“The mustache had to go,” says Thomas Haden Church of HBO’s Divorce. “[Divorce showrunner] Jenny Bicks and I had talked about it, and a makeover was in Robert’s near future.”
That’s right. In Season 2 of the HBO comedy series, Robert (Church) gets rid of the soup strainer. And it’s not even real. “Spoiler alert: I actually shave off a fake mustache.”
In the first episode of the new season, titled “Night Moves,” a frattish group of 40-and-50-something divorced men prompt Robert to get rid of this particular piece of facial hair. While looking for a new place to live, Robert enters a man cave with lawyer Tony Silvercreek’s (Dean Winters) cronies and quickly discovers this particular bachelor life is not for him, especially when one of the guys compliments him.
“He had wandered into the old Groucho Marx line, ‘I don’t want to be a member of a club that would want me as a member.’ I think he shaves it off because of that. I don’t want to be in that facial hair club that would have me as a member.”
But getting rid of the mustache speaks to more about Robert’s story arc this season because viewers see quite a different character. While Robert floundered a lot in Season 1, in Season 2, we see a happier Robert, even if he’s still got a long way to go.
“He’s regained his footing from where he was at the end of the first season, but I’m not sure that he’s flourishing. He’s got his sea legs back.”
Robert even meets a real estate agent named Jackie (Becki Newton) who gives him a boost he needs.
“She’s definitely a great, new, stabilizing-if-not-invigorating dynamic in his life, but she’s a complicated individual, too. And very independent and very self-starting. She has a very aggressive demeanor about not just business but romance, and I think that Robert’s a little blown back by it, and you see that when he first meets her.”
Also new this season is showrunner Jenny Bicks, whom Sarah Jessica Parker had worked with on Sex and the City.
“The great thing about Jenny Bicks is that she just wanted things just to continue the way they had been in terms of collaboration. It’s all discussed so far in advance. They bounce ideas, I bounce ideas. They had me doing one thing at the very beginning, and I said, ‘Hey, what if Robert is still the basketball coach for Lila’s team?’ That was my idea, and I largely helped sketch out that scene. And Jenny wrote that episode (“Night Moves”) so she was highly collaborative on that.”
Where Robert and Frances hated each other in Season 1, Season 2 shows us a bit of why they fell in love with each other to begin with, especially in the episode “Ohio,” when Robert returns home to visit his ailing father and sister (Amy Sedaris) and Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) joins him as moral support. The underlying question throughout the season is whether Robert and Frances could ever get back together, whether these new innovations of each other are actually better partners than the old versions.
“There are still moments of romantic and emotional reflection. I think that door is somewhere in the universe. Whether they could ever find it and open it, remains. It’s in the cards, but I don’t know. Does that card ever come up? Whenever people say, it’s in the cards, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to come into fruition.”
Half the fun of watching Divorce is seeing these characters evolve and develop, so maybe it’s too soon to tell. Church seems to agree.
“If they tried [to get back together] too quickly, there’s a great danger it would turn out exactly the same way, and that could be even more heartbreaking. Maybe it doesn’t work out for more subtly complicated emotional reasons. I don’t want to know that yet about Frances and Robert. I want to keep that mystery alive.”
HBO’s Divorce Season 2 airs on Sundays at 10 p.m., starting January 14.