INTERVIEW: Desmin Borges on PRIVATE LIFE and YOU’RE THE WORST

Desmin Borges is a fantastic NY-based actor, who recently played Sam in the Netflix film PRIVATE LIFE. He also stars as Edgar in FXX’s YOU’RE THE WORST, a series whose fifth and final season premieres Wednesday, January 9th. Borges talks about wrapping YOU’RE THE WORST, working with Paul Giamatti, and his 3-word TV shows.

POPAXIOM: How was filming the final season of You’re The Worst?

Desmin Borges: It was pretty amazing, actually. At the beginning, we do these in-house interviews. They started asking us a whole bunch of questions that were bringing up emotions that none of us wanted to feel, so we just politely declined answering them. It’s like, you’re super excited, because you get to be with all your friends again for one more year, and you get to tell this really dope-ass story with these great characters that you’ve been able to tell for the past four years… it’s kinda like, “let’s push off any of the crazy emotional stuff until we have to really face it.” So shooting the season was awesome – we were just running like a machine, and having a good time. I think everyone’s gonna be really happy with the way the season turned out, audience wise. I think it’s a really beautiful close to the world of misfits that we created.

It wasn’t until the last couple of days, when we started wrapping Brandon Mychal Smith, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Allan McLeod, Janet Varney, and Todd Robert Anderson, that it started getting real. Then the last day, I wrapped first, then Kether [Donohue], then Chris [Geere], then Aya [Cash]. It was a pretty emotional day, because it was like, “this might be the last time all of us work together at one time.” So it’s bittersweet, but I think we’re ending in a better spot than we started, and I think the characters are in a MUCH healthier place, so that’s good.

You're The Worst
From left: Chris Geere, Aya Cash, Stephen Falk, Kether Donohue, and Desmin Borges

Last season, Edgar had this revelation of trying to be his “own man.” How is that going for him? I know he’s wearing a lot less hats now.

He definitely went away from Johnny Pemberton’s character, where he was trying to emulate him, and wear all the dope fedoras and scarves. So Edgar’s dress is still elevated, but it’s toned down a little bit. As far as becoming his own man, yeah, I think this is the most confident we’ve ever seen Edgar, and the most clear we’ve seen about what he wants. Which is great, considering the state things were in when we started, where he was kinda always the third wheel. For the first time, I think Edgar is finally okay with just being Edgar. He’s got a really clear understanding of what he wants for himself, and he’s not taking any more shit, or backing down from anybody. He’s actually going out and doing it, and feeling good about doing it.

Looking back, are you surprised sometimes, thinking about how your character went from recent drug addict to a TV comedy writer?

Oh, I mean, that’s definitely a surprising turn. I never imagined that was where Stephen [Falk] envisioned Edgar going professionally. But it’s exciting. You feel like the world, the bubble that they’re in – their friend bubble within the bubble of whatever Los Angeles usually is – you either find yourself in the entertainment business, or you don’t, but you’re kinda close to it. So I’m not surprised that [Edgar] fell into the entertainment world, per se, I’m surprised that he became a writer. So he was continuing to follow closely behind Jimmy, and then all of a sudden, he breaks out into his own mold.

This season, we’ll actually get to see them work together a little bit, as writers together, which is an interesting dynamic to play. Certainly a little scarier for Jimmy than it is for Edgar, to have Edgar be co-anything with him. It’s exciting, and it’s good for him, to keep exploring that. Because writing really added a whole level of confidence Edgar never realized he had in himself.

You’re The Worst has gotten some really great comedy names to come in and cameo. One of my favorite running jokes of last season was you and Doug Benson kind of talking smack about Paul F. Tompkins. I don’t know if you can say, but does he get his cameo? Because I know he was campaigning for it on Twitter.

Uhh… there is definitely more of the Paul F. Tompkins joking going on. I can say that. The joke definitely continues.

I also wanted to talk about Netflix’s Private Life. How was the experience of acting alongside Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti?

Really amazing, man. I’m such a huge fan of Tamara Jenkins in general. Slums of Beverly Hills is one of my top ten comedies of all time, and The Savages just ripped my heart out. So when you have an amazing storyteller, who also happens to be female, and who also happens to only do one movie every decade… if you get the opportunity to be a part of that, you jump on it. Like, whatever you need to move in your schedule, you move.

I was lucky enough to get in pretty early. There were some other casting things going on with the character of Sadie, which Kayli Carter took and fucking blew everyone away with, but there were things happening back and forth with that. So I didn’t know what was happening with me for about six weeks. I knew that they really liked me, and I met Tamara, and we had talked about stuff, and then six weeks went by, and I would check in with my manager and be like “hey, what’s happening? Are we still in the mix for this?” It felt like one of those projects that you really want that might not end up happening. And then one day, I got the call, and I was crazy excited to start working with them.

Desmin Borges
From left: Denis O’Hare, Molly Shannon, Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, Kayli Carter, and Desmin Borges (photo by Michael Loccisano, copyright Getty Images)

This is the second project that I’ve worked with Paul Giamatti on. The first one was the movie All is Bright, which starred him and Paul Rudd. I just had a fairly small part in it, but it was crazy, because Paul Giamatti remembered me from that. The first day we were on set, he gave me a huge hug like we’d been friends forever, because he remembered me from that experience, and we had such a fun time working together. I immediately fell into the family, and the atmosphere, and the tone that was on set. It was great.

Anytime you get to watch Paul and Kathryn do their thing, it’s better than any acting class you could ever take, because they’re so damn good. I’d be on set, I wouldn’t be shooting, but I’d be sitting there, watching the scenes with Kathryn, Paul and Kayli, and I’d be floored by what was happening. It gave me a great amount of information of the way Tamara was trying to shape the film, so when I did actually shoot my scenes with them, I didn’t fall out of tone. Because Sam’s role in it is to be a little bit of an oddball on the side, with a little bit of comedic relief sprinkled in, and to also be the love interest. But you can’t overextend your hand in any one place. You need to fit in tonally with what’s going on, because once that shift in tone happens, you have to line up with that. You don’t want to ruin the great run that it’s already on.

I think one of my favorite moments is the very last moment of the film, where the credits are rolling, and they’re sitting in the Applebee’s waiting. You have that uncertainty of whether that person is actually going to show up this time, or if this is going to be just one of the many stumbles they have in this process of trying to become parents. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. So trying to fit into that was my main goal, just trying not to fuck it up (laughs).

You play with that tone so well in the bathroom scene, with the uncertainty of how much Sam knew about Sadie’s situation. What was going through your mind about what was going on in Sam’s mind?

I mean, just in the world of dating, whenever you have a really great night with somebody, and then the next couple of days or weeks, they seem off, you have all of this insecurity going through your head, like “did I do something wrong? Did I misjudge what happened between us last night?” I don’t view Sam as a ladies’ man or anything, so I feel like those moments of finding someone he connects with are few and far between. He thought he found someone really great in Sadie, and that they really connected, but then she seems kind of off. So you start from that place, of not wanting to be the creep-o and push her away, but then how do you honestly tell someone “hey, I really dig you, I thought you were digging me, are we not on the same page?” without being too pushy?

That’s where we started with it, and then he gets the glimpse of her kind of shooting up, and because the movie is so beautiful, you have to take your time in these scenes to really understand what it’s like to live in this world with them. Tamara was so great about letting scenes breathe, so you can feel the lows of it. There was actually a portion of that scene that was trimmed a little, and then was a subsequent scene with me and Giamatti that didn’t make it into the film, where you would’ve gotten a little more of an answer on whether or not Sam saw it. So what happened in that was Sam thought she shooting up, that she was an addict, and Paul’s character sets him straight a little, but there’s still a question mark at the end with whether or not Sam and Sadie are gonna get back together. But eventually, they do – she has the line later that Sam’s gonna pick her up, so they do stay the course.

Desmin Borges

But throughout that scene, you have to find that delicate balance of not being a creep. I don’t know how many situations, especially in my early 20s, where you really dig someone, and you’re like “hey, I would really like to spend more time with you,” but people get kind of freaked out if anyone comes on too quickly. So trying to find that balance, of not being a… I don’t know the word for it. A Come-On-Too-Quickly Creeper? Is that it? (laughs) Just trying to find that balance.

I love that last time, we talked about “Smooth Edgar,” and now we’re talking about “Come-On-Too-Quickly Creeper.”

(laughs) I think I found my niche. Somewhere in between Smooth Edgar and Come-On-Too-Quickly Creeper. As long as I can live in that world – what does that say about me, as a human?

Maybe that you have a mastery over the duality of man?

Ohh, I’ll take that. I’ll make that my Twitter bio line. “Master of the duality of man.”

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a series called Living with Yourself for Netflix, because apparently I only do shows with 3-word titles. It’s a comedy starring Paul Rudd, one of my favorite actors, and the directing team of Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, who I’ve wanted to work with for a long time. I’m in the midst of that right now, and it’s pretty amazing. I’m having a really good time on set.

You can watch PRIVATE LIFE on Netflix now. Catch up on YOU’RE THE WORST on Hulu or FX Now, then watch the final season on Wednesday nights, starting January 9th, at 10 PM on FXX.

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Jon Barr
Jon Barr is a writer, actor, and TV phanatic. Yeah, like the Philly Phanatic. Because Jon's from Philadelphia. Well, he lives in L.A. now, but, he WAS- you get it.

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