Future Man: How Eliza Coupe’s Tiger Defies Conventions

We go rathole to rathole with Eliza Coupe, one of the stars of Hulu’s inventive new comedy, Future Man.

Get ready for Future Man to become your new TV obsession. The new comedy from executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg tells an outrageous tale of time travel, the extinction of the human race, and an underdog who rises to his true purpose. Imagine a much more insane, hilarious version of The Terminator and you’ll begin to understand the level of craziness that Future Man operates at. 

The show features an inspired cast of actors, but Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings, Benched, Casual) delivers an incredible performance as Tiger, the disillusioned, hardened warrior from the future. The show throws as many classic sci-fi tropes as possible into a blender, all of which make this fight for the future a memorable journey. 

With the entire first season of the new sci-fi comedy set to drop this week, we check in with Eliza Coupe about her complicated, bad-ass character, the show’s unique approach to science fiction, and how to effectively balance comedy and drama.

DEN OF GEEK: First of all, how much fun is it to get to play such a colossal bad ass? It looks like you’re having such a good time in this role.

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ELIZA COUPE: Oh my God, yes. It’s the dream to be able to do something that’s funny, but also bad-ass and cool. Then Future Man comes along with this character named Tiger, which is just fricking awesome. Honestly, it’s a dream job. And I hate reading things from actors where they say exactly that, but it really is a dream job. It just encompasses everything that I want to do right now. 

Different productions will go to different lengths with this sort of thing, but did the show have you do any sorts of martial arts, fire arms training, or anything like that for the role?

We didn’t have to do anything like that. However, the cool thing was that because this show was going into unchartered territory we could make up new rules for things like combat. Derek Wilson’s character and myself are from a future where everything has been abolished. So they learn how to fight in a very raw, unstylized kind of way. That was helpful for me since I don’t have any training in those areas, but I did get to do a bunch of my own stunts, which was pretty cool. I have two unbelievable stunt doubles, but I got to do the minor stuff. Like tricks with knives, which was really cool. I can spin knives now and do all sorts of crazy shit!

On that note, Tiger certainly feels like the most exaggerated character that you’ve played, but she’s also shut off in a bunch of ways, too. What are some of the challenges of playing a character of such an extreme nature? 

The project was presented to me as a comedy, but I like to—or at least I try to, whether people realize it or not—ground my characters in the real world and through the way that they perceive it. I don’t like just going for the joke. There’s a lot more to things than that. Even with Happy Endings, I went there with my character, Jane. I lived it and people thought I was nuts, but that’s what I was trying to achieve.

So this was presented to me as a comedy, which made me concerned that it might be too jokey. They assured me that it’s much more than that and that there are life or death stakes in play here. That made it become much more exciting to me, but admittedly that did take a toll on me because Tiger might say funny shit, but I’m playing her like it’s a full-on drama. It’s like I’m a different version of Sarah Connor. 

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In spite of Tiger’s sterilization, it still looks like babies are an important element for her throughout the season. Are Tiger’s complicated feelings on the tiny guys evolving?

That will definitely play a major part in her character arc. I’m not into the stereotype that if there’s a woman in something she either needs to be getting married or having a baby. The cool thing here is that Ben Karlin, the showrunner, along with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, don’t want anything stereotypical here. They hate that shit. I remember there was one conversation on whether Tiger should be topless or not and Seth was like, “No. Why would we do that? It’ll take everyone out of the scene. That’s not cool.” Just listening to a man say that on set was probably the coolest thing that’s happened in my career so far. 

I say this because it’s an overall reflection on how these guys work and how much they want to defy conventions. So to bring it all back, in spite of how Tiger might want to have a baby, it’s really not that at all. It’s rotted in this absurd idea of having no idea what a baby even is and then they become these ways of prolonging the human race. How alluring is that? 

There are so many shows or movies that feature that fantastical fish out of water idea where strangers need to adapt. This show explores that all in such different, interesting ways, such as with babies, for instance.

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There’s also one episode that’s all about a baby and Tiger and it’s probably one of the weirdest, most unusual episodes I’ve done in television. And I’ve done some weird shit. This is just crazy and the sort of thing I’ve never seen done before. 

Another thing that I really love about the show is how it feels limitless in a lot of ways, whether it’s the subject matter or just in how it plays around with structure. Do you like when the show can get a little extra creative with form?

Big time. There’s an episode all about a smart house—

That’s my favorite one!

Ahh, it’s so good! That’s my favorite episode and I love it. It doesn’t play around with structure too much, but it just branches off in such a different way that feels atypical to a TV show. 

There are hints of a romance between Tiger and Josh, but do you see Tiger interested in a relationship?

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It’s interesting. There were some things that were cut from the season that alluded to Tiger having a previous romance, but it’s not with who you would assume it would be. It’s maybe the sort of thing that’s being held off if we’re fortunate enough to get a second season. With Tiger’s growing understanding of friendship and family, it feels like something that will eventually have to happen. They’ll just have to figure out how to work past the rathole to rathole business. 

Future Man is definitely a funny show, but it’s also a story with a more serialized arc and mythology to it. Is it fun to be apart of a show like that?

That’s probably what makes it such a dream job. With regular sitcom television, the reason we tune in every week is because these whackadoo characters get their defaults reset each episode. We can watch them go crazy again and make all of the same mistakes, but in a different story. But with this show, the progression of the characters and story is like a movie. That’s something I’ve been yearning for, where my character can truly evolve—and devolve, for that matter because that’s life. 

If you could pick any time and place for Tiger and company to time travel to in the show, what would it be?

Okay, I have two. I think the Wild West would be amazing and a lot of fun. Also, the 1770s in Europe could be a fun detour.

Like would they even know what horses are? Would they just be shooting at them!

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Totally! Or it’d be pretty funny if they just oddly knew how to ride horses out of nowhere. 

Where would you like to see things go with Tiger down the road? What sort of situations would you like to see her get herself into?

I’m not sure! I’ve been so surprised with the scripts so far. There are just so many ways it can go and I know who Tiger is at this point—as cheesy as that may sound—so I’m just happy to enjoy the ride.

Lastly Eliza, do you have a favorite episode or scene from the season that particularly stands out for you?

There’s a scene where Wolf and I have to try to revive Josh and it’s just so funny. Especially since I had to have like a mouthful of puke the entire time.

That scene where you do the huge role call of all your fellow soldiers is pretty damn wonderful, too.

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That was pretty funny because if anyone had actually been on set to watch it, it was basically Seth yelling out names and then me repeating them on camera. I think Seth and I were both making some up on the spot, too. It was a really fun day.

Future Man’s entire first season debuts on Hulu on November 14th.

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Interview with Future Man showrunner, Ben Karlin, on the November Sci Fi Fidelity podcast (at 57:55):

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