Mary Hollis Inboden is no stranger to sitcoms, but found “Kevin Can F**K Himself” to be a breath of fresh air because of the way it tackles tropes and tradition.
Created by Valerie Armstrong (“Lodge 49”), “Kevin Can F**K Himself” is directed by Anna Dokoza (“Up All Night,” “Flight of the Conchords”) and Oz Rodriguez (Vampires vs. the Bronx, “A.P. Bio”). The series stars Emmy winner Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”), Mary Hollis Inbodin (“The Righteous Gemstones”), Eric Peterson (“Kirstie”), Alex Bonifer (“Superstore”), Brian Howe (“Vice Principals”), and Raymond Lee (“Here and Now”).
Allison McRoberts is the prototypical sitcom wife married to Kevin, her self-centered husband. When she learns that the perfect future she envisioned is impossible, she teams up with her neighbor Patty as she attempts to escape her confines and take control of her life. A completely original new dark comedy, “Kevin Can F**K Himself” shows what happens when you leave the brightly lit sitcom set and see the reality behind the laugh track.
This was a really interesting show, what was your first reaction to reading the pilot?
Mary Hollis: I thought that I was set to audition for a multi-cam and I thought that like in most multi-cams I receive, that I was going to be playing the best friend character who usually has so little to do in a male-lead sitcom. To answer your question, I found it a little confusing in the first three pages, that’s why it took me three reads to get through it. It is so excitingly Allison’s story, and that is not something that’s been done before. Here’s a woman who leaves the multi-cam set with her laundry basket and walks into the kitchen into her dark reality and takes a deep breath. You understand that she hates her husband and all of his buffoonery. So, as soon as it clicked for me, I thought all is right in this world because this is justice. I’m tired of a male-lead sitcom that is harmful. I’m tired of the butt of the joke being women, or black people or gay people in a white, male-lead sitcom, and this was such a breath of fresh air. In fact, I didn’t have to audition for that multi-cam sitcom that year, I got to audition for “Kevin can F**k himself,” which is so much more than that.
What about Patty really sold you on playing her?
Mary Hollis: There’s not a ton going on with Patty in that first episode, which is how I came to the script, but I really was so drawn by the fact that we were going to tell the sitcom wife’s story, and it’s one of not bitterness for no reason, it is rage. And it is rage because a demagogue runs her household and that felt familiar to me, living in America. So, I thought that it was more of a micro scale of a macro issue with a demagogue in power. I say that also knowing that I loved her breaking free and getting to watch her sort of find her bliss and knowing that her solution for leaving this toxic relationship was not, it was extreme because she came up with this crazy idea to kill him, because in toxic relationships, not all women have the ability to leave their situations. And so as crazy as it sounds, and as we do not condone spousal murder at all on “Kevin can F**k himself,” the hilarity comes in the fact that this woman, who is not a criminal, is going to pursue that and that’s what really brought me to the role. But, also for Patty, this best friend character, I was so curious as to why, after spending 10 years in a room together with this woman that she finds, it seems she finds Allison so pitiful that she now is opening up to her and saying things like, we should be in cohort somehow, like I can give you this information about your husband. And I found it really interesting that she disclosed this to Allison. So, there’s been a curiosity there, however pitiful Patty seemingly finds Allison, there’s been a curiosity there about what a friendship with them would look like and how it was the start of how women coming together and helping women can actually save the world. And I like that.
What was it like working with Annie?
Mary Hollis: Oh, gosh, it’s a pleasure. It is so much fun. Annie Murphy became my best friend. And I think that she is a character, in this woman who’s full of rage. In anybody else’s hands, Allison could come off completely unlikable. And Annie Murphy has such enormous gifts, just in charm and skill that I think we want to follow her everywhere. And that fortunately happened for us on camera, the chemistry was real between us and our friendship and then off camera we became very close friends. She is so positive. She’s such a great leader. She is somebody who is very, very considerate and thoughtful and she obviously is so talented and so funny, everybody knows that who’s watched her and “Schitt’s Creek.” She’s a gem to the world and I am so lucky that she’s my best friend.
What was it like working with Eric and having Kevin just be Kevin?
Mary Hollis: Well, Eric is a tremendous actor, I’ll tell you that. It’s not lost on him that the show is about sort of the annoyance of Kevin. And he is so good at playing that role, Eric is just a genius, sitcom comedian. His background is in sitcom and obviously he has a great career on stage, he’s a Broadway veteran. It is challenging and I think Eric knows this, it’s challenging for the two women in Kevin’s universe to feel as if we have anything going on because so often, Allison’s character is saying, ‘what, can I get you?’ or ‘Oh, Kevin.’ We just don’t have a lot to do so we really did get to sit back on the days that we were filming the multi-cam part and just watch the genius work of the guys in our show, which, you know, happens a lot of time I’m sure on regular primetime network sitcoms. Eric’s brilliant. His skill at playing Kevin is unmatched, and he understands that we’re making a show about how sometimes these jokes are at the expense of other people and sometimes this world is one that is not helpful messaging.
Oh, that’s so good to know that Kevin is not Kevin in real life.
Mary Hollis: Yes, no, no, he’s just very, very talented. We love Eric Peterson and he’s very good at his job. We had a really good time with our whole cast. I can’t say that I always had a great time filming the multi-cam and that is very much on purpose. We often found ourselves raising like an imaginary glass to all the sitcom wives and sitcom best friends who’ve come before us.
I still just think it’s so interesting that it’s blending the single camera with the multi-camera.
Mary Hollis: One has to inform the other and I think for Patty’s journey, it happens in episode four, and I think it’s a really powerful moment in our show where Allison says, ‘you know, you’ve been laughing at my pain for so long you and,’ she means the television audience as well. ‘You’ve been laughing at my pain, you’ve been laughing at my husband steal all our money and spend it on sports memorabilia. You’ve been laughing at him as he is making fun of the culture or homeplace of our neighbors. And you’ve done it and thought that it was harmless, and it’s not because it’s been harmful to me.’ And I’ve always said that in any other world- “Kevin can F**k himself,” while it is a dark comedy, and I recognize that, in any other world, Kevin is, without that laugh track, he is an abusive husband. And in “Kevin can F**k himself,” we can only really draw out because of that laugh track and the jokes within the multi-cam, we can only really draw out that Kevin is just a doofus and he’s aloof and he doesn’t quite understand and he remains unaware that those are attitudes that can be harmful in this world. So to me, it’s no longer an excuse and I love that our show is trying to speak to those.
I’ve never thought of that before, how much the laugh track really makes it seem like things are okay.
Mary Hollis: It’s so much a part of the fabric of us as viewers that you almost don’t hear it anymore. It’s just like we’ve been watching these shows for so long and, I think our show did a really good job of teaching you how to watch it and knowing that Kevin is annoying, and knowing that Allison’s supposed to be your hero, but it is interesting that with that laugh track, there are no consequences to the things that are said or done. We skim right over the top of a lot of like, Kevin had the mailman deported. That is something that happened in a sitcom and there were a lot of jokes around that. But that was somebody’s livelihood. And it got a laugh… The universe of the multi-cam in our show doesn’t have any consequences. And when we step outside to the single cam with Allison and Patty, they have to suffer the consequences of not only their bad behavior, and bad, shockingly bad decision making, but also the consequences of these guys that they surround themselves with. Am I talking too much?
This is all fabulous! I didn’t realize how layered this show was.
Mary Hollis: It’s a show with a lot of big ideas and I think it’s really exciting for that reason. It’s such a disrupter. It’s not been done before or attempted and I think it’s really exciting if we can land on any of these things, making a positive change, you know, because television is actually there to entertain people, but it can, at its best, be sort of social work. And you know, not to get too heady, because I do understand that I’m an actor in a dark comedy about a woman trying to kill her husband, but there are much less literal ideas in there that I think can really move the dial forward a little bit in a positive way.
So, season two, are you allowed to say anything about it yet?
Mary Hollis: I think season one was not fruitless for Patty. Patty learned a lot about herself. But it was fruitless for Allison and her ultimate goal of killing Kevin. They say, at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… I know very little about season two. We haven’t started filming, we’ll start in January. I’ve seen very little of it and it seems as if we’re going to start right where we ended. So, I think an audience will find that satisfying that they didn’t miss a moment. Allison will continue in her quest to bring down Kevin and his toxic masculinity and Patty now has a lot of questions, after where we left off, about how she feels about Allison. And those might be little more deeper feelings than just a female friendship, which is what we’ve been following. And we’ll have to see if Allison reciprocates or if it’s just Patty’s feelings, but you can bet that these women will continue on in their strong force together to stand next to each other and try to change their lives for the better.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add about season one or about Patty?
Mary Hollis: I just love Patty and I think that she is more than meets the eye and I think I love the show because it led you into this sort of, you know, in a multi-cam, Patty would be a trope. And in our show Patty is not just a tomboy who’s tough and sardonic and bitchy. Patty has reasons to be the way that she is. And she is an ultimate helper and a really, really good best friend. I just love her.