The new TV show Those Who Can't, created by and starring Adam Cayton-Holland, Ben Roy, and Andrew Orvedahl from the comedy group The Grawlix, follows three teachers and a librarian working at an Colorado high school and trying to get their lives together. Maria Thayer (Eagleheart, Strangers With Candy) costars as Abbey, the aforementioned librarian who's doing this job while in between opportunities. Those Who Can't is TruTV's first scripted show.
Maria Thayer's character got majorly rewritten along the way, going from just a love interest to being a comedic character in her own right. BUST talked to Maria Thayer about the evolution of her character, playing a badass Shakespearian heroine in Love's Labour's Lost the musical, and more.
The character of Abbey was retooled after the show didn't get pick up by Amazon. Nikki Glaser played Abbey in the pilot, correct?
At what point did you come to the role?
Well, they totally reshot the pilot from the Amazon [pilot], so I haven't even seen it. I'd met the guys at a comedy festival a couple of years ago, so I sort of knew them. I met them in the back of a van going from one location to the next. So when they were recasting it they thought of me and they brought me in and I did an improv with Adam [Cayton-Holland], and went in twice or something, and I didn't think I was going to get it, I was actually sure of it, but then I did.
Can you tell me a little bit about the character before she was rewritten?
I didn't see the pilot so I don't know what [she] was [like] in the first Amazon pilot, but in our pilot, she was the same character, but she had a different function in the show. All my scenes were in the library. I was just stuck in the library. And I was basically there to be a possible girlfriend of one of the guys. It was just a lot of Adam in particular hitting on me and me being like "No, I don't like you." It's much more interesting to play somebody that's an instigator of their own life.
So you shot a pilot in which you were just stuck in the library and then you reshot where your character was revised?
Yes, exactly. We shot the pilot and then [it] got picked up for the full series by TruTV. So there's two pilots: there's the Amazon pilot and the pilot that TruTV made.
And then TruTV wanted you to reshoot and change the character?
I don't know where it actually came from. I guess everybody agreed after the pilot was shot that they wanted the character to be something different. We came back [and] the producers were like, "We're reshooting every single thing from you in the pilot." [I was like] "What happened? What did I do? No one else is getting reshot." But they reshot every scene that I did in the pilot, and they made it more like I was their friend.
One of my favorite lines of yours is when Abbey sarcastically tells Loren (Adam Cayton-Holland), "I would love to sit and mansplain friendship to you." It's so cool that Abbey reclaims the word mansplain. Do you think a woman can mansplain?
Sure...I've noticed in talking to people and doing press with people who haven't seen the show they immediately assume that I'm the reasonable one because I'm a girl. It's really strange, it's sort of shocking. And it's not often men, it's women, that that happens with. And one thing I love about this person is...I think of her as just in some ways as terrible and selfish as all the guys. Anything a guy can do, a woman can do it too, even when it's a bad thing.
I got to see you in Love's Labour's Lost the musical...
I love it so much.
Oh my god, (laughs) you totally made my day.
I loved it. The lyrics are so ornate and I loved your character in it, too, because she wasn't just the best friend/love interest. I liked your song ["Stop Your Heart"], how you're like "I'm just done playing these games, I can't do it any more, why can't we just tell people that we love them?" Do you have another project coming up where you're going to get to sing again?
Oh my god. I wish! It's so crazy because that job was such a dream job...I was in New York when I was 17 and I thought I was going to be in musical theater. I didn't think I was gonna do comedy at all. And then to get such a great role in [Shakespeare in] the Park: it was just more than I ever dreamed. It was also a good lesson for what your dreams really mean, because when I got my dream, I was very happy for a week, and then it was fun but it was so hard because...I hadn't been in a musical in like 10 years. I hadn't danced ever. I was the worst dancer. The costume designer told me in a lovely way that I was the worst dancer. She was like "You look like you're having so much fun...[I] can't take [my] eyes off you, but you're not a great dancer." [And I said] "I know I'm not."
I'm making this answer long because no one ever asks me about this...I hope that I get that opportunity [to be in a musical]. It's the best. It's my favorite thing to do. I ended up in this comedy career and I love it and I get to work with such fun people, but at heart, I'm a total musical theater dork.
Were you trained in musical theater?
I, weirdly, because I'm an idiot, I thought that [with Juilliard] I was going to a musical theater school, but...It's a classical theater school. I took one singing class, but that was what I wanted to do. My dream when I was leaving [high school in] Minnesota was to be in the chorus of a Broadway musical.
How long have you been singing? Were you in your high school musicals?
Yeah. I was in Annie three times. We did a musical called Wackadoo Zoo, that was the first musical I did. I don't know if the cast recording it available of my 4th grade production (laughs).
Your co-stars Adam, Ben, and Andrew have been performing together in The Grawlix for a while. Your chemistry with them is really great. Was it hard to work off these people that are used to working as a trio?
Yeah. It was. It was hard. Years and years ago, I did [Strangers With Candy] with Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert, who were a trio that performed together for years and years and years. You do feel like that's a group and you're trying to navigate inside of it. The [Grawlix] guys were so inclusive of me and really made it a point to welcome me, but the fact is, they'd known each other for like 11 years, and they've been performing together for a little less than that, and it took me a little while to understand their sense of humor enough to contribute to it. In the beginning I sort of had to force myself to try to get in there, even if it was gonna flop. I consciously was like "I'm gonna make myself a part of the Grawlix."
Do you watch Billy on the Street [which is also on TruTV]?
I do. It's my dream to get harassed by him.
The series premiere of Those Who Can't will air on TruTV Thursday, February 11 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Top Image Via PMK BNC. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanabria. Images Via TruTV.
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Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She is a Blog Editor at BUST. She has written for Splitsider, The Billfold, Death and Taxes, Mashable, Indiewire, and Time Out New York. She loves all things Tina Fey. Word to the wise: her first name is pronounced with a long “i,” like the red-haired girl from France. Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_.