What happens when a married couple becomes a three-way romantic relationship? Have you ever even entertained that possibility?
That’s the driving plot point of You Me Her, a dramedy in the midst of its first season on DirecTV’s Audience Network. The show takes a brutally honest look at the marriage of Jack and Emma Trakarsky (Greg Poehler and Rachel Blanchard), which has gone physically dry, despite their emotional intimacy. On the advice of his brother, Jack hires an escort named Izzy (Priscilla Faia) to reinvigorate his libido. Naturally, he tells Emma—but when she goes and buys her own time with Izzy, the three of them spiral into a complex love triangle that, unlike most love triangles, seems to have a workable three-way solution… if society will accept it.
We watched the first few episodes of the show, which has a lot of heart and enough humor to make it worth your time. Paste also caught up with Blanchard and Faia to talk about the way You Me Her addresses polyamory, how they acclimated to the unfamiliar story and the truths the show reveals about romantic relationships in general.
Paste Magazine: This is a concept that really hasn’t been addressed much before, if at all, in television. How did you both react, when approached with the idea for the show?
Rachel Blanchard: I just really loved the world that [creator] John [Scott Shepherd] has created. I love stories about relationships, and I thought it was a really interesting and unique way to explore human nature and relationships. I thought it was fun but grounded, which is always my favorite kind of comedy.
Priscilla Faia: My experience was different from Greg and Rachel’s in that I auditioned. I was given a 16-page audition and that was all, that was my only context of what was happening in the show. Immediately I was drawn to Izzy as a character, and the show in general. Like Rachel said, the grounded nature of such a concept that’s kind of taboo—like, a lot of people weren’t talking about it—I loved that. I love comedy that comes from drama. The show isn’t about getting a laugh, the comedy comes from how serious it is, but it’s still under a light umbrella.
Paste: That seems to come from the relationships you have with the other characters in the show—you can feel the intimacy develop quickly between all three sides of the triangle. How did you guys develop that chemistry with Greg?
Faia: We have an incredible director, Nisha Ganatra, who directed all 10 of our episodes. She is a wonderful woman—she had us in rehearsal before we went to camera, and she really concentrated on our relationships. We didn’t do any script work, we just did theater techniques, and we really took time and spent all day doing these connection rehearsals. It was imperative, I think, for when we went to camera because our relationships were already set and we have that trust. When you’re doing a show that’s so intimate, it’s really important to have that, because I think it translates to camera.
Paste: What were some of the specific exercises you guys did?
Blanchard: There were a lot of movement exercises, a lot of Alexander techniques, and just ways to—we really got into one another’s physical space quite quickly, in a way that you normally wouldn’t in the first week of meeting someone. And I think that really helped. We were just so comfortable with each other in a physical sense and in an emotional sense by the time we went to camera. It was a quick shoot—300 pages in seven weeks, so there wasn’t the prep time that there usually is on a show, so it was invaluable. It was really smart.
Faia: And we cross-boarded, so we were shooting out of order. We were immediately going into some really intimate stuff, and it just broke the ice because we didn’t even think about it going forward. It was like okay, this is Izzy’s date with Emma, and we’re just gonna go right into it.
Paste: Were there any sort of awkwardly hilarious moments in those early days? Were you ever thinking, “What are we doing here?”
Blanchard: It was actually kind of further along, it wasn’t really the early days, but when we were shooting the scene where we ultimately all get together, the threesome scene, we all had to sit—the crew, the camera, the three of us actors—on a very small bed in a very small bedroom, and just the maneuvering around was very funny. It was anything but sexy.
Paste: Even a few episodes in, it’s easy to tell that there’s going to be societal blowback when people inevitably find out what’s going on with the Trakarskys and their young grad student friend. How do you think the show has the potential to reshape society’s acceptance of things like polyamory, if at all?
Blanchard: It’s sort of just coming into the conversation. I’m sure there are a lot of people who have been living in polyamorous relationships for years and had to keep it quiet. I know of people in polyamorous relationships, and they’re talking about it, it’s not a secret, they’re more and more open about it. But I think the more normalized things you see in media—when it’s more normalized in media, it becomes more normalized in life.
Faia: Again, polyamory was a new concept for me when I signed on to this show. And honestly, I think it’s important for us to talk about all types of relationships that we have in society, so if we can be a part of opening up conversations to have people represented, to have this community represented, I think that’s positive.
Paste: Besides the polyamorous relationship, what’s the most innovative, unique aspect of You Me Her?
Faia: We’re still trying to figure things out, with the show. This is a suburban couple and a grad student who have fallen for each other and they’re trying to figure this out. They don’t necessarily fit into any box yet, and I think that’s more realistic. Oftentimes, when we grow up and we get to know ourselves a little bit better, we start to ask questions in terms of what works for us now, now that we’ve grown into this place—what do we want? So I think that’s important, that you don’t open the season with polyamorous couples. It’s just a regular couple that’s married and figuring it out.
Blanchard: I think all the characters surprised themselves. They weren’t seeking this out, they just found within one another parts that were missing in themselves. It took a third person to fulfill their relationship that I think surprised them. They’re definitely on a new adventure with it.
Paste: Confusion certainly seems to be a main theme. How do you think the show handles it? It’s a tough emotion to capture.
Blanchard: I think we’re all processing it. I mean, the first season takes place in 10 days, so it’s all being processed quite quickly. No one’s entirely sure—everyone is very confused, they’re just trying to figure out what this is going to mean in their lives, the consequences it’s going to have, how they can fit into society, if it’s worth risking everything. They haven’t had a lot of time to process this. And they’re all just high on these endorphins.
Faia: I agree. The best part about how the show deals with the confusion is that Emma and Jack are very honest with each other throughout this process. Besides the beginning, once the season progresses, you really see them lean into each other and being honest about what’s going on. And I think that’s kind of the secret when you’re going through something, going through change—to be honest with your partner.
Paste: What surprised you the most as the show’s dynamics developed?
Faia: There’s a lot of dynamics that were really exciting, but for me, the relationship that evolved between Izzy and Nina [Izzy’s roommate and best friend] was something that I’d never really experienced before. They have a really intense connection, in a good way, and what happens in their friendship and how they overcome things was interesting for me, because it’s not anything that I’ve ever had in my personal relationships with my friends before.
Blanchard: I would agree with that. As a viewer—I didn’t see a lot of the Izzy-Nina scenes filmed—I was really compelled by that relationship and surprised by it. I thought it was really interesting.
Faia: They love each other so much, they’re best friends. My relationship with Melanie [Papalia, actor playing Nina], she’s an incredible actress—we immediately bonded. They were a short part of our rehearsal process, so it was really exciting for me to explore that, as well as what was happening with Jack and Emma
Paste: Did you do any sort of research beforehand on the escort business, Priscilla?
Faia: I didn’t. I had a bunch of questions, because I was confused, like a lot of people, about the differences between an escort and a prostitute. I didn’t really understand what the difference was, but I trusted the story. She’s not a typical escort. She doesn’t really wanna be doing it. But it’s a lighthearted thing, it’s not meant to be dirty or weird. It’s just what they do. And also, they hired me, and I’m not exactly a bombshell sex-bomb, so it’s supposed to be funny that she’s a terrible escort. She’s not good at it at all. I liked how it was written, and so I just trusted the story that it would work.
Paste: You bring a very human aspect to it.
Faia: I’m very clumsy, I always hit my shoulder on doors, I’m constantly falling and stuff. That all adds to the fact that this isn’t something she’s going to be doing for a long time.
Blanchard: It’s also one of the first times that you really get to see an escort beyond just the sex scenes. It’s one of the first times you get to see the human side of an escort.
Faia: That’s why she’s relatable, because she’s not some Bond girl. She’s just this girl who makes men feel good about themselves by having conversations and laughing.
Paste: I don’t think many shows explore that side of things effectively.
Blanchard: I think a lot of people probably go to sex workers for intimacy, for companionship. There are a lot of lonely people in the world, and they probably provide a lot of services.
Paste: One of the crucial early moments of the show comes when Emma reveals to Jack that she had experimented with girls for a while before ending up with him. How did you build up Emma’s sexuality, Rachel?
Blanchard: In your early 20s especially, that’s a time a lot of people explore and have fun. Everyone has a path before they meet the person that they marry. Emma shared some of her path, but maybe not as much as she should have. That was the tricky thing: why didn’t she share this with Jack? She trusted him enough to get married, why didn’t she trust him with her past? But I see Emma as this free spirit who’s very open sexually, and has this spark inside her that may have gotten a little dull from living in the suburbs, and from the grind of life. That’s what Izzy sparked in her again. I saw it as a complicated history, but I didn’t see it as such a unique story. Sexuality’s really fluid for a lot of people, and Emma is one of those people.
Paste: Do you think it’s the sort of thing that should be completely open dialogue when you’re in a relationship? Should all past sexual history be discussed?
Blanchard: I don’t want to hear every past sexual experience my partner has had, just ‘cause I would get a little jealous. But it’s important to understand aspects of your partner. It also depends on who your partner is and how they’ll receive certain things. I also think another part of the whole sexuality thing is that women take female lovers, but there are also men who take male lovers, and that’s one of the most taboo things. It seems to be a bit fantastical for women, but it’s a real thing, and it goes for men as well.
Paste: So how would the show be different if Izzy were a guy?
Blanchard: I think that would be really interesting, because that’s something you never see. That would be a really cool show.
Faia: I think you just opened up a can for someone else to write something. So, congratulations.
Zach Blumenfeld just got inspired to write a show called You Me Him. Follow him on Twitter.