Thomas Haden Church and Talia Balsam Talk Season 2 of HBO’s Break-Up Comedy ‘Divorce’
The search for a second act in life defines the second season of HBO’s comedic drama “Divorce.” For Thomas Haden Church and Talia Balsam, returning to the series is a chance to explore personal growth and life’s hassles, especially the hassles that come with crossing the hill of middle age. Church plays Robert DuFresne, who in the first season of the show discovers his wife Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) is having an affair, thus initiating a long divorce process. As the new season kicks off the divorce is finalized and now Robert and Frances must adjust to the single life, while still raising their kids amid bumpy new schedules and lingering animosity. Balsam plays Dallas, a friend of Frances who in the new season finds herself having a steamy affair with Robert’s lawyer Tony Silvercreek (Dean Winters). The show is essentially a gallery of human folly and those moments when life forces you to reboot. Church and Balsam took some time off busy schedules to sit down with us and talk about returning to the world of “Divorce” and portraying characters forever wandering.
“There was a collective understanding that we had really examined this marriage and this family being torn apart in such a harshly realistic way, that for this season we wanted to get past the divorce and see how the lives and the family can be rebuilt,” said Church. In this season Robert finds himself scaling down the ladder, and seeking work from old friends. “You really can apply that to just life. If I’m thrown into those circumstances where suddenly my options are extremely limited, I’m going to be like ‘ok I’m going to go back to my diary or my rolodex and see what’s going on with people I worked with 15 years ago.’ That’s a very sort of organic progression to go through.”
“There’s no way to really prepare, the beauty of television is not really knowing where a character is going to go,” said Balsam on how she prepped for another season as Dallas. “When you met Dallas last year she was in a more self-involved place, making different choices than she would make now. It’s like ‘what does your second act look like?’ And sometimes we don’t really know.”
“As a man in his 50s, this is a startling reality,” said Church on his own characters’ life changes as a result of the divorce. “Yesterday we were walking around the city and I walked into Bergdorf Goodman and just very briefly made eye contact with an older gentleman working the wallet counter. You know, it occurred to me, because I’m a middle-aged guy with grey hair and a grey goatee, the man looked dignified. It immediately triggers the question of did he have another character? Did he choose to be at Bergdorf Goodman selling wallets, or did darker circumstances in his life leave him no choice but having to sell wallets? It easily applies to the character of Robert.”
“There’s an open-endedness to these things and what they’re examining,” said Balsam when discussing how “Divorce” thrives in the serial TV format. “I’ve seen some amazing movies this year like ‘Call Me by Your Name.’ But television has reached a really good point. Being able to watch things in a serial way is interesting because of how much time you get to spend on something.”
“Divorce” is about tumultuous lives and is returning to HBO amid tumultuous times in the real world. “We don’t really address it because we want to keep the show a bit more timeless. But hey, it is the world we’re living in and fact or fiction you can’t separate yourself.” Others have even tried to opine to Church what they believe would be the political affiliations of some of the characters. “Earlier today a journalist made the assumption that Robert is a Trump supporter and I said…no. I said if anybody in the show would be a Trump supporter it would’ve been the character of Nick, you know, the arrogant rich white guy. I mean there’s no going to prison…but.”
Balsam shared some of her thoughts regarding the current movement to address sexual harassment in the industry. “Things are being addressed that needed to be addressed. HBO is a great company. I feel in this show we’re in a particularly fair atmosphere. I’ve been doing this a long time so I think it’s good that certain things are being addressed.” As for the characters themselves Balsam added, “I hope to see their second acts and resolve certain things. I see it as ongoing. Something else will come up. By virtue of the age range, the kids growing up, I hope it stays as intriguing and complicated.”
For Church every character presents its own challenges. “There may be some crossovers I am not aware of. Ultimately they’re all men created by me, well co-created by me. The danger is when you do movies like back to back. That’s when you have to rely on your professionalism to differentiate. I start a movie the first week of March and then I go right into another movie right after it. You watch out for those land mines. Hopefully you don’t fall into the same pattern.”
“I know some people who are on the fence about that,” said Balsam when discussing second chances in life, something the characters in “Divorce” yearn for. “I definitely think there are second acts. I definitely do. You have to follow your own course.”
“Divorce” Season 2 premieres Jan. 14 at 10 p.m. ET and airs Sundays on HBO.