The first season of Impastor ended with a cliffhanger so startling that Mike Kosinski and his fellow cast members didn’t know what to expect when they returned to Vancouver to film the new season.
“We were all dying for that first script,” Kosinski said during a phone chat from his home in L.A. “When we got it we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re right back in it.’ There are more twists and turns, more cliffhangers. It’s exciting.”
Kosinski plays Russell Kerry in the comedy, which begins its second season at 10:30/9:30c Sept. 28 on TV Land. As the new season begins, Russell still is besotted with Buddy Dobbs (Michael Rosenbaum), whom he believes is a gay minister at his church.
Buddy was arrested in the Season 1 finale, which could lead to Russell and his fellow members of Ladner Trinity Lutheran Church learning he’s an imposter. Such a shocking revelation might not even dash Russell’s hopes.
“I feel like Russell’s got his eye on the prize, which is Buddy,” Kosinski said. “He’s pretty adamant toward that goal.”
Kosinski grew up in Rockton, Ill., a village about 95 miles from Chicago. He was twice nominated for an Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for work he did at Second City E.T.C. Theatre. He also has performed improv at iO Chicago, Annoyance Theatre and ComedySportz Theatre. “I pretty much hit them all,” he said.
We couldn’t avoid talking about his time in Chicago, but we also discussed being an out gay man in comedy, kissing costars and whether Russell will ever give up his pursuit of Buddy.
What are your fondest memories of living in Chicago?
Oh my gosh, so many. They’re all going to be improv related—just doing shows at Second City and then going to Old Town Ale House afterward. It closes at 5 a.m. Before you realize it, it would be 5 a.m. and you’re still there. These were always my low moments, where I was like, “Am I such a piece of garbage?” I’d be leaving the Old Town Ale House at 5 a.m. and would see somebody out for their morning jog or something. I’d just think, “Oh God, what am I doing?” We finished work at like 2 a.m.
I have had nights—or mornings—like that at the Old Town Ale House. No shame, sir!
Really? I’m sure we overlapped at some point.
We used to go there a lot so I bet we did. I celebrated a birthday there and they wrote on their little chalkboard at the front, “Happy Birthday Curt.” But her R was so extended that it read “Happy Birthday Cunt.”
That’s incredible. I mean, honestly, that kind of embodies the Old Town Ale House.
The whole night people came in and asked, “Where’s Cunt?”
You were just like, “That’s me.” That’s amazing. I really do feel like that’s kind of the perfect story to embody that place because it’s like, yeah sure you might get some special treatment, but it’s always going to be like, “Uh no, you’’re not that special. Calm down.”
I love that they won’t cow tow. They keep only jazz music on the jukebox. No TVs. It’s just, “This is what you get. Take it or leave it.” I love that.
We better talk about “Impastor” before they cut us off. What is Russell up to in Season 2?
Russell is up to a lot—getting into everyone’s business always. He’s the guy who loves to be at the center of the information. I don’t think he would agree with the term gossip, but that would be the label you would apply to him. He loves getting that information, then giving out and not being so concerned with how factual it is, but how salacious it is. He also gets to have some fun connecting with characters like Alden Schmidt. They have a nice episode where—I’m trying not to give too much away—he helps Alden, whether or not Alden wants that help.
Oh nice. That should be fun.
I think that is another typical Russell characteristic. He just thinks, “I’m going to help even though no one ever asked me.” It’s probably more for him than for them.
Is he still smitten with Buddy?
Oh absolutely. Yeah, he’s still pursuing Buddy hard despite not a lot of reciprocation. It was just such a wild season. I think we came in like, “How are they going to top the cliffhangers and the twists and turns of last season?” You never know what you’re going to get because it kind of straddles that line of being an action thriller show but also a comedy. One day you might go in and be filming a very funny scene and the next day you’re running from an exploding car.
I’m trying to imagine how Buddy will get out of that cliffhanger, but I’m sure that they’ve worked up something incredible.
That’s exactly how I felt going in. How is he going to get out of this? They kind of kept the scripts very secretive from us even while we were filming. … We were all trying to get information from each other like, “Has anyone talked to Michael? Does he know anything? What’s going on?”
I love the line in the premiere where Russell says, “I should probably move in with [Buddy] until this crisis is over.” Will Russell ever get over Buddy, who basically just leads him on? Maybe find a real boyfriend?
I would love to see that. … Part of me feels like if he started dating someone else, it would kind of just be like, “I’m going to do this and see if I can make Buddy a little jealous.” I don’t know if he would fully have moved on in his heart. I think it might just be like I’m going to use this person a little bit as a pawn to see if I can spark some jealousy.
As a gay man, are you hyper aware of making sure that Russell is written with respect. It’s fine to poke fun at certain things because that’s comedy, but just staying respectful while doing it.
Oh, absolutely. I think everyone is pretty aware of that. Even if I’m doing a scene with Michael Rosenbaum, he’ll sometimes say to me, “Is that OK?” Buddy turning down Russell can often feel harsh, but we never want it to feel like he’s anti-gay in his stance, because he’s not. …
I agree with you that it’s comedy and you have to have some kind of sense of humor about yourself and about gay issues. I don’t like it when gay people get mad when they see someone on TV who is “too gay.” That is just as dangerous, because essentially what we’re saying is masculine is better. I don’t think that’s true. I have friends who are more feminine and that’s fine. We need to realize that’s OK, too. Those people exist. You know? Even in my own life, I have times where I’m more masculine and more feminine. I think that would be true of everyone if you talked to them. I have a friend who always jokes that he is “too gay” to play a gay character on TV.
He would get typecast or something?
Yes, and he would have people online or whatever lash out and be like, “Oh that character’s too gay. This is a stereotype.” No, this is his real voice; this is him. I think it’s just as damaging to have someone play it very straight as a gay character.
What I like about your show is how Buddy is pretending to be a minister when he knows next to nothing about the Bible, but he’s also pretending to be gay. He does have a narrow knowledge of that lifestyle, I guess, but he sort of hits those stereotypes in a funny way that’s not even mocking.
Exactly. I think they do a good job with making the joke always be on Buddy. The joke is coming from his ignorance of the gay world. It’s not that he’s like, “Ew, this is gross.” It’s just he doesn’t know anything about it.
Although I did see the outtake of the kissing scene, where Michael starts rinsing his mouth with the wine. Have you seen that outtake? I guess you lived it, so yeah you know.
I think that’s a good example of where they were trying to decide it they wanted in the final take because it might be crossing the line.
It was pretty funny as an outtake.
Oh yeah, it’s funny regardless. Whether it was a gay kiss or a straight kiss, I think it’s funny.
Is it easy for you to be in something that’s so fast moving because of your background in improv?
That’s a good question. I think it definitely helped having a background in improv and being kind of ready to adapt to whatever’s going on. But just because of the way TV works it’s so different. At any given time we are shooting two episodes at a time. Everyone has to help each other and ask the director and the script coordinator, “OK, where are we? Which episode are we in? What’s happened? What do we know at this point?” So I can know how to react, because so much information is revealed throughout that you might be shooting two scenes in the same day where one happens and you don’t know this big key piece of information and in the next scene you do know. It is a little bit of a juggling act.
Do you get to use your improv skills?
A little bit here and there. They released some outtakes from last season of me just improvising the beginning of this scene over and over again. I also think that because, as you were saying, there are so many twists and turns and so much happens in each episode, there’s not a ton of room for improvisation. Some little bits here and there will get in, but nothing too huge.
How much of yourself do you bring to the role?
I think there’s definitely a shred of me in Russell. We’re both very excitable people. I think I can tend to get very excited and fan flames of excitement in the same way that Russell can.
Are you into leather like he is?
[Laughs.] I have not found my love for that yet, but I’m not ruling it out. It could be in my future.
Back to those outtakes bloopers. It looks like you guys have a riot on set. What’s it like working with this cast?
I love them. You get to go and spend time hanging out with your friends and everybody has a good sense of humor—it’s great. David [Rasche], who plays Alden Schmidt, is also a Second City alum. He worked there in the ’70s with Bill Murray. We have that connection—a common language. Mircea [Munroe] and Sara [Rue] and I just went down to La Jolla last weekend to see a play that he was in. Michael couldn’t go because he had Rams tickets, I think. I don’t know sports. I’m having lunch with Michael next week.
I feel so lucky to have landed in a place where we all like each other. I think the fact that it shoots in Vancouver helped us bond very quickly because it feels like summer camp. You’re away in this place where your whole social circle is these people.
Speaking of Michael and that kissing scene, tell me about his commentary about your lips.
I think Michael loves to just push anything he can with things like that. Anything people might grab on to that would be like, “This is scandalous.” He loves it. He would love to show his butt any time, any where. You go through his proofs you’ll see pictures of him standing with his pants down, butt out. You just never know.
Your characters’ relationship is sort of that stereotypical ultimate gay fantasy of getting a straight guy into bed. Isn’t it?
Which is funny because he sort of doesn’t even know that that’s what he’s going for.
That’s another thing that I like about the show—it sort of tiptoes near that idea, but it never goes all the way there. I bet you guys have launched quite a few fan fiction stories though.
[Laughs.] Some real specific fantasy genres. [Laughs.] I have seen people on Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever they are, say things like, “I am a gay Lutheran pastor and I really like this show.” It’s fun to see that these people exist in real life and have a good sense of humor about it.
The coming out episode from Season 1 had some real-life moments that you turned comical. I love that it hits those points while still being funny.
I think that’s true of life, too, that even these very intense moments sometimes have the potential for the most hilarious things. Comedy is the breaking of tension while the building up of tension is drama.
In real life, unlike your character, you have a boyfriend, right?
I have a boyfriend. He worked at Second City in Chicago as well. We’ve been dating for three years, but we dated for two years about eight years ago. We’ve known each other a total of 10 years. We live together. His name is Brian Gallivan. We met in Chicago and have since moved here.
He was on the main stage when I was in classes at Second City. We are two of the four openly gay men to ever have performed on the Second City main stage since 1959. Half of them are now dating one another. [Laughs.]
What has your experience been like as an out gay man in Second City and, on the larger scale, in comedy in general and in Hollywood?
I’ve felt like it’s been pretty good. At Second City specifically I never was treated as “other.” I think if anything my voice was encouraged. I think that’s pretty unique about Second City. In Hollywood, I don’t know if I’ve had as much experience. I feel like I’ve auditioned for a lot of the same things that a lot of my straight friends have, so I don’t think I’ve felt too much in that sense.
I will say one time I went, in LA, for a commercial audition. It was for Home Depot I think. The director was there and he was like, “Oh great. We’re actually going to have you read for this other spot we’re doing as well because you kind of have a look that we are going for.” The joke of the commercial was this guy was refinishing his desk, but he looked very wimpy or something. [Laughs.] I did it a few times for him and he kind of directed me and then he said at the end of it, “I don’t think it’s going to work. I think you’re just too manly for it.” I went, “What?” in the gayest, girliest way. I was like, “Did you just say I’m too manly?” He was like, “Where was this energy just a moment ago?”
That’s one time, one thing I didn’t expect. People talk about not wanting to get stuck playing only gay roles. It’s true; as actors you always want to be as versatile as possible. But if I’m being honest, I’m more interested in playing gay roles.
As long as they’re interesting.
Exactly. Not that I wouldn’t play a straight role, but I think it’d be more fun to play something that I know more about.
Last thing I wanted to ask about: what was it like working on a comedy cruise?
It was the weirdest. In fact, Sarah [Rue] from the show, any time I tell her stories about my time on a cruise ship, she and her husband are like, “Why aren’t you pitching this as a TV show? It’s the best.”
It’s such a bizarre world and I had never even been on a cruise until I was working on one. It was in Alaska and I’d never been to Alaska before. I got to go to Alaska, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Hawaii, Northern Europe—Scandinavia. It was wild, but so fun. It’s one of those things I’m so glad I did, but I never need to do it again.