Viewers of Better Things know Rebecca Metz’s character “Tressa” as the close friend and manager of Pamela Adlon’s “Sam Fox,” who in the comedy’s third season is juggling a role in a new movie with her familial roles as a mother and as a daughter.
With her sometimes brutal honesty, “Tressa” has played a key part in “Sam” learning to deal with her British expatriate mom “Phil” (Celia Imrie), who is showing signs of mental decline.
Metz’s role on the acclaimed comedy, which airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX, is like a homecoming of sorts. She got her first big break on an iconic FX show, Nip/Tuck, more than 15 years ago.
We caught up with the Los Angeles-based, New Jersey-born actress just after the news broke that Better Things was renewed for a fourth season.
Our conversation touched on everything from Adlon’s leadership to the vibe on the set and how Metz feels about the A-list guest stars who have become part of the Better Things family.
First off, congratulations on the season four renewal.
That’s such a nice surprise, because I thought we were going to have wait longer. I was prepared for a long wait and thrilled it happened so fast.
What are the hallmarks of her character and how has she evolved over the three seasons?
I’ve learned a little more about [“Tressa’] every season. The first thing is that she’s a single working mom, as Pam [Adlon] made very clear to me on the first day. She’s a caretaker of clients and friends. That’s her most primary quality -- for better or worse. Last season we found out she was a lesbian. There was no mention of her romantic life in season one. We just knew she had a kid. We learned about her relationship with her father, brothers and family. This season we are getting a little more into her and “Sam’s” relationship and learning how they deal with conflict.
What are some of the favorite scenes you’ve played with Sam and the other characters in the show?
My favorite scene is obviously when they are at the bar talking about parents aging. It’s so real and so truthful and something we never see people talking about in a real way. It’s a terribly sad thing but discussed with some humor, which the show is so good at. I also love when they are in the kitchen and throwing glances at each other, that nonverbal communication between two really good friends. That’s so real and you don’t get to see that a lot. It’s also great when they are sitting around together, that extended family of choice. We all love each other and have our own relationships. You get a lot of feel for the history of the characters.
It’s the most female crew I’ve ever worked with. In sound, AV, the camera department – it’s exciting to look up and see that many women on the crew.
What storylines have most surprised and delighted you?
All the stuff between “Sam” and “Phil” and the complexity, which is obviously rooted in deep love, but they’re constantly sniping at each other. Any time Celia Imrie walks into room, she commands all the attention. I love watching Celia work.
Talk about some of the important issues that Better Things delves into, including parenting and caring for aging parents. Can “Tressa’s” experience with her father help “Sam” with her mother?
“Tressa” and “Sam” are both single working moms, and it’s about the roles women take on, as mothers, daughters, breadwinners and business owners. This season we’re seeing “Sam” being a workplace advocate on a terrible movie she’s on, just juggling a lot. I think “Tressa” sees what’s going on… Not all your friends will love you enough to tell you a brutal truth….
What is the environment like on the set?
It’s the most female crew I’ve ever worked with. In sound, AV, the camera department – it’s exciting to look up and see that many women on the crew. I really hate the idea of saying this, but it’s very nurturing. You’re not going to get snapped at if you make a suggestion. There’s room to be creative. Because Pam [Adlon] is running the show, everyone understands the vision and is working toward the same thing. It feels collaborative and there’s a sense of humor in everything, even when we’re doing serious stuff. There’s a very caretaking energy that feels loving.
Can you compare your experiences as “Tressa” on Better Things to work on other comedies you’ve done recently?
What makes Better Things unique is we can take a moment to get the acting right. A lot of times in TV it’s moving so fast, there’s no time to ask the director if there anything you can do to make it better. Pam [Adlon] is good at being efficient, and she knows what she wants, with a pretty clear vision going into things.
You go back a long time with FX, to Nip/Tuck in 2003. How has the network evolved since then?
FX has been at the forefront in the transformation of television and cable. John Landgraf has taken big creative risks with niche shows and lets things go longer to find their audience.
Nip/Tuck was the biggest thing I’d done in my career at that time. It was a very dark storyline, and the creators and crew were nervous because they didn’t want it to be degrading or too dark for the audience. But it was such a positive experience and I felt so taken care of and in good hands. I was sad when it was over.
What are your fondest hopes for “Tressa”?
I would like to see her girlfriend come back or have her find a partner. I want to see her business thrive for her sake and “Sam’s.” I’d also like to see someone do a little caretaking of her, and check in about her needs.
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