For an actor introduced to much of the world through a show called You’re the Worst, Aya Cash has done an impressive job avoiding the bemoaned mouse trap of unlikeability. As Stormfront on the buzzy second season of Amazon Prime’s hit super(anti)hero series The Boys, Cash has given her cult following—accumulated over five seasons playing the lovable asshole Gretchen on the FX dark romantic comedy—much to talk about. In a spandex suit with electric volts coming out of her hands, she brought a literal jolt of energy to the world of streaming television during a time of much-needed entertainment. And with Scare Me, Josh Ruben’s playful Catskills cabin horror romp, Cash has shown lockdown-ridden audiences a few more tricks up her sleeve.
If you still don’t believe us that Cash really isn’t the worst, just ask her co-star Chris Geere, who played Gretchen’s charming curmudgeon of a love interest, Jimmy, on the show. When Chris reconnected with Cash on an October morning, he didn’t spare any compliments. “I’m just really glad that they were lovely to you,” he tells her about the cast of The Boys. “Otherwise I would have to put on my super-suit and go and beat some ass. You know what I mean?” —SARAH NECHAMKIN
CHRIS GEERE: Well, I’ve got to tell you, baby, I’ve just had a full weekend of watching you. I’ve binged the whole season two of The Boys. I’ve watched Scare Me. Both projects have blown me away. You know when sometimes you get someone to watch something that you’ve done, and you have to go, “Yeah, it was really good,” but it wasn’t actually very good? These things were amazing. The Boys is such a large ensemble cast. I was wondering whether you actually got the chance to meet everyone, and if you had any actor that you would have liked to have done more stuff with but didn’t get the chance to?
AYA CASH: It’s funny you say that. I think I was two-and-a-half months into shooting when I finally met Karl Urban. He was in the makeup trailer shirtless and covered in blood, and I was like, “So nice to meet you finally.” But everyone was on such different trajectories. I worked with Karl for maybe two days, and I didn’t meet Jessica Hecht or Langston Kerman. I know Jessica, but they were on such a different schedule. Of course, I want to work with everyone. I would have loved to have a real interaction with The Deep besides being like, “You’re an idiot.”
GEERE: Did you meet Giancarlo [Esposito] at all?
CASH: Yes, I did. I actually got to meet Giancarlo a few times, and he is spectacular. It’s such a confusing relationship between the two of them. Because obviously Stormfront is a disgusting racist Nazi, and there’s this weird, complicated thing where she respects him and they allow each other their space. I would have loved to see them go head to head.
GEERE: They must have vats and vats of blood on set ready for whenever you’re going to need it. How did you feel when you were doing those scenes that were so instantly gory that you had to remain stoic as a character?
CASH: The exploding head scene was pretty ridiculous. I felt so lucky to be playing Stormfront, because Stormfront and Homelander are not scared in that moment, whereas everyone else has to do some major acting. Colby Minifie is screaming bloody murder while blood explodes onto her face from a blood gun. So, I feel like Ant [Antony Starr] and I got off really easy in that scene. But, it’s hilarious. It’s so ridiculous on the day and so outside of reality that it’s almost funny. There are moments where you’re crushing the head, and you’re like, “Please, god, let it work too,” because we’re on take 15 of trying to get this damn head crushed. It’s like the normal slog of doing any TV show; you acclimate.
GEERE: Have you watched all the episodes now?
CASH: Yes, I’ve seen them all.
GEERE: I have to ask—I feel like I’m fanboying a little bit—but when you first saw the electric volts coming out of your hands compared to obviously when you’re on set, you’re just literally putting your hands in the air, it must feel a little bit silly.
CASH: Yeah, it did.
GEERE: But when you saw it in post-production, what was your first reaction? Were you like, “Ah, I’m badass”?
CASH: Oh, completely. I was like, “Thank God, they made me look better than I felt.” Because it’s hard not to feel silly when you’re hopping up and down pretending to fly or when you’re putting your hands up as if you’re doing damage and making snarky faces. But, of course, our amazing special effects team does all the hard work for us. I feel like from our show [You’re the Worst] to this, you have to take a leap of faith that it’s going to come together and look cool too, because I just wouldn’t expect myself in this role.
GEERE: Well, it’s always the case, isn’t it? When we finish on set, whether we think we’ve done a good scene or not, we leave so much control at the door. It was really exciting for me to see you just completely boss this strong female character of which you’ve played a few in your career. With You’re the Worst, our preparation was you, me, getting together at one of our houses and just running lines together. And then we’d go for an In-N-Out burger. But with this, what was the preparation you had from the moment that you found out that you got the role?
CASH: It’s funny. I think a lot of actors for any TV job tend to get in great shape and try to look their best. One, I’m not really one of those actors. Two, I am lazy. And three, You’re the Worst is a show about people whose narcissism doesn’t tend to translate to their body. I remember that you were told to gain a few pounds so that you were a little soft, and you were like, “Oh, okay. I guess I have to do that.” But this one, I was put in two months of training doing strength workouts. God, five days a week I was working out. And then doing some Muay Thai, and then obviously you have rehearsals for a fight choreographer on the day. And even though none of it is really seen in my body, because I am completely suited up and there’s silicone everywhere, it was about being in my body in a totally different way. I think with Gretchen, her body is incidental to her. She’s not paying attention to it unless it’s bleeding or she is having sex.
GEERE: I’ve just watched the finale, and that scene with the child actor—I always feel a tiny bit uncomfortable having to swear in front of kids, but I’ve never had to do the kind of stuff that was present in the scene with you in the forest. What were the conversations like with that child actor whilst you were doing that?
CASH: Cameron [Crovetti] is so talented and so professional. If anyone was sitting on set preparing, it’s Cameron. He broke my heart when he cried in the final scene. I don’t have kids. Maybe I’m just a little less moral than you are. I don’t have the same issues around swearing around kids, because I’m just not as good a person. But everyone knows it’s fake. It’s a little different than being a child watching the show, because they’re so in on the process of it that … I was not a child actor, so I don’t know.
GEERE: It’s less shocking to them.
CASH: Yeah, it’s more theater. You can see how the blood gag works and the prosthetics and all that. It doesn’t feel like reality in any way.
GEERE: I think kids these days have a fantastic work ethic. It just works so beautifully, the dynamic between all of you, especially between you and Antony. Do you remember the first scene that you did with him?
CASH: The first scene that I did with Ant was the first scene that I shot, and it was the first scene that I’m in in the series, which is really nice. Our introduction fell in line with what was happening, which is I am the new girl on the set showing up and coming into their world. He sent me this beautiful text afterwards that I did a great job and that they’re so happy that I’m here. And, of course, it turns out he sent that to many of the cast before. Everyone’s like, “Yeah, yeah, I got that text, too.”
CHRIS: That’s brilliant. I, for one, am very happy that they were nice to you and looked after you.
CASH: Me too. Coming off our show where we were all so madly in love with each other, I didn’t expect that I could have that again. Friendship takes time and energy, so I don’t feel excluded if I’m not necessarily going to every dinner, because nobody knew me at first. I think it’s also about managing your own expectations and ego coming into something and going like, “Let me fit into their world, because I’m here as a guest.”
GEERE: That’s really generous of you to take that stance. I always think that you have two roles when you start a new thing, which is your part in the cast and your part in the production as an actor. I’m just really glad that they were lovely to you, otherwise I would have to put on my super-suit and go and beat some ass, you know what I mean?
AYA: Oh, I’d call you for back-up.
GEERE: So, you shot in Toronto. I’ve just seen a news article saying that Netflix has now bought more stages in Canada. It seems like Canada is becoming a real hotspot for TV productions at the moment. How do you think the next couple of years are going to pan out, post-COVID, during COVID?
CASH: God, I think that’s the million-dollar question. Canada obviously is doing well in the pandemic, and that’s why things are able to shoot now. A show like The Boys is just such a big show. You can use CGI to create crowds and things like that. But I hope that we come back to using real people, because this is how many people make a living. And those people who come on and do background work, that is a career and a business.
GEERE: I really need to talk about Scare Me, because I watched it over the weekend. I didn’t know what to expect. I was never a huge horror fan before, despite working on productions and everything. Seeing you work with Josh was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.
CASH: Well, Josh Ruben has been a friend of mine for a few years. I know him through my husband. As you know, he came and actually did an episode of You’re the Worst as well. When he asked me to do the movie, I said yes basically before I read it. He was like, “You should probably read it.” And I was like, “Okay.” And I read half of it late one night, and I was going to sleep, and I just told my agent, “Oh, of course I’m going to do it. As long as there’s not a big, crazy, graphic sex scene at the end that I’m missing, let’s just say yes. I don’t want to leave Josh hanging.” And then, of course I read it, and there’s no graphic sex scene.
We had a dynamic already coming in of a friendship which always helps. You’re doing this tiny budget movie in the dead of winter in a cabin, you better like the people that you’re working with. I think when you say yes to doing these little independent films, you have to be game for a certain amount of chaos and just go with the flow. We shot the whole thing in 14 days, which is bananas.
GEERE: No! Wow, that’s incredible.
CASH: We did 15 pages a day once. 15 pages, one day.
GEERE: There’s singing. There’s dancing. There were scary bits. There were sarcastic bits. I know you so well, and I thought you absolutely crushed it. Did you enjoy doing the singing and dancing bit?
CASH: Well, the singing is not me. The singing is a much more beautiful voice than mine. I’m actually lip-syncing. The dancing, all I could do was make the choice that Fanny’s as good a dancer as I am, which is meh, a solid C-minus but having a great time. There’s a little monologue where I talk about Zumba that is clearly improvised. If you know me, you would guess that, because I’m a huge Zumba fan. I had never done anything like this, so I just tried to go balls to the wall. He’d tell me if I was doing it horribly wrong, and trust that he was going to get what he needed, and he could always edit around my failures.
GEERE: No, it’s great. When it comes to horror movies, there are various different techniques that horror filmmakers do to scare your audience. Through this film, you go through all of them, every single one. What scares you in real life?
CASH: Our current political climate, our current environmental climate. That’s what really scares me. In a movie, I’m very much a thriller kind of person or a big mystery. I was watching Dark on Netflix with Josh, and I’m the annoying person who’s just throwing out theories all the time. I’m like, “It’s him. That guy’s actually this guy at a different time.” The way that I deal with my fear is to try to figure it all out, so I enjoy the puzzle.
GEERE: When all that happened at the end, I was like, “Gosh. They’ve done it. Absolutely brilliant,” because that’s how I wanted it to end. You’ll probably get this as it goes out, the comparison to Blair Witch in its uniqueness at the time. People have done Blair Witch a million times since Blair Witch, but when that first came out, people were like, “This is such an original way to rethink the horror concept.” And I think that this movie is going to do that for everyone.
CASH: Well, I have a great Blair Witch story. I was a teenager when The Blair Witch Project came out. This was before smartphones, and this is really before the internet was big. I was at Cal Arts in Valencia, California for summer school with no real access to the outside world. They brought in Blair Witch, and they told us that it was found footage, and they played it in the one-screen movie theater on campus. I remember being like, “This is fucking bonkers.” I got completely tricked by Blair Witch, because I was in the exact right place to be completely fooled. And weirdly, Josh Leonard, who was in Blair Witch, is now one of my dear friends. I just think about watching him as a 16-year-old. It was like Santa Claus isn’t real and then Blair Witch isn’t real.
GEERE: Oh, gosh. Now that you’ve done a horror movie, a network comedy for five seasons, played a superhero, if you could wave a magic wand, what project would you either want to act in or direct next?
CASH: You know me, I’ve been trying to push a little boulder up a hill for a while now with getting my first directing project made. Hopefully, I’ll have good news about that soon. As you know, You’re the Worst was the best job that I’ve ever had. I don’t want to speak for you.
GEERE: It will always be for both of us.
CASH: Yes, it was so satisfying and so wonderful that I want to do something like that again, where I get to play for five years with people I love and do really interesting work and be challenged in those ways. The superhero stuff was unexpected and so, so much fun, but since this is coming out after the finale airs, you can see what happens to my character. I would love to be a part of something again where I get to stay with a group of collaborators for five, six, seven years. That’s my next goal.
GEERE: Well, I’m personally going to manifest that you play Barbra Streisand in the story of her life, because that’s something I’ve always wanted you to do. I’m very proud of you, mate. I’m really, really proud of you. I think everything that you’ve done since You’re the Worst has just been so remarkable. They’re calling for a You’re the Worst movie. I would be very up for that.
CASH: I’m in, too. Let’s just announce it right now in this interview. Let’s just say that the You’re the Worst movie is happening and see what happens. Hollywood is all about bullshit. It’s all about projection.
GEERE: Exactly. Let’s get it out there.
Makeup: Daniel Martin
Hair: Tommy Buckett
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