Some endings are only just the beginning.
Best known as neurotic alpha Jane Kerkovich-Williams on ABC’s cult hit Happy Endings, Eliza Coupe returns with a literal vengeance in Future Man, Hulu’s new action-comedy series helmed by Seth Rogen and producing partner Evan Goldberg. She stars as Tiger, a time-traveling purple-haired warrior from a dystopian future ruled by a bioengineered super race.
Back to blonde, Coupe takes another quick trip to the past to explore what engineered her very queer present.
Tiger, your ass-kicking character in Future Man, is one tough cookie. How did you get into that mindset?
I’ve got a lot of anger inside me, and I think I always have, underneath it all. It was an intense shooting schedule, where I was tired but barreling through, so I don’t always know if it was my anger or Tiger’s anger you saw on the screen.
Did you wear a wig or dye your hair purple?
I dyed it every weekend in my bathroom sink. Originally it was going to be silver, but it looked gray on camera. We went through blue, green, lavender—no one could decide the right color, because it always looked different under different light. It was like mood hair.
So you were rocking purple hair when you weren’t shooting?
I didn’t really care. But at the end of the week, the color was so faded and I was so tired. By Saturday, with no makeup on, I just looked like some strung-out meth head roaming around Malibu.
Tiger has some hilariously filthy lines. Do dirty words just roll off your tongue?
I grew up with brothers and played ice hockey in New Hampshire, so foul language is easy for me. I have to tone it down, actually. Sometimes, during a scene, Seth and Evan would be like, “OK, try a different word than ‘fuck.’”
The show has gotten a lot of attention for its prosthetic penises. What was it like to have those flopping around?
It was crazy. I’d be in the makeup trailer and one would just be sitting around on someone’s station, like, okay, wow, there it is. But it was really interesting to touch.
You couldn’t help yourself?
I just needed to poke it!
With more and more men being accused of sexual misconduct, some Future Man reviews have noted that it’s a bad time for a dude comedy with dick jokes. How do you respond to that criticism?
I saw those headlines, but it should be noted that Tiger is the leader of the resistance. The show actually promotes female empowerment. And, you know, we still need to be able to laugh.
You recently posted a reminder on Instagram that there are still “good men in this world.”
I did. I don’t want us to hate all men. Look, I have my own history of negative stuff when it comes to men, so I’m the first one to champion the women speaking up right now. On a very personal level, I know how difficult that is. But now I only surround myself with incredible men.
Like your dreamy Future Man costars, Josh Hutcherson and Derek Wilson?
They’re easy on the eyes, sure, but also beautiful on the inside. They really had my back, and we had so much fun. I got lucky, because actors are such a weird breed—I don’t even know if we’re human.
But is there such a thing as too many dudes and dicks?
I wrote a pond hockey movie with my brother that’s being made this winter—I’m also directing and starring in it—and there was a suggestion at some point to have an all-female cast. But I don’t think that helps the cause, because it just alienates people. There’s a strong female lead, but I’d rather represent everyone—men, women, different ethnicities and sexual orientations—in a classy, intelligent way.
Your script includes queer characters?
There are two awesome gay characters, and one of them is really good at ice hockey. We got notes, like, “But they probably don’t…” I was like, “No, they do, because their sexuality doesn’t matter.”
One Future Man character is revealed to be closeted in a subplot handled with surprising sensitivity, especially considering it’s a comedy from the guys who wrote Sausage Party. Was there LGBT representation behind the scenes?
Yeah, but that didn’t matter because everyone on set was so cool and conscious. Everyone understood that was an important subject that needed to be treated with care. Everyone knows we need to see more of those stories, and not just in serious dramas.
Happy Endings ended in 2013 after three seasons, but I like to imagine the cast still hangs out all the time, bantering and abbreviating. Do you?
No, but I did just go to Elisha Cuthbert’s baby shower. There are definitely still group texts going on, and the titles of the group texts always get changed to some inside joke from the Happy Endings set.
With Adam Pally as Max, a defiantly non-stereotypical gay character, Happy Endings was a gay fave. Did you feel the love from that audience?
For sure. It makes me so happy they like my work because the gays are my fave. Even though I’m straight, it makes me feel like I belong. We share the same sensibility. My best friend is gay, actually.
You have a Max?
Well, it’s a woman. [Laughs] But I guess she is my Max. We joke that someday we’re just going to run away together. My husband doesn’t like going to events, so I usually bring her along.
Has that ever caused any confusion?
Oh, I feel like the jury’s been out about me for a long time. Because the unfortunate stereotype, of course, is that a strong, edgy woman must be a lesbian. That’s always bothered me a little bit, honestly. No one wants to be stereotyped, right? I know I’m not as girly as other actresses. I have a ton of tattoos, some of which look like prison tats, and I love a denim jumpsuit.
FBI agent Hannah Wyland, your recurring role on Quantico, was strong and edgy.
Yes, and she was a lesbian. [Laughs] See? This is probably why everyone thinks I’m a lesbian. And that’s fine. But then please go look at pictures of my husband on Instagram.
On Hulu’s Casual you played Emmy, a sex-positive love interest who slept with both men and women. How was that experience?
That was a really hard role for me because of the nudity, but there’s a part of me that’s a free spirit like Emmy. I was interested in tapping into that, because I normally play rigid alphas. It was fascinating to play her, because I really had to be free in my body.
You had a racy sex scene with Teri Andrez. Was it any different from shooting a sex scene with a man?
Not really. But she was so beautiful and tiny, and I’m very self-conscious of my large man hands, so I felt like a monster undoing her bra. She probably thought I was some gorilla, pawing at her.
That storyline was tricky, because it risked exploiting bisexuality for the straight male gaze.
Yeah, I have a real problem with that. I hate anything that’s just for straight guys—which is why I dress for myself, not for men. There was a lot of awareness around that concern on Casual, so we built up the character beforehand. I only do things that make sense to me.
What about when Jane reconnected with her college ex-girlfriend on Happy Endings?
Yeah, I think we actually cut something from that episode—maybe an almost-kiss?—because it felt tacky and too easy.
Did you have a similar period of experimentation?
Well, I did go to CalArts. I think it’s especially common for people tapped into their creative side. As an alternative kid, going to theater camps, I definitely had moments where I questioned my sexuality. There were no guys that I liked because I felt smarter than all of them, so I thought maybe I wasn’t supposed to be with men. But that was a dead-end, because I realized that I love men.
Were you raised in a liberal household?
I had such open, loving parents. We’re not religious, but we even went to an open, affirming Protestant church that celebrated the LGBT community. They had a rainbow flag hanging right in the, you know, whatever-it’s-called—see, that’s how religious I am.
It’s no wonder you’re attracted to queer projects.
I was made fun of brutally in grade school and high school because I had a lot of learning disabilities, so I understand on a physical level what it’s like to feel different. We all know that feeling on some level. So I’m glad I can play those parts, and I’ll definitely play more of them.
Queer or not, your characters are always more complicated than meets the eye.
I’m a complicated human being. If someone walked through my brain for a day, they’d probably be like, “Get me the fuck out of here!”
Future Man is now streaming on Hulu.