'Married' Creator Andrew Gurland Sets New Challenges for Russ and Lina

The FX comedy puts the pressure on Judy Greer's character in season two.
FX

Here's a pretty apt description of FX's Married and how it differs from other TV comedies about couples and their kids: "In Modern Family something crazy happens and everyone in the family has to figure out what to do. [Married] is more like real life, but it's still funny, and that's what I try to do in my own writing but it's so hard."

The "I" in that description is Married creator Andrew Gurland's 10-year-old daughter, he notes with a laugh. Gurland's semi-autobiographical series begins its second season Thursday at 10:30 p.m. PT, and it's still managing that tricky balance of the salty and sweet aspects of its central couple, Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer).

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gurland touches on everything from season two's new wrinkles to his favorite kind of compliment.

Comedies about married people with kids are about as old as TV itself. How do you find fresh stories in such a well-worn format?

I think what separates our show is the tone. ... We spend a lot of time in the writers' room trying to keep the tone as grounded as possible. By the end of an episode, larger comedic things have happened, but it's been in such a grounded, incremental ramp-up that you don't really notice it's happening.

Were Nat and Judy always the people you had in mind for Russ and Lina?

Judy definitely was. She was someone who I'd wanted to work with for years. Nat is someone who I was introduced to through my managers, and the second we sat down together I was like, "Oh my God, this is the perfect guy." That one was a little harder for me, just because ... writing something so autobiographical, it was a little harder to find the person to hand it off to who had enough of an intersection with me but who I could see also making it their own.

Writing for Nat is so delightful because he's such a naturally funny guy. He has this surfer vibe -- like everything rolls off him. But he's also a really sweet dad of three.

Have you asked him to write for the show, or has he offered?

Has he offered? Hell no. Have I asked? F**k yeah. [laughs] Especially last year, when we had six weeks to get up and running and I needed all the help I could get. But Nat has taken the position of actor only on this show. But I'm a big fan of his writing.

In season two, Russ and Lina both have new jobs. Did you just want to shake up the story a little bit?

I don't want, from season to season, for them always to be in the same exact place. Where we started the series, Russ was in crisis, and kind of mirroring my own experience was projecting his own insecurities and dissatisfaction with where he was in his life onto his relationship. Which is what we do so often.

What I wanted to do this season was have Russ in a little bit better place and have Lina become a little bit more untethered and Russ have to deal with that. So between her mother's health [the subject of the season premiere], her turning 40, suddenly finding herself in this new career that she never set out to have, she's the one with more of the emotional challenges, and Russ is the one dealing with that.

How does he handle that, given his tendency to be so self-involved?

I think he rises to the occasion. That episode "Aftershocks" [episode two] and how he handles [Lina's 40th birthday party], the romantic-comedy elements of that, there's a lot more of that this season. I'm a huge romantic comedy fan, so we have a couple of big episodes like that this season. There's one where they become paranoid that a guy living in their guest house might be a murderer and they play hooky from their jobs to investigate him. There's a lot of Russ and Lina coming together in a more romantic way this season.

What else can you tell viewers about the coming season?

Even though Russ and Lina don't have to face the same economic challenges, because they're both working so much, that creates a new obstacle for intimacy. So it's about finding those moments and the new challenges that face them when you have those demands on them.

Another thing we're focusing on is adult friendships. When you're so focused on family and career, how much time do you have to still be friends with people, especially when those friends can be emotionally draining?

.... I want to mention Brett Gelman. ... His character A.J. is so fun. He went to rehab and is trying to rebuild his life, and he's doing it in so many hilariously awful ways. In one episode, he becomes committed to trying to get a webcam girl off the cam. He's writing a children's book about addiction -- just doing a lot of fun stuff.

I have to say there are times when the show feels eerily similar to my own life.

The greatest compliment I ever get is when people say it feels like you have hidden cameras in our house. We just had this fight, or we need to be having this fight but aren't having it yet. ... That's the greatest -- let me put it this way. When I was a kid and I would go to the movies, there were so many different ways in which you're wowed. But the one that impressed me the most was when I recognized an emotion or connected with an emotion that I saw on screen. ... When I hear that people are connecting with the emotions of the show, all I ever want to do is give that back.

Below is a recap of the show's first season. Will you tune in for Married's return on FX?

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