Talking to Judd Apatow about ‘Love’ and Marriage
The director gets philosophical about the nitty gritty of romantic relationships.
The earliest stages of a relationship are awkward, painful and drama-fuelled. The fear of exposing your true self to someone you're trying desperately to impress can be crippling, leading to weird first impressions and overly boozy dinner dates.
The first season of Love on Netflix captured this dynamic perfectly. Gus, played by co-creator Paul Rust, and Mickey, played by Gillian Jacobs, were a fucked up duo haphazardly falling in and out of lust. With Mickey's sex and love addiction fuelling her compulsive behaviour and Gus' condescending narcissism pushing her away, that first season followed a more classic rom-com formula: couple meets, falls in like, hijinx ensue, they break up, and ultimately find a way to reunite, albeit in this case, as friends.
But in its sophomore season now streaming on Netflix, Love lingers on the honeymoon phase of the relationship, as Gus and Mickey find their way back to each other romantically. It's a much more watchable season, as the couple and the series finally finds its groove. From meeting the parents, to navigating long distance early in the relationship, Gus and Mickey have a found a sweet, endearing relatability and maturity that propels Love into must-watch territory.
I spoke with co-creator Judd Apatow just before Valentine's Day on the day Netflix announced Love's third season. We unpacked the many stages of love, debated the death of rom coms, and I got his best advice for making a marriage work.
VICE: Hi, congratulations [on Netflix's announcement of Love's third season], that's very exciting.
Judd Apatow: Thank you, I know, it's exciting to be able to tell your own story.
Did you always imagine getting to this point when you started writing this with Paul [Rust] and Lesley [Arfin]?
Well, it's always a miracle if you create an idea for a show and it gets turned into a series and lasts for the amount of time that you want to do it for. I never expected that. Netflix ordered the pilot and then they ordered two seasons at the very beginning so right from the start, they were committed to a lot of episodes. So, we're really excited. We feel like the second season's doing better than the first and we get to go deep into their relationship and all the weird stuff that it brings up.
I like how it picks up where it left off kind of chronologically but it already feels like there is a new level of maturity to this season...
I've wanted to do a series that was a very slow, detailed examination of a couple where you see every single beat of it. So all of the things that you would normally jump over, we would examine and that's been really fun. You know, there have been lots of relationships on TV and I felt like it was a way to do what we do in the movies in a series. Like, if Knocked Up lasted six years. It's always been my dream to make a movie six years long.
The character of Gus, you know, there are some other parallels to men that you've written that are you know, 40-year-old 12-year-olds.
I haven't met what people call the "mature man." I mean, look at the Trump administration. Are those mature men? I think everybody is struggling, everybody feels like a child, there's still so much shame and doubt, except for Tom Brady.
Do you think there's something about relationships that brings that out even more in us? Like we revert to some kind of pre-pubescent, awkward person as soon as we're seeing someone?
I think we become very vulnerable. And relationships, especially at the beginning, are very scary and you slowly reveal yourself and open yourself up to judgment from somebody else and people are very careful about what part of themselves they offer up and if the person thinks that they'll be able to handle it, they offer up another part. It's a very funny dance. It's hard to find someone you trust and that's a lot of what the show is about. It's how they slowly open up to each other.
What's your favourite part about the relationship story because like you said, a lot of times, you are under time constraints in film and you have to gloss over the coarse stuff.
I think what's funny is the way people present a version of themselves instead of actually being authentic. People are so nervous about being liked that in a way, they create a character of themselves and usually that leads to things crumbling one way or another. And that's where a lot of the comedy comes from.
Do you remember playing that character yourself [while dating]?
Well, I was always a very nerdy, single person. I was terrified of approaching anybody, these were in the years before Tinder and cell phones so you would just have to walk up to somebody in a bar and I never had that charm ever. So unless, you know, I was put in a situation where they couldn't escape, I always had a hard time approaching someone.
Yeah, I mean it's a terrifying process, to basically cold-call a stranger.
Yeah! Cause you can text now and I would have been great on text! I'm built for a witty text that hides my emotional terror.
What do you think about the notion, the idea that romantic comedy as a genre are kind of dead?
I think I've heard of that concept since I had language, so I don't know, I think people like watching how people connect and they look for love and always will and how it presents changes, but I think that in whatever movies are popular, that's a large element of it. And they may not call it a romantic comedy, but really we like that movie because that superhero was connecting with that person and it's hidden in there.
I like the idea of delving into that minutiae about their lives but how do you keep that interesting? I think one of the scariest things about a relationship is that people worry once they settle in, it will get boring and it will get routine. How do you keep that from permeating their on-screen relationship?
Well, I think every move in the relationship has its own tension. It's scary when you meet someone and haven't been out on a date, and it's scary when you do the first date and you don't know if you want to go to the next level and it's scary to date regularly and it's scary to commit to not see anyone else. There are so many phases to examine that challenge people so I think we're just going to do it all. The good, the bad, and everything.
Do you watch the show with your wife? Do you guys get to relive some of the early stages of dating? I think we all forget sometimes how awkward and tense that beginning part was.
Yeah, I mean for me it was always a bit high stakes, I was not a casual person when dating or early stages of the relationship and I think that Paul is so funny.
Watching him is incredible, it's like watching a child have a tantrum, it's amazing.
Yeah! He is somewhat obsessive, he's a people-pleaser but he's also filled with anger and I sadly relate to all of this.
What do you think about Valentine's Day and do you have plans for Valentine's Day?
Uh, Valentine's Day, I do have plans. I'm kind of in my 20th anniversary so I gotta be on my game.
Oh my god, congratulations, that's huge.
Thank you. It's very hard after 20 years to come up with new concepts. Once you get past the chocolates and flowers and certain presents, then you are heading into mariachi bands. I'm still one concept shy of it right now. I gotta think of something.
You have time, you have at least four or five days. So that's good.
I have time to book a synchronized swimming team.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get to the 20-year mark? How do you push through?
It's easier if you marry Leslie [Mann]. That's advice that's harder for others to take, I guess. We get up on Sunday mornings and we watch Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday and it cleanses us, we learn things and then we try to apply them and then by the end of the week, we've forgotten everything we saw and we watch a new one.
That's actually pretty good advice.
Main photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press
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