Man Seeking Woman's Katie Findlay on Finding Her Footing in Comedy: "It Was Fun to Be Outclassed"

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<i>Man Seeking Woman</i>'s Katie Findlay on Finding Her Footing in Comedy: "It Was Fun to Be Outclassed"

Man Seeking Woman returns to FXX tonight with an immediate leg up on its first two seasons: Jay Baruchel’s Josh, the titular Man, has finally found the titular Woman he was ever-titularly Seeking. That woman is the wry and lively Lucy, played by Katie Findlay, whom you may remember as the victim of one of the titular murders in the first season of How To Get Away With Murder. She previously starred in the CW’s The Carrie Diaries and had a brief, fiery role in the first season of The Magicians, though I’m still not sure anyone watched that. It was good!

Findlay’s addition brings a refreshing change of pace to Man Seeking Woman. While the first two seasons were consistently funny and surprising, they occasionally suffered under that “Seeking” part of the title: Too many stories centered around Josh trying to get laid, Josh’s friends trying to get him laid, Josh’s sister trying to get him laid, and so forth. Despite all its delightful formal ingenuities, the surrealism and flights of absurdity, the content itself often felt oppressively familiar—not to mention, well, masculine.

I am happy to report that by letting its characters mature, Man Seeking Woman matures as well. The new season is less preoccupied with the measures young men will take to have sex, focusing instead on the joys and difficulties of loving and living with someone. It helps that Findlay is an endlessly warm performer, a fitting complement to the hopeless neuroticism of Baruchel’s Josh. Toss in Man Seeking Woman’s trademark absurdities—often paired with timely political commentary—and you’ve got one of the finer seasons of television to kick off the new year.

In advance of tonight’s premiere, Paste talked to Findlay about the new season, what Lucy brings to the series, and FX Networks’ efforts to improve diversity behind the camera.

Paste: Was this just another audition for you? Were you approached for the role?

Katie Findlay: Oh god no, always auditions. I was actually at work on something else and I couldn’t carve out ten seconds a day to eat a sandwich, let alone tape an audition. When they sent it to me and I read it, I ended up walking around reading the sides to anyone who would listen. Because I was like, “This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life.” I taped it in a panic with my mother, in the kitchen, as soon as I got home and sent it off. Then, chat chat chat, tape again, new scene, chat chat chat—it was the whole process.

Paste: Had you watched the first two seasons?

Findlay: I had. I had seen the first season and I loved it. Right when I decided to start watching the second season, after I found out I got the job, I got unbelievably sick. So I watched the second season on painkillers—not only was it my buddy that got me through, but it was twice as bizarre as it would have been had I watched it sober. So I came in ready to go.

Paste: What do you think Lucy brings to the show?

Findlay: It’s funny, we’ve been talking about this. I think—and obviously I’m biased, because it’s me and I’m happy to be here—I think that Lucy brings a certain amount of tenderness out of Josh, and that tenderness seeps into every aspect of the show. Because now everything that’s happening is coming from a place of love and hope, and anxiety in a lovely way. And [Lucy brings] just a bit of feminine energy—keeping Britt Lower company for some hijinks.

Paste: I’ve only watched four episodes, but I do think she helps it feel like a fuller, more mature sort of story, now that Josh is—not quite seeking anymore.

Findlay: I think that the tone of the show grows with Josh, and this year everybody really banded together and injected as much heart as they possibly could into Lucy and Josh. And that care shines through the show and changes everything. It was hilarious before, and now it’s—I’m just grateful to have been asked to be a part of that.

Paste: Tonally, this show’s is about as different as a show can get from How To Get Away With Murder. Does it feel any different on set? Is it all just, work work work?

Findlay: Oh god no, we’re lunatics. Although I have to say, we were lunatics on How To Get Away With Murder as well. Making that show was a shit-ton of fun. But no, working on Man Seeking Woman is kind of like sketch comedy, because it’s like you’re making a million little movies with a million little scenarios. And everybody involved is so talented that they take it to the max every time. If it can be bigger, if it can be crazier, if it can be more sincere in a moment of complete lunacy, everybody will go for gusto every time.

It’s really a dream show for an actor. So much is done practically that when you walk on set, something really is on fire. Or there really is a giant monster over there. Or we really are gonna throw somebody off that thing. It’s go for broke every time. We have tons of fun.

Paste: Do any particular moments come to mind, in terms of pairing that lunacy with that tenderness?

Findlay: Tons. None of it has aired yet, so all of the things that are about to come tumbling out of my mouth are spoilers.

Paste: We can talk about the first episode—this’ll be up in time for the premiere tonight.

Findlay: Great. Well… A moment that really struck me is the lunacy of Josh being physically evicted from my apartment building by, essentially, a screening board. And then Lucy’s decision to move in with Josh, the parting of the Red Sea and the gate going up, and he says, “Are you sure you want to move in with me?” In front of every single person that she knows, after only having known him for a month, she looks at him and she goes: “Yeah!” And they walk off.

I think that’s the first time they’re really allowed to be a team. It’s about realizing that they work that way, they’re comfortable that way, they’ve got each other’s backs. And as hilarious as that was to shoot, I think it is quite edifying and quite tender. There’s lots more that I could say but I’d ruin the entire series and get fired.

Paste: No, I love that scene too.

Findlay: It’s the tip of the iceberg. It gets huge, there’s so much more.

Paste: You mentioned Man Seeking Woman is like working on a sketch show. Do you have any background in sketch?

Findlay: Not at all. Which was a source of eternal panic and anxiety for me, as many things are—Lucy and I aren’t very different. But it’s such a welcoming and supporting set, and everybody is such a champion, that I immediately felt comfortable coming out of my shell. And in terms of a partner in crime, I really could not ask for anybody better than Jay. Even with no background in comedy, I think that I fit in okay! I was outclassed every step of the way, but it was fun to be outclassed.

Paste: Did you interact with [Executive Producer] Lorne Michaels at all?

Findlay: I walked by him once yesterday. He’s got more important stuff to do than talk to me.

Paste: Fair. FX has been in the news this year for its top-down efforts to improve diversity behind the camera, in directors and creators. How palpable is that in the day-to-day work of shooting a series?

Findlay: Oh gosh, our show is incredibly diverse. It’s really refreshing to have half of our season female-directed, which is not necessarily something that I’m used to. So, yeah, I don’t have a ton to say about it, but our show is representative and diverse, and we can all—everybody can always, always do more. But I like what I’m seeing so far.

Seth Simons is Paste’s assistant comedy editor.