Chris Geere’s Two Lives
The third season of the dark romantic comedy You’re the Worst premieres tomorrow on FXX much to the delight of the show’s devoted fanbase. Chris Geere, who plays self-involved writer Jimmy Shive-Overly, is definitely not like the wild and crazy character he plays — this fast-paced Hollywood life isn’t his usual bag. In an alternate reality, he’s back in Manchester, England cooking dinner for his wife and building a treehouse for his young son.
Geere’s British charm is palpable; it is obvious how thrilled he is to be living the dream. He took some time to talk with me about family life in the English countryside, channeling Jim Carrey, and season three of You’re the Worst.
In the first episode of season three your character Jimmy is surprised to discover how many things he doesn’t really know about Gretchen. What are some things people are often surprised to learn about you?
That I’m not as horrible as Jimmy in real life. It’s a weird mix — especially with fans. They are so into the show that they want me to be like Jimmy, and I don’t want to disappoint them. And they’re surprised to see, oh, he’s actually not that horrible. I hope no one is as acerbically horrible as Jimmy is. I think they are surprised that I’m very different than him. I love sports, he hates sports. I love cooking, he hates cooking. I love social situations, he despises them. So I think I really am the antithesis of him which makes it more fun to play in a way. I have a bit of a straight life to be honest. You know, my life in Los Angeles is wonderful and I feel very grateful to be working here and it’s sunny and I’m surrounded by wonderful Americans who I work with and hangout with. And then I go home and put on a different hat. I’m a dad, I’m a husband and I’m an not-at-work actor when I’m at home. I cook a lot at home, I do a lot of woodwork. I just finished making a treehouse for my son.
A treehouse! That sounds wonderful.
It really is. In the acting profession, you’re continually worried about where the next job is coming from. It’s a continual insecurity with this world that can absorb you, in a way. It can be counter-productive. Since having a family, I’ve realized that I can actually take joy in both of these things. I don’t need to be home in England worried about where the next job is coming from and when I’m in Los Angeles doing a TV show I don’t need to worry about whether I’m being a good father and husband. You know, my family can’t be here with me all of the time. I think this year I’ve really celebrated and tried to embrace that I’m in a very very very lucky situation that I can have those two lives — that I can live in two different countries at the same time. Especially with Facetime. It’s great and I hope it continues, but if it doesn’t, I’m enjoying every single minute of it.
How old is your son?
He’s going to be four in October. He was three weeks old when I first came out here to shoot the pilot. I was twenty-eight. It’s very exciting for him to see America.
Where do you live in the UK?
I live in Manchester which is in north west England. We have a lovely little house in the country, it’s very quiet and away from everything. It’s a very different tone from Los Angeles. I can mow the lawn and go for walks with my family. Plus my wife [Jennifer Sawdon] is very busy with her job. She’s a very talented singer and pianist. She does many gigs all over. So she has her own thing going on and Freddie has his school, so we’re all getting along with our lives.
What do you think You’re the Worst would be like if it was set in Manchester instead of Los Angeles?
Very different. I’m continually astounded by the cultural differences between England and America. I feel like I’m a guest here. The food is amazing, the weather is amazing. You drive anywhere for half an hour in one direction and you feel like you’re in a different country. In Manchester you drive half an hour in one direction and it’s still raining and the buildings still look the same. As much as I love it, it is what it is. You’re the Worst in Manchester 00 you might run out of ideas by episode three. Sunday Funday would be pretty boring. The opportunities in every aspect of entertainment in Los Angeles are 100 percent better here than places I lived before. But that’s why I choose to live in England too, because it is different really. I don’t think I could live in this environment 100 percent of the time.
Absolutely. It’s the Wild West out there.
It is. I think the first year, I was a bit of a deer caught in the headlights. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what it was like to live here, to pay bills here, to go shopping here. It’s been a real test. And then in season two I was applying the things I’d learned in season one, like don’t go to Whole Foods to get your milk because it’s five times more expensive. Get a Ralph’s card and you can get 30 percent off your shopping. Things like that where I’m now going; I love applying these things. Is it better to drive a silly convertible car or is it better to buy an economical car that gets me from point A to B? Things like that. It’s great. It’s been a real learning curve. At the same time, I’m trying to work as hard as I can. I feel like I have many responsibilities over here. I’ve never spent this much time on my own since I was in college.
As a husband and father, what advice would you give your character Jimmy about finding satisfaction in a romantic relationship?
To be brave, to try things, to not be afraid to fail. When Jimmy and Gretchen enter a relationship, they are inviting potential misery. And yet why would they want to do that? These are two intelligent people who would not put themselves in situations where they could look bad, and yet you know Jimmy says that 99 percent of all human effort ends in failure, so why should you do it in the first place? So I would say to him, jump in head first and see what happens.
That’s great advice. Speaking of jumping in head first, when you decided to pursue acting, did you know you wanted to do comedy?
No, not at all. I hope I can always be open to other genres. My first role was with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England, then I did procedural dramas, soap operas, telenovelas, and then I was lucky enough to do several movies. Then I came back to England and I changed agents and my new agent said to me — have you ever done an accent in anything? And I said no, I haven’t because I always felt like when you do an accent in a drama, you’re really opening yourself up to a lot of criticism because someone may say, oh he doesn’t sound like someone who’s from there. But with comedy, I think you can get away with it a bit more. So within a year, I’ve played a Polish chef in a comedy for a network in England and I’ve played a South African homeless man in another comedy for Channel Four. So that made me think oh, this is great fun that I can step away from a style that I think I’ve become quite used to — playing all these tormented, dramatic characters in England — so I was really enjoying it. I enjoyed the vibe on set, I enjoyed the whole process of doing a comedy. I think my personality and my work ethic lends itself to doing comedies a bit more because I’m very buoyant. I’m a very glass overflowing kind of guy and it seems like that’s where I’d like to be.
Do you do anything unusual when preparing for a role?
Yes. Well, one thing is that I always like to be two weeks ahead in terms of my line learning. Can you imagine all of Jimmy’s speeches that I need to learn and, between you and me, I’ve never even heard of some of these words, much less know how to pronounce them. The research I have to do to sound as narcissistic and kind of over-intelligent as Jimmy is — I have to be two weeks ahead in my experience. So when I go to set and I have three takes of dialogue, I have to hit a specific energy level before the cameras roll. So I do this weird thing where I’m pacing up and down on set doing like a weird Jim Carrey impression where I go “Yes! Mighty Fine! Mighty Fine!” It’s very odd. They used to look at me strangely when I did it but now — it brings me up to the energy level that I need to be at. So I just lean on Jim Carrey for a little energetic inspiration.
What are some of your favorite comedies?
I’m such a big fan of Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill. Anything that those guys are in or even better, when they’re in something together. They’re fantastic. I just re-watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall for the 100th time. I love the dynamic between the American sense of humor and the English sense of humor — you remember Russell Brand was in that as well. Just amazing. I’m a big rom-com fan but I think You’re the Worst has raised the bar for me in terms of romantic comedies. It’s more realistic love storytelling. I don’t want to get back to doing just the usual formula of a romantic comedy. You know boy meets girl, live happily ever after.