Two standout performers in Hulu's new comedy series Future Man are Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson, who play Tiger and Wolf, two post-apocalyptic soldiers from the future who are summoned from a videogame into the present by slacker Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson). They hope Futterman is the savior who will change the course of the future, but instead he turns out to be a huge disappointment. Tiger and Wolf dealing with that epic fail, while also trying to navigate normal society, are some of the best parts of the series.
We recently sat down with the Coupe and Wilson to talk about how the entire series ended up being an unexpected joy for them both, as the unpredictable storytelling kept them on their toes.
Did either of you really know what you signed up for when you said yes to these roles?
Derek Wilson: Well, I did Preacher with Seth and Evan, although my character in that show wasn’t involved in the craziest of hijinks. But this show is crazier and even more unpredictable.
Eliza Coupe: This is a different character than I’ve played, I’m so pumped about it, and that’s why I did it. It’s exciting and welcoming to me, but I’m also not the jokey-jokey-jokey one. At first, my ego was like, "Wait, but I want to be the funniest.” But that’s not why I’m an actor. I’m classically trained. I like drama! And as much as this is a comedy, once we get to Episode 4, we’re crying. It gets dark. It gets sad. It’s crazy.
Was there a concern that your characters would just be one-note grunts?
DW: It was a concern for me going into it. We shot the pilot and got picked up to series, so I went in to have a meeting with the writers’ room. I said, “I can’t imagine where this character can go from here. I don’t want it to be boring and the same thing over and over again.” They said he would not, and then they proved it beyond my wildest dreams.
By the end of the season, you won’t recognize him. He comes from a place where he has to be a certain way. In the first episode, there are little things given to him, like tasting a pickle. But as the series goes on, it’s more and more and more, like relationships with people, possibly falling truly in love, loss and regret. It’s experienced so fully because he’s such a big personality in this, and that’s fun.
Your characters come from a specific function in your horrible future, so how do you process being human in the present?
EC: Exactly! It’s funny how so much of that plays into it. Derek and I’s characters have known each other since age 3 or 4. We are the only two survivors, and we want to reverse that because that’s not how it’s supposed to be. The idea, especially as the show moves on, of us losing each other possibly, gives me chills. He’s like my brother. I actually have two brothers, and I am so close to them, so the idea of not having them, or my husband, freaks me out.
As the show progresses, is there a broadening of your relationship? Because now you have the choice of who you bond with instead of it just being the two of you.
EC: It’s funny you mention that. You might choose someone out of familiarity, or you realize I love this person as my family and touchstone. I don’t think anybody sees what’s coming in terms of our relationship and our journey, individually and as soldiers.
DW: Unbenownst to us, we hold onto one another because we are what’s familiar to each other in this world. We may not even realize we’re scared in the beginning, but we are, because it’s life or death. It’s a big deal. When we show up in Josh’s room, he’s the savior, and he needs to come with us now! That intensity is amongst him ejaculating on me. [Laughs] So the high stakes contribute to the comedy.
It’s weird, but Seth Rogen projects often have unexpected heart at their core. Would you agree that applies with Future Man?
EC: Yes, as much as it’s shrouded in dick jokes, it can be incredibly poignant, with a lot of depth. It’s heartfelt and smart. I love that you don’t see some of that coming.
DW: Yes, about halfway through the season we really find the heart. It’s great that we set up in the beginning that these two are very stern and you won’t crack this. But then when they do break open, you see a little bit of light, and this softness comes through. First off, it’s even more psychotic and funny and, I think, very moving.
How do Tiger and Josh function as the season moves along, as she’s such a believer and he’s often so hugely underwhelming to her?
EC: She is a believer, but it gets to a point where she’s like, “Oh my God, this guy is a f-ing janitor!” He is not what I thought I was coming back for, which I say so many times. [Laughs] It’s interesting to watch how Tiger’s journey is also one you don’t see coming. Even with the pickles in the first episode, Wolf is so clearly blown away by this world. Tiger doesn’t give a s***. She’s like, “We’re on mission. We’re the Resistance. I lost all my soldiers, and this is all my fault. I need to redeem myself and the world.” So when Josh is not what I thought he was, it’s devastating and frustrating and it causes a lot of anger. Tiger gets more and more angry, and then there’s a shift.
Did that shift feel organic to you?
EC: It was tough for me initially, because at first I was thinking it was the "typical female shift," but they didn’t do it that way. They didn’t do anything the way I thought they would do it, because I’m so used to, unfortunately as a woman, getting handed the same f-ing storyline with the same typical s***. You’re either a wife, a mother, or a girlfriend. I was so waiting for some bulls*** like that, and it never happened.
In fact, the coolest thing is that there was a moment when my character was going to take her shirt off, and while I did get naked for Hulu once, that’s not my thing. It was a choice for a specific role that made sense. But Seth and Evan [Goldberg] were like, “No. That’s not who Tiger is.” I didn’t say no right away, because I wanted to hear what they had to say, and they were just like, “No. That will take people out of it, and we don’t want her to be objectified.” It was amazing!
And for the third episode, there’s a poster of me, and it is so funny because it’s so not me. My boobs look humongous. I had worn in the pilot those things that push your boobs up, and it worked at the time and I was okay with it. But when I came back for the season, I was like, “Guys, let’s not false advertise here. I don’t have D-sized boobs. I’m barely working with a B right now. Do I have to wear these?” Seth was like, “Take ‘em out!” And then he made a joke about me making a comment about the boobs in the poster that I think it’s stupid. That was so cool. I didn’t have to fight them on it. That is something you don’t get as a woman ever, when it’s usually more and more boobs. The fact that he did those two things to not objectify me, and they covered me in my uniform from head to toe.
I noticed that both of your uniforms were about function, which was refreshing.
EC: Yes! My warrior outfit was not some stupid non-functional thing. They even said to the wardrobe designer that we want functional battle gear. And that’s why they’re the best.
So do Tiger and Wolf's arcs run parallel to the end of the season?
EC: They do run parallel, sort of, but their arcs are polar opposite storylines. What you would think my character would do, he does. It’s really cool.
DW: Yes, there are two people who will have a huge impact on him, one he never actually meets. But he’s heavily influenced by them, and one he has a very close relationship with. It’s a very sweet thing.
Is there a favorite episode or moment in the season for each of you?
EC: I don’t have a favorite episode, but in general, you don’t normally get an arc in a TV comedy, because all the defaults of the character reset. So I love that I have journey, and I hope we come back to see where they go.
DW: There is a place where he finds exactly where he’s meant to be. It’s where he feels like he belongs, and he really blossoms in a scary/funny way.
Future Man Season 1 is available now on Hulu.