‘Avenue 5’: Kyle Bornheimer on Doug’s Weird ‘Reprieve’ From the Madness & Impending Fatherhood
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Avenue 5 Season 2 Episode 4, “How It Ends: As a Starter and a Main.”]
Life on Avenue 5 gets even more chaotic in the latest episode.
Let’s just put it this way: By the end of it, Ryan (Hugh Laurie) has accidentally informed the passengers of the latest mishaps, including that they accidentally picked up a cannibal and that they don’t have enough rations for everyone for the eight years they’ll be in space. And this comes after a lockdown was initiated to catch the aforementioned cannibal. During it all, Doug (Kyle Bornheimer) was stuck when his foot got trapped when a door closed as part of that lockdown.
Bornheimer discusses that bit of rest for Doug and teases what’s ahead.
It seems like Doug gets a bit of a reprieve from everything by getting his foot stuck in that door and being given pain relief. Considering everything going on, not just with the ship but also with Mia (Jessica St. Clair) and the pregnancy and who’s the father, how much did he need that break from everything?
Kyle Bornheimer: It’s so funny you put it that way. We had zeroed in at some point about the irony of Doug and Mia’s journey between the seasons and how when we meet them — and it was really the hook that Jessica and I loved about those roles — they’re a couple that is so excited to get a divorce, and then they get stuck in space together. [They’re] a horrible couple in Season 1, and then we meet them in Season 2, and this baby that might not even be Doug’s has brought them together and they are suddenly kind of the opposite of what they were. But Doug is still so put upon, so much his own worst enemy, so many things always happen, usually because of his own faulty character, that it’s ironic that he needs something like a horrific injury to, like you said, kind of give him a reprieve from the other madness that he usually besets upon himself.
Obviously, Armando [Iannucci] is amazing, and those writers are amazing with irony and those kinds of turns, but I’ve never played a character who needed that in their life, that horrific foot injury, that door to—like you said—get a reprieve from the rest of the madness going on in that ship.
It seems like Doug and Mia can’t get away from each other. Things happen, they get separated and then they still end up back together.
The first season was really about what was wrong with them and why they so obviously should get a divorce. And the more the story evolved, it was like, wait, maybe they’re weirdly perfect for each other and maybe there is something about them that matches up in some bizarre way to be kind of perfect. But it certainly was a pleasant surprise that we were gonna go in that direction with them.
Speaking of Mia and the pregnancy, how is Doug feeling about that and about her at this point?
There’s love and there’s a child now, and I think in some ways you could say that that’s the other thing that Doug really needed, was another person. Obviously having a child is one of the three or four things in this life that really can actually change you or bring out the best in you or bring out something in you that is necessary to [take] responsibility. Doug can’t worry about his pettiness as much because he’s got this thing. So I think when we see him, he’s taken on that glow that happens, I think, of a newly found love in your life, a newly found spirit of, oh, I get to take care of something. That happens to assholes and happens to nice people and happens to mediocre people, happens to great people.
It’s very rare that finding out you have a child does nothing to you. So I think giving Doug this thing really resets him, and we get to see a new side of him come up. Now it might retreat back into just pure Dougness at some point. But I think when we meet him, he’s taken on that sort of “I’m gonna be a dad” kind of thing and “here’s all the things I’m gonna do as a dad.” And then the underpinning, I think, hilarity to it is that there’s a very good chance it’s not even his kid.
The Doug-Mads (Adam Pålsson) dynamic is so much fun.
It really is. That’s something we giggle about constantly. The way Mads has worked his way [into this], and Adam Pålsson, just a fantastic actor. We are all such fans of Adam and what he brought to that role, which was he did something with a small role where he just kept making it so undeniably hilarious that it just grew and grew. Armando and the writers are so good at noticing that, and so they worked Mads into this cast of characters so beautifully. That was something that we just kept figuring out as we went.
Now Mads is in this love triangle here, and what does that mean for Doug? All Doug wants to focus on is the kid. Is Doug in a state of denial about whether it’s his kid or not, or does he truly not know? Does he not want to know? You’re stuck with these people literally in this ship, so you have to make do, so the kind of alliances you form and the sort of compromises you make because you know you’re stuck there, I think, are dancing with each other constantly in this show.
Episode 4 ends with Ryan accidentally telling the passengers about all the problems they’re facing, and chaos and panic ensue. How will everyone be handling that in the next episode?
What Season 2 ended up doing — without giving any spoilers, because I think you’re already starting to see it — is some characters will act exactly as you think they might. Some characters will be forced into a new situation that they’ll have to have a new solution for that they’ve never come up with or find something new in themselves that’s never been asked of them. And because different relationships have formed and different dynamics have been thrust upon all these characters, the way they get to solutions and the way the worst in them and, in some cases, even in this satirical show, the best of them comes out, is really what I think Season 2 ended up doing really well as well.
We kind of set the table with the main colors of these characters’ personalities in the first season, and now we see some shading, we see some doubling down on them. Zach Woods’ character is a perfect example of that, of where he is sort of starting to evolve too, or starting to reveal his true self. That’s what happens in these crisis situations, right? You either reveal your true self, or you find a self that you didn’t know was in there, or you just maintain how you are. And those three things, I think, are what the show sets these characters on a course to travel through.
How are Doug and Mia handling things as her due date approaches? She’ll have to give birth in the midst of this craziness.
I liked that Doug was kind of trying to keep things as normal as possible as if they were having this baby under normal circumstances. I think you can see it in the way he dresses. He’s trying to maintain some normalcy amidst this utter breakdown of civilization. And I think one reason he’s doing that is to pad and cushion the idea that they’re about to have a baby up in deep space. And so I think that attempt of his brushing up against the reality of what he and Mia are facing lends itself to some misadventures.
What can you tease about the birth? Will we see it this season?
The way that Armando works wonderfully is, as an actor, and when we’re kind of finding out the story when we’re filming it is, sometimes you’ll have a sense of where things are going, and sometimes that’ll maintain, but the way you get there will be circuitous. Other times it’ll change. And what we had planned and what became, I think, was sort of a marriage of an outline and then also finding ways to do it as we went along. So I don’t know what I could tease other than it is nuts what happens. It never stops. Once we are close to that due date, things are going to spiral.
What can you tease about how the season ends?
Armando is really, especially in Season 2, doubling down on the satire and the mirroring of what’s going on in society right now with the sort of rise of cultism in politics, the rise of misinformation, how quickly misinformation spreads the sort of breakdown of our institutions. We noticed it about halfway through Season 1 that we were in more of a social satire than we thought. And Season 2 really doubles down on that, while also you could enjoy the show without even knowing that. But once you inevitably kind of tap into that, I think it becomes an even more rich experience. So to me, as that continued on, the balance of sort of social commentary with the comedic examination of human foible, I think, is even magnified and multiplied this season.
Avenue 5, Mondays, 10/9c, HBO