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Better Things: Diedrich Bader says this is 'as honest as I've ever been on camera'

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Jessica Brooks/FX

Every week, the cast and crew of FX’s Better Things — a semi-autobiographical comedy created by Pamela Adlon and Louie C.K., centered on Sam Fox (Adlon), an actress and gnarly single mom of three girls — is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, a cast or crew member is recapping, sharing thoughts on what went down, and walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. Here, Diedrich Bader, who plays Sam’s friend, Rich, brings us into episode 6, “Alarms.”

I just finished watching Better Things

How delightful to hear pauses in comedy. Our characters were allowed to listen to each other and then think about what to say. I have never actually been given the time to think on camera, and it’s just like the pause before the wave breaks. How lovely to see the timing of the whole show. The flow is so true to life, but always hits the mark with the comedy.

It was late when Pam and I were shooting the cocktail scene — everything was so relaxed, I barely noticed we started. The crew felt like a bunch of friends, but the cool ones, the kind that bring something for everybody. Our voices were never raised above Pam’s, so her sweet growl was like the Washington Monument. We kind of rehearsed, started shooting, and then we watched the playback. Lots of directors don’t let the actor watch the playback, so I wasn’t sure when I sidled over that she would be cool with me peeping, but she put her arm around my waist and I was in. I pushed a little on the first take, so I held back a bit on the second to better match her style. Pam only got two goes at that speech at the top of the scene. It’s all she needed, but also, it’s all she took. Then, we shot the close-up and watched it together. Pam said, “Look what a subtle performance I got out of Diedrich Bader!” I was very happy with my line about being afraid of death. My father had just died, and in that moment, I was as open and honest as I’ve ever been on camera. The fact that she allowed that moment in her comedy is amazing to me.

We shot the gallery scene in Venice and it got late. It felt like a laid back party. Watching it, I realize I never noticed how much I tower above Pam. Her will and personality are both so strong, it didn’t occur to me that she was little. It looks like we improvised, but that’s all scripted. 

Better Things‘ post-production work is amazing. I love the editing. I remember going to ADR and seeing the rhythm — I got excited. Usually, I’m in a studio with headphones on, looking at footage before its color corrected — it’s drab and I typically feel a little sad, shrug, and say whatever line they need to drop in. But this was different. I’ve often thought that the absurdity of our lives as actors would never work as a show because it’s so far away from people’s experiences. But Pam has caught what it’s like to create illusions and live your life. I think what she has pulled off in this show is nothing short of remarkable. Her character of Sam is so honest, flawed, lovely, awful, sweet, mean, shining and maculate. 

I hope I can do more.

Does this make any sense?

Better Things airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.​