attendant’ with Michiel [Huisman]. He’d been in ‘Game of Thrones’, so he’d done all these scenes, and I just had no idea. When they called ‘cut,’ I’d be hovering over him like I was on a toilet. I’m like, ‘I’m not touching anything, I’m not looking at anything,'” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t know what to do. He was like, ‘You’re acting so weird, you’re making this way weirder than it needs to be.’ But I was totally out of my element.”
Though comedy can be simple and lighthearted fun, the actresses talk about fighting to bring complexity to their characters.
Says the former “Big Bang Theory” star: “There was a constant conversation of, like, ‘Well, she has to be likable.’ And I was like, ‘We’re playing a complicated woman here. Like, not everything is likable, and we can still love her.’ But we probably have all dealt with this in our careers. And I kept pushing, like, this girl has a lot of problems and it’s OK and we’re going to show it and maybe this will reach someone else.”
“It certainly is something I fight really hard for,” Milioti adds. “My favourite movie growing up was ‘Beetlejuice’, and I wanted to be ‘Beetlejuice’. I wanted to crawl out of a grave and eat a bug and like honk my crotch and possess Winona Ryder. I didn’t want to sit there and bat my eyelashes and be ‘the fun girl’. I never wanted that.”
Waithe says, “It’s important for us to see ourselves that way. It’s like, it’s OK for us to be a hero, it’s OK for us to be a villain. All of us live somewhere in between, depending on the day. But that can be tough when you’re a part of an othered group and you are so rarely seen on television. There is a reason why the Huxtables worked first. People want to see palatable folks of colour, not complicated folks of colour. So that’s why it’s super-important for me to continue to write those complicated characters that are flawed and interesting and broken because that’s the only way people will see us as human beings.”