EXCLUSIVE: Tony Hale, Billy's Love Life and More Revelations About 'Difficult People' Season 3
By Stacy Lambe
Normally a packed
Italian restaurant and bar in the East Village of New York City, San Marzano
has been transformed into Lola’s D’s Café (more on that name change in a bit),
a less busy café run by Denise (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nate (Derrick Baskin),
where Billy Epstein (Billy Eichner) works on Difficult People. During ET’s visit to the set of the Hulu comedy,
which just so happens to be a day they’re filming scenes from the season three finale,
things are noticeably different.
For one thing, there’s that name. Normally called D’s Café, the place has been taken over by Lola, an outspoken transgender waitress played by the bitingly funny Shakina Nayfack. “Lola saved us from Sephora,” Denise explains to the staff -- Billy, Lola, Denise, Nate and Matthew (Cole Escola), who has triumphantly returned from a Supermarket Sweep-turned-Scientology fiasco -- gathered around a table. But there’s also a new face among them: Tony Hale.
Yes, the Emmy-winning Veep star is now working at Lola’s D’s Café. Playing himself, the actor reveals to Billy in an earlier scene that he’s just looking for steady work. “Hollywood chews you up and spits you out,” he laments at one point.
Back at the table, where the staff has convened to hear Denise’s news, the cast struggles to get through a single take. Hale messes up the first one before asking director Scott King if he can make a small change to his character’s movement and then messes up again, forgetting the change. After getting it together, the cast gets through most of “a great take,” according to King, before an overhead light goes out.
As the crew rushes to get it replaced, the actors remain standing around the table, where they soon start cracking each other up, telling hushed jokes -- yes, this is a set where the cast genuinely does share laughs with each other -- and gossiping about Lindsay Lohan’s Instagram. Commenting on a recent photo showing her in Thailand perched on a paddleboard, Eichner briefly recalls working with her on Billy on the Street, in a segment called “Lindsay Lohan and Billy Eichner Destroy a Car.” “Hopefully she’s better now,” he concludes.
With the light fixed, everyone gets back into character and starts running through the scene again, this time with Nayfack adding an improvised joke, calling Kat Von D a “cisgender Nazi sympathizer.” And just when it looks like they’re going to get through the whole scene, Sidibe turns to Escola and starts laughing. When King asks her to run the line again, she screams, “I can’t!” Sidibe then immediately breaks into another laughing fit -- this time cracking up everyone on set. And this is pretty much how the rest of the day goes, as everyone struggles to keep the laughter to a minimum despite filming the bitterly funny series.
In between takes (and fits of laughter), ET caught up with the cast and creator and star Julie Klausner by phone -- she was sick during the day of our visit -- to get the scoop on season three:
Yes, Billy Gets Off Grindr and Finds a Boyfriend
As many fans know by now, there’s going to be a signficant change to Billy’s love life on the show. Unlike the past two seasons, where audiences have seen Billy hook up at the gym or find dates on Grindr (“They come and they go,” Eichner says), he will find an unexpected relationship with Todd (Star Trek’s John Cho), an advertising executive.
How they encounter each other is too good to spoil, but Eichner says his character will have an “intimate, romantic relationship with this guy who can really go head-to-head with him -- and turns him on in a new way.”
Billy’s Relationship With Todd Is Not in Competition With Billy and Julie’s Friendship
Unlike like other shows, say, Will & Grace, where their dating lives often tested the limits of their friendship, Eichner says that’s not the story they’re trying to tell on Difficult People. “That's kind of a cliche and I think we've seen that story before,” he says. “It's not a tug-of-war between Julie and John Cho's character.”
In fact, because she believes that pop culture has not done justice to the relationship between a gay man and straight woman, “it was very important for me to present a gay male romantic relationship that was not in competition with a relationship that he had with his best girlfriend,” Klausner says of Billy and Todd’s romance, which will unfold over the course of this season. While she says the show doesn’t have a bible, one rule that she firmly stands by is that Billy and Julie don’t fight. “It’s very important to maintain the integrity of the love story and the two of them.”
From Vanessa Williams to Tony Hale, the New Season Sees Even More Guest Stars
Like the past two seasons, Difficult People will welcome plenty of A-list guest stars to season three. In addition to Cho as Billy’s new love interest and Hale as himself, Williams will play Matthew’s ex-wife Trish, who still pines for her former lover.
“I don't think that anything gets better than that,” Escola says of Williams, teasing that “she was so game.” “It was very bizarre because we had this very intimate scene before we even had really met each other.”
Also joining this season are Lucy Liu, Rosie O’Donnell, Larry Wilmore, Chris Elliott, Maury Povich, Victor Garber and Susan Lucci. Additionally, ET revealed earlier this year that Stockard Channing will play Julie’s mother Marilyn’s (Andrea Martin) “trashy” sister, Bonnie, and John Turturro will play one of Marilyn’s former flames.
Trump’s America Means Trouble for the Characters of Difficult People
As TV learns how to cope with a Donald Trump presidency, each show deals with it differently. Broad City will bleep out every mention of Trump’s name, Insecure indirectly addresses the racism that’s come with the presidency, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt pokes fun at Trump University. On Difficult People, Klausner says the show had to address the new administration because “it is a political show whether or not we inteded to be.” The result of the election was a shock to the writers’ room, but ultimately it “informed our worldview and our frame of the show and the world in the show,” she says.
On season three, Trump’s America means especially bad news for D’s Café. “Corporations are now branches of the U.S. military and are allowed to take over any part of the country they want,” Escola says, which explains why Lola has to save the restaurant from being taken over by Sephora.
But jokes and commentary aside, Klausner says that she’s proud to have a show that “I hope is both a distraction and a statement. Hopefully, people watching it will know that despite the political climate, they are not alone.”
Difficult People season three premieres Tuesday, Aug. 8 on Hulu.