Chris Geere is a pro at playing witty British bloke Jimmy on FX fan-favorite You’re the Worst and the acclaimed actor, 36, is well aware that with his newest role, he’s still playing a quick-witted Brit — but the characters’ personal dilemmas couldn’t be more different.
Ill Behaviour, slated to premiere on Showtime Monday, November 13, is a six-part dark comedy that follows fresh divorcee Joel (Geere) as he decides to go above and beyond — like, way, way beyond — to save his good friend Charlie (Tom Riley) who opts to skip chemotherapy treatment upon being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Meanwhile, Charlie sets him up on a post-divorce date with a doctor named Nadia (Lizzy Caplan), who has some serious issues of her own, and eventually gets wrapped up in Joel’s crazy quest to help Charlie overcome his cancer, with assistance from their mutual pal Tess (Jessica Regan).
Below Geere opens up to Us about bringing the critically-acclaimed BBC miniseries to the States:
Us: Tell us about Joel and how he differs from You’re the Worst’s Jimmy. Because there are a lot of similarities. But you play the subtle differences so well.
CG: I think Joel has good intentions whereas Jimmy doesn’t. At the beginning I thought, “Is this too similar? Is it just another guy doing bad things continuously?” And then we kept talking and despite Joel doing all these awful things, he’s doing them for a very good reason. He’s ultimately trying to save his best friend’s life, which I don’t believe Jimmy would have ever done. Those kinds of nuances were interesting to me. Jimmy doesn’t care whether he’s liked or not. Joel, all he wants is to be liked. All he wants is some recognition of his existence. So this seems like the best plan of action. Of course it gets out of hand, but the original intention was always very positive. Whereas Jimmy’s original intention is always unclear until he finally realizes he needs to change if he’s going to grow in any way.
Us: Is Joel more self-aware than Jimmy?
CG: Totally, yeah. Which is remarkable, really. I remember being on set and … it was very hard playing Jimmy because he doesn’t listen to anyone. Especially Edgar. He’s not listening and as an actor, my job is to listen and respond. Joel is waiting on every breath of what people are saying to him because he needs them on board with him. That was fun to play. It was far more interactive than stuff I’ve done with Jimmy and Edgar, for example. The relationship between Jimmy and Gretchen is very different than with Joel and Lizzy [Caplan]’s character, which seems to be failing.
Us: Joel is going through a divorce. He’s sorta lost. Does this “project” of sorts, helping his friend conquer cancer, put things into perspective for him? Is this good for him?
CG: I think I had to believe that it was a good thing for him. I believe that he had to believe that it was always going to work. He rarely, in the first couple of episodes especially, he never really goes off track. He never goes, “I made a mistake. Let’s not do this anymore.” It’s 100 percent head toward the finish line and I admired that he was going to see it through to the end. He makes this decision because I believe, yes of course he wants to save Charlie’s life, but a close second is that he finally wants identity. He’s never been able to have that. He was in a bad marriage, had a selection of bad friendships, he’s not successful professionally, and yeah, he’s not got many mates. This is an opportunity to do good. The story is, basically, at what length would you go to save someone’s life? He went quite far.
Us: Nadia is also an interesting character because she’s this doctor, who saves lives on a regular basis, but she’s really got her own issues. How dark does it get? Do we find out more about why she is the way that she is?
CG: The strength of her character at the beginning, because of the brilliant way Lizzy plays it, you can see that there’s subtleties that lead to us getting to the truth of why she’s in the position she’s in. And of course, we do that very intrinsically toward the end. I think everyone is a bit of a hero in the end because they’ve all done a bit of self-analysis and have all grown in some respects. It’s not just a journey for Charlie, I think it’s a journey for all of them.
Us: What is the hardest part of this job for you?
CG: There was one day, I have a crossbow in one episode and I’m semi-naked on top of a really tall house, and it was minus three outside and it was raining. I had to stand outside and I had a two-page monologue. I thought i might die of pneumonia out there. It was awful. When you watch these things, it’s all over in 20 seconds. But it took us all day to film it because there were so many different camera shots. We’re very lucky in America because we have stand-ins who will get our marks and do the rehearsals for camera and everything while the actor gets ready for set. In England, I don’t know why, but we don’t have them. I have to do my own. I’m my own stand-in. Just standing outside freezing cold. It was so cold and so muddy, and of course, that can drop morale.
My main job, especially on Ill Behaviour, you know it’s winter in England, and it wasn’t a positive environment to be in weather-wise. I always try to take it upon myself on any set to make sure everyone feels as good as they can. I brought Craft Services from America to England. Because we don’t have Craft Services either in England. So there’s no food. There’s nothing. We have a box of biscuits and a big urn of tea. That’s it. So I made “munch day” for everyone. Every Monday, everyone would bring in snacks for the whole crew. And over the course of the seven-week shoot, it just got bigger and bigger. People were baking over the weekend and bringing stuff in. I would go and get a big box of soups and things like that. So by the end, we are all good buddies and we braved the cold together. I think that’s probably the answer to my question — keeping everyone buoyant. It’s not the hardest thing, but it’s the most rewarding I think anyway. I’ll never think I’m the best actor in the world, but I like to think I’m someone people like to work with.
Us: Are you really critical of your own acting? Do you find it hard watching yourself on screen?
CG: I think far less than I was before. There are things that I notice that I believe I could do better sometimes, but I think that’s what everyone does in any job anywhere. I’ve been very lucky enough to work with great writers and directors, so I learned quite a long time ago that I need to trust them implicitly. And by trusting them, you’re giving everything over to them. It’s out of my hands. So if what I do not he day looks different after the edit in the screening, then I least I know I’ve done my best in that situation. I’m not one of these people that are like, “Oh no, I can’t watch myself.” I don’t really understand that when people say that. Because it’s not just yourself you’re not watching, you’re not watching the performances and the hard work of everyone you work with as well. I like seeing Lizzy and Tom’s scenes that I wasn’t in. And all the different shots the crew did. It’s very special.
Us: And I have to ask you about You’re the Worst. Four seasons in, they aren’t together, but is there hope Jimmy and Gretchen will find their way back to each other?
CG: I think there always has to be hope. It’s never going to be the two of them walking into the sunset together having solved all of their problems. Because that would be pointless. But I like to think that this season especially, they both hit a point of growth that we haven’t seen before. With three episodes left now, I very much recommend you binge all of it. It’s a very binge-able show I think. The last three episodes coming up I’m so excited for people to see because I think they are the best three we’ve done, period. I’m excited.
Ill Behaviour premieres on Showtime Monday, November 13, at 10:30 p.m.
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