With a second season on the way, the excitement continues to build for Kevin Can F**k Himself so I sat down to chat with series creator Valerie Armstrong to discuss what viewers have seen so far and as well as some clues as to what's still to come. We continue our chat, looking at Allison's character, toxic masculinity, and more (and make sure to check out the first part of our interview with Armstrong here).
Bleeding Cool: I love Allison as a character. She is so interesting and there are so many levels to her and she kind of portrays a sitcom wife, but also she is the opposite of that. How did you go about portraying the different parts of Allison?
Valerie Armstrong: I think, first of all, cast Annie Murphy because she'll show you so many different levels that maybe weren't even there when you wrote them, she's just fantastic. I wanted to tell a story about that woman who you always see on the poster next to whoever the lead of a sitcom is, and you're like "Her with him? Come on!". I really wanted to make that a real person to make the argument of she got stuck there, how could that happen? What is the psychology of someone who not only ends up in that relationship but stays in that relationship? You know, how does she convince herself she's happy? What does it look like when she finally realizes she's not and that she's been sort of kept there? And so that's where I started from with the show is the argument that the Housewife is a real person who you've never really gotten to see because those multi-cam scenes are never about her, they're about him and how everyone serves him.
I think the New England thing so helps with understanding how she got stuck there because I think of her as someone who is always looking for the right answer. What is the thing that is going to fix me, my life, my circumstance? There is always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. It's very black and white. It is not how life works, but it's how my brain works all the time. If I just lose weight, if I just find a boyfriend or girlfriend, or if I just, you know, move to a different city, then I'll be like, OK. And I think that is one hundred percent how she works. And this guy came along who seemed like the answer because he said, those things that you want? I'll just give them to you. But he was full of shit, and he will never give them to him, but it keeps his wife in stasis until she sort of wakes up. So I think that the New England mentality of just like, grin and bear makes my job so much easier in the argument of why is she still there?
BC: There's a really interesting term circulating around the internet called "Weaponized Incompetence" basically referring to men who in relationships are able to help around the house and such they're able to do things but they knowingly just don't or forget. It's kind of using their foolishness to not get things done. In what ways do you think that this actually might apply to Kevin? Because it seems very relevant.
VA: Completely. I love that term, I have not heard it. I am completely as unplugged as humanly possible from social media and the internet. There was a lot going on this year and I was like, you know what? I'm opting out of that. But I think but that is, you know, an instance of it actually being a good thing in the world to get that term out of it. But I think that is entirely Kevin. I mean, I see it in the workplace. I see it at home in real life. Like, it's not just, I mean, we joke about it here at our workplace, I find very wonderful and you can just call shit out on both sides. And there are also only three of us at this point here. But I always joke that it's like "Tom Sawyer-ing". It's like, "you just do it better. It's actually really fun to do this or that, but you just do it better", "Can you just like, write the notes today? You know, I'm so bad at it".
I think that is Kevin, 100 hundred percent. It's like "you just make eggs better". I remember my brother telling me that when I was in high school and I was making us breakfast, I was like, "Can you do this today?" And he said, "I don't know how to cook eggs", and I said, "It's pushing them around until they are cooked. There is no 'how to'". But I think that is so interesting. And I also think Neil is that to a different extent, which is he's still playing up his incompetence in my mind, that people assume he's very, very dumb and incapable and that means that he gets a lot of stuff done for him. He gets his sister taking care of him. He gets Kevin taking care of him in certain ways. In the multi-cam, I was like, Oh, he's so dumb. But if you think of him as a single camera character, it's like, that's an act so that people do things for him. It's kind of brilliant. It's really manipulative. He hasn't had to have a real job his entire life. Good for, I mean, not really good for him, but like, you know It's pretty impressive.
BC: Neil's character is so interesting, especially as you see how he goes about everything, especially with Kevin, in their interesting relationship to one another.
VA: It was really about dependence in so many ways.
BC: I loved the last episode. I don't wanna give away too many spoilers in case people need to catch up and such, but that last episode was insane. And I'm wondering, do you have a favorite among all the episodes, one that you kind of go back to that you really love?
VA: I do. I mean, I think when you get a show with an eight-episode order, you don't have one where it's like, which one is that again? Like, you know them all so well. And we had so much time with them because of COVID. I mean, I felt like I was writing that first season for two years. But they each are like, I think of them as like my weird little children where I love them, each for different reasons and they all have their bits. They all have stuff that, given another go, would change, you know? But I think seven and eight have a very kind of special place in my heart. I think there are a few scenes in both of those that feel a little ripped from my guts and in a way that I really love. And everybody's performances, I think seven gives a chance for everyone to show just how good they are in our cast. I mean, Annie, Mary Hollis, Ray Lee who plays Sam gets his own act. And the boys, I mean, Brian Howe and Eric and Alex are all so funny in that episode, even though it gets darker and darker. So, yeah, I think seven and eight have a special sort of place in my heart.
BC: Lastly, I'm wondering, are there any favorite moments from working with those actors? Ones that you callback to or you remember, that just make you love working on the series?
VA: I mean, the entire experience. I know it always sounds like such bullshit, but I promise making the show was the joy of my life. I mean, we were all so grateful to be working. We got to work 10 hour days because, you know, we shoot out 20 pages per episode in two days because of the multi-cam. So we get to have sort of humane hours. Our crew was incredible. They all got it. I think they were happy to be working on something that was partially comedy where they were laughing during the day. I think that was sort of new for them. But specifically, I remember the first day we shot in single-cam, we shot a multi-cam for the first. We rehearsed it to death and then we shot it for like three days straight. And I think we'd all sort of forgotten that there was another part of the show, like we so threw ourselves into it, non-ironically.
Sincerely, we wanted to make the best multi-cam we can, we always do. And then we got out in single cam and our first day was Allison and Patty on the porch in the pilot, and watching them shoot that scene where Patty tells Allison that they have no money. It was like, Oh, this is the show. If I ever have trouble finding that sort of true north of what we're trying to do, I think of that scene and that day. And that was also the day where I felt like I learned how to do my job in a way that I hope I continue to do where I knew what I wanted. I knew what I wanted it to sound like. I worked with Annie and Mary Hollis, who had their own wonderful thoughts and made it better. And I just love that scene and I loved that day. It was great.
BC: That's amazing. Thank you so much for talking with me about this. This show has been great and I'm excited for season two.
VA: Thank you so much, it was such a pleasure talking to you.
Make sure to check out the first season of AMC's Kevin Can F**k Himself, now available on DVD & Blu-ray.