Love Season 3: Paul Rust on Gus, Mickey, and Endings

We chat with the star and co-creator of Netflix’s ‘Love’ about how its emotional final season came together

This interview contains spoilers for Love Season 3

Love is a very special show that manages to tap into the raw, ugly nature of relationships like few other programs are capable of doing. It presents romance and courtship in its flawed, unfiltered nature, popped pimples and all. But through all of this a really beautiful relationship begins to bloom and in the show’s final season, all of the pain finally pays off. Against all odds, Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) are now in a committed, functional relationship and the series’ final season digs into that concept with a ferocious appetite.

Love Season 3, its final season, completes the story of Gus and Mickey in many ways, but it also features plenty examples where these characters go through independent crises. Gus is forced to really face who he is, answer some hard questions about himself, and the character is forced to go to exciting territory in this concluding year. With the show’s full story now available on Netflix, Paul Rust talks to us about his favorite memories from the series, why this final season is different, and the future of Mickey and Gus.

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DEN OF GEEK: First of all, I really want to commend you guys on ending this show after three seasons. I love this series to death, but it definitely feels like a program where brevity is its friend. Did you enter this year sort of realizing that the story was running its course, or was there a time where you considered going longer with it?

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PAUL RUST: Well we knew at the start of season three that we maybe wanted to make this the final season, so that made us consider the sort of choices that we should be making. As the season progressed, myself, Judd Apatow, and my wife, Lesley Arfin—we all created the show together—we were talking to Netflix and we all mutually decided that this felt like the appropriate time to wrap up this story. We got to say everything that we wanted to on the relationships and these characters. I’m sure that we could have continued to write stories and explore characters, but on some level it’s always nice to leave people wanting more.

It’s difficult because the longer the show goes on, there’s just more potential for Gus and Mickey to get hurt, which isn’t exactly satisfying

Right, right. Once you start liking these characters, you’re almost just like, “Can’t everyone just be happy?”

On that point, was it difficult to generate more conflict this season since the year sort of begins with Gus and Mickey in a good place? They’re definitely the best versions of themselves this year.

Yeah! We made that choice to have them in this honeymoon period where things are actually working well for them, but we knew that a possible pitfall in that is then figuring out where the drama comes from. It turned out to be a good challenge for us though and it was really exciting. I’m sort of articulating the show like this for the first time, but at least for me and my friends, it’s reasonably easy for a relationship to become a container for all of your negative feelings. To be all, “If I had a girlfriend then all of this would be better,” but then people do find themselves in a relationship and they go, “Oh fuck! I was unhappy all along! It was my work, my friends, my family!” So that became a fun challenge. If they’re getting along, then what else is out there that’s causing conflict? These people are usually causing the most havoc for themselves in the end.

It’s also really interesting to get to meet Gus’ family this season and get to view him in that context. Was that something you considered doing in previous seasons at all? Would you have liked to have explored more of that through the series if it were continuing?

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It was definitely a conscious choice to not meet any family members back in season one because it would feel Inorganic. So we waited until the second season to meet Mickey’s dad. So then when we trying to figure out the context for how Mickey meets Gus’ parents, it was funny to us to make it the complete opposite of what Gus went through. When he met Mickey’s dad it was one-on-one, in LA, and with a very finite amount of time. Gus had it easy! Mickey needs to meet every single member of Gus’ family, on their home turf, and she’s there for like five days!

So for me all of this felt like the right time to introduce them. We’re happy where we’re ending things, but if we did go a little longer I think it would have been nice to meet Mickey’s mom. That’s sort of the one sole regret that I have. We just knew that if you’re meeting Gus’ family it would feel forced to throw Mickey’s mom in there too, but it would have been nice to meet the woman that Mickey came from.

How did the idea of pairing Birdie together with Chris come about? They’re so damn good together and I think their growing relationship is maybe my favorite thing from this season.

I think that came about by us realizing just how lucky we were to be blessed with so many talented actors. Every day I thanked my lucky stars that I got to work with Gillian Jacobs, who is such an amazing actor and brings so much depth to everything that we do. Oh my God though, Claudia O’Doherty, Chris Witaske, Mike Mitchell, they’re all incredible and with Claudia and Chris it was just a case of them both being so much fun to watch when they’re on screen together. Also, because Gus and Mickey are getting along, it felt like Birdie could also step in to shoulder some of the drama and conflict this season.

You guys also do a pretty good job at making Randy just the worst by the end of all of this. The fact that he’s homeless is pretty awful. What’s your take on him? Do you think he’s a bad guy or that he still has redeeming qualities to him?

The challenge in writing a show that’s about people and their flaws is that it can easily tip over—okay, I’ll sometimes watch something and there will be characters that are written in a way that I’ll know that the writer just hates human beings. They’re expressing this misanthropic point of view with these detestable characters. But then you can watch something with flawed characters and feel like the writer cares the most about humans because they’re willing to accept these flaws. It’s not for me to say how successful we’ve been with that, but that’s probably the number one thing on my mind with this show. We want people to be flawed, but we don’t want it to be mean-spirited.

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Mike Mitchell, who plays Randy, is an old friend of mine and you couldn’t meet a more wonderful people. It’s funny because sometimes that’s what you get when you’re so likable. We really push the limits of what you can tolerate with him because we know that Mike is such a lovable guy. So I do think Randy is a flawed guy, but I do love him for that and think that he’s deserving of love. By the end of the season I hope people see that some micro-steps have been taken with the character and maybe in a year’s time he’ll be better along with his life.

Let’s talk about that ending a little bit! Did you guys go back and forth over if they’d get married or not, or if events would play out any differently?

We definitely considered different, multiple endings. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs as writers if we didn’t just make countless lists of where this ending could go. This is something that I actually liked about our show, which I’m reluctant to say because I feel to be a proper writer I need to hate everything that I’ve done. But we really wanted to have an ending that can feel like it’s a happy ending if you want it to be and the same can be said for if you think this is a dark conclusion. All of our season finales have that feeling and I like that a lot about them. Broadly, that was the goal with our ending. I’m also reluctant to say this, but we wanted that ambiguity in the ending where there are multiple interpretations. I have a friend, Dan, who says, “Ambiguity means multiple meanings, not no meanings.” I’m content with that final note.

Well and I think Love is very unique in the sense that it’s this eye of the beholder sort of thing. You bring your own relationship baggage into the show and if you’re happy or miserable, you might project that onto Mickey and Gus, too.

I appreciate you saying that! If I say something like that, it can sound defensive. Like you know when somebody gets so worked up over something that a fictional character does in a TV show and often it can be this case of, “Well, I think that might actually be something you’re angry at yourself about…” It’s tough with a show like this because there are really no “bad guys” in life. Conflict comes from a person’s own actions, not what someone else does to them. So this sort of show might not be exciting to some people, but if this kind of story is your thing, then you’ll love it. It’s also nice to see if you can push people’s personal buttons.

Finally, over the course of Love’s three seasons, do you have a favorite memory or a scene or storyline that you’re especially proud of?

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I really like the episode where Gus meets Mickey’s dad. I know that a lot of the writing there came from my wife, Lesley, and she did some really amazing work there. So the writing was really great, but it was also the first time that we worked with Lynn Shelton as a director, who we really clicked with on everything. Daniel Stern was also there, who’s so great. But then finally, Gillian kills it so hard in that episode and it felt like such a good episode to shoot. This might be a little corny to say, but it can also be really stressful to meet a significant other’s parents or family members. So I’d like to think that if someone had a really tough experience there or was nervous on that front, that they could watch that episode and maybe feel a little better or like their situation wasn’t that bad.

I’m just really happy that you guys played “The Unicorns” in the last episode.

Me too, man! I’ve been such a huge fan of them for so long. It’s funny; before I started writing professionally I had a job logging video footage for behind the scenes footage for special features. Interestingly enough, I worked on the behind the scenes footage for Superbad and I don’t think any of this stuff even got used, but there were animated DVD menu screens where Michael Cera dances to “The Unicorns!” I love Michael. I met him on the fourth season of Arrested Development. I just really think that of our generation he’s just one of the most gifted actors. But that was the first time i heard “The Unicorns!” They’ve stuck with me ever since and it works well there in that episode.

‘Love’s’ third and final season is now available to stream on Netflix