Discovery: Chris Geere

By
Photography Alice Lubbock

Published September 11, 2014

 You’re the Worst begins with a wedding where a British boy, Jimmy, meets an American girl, Gretchen. Both are standing outside the entrance: Jimmy has just been ejected for insulting the bride (his ex-girlfriend) in the middle of the dancefloor and taking pictures of his penis with each of the disposable cameras left for the guests; Gretchen is holding a stolen wedding gift (she was hoping for a food processor, but got a blender). After realizing that they are both “the worst,” they go home together and immediately start dating.

Jimmy—clever, sarcastic, pessimistic, and self-pitying—was never meant to be English. “[I asked] if there was any way I could audition for it with an English accent, just because I felt that some of the language and the ranting lent itself to a bit more of an acerbic, British tone,” explains actor Chris Geere, who plays Jimmy. When the showrunners saw Geere’s tape, they agreed. Geere came to Los Angeles to screen test and, within a month of his audition, was cast as Jimmy.

Tonight, the ninth episode of You’re the Worst will premiere on FX, and it’s one of the best yet. The show has been getting stronger as the season goes on: Jimmy and Gretchen are more than just poorly behaved kidults; they have a genuine attachment to one another, and it’s progressed extremely quickly. In tonight’s episode, which features flashbacks to Jimmy and Gretchen pre-Jimmy-and-Gretchen, we learn that only two months has passed since the pilot-episode wedding. We also discover that “Heckles for Sandra Bernhard by Jimmy Shive-Overly” is not the first such list Jimmy has written.

Geere, who is indeed English, has been acting professionally since he was still at drama school. His earliest roles, he tells us, include “Second Spear Holder from the Left” in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of All’s Well that Ends Well starring Judi Dench, and “a glorified extra” in Stephen Spielberg’s 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers. “To be honest, if I knew that just being in that project had so much impact related to the small size of my role, then I’d probably have put Star Wars on my CV as well,” says Geere. “You could just say you were an Ewok.”

Some of Geere’s stories feel like they could easily be worked into Jimmy’s character (he binge-watched all the Harry Potter films and then went to see the last one “on my own in the cinema at 10:30 am on a Saturday morning”); others are less fitting (he was nearly in a Lifetime series, something Jimmy would definitely frown upon). Needless to say, Geere’s also much, much nicer than Jimmy.

AGE: 33

CURRENTLY LIVES IN: Manchester. I’ve been in Manchester for about six years. I was doing a television show that was based here. I met my now-wife during Season One and decided to stay here afterwards because I just loved it so much.

HOW IT BEGAN: There was an incredible drama teacher at school, sadly she died of breast cancer after we left school, but she was an incredible inspiration for me. I wasn’t doing drama—I was doing subjects that I thought I should do rather than ones I wanted to do or thought I was any good at. She saw me showing off on the playground—doing impressions of other people—and she said to me, “Why don’t you put all that energy to good use and audition for the school play.” So I did and got the lead role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I loved it so much. From then onwards there was no looking back.

I COULD HAVE BEEN…: I got into university to study graphic design, and I got into drama school as well, so I had the choice whether I wanted to go down the sensible route or if I wanted to become an actor.

You should never rule out what other people call doing a “normal job.” It’s a mentality thing. I constantly need to think, “this is just the next step in the career.” I will never, ever think, “Oh, I’ve made it!” or “Oh, I don’t need to think like a normal person anymore.” I will continuously be striving for things that interest me, whether that’s acting, or writing, or working for a production company. Sometimes when I’m not working I go and teach at an acting school and quite selfishly that makes me feel more inspired to do things myself.  

GRETCHEN VS. JIMMY: Would I rather be friends with Gretchen or Jimmy? Definitely Gretchen. She’s proper fun. I think Jimmy is as fun as Gretchen has made him. He’s a bit more stuck in his ways. He would rather stay in and play video games and ignore the world, whereas Gretchen would rather get drunk and forget about life—ultimately, that’s probably more fun.

THE ART OF HECKLING: Like with the go-to disguise he has, the moustache and hat, it’s a standard Jimmy thing so he can take control verbally. He needs to have a bit of backup in the form of a list heckles. If you pause it on the list of heckles, there are some really funny ones. For an intelligent guy, he’s come up with the most ridiculous heckles. I think it’s really clever how they think about the details to that degree—it wasn’t something that was just grifted over, they wanted things fully in character. We went through those heckles together with all the writers to see who came up with the funniest one, and that made it.

In England, they have a show called Dragons’ Den. Random members of the public are “inventors,” and they’ll go on the show with their inventions and try to get funding for their inventions for a percentage profit in that thing. You have four business people called “the Dragons” on the judging panel. They listen to the idea and afterwards, if they’re in, they invest the money. And if they’re not, they say, “I’m out.” That’s their catchphrase. They’re all very rich but quite boring people, and I went to a ceremony about five years ago—I was with a television show that I was working on. We’d had a couple of beers, and one of the guys got on stage and told the worst joke I’d ever heard. And we all just shouted, “I’m out.”

AUDITION PHILOSOPHY: Auditions are so much fun. A lot of people dread auditions, they think they have to do it in order to get the job. I don’t really mind if I don’t get the job, as long as I get to do something interesting in the audition. It makes me feel more creative as a person.

SECOND SPEAR-HOLDER FORM THE LEFT:  I had three lines. We did over 150 shows in Stratford-upon-Avon and in the West End. I was a bit of a swot, really, at that level. I used to go and sit in the wings and watch Judi Dench. She was incredible and I’m still friends with her and her family now, but I used to watch her simply because every single night, she used to deliver her lines in a different way to keep it fresh. It was great inspiration for me; from then onwards, whether you’re doing theater or TV, it’s wonderful to try different things. Sometimes they don’t work and sometimes they do, but to keep yourself, your castmates, and the audience on their toes is something that takes a lot of bravery. Those three lines served me well. There was a bit of joke amongst the cast because I would try my three lines—it would be, “Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you,” and I remember going on one day and saying, [in a suggestive voice] “Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls… for you?” And I came off and everyone said, “What was that?” “I’m just trying something! Yeah, it didn’t work!” And then they’d say, “What you going to try tonight?” But no one cared about the Second Spear-Holder from the Left, so I was in a position where I could try that and I don’t regret it.

WORST JOB: I used to do promo work, where you would be paid not very much to stand in the street for a very long time endorsing a product that you’d either A, never heard of or B, didn’t like. I remember one instance, I was dressed as the Charmin Bear—the toilet roll company. I was in the supermarket for three days during the summer—I think I was 19—I had to dress up in a bear outfit giving out toilet roll to people that came in. Which sounded as ridiculous as it was, and you can’t believe this, but my girlfriend’s parents at the time came into the shop. I think if they’d have known who was behind that big, furry face the relationship would have been a lot less. I think promotional work in general is quite ridiculous. There was a joke at the Edinburgh Festival recently—”I used to work in a shoe recycling company. It was sole destroying.”

THE FUTURE: One day, I want to write a romantic comedy. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a long time, so watch this space. My favorite romantic comedy is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I love it. Probably because it’s my wife’s favorite as well and we can watch it every so often. But I hade a huge crush on Kate Hudson and the premise, albeit silly, was entertaining and sweet and funny at the same time, which is the point.

YOU’RE THE WORST CURRENTLY AIRS THURSDAYS ON FX.