You’re The Worst’s Desmin Borges on Giving the Voiceless a Voice

We talk to Desmin Borges about You’re the Worst’s most recent episode and the powerful arc his character’s been on this year.

You’re the Worst is a sitcom that constantly breaks rules and sheds light on topics that you wouldn’t expect in a comedy. Last season opened up—and this season continues to explore—the conversation about Gretchen and clinical depression, but this year shifts things over to Edgar in a lot of ways with his own trauma, his PTSD, gaining a lot of focus this season. 

Last night’s episode, “Twenty-Two,” is a showcase of the gauntlet that Edgar is going through on this show as well as the range that Desmin Borges is capable of bringing to the table. It’s a clear stand-out of the series and certainly the best Edgar episode to date, but it’s also arguably the show’s heaviest installment (and weirdly its most optimistic). We touched base with Desmin Borges about Edgar’s dark spiral of this season, the importance of an episode like “Twenty-Two,” and why Zustified is the better workout than Treadsparent.

DEN OF GEEK: I think that You’re the Worst has grown into one of the most poignant and insightful television shows about the human condition. It goes to some brutally honest places, but what do you think this season of the show is saying?

DESMIN BORGES: Yeah, I think the current theme of the show this season is “family,” quote unquote. We’re all naturally born into a family and then when we become a certain age we decide to build another family that we choose to have around us. Navigating our way through what our original family life was like and what our chosen family life is like can be a pretty difficult balance as we get older, specifically for this grouping. 

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We’ve got Jimmy dealing with the death of his father. Gretchen dealing with the overbearing nature of her parents which has resulted in her clinical depression. Lindsay is dealing with the fact that she’s having a baby with Paul when she probably doesn’t want to be. Edgar is more of the essence of dealing with the family that he’s built around himself because he has no other actual family anymore. He doesn’t speak with any of them. So I think this season is all about trying to balance the family that we once had and the family that we want to have now. 

This newest episode, “Twenty-Two,” is maybe my favorite from the series, but it’s also definitely the heaviest. Edgar goes down an especially dark spiral this year. What are your thoughts on the places that he’s taken this season?

I think our ultimate goal was to tell these stories as truthfully and honestly as possible. We talk about it a lot on set that we’re making sure that the moment at hand isn’t funny just for the sake of being funny. If it’s cringeworthy funny then we’re probably doing something that’s a little more down the right path of what we want to be doing. Ultimately with Edgar, we see him on this really upward trajectory with his PTSD for the past two seasons. Statistically speaking, when you’re dealing with mental health issues, it’s like a roller coaster ride. There are a lot of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and at some point Edgar was destined to fall. Now we’re seeing him at the peak point of the roller coaster and falling down—free falling—as quickly and swiftly as possible. 

From episode five on we’re going to have to see how he recovers and how he continues to get back up to the top of the mountain. I think Stephen Falk has really found a way to introduce and navigate through these elements so when we get to this episode it doesn’t feel especially abrupt or out of the ordinary. It kind of feels like, oh yeah, this is what has been bubbling under this guy for two seasons. He’s just been able to mask it really well behind this ridiculous cocktail of pills. 

I think it’s especially  important that we tell a side of a vet’s story that we’ve never seen before. These guys go out there and do things that I could never physically, mentally, of emotionally be prepared enough to do. I feel incredibly lucky to be pushing forward stories where we’re giving voices to the voiceless. We’re getting to tell stories that connect with people that normally don’t get to see their story told on television. I hope that this episode continues to open up the dialogue about how we need to support these people and give them everything that they need so they feel safe when they come home. 

Something that I really love about “Twenty-Two” is the way that it does these muted scenes and plays with the sound design. It’s really brilliant and almost like the show is doing a bottle episode within Edgar’s paranoid mind. 

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That’s all the brilliance of Stephen Falk and our DP, Mike Berlucchi, and our cameramen. Most of the time I’ll look at a couple playbacks here and there, but for this one specifically I didn’t want to see anything. I knew we were using fish eye lenses, that flairs would be coming in, and that we were using a lot of Steadicam. I knew it was going to have that jitttery, unsettled sort of feel, but I didn’t want to see it before it was all put together because the imagery I had in my mind was so specific of what he was feeling internally. I didn’t want to necessarily jump the gun there and act the wrong way. 

I also like that this episode kind of runs parallel to “Men Get Strong,” but also does a good job at answering the question of what Edgar does while the show is focused on everybody else. 

Again you’ve got to give credit to Stephen. He builds the internal environment of this show so well. Sometimes characters can take what feels like an episode or two off, but then they come back and you’re like, “Oh my God, that’s what was happening with them?” And you’re still completely invested and hungry for more. 

In “Twenty-Two” it’s particularly devastating to see how Jimmy and Gretchen treat Edgar. He’s trying so hard and they don’t care at all. His issues aren’t even on their radar. Do you think that they’ll change their ways towards Edgar?

I think Jimmy and Gretchen kind of represent our society on a small scale. Once our society stops pushing vets aside, maybe we’ll see that transition happen within Gretchen and Jimmy. We are still talking about a really dark comedy though and part of its point is looking at these dark reactions to how people react towards people with PTSD. If we take that away and make them a little too soft, we might lose that dynamic which is crucial to propelling their relationship forward. 

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I mean, at some point Edgar is probably—hopefully, knock on wood—

stand up to those two specifically and say, “What the fuck are you doing? I’m here for you all the time. I’ve been championing your fucked up relationship from the very beginning, and yet you treat me like shit! Either treat me better or I’m gone.” And the scariest part of that is that they might not even care if Edgar leaves and I think that’s something that Edgar is very aware of and why he hasn’t pushed that envelope more. 

Very important question here… You’re at the gym. Zustified or Treadsparent, which do you choose?

Hmmmmmm. I’ll take Zustified! I’d rather be on the treadmill watching Transparent, but for workout purposes Zumba’s a blast and Justified is an amazing show. I think I’ve gotta go with Zustified.

Finally, is there a particular episode or set piece beyond “Twenty-Two” that you’re especially excited for people to see this season?

Oh man, we’ve got so much great stuff coming up. There is one moment in particular and I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s in our Sunday Funday episode, which is titled, “The Last Sunday Funday.” There is—it is gorgeous. It is beautiful. There is a particular moment where I feel like Edgar and Lindsay connect again and Edgar is able to break through. He sees a pathway in which he needs to go and there’s a special something that happens with him and the entire group that I think is probably one of the things I’m most excited for everyone to see. I won’t give it away, but it is going down in “The Last Sunday Funday,” which is happening soon!

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You’re the Worst airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FXX.