As the series launches its double-sized fourth season premiere on Sept. 6, Geere tells Moviefone it's gratifying to know that the audience has become as invested in the often painful, frequently hilarious storylines -– specifically Jimmy's abrupt breakup with Gretchen (Aya Cash) in the third season closer –- as the cast and creators.
"There's a different energy than [there was on] Season One, where we're just selling, selling, selling because you want it to go," Geere says. "Now we're in Season Four, and people are as excited as we are about what's going to happen. It's nice –- you can have more conversations of a mutual appreciation and wonder rather than a desperate plea that you may like it."
It's a success story that's a long way from some of Geere's earliest and most humbling career landmarks, as he reveals while previewing the new season.
Moviefone: What was cool and challenging for you to put Jimmy, really, into a full-on, fish-out-of-water situation like the one where we find him as the season opens.
Chris Geere: Well, firstly, it was fantastic to be somewhere else. So we went to Santa Clarita –- very hot! Similar crew to previous years, so you had that camaraderie straight away. We all agreed by the end of it, it felt like we were an independent movie, in that I was acting with everyone new and in an environment that was very new and yet was Jimmy the same old Jimmy?
The reason I grew the beard -- and the reason I got the new clothes and I'm doing all those new jobs -- are because he's running away from everything. He's running. And that made me think maybe he's trying to find a new identity. Find who he is. That was just exciting for me as an actor to work out what's important to him now.
And you think it's just he wants the easy life. He just wants to wake up whenever he likes, piss into a bucket every morning, have an espresso, watch old TV shows, and go to bed. That's a good life, right? No? It's not what Jimmy wants.
And yet he does find a bit of a niche in the trailer park. He's surprisingly handy!
He's using his intelligence to figure stuff out. He doesn't know how to wire a plug, but he can read a book. So he gets to the library and gets all this stuff sorted. He likes taking responsibility for those things. But he won't take responsibility for his heart, and it's something that's been ingrained in him from the beginning. It's quite a British quality, really, which is the stiff upper lip. To brush everything under the rug.
It was brilliant to shoot it because I knew it was going to be a very stylized episode as well. Some really cool shots. It's not dialogue-heavy, the episode. It's not joke-heavy. It's not meant to be like a three-jokes-a-page-type thing. I knew it was going to be a special thing and I think that, together with the hilarious situation that happens in Episode Two, those two coming up together as a premiere was smart move.
Give me a sense of the nature of the season as a whole. What can we look forward to overall?
The show's always been about people who are so dysfunctional -- the dysfunctional relationships, friendships, work, the professional world that they live in. This year, it's far more functional, I think. Edgar and Lindsay find their feet in life and that's really rewarding -– I think for the fans as well; they'll be rooting for them so much. But that takes him down a path which is uncomfortable. Jimmy realizes that in terms of his professional life [that] he might have to sell out a little bit.
He wants to be this big, best-selling novelist -- worldwide recognition, multi-millionaire. Not going to happen. Not going to happen just yet, anyway. And he's written this book, which he calls a "spank" book and... what was the line I've got? "No one's read it with dry hands." [Laughs] I love that. He's realizing that if he wants to actually stay in the house he's living in, he might have to sell out a bit. And that takes him down quite a funny path really.
Did you have your version of that struggle? Ready to take on the world but...
I didn't work for two years and I got offered a panty liner commercial. Like, go and play a sailor on a boat in a panty liner commercial. I was like, "Oh." It was like five grand to go and do it. I had the rent due. I went and dressed up as a sailor, waving, on a boat to a woman who said: "These panty liners are so comfortable, you won't want to take your knickers off." I thought "Oh my God, this is going to come back and haunt me some day." But I think we all have to do something to [survive]. It's always going to be for financial reasons at the end of the day.
I'll start looking for that commercial online right away.
Oh my God. Alldays Panty Liner!
Tell me what you can tell about the Jimmy-Gretchen relationship, because obviously that was left in such a precarious place at the end of last season.
Well, Jimmy's gone one way, which is "Ignore it." Gretchen's gone another way, which is "Embrace it." Embrace the sadness, which is taking her down a crack-smoking route. I wouldn't call her a crack addict, but someone who's willing to take crack versus someone who's not willing to take any responsibility for his life, put them together –- it's going to be fireworks.
Jimmy honestly believes that a simple apology will suffice for what happened last year. Gretchen's not going to let him off that easily. In fact, so harshly that, it's fairly scary. She's fairly scary at points.
The realness and seriousness of the relationship was embedded in the DNA of the very first episode, but the show's so funny, too. Have you been surprised at the progression of that story and how serious and how close to the bone it got sometimes? People really relate to it.
At first, I was surprised and I thought it was a very wonderful response that we got, where people were very open about their situation. Especially with depression or PTSD or breakups or family bereavement -– all these different things. And on paper you're like "Is this really a comedy?" But the writers structure it so well that, when we're on set, we basically feel like the first part of the day is a "De-de-de-doom, jokes." The second half is sometimes a flood of tears.
I think we've never tried to insult the audience at all by approaching subjects in a counterfeit way. We've always wanted to give an honest portrayal and still make the audience think but not insult them in any way. And so, not that we recognized that that worked as a thing, we've just always been like that. So we're just continuing to do that.