Eliza Coupe: I Love Taking Jokes A Step Too Far
It's hard to think of a time before Happy Endings. But to do so, one need only mentally travel back to December 2010. Yes, it's only been 14 months since the Chicago-set comedy came into our lives and laid waste to the other "Friends-y" series that debuted that year. And yet, it feels like Max, Penny, Dave, Alex, Brad and Jane have been Wednesday night staples in my life for years.
That's why the task of selecting one to represent them in my list of 2011 Breakout Stars was so difficult -- each contributed something uniquely special to pop culture last year. But when I was pressed to do so, one name stood out: Eliza Coupe.
Citing Eliza's hilariously neurotic turn as one half of TV's greatest married couple, her must-follow Twitter feed and the so-wrong-it's-right Temple Grandin impersonation she delivered at a Happy Endings-themed UCB event, my choice was basically made for me. This morning I caught up with Eliza to talk about all those aforementioned obsessions as well as find out what's coming up for Jane (hint: Angelina's Right Leg), why spending time in China super sized her ego and what's next for her ever-expanding Fassbender multi-media empire!
Insider.com: I think this season has improved upon everything I loved in season one -- what have you thought about Happy Endings this year?
Eliza Coupe: I couldn't be happier. This has turned into the show I think we all knew it could be. This has been such an incredible experience. Every single character has come into their own this season. Alex has really blossomed into someone incredible and I loved that Max got to have that relationship with Grant. It not only showed such a different dimension to Adam [Pally's] acting but also gave Max so much more depth. It's been such an amazing collaborative effort – we pitch each other jokes on set all the time. I had to get used to that. It's not like everyone is out for themselves. I want to be a team player, I've always wanted to be a team player, I've just never had the opportunity to be on a show where everyone is interested in the health of the show.
Insider: What's an example of something like that, a moment that came from one of your co-stars?
Eliza: [Jane groping Grant] was actually a pitch from Damon [Wayans Jr.]. He thought it would be funny if Jane was touching Grant's chest when Brad walked down the stairs. I don't think he meant for me to touch him the way I touched him, but as I liked to do, I took things too far. Honestly, I don't think I’ve washed my hands yet. Which is really gross when you think about it. But I loved having James [Wolk] around. He was such a nice guy that I almost think he might kill people. Seriously, people aren't that nice.
Insider: He was a great guest star, but everyone's peripheral favorite Happy character, Derek, comes back tonight. How excited were you to have that energy back?
Eliza: I absolutely love Stephen [Guarino, who plays Derek] so much. He's so talented and such a cool guy. What he's done with the character is incredible. I always learn from the actors I work with and he taught me so much about freedom of speech. He's using all of his language and it seems to authentic.
Insider: And he'll be back for the season finale, which is Derek's wedding, right?
Eliza: Yes. It's his wedding and we filmed it at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, which I'm convinced is haunted as hell. It was so creepy. We all experienced this ghost! OK, he wasn't really a ghost, but I was convinced it was like a Midnight in Paris situation and he was going to take us to the Titanic. Anyway, so Stephen was doing this scene where Derek delivers this monologue and the camera is only on him and I while everyone else is off screen. The whole cast and crew had to turn around because they were laughing so hard at him. But I had nowhere to turn -- I was right next to him, on camera, being professional. So I just turned and faced him, which I wasn't supposed to do. But I really didn't want to ruin the take. It was so brilliant. He's unreal. People are going to die when they see the finale.
Insider: What else are you excited about in the finale?
Eliza: Well, I don't know what it's called when you rip off someone making a mockery of themselves, but I'm wearing a black dress with a big slit up the side and I thrust my leg out like one actress did at the Oscars …
Insider: Are you telling me Jane has an Angelina's Right Leg homage?
Elisa: She does. I, of course, as usual, took it to another level and may have exposed my vagina. Hopefully they can just pixilate that.
Insider: Having interviewed your co-stars a few times, it becomes clear that you all share the comedic sensibilities of the characters -- but are you like Jane in any other ways?
Eliza: I could not be more different. Honestly, I have to spend hours in makeup to cover my tattoos. I would never wear Jane's clothes – maybe old pink hair Jane. But even then, they had to cover my tattoos. I'm very different from Jane, but also a bit of a control freak. So we share that.
Insider: Jane's controlling tendencies is another plot point in tonight's episode when Penny makes her calm down so much it becomes an issue, right?
Eliza: Yea, it's either zero or one hundred for her – Jane's either off the rails or not doing anything, so tonight, she doesn't control anything. I wear these ridiculously ugly sweatpants for almost the whole episode, because Jane's just going with it. And I have to say, it was the most comfortable clothing I've ever worn in an episode – except for the finale.
Insider: And what's that?
Eliza: It's this yellow suit. I won't lie, it was the most comfortable thing I've ever put on my body because it's 12 sizes too big. It's funny, even though it was so comically big, you like to think you're still going to look kind of cute because it's TV. Nope. It's a very unattractive outfit and I think I looked better in the bacon costume.
Insider: The ratings have been great this year, so how are you guys feeling about the prospects of season three?
Eliza: I try to be optimistic but in this business it's so hard. The craziest stuff can happen. I was on a show, called 12 Miles of Bad Road, with Lily Tomlin – it was an incredible HBO show, we shot 6 episodes, previewed it before the finale of The Sopranos, it was written up as a "Great New Show on HBO" and then the whole thing was canned. Gone. Disappeared. That's when I realized anything can happen in this business. But I feel like Happy Endings is such a solid show and it's only getting more viewers. People are jumping on board. It would be silly to not renew it.
Insider: Plus, none of you went out for pilots like Damon did with New Girl last year. So there's got to be confidence there.
Eliza: No. We were told, "Don't do that." We're going out for movies and other things, but no TV shows for us! Although that's hard too. Movies are hard [laughs]. I'm so grateful to be where I am because this is a crazy town.
Insider: You recently shot the movie Shanghai Calling in China. Did the locals take to you?
Eliza: I was the tallest, blondest person in the country. People took pictures of me everywhere I went. I don't know who they think I was, but I am not Cameron Diaz or whatever other blonde person you might know. At a certain point I just went with it, posing for photos, hugging random locals – meanwhile, I'm loving every minute of it. My ego was the size of China. But that was one of the best experiences of my life.
Insider: Better than finding an audience for your various Michael Fassbender-themed side projects?
Eliza: I'm putting out a book [for her Twitter-spawned 101 Things To Do To Michael Fassbender]. Do you know this? I want it to be a book with pictures. With illustrations. We may have to outsource the drawings. I did to art school but I don't know if my drawings would do him justice. There's a lot of shading. Maybe we’ll make it more of a 3D situation, so the material jumps out at you. As it should.
Insider: Did you expect these Fassbender projects to find the kind of rabid audience they have?
Eliza: No. Not at all. The videos are the most ridiculous thing that my friend and I came up with. We'd just come back from hiatus and because I'd been doing this 101 Things joke on Twitter, there were pics of Fassbender all over my trailer that she'd put there. So on the spot we just thought to make a video because it was Wednesday and we wanted to promote Happy Endings, so we put that up and all of a sudden it just exploded. Next thing we knew, we were shooting these videos in between takes of Happy Endings. Somebody commented on one of the videos saying, "This borderlines on obsessively creepy, if Michel Fassbender ever saw this, he'd get a restraining order." I mean, it's like, calm down everybody – he already has one.
Insider: Plus, I think he's got a very good sense of humor about it.
Eliza: I think so too. You don't strip down if you're not comfortable in who you are. Which is why I've never been naked in a TV show.
Insider: Yet! You don't know what will be asked of you to promote Happy Endings season three!
Eliza: That's true. And if people saw the size of my penis, it would put Michael Fassbender to shame. No pun intended.
Happy Endings airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.