Calling actress Casey Wilson “funny” is like calling lava warm, and no one knows that better than her husband, writer-producer David Caspe, who cast Wilson in his much-loved ABC series Happy Endings as well as their latest project, NBC’s upcoming, hotly anticipated Marry Me. Having just married less than two months ago, the couple know more than a few things about engagements, weddings, and the kind of craziness the whole affair brings to one’s family and friends. All of which is on full display in Marry Me, which chronicles the betrothal of Wilson’s Annie to Jake, played by the equally hilarious Ken Marino (Party Down, Veronica Mars). Saturday Night Live star Tim Meadows and Dan Bucatinsky play Annie’s two gay dads (both of whom are named Kevin), while John Gemberling, Sarah Wright, and Tymberlee Hill play the lovebirds’ friends. Nerdist spoke with Wilson and Caspe at this week’s TCA Summer Press Tour, and the two offered a deadpan assessment of their new show, as well as their “Top 5 Pieces of Advice for Engaged Couples.”
Nerdist: How much of the show’s premise is based on your own marriage?
David Caspe: I’d say a lot. The proposal itself didn’t go as poorly. I mean it went poorly in a different way, but it did not go similarly poorly. But our dynamic is very similar. She’s very emotional, which is what I love about her. But at the same time I am very rational and wish she would be rational.
Casey Wilson: David is laid back and I have anger issues. And I feel angry right now. [Laughs.] No, I’m kidding. I feel great. Don’t worry, nothing’s gonna happen.
DC: That said, I would keep your hands away from her hands. I would be careful.
CW: I feel like I’m exposing myself today in general like an animal. And I’m really in it for the money, believe me…
DC: Yeah, we’ll do anything. I don’t know if this is clear, but we will do anything for money.
CW: Yeah, I love to chat, to be clear, but…
DC: We’ve based our entire relationship on that.
CW: My mom approached me today and said, “Do you feel awkward that your whole relationship’s out there?” And I was like, “I don’t. And I don’t know if that’s bad.” But I don’t think that it’s out there.
DC: And also, going forward, this show is written by fourteen hilarious writers who all have their own relationship stories. It will be an extremely collaborative show in the same way that Happy Endings was. It was not my voice at all, it was the voice of fourteen writers, as this will be.
N: With those other writers, do you expect to explore the relationships of couples other than the show’s central engaged couple? You’ve said there won’t be a proposal every week.
DC: No, but what I like about the set-up of the show is that it is sort of “marry me” in the more general sense of different couples at different stages in their lives. John Gemberling, who is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met, he’s recently divorced from the girl who plays Cassie in the pilot, Danielle Schneider, who is phenomenal…
CW: And wrote Hotwives of Orlando, that’s another show that I’m in. She’s so nutty.
DC: Yeah, and Dannah Phirman wrote Hotwives of Orlando for Hulu, which Casey’s also in. But they also write on Marry Me. Danielle plays Gemberling’s ex-wife in a very funny way. She’ll be recurring. That relationship is like, “Who is the first guy in a group of friends to get divorced? What’s his experience?” Then Sarah Wright is single and looking for love as she reaches her early thirties – What’s that about? So you have different levels. Then you have Tim Meadows and Dan Bucatinsky who have been in a committed relationship for years and years and raised a daughter. What’s that relationship like?
CW: Especially with gay marriage on the forefront. There’s a lot of stories.
N: I’m not sure if we’ve seen a sitcom feature the adult daughter of a gay male couple before.
CW: I don’t either, which I think is a really cool thing to explore with them and their relationship, which is gonna be really funny.
DC: Yeah, it seems as though the writer of the pilot is touching on something really fresh.
CW: I think it would have happened eventually.
DC: Yeah, but that interested me. You see a lot of gay couples on TV, and gay couples with adopted babies. But it’s interesting to see a grownup with that dynamic.
CW: It’s a different generation, and people my age – I’m thirty-three – have had two dads. It’s very different nowadays. I think it’s gonna be pretty cool.
DC: Yeah, and Tim is thirty-seven, so he had her at four.
CW: To have a show and a story where dads have had a child at four is really beautiful… Personally, I’ve always dreamed of having two gay dads. I do have a mom and a dad, which I love as well, but I do feel that in an alternate universe it would have been the right family for me. When I saw that show My Two Dads I was so jealous. That f—ing Staci. I wanted to have those two dads so badly. There are these two dads in Louisville, Kentucky who took me in when I was doing an apprenticeship for a summer, and I identify them as my two dads. But basically I think with the character of Annie [named for the musical], I think there’s something sweet about two dads who devoted all their time to me. It’s sort of like being an only child. But it allows for a little bit of Annie’s narcissism. She think the universe revolves around her because her dads are so invested in her. That’s a funny quality and kind of contributed to her love of musicals and her passionate personality.
N: Will the first season culminate in the wedding?
CW: I think so.
DC: That’s the plan, but that said it wouldn’t shock me if we got close to that and we come up with some idea of how the wedding could go horribly wrong, and we love that and then we end of pushing the wedding to the second season. No decisions have been made, except we do think that her dads – now that gay marriage is legal in Illinois – decide to get engaged. Which Annie loves at first but then quickly realizes is basically a Bride Wars situation.
CW: In real life, my dad is also engaged and was engaged at the same time as me and my brother. At first you’re like, “Yay!” and then you’re like, “Whose wedding are we celebrating?” That’s a lot of weddings!
N: With so many gifted comic actors like Ken Marino and Tim Meadows and yourself, is the show tightly scripted or is it kept loose for improv?
DC: The way that I like to work on everything is to get the script absolutely as tight as possible and feel like we love every joke in the script and then get down there and have nothing be precious. So we make sure we get the script and that that’s a great fallback, and then if while we’re down there somebody lands on something funnier than that, by all means put it in. That’s how we worked on Happy Endings and that’s how we work on this show. The biggest thing I learned from Happy Endings is just to get funny people. It makes my job so much easier to have hilarious people like Casey and Ken and Tim and Gemberling and Sarah Wright and all of them. The joke that I have, not only do they make that funnier, but if it ends up being not funny a lot of times they’ll come up with something funnier. It’s a super collaborative environment, and I think that’s what results in that feeling of chemistry. Ken and her talking over each other in the way that couples talk over each other is what feels like chemistry, and it’s really just two really skilled comedic performances.
CW: Because Ken and I do not like each other, so it’s amazing how it looks.
DC: Yeah, they hate each other. But weirdly, Ken and I love each other. So it’s a weird mix.
N: Obviously you too know each other very well..
DC: Intimately. We know each other intimately. Biblically. Sexually. Lovingly.
N: So you were able to write Casey’s character with her in mind. But once the rest of the cast was in place, did you see things in their performances that helped tailor and refine the other characters? Or did you case these actors knowing they could do anything and could go wherever you took their characters?
DC: Not to use a basketball term, because I am not an athlete, but I will use the term because I’m a gigantic basketball fan, a Bulls fan specifically… There’s different points of view but some people, rather than draft for a position, they draft the biggest talent left on the board. So I just try to get the absolute funniest person for every part possible. And then try to make it work for them. So I have a character in the script, I have what I think that character is, but then when I’m bringing in people for auditions I will always defer to the funnier person over the person who’s closer to what I wrote. Give me a funny person and get out of their way and let them do their thing and I can write the character towards that. That’s what I always try to do. So we just tried to get the funniest people we could get. The pilot process is very compressed, it’s very fast. So I didn’t have a ton of time to adjust the characters to those people. But in series we will for sure. You find out what each person does the funniest and you try to write towards that. The same with Happy Endings – that’s how we did that.
N: What are your top 5 pieces of advice for engaged couples?
CW: Number one is “Drink.”
DC: Two is also “Drink,” surprisingly. The first two are “Drink.”
CW: Three is “Make sweet love.”
DC: Does that even get on the list or is the whole list titled “Make Sweet Love” and these are secondary things? Four, I would have to say, is “Make sweet love” again. Drink, drink, make sweet love, make sweet love… CW: And then finally “Separate bedrooms.”
N: Sound advice. [Laughs.] Thank you guys so much.
CW: Thank you!
DC: Thank you.
Marry Me premieres Tuesday, October 14th at 9/8c on NBC.