Photographed by Myles Pettengill III

Aya Cash Is NOT The Worst

talking sex, repro rights, and comedy

You may recognize Aya Cash from a string of successful television shows like The Good Wife, The NewsroomThe Good WifeModern FamilyLaw & Order, and You're The Worst. Or, maybe you know her name because she's the daughter of poet and novelist Kim Addonizio and the granddaughter of Wimbledon champion Pauline Betz Addie and sportswriter Bob Addie. Either way, you should know her as a hilarious comedian who plays refreshingly genuine, super-awkward characters.

In our interview with the actress, ahead, we talk about sexuality, poetry and dealing with evil trolls on Twitter. She may make people laugh for a living, but she gets serious when it comes to defending the things that she believes in.

So I wanted to ask you about how this season of You're The Worst is kicking off. How does it feel to be in the midst of season two?It feels great. I mean, we’ve been stopped shooting since about a month and a half ago, so it’s so nice to be able to watch with everyone else, and revisit and remember my sort of summer camp of fun. It’s a really fun job. It’s fun to watch and share with everyone. 

It looks like you’re having an absurd amount of fun with this character. What is your favorite thing about her?I like that she’s both a total mess and completely competent in life. I think it’s really fun to play someone who has many contradictions. You know, she’s a total mess in the event of garbage bags, but then she’s actually quite good at her job, and you know, takes care of her clients. I think she’s sort of a badass and can be very blunt and selfish and then also incredibly vulnerable and unexpectedly kind. I think I just like that she’s a big contradiction. Like most of us are in real life, and you often don’t get to play all sides of people and characters tend to be one thing or another and I like that she is many things. I think all the characters in the show have that. That’s just good writing.

It’s one of those characters that is so relatable, it’s almost hard to separate the actor from the character.  What is one thing that you guys have in common and what is one thing that you guys don’t have in common at all?The thing we don’t have in common at all is that I’ve been in a relatively healthy relationship for 10 years, and I’ve never really had a problem with monogamy. I’ve always been in relationships. So, that’s a big difference between the two of us. The thing that’s similar about us, besides out height, is that we are both… I struggle constantly—I am actually trying to clean up my apartment as we speak—I am definitely someone who comes in and takes off all my clothes and leaves them everywhere. Leaves everything everywhere. I’m not necessarily as dirty as she is, but I’m definitely a messy person and constantly trying to keep my mess under control. When I was at college, I remember a teacher coming into one of the rooms I was in and just being like, “Who’s life is this?” 'Cause my stuff was, like, spread out throughout the room. So I can identify with her inability to keep tidy for sure. 

Yeah, you’re not one of those people who has the saying, your life space reflects your brain space or whatever, your apartment space reflects your brain space.No. I mean, when I have guests over, I work very hard to hide it and to clean it all up. Without that threat of exposure, I am kind of a mess. I am always losing stuff because I can’t put stuff away. Like, there is a pole near the door for your keys, just put them there every time and you will always know where they are. And of course, the one time I put them on the pole, I walked out of the house without my keys. So, I’m a little scatter-brained.

I mean… Do you live in Brooklyn?I do.

I feel like there’s this nice culture of being scatter-brained in Brooklyn. We all understand that we have an extended adolescence and we kind of give each other room to be that way. And it’s kind of awesome.Mhm. I think in our culture, we’re much more forgiving of that stuff than we used to be, especially in New York where you have so little space. We’re all very forgiving of mess and clutter because you only have 600 square feet to deal with.

One of the things that I really like about You’re the Worst is the honest look at young people—by young people, I mean like 20s and 30s—and their sex lives.No, I like being called young. You can call me young!

There’s a really refreshing approach to sexuality—there’s not this messy, problematic, in your face Girls-esque version of sex. It’s really fun and it’s also sloppy. What was your approach to doing the more romantic, intimate things or depicting sexual relationships? How do you feel like it’s different than what else is going on on television right now?Well, I think in comedy, sex is usually just one thing and that’s funny. I think what we are doing is it’s funny and a little sexy and a little awkward and a little weird. In drama, sex is generally sexy, and I think that sex for real is many things. Often awkward, not sexy, sexy, then at times—and there are playful, funny moments as well, and I think the sex in our show allows it to be everything. Again, I think that our show is definitely not afraid of contradictions and mixing things up and I think that sex is usually depicted more realistically in dramas and so it’s sort of more shocking in a comedy, but it’s just what we’ve been trained to think of as what’s allowed in a comedy. I think this pushes that, and I don’t think it’s titillating. I don’t think sex is supposed to be like, "Yeah, I can go masturbate to that." I think it’s funny and weird and silly and then sexy in brief moments, as well.

Yeah, I think what’s sexy about it is the honesty.Yeah.

What is one of your favorite fictional depictions of sex?Just in television or in our culture in general?

We could do television or in our culture, it could be a book, it could be a movie, it could be something that you turn to as being like, “Man, they nailed it.”There’s a great poem by Sharon Olds called Sex Without Love, that I remember reading at one point and just being blown away. It starts, “How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice, fingers hooked inside each other's bodies, faces red as steak, wine, wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away. How do they...” I can’t believe I remember this. 

Yeah, you’re like blowing me away right now.My mom’s a poet so I grew up reading poetry and Sharon Olds is one of my favorites. She has some great sex poems. She has another one about the geography of the body, and my Nebraska or your Nebraska. So, I find her poetry incredibly honest and realistic about sex and the sort of sadness that sometimes comes with sex, as well. Like, what it is to be intimate with someone and to give that away of yourself. That’s the first thing that came to my mind.

There’s a lot going on in this country right now discussing women’s bodies and the right for women’s health to be funded by the government and standing by Planned Parenthood. I see that you’ve been really active on social media with that kind of stuff. To lend your voice to that movement that is really becoming central to the conversation right now, and obviously, this is a women’s publication and we staunchly stand on the side that says everyone should have rights, should have access to take care of their own reproductive health and in ways that seem fit. Could you talk about why this is so important to you, both as a woman and as someone who has a platform to weigh in on? Yeah I think it’s interesting. Twitter and social media is a very hard place to have an in-depth conversation about almost anything. It’s sort of an amazing tool, you see with the Earth and access to news in a different way and real-time events, but it’s also a conversation that happens in 140 characters and it’s quite a complicated conversation. I feel like all I can do is be who I am and say what I believe, and I actually don’t think I have the right to tell anyone else what they should believe, but I want to be able to speak up and say that it’s okay for me to when I think it's right, and everyone else should be able to do that, as well. It’s very hard.

It’s interesting, standing with Planned Parenthood was the first time that I had interactions on Twitter that were profoundly upsetting. I got sent pictures of dead babies. I was called disgusting and horrible. It’s so sad because my standing with Planned Parenthood says very little about whether or not I think you should have an abortion. I don’t plan to know anyone else’s mind, but I do think it is my decision whether I would like to or not. And I’m not saying I would or wouldn’t. I’m saying that is my choice and that’s a very private choice and the government should not have a right to tell me what I should do with my body. Now, people will disagree with me and I’m completely open to discussion. I think abortion specifically, and let’s be real, Planned Parenthood does many other thing besides abortions and will be losing many other programs besides abortions, which I think is less than five percent of the services that they provide, but for me, that decision is profoundly private, and I understand why people get so upset. I’m not offended by people being upset because there is a certain idea—it’s about when does life begin and what you believe to be life.

That’s going to be different for everyone and some people may not agree with it, but you cannot tell me how to live in my body and I think that’s very, very important and I think it’s a very dangerous breach of the government reach, not to rhyme, to take those options away. And they’ve shown that taking those options away doesn’t stop people from having abortions. It makes them much less safe, and I think that it’s a very dangerous path to go down. So, I say that because, as a woman, that’s important to me, but I also would love to have a real discussion about what that is. And I don’t know if Twitter is the place. As I learned, the reaction was completely—it wasn’t a conversation—and I’m happy to lose those people as fans because I don’t feel like, if you are going to call names and say horrible things about me as a woman, or send me pictures of dead babies, like, that’s not a conversation I want to be in. But I think that’s sad because I think we should all be talking about this, as opposed to throwing shit at each other.

You just summed up a really nuanced conversation in relatively short sentences and in a way that NYLON and the women who work here are very much aligned with. I’m so glad to hear you. That was incredibly articulate, basically, which is awesome. I think that there’s something definitely going on in the last year or so with women really taking a stand to own their sexuality in a funny way. I was just thinking about everything from kicking off with Bridesmaids to the rise of Amy Schumer to sex comedies starring women, and I think that there’s something a little disruptive to the status quo about that, that I would imagine being a little scary if you’re not totally comfortable with women being raunchy, weird, sloppy, horny creatures.Mhm, which is just a misunderstanding of what it is to be a woman if you’re not okay with that. So unfortunately, I think people need to move on. Just because one woman is representing something that is not your taste does not mean that is a wrong representation of being a woman. I’m not saying that being a woman means you have to sleep around and have sex with multiple people. I’m not saying that being a woman means you have to be chaste until marriage. Being a woman is many things and again, it’s up to us. The whole point of feminism is choice, and so to suddenly be like, "Well, I think it’s gross that Amy Schumer is like, 'I can take a dick any time I want.'" Fine, but there have been multiple representations of men on television and in our films for years, and they’re allowed to be many different things and it’s not the definition of what a man is. It’s the same problem with diversity in our existence. If you have one representation of a race on screen, it comes to represent all their race. It’s the same thing. If you only have one representation of a woman, they come to represent and it becomes something to fight over. But I think the point is that we need more representation of the different ways you can be a woman and a strong woman or a vulnerable woman, and that’s the issue.

And I think that to make it even more nuanced, I think that’s more important in comedy, you know? To have more than one type of comedic voice heard for women or adding to a chorus, which I think is really beginning to happen. I mean, that’s easy for me to say in my office from New York…Yeah, I live in Brooklyn, I spend lots of time in L.A., we live in big cities, and you know, I would guess mostly liberal… I grew up in San Francisco. My mom is a poet who writes about sex. I’m drinking and very open about all of that. So, I grew up around this world, I’m very comfortable. And I understand that some people may not be comfortable and they can choose not to participate in that way, but to say that it’s wrong or to not show that those women exist is an issue.