Thomas Hayden Church recently sat down for an interview with Esquire, where he talked about returning to television for HBO's Divorce. Here's what he had to say:
ESQ: How did you get involved in the show? Was it offered to you, or did you audition for it?
Thomas Haden Church: "The answer is honest and I'm always afraid it comes off a little cocky, but I mean, I don't audition ever, for anything. I haven't since Sideways, which was 13 years ago. I just don't do it. I honestly never even liked auditioning before, but especially since Sideways.
Now for this, it came to me because of Mrs. Parker—we had done a movie together called Smart People a number of years ago. We really hit it off. We had a lot of fun promoting the movie. I lost touch with her for like seven years and it was the beginning of 2015 and she sent me a lovely note along with the script. She said, "I know you don't do TV," which I don't, hadn't for twenty years—a TV series anyway—and she said, "Please read it. I thought of you first," which is so flattering. She said, 'Please read it and let's just have a conversation about it. Even if you're not interested in it, I would still love to hear your thoughts." And I read it and I thought it was a unique perspective on what is clearly an over-wrought, overly familiar stain in America with marriages coming undone.
She and I spoke and I said, "Look, anything that I get into has to be collaborative." I don't hire on as just an actor. You've got to kind of invite everything that I bring as a writer, as a producer. So I got on with Paul Simms and Sharon Horgan. I had a lot of ideas and they quickly turned around another draft that incorporated a lot of my thoughts and ideas about the story—not just about Robert. And they just immediately demonstrated that we were all working in unity to make the divorce as good as possible.
I think the reviews… some of them have been very strong, some not as strong. I think in spite of everything we have said in advance press that this was not going to be [Carrie Bradshaw] 15 years later, a lot of journalists or critics don't want to accept that. They clearly want S.J. to be sexy and cheerful and a fashionista, and that's not what this show is. She's been at the forefront of that, of like, "Nope. If that's what you're thinking, you're lining up fro the wrong show." Because our intentions were a unilateral attempt to convey a human experience. And that can be grim. It's going to be unpleasant and sometimes it's going to be funny and then sometimes it's going to be pathetic."
You and Sarah Jessica Parker are playing a couple who have this long history together that we don't see. Did you work together beyond who was writing each episode to sort of create a dynamic between the two of you that you brought to the table, maybe in terms of a subtext?
"Everyone who's ever worked with her knows this about her: S.J. has no hesitation to text you, email, call, and just say, "Hey, can we arrange a call?" She and I really did take it upon ourselves to create a lot of the back history of Robert and Frances. We just started that conversation with Sharon and Paul and the other writers on the pilot. And then she and I, when we were waiting to go back [to shoot], periodically would pick up the phone and talk about an hour, talk about Robert and Francis. I mean, I'm not going to say that it was completely exclusive of that, because it never is—it always involves talking to Sharon and Paul. It just shows how communicative she was. And she's wonderfully articulate and very, very specific in conveying her ideas, and I love that. She's just terrific. I mean, you can't say enough kind things about her because she's just such a generous, professional, disciplined individual to work with. She's been laboring behind the scenes on this particular story for years, even before Sharon became involved."
To end on a lighter question: Your mustache on this show is very impressive. Was that a real mustache?
"Thank you. Yes, it is a real mustache. I mean, ultimately it worked for the character to have a mustache. I think that everybody liked it. It was never really intended to be, or to turn into, what it did. We were probably about five or six episodes in and they wrote in which Robert shaves the mustache, and I said, "Alright, well clearly this is up for negotiation." And they were like, "Yeah, you know, it's your face." But we decided it might signal a big change that they're separated and he's on the loose and he's single. I thought about that every one of my divorced friends—the first thing they did was lose 30 pounds and start working out. And so we all talked about it and I said, "You know, I think it's a little too obvious to lose the mustache." I think maybe it becomes a bit of a security in life for him that he's going to change a little, not going to change completely because he still is hoping [for things to work out].
It never came off, but buddy let me tell you what: It was March 2 and they were like, "Okay, you're a wrap, that's it, you're done." And I'm like, "You're sure? There's no chance at all, tomorrow, a week from now, two weeks from now?" They were like, "Nope. Nope. We know we've got everything. We've reviewed everything in editing. You're done." I went home and, I'm not kidding you, I walked through the front door and walked straight to the bathroom and grabbed my shaver and shaved that thing off my face. I was done. I was sick of it. I don't know if you have a mustache—I mean, I admire people like Sam Elliott. Sam Elliott has had a mustache for probably 50 years."
I know, it's like Sam Elliott isn't Sam Elliott without that mustache.
"I mean, I did a movie with Sam Elliott with no mustache, and then right after that we did Tombstone. It seemed like he had grown it back in a week."
Read the full interview at Esquire.