“Happy Endings” has become one of ABC’s sleeper hits of 2011. The sitcom, which started off as a mid-season replacement, has been getting good reviews from critics. “Happy Endings” has also been building a loyal audience of fans, who like the show’s realistically funny portrayal of modern relationships.
The six characters at the center of “Happy Endings” are married couple Brad and Jane Williams (played by Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe); Jane’s sister Alex Kerkovich (played by Elisha Cuthbert); Alex’s former fiancé Dave Rose (played by Zachary Knighton); wisecracking gay pal Max Blum (played by Adam Pally); and neurotically single Penny Hartz (played by Casey Wilson). In a recent telephone conference call with journalists, Wayans and Coupe kept cracking jokes throughout the interview as they shared behind-the-scenes stories about “Happy Endings.”
Are you surprised by the success of “Happy Endings,” or did you have a feeling it’d be a hit?
Coupe: I think that given the fact that all the odds seemed to be against us in the beginning of Season 1. I kind of thought it would go, although I did chop off all my hair thinking it wasn’t going to go, so maybe that actually helped.
Wayans: But you look good now.
Coupe: You do. You look good on the other end of this call.
“The Happy Endings” cast is full of some pretty funny people. How do you guys manage to keep a straight face? And are there any tricks you use to keep yourself from laughing? And who makes you laugh the most?
Wayans: I have no tricks. I laugh whenever it’s funny, so I waste time. And you know what’s funny? That we all try and make each other break and we like to actually stay in there longer just to make each other laugh. And I don’t really think anybody’s mastered a technique on not laughing, it’s just fun. I like that.
Coupe: I keep a knife in my pocket at all times and just stab myself when I’m going to laugh. And it gets a little bloody, it’s a little weird, but I am stabbing my leg during most of the show. So I developed gangrene in my right leg, but it’s fine. I’m cool with it.
Wayans: I have a little needle that I keep in my skivvies. And anytime I’m about to laugh, right through the urethra, you know what I mean? Don’t laugh, Damon, don’t laugh.
Coupe: Yes, yes, it’s true, it’s true. My leg’s probably going to be amputated soon. I’ll lose my leg pretty soon. But you know what? It’s worth it because I keep a straight face.
Wayans: Yes. We don’t mess up.
Coupe: And I would have to say Damon makes me laugh the most.
Are we ever going to find out how Jane and Brad met, or if we’re ever going to get some kind of flashback of them meeting and falling in love?
Coupe: Ooh, I like where your head’s at. I don’t know. I’d like to see that too.
Wayans: Yes, I kind of feel like we met at some frat party. She hooked up with like at least three or four guys before me.
Coupe: Yes, that night, that night.
Wayans: Yes, that night, that night. I mean, we’re just wasted and I’m seeing this girl and I’m going to try and hit that. And then I did, and we fell in love. I was like, “I want to try and marry that.”
That’s what happened. I walked in on her with three other dudes, I was like, “Her. She’s the one.” And then we went to the chapel and got married. That’s what I think happened, I’m not sure.
Coupe: I think so too. When you saw three men entering me at the same time, you were like, “That is my wife.”
Wayans: I got to give her my last name because she is strong.
Coupe: She is strong, she can take anything that comes at her, literally.
Wayans: No, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to them doing a flashback of us. I think it’s going to come soon. And I would love to see that. I would love to … the genesis of Jane and Brad.
Damon, your character on “New Girl” was sort of taken out of the picture so that you moved out. Do you think that there’s a chance that you might make a cameo on the show?
Wayans: I doubt it. I don’t think that that will happen. I don’t think that I’m going to be on it again. I want to be on “Happy Endings.”
Jane and Brad are starting to try to think about having a baby. Can you elaborate on the characters having a baby?
Coupe: I don’t know that they’re thinking of having a baby. A baby is kind of just brought into their lives sort of and we find out that there’s a possible baby out there of Jane’s, and then you have to see how that kind of unfolds by watching the show.
Do you have a favorite moment from “Happy Endings” so far?
Coupe: I don’t even know what episode it is, but at the end of the one scene Brad and Jane decide to clear the tables and go at it. I just found out that that actually made it in. I didn’t know if it was going to, and it made it in. So that was a really fun moment.
Wayans: Yes, we broke a lot of stuff. Everything broke though. Like the napkin broke, everything. Like the table.
Coupe: Napkins are so breakable.
Wayans: Yes, it’s weird. They just shatter.
Wayans: Unreal. That was definitely one of my favorite moments. Also, we had one of my buddies who I worked with before on “The Other Guys,” Rob Riggle, and he was just too funny like during his scenes. We did a basketball scene and he was just … I don’t know if they have any takes where I’m not laughing. So hopefully they can make a show around me laughing.
Damon, what is it about the Wayans family that produces so many funny people? And if the previous generation hadn’t done comedy, if they were a family of dentists or mechanics or pro tennis players, would have you gone into that instead of being an actor and a comedian?
Wayans: None of those jobs are appealing to me, the ones you named. I would never be a dentist, I’d never be a mechanic, never. Honestly, I don’t know. I mean, everybody’s pretty funny in my family, it’s just who’s going to take that next step, who’s going to take that leap into the audition rooms and just slowly get more and more insecure in life.
That’s what happens when you become an actor, you just get more and more insecure. “Did you like that? Is that OK?” So it’s like whoever wants to deal with that for the rest of their life, and potentially go bald like half my family.
Working on a network sitcom, obviously, there are things that you can do and can’t do. Have you ever found that constricting or frustrating that you have to walk that line between what can air in prime time?
Wayans: Totally frustrating.
Coupe: OK, it’s hard because I show up at rehearsal naked and they’re not into it. And I’m like, “I feel like Jane wants to be naked.” And they don’t seem to go with that. I’m going to just keep trying because I think one of these days ABC is going to say, “Yes, yes, you can do full frontal.”
Wayans: And I’m OK with you doing it every time because no matter what at least I get to see that.
Coupe: Yes, yes.
Wayans: What’s funny about our show is like we shoot probably a Rated R show, and then you get to see that. Like we shoot like takes that are written on the script, but then we do our own stuff almost all the time. And so we get like a whole different show, so they just kind of pick and choose what they want. But it’s definitely nowhere near what we actually shoot. We shoot crazy things.
Coupe: Yes, I’m always surprised when we go in and do ADR [automated dialogue replacement] I know what was happening and the way we ended the scene, and then they have to clean it up for ABC. It’s a good thing because I think we might be in jail if we left what we wanted to have air.
Can you think of any maybe scene in particular where you thought, “God, I think that is going to get in and I think we pushed the limit and I think this is going to be really funny” and you found yourself really disappointed that they actually couldn’t get that particular scene?
Coupe: I don’t know, there’s a lot actually. I think it’s more not just like a scene, it’s more of a line … Damon, we have that thing. I don’t even know what it was. We did a scene there was a pretty dirty line, and we really wanted to keep in. Everybody wanted to but we were pretty sure it wasn’t going to make it in during the couple’s improv thing when we walk up to [someone] on the street, and I don’t even know what we were saying. It was some dirty sex position.
Wayans: That was really good.
Coupe: Knee and elbow.
Wayans: Knee and elbow stuff, yes, knee and elbow stuff. And I told her, I was like, “I told you people do that.” And you’re like, “I know but…” What’d you say?
Coupe: I said, “Let me heal first. Let me heal up down there.”
Wayans: Yes, it was really funny. Like we thought we could kind of get that in since it’s a little vague.
Coupe: Yes, but no.
Wayans: No, I’m pretty sure. Funny, I remember that. That was so funny … And I go, “Just let me heal, let me heal. Good, funny stuff.
Coupe: Yes, so there’s that.
We did meet Brad’s father last year. And Damon, your dad played that role. Are we going to meet any more of your family members in the near future? Will there be any big guest stars that you’d like to see play those family members?
Wayans: My family or anybody’s family?
Your family or Eliza’s family. Either one.
Wayans: I think my dad might be coming back. I put a call out to his agent, I don’t know. Put a call out to his assistant, so maybe he’ll get back to me. He doesn’t really talk with me. Yes, your dad’s almost locked, right? He’s almost locked in.
Coupe: Yes, my dad’s almost locked in. I got to talk to his people. But he’s in New Hampshire so we got to get him out here. He’s super-famous.
Wayans: I don’t know. I mean, we’ve had a couple of guest stars already. We’ve had Megan Mullally, had Rob Riggle. What about Fred Savage? He’s on an episode as well. Was that unannounced? I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say.
Megan Mullally has something to do directly with your characters together. Is that right?
Coupe: She has kind of everything to do with everybody’s character. But she kind of hits on all the characters. She doesn’t hit on everybody. You know what I mean.
Eliza, you were on “Community” as a love interest for Abed Nadir and one of the college vice president’s bodyguards. Are there any plans for you to return to that role?
Coupe: I think the writers of “Community” have moved on from my character. I’m pretty sure. I would love to go back on. I had a really good time and I really liked that character, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Damon, your role in “Happy Endings” is pretty interesting, as far as an African-American character goes, because oftentimes when we see a black man in a role, he’s very sort of macho. Brad is very different in that he embraces is sort of feminine side. Was that part of what drew you to the character?
Wayans: Not necessarily drew me to the character. It was basically kind of like it just started slowly happening. It wasn’t like my character is supposed to be kind of a straight guy. Not straight as opposed to homosexual, straight like a guy that doesn’t make jokes.
But I couldn’t help myself, so it kind of was like a take on that character, like a black guy who’s not necessarily the macho type. I’ve just kind of been embracing that and running with it. So I’ll probably have some heels on next episode, just walking around with heels. Jane just catches me in the shower wearing heels. Like, “Why are you wearing my heels in the shower?”
If you could choose the next place your characters would go, do you have a particular direction you’d like to see them take?
Wayans: Yes, I want to see Brad be a badass — not necessarily thugged out, just kind of like – like Mr. T’d out. You just pity the fool. Like I would love that. Yes, just like a leather jacket, maybe some like feather earrings. Stuff like that’ll scare people.
Coupe: Yes, yes, yes. No, I like that. I think Jane could enter the Army. She does know Krav Maga. I think that maybe she enters the Army or we find out that she’s a secret agent or we find she just kills somebody.
Wayans: That would be cool.
Coupe: Did that get weird that she kills somebody?
Wayans: No, no, that’d be cool. And then you make me have to like hide the body with you. That’d be so weird.
Coupe: And we’d do it all “Dexter” style.
Wayans: Dexter uses so much plastic.
Coupe: So much plastic.
Wayans: How has nobody like boycotted that?
Coupe: I know. And he doesn’t recycle.
Wayans: Like he is using Mother Earth. He doesn’t.
Coupe: He is not recycling.
Wayans: I know that. That’s not the old stuff I don’t think. All new plastic every time. I’m sorry, I’m venting. Sorry, I’m venting, I’m venting.
Coupe: And he doesn’t even drive a Prius, which would at least make up for half of it.
Wayans: Yes, this guy is a waster.
Coupe: That guy.
In one episode, you were discussing which character would survive a zombie apocalypse. Which of the cast members do you think would be the one to survive a zombie apocalypse then?
Wayans: I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty quick.
Coupe: I think it would be Brad.
Wayans: Yes, I’m pretty sure I would be. Yes, Brad probably, yes.
Coupe: Brad would.
Wayans: He does parkour, a little bit of martial arts. How many guns do we have in our house?
Coupe: Oh, at least 16.
Wayans: Yes, we have at least 16 guns in our house. Nobody knows because we’re so cookie-cutter …
Coupe: Yes, we sleep with them under our bed and we sleep with them.
Wayans: I have one. Every moment it’s just like I’m ready for battle.
Coupe: Yes, I mean, I’m always a little bit bloated because I have one in me. Ready to go.
Wayans: Ready for action.
Coupe: Really hope it never goes off.
Is there a lot of improv on the set at all?
Coupe: No. None.
Wayans: There’s tons. There’s actually tons of improv. That’s what I like about coming to the show, every week. It’s like, “Hey we shoot like 12 to 15 hour days,” but that’s what keeps me going. I don’t hate my job. We get to say whatever we want. And they choose whether or not they’re going to use it, but at least we get to. There’s a lot of shows on ABC that don’t get to do that at all, and so I’m happy about that.
Were there any particular storylines on the show that have hit home for you?
Coupe: I don’t know. Damon?
Wayans: That’s all kind of a blur, we shot so many so fast.
Coupe: Jane sold something in college, and I definitely considered that because I had no money. So I guess that is the closest thing.
And what about when you first got involved with the show? What about it really got you excited?
Wayans: My audition got me excited for it — when I went in and I auditioned in front of David Caspe, creator of the show. And I walked in there and the first thing he said to me was “f” around, but he used the real bad word when he said it. And so when I just go in I got to do whatever I wanted, I didn’t even have to really stay on script. So I love that and that’s what made me fall in love with the show.
Coupe: I have to say the same thing. It was really great to be able to go in. I had to audition with the ending monologue of the first episode, the pilot episode and it was really fun when they were just like, “Yes.”
David Caspe was like, “You can just put it in your own words, say it how you would say it.” And I basically did a soliloquy at that point, made it really long and did my own thing. It was really fun to just have that freedom.
Are there any similarities between the characters you guys play and in your real lives?
Wayans: I’m kind of a positive guy. Brad just seems like a positive guy, he likes to laugh a lot, and doesn’t really take anything too serious and I think I’m like that, yes.
Coupe: Yes, Jane is incredibly neurotic and a bit of a neat freak and I’m definitely that; it just manifests itself a little bit differently. And Jane really is very put together, clothing and hair-wise, and I’m not that. I’m a bit of a mess. Right now, currently I’m wearing sweatpants that may not have been washed this year.
Wayans: I dressed up for my interview.
Coupe: Good for you.
Wayans: I’m just wearing a tie. Just a tie and toe socks.
Coupe: I love it.
Wayans: Can you handle it?
Coupe: I can’t. I can’t. I just took my pants off thinking about that.
Do you and the other “Happy Endings” stars bond off camera?
Coupe: We definitely do, and actually the whole cast does. We all play together. Take naps in one sleeping bag.
Wayans: We bathe together, bubble bath, right? No bubbles so we can see everything. No bubbles so we can see everything.
Coupe: Yes, and it’s usually in a sink.
Wayans: Yes, definitely a sink. It’s like a little birdbath and we just splash each other’s genitals.
Coupe: We do, we do. It’s so fun, so fun.
Wayans: I love my cast.
Are there any difficulties or challenges in playing an interracial couple?
Wayans: Not for me. I feel like our characters just don’t see that. I mean, we make jokes about it just because we know how society thinks. But when it comes to our relationship I don’t think we see that at all. We just love each other.
And in real life that’s what it is as well. She could be a raging racist. I have no idea. She plays it off really well.
You are both known for comedy. Are you both auditioning or pursuing dramatic roles?
Coupe: I definitely am. I’m not auditioning at the moment because I’m on a phone call with you.
Wayans: Slacker. There are sides in your hand. As soon as you hang up you will be going into a room.
Coupe: I’m outside of an audition room right now to do “King Lear” again. Yes, I would love to do a dramatic comedy. All of that, it all interests me. At some point I want to do my “Monster,” like Charlize Theron, so I’m buckling up for that.
Wayans: Oh and now it’s on me? I haven’t auditioned for anything dramatic yet. I think I’ll take my time with that, kind of enjoying the comedy. Unless I do some weird indie, like “Gummo.” Yes, I’m totally going to do something super weird.
Coupe: I can help you out with that.
Wayans: I know me and you can do some weird stuff …
With the Halloween episode coming up, is there anything you can tell us about it?
Coupe: I just went and did ADR for the Halloween episode yesterday, and I was very happily surprised it came out really, really well. It’s going to be really funny. There are some really great visual gags.
Do you have any costumes that are your favorite in the past or can you tell us what you’re going to be this year?
Coupe: Oh, in real life? I’m going as Damon.
Wayans: Yes. I’m going as Coupe.
Could you talk to us a little bit about the relationship between Jane and Alex?
Coupe: Well they’re sisters. Yes, I’m pretty sure you got that. I think it’s that typical “they’re sisters but they couldn’t be more opposite.” So I think that fun to like put up against each other. We dress very differently, we act very differently, and I think that they’re kind of toying with the idea that that’s a product of our parents and how we kind of handled that sort of thing.
Like I don’t know who they’re going to get to play our parents but maybe if we see that third piece of the puzzle between the two of us it will kind of show why we’re the way we are. And it hasn’t been determined yet who’s older, so don’t assume that it’s me, OK? Yes, nobody said that I’m the older sister.
Wayans: Yes, and it’s true. It’s usually the person that gives all the advice is usually the elder. But I have seen relationships where the young one is always telling the older one to get it together.
Coupe: Yes. Again, it’s never been established who’s older. So just draw your own conclusions. And when I say draw I want you to sketch them and send them to me.
Does Brad have siblings?
Wayans: I never thought about that. I feel like Brad does have siblings. I never thought about that. And maybe get another one of my family members on there and we can get a little more confused, “How many Wayans are there, man?”
For more info: “Happy Endings” website
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