Buried in all of the productions Judd Apatow has helped bring to life has been a commitment to the truth. Sometimes it’s optimistic. Other times it’s pessimistic. But the basis of his work is always getting to the reality of what is happening.
He’s done that again with “Love.” The new Netflix series follows nice guy Gus (Paul Rust) and wild-child Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) as they navigate all of the elements of becoming a couple. It’s not always pretty, but Apatow calls it a reflection of life.
“Love is always really complicated, and I think that’s where the drama and comedy comes from. In my head, it’s like, ‘What if there was a show that was every single thing that happened after ‘Knocked Up’ ended? I like the idea of continuing to explore how people continue to get along,” Apatow says. “I felt like there wasn’t a show like this on TV, at least not in this tone.”
The tone wanders between light and dark as Gus tries to rebound from a failed relationship, while Mickey just tries to find someone who really cares. The couple come from very different worlds but still find a bond.
That element of bonding people from different worlds is certainly a continuation of Apatow’s “Knocked Up” theme where Katherine Heigl played an attractive, popular television reporter and Seth Rogen played the ultimate slacker. A drunken one-night stand leads to an unintended pregnancy.
There’s no pregnancy in the first installments of the 10 half-hour episodes of “Love.” But there is a very slow progression of the relationship for the couple.
Apatow is certain the audience will recognize these people.
“We all understand this dynamic, these types of couples,” Apatow says. “It is fun to explore people who are emotional and people who are people-pleasers and what that is covering. Everyone has a defense mechanism with how they are facing the world.
“Underneath, everyone is just as insecure and screwed up.”
Apatow co-created and wrote the series with Rust and Lesley Arfin (who is married to Rust). The original plan was to tell this story in the confines of a feature film. As the group worked on the project, it became clear that there was so much material that it would work best as a TV series.
Netflix agreed and ordered two seasons even before the first episode aired.
Rust has been a fan of Apatow’s work since he saw “Freaks and Geeks,” and that made getting to work together on “Love” a special experience for the Iowa native.
“There were never any clashes. I think one of the reasons Judd wanted to do this was because we have similar types of personalities,” Rust says. The pair work so well together that they ended up writing the script for “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” a film that will also air on the streaming service.
It was also easy for Rust to work with his wife, especially as they began to mine their own relationship for ideas. He calls getting to work with his wife a real dream.
As the project began to take shape, the role of Mickey was written with Jacobs in mind.
The former “Community” star heard about the project just before starting her arc on the HBO series “Girls,” on which Apatow is an executive producer. She had been looking for a project that focused on two people after working in ensemble shows for so long.
“I was really excited about doing something more in the world of dramedy and getting to have incredibly serious scenes and then also very funny things as well,” Jacobs says. “And I think I was so fortunate to have six years on such a great show, and so it’s fun to do something very different tonally with your next project, and then also quality of writing and quality of collaborators.
“So I don’t think it gets much better than this, so it felt like a no-brainer.”
Jacobs says she was attracted to how her character wears her vulnerabilities on her sleeve and is struggling to figure things out, wants the world to be better, wants love, wants to have figured it all out, but she can’t hide that she hasn’t yet figured out any of it.