Judd Apatow’s new Netflix series Love is a 10-part love story presenting the up-and-down romance between a seemingly mismatched L.A. couple, Paul Rust’s self-absorbed Gus and Gillian Jacobs’s emotional basket case Mickey. But as binge watchers discovered over the weekend, the show’s breakout star is Claudia O’Doherty, the Australian comic who regularly steals scenes as Mickey’s roommate from Down Under, Bertie. Eternally upbeat in the face of her roomie’s rudeness and, at times, outright neglect, Bertie is the one character on Love who is impossible not to… well, love.
It’s a great showcase for O’Doherty, who got her start on the Australian stand-up scene before moving to London and then onto America. She made her stateside debut in the third season of Amy Schumer’s hit Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer (she’ll be back for Season 4 as well), and appeared in the comic’s big-screen box office hit Trainwreck, which Apatow directed. Yahoo TV spoke with O’Doherty about her introduction to Los Angeles, what she has in common with Bertie, and shooting the show’s hilarious date-from-hell episode.
Judd Apatow has a great track record of collecting overseas comics like Seth Rogen and Rebel Wilson and bringing them to America to be part of his merry crew. How did you pop up on his radar?
Well, I’m thrilled to be collected! I was living in London a few years ago and made some online videos for Channel 4. The good thing about online stuff is that anyone can see it. So Bill Hader saw them and showed the videos to Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow, and they hired me for a small role in Trainwreck [as a baby shower guest]. I was only on set for three days, and it was very surreal to be on a huge American movie. I was very inexperienced, and still am very inexperienced! On the last day of my shoot, Judd said he was working on a romantic comedy series set in Silverlake in L.A. and he was interested in talking to me about a role. I didn’t think it would actually happen, and I’m still amazed that it did.
Apatow often tailors roles for specific actors. How did Bertie evolve after you were cast?
Judd, Paul, and Leslie [Arfin, Rust’s real-life wife and co-creator of Love] had always wanted to have a roommate for Mickey, but when they started looking at me, they realized I wasn’t anywhere near as cool as the character they had in mind. [Laughs] I’m much jollier than the cool character they had written for the piece. So they kindly changed Bertie to be this jaunty optimist.
Did you have any real-life roommate situations you drew on for the character and her relationship with Mickey? She’s not always nice to you.
I did! I lived with someone a few years ago who I really liked and who I’m still great friends with. But at first I found them very intimidating, so I would just go along with whatever they wanted to do. I thought about that when I was playing Bertie. Also, when you’re new in town, you kind of have to be amenable to people not always being that nice to you because you’re so desperate for friends. [Being from Australia], the first thing that everyone does is mock your accent; you do kind of feel like you’re being bullied by people. So I think that really helped with Bertie.
Love is so specific to Los Angeles and Silverlake in particular. As a newcomer to the city yourself, do you feel like you know it better after being part of the series?
Yeah, I have a weirdly parallel experience to my character, because I’ve been here the same amount of time. And after working on Love, I’m like, “Oh, I recognize these places now, and not just because we shot there!” I’m probably going to get an apartment near Bertie and Mickey’s apartment. I know some people in the area who are thrilled to see the places they go everyday on television.
What were your first impressions of the city?
Everyone’s in show business! [Laughs] I really liked L.A. when I first came here, because I’d been living in London, which is so grim and cold and intense. Coming here, the weather really made me very happy. The young people I hang out with are either very successful — way too successful for a very young person — or they’re having a delayed adolescence because that’s possible out here. If you don’t have much money, that’s fine; you can just chill out and work occasionally. It sounds like all my friends are either rich or losers, so that’s cool. I’m glad I said that! [Laughs]
One of my favorite episodes is “The Date,” where Bertie and Gus have the date from hell and keep escalating it on purpose. Do you have any dates like that in your own past?
I don’t know if I’ve ever gone on a date in my life! I don’t think people in other countries go on dates. I’ve never had one that prolonged — I think I would have gotten out of there! And I’ve never been set up with anyone, which I think would be horrible. But it’s a pretty universal experience having cool people trying to hook less cool people up with each other. I think that storyline came about because they needed to delay the progress of Mickey and Gus’s relationship, and that was a funny idea for what could happen. It was such a fun episode to shoot. Maggie Carey [Bill Hader’s wife] directed it, and she’s such a great director and a friend of mine, and it was fun to play that side of Bertie’s character, to show that she’s not so much of a doormat.
How much improvisation was there in that episode and the series as a whole?
In the scene at the dinner table, Paul and I were definitely trying to offend each other as much as possible. I remember we both said some very horrific stuff to each other, and Paul made up a lot of very funny lines. [In general] we were allowed to come up with our own stuff, although the scripts were completely written and already very funny. They didn’t need much of our jibber-jabber, because so much of what they wrote was already so good.
Towards the end of the season, we get the inkling of a fledgling romance between Bertie and Gus’s friend, Randy. Is that going to continue in Season 2?
I think it’s possible! I’ve only read the first four episodes, but things are looking up between them. Or it could all be changed; you never know with these characters. Let’s see how the audience reacts. If we could get a wedding in Season 2, that would be great.
Overall, what have you loved the most about being part of Love?
I had such a great time the whole time. As a novice, I found it so exciting. The show is so realistic. When you’re first trying to get together with someone, you feel like a maniac! You get so nervous and worried and angry. I really enjoyed shooting the sequences at Bertie’s market research job. And anything I got to shoot with Gillian was always so fun. I like that kind of female friendship, and I’d like to do more of that stuff in Season 2. We’re also great friends in real life now, and it’s way less tortured than it is on the show.
She’s probably not trying to set you up on dates with her own would-be boyfriends.
No, we just sit around and eat spaghetti. It’s really nice! [Laughs]
Love is currently streaming on Netflix.