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Aya Cash thought she was going to get fired after the first table read for You’re The Worst

Aya Cash (Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDB)
Aya Cash (Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDB)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples
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Aya Cash has been appearing in film and television roles since 2008, but her career is just beginning. You’re The Worst gave Cash her breakout role in 2014, with the show gaining a cult following. When the series ended after a five-season run in 2019, Cash’s career continued to flourish. She starred in The Boys’ second season as Nazi super Stormfront and is going to be part of the cast of the upcoming anthology series First Lady. Most recently, Cash starred in relationship dramedy We Broke Up alongside The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper, as one half of a couple that calls it quits after 10 years, but still decides to attend a wedding together. Cash nails every one of her comedic roles, and she’s just as hilarious off-screen. She agreed to answer our 11 Questions, sharing how she’d love for Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor and Tami to adopt her (or make her a part of a throuple), and how she once stole a PB&J right from a cinematographer’s hands.

1. What is the best trip or outing you remember as a kid and what made it great?

Aya Cash: I think I was, like, 9 years old, and we drove to New Mexico, to Taos for a month. It was me, my mom, and my step-dad, and my best friend, and we spent a month in Taos, New Mexico. I’m not sure how or why, but it was a trip that we took, and I remember it being so fantastic and so beautiful. It made a huge impression on me. This is going to take a dark turn. I remember two really specific things about this amazing trip. One was that a boy told me I was cute but that my personality sucked. My friend was more fun than me, and I remember being really devastated by that, and then my mom got divorced on our way back. [Laughs.] And that’s my story, Jesus Christ! That was a trip in itself, that story! But that’s the most powerful memory. I think you asked best, but I guess it’s best because it gave me the most powerful feelings. Nothing lasts.

2. What’s something that’s considered a basic part of your current career that you struggled to learn?

AC: The big joke is people are like, “How do you memorize all those lines?” That’s the annoying question that all actors get, but I don’t know. It’s hard for me! I come very prepared to set, I’m told. But I struggle with learning lines, so I put a lot of energy into learning them. It’s not something that comes super easy for me. Some people can just look at a page once and go, but I have to spend so much time learning lines. Like if I have an audition, I’m generally not off-book, because I get so stressed out about the learning-lines aspect that I can’t act, so I try to just get very familiar. I won’t memorize until I get on set because it’s challenging to me.

AVC: So how do you actually memorize your lines? It seems like cramming for a test.

AC: It’s actually easier onstage, because you have three weeks of rehearsal, and the way that I learn is by doing, so you attach the words to the actions, so you’ll be up on your feet, in a space, and it will help you trigger the lines, because you’re walking around the space, and it’ll jog your memory in that way. You have so much practice—it’s different on set when sometimes you’ve never been in a space before, and your rehearsal is right before you shoot, so it’s harder actually to memorize lines for on-camera, but you get do-overs, since it’s not live. But those are also some of the most amazing moments onstage—if you forget, you have this group of people who’s there to help you out, and to go along with something, and keep you on track. I’ve been onstage with people who’ve gone up, and by the way, it’s a trope, but it’s a recurring dream for me. Whenever I have bad anxiety, I’m dreaming that I’m onstage and I have not memorized my lines.

3. Did you pick up any new skills, hobbies, or get into something you hadn’t before during quarantine?

AC: I did three months of Spanish. That fell apart. I did Duolingo, where you get a streak, so it’s like a game. I did every day for, like, 100 days, and then I missed a day, and apparently I’m just completely game-motivated, because I was just like, “Eh, fuck it.” I even have very close friends from Mexico who are like, “We will talk to you and help you learn,” and I am... definitely not fluent in Spanish at this point. I understand more than I can speak. I get very tongue-tied when I try to speak it. I do feel like I understand a little more, but I’d like to get back to that. Mostly, quarantine was me sitting depressed, beating myself up for not having new skills.

4. What restaurant do you not live near, but make a point to hit every time you’re in the right town?

AC: Oh, Jitlada. I don’t live in L.A., but I work a lot in L.A., and when I first started working in L.A., I was so miserable and alone and felt very much like a 13-year-old moving to a new school, and I was very judgmental of everyone to cover my deep insecurities, and I started going to Jitlada every week because the food was amazing, and I was reading Jonathan Gold. There’s a great documentary called City Of Gold about him, the food writer and critic, and Jitlada was one of his spots. I just started going every week, and that made me feel like I had a special place in L.A., like a local place, and I still go back all the time. In the later years, once I’d sort of been in and out for a while and knew people, I used to host these dinners with friends until they finally said, “Can we please not do it at Jitlada? It’s always Jitlada!” But when I find something that I like, I go all in on it. I speak in hyperbole all the time. Everything is the best. If I like it, I’m all in. That’s with people, places, and food.

5. What futuristic technology that doesn’t exist now would you like to have?

AC: The technology that turns off all the other technology. Off for the whole technological world, the one that my will power won’t do. The break from screens and constant flow of information from friends and politics. The off-switch is what I’d like from the entire buzzing world, and read a book without checking your phone every chapter. Put a chip in my head for that!

6. What famous person that you’ve met has lived up to or exceeded your impression of them?

AC: It’s so gross to talk to famous people as though you have a relationship to them. Let me just be clear, we have not spoken since this project—I don’t call him DCapz or have a cute nickname for him. But Leonardo DiCaprio. When I was in Wolf Of Wall Street, I had a very small part. I used to call myself “VIB”— “very important background”—which just means I was getting paid more than the other background people. I was on that for 2.5 months, even though I only have five or six lines, and it was an amazing experience to watch all these incredible people, actors, directors… The people who came through there were insane, but Leonardo DiCaprio blew my mind.

First of all, I get star-struck very frequently, but not necessarily typically. I met Leonardo DiCaprio, and I was like, “Okay, whatever.” I met Kyle Chandler and burst into tears spontaneously. It’s just kind of a random sampling of who does it for me. But Leonardo DiCaprio showed up every day so incredibly prepared and dedicated and had great ideas, knew everybody’s name, incredibly respectful and kind to work with while being a total professional, and you know, you’d see things like, he went to Australia to party for the weekend, but believe me, he showed up Monday morning and did a four-page monologue while, like, hopping on one foot. He was just so good. He has that real movie star quality. I’m like, “Oh, I get why you’re a movie star, because you just exude that.” It’s like an old-school thing. Almost what I would imagine of Frank Sinatra, which I wouldn’t have guessed.

7. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

AC: I know I’m not allowed to say any acting job because “hashtag blessed,” but I had some day jobs. But I actually didn’t really hate my day jobs. Waitressing… some days were the worst, and some days were great. Honestly, every job can be the best and the worst, depending on your relationship to it. There was a specific restaurateur who was really nasty to me when I worked for him. He sent me home for not wearing enough makeup, and not dressing nice enough, and I was making $10 an hour, and I couldn’t afford new clothes, so I was like, “I don’t know what you’re expecting of me.” He would also come in and fire people all the time, and then they would come back and use their middle name, and that’s how they’d continue at the company, because he didn’t really look at faces. So, that was a really shitty job!

AVC: Any job where you’re constantly in fear of being fired is absolutely the worst.

AC: That’s any acting job, but at least we’re well-compensated for that stress. After our table read for You’re The Worst, Kether [Donohue], Des [Borges], Chris [Geere], and I all went to In-N-Out, because we all said, “If we’re gonna get fired, we’re gonna get fired eating a yummy burger.” At least Kether and I were convinced we were gonna get fired, probably because we’re women and are more used to being disposable.

8. What fictional family would you like to belong to?

AC: I would love to be adopted by Coach Taylor and Tami of Friday Night Lights, and maybe since I’m an adult, have an inappropriate relationship as well. We could be a throuple, but also I’m adopted. I want them to parent me and maybe touch me a little bit, but in a consensual way. They’re so hot. The whole thing. That show is brilliant. That was our dating show, me and my husband. All through our dating years, we would watch that show and, like, sing the theme song every time it came on.

9. What’s the first piece of art or earliest piece of media that inspired you to go into your field?

AC: My dad has a story that I was a big Star Trek: Next Generation fan, and we were watching Star Trek one day when I was 11 or 12, and I turned to him and said, “I’m going to do that one day,” with complete certainty, and it stopped him in his tracks. My joke is always that I could’ve meant space travel, and he’s like, “No, you definitely wanted to be an actor, and you spent the rest of your life going after that goal.” But I don’t remember wanting to act until I was entering high school and auditioning for the acting program there, because I wanted to go to a free high school, and the arts high school was the one to do, so I ended up auditioning for acting, but he said it was Star Trek! Patrick Stewart was a big theater guy, and I ended up seeing him in college in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. Patrick Stewart has lived large in my world. X-Men was my favorite comic book growing up, so when he was in the movies… If I could just follow in his footsteps, I’d be very happy.

10. Who is the funniest person you know personally?

AC: I know a lot of funny people. Just off the top of my head. And now you’re going to ruin friendships here, but Chris Redd is maybe the funniest person that I know in person, which is cheating, because he’s on SNL. He’s professionally funny. But he’s one of the funniest people I know. I saw his Barack Obama, and I was like, “This man. This man is brilliant.” I love that “Bottom Of Your Face” video he did, too. We did a movie together called Scare Me a couple years ago, and he just tickles me. Some people have your number, and he’s got my number. He makes me laugh.

11. If a deli named a sandwich after you, what would be on it?

AC: It’s just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I’m constantly on set eating PB&J because I’m still kind of a picky eater from my childhood. I still love to eat like a 12-year-old. I eat a lot of Goldfish crackers, popcorn, and candy. I’m a big snacker, so I don’t actually like a lot of sandwiches, but I love a PB&J, so midday is usually when you hear me going, “Can I have a PB&J?”

In fact, I once stole a PB&J out of a cinematographer’s hands because I thought it was for me! You can’t always go [off to craft services], so they’ll go get you something, and this PB&J showed up, and the AD handed it to her, and I was like, “Oh, that’s mine,” because I’d always get a PB&J, and she looked confused but she gave it to me, and then two hours later, I was seeing all these sandwiches go out, and I was like, “Oh, they made PB&Js to give out, and I literally stole her PB&J,” and I had to apologize profusely. I was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you gave it to me.” I would’ve been like, “Fuck you!” I was like, “You must have thought, ‘What an asshole! Diva! Taking my sandwich out of my hand!’ Sorry, Shana. My bad.” So yeah, just a PB&J. Crunchy peanut butter. I also like to toast a PB&J—that’s how I feel adult about it. The best way to do it might be like a little George Foreman grill, if you put the PB&J on and do it like a panini almost? Anyway, just a thought.