Paul Rust Interview: "Love" Star Talks Netflix Show's Final Season
Image attributed to Paul Rust
Actor, comedian and writer Paul Rust stars in the Judd Apatlow-produced Netflix series Love, which premiered in February, 2016. He co-created the show with his wife Lesley Arfin. Rust appears as a frequent guest on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and co-wrote the comedy film Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016). He made his most high-profile acting role in the summer of 2009, playing the male lead in the film I Love You, Beth Cooper.
The third and last season of Love, which is described as a “down-to-earth look at dating,” will premiere on Netflix on March 9, 2018. In addition to Rust, the series also stars Gillian Jacobs and Claudia O’Doherty, along with a plethora of recurring characters and guest stars.
"I’m really happy with how it ends. I think other shows sometimes don’t get the opportunity to wrap things up in the way that they would like to, or it comes as a surprise. So it was nice to be able to end things in a way that we felt was best."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Paul, I love Love, and I’m sad this is the last season. How do you feel about that?
Paul Rust: I’m really happy with how it ends. I think other shows sometimes don’t get the opportunity to wrap things up in the way that they would like to, or it comes as a surprise. So it was nice to be able to end things in a way that we felt was best. I loved working with all the actors on the show and the writers and the crew, so the loss of that is sad for me. It was nice. I made a lot of great friends through the show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You and your wife, Leslie (Arfin), were not married at the time of the show’s creation, so was Love sort of a blueprint of your relationship?
Paul Rust: Yeah. Leslie and I initially came up with the idea when we weren’t married yet. I think we had just moved in together. We originally had a movie idea that we presented to Judd Apatow because each of us had separately worked with him. We met each other outside of Judd. It was just a coincidence that we were each working for him. She was a writer on Girls, and I was working on the Pee-wee Herman movie with him. Leslie and I presented to Judd a movie that was more about a relationship where two people are moving in together, and the idea was they were two people who are in healthier places in their lives, and now they’re finally ready to give a committed relationship a shot. He really, really liked the characters and that relationship, and I think, Judd thought there was something compelling in how these two people met.
His suggestion was that we dial it back to not that they’re moving in together, but this is how they meet, and his feeling was to have a show where two people don’t have it all together, and that would be more interesting to watch than two healthy people having a healthy relationship. Of course, that was correct (laughs). It’s not as fun to watch that. It is fun to watch people be combative and try to figure things out. So from that point, Leslie and I (with Judd) wrote the show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It is funny, but it also has its real or dramatic moments. Was that intentional?
Paul Rust: It’s interesting, I feel, because that came up organically as part of the process. I think that early on we were making the choice that we wanted things to feel authentic, and it came to a point where we were like, “We can either have a show that’s all comedy all the time or have a show that’s authentic.” It’s really tough to have a show that’s authentic about a relationship and be funny all the time (laughs). Then you end up starting to be dishonest about how you’re depicting things because there are tough times and dramatic and serious moments.
I’m glad about the tone we found, and this was all even before we shot episode one. It’s not like we were discovering this as we shot it. It was as we were writing and gearing up for season one when we thought, “Oh, this is going to be something that’s comedic and also dramatic.” That actually got me really excited because the last ten years I had been writing for the Comedy Bang! Bang! show and Pee-Wee Herman, stuff that I love, but doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is what’s great about it. But it was at a time when I was ready to be a little more serious.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): At the end of last season, Mickey and Gus got back together, so will we see their relationship continue to have ups and downs in season three?
Paul Rust: I’m curious about your reaction to them getting back together.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I was definitely rooting for the relationship, so I was happy Mickey and Gus reconciled and that she had gotten away from that jerk Dustin.
Paul Rust: (laughs) Yeah.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Not to take anything away from the actor who plays Dustin because it takes a talented one to make the audience feel dislike toward your character.
Paul Rust: Especially when Rich Sommer, who plays Dustin, is a sweetheart. I feel like it takes a real sweetheart to know how to play a jerk because if somebody’s a jerk in real life, they can’t play a jerk (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): His character is also, shall we say, overly possessive?
Paul Rust: Yes. That’s what we thought was interesting. In any relationship, sometimes there’s an initial attraction to somebody who is possessive because you feel like what they’re promising is safety and security, and you think that person’s going to look out for you. I think that’s something we’ve done on the show previously. We’ve looked at how sometimes the things that are the initial sparks that attract you to somebody might be a pattern that’s more comfortable to go in, but then about three weeks later, that becomes, “Oh, no, this person is possessive.”
Actually there was a line in the episode where Mickey is describing Dustin, and she goes, “You know how most guys are like tick, tick, tick, boom? He’s like tick, boom!” That was directly something my oldest sister, Amy, once said about a guy she dated in college. She told me, “Oh, he was a total tick, boom!” (laughs) But, yeah, season three picks up where that left off in season two. They say, “Yeah. We want to be in a real relationship where we’re actually making this work and committed to each other.” That’s where season three opens up.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who are some of the guest stars in the new season?
Paul Rust: I’m really excited about Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live). There’s an episode in the middle of the season where Mickey and Gus go to a wedding of Gus’s old college friend. When they get there, they run into Gus’s ex-girlfriend who’s played by Vanessa. Going back to where we were talking about the show being comedic, but also dramatic, I’m real excited for people to see that one because Vanessa is hilarious as anybody would expect, but she also gets to do some really strong dramatic acting, which blew everyone away.
David Spade, who was in season two, will come back for season three. I’ve been close, personal friends for a decade now with Mike Mitchell who plays Randy. He’s really extraordinary on the show. He’s really funny. Chris Witaske, who plays Chris, and I actually met back in college at the University of Iowa way back in 2001/2002. He came in and auditioned for the show and knocked it out of the park. It’s been really fun. On both levels, the show has let me act alongside actors whom I’ve long admired and think are really talented like David Spade or Kerri Kenney, and I’ve gotten to work with close, personal friends whom I’ve known for a decade.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was it like growing up in the small town of Le Mars, Iowa, Paul?
Paul Rust: It’s like less than 10,000 people. At the University of Iowa, there were more students on campus than there were people living in my town (laughs). I really loved growing up where I did. It was really idyllic. If I didn’t have the desire to work in an industry that basically exists in only a handful of cities, it would be my pleasure to grow up in a town like Le Mars and raise a family there. At the same time, if you’re a kid like me growing up who loved movies and TV shows, you had to find it where you could, so my friends and I spent a lot of time at the video store and renting stuff and making our own little tribe of theater kids.
I didn’t grow up any other way, so I don’t know how to truly compare it to other ways. But when you grow up in a small town, I feel like that finding like-minded friends feels even more special. Of course, if I grew up in Manhattan, there’s all kinds of theater kids running around (laughs). I’m still friends with the people I grew up with because of that bond you end up having. You’re in a small town, but you really love theater (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So comedy has been always something you wanted to do?
Paul Rust: Yeah. I think it probably all comes from having a desperate hunger for attention (laughs). I saw my mom and dad being really funny, and I saw how them being funny helped them enjoy life or navigate life in a way that I thought, “Oh, they’re having so much fun. They’re making jokes and making their friends laugh. That would be a fun thing to do.” So it started there. But, yeah, pretty early on, I think. I really liked drawing, then I thought being an animator would be fun. I guess it’s all the same stuff, which is like using your hands to write or draw something. Once I learned how to write, I quit drawing, so I think there was always some desire in me to do stuff like that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): To create.
Paul Rust: Yeah. It’s so funny because I said “to do stuff like that” because I got embarrassed by even saying “to write.” It’s a weird thing. I think it comes out of the fact that in Los Angeles, you’re always surrounded by people who are making their jobs sound loftier than they really are, and so I’m reticent to even say “writer” or “creator” because that sounds too lofty or something (laughs). But thank you for saying it (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Of course. Just telling it like it is, but I understand what you’re saying. At about four months, I guess your little one is too young for a career in comedy or acting? (laughs)
Paul Rust: (laughs) As soon as we can legally put her into it, we will.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is the most surprising thing you found out after becoming a father?
Paul Rust: This is going to come off as very painfully sincere, so I apologize ahead of time. But before she was born, I thought the things in the world that made me unhappy or scared were going to be magnified by the idea that I was having a child growing up around it, and I thought, “Oh, everything is going to feel hopeless.” She was actually born during the week when the Harvey Weinstein stuff was breaking, and I was just like, “This is so depressing that I’m having a daughter being born this week.”
But to answer your question, the surprising thing that happened for me was that the stuff I thought would make me unhappy and would be magnified or I’d feel hopeless, my daughter actually made them feel very hopeful. She’s going to live way longer than these times and get to have the good things that will come out of it. There is struggle right now, which is necessary and needs to happen, and it’s good that it’s happening. She’ll get to live in a world that’s the result of these painful times, and that actually makes me feel more optimistic. That was the thing that surprised me. I thought I was going to be like, “Ugh, things seem worse now.” But she makes me feel better. That was the very sincere response, and I’m sorry (laughs). It could’ve been funnier, if I’d had a joke in there (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s okay, Paul. You are entitled to be sincere, and that was a very sweet response. Are you and Leslie outspoken activists?
Paul Rust: Oh, yeah, but privately. I remember we went to a women’s march in LA, the one from a little over a year ago. But certainly in our own private life, we definitely walk the walk. It’s not entirely in our comfort zone to talk the talk. It feels good to know that with a child, we can practice what we feel and believe. I don’t want to say “through” her, but I guess create a world around her that expresses what our principles are.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have some time off since Love has ended?
Paul Rust: It has been nice. We got to take a little break here after we had a baby, so it’s been really nice to be at home with our daughter. While I’m at home, I’m writing new things and working on new things, and once they’re done, I’ll be excited to present them and bring them out into the world. But right now, it has been a really nice, domestic writer’s life of waking up in the morning and being with our daughter, writing a bit, having lunch, then writing a bit more. It’s actually been really, really peaceful.
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