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The Do-Over

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The largest, and most deliberate, overhaul was allowing Cuthbert’s and Knighton’s characters to develop beyond type. “As long as you give me a joke every few weeks, I’ll be the straight guy,” Cuthbert had originally told the writers. “Let me do a couple of comedy things here and there along the way, and that’s good enough for me.” But once they realized that Cuthbert could be funny, they began incorporating her offscreen behaviors into the script, like her invisible hula-hoop dance, or her Renée Zellweger impression. (“They asked, ‘Can you say anything while you’re doing that Renée?’ And I was like, ‘No, it’s just a look.’ ”) Knighton’s character became the kind of guy who gets an idea—like marriage—in his head and blindly sticks to it, even if it’s clearly not going to end well. Suddenly the show’s most traditional characters were “kind of the craziest people in the group,” he says. And Caspe had assembled the ensemble cast he’d always wanted: “That was really my goal from the beginning. You know, depending on who you ask, people’s favorite character is Max or Penny or Jane or Brad or Dave or Alex. I really am proud of that.”

“The great thing about David Caspe,” explains Coupe, “was that he really just wanted to get the people he thought were the funniest and then have them fit into the part, as opposed to the people who could do the part the best.” This made for characters that needed time to fully develop around the actors. But once they did, that freed the show to do what it had always done well: unfold a sitcom that understands that it exists in a post-sitcom era. (A favorite Max quote: “Wait, you’re breaking up with another boyfriend-of-the-week that I never get invested in except through dialogue?”) As Wayans tells me, “I thought that season one was kind of the bone structure of what the show was going to be, and this season we were adding muscles and tendons, and I think next season we’ll add some skin—you know what I mean—maybe a penis or a vagina. Boobs.”

And as the characters began to fill the shoes (or curves) of the actors who played them, the ensemble chemistry also began to take shape in a way that few could have anticipated. Pally and Wilson had been pals since their days at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade—“We came in as freshmen together, and I was very interested in dating her, but immediately she got snatched up by the older dudes,” he says—but the rest of the group began bonding the night of the very first table read, when they went for drinks at the Chateau Marmont and ended up at Cuthbert’s house, where it became clear that this group of “friends” was actually going to be friends. “I hope he forgives me for saying this, but, I mean, Zach wore a fedora the first night we hung out, and it was just over,” Wilson says, laughing. “Adam and I were like, ‘Take the fedora off or we can’t move forward.’ It’s just like that—a questionable amount of openness.” Soon, the cast was going to Bikram yoga and getting margaritas after filming and encouraging Cuthbert to get a hot tub they could all hang out in and watching Happy Endings episodes at a now-­defunct West Hollywood bar called the Silver Spoon. “I’d go around to everyone at the bar and very nicely go, ‘Do you mind if we watch this show? We’re on it,’ ” Wilson says. “And it’s always painful because the people in the bar are like, ‘We don’t watch the show.’ So we’re, like, watching them not watch the show.”

Even after filming together for fourteen hours, they’ll “tailgate” outside their trailers. “Guest stars hate it, because no one’s interested in talking to them,” Pally says. “We just want to know how everyone’s weekend was. Most of the time, we’ve spent it together. It’s disgusting.” In fact, there’s such a level of chumminess that the cast’s offscreen stories sound eerily like plots for a future episode, like the time Pally, Wayans, and Knighton got invited to the Playboy Mansion. “Those parties are just kind of crazy, you know what I mean?” says Pally. “Like, obviously, they’re exactly what you think of. Chris Evans was there, and he recognized Zach, and he was like, ‘Dude I love you, you’re a great actor, but that show you’re on is bullshit.’ I don’t even think he was talking about Happy Endings, I think he was talking about FlashForward, but I was a little under the influence, and so I got up in Chris Evans’s face like an idiot—because he would have destroyed me, he would have ripped my arms off—and I was like, ‘Whoa, not cool, Captain America.’ And then Damon backed me up, and I was like, ‘We’re going to kick the shit out of you, Chris Evans.’ And then security broke us up. So there you go.”

A third season is most likely on the horizon, viewership has doubled (reaching as high as 8.3 million), and the cast is remaining optimistic that the show will continue apace. Says Groff, “You kind of hope for the best and prepare yourself for the worst by laying in copious amounts of hard drugs.” And about that ill-fated party-bus trip: They turned that vibe around, too. “We ­decided to go see Bite, which is a lesbian vampire revue. That tagline alone was enough for me to just turn my credit card over and buy everyone a ticket,” says Wilson. “It was, like, off the strip, basically in an outdoor mall. It was just madness.”


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