In KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF, Mary Hollis Inboden plays Patty O'Connor, Allison and Kevin's neighbor. In this interview with amc.com, Inboden talks about Patty's role in the group, why she decided to tell Allison about the missing money, and what it was like connecting with Allison Murphy both on and off set.
Q: The premise and execution of the show is definitely unique, but what was the “wow factor” that got you really excited to work on this project?
A: I think the challenge of the genre-bending was the thing that jumped out to me the most. There's no magical portal that takes you from the multi-cam world into the single-cam world. The only magical thing that happens is that you get to follow the woman, so as a woman reading that I was so compelled by it. Following Allison into the kitchen from the living room filled with all these buffoons—that was really exciting.
As far as me joining the show, Patty is super challenging to me. My natural face is a resting smile and Patty's is the opposite. The challenge was in playing the opposite of who I usually play. Instead of a bright, single-cam comedy, Patty’s dour and seems judgmental. She's also more than meets the eye, and I love that. It’s like the layers of an onion with both the women in the show, and I think that's what the show is trying to get at. Just peel us back and we've got all this other stuff going on that you would never know about because you never asked.
Q: Fill in the blank: KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF is a show for people who...
A: KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF is a show for people who want to be seen. It’s a show for people who want to laugh, and it’s a show for people who are tired of being dismissed and overlooked.
Q: Did you get any backstory on Patty from the creators, or were you able to build and experiment with what you felt could be an authentic backstory for her?
A: I didn't get much of a backstory. Honestly, when I read it I thought Patty was a typical sitcom character, or even a character from an hour-long drama. I thought she was further down on the list of characters than she ended up being, so I didn’t foresee that she’d be hauling as much around as Allison when I read it straight off the page in the pilot. I didn't have a lot of backstory and couldn't have anticipated her being such a huge part of Allison's life. But I did have many, many talks with Valerie Armstrong, the show's creator, about Patty's richness.
We talked about how Patty is somebody who’s found a way to exist outside of these men, who she's also constantly trying to keep alive. In the beginning of the show you think that maybe Allison and Patty have bonded, but they just can't. Patty hates change. But I love the idea of these two women—Patty being the implementer, and Allison being the dreamer, until it shifts about mid-season.
Q: While Allison wants more from life, Patty seems to be pretty content with a mediocre life... until she decides she’s not. What do you think is Patty’s “aha” moment? Her "eff this" moment, if you will?
A: I always get a little bit emotional when I talk about this. I think that we've been studying a really bad, old model of television sitcoms, and I think the a-ha moment for Patty is the same one that happened for me as an actor. When Patty’s standing outside the car with Allison and she says, "He basically broke me. You just sit there and laughed with the boys." Patty tries to say she thought it was harmless, and I was like, "Whoa! I've heard that!" After you hear a lifetime of bad jokes and misogyny where the butt of the joke is always a woman, a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ community… you start to think why are they always the butt of the joke in a male-led sitcom? And once you know better, you do better. So I'll probably never be able to watch a male-led sitcom again or I'll just have to be a little bit choosier going forward.
So that a-ha moment for Patty is really about seeing somebody's pain for the first time. She sees Allison's pain and I think she's already developing pretty intense feelings for Allison in that moment, whether she's denying them or not. She can't stare at somebody's pain in the eye and say, "I don't get it. I don't understand it." That was the moment for me. I loved that moment.
Q: Why do you think Patty is so accepted by the guys, while Allison is treated as more of an outcast?
A: It's a lack of choice. Patty doesn't ruffle feathers. That's too scary for her. Any sort of choice or adverse position to the boys or really anyone would expose Patty too much, and she's just not that kind of girl. In Kevin's universe, Allison and Patty are pitted against each other, and I think that reflects the world we live in. In a patriarchal society, you've got women who say, "Well, I couldn't hang out with her because she's that kind of girl" or "I couldn't hang out with her because she's that kind of girl." It's one of the saddest parts about the show, that Patty seems to be sitting in judgment of Allison. If she got too close to Allison, she would probably burst into flames. She wants to be close to her. She just doesn't know how. But I think she can roll with the boys because she will not stir the pot. It’s just too scary. In Kevin's universe they're constantly putting her down. They don't let her play beer pong. She has to get in where she can and that's been her whole life, her whole existence.
I think her relationship with Allison bursts Patty wide open. She starts to see that when women bond together and roll together instead of deferring to men, it can be a lot more fun. And it's a lot of trouble! What I also love about the show is that these women are suffering the consequences of the buffoons inside, so not only are they on the hook for their own actions but they’re also seriously trying to keep these men alive. I mean Neil's constantly threatening to burn down the house, and Kevin's constantly being mean to the immigrants who live next door. It’s a mess.
Q: Why do you think Patty reveals to Allison that Kevin emptied their bank account? What was her real motivation in that moment?
A: I asked myself that question too. It's been a long time since we shot that scene. Annie Murphy will tell you that it was the most rehearsed scene we did because we had that script for so long. We had it through our pilot season and the pandemic. I think that in her truest form, her most altruistic form, Patty wants to be helpful. I think she doesn’t want to get involved, and certainly doesn't want it to get back to Kevin that she's the one who shared that information.
It’s truly the inciting moment that gets her to roll with Allison, the woman who she’s been watching from the other side of the room. And like I said, when Patty sees Allison's pain she cannot stand it. So Patti’s like, "Buck up, you'll ruin us both." Allison’s dreaming thing has gotten her into a lot of trouble. Just like women everywhere who exclaim, "My husband spends all our money on tennis shoes from the internet too!" Yes, KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF is the show for you! [Laughs]
Q: Patty and Allison’s relationship deepens pretty quickly once their connection is made. Can you talk a bit about crafting that relationship with Annie? There’s a real satisfaction that comes from seeing rivals become friends.
A: I think we were so lucky. Annie Murphy and I fell madly in love with each other the first time we spoke on the phone. We bonded over hot dogs and how neither one of us as actors knows how to use props! If you hand us any sort of practical device like say a glass of water, and ask us to drink it on camera, we can't do it. We bonded over Zoom during the pandemic and just fell so tightly together, and I have never met—I don't think in my personal, certainly not in my professional life either—somebody who is so open, warm, and ready to be in it together. We are just a bit witchy together.
The hardest part about developing our on-camera relationship, was that when shooting the first four episodes during the first take we’d come off as best friends. So we had to work at creating iciness between us. I remember us having a really good time just going like, "Shield up! Don't cross my bridge. You can't get in here!" It’s so satisfying as a viewer to watch two people who are constantly knocking heads. We had a natural love and a natural chemistry, so I think the hardest part was peeling that back and trying to build the iciness back up for the audience. It’s so easy to share space with that woman. She’s a goddamn delight.
Read an interview with Annie Murphy, who plays Allison on KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF.
The first two installments of the eight-episode season of KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF are available now on amc.com and AMC apps for mobile devices. New episodes air Sundays 9/8c and are available one week early on AMC+.
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