Tara Lynne Barr, Laura on ‘Casual,’ talks to Awards Daily about Laura’s shame, mother-daughter issues, and that god-awful tattoo.
Like many teenage characters on television (and probably real life), Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) on Hulu’s Casual makes a questionable move during Season 2 of the series. She lets her love interest Spencer (Rhenzy Feliz) select a tattoo to put on her back—without ever seeing it ahead of time.
“It was a god-awful tattoo, we can all agree,” laughs Barr.
Season 3 picks up with Laura determined to erase the series of emojis singed on her back as well as the memory of Spencer.
“Every time she sees it, she’s reminded of something amazing that could have been that she essentially fucked up. She screwed up the relationship. She’s reminded of that every day. I think that’s definitely the impetus to try to scrounge together money to get it removed.”
But unlike most teenage characters on television, Laura isn’t just the snarky, beyond-her-years teen who makes wisecracks and helps the “adult” characters realize their potential. She herself is going through very mature problems and issues. In Season 3, Laura makes a new friend and quickly screws up that friendship in a cringe-worthy moment.
“When I read it, I thought, ‘Oh god, why?’ But the writers have created somebody that’s so human, so flawed and complicated. I think she’s surprised by her inability to stop herself and that it scares her a little bit.”
It might also be scary for Laura to see herself making the same mistakes as her mother. Barr does an excellent job of capturing a bit of Valerie (and Michaela Watkins) in her performance, demonstrating that the bruised apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“Laura has gaps in her inter-personal intelligence, which have contributed to her losing a lot of friends. But I think she’s similar to her mother in that she has the mind of a therapist. I think she’s got a lot of intra-personal intelligence. She and Valerie are also similar in such a way that they both are trying to be their best selves. Maybe their best selves and their true selves are at odds in order to see who’s going to come out on top. I think they’re similar in that way.”
Casual delves into more family issues this season that exist on a variety of levels.
“Laura needs that loving, present, mother figure in her life more than she ever thought she would. Valerie has perhaps overestimated Laura’s ability to care for herself and exist in a healthy way without Valerie physically being there. We deal with a lot of mother-daughter issues this season, including mother-daughter issues that go up to the top, played so beautifully by Michaela and Franny [Frances] Conroy.”
In fact, early on in Season 3, Laura questions her mother’s flaws and whether Valerie is actually a good mother.
“I think Laura does believe that her mom is a good mom and did the best she could under the circumstances of the divorce,” says Barr. “As the season goes on, Laura starts to see that maybe her mother has a different concern in mind rather than remedying or repairing a potentially estranged relationship with her daughter. Valerie’s still trying to find herself.”
Despite Laura’s god-awful tattoo and other bad decisions, Barr believes that one of Laura’s attributes as a character is that she has a very clear sense of right and wrong, even when she doesn’t always act on the best course of action.
Laura, the Activist
“Halfway through this season she gets into environmental activism in a pretty serious way and you really do see that she expects people to be good and to take responsibility for their actions. She has one screaming fit where she tells off one of her bosses at this signature collecting. She holds herself and other people up to high standards.”
One of the things that differentiates Casual from other comedies is the series’ ability to make audiences care for these characters who can sometimes do awful things. Remember when Alex gave back Carl the puppy in Season 1? Or body-shamed the blogger bartender? Barr reveals that this trend will continue in Season 3.
“Our writers take it to another level. The unlikable protagonist is not new. Our show isn’t the first to have done it, but I think there are very few shows that dare the audience every week—I dare you to still like this person! I think we see a lot of that this season with Valerie. She’s going to test the limits of the audience’s love for her and how much they care for her. These people are flawed and so human. The writers put a lot of trust in us actors to not play the obvious fuck-up-ery. They trust us to play the humanity of it all.”
Casual streams on Hulu. New episodes drop each Tuesday.