Eliza Coupe is a gifted comedic actress with a penchant for playing tightly wound, meticulous, type A personalities. So you may not expect her to take as much joy as she does living in a sewer and covered in a nerd’s bodily fluids, as she does in Hulu’s Future Man. Or maybe, if she were playing a postapocalyptic video game character, that’s exactly what you’d expect because her characters are always full of a barely contained manic energy that makes them all seem like they’re about to explode.
Tiger, a futuristic warrior sent back in time to protect the savior — the deliberate nod to the original Terminator is one of many that form the foundations of the show — didn’t really start out that way. “My character was not necessarily onboard with [Josh Hutcherson’s character, also named Josh] being the savior,” which plays well into one of Coupe’s strengths: Her sharp, sardonic wit is a natural fit there.
What they found on set, though, was that it was even funnier when Tiger buys completely into this myth. “I like where it went instead: She’s full-on Sarah Connor; this is life-or-death. And then it gets to be, ‘Holy s**t* this guy’s a f***ing idiot.’” As a result, they went back and reshot scenes to give Tiger a bigger character arc.
Future Man feels like a romp through an adolescent boy’s head and that’s due, in no small part, to Coupe’s rough-and-tumble energy. “I grew up in New England playing ice hockey, so having two guy co-stars was perfect.” She has two brothers, so Hutcherson and co-star Derek Wilson (who plays fellow future soldier Wolf) made for a comfortable trio. “For me, that’s the world I’m used to,” says Coupe, and the lack of ego “made it easy.”
Well, as easy as 16-hour-long fight shoots in the middle of the night can be. “I’ll take the bumps and bruises, the scrapes,” recalls Coupe, “but give me my sleep, man!” Fortunately, she had two of the best stunt doubles to help her out: American Ninja Warrior Jessie Graff and lead Wonder Woman stunt double Caitlin Dechelle. The fights are some of what she’s most looking forward to people seeing: “It wasn’t typical TV fighting; it was some scrappy, crazy s***.”
Future Man is an expensive, high-concept experiment, and everybody felt the pressure. “Hulu was dumping money into it,” says Coupe, so “we all wanted to make it the best thing possible.” But there aren’t many road maps for a production with the physical sets, costumes, and props of a sci-fi feature film along with the run-and-gun schedule of a TV show. “We shot it like a movie,” but it has the rhythm of TV — sort of. “It’s not formulaic. How often do you have a half-hour comedy that’s action-packed and you have to have seen the episode before? So we couldn’t f*** it up.”
She credits the cast and crew with helping each other deal with the pressure. “Maybe it’s specific to being not network television,” wonders Coupe. “You can rely on more crutches and it’s not all on you as an actor.” She previously guested on Hulu’s Casual and says the sense of camaraderie on set was similar. “Maybe it’s just a Hulu thing. Maybe the people on Hulu shows are just f***ing awesome!”
Coupe herself seems to be in the same uncharted waters as the production. “The arcs of all of us are so different than anything I’ve ever done on a TV show.” From the get-go, Tiger is already an anomaly. “She doesn’t understand a lot of things,” says Coupe with a laugh. “She cannot grasp the concept of love, family, babies. Why it’s wrong to kill a baby.”
“On TV, especially in comedy, all the character’s defects are reset at the end of the episode,” she explains, “but on this show, we’re evolving.” Together or individually, the characters move toward their goals while the time-travel aspect ensures that the goalposts keep shifting.
But for all the high-tech weirdness and the lowbrow vulgarity, the show keeps itself grounded in real human emotion. “Intimacy, vulnerability — those are all things [Tiger] deals with. And also things Eliza deals with, so it’s great!”
All 13 Season 1 episodes of Future Man are now streaming on Hulu.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: