As happens in life, things have changed since we last checked in with Josh on the Pivot sitcom, “Please Like Me.” As creator/writer/star Josh Thomas told me recently, his TV alter ego has grown up some and is facing different complications but a lot of the same level of hilarity in the situations he finds himself in. For example, not many adults think of showering with a baby but Josh does and the results are hysterical.
But, for fans who loved the first season of Aussie sitcom, we’re still getting a Josh who falls for his roommate and navigates his way through life as only he can. And Thomas was quick to point out that the show is not suddenly an incarnation of “Homeland” with major plot twists. Instead, it’s still a slice of life with a spin of funny.
I sat down with Thomas recently to talk the second season, whether he’s adjusted to American audiences, if he’s a fan of keeping up with the goings ons of celebrities and how he’s found humor in dark situations like mental hospitals.
I remember when we talked for the first season, you said you were getting used to America. Have you spent more time here? What do you think?
Josh Thomas: I haven’t spent as much as I like. I’m going to try and spend a lot more time making it here this year just to get used to you guys and your confidence and your projection. Very direct, very just clear. Americans will tell you the good things that they did. Even if I’m not interested, they’ll just sit you down and tell you what their achievements are. I don’t need to know what your achievements are. I don’t want to know someone’s achievements. I want to know your failures. I’m not going to be better friends with you if you show me how well you’re doing. You tell me when you f**ked up and then we can hang out.
Tell me how the last year has been for you because the show did very well here. It did very well back in Australia. Does it feel different to you?
JT: I mean it’s been a crazy year because we made 10 episodes for television in quite a short amount of time. Any decision that’s made in the show comes across my desk at some point. If you see a bowl of macaroni and cheese, I approved the look of that bowl of macaroni and cheese. And there’s thousands of decisions like that that get made.
Do you find it challenging wearing all those hats while making the show?
JT: Oh, I love it. I would hate to do the same thing all the time. I love that my job has these different sections where I do different things. At the moment, I’m doing publicity. That’s the worst part of the year, no offense. I mean this conversation is lovely. And then at least I like being in the editor’s suite, this dark room for ages just stuck with these people and writing just alone in my house and going stir crazy. And then on set, which is just wild.
There’s a bit of a time jump from season one to two, right?
JT: Yeah, we move forward a bit because I’m getting older and it’s just getting a bit humiliating for me to pretend I’m 21. It’s humiliating, isn’t it? So we go forward just a bit. And the characters have grown up a bit. Josh is a lot more confident. And just because I think it would get a bit exhausting to watch him be that awkward. And not a lot happens. It’s not “Homeland.” There are no big twists.
I’ve always appreciated that the show has a dark layer because of the illnesses and that sort of thing, which is just real life.
JT: But life is funny though, right? I really don’t understand the split between comedy and drama in television because to just have any scene that’s always funny or always dramatic, I’ve just never had an experience in my life that just was constantly sad or constantly hilarious. It’s just nonsense. So the show sort of does both. And you never really know which way it’s going to go. But I think that’s good.
A lot of the first season was about Josh you know coming out to himself and his parents and all that. Is he pretty much past all that now or…?
JT: I mean he’s still gay but it’s not a big deal. Honestly we got past it in episode four in season one. He tells his dad and we never mentioned it again. People are for some reason so fascinated by him being gay, which for me is…I just don’t know what to make of it. I’m not like offended by it. It’s just not interesting. Like to me being gay is so ordinary, it’s just every day, I’m gay. And then to like talk about it in the story as if that’s a thing is just like, I don’t know, sure.
Will he kiss some boys in season two?
JT: Oh yeah. There’s a bit of dating. He’s in love with his housemate and you find that out pretty early on. And then there are some other little things. My real life boyfriend does a little cameo, which is quite good.
Are you into the whole pop culture scene? Like following what celebrities are doing on social media? Here’s Zachary Quinto and here’s Matt Bomer…
JT: I have no idea what anyone’s doing.
It doesn’t interest you at all.
JT: I’ve just got no idea. I can tell you what my buddies are doing. I know what my friends are doing, saying and what they’re up to. I don’t know what Paris Hilton’s up to. I know what Adele’s up to, my buddy, not the singer, just my friend Adele. That’s all I know about.
Where do your ideas come from? Is it coming from your life or just randomly as you observe things?
JT: Yeah, a lot of them are from me or things that happened to friends. Or often we just try and logically think through what the character would do. Sometimes we do a bit of research. I mean, last season we were in a psychiatric hospital. In the show we say mental home because that’s what people say. And in my life I say mental home. Like when my mum was there it was a mental home but when you’re doing an interview you have to say psychiatric hospital.
Because you never know who’s going to get their ire up.
JT: Yeah, and so we did a lot of research and we interviewed people that had been in places like that and found out the stuff that went on. We tried to put a lot of that in the show kind of honestly. But the weird thing about it was the more research we did into mental illness and into psychiatric hospitals the more we found out that you can sort of just do whatever you want because it’s different for everybody. Some [hospitals] are like really locked down. Some are full padded walls. And some are just like a spa retreat. So we sort of were like “oh, we can do whatever we want. Like a hotel.” They all have their own personality.
“Please Like Me” premieres its second season Friday at 10:30pm on Pivot.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
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