Cheryl Hines And Rachael Harris On Merkins, Show Cats, And The Harsh Life Of Hollywood Assistants

We spoke to the pair about their new show and discovered that Cheryl is the proud owner of a hedgehog and Rachael has a strong love for air conditioning.

Getty Images / Graphic by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

Cheryl Hines, best known for putting up with Larry David as his wife (and ex-wife) on Curb Your Enthusiasm and now as one of the stars on Suburgatory, has teamed up with longtime friend and fellow funny person Rachael Harris in a new Yahoo web-series called We Need Help. The show revolves around Cheryl, Rachael and their joint assistant Max, who has to deal with the women’s trials and tribulations that come along with fame. BuzzFeed spoke to Cheryl and Rachael to hear about the show, their friendship and a merkins.

So where did the idea for the show come from?

Cheryl Hines: Well, I was a personal assistant. When I got Curb Your Enthusiasm I was doing personal assistant work, and now I have a personal assistant, and the world of personal assistants in Hollywood is just really funny.

Rachael Harris: And Cheryl has been working with our writer Julie Welch, on kind of a different version of that, and then Cheryl and I really wanted to do something together. So she literally came up with the idea, “Well, what if we have an assistant and we share him?” and I said that’s hilarious.

And then you came up with Max, your joint assistant. Is he based off anyone?

CH: Well, he’s based off of himself! Max worked for me as a personal assistant for a while.

Ah! So that brings me to my next question. You both play yourself on the show and some things are very real, like Cheryl — you are in Suburgatory on the show. How do you differentiate between real life and what’s on the show?

CH: We just take real life and exaggerate it a little bit in the parts that we think are funny. Just like the part about being on Suburgatory and I’m supposed to be tan all the time. We just take those moments and magnify them. But then we still get to use fictitious story lines and characters too, if we want.

What’s the most different and similar thing about your show self vs. your real-life self?

RH: Well, on the show I own a cat. And I don’t like cats. (laughs) And also, Cheryl and I are very supportive of each other’s careers and I don’t mind if she gets offered roles. It’s more funny that I have to read for something, but it’s not something that I’m angry about. In life we have a very realistic friendship and we are really great working partners.

CH: And we’re not quite as self-involved in real life as we are on the show. If we are going to do a charity event and they fly us coach, we wouldn’t be mad about it. But on the show we can be mad about it, because we do know people that would be mad about it.

RH: So we get to play those people that other people are like, “OMG can you believe they behave that way?” And then we’ll say, what if we behave that way? And then we make a big deal like that.

So you know people that have done this, that have made a big deal about flying coach?

CH & RH: Yeah!

CH: We aren’t here to name names, but I had to plan a party for a celebrity back in the day and we had people’s assistants call and ask who their celebrity bosses would be sitting next to at the party, and if people weren’t at the right table next to the right people, they weren’t going to come. And if they didn’t have the right food, they weren’t going to come. It was just one cell phone call after the other asking questions like that, and they were just kind of losing perspective on why we were having the event.

When you were an assistant, what’s the craziest thing you had to do?

CH: Well, when I was an assistant I had to sign a confidentiality agreement. But I know people that had to do horrible things, ranging from plunging toilets to buying underwear.

RH: When I was a nanny, the first people that I nannied for were older, and I was dealing with a 2-year-old. And the 2-year-old would want to see the parents, but this older couple would nap every day at 4 o’clock, and I had to keep the son away from them at 4 o’clock. And that was a bit weird. It was OK, but it was just a normal everyday thing that was strange.

And what’s the most diva-ish thing you’ve ever requested of an assistant?

CH: I just recently had to ask my assistant to clean out my daughter’s hedgehog cage. And clean out the poop. It’s not easy because you can’t really hold a hedgehog, so she would have to put on a rubber glove, to pick it up, you know.

So you have a hedgehog?

CH: Yes, well, my daughter does.

What’s the hedgehog’s name?

CH: Tiger Lily.

How much of the show is scripted versus improvised?

CH: Well, a lot of it is scripted. Our friend Julie Welch wrote the show and because of the way were shooting it — we shot it all very quickly and out of order — we had to stick to the script a lot. But we have moments of improv, so if something strikes us as funny when we were shooting, we could throw it in.

RH: Julie did such a great job of writing it that we really didn’t need to improv very much.

In the show, Rachael, you have a cat named Fellini. Where did the cat come from? Whose is it?

CH: Can I tell you something, it’s very hard to find a show cat at a reasonable fee. And we got very lucky because I have a friend named Maria and she has a neighbor who walks her cat. And so we asked if we could use her cat in this show. Because also it’s hard to find a cat that walks on a leash, but we found a cat that walks on a leash outside. So it’s a friend of a friend’s.

screen.yahoo.com / Graphic by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

OK, so can both of you to tell me something about the other person that is surprising or that no one knows?

RH: Well, for Cheryl, I would say that she’s generous to a fault with her friends and she can’t say no. Like, she says yes to everything. And I’m saying that in all honesty. Like, she gets herself into trouble because she can’t say no.

CH: That is true. My brother who lives in Florida said he’d come out and just stay with me and tell people no for me. He’d be my no man. And Rachael… What people don’t know is, she, um…

RH: It doesn’t have to be noble or anything.

CH: No matter what hotel room she walks into when she stays on vacation, she will not stay in that room. She will immediately demand a different room.

For what reasons?

RH: I just like to see all my options.

CH: She needs to see all her options, and it ranges from anything to the view, to the smell, to the layout. There are lots of reasons why. But there’s something about that first room.

RH: It’s also the air-conditioning. I like to sleep with it really cold.

In one of the episodes of the series, Rachael, you want to film a sex tape to further your career. Did you guys have anyone’s sex tape in mind that you wanted to emulate?

RH: No. We were laughing so hard because we were thinking, What if I got upset because the industry doesn’t see me as sexual

CH: And plus, just poking fun at this town and the idea that people use sex tapes as a device. And that it’s all calculated and no one’s sex tape is leaking out by accident. So I think we were just having fun with that idea as well.

In the first episode, Cheryl, you have to wear a merkin. Have either of you ever had to wear a merkin, or what’s a crazy thing you’ve had to do on set?

CH: Well, I was producing a TV show, and in the show the guy was supposed to be a porn star. And we were supposed to be shooting at the house where the porn movie was shooting, and the joke on the show was that this guy was walking around after taking Viagra — and he’s just walking around nude, with an erection. And it’s making everyone else uncomfortable because he’s walking around getting snacks and people have to make conversation with him while he’s completely nude. And on the day that we shot, the contraption that the wardrobe person had made was a flesh-colored Speedo, but the Speedo wasn’t working because we were going to blur out his business in post [production], but we could still see the Speedo, so we really needed him to be nude. So I suggested that he wear a merkin, so that he would be covered, but he would still be nude. And the other producers on the show were guys and no one would talk to him about wearing a merkin, so I had to go in there with a little tiny wig and ask him how he felt about wearing a merkin. And he ended up not wearing it. He said he would rather walk around nude, which he did. He just let it flap in the breeze.

RH: No merkin stories, but I held up production on Suits recently. They traveled me to set wearing a dress and I had Spanx on, not kidding. And then I had to change out of that and get into a negligee because I had to do a scene in bed with another actor. And because of the way the lingerie was cut, I couldn’t wear Spanx with it, but we didn’t have underwear. And so they tried to get me to shoot the scene without underwear, but it was like, we had to be moving around and I was like, “Hi, I don’t think I can do that,” so they had to go get me underwear. And I ended up filming with underwear and it felt much better.

Graphic by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

Cheryl, who would you rather: Larry David or Jeremy Sisto?

CH: That is a very loaded question.

RH: It’s like Sophie’s choice!

CH: Yeah, I mean I love both… Jeremy is very foxy and super fun. But I have a soulful connection with Larry.

RH: Larry is super foxy too.

CH: Larry is of course super foxy, but he and I are kindred spirits of sorts. So I guess I’d just be annoyed on a desert island with Larry for the rest of my life.

Do you know anything about another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm?

CH: You know, I’m really good friends with Larry, I see him all the time, but we never talk about Curb. I don’t know, he doesn’t really say no. He doesn’t say, “No, it’s over, that’s not going to happen again,” so I kind of feel like, well it’s a possibility!

And would you do it again if he asked you?

CH: Of course! I would always do it.

Are you guys excited for any fall shows coming up?

RH: Well, I’m excited for my television show that’s going to premiere this winter. It’s called Surviving Jack with Christopher Meloni. It’s going to premiere January or March I think. And then also, I’m friends with Allison Janney and I can’t wait to see Moms.

CH: And I cannot wait for the second season of House of Cards.

RH: And we can’t wait for Homeland.

Did you go to the Emmys or any fun parties?

CH: Yes, we went to the HBO party!

Any fun stories?

CH: I did try to steal Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Emmy. I tried to convince her that I won, it wasn’t going over well. She was like, Cheryl, I know you didn’t… I was there. And Tony Hale was there, and he’s from Tallahassee, and it was just a really fun night.

And Tony Hale’s bit with Julia when she won was amazing.

CH: So funny. They were great together.

RH: That will go down in history, that will be one for the years. And then I went to the Jimmy Fallon after-party. That was so fun, and Questlove deejayed all night long.

Were you on the dance floor?

RH: Oh yeah, people were crazy. I was dancing with the likes of Padma Lakshmi, Sofia Vergara, Bill Maher. And Jimmy was dancing, which was so much fun.

Who is your favorite co-star that you’ve worked with?

RH: Well, this is easy for me. I got to play Mel Brooks’ assistant on Curb, and that was huge for me. That was really, really, really fun.

CH: I guess I would have to say Larry, but it was really fun working with Robin Williams. He’s a pretty amazing person. He’s so intelligent and funny and a really sweet person.

RH: Didn’t you also co-star with Ray Romano on something?

CH: And I did fall in love with Ray Romano just a little bit when we played poker together. And now we play poker together in real life.

Ah, so like your character on the show, you play poker in real life.

CH: I do! I’m about to play poker with Ray tonight as a matter of fact.

RH: Oh. And Cheryl, of course! We’ve worked together.

CH: Yes, we are really favorites of each other. So put that in your notes!

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