“Love” is a many splendored thing — a comedy-drama about two people maybe, sorta in a relationship; a slyly subversive anti-rom-com; and a critical and commercial hit for Netflix that’s been renewed for a third season even before the second one premieres March 10.
“Love” is also a chance for fans of the cult-hit “Community” to see Gillian — hard G — Jacobs in a very different role from that of inept social crusader Britta. Her Mickey Dobbs is a mess — hiding it well though addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex and cigarettes. Yet even when dressed down and glammed down, she’s still gorgeous enough that shlumpy Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust, who co-created the show with wife Lesley Arfin and Judd Apatow) can’t resist her. There’s a sad sweetness to it without the least bit of schmaltz, and it’s fascinating watching the disaster that might happen with rom-com tropes in real life.
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in suburban Mt. Lebanon, Jacobs, 34, was a child actress in local theater who went on to graduate from Juilliard in 2004. A year after she made her screen debut in the indie “Building Girl” (2005), her work in Off-Broadway’s “Cagelove” had The New York Times calling Jacobs “a star in the making.” After her breakthrough in “Community” (NBC/Yahoo! Screen, 2009-2015), she had a recurring role on “Girls,” and her films include “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012) and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” (2013).
It took me a few episodes to figure it out, but “Love” seems to be taking rom-com cliches — “the grand gesture,” “the quirky first date” — and showing how awkward or even disastrously that stuff would play out in real life.
I think that’s a part of it, that the writers always try and ground the episodes in what people would actually do in real life, how you would respond to those situations. And I also think they’re trying to tease out all those first awkward, fumbling missteps when you start dating someone. And when you heighten the stakes with two people who have a lot of issues.
It’s generally referred to as a comedy, but it seems to me that you and Paul Rust are playing dramatic roles.
I agree with you. I think there have been a lot of TV shows in the last couple of years that don’t quite fit neatly into the “comedy” or “drama” box. I just try to be as truthful and honest as I can and I don’t really try to play it for laughs. I think there is a lot of comedy in the situations and the characters, so I just trust it will be funny.
Again, subverting romcom tropes, you have a beautiful girl paired with a, let’s say, not conventionally handsome man. It’s not often you see this kind of disparity between a couple on-screen.
Oh, I think Paul’s very handsome! [Laughs.] I don’t think there’s any message in our casting. And I think we have great chemistry between the characters. I don’t ever think about that.
OK, then let’s think about “Community.” What is it that’s inspired such outsized fan devotion?
I think it’s a combination of some of the best writing on TV and a really amazing cast — I think we got lucky on two fronts. It was a really special experience and I think it was fun because we as actors were also fans of the show. We’d all run to our trailers on Thursday nights to try and watch the show as it was airing on NBC, and they’d have to drag us back on the set to keep shooting.
Some biography: Two different 1982 birth dates show up for you online — Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. Which is correct?
You know, why clear it up? [Laughs.] Mystery on the internet! Who cares? Same star sign.
So I understand you’re a beer heiress?
[Laughs.] Well, my family owned a brewery, yes, but it was a family-owned brewery that went out of business in the 1970s [the Erie Brewing Company, maker of Koehler beer]. So I wouldn’t say “heiress,” more my family has a background in brewing.
Do you drink beer?
I don’t drink. I’ve actually never had alcohol in my life. I’m not living up to the family legacy very well! . . . It is interesting, though: Mickey smokes and I don’t so I try to make sure that it looks real, but people come up to me after a take and say, “We can tell you’re not inhaling.” All these things make you feel insecure. But I still feel like I’m very open about saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m open to any and all suggestions.”
So unlike Mickey, you don’t drink and you don’t smoke. Are you a sex addict?
Uh. . . . I don’t think so [Laughs.] My only real vice is caffeine. I love coffee.