Maria Thayer used to be one of those girls you see on TV or in movies and think, “Hey! She looks familiar! Where do I know her from?!” You’ve seen her, whether you realized it or not, in huge hits on the big and small screen, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 30 Rock, Cougar Town, Kroll Show, Maron, Portlandia, Arrested Development, Louie, Strangers With Candy, Will and Grace, New Girl and Accepted just to name a few.
But in a profession she describes as “unstable,” she’s found some stability, at least for now, starring in Those Who Can’t, the first scripted comedy show from truTV. Maria plays Abby Logan, a spunky and “passionate” high school librarian – passionate about things in general, not so much being a librarian – who spends her time dealing with her friends, who are teachers in the loosest meaning of the word, and “de-dicking” library books. TruTV was so confident in the success of their shiny new comedy, they renewed the show for a second season before the series had even premiered.
“It’s very exciting. It’s rare you have that kind of job security in my business,” she said. “I’m so happy the network is so behind it.”
The show is five weeks into its first season and the reception has been mostly positive, which is good news for Maria as well as her co-stars and creators of the show, Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to Google a show I did without a lot of fear,” Maria said. “To be fair, the others that I did were maybe a little stranger, so there was more hatred sometimes coming the show’s way on Twitter. It’s like, I’m going to use it for self-esteem building. It’s been really great.”
Obviously, Maria is not a librarian and she doesn’t live in Denver and she doesn’t strike me as someone who would rightfully earn the name “The Shoving Doula.” So, perhaps Abby doesn’t quite reflect Maria’s real-life personality, but that doesn’t mean she won’t in the future. Maria points out part of being a series regular is the writers getting to know you and injecting your personality into the character you’re playing to make a convincing blend of the two.
“One of Abbey’s downfalls is she is very passionate and sometimes her passion can get her into trouble, like getting into a cause in an extreme way or she’s very vehement in an argument, and I certainly have that.”
Abby reminds me a lot of Rory, the character Maria played in Accepted: she’s wound tight and, as Maria puts it, passionate about whatever she dives into. I imagine if you flash-forward five or 10 years after Rory didn’t get into Yale and stormed off screaming, “College is for pussies!” we would find her as the Smoot High School librarian, recently divorced and fighting a fierce sugar addiction.
“Oh, really? I haven’t heard that but I guess so! She needs to, like, chill out.”
This is definitely not the first time Maria has found herself surrounded by a mostly male cast. But, unlike most projects, her male counterparts have known each other for upwards of eight years and were part of a Denver-based comedy troupe called The Grawlix.
Sling: How is it working on set with Adam, Ben and Andrew?
Maria: It’s great. I feel like I’m always working with guys even though there are female producers on the show. They’re great. They’ve know each other for – I don’t remember if it’s eight years or 11 years, so it’s intimidating going into [something] where people have that kind of relationship that not only have known each other but have been working together a long time. They are very warm to me. It’s a fun set and is more open to collaboration than a lot of jobs I’ve had.
S: Is there a lot of improv that goes on while filming?
M: Yeah, I mean, the scripts are really, really tight, so it’s encouraged but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary. There are a lot of jokes in the script.
S: It seems like with their background [in stand up], improv would be prominent on set.
M: Yeah, it really depends on who is on set, too. When T.J. Miller was on set, I don’t think we ever said a line that was written; he’s a big improviser. I don’t know if the guys are actually – they’re stand up, but I don’t know if they’re actually from the improv community.
S: What led you to this role? Did you know the guys beforehand?
M: I met the guys at a comedy festival years ago. I was sort of intrigued by them because they were from Denver. When you meet people in comedy, they’re usually from New York or Los Angeles and I thought it was cool they were based in Denver, so I remembered them, but I didn’t know their work. I was sent the script for Those Who Can’t and I thought it was funny; then, they asked me to audition for it. I don’t know if when you, personally, apply for a job you get that “I got that one. I nailed,” but I feel like I always know if I’m going to get a job or not. A lot of times I do this thing that really annoys my agent: I cast every job that I have but not as me. I’ve done this in auditions, where I’ll say, “Thanks for seeing me but I know the perfect person,” and I’ll pitch another actor. For this one, I saw one of my favorite actors waiting outside the audition room to audition and she’s a friend of mine, but I’m also a big fan of hers and I was like, “This girl, she’s so perfect for this.” Later on, I saw her at a party at my house and I said, “Sarah, how did that audition go?” and she said, “I went in but they laughed so much more at your audition.” Because, unfortunately, you can always hear through the door. She said “Oh, I think you got it.” I didn’t believe her and then I did [get the role].
S: What do you do to relax in your down time?
M: I’m pretty boring. This summer when I was filming, I tried to garden. I have this hobby of crop art – that’s what I was doing this summer; I was making crop art for the Minnesota State fair. That’s what I did a lot of this season: go home and glue seeds to a piece of cardboard. It’s pretty dull.
S: That’s… interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of crop art.
M: Oh, it’s a big thing in Minnesota.
S: I’ll have to Google it and look up some masterpieces.
M: Yes, you have to Google it. It’s intense. I won third place at the Minnesota State Fair this year.
S: Oh, congratulations! Do you plan on entering again this year?
M: Definitely! I want to win first! I really thought I was going to win first this year, but I didn’t, so there’s always next year.
Catch new episodes of Those Who Can’t Thursdays at 8:30pm ET on truTV.