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Interview

How Being a Struggling Creative in NYC Helped Julie Klausner Write ‘Difficult People’

How Being a Struggling Creative in NYC Helped Julie Klausner Write ‘Difficult People’
Photo Source: KC Bailey/Hulu

Backstage sat with “Difficult People” multihyphenate Julie Klausner at Build Series Aug. 15 to chat writing Season 3 of her Billy Eichner co-starring Hulu series.

‘Difficult People’ Season 3 lives up to its namesake.
“[Julie and Billy] immediately get in trouble for crashing a live network musical production of ‘Sunday in the Park With George’ starring the cast of ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ They form a protest and disrupt it, and then they end up doing community service. And then we find out Julie can’t take anymore antidepressants, so she’s sort of set off on this path about ‘How am I going to find happiness if I can’t take anymore medicine?’ And Billy meets John Cho, who plays his first real boyfriend.”

READ: Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner Bring the Mean

Klausner pulls from her own experience as a New York ‘outsider.’
“It’s really tough being a writer, actor, and comedian in New York when you feel like all of your friends have either moved on to L.A. or they’re doing better than you are. I wanted to speak to that frustration in the form of two characters who are way more bitter and dumber and more self-confident than I am…. I started doing stuff at UCB around 2000, and then the UCB theater opened out in L.A., and pretty much everyone I came up with had moved out there and I’m still here. Billy and I met because…we never really felt like we had landed in our tribe. We connected very much from the point of view as outsiders.”

Difficult characters aren’t always unlikable; boring ones are.
“Billy and I have a couple of things that buy us a lot of sympathy—and likability, for that matter, [on ‘Difficult People’]. One is that we’re funny, and then the other is that we really love each other and that we’re really loyal to each other, and even if we screw other people along the way and we hold the world against us, we will always have each other. We’ll never fight. There’ll never be something that Julie’s up to that Billy doesn’t know about and vice versa. These are rules that we have for the show because our loyalty to each other buys us a lot of real estate in terms of being mean.”

Writers and directors shouldn’t micromanage actors.
“Actors have to have the choices that they are allotted. It’s one of the important things, and that’s something I learned after I did the first season…. We also have a director that I can talk to and say, ‘Maybe this could be a little faster, or maybe this moment could be played a little sadder.’ There are things that I can communicate, but I can’t really micromanage my fellow cast members’ performances because I also have my head in the big picture: Is the writing working? Is this the right prop? Is the scene ending properly and fitting in with the other stuff?”

Write what you love.
“I sat down to write a show that I knew I would love and to write without really thinking, Is this not broad enough, is this going to sell, who’s gonna relate to this? I always knew in the back of my head that if I wanted to [perform on camera], I was going to have to be the one who [wrote] it for myself because nobody was ever going to give me that opportunity.”

‘If you can write, you must write.’
“[I’ve] learned that there’s something so much more satisfying in being in something that you wrote and created…. My advice is to just continue collaborating with your friends and people that you respect, even if you’re not getting paid for it. Just keep doing the work and building relationships, and they will pay off later.”

Want more from Klausner? Watch our full Backstage Live interview on our Facebook page.

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