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A Lovely Chat With Eliza Coupe On ‘Future Man’ And Her Future As A Director

You absolutely can’t say that it’s been boring. Across three seasons, the Seth Rogen-produced sci-fi comedy Future Man has done… all of it? Zipping back and forth through time, playing with the multiverse, playing with genre tropes, and saving the world while its three main characters morphed into heroes.

Eliza Coupe plays Tiger, one of the aforementioned heroes and someone who goes from a no-bullshit future soldier to, well, that, but she also spends a lot of time accessing her spiritual side in the freshly released third and final season (which is available on Hulu). Uproxx recently spoke with Coupe about that journey, but the conversation quickly turned to her connection to past work (Happy Endings, Scrubs), her experience during the early days of The Great Shut-In, and her looming jump to filmmaking, all handed out with candor and a sense of excitement for her own future.

Was this the plan all along, for three seasons and out? Or is this just where everybody wound up?

I think after the second season, where no one knew what the fuck was going on, they were just like, “Uh, I think we need to sew this up. Otherwise, this is going to become a 10 season thing.” And I don’t know, I think we were all a little burnt out. It was really fun, and it was exciting. It was just a lot of energy, and I think that it’s a lot on the writers to create all of that. Time travel makes no sense. So it’s in a world of its own, where you have to make the rules.

Is it taxing, to be involved in something where you don’t really know where the characters are going to go and you don’t really know what you’re going to have to play off of?

For me, it’s always [about] the through-line of the character being… I’ve always known what my character’s intentions are. My character has always had one, main objective. She wants to right the wrongs that she feels that she created in the past, for the future, but she also created them in the future, and they are now affecting the past, and they’re going to affect the future. So, she’s got a lot on her plate. She’s got a lot of guilt. I think that drives her. And so for me, when I’m popped into any situation, as long as I know that [writing wrongs] is my objective, I can pretty much handle whatever they throw at me.

I imagine your improv background helps with that as well.

I think so. I think it goes back to when I was on Scrubs, and Bill Lawrence decided he wanted to add a scene, and he just took the back of the sides and wrote the scene, and said, “Okay, you guys have 20 minutes, learn this.” And then we shot it. And was like, “okay, that’s how this works. Cool.”

I just realized the other day that it’s been 10 years since that went off the air.

It’s been 10 years since that went off the air?!

Yeah, I was surprised, too.

Wow. Okay. That is interesting.

[Laughs] These things are always unsettling. It’s just great fun for everyone, really, to feel the slip of time. Do you ever go back and watch things that you’ve done? That or Happy Endings? Do you have that kind of relationship with them?

Yeah. Well, I don’t go back to watch my stuff normally. It’s funny, though, because sometimes, with Instagram or something, Damon [Wayans Jr.] will post a Throwback Thursday or something from Happy Endings with he and I, and I love seeing it, and then I’ll be like, “Oh, no.” Then I’ll search for stuff and look for stuff. That’s kind of fun to go back and watch that. I’ve never gone back and watched Scrubs. That is for sure. I’ve never done that. Not that I didn’t like it, I just don’t… I feel like I forgot that that part of my life existed, even though it was really fun.

Well, because it was 10 years ago, as we have established.

Thank you! [Laughs] As I’ve now been educated. 10 years. Thank you.

Yeah, painfully reminded. The basis of that question is I know some actors go back to reevaluate what they’ve done, their choices and things like that. And some people absolutely have zero interest in doing that. How do you gauge what’s a successful performance for you?

Every time I do something, I have an attachment to what was going on in my life at that time. Sometimes I don’t want to go back and watch something, because that was a very difficult time in my life, or that was a really fun time in my life. And so it’s kind of like [a game of] chance with that, a little bit. But when I go back and I watch something that I can see what was going on in my life, I can see it in my acting, then I’m like, “Eh.” Sometimes that can work. Other times I feel like I’m just a little on top of the character as opposed to dropped into it. And that’s where I surprise myself, and I see that I’m dropped into it. That’s when I mark it as a success.

This season was a little different because you weren’t necessarily with Josh Hutcherson and Derek Wilson for the full run there.

No, I was playing with a goat.

Yeah, I was going to say, you worked a lot with the goat. Curious how the goat ranks versus Josh and Derek, and also Seth Rogen? How do you rank them, as far as scene partners?

[Laughs] Oh God, they’re all so good. Are you kidding me? They’re all so, so good. I was very fortunate on that show to be with my two castmates, Josh and Derek, being just incredible actors, first of all, but also just wonderful people. They really listened. Nobody was trying to steal the scene or win the scene. That can be a thing in comedy sometimes, where they want to win the scene, and I never understood that. They’re very generous and giving actors, and so is Seth. Seth is incredible. And Seth is an unbelievable director as well. He just knows his shit.

Are you interested in talking at all about how you’re getting through this weird time?

Yeah. I think right now people want to laugh and feel like they’re not alone and to… as much as we can’t necessarily make light of this, we can, in a sense, at least just keep the energy up, and keep it positive. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do just with my own self. I do a lot of yoga and meditation, and I live on a mountain, and so I just am getting outside. I’m hiking a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked so much in my life. My dog is very happy. And I’m also staying connected, and reaching out to the people that I know are alone. And also just keeping myself incredibly clear and healthy and being able to come out of this stronger than ever.

I think that’s a very healthy attitude to have. And I’m trying. It’s hard. I’m throwing myself completely into work, which is probably not the healthiest thing.

No, but it is because it’s creating. We’ve got to create out of this place. This is a place where we can be creating from, because when else… it sounds crazy, but nobody gets this time to just be. You don’t ever get the time. Nobody ever slows down. So we’re being forced to slow down, which means we then will have to look inward at some point. We can distract ourselves all we want, but you have to look inward at some point. And from that point is where you can create. If you’re willing to actually take that opportunity. As opposed to contracting down on this, we need to expand.

You’ve written before. Is that a goal of yours [during this]? I always wonder if people also feel too much pressure to create. Like I’ve seen things where people were like, “Oh, Socrates created such-and-such during … ” or whatever, whoever it is. [Ed. Note: It was Shakespeare] There’s a little bit of pressure, also, to create masterworks.

[Laughs] Yeah. So on the heels of Socrates, I’ll talk about my writing!

[Laughs] Yeah. This is a great interview for you, I’m sure.

[Laughs] I do write. I actually wrote a movie that’s going to end up getting made next year. I wrote it and I’m directing it. And starring in it.

Awesome. That’s a lot.

Yeah, it is a lot. If I say it too many times, I’ll throw up.

[Laughs] With something like this where you’re going to do all three — direct and act, and write it as well — is there anyone that you’ve worked with that you pull lessons from?

Yeah, the great thing is our movie is being produced by Red Hour Films. We have Nicky Weinstock, who’s incredible over there at Red Hour, with Ben Stiller. He’s just been unbelievable in helping us. And then, also, we went down and shadowed the Russo brothers, because I’m friends with those guys. So that was incredible. And it was hilarious, though, to be on set of the Avengers, and probably one of the costumes was still more than our budget. And we were going to shadow them for our indie. It was hilarious. I was like, “Oh. Cool. So Captain America’s shield is basically still more than my budget. But we’re going to go shadow these guys.”

The great thing is that Anthony and Joe Russo were just so helpful, within two seconds of us being down on set in Atlanta, my brother and I got all the information we needed. Joe and Anthony basically just shared with us, talked to us. I also have a ton of director friends that I’ve worked with on both Future Man, and then the pilot I’m going to be shooting is a director that I really respect. I can reach out to these people, and I know that if I needed to, I could shadow them or just sit down with them with my script, and probably be like, “What would you do?” It doesn’t mean I’m going to copy them, but when somebody gives me an example of what they’re going to do, or you see it, it just starts to spark all the ideas and leads you to the next thing that you want to do.

Is doing more behind the scenes work a goal or is this a story that you really wanted to tell on your own and play for yourself?

What happened to me originally, was I wrote a one-person show. That’s how I got into this, with a one-person show. I started writing roles for myself because people didn’t know how to cast me. And I think that people might still not know how to cast me. So I’m excited to keep writing the roles for myself, but then also, in the meantime, having that kind of inform people, like, “Oh, she can also do that. Right.” And then go pick other roles that I haven’t done yet, that I won’t be directing.

I think that whatever the best role is, whatever I’m supposed to be doing, whatever the next… each character I’ve ever done, every show I’ve been on, or movie, I feel like there’s an evolution. I learn something, and then I take it to the next. And to the next and then the next is better and different. However that comes in, whether it’s self-generated, or it’s coming from somebody else giving me roles, I’m excited about it. I don’t think I ever want to get out from it. I like being in front of the camera. But I really like creating the roles for myself, because I know how to cast myself pretty well.

Now, when you’re talking about casting yourself, and I guess showing a different side, is that a big … are you going far away from things that you’ve played before with this? Or is it just subtle differences?

I think that there will be big differences. My movie is quite different, as far as appearance and the energy of it. But there are some elements of me in everything that I do. I think that there are some things that might surprise people, but my movie isn’t Monster. I’m not doing a Charlize Theron Monster next year. But I’m not opposed to doing that. I’ll find my Monster. Trust me.

Oh, I think in these next few weeks we all will find our monster… All right, well thank you very much for taking the time. I’m sorry about the Scrubs 10-year anniversary reminder.

You’re fine. Time is not linear.

The final season of ‘Future Man’ is now available to stream on Hulu.