‘The Other Two’ Find the Spotlight: Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver on Ripping Hollywood a New One and the ‘Humiliating Experience’ of Being an Actor

It’s not long after I request a quiet table in the back, reporter’s notebook and tape recorder in hand, that the hostess of this rustic East Village trattoria asks who I’m meeting. When I tell her Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke, her eyes light up in recognition before she begins listing other stars who frequent the restaurant: Ben Stiller; Tyler, the Creator; Emily Ratajkowski; Ziwe. As I scan the menu, she recommends the chicken Milanese — Pete Davidson’s favorite entrée.

This interaction might sound celebrity-obsessed, verging on grossly superficial. But then again, I’m about to sit down with the stars of “The Other Two,” the hilarious and scathing satire of how fame consumes, corrupts and confines us.

Soon after we’re all seated, Yorke says with a hearty laugh, “Being an actor is, in many ways, a humiliating experience.”

We’re not yet five minutes into our interview, and she and Tarver are already diving deep into the mini hardships of Hollywood: Waking up at 5 a.m., recycling answers at virtual press junkets, avoiding parts that require a certain number of Instagram followers. “A lot of people who have aspirations in this business think it’s all about fame and going to fancy stuff,” Yorke continues. “But everybody is just hungry and bloated, has a cramp and is holding a fart.”

Together, Yorke and Tarver form the overlooked brother-sister duo referenced in the title of Max’s “The Other Two,” which, as the third season heads toward its June 29 finale, has become the most incisive Hollywood satire on television. From former “Saturday Night Live” head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, the series follows millennial siblings Brooke and Cary Dubek as they struggle to find their footing in New York City, all while being overshadowed by their 13-year-old brother, Chase (Case Walker), whose surprise hit single turns him into a Bieber-esque pop phenom. That feeling of inadequacy is compounded in Season 2, when their mom, Pat, played by Molly Shannon, becomes a daytime TV star not unlike Ellen DeGeneres.

In Season 3, Cary, an actor, finally works his way up to C-list celebrity status, while Brooke, after talent managing her famous family members, decides to leave the industry to “do good.”

“Cary and Brooke were always struggling, falling on their face, not getting what they wanted,” Tarver says. “This season is exploring: ‘Hey, you’re getting what you wanted, and you’re still not fulfilled. Technically, you should be happy right now.’”

When her fiancé becomes a nurse during the pandemic, Brooke — feeling professionally unfulfilled — sees his selfless decision as a reflection of her own insecurities. “She’s a fuck-up, like we all are,” says Yorke. “I myself went through that during pandemmy times. I was like, ‘I’m an actor. I don’t do anything but sit around and make self-tapes and whine about myself. I’m doing nothing that helps anybody. I’m not doing the good work.”

Meanwhile, Cary begins treating his closest friend, a fellow actor, with jealous contempt. His fame-seeking has become so intense that, when offered the chance to voice Disney’s first “unapologetically gay character” — a cartoon sack of mucus whose queerness is entirely superficial — he’s more than willing to exploit his own sexual identity to be the face of a press tour. “The characters are becoming monstrous in certain aspects,” says Tarver, who came out as bisexual at age 26. “I felt like we had earned it.”

Sitting shoulder to shoulder, the co-stars behave like real-life siblings. Yorke, in a blue baseball cap advertizing “Nora Ephron’s Bread Pudding,” ribs Tarver about his new car (“Do you think you’re a dick-swinger now that you have a Tesla?”). And when Tarver fusses over the spiciness of his chicken sandwich, Yorke rolls her eyes and says: “Give me a bite of this!”

Tarver, who lives in Los Angeles, is visiting New York to promote “The Other Two” with Yorke, who lives with her husband and 1-year-old son in Brooklyn. They’ve had more luck on this press tour than Cary, who, in one episode, travels across town for an interview with TheBrooklynBurrito.com, which ends up being a mental health facility treating those desperate enough to travel across town for an interview with TheBrooklynBurrito.com.

Tarver’s own introduction to Hollywood is scarily close to his character’s. In fact, it started in 2003, when his younger sister, singer-songwriter Katelyn Tarver, competed in a short-lived “American Idol” spinoff called “American Juniors,” hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

“Growing up in Georgia, the thought of being an actor was preposterous,” Tarver says, a slight twang in his voice suddenly evident. “But her doing that made me realize a career in entertainment was possible. I was like, ‘OK, my sister sings, and I’m medium-funny at a barbecue.’” When Katelyn went to New York to record an album, Tarver, then 18, tagged along and started taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Soon after, he moved to L.A. to pursue comedy.

Raised in Los Angeles, Yorke studied theater at the University of Michigan before working her way up to New York productions of “Bullets Over Broadway” and “American Psycho.” “I never thought fame was available to me,” she says. “When I was in school for theater, I just wanted to be famous enough to meet Prince William.” She pauses, folding a slice of prosciutto pizza. “This is when he was hot.”

Both Yorke, 38, and Tarver, 37, have dozens of television roles under their belts, from early gigs as Hooters Girl and Homeless Gang Member #2, respectively, to substantial roles in “Masters of Sex” and “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$.” But “The Other Two” marks the biggest moment of each of their careers. Debuting in 2019 on Comedy Central, the series then moved to HBO Max, steadily growing an audience of comedy fans and the very type of industry insiders the show satirizes. That includes the cast members themselves.

“When you’re being a little bit dumb about something, you immediately stop and realize, ‘Oh, we’re making fun of me,’” Yorke says. “Sometimes my own husband goes, ‘You gotta be careful — you’re really being a Cary Dubek.’”

That the actors find themselves slipping into the tendencies of their characters is a testament to the series’ firm grip on its subject matter. “The Other Two” captures a contemporary kind of success, where actors spend their days in Zoom waiting rooms, self-taping and scrolling themselves to sleep while searching for praise on Twitter. Chase, once a bright-eyed young singer, has been reduced to a mere conduit for brand deals and celebrity partnerships. In one Season 3 episode, his publicist, played brilliantly by Wanda Sykes, admits to inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to distract from Chase’s apparently terrible album released the same day. Unlike, say, “Entourage,” the show doesn’t depict “making it” as all that fun.

“Fame is a prison,” Yorke says. “You’re removed from humanity in a way that breaks your brain. Really famous people forget how to be humans.”

Of course, Tarver and Yorke still maintain a certain amount of privacy. But they’ll be the first to admit that even modest fame “fucks with your sense of who you are.” “You think of yourself as less of a human being and more like something you’re selling,” Yorke says. “That’s what’s hard about being an actor — you’re just selling, selling, selling yourself.”

That mentality of constantly fighting for shelf space, Yorke adds, can seep into an actor’s self-esteem. “You get to a point where you want parts and they’re out to people who just got nominated for an Oscar,” she says. “And you’re like, ‘What I’ve done will never be enough.’ Margot Robbie can read ‘Barbie’ and be like, ‘I want this to get made.’ And it will get made because her name means money. Is this a gross way to talk about it?”

For the stars of “The Other Two,” the goal is not to break the box office or turn heads when they walk into every restaurant (although they admit it feels good that the hostess watches the show). Yorke and Tarver say they’re more focused on working with people they admire and finding projects that inspire them.

“To be here, talking about a show that people love is such a pleasure,” Yorke says. “I didn’t have some raging success in my 20s. I’m proud to be in something that’s great.”

Before the check comes, I ask if either of them has any particularly humiliating showbiz memories.

Tarver pauses. “My dad was an onion farmer,” he says, laughing before he can even get the story out, as Yorke shakes her head in disbelief that he’s digressing to his childhood, rather than his life in Hollywood. “During the summer, there was a convention, and me and my sister were going to dress up like onions and be in front of his booth like, ‘Come buy Daddy’s onions!’” Throwing up jazz hands, he imitates his younger self with an Oompa Loompa-like inflection. “I thought I wanted the spotlight. The day of, I got in the onion suit and started bawling. I wouldn’t go out.”

Tarver eyes Yorke in anticipation of a snarky response, and, on cue, she puts down her pizza. “It’s funny that it was an onion suit and you started crying.”

“It mimics what we do now,” Tarver says, ignoring her, “which is ‘Look at me, look at me, look at me!’ And then — ‘Ooh! Do I want this?’”

“Speak for yourself, Drew,” Yorke says, snapping into character with an exaggerated hair toss. “I love it.”

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