Paul Rudd has an identity crisis in Living With Yourself. Two of them, actually.
The ageless Ant-Man star and ageless wonder does double duty in Netflix’s eccentric clone comedy, engaging in dizzying battles of wits, pillow fights, and absurd “I hate you!””I am you!” exchanges with his doppelgänger. Rudd plays Miles, a listless ad exec and husband who visits a mysterious spa that promises to turn him into a better version of himself. What it actually does is secretly kill the client and replace him/her with a superior version who is implanted with the client’s memories, and the clone has no idea that its progenitor has been terminated.
Well, until the murder of Miles is botched, and the poor guy wakes up naked in the woods, runs home, and discovers that his clone is at home with his wife Kate (Aisling Bea). Confusions and complications ensue as old Miles lets new Miles excel for him at work and around the house. But soon old Miles finds himself on the outside when everyone (including Kate) is smitten with the new Miles. The eight-episode season ends on a next-level, situation-complicating cliffhanger: old Miles gets in a fight with new Miles that ends with the former suffocating the latter with a pillow. After old Miles revives new Miles with CPR, giving viewers the most Rudd-on-Rudd scene imaginable, Kate enters the room to drop big news on both of them: she’s pregnant — and there’s no DNA test available to determine whose baby it is. While old Miles and Kate (who have been trying to have a baby) celebrate with a teary hug, new Miles watches proudly from a distance, before she invites the clone into the embrace. The finale ends on Kate’s nervous is-this-actually-a-good-idea? laugh.
Rudd spent the entire season working, well, double time to pull off these roles, but that last episode proved to be extra-challenging. “That whole episode was very complex,” Rudd tells EW. “Normally when I’m playing against myself, I’m just doing it without an acting double, I’m just kind of acting to air and using my own voice… but in that last episode when I’m fighting myself, we needed several people — the stunt people and people in shots. It was a weird thing to look around because there were about five or six people exactly dressed like me, and it was like Multiplicity.”
Except that Michael Keaton never desperately performed CPR on himself, an act that required some special-effects magic and a very willing stand-in. “The mouth-to-mouth was another technically complex thing,” shares Rudd. “We had one of the stand-ins had to get in an all-green body suit and I had to line up the shot and that poor guy had no idea what was happening when he went to work that day.”
Viewers were similarly surprised by that final twist, which bursts with potential but also questions, starting with: Did Kate, Miles, and Miles just become America’s most unconventional threesome? Creator Timothy Greenberg talked about why he decided to end the season on that note in this story, noting, “I wanted to leave them in a situation where they were inextricably tied together.” Rudd approved of the bizarro bonding machination. “It seemed to be a sensible place to go,” he says. “This story would inevitably lead to somewhere that would be another challenge. I like that it seems that as if there’s a level of acceptance that we’ve been fighting against throughout the season. So to come to this resolution was nice. Especially for old Miles. I think it might have been the only time he smiled in the whole show.”
Miles may have been smiling, but Kate’s face told a slightly different story. “What’s interesting is that we end on Kate’s point of view,” says Bea, who also recently wrote and starred in the Hulu comedy This Way. “The two guys are like, ‘Aww, maybe everything will be fine!,’ and then we kind of zoom in on Kate’s face of going, ‘Jesus!’ She pulled the other guy in for a hug, but then it’s the reality of what it would be to have two husbands all of the sudden like that. I think they’re just so excited to be pregnant and then suddenly it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re not pregnant — the three of us are. S—!’
Bea appreciated the elevation of stakes for this couple and the possibilities that the pregnancy brings, and she draws parallels to Catastrophe, starring her This Way Up co-star Sharon Horgan (with whom, by the way, she’s also currently filming the HBO Max comedy pilot Delilah). “Why would they stay together just over a weekend fling?” she says. “It’s a baby. Especially if you feel like, ‘I should definitely keep it despite this not being in the ideal circumstance of how I would liked to it have come about.'”
Of course, Living With Yourself presented this issue in the most of unusual scenarios. “I had an affair with my husband’s clone, which is a classic thing that so many girls can relate to,” Bea deadpans, noting that the twist would make a second season, should it happen, much more than just an “extension” of season 1. “What’s gonna happen? It can’t be the same movie again,” she notes. “Do we have another clone of Kate to help out? What if the babies were twins? How do you co-parent? How do you explain it to people? There’s all the different things that bring up new trouble. And dealing with the fallout from the affair — they put it to the side for the news, but she still had an affair.”
Old Miles seemed to move past Kate’s affair with new Miles in the excitement of the baby news. How much of a dent will the infidelity put in their relationship, even if this is a “monumentally confusing time,” as Kate puts it? “He did everything he could to push her into his clone’s arms, whether he realized it or not,” notes Greenberg. “He’s fully deserving or whatever he gets at that point. There’s plenty of blame to go all around on every side here. At some point he could probably step back and imagine, ‘Well, what if I was presented with a wonderful new version of Kate? How would I feel?’ I think it’s very confusing. So I do think it’s not quite the same thing as a normal infidelity situation. But that’s only partially due to clone confusion, partially due to their own personal story and how Miles has failed and pushed her to this to some extent.”
Bea points out that how one interfaces with this issue of cheating can fall across gendered lines. “Imagine if Kate had a clone and Miles went off and f—ed her clone,” she tells EW. “I think all of us would not feel as kindly towards that situation as the gender reversal. I was thinking about this the other day; I was like, ‘Wow, imagine if Miles had gone off and had sex? We would have all felt like, ‘You f—ing dirty piece of s—.’… I don’t think she should just totally get off the hook. He did something bad, but he did it because of a lack of communication and maybe she was driven to it because of a lack of breakdown in communication, but she still actively went out and had an affair on her husband…. I enjoy the exploration of the idea that people would be more likely to forgive a woman than they would if it was a man. I like the idea of exploring the fact that maybe we don’t have to forgive her, and maybe we can say they’re both dicks. Relationships are complicated.”
On this show, that’s wild understatement. But speaking of complicated things, let’s take a moment to discuss the elaborate, charming dance routine that Kate and Miles perform to Rick James’ “Give It to Me.” “We probably did more takes of that than any other thing, because Paul and myself — obviously being professional dancers to look at — are actually not our professional dancers,” says Bea. “So we did have to learn quite a lot. Jenny Shore was our choreographer and her husband, Will Butler, who’s in Arcade Fire, did this quirky couple dance online. We were like, ‘That’s what we want.’ So myself and Paul worked with her to make a unique-feeling dance. And the pattycake bit is something Paul does with his daughter. So there were little bits and pieces in there of our personalities, the characters, Paul’s daughter. It took ages to find a song, and then we ended up just choosing the Rick James song, because it’s a nod to Val and John [Faris and Dayton, who directed all eight episodes] and the Rick James song on Little Miss Sunshine. So that felt like kind of kismet.”
More kismet, or at least good fortune, arrived when future Hall of Famer Tom Brady signed up for a cameo in the series premiere: The New England Patriots QB pops up as a client of the cloning business when Miles shows up at the strip mall. (It wound up causing a stir for a different reason; more on that over here.) “Working with him on set was really exciting,” says Rudd. “To get to hang out with one of the greatest ever — if not the greatest ever — was a real thrill. I got to ask him about what it’s like being Tom Brady and what it’s like winning all those Super Bowls and playing for the Patriots. I’m a Chiefs fans and they had just knocked the Chiefs off to get to the Super Bowl, so I went into this a little like, “Oh, Tom, you’ve broken my heart, but it’s really cool that you’re saying yes to our project.”
As hard it is to say no to Paul Rudd, it’s impossible to say no to Paul Rudds.
(Additional reporting by Rosy Cordero)