The desire for connection is a fundamental part of being human. But for the unscrupulous, it might also be an opportunity. When does friendship turn to betrayal, and therapy into manipulation? These are the questions at the heart of new mini-series The Shrink Next Door.
Inspired by real events documented in the hit podcast of the same name, Apple TV+’s newest series sees Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd star as millionaire Martin “Marty” Markowitz and his long-time psychiatrist Dr Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf. Bit by bit, a seemingly normal therapeutic relationship goes awry as Dr Ike gains control of Marty’s life, turning him against family, taking control of his finances and even commandeering his home over the course of a 27-year dysfunctional relationship.
It’s a bizarre ride into the extreme consequences of trust gone wrong.
“It was such an unreal story, and also so relatable. I could see myself in Marty’s position, in a certain context, so easily,” says Kathryn Hahn, who plays Marty’s sister Phyllis. As his only close family, Phyllis was the person who initially sent her big brother to Dr Ike… then lived to regret it.
The real-life Phyllis is “so strong, so formidable”. Having met through Zoom, Hahn says she was blown away by her “well of forgiveness”.
“Hopefully Phyllis will be really proud of how she’s portrayed,” she continues. “I know she’s going to say I swear too much in it because she does not swear that often. I apologise in advance.”
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It’s not the first time Kathryn Hahn and Ferrell have worked together – she had a memorable part in comedy classic Anchorman, which also starred Rudd.
“It was Will,” she says, gesturing up with one hand, “then there was, like” – the other hand drops down as she flashes a self-deprecating smile – “me.”
Since her series-stealing turn in WandaVision as witch Agatha Harkness there’s been a palpable levelling out. Though there’s no confirmation as yet, it’s been reported in Variety and elsewhere that a Hahn-fronted spin-off to the critically acclaimed Marvel series is in the works. For those of us who’ve long felt that her screen presence was unjustly underappreciated, it’s welcome to see her move to the foreground.
It’s a trend that continues in The Shrink Next Door. Although it is fundamentally the story of Marty and Dr Ike’s “platonic love affair”, Hahn says showrunner Georgia Pritchett created “incredibly strong, really well-nuanced, very well-developed roles” for her and female co-star Casey Wilson, who plays Dr Ike’s wife Bonnie.
While all four of the main cast are better known as comic actors, the script offered a chance to do something different. “I do think that a lot of times comedians are so wonderful at drama,” says Wilson, “and just don’t get to showcase that. Seeing Will in this heartbreaking role is so different to how we’ve seen him and Paul, too, in a kind of angry role, channelling a young Richard Dreyfuss.”
Dr Ike is certainly a darker role than we are used to seeing from Rudd, but the boyish charm for which he has become cherished is not easily dampened. For years, the internet has wondered whether there is a painting somewhere that facilitates his Dorian Gray agelessness. But is the 52-year-old actor really that freakishly young-looking in the flesh?
“I mean, I think so,” confirms Hahn. “He glows. It’s like staring at the sun. It’s annoying.”
“Yes,” agrees Wilson. “It’s frustrating for the rest of us.”
Irksomely immortal cast members aside, Kathryn Hahn and Wilson paint a close picture of the team behind the series. Filming at the height of the pandemic, Wilson says she was “a bit trepidatious” about the risks of working in such a big group, particularly given the high case levels in Los Angeles.
“But everyone was so lovely, and kind of in it together,” she says. “We tested a lot and everyone was very safe and wore masks and shields and everything. We did our hair and makeup alone. So it was a bit more isolated than most sets, but it was actually just a great time to get to finally be with people.
“I think none of us will ever forget it, no matter how this all turns out. There was a lot of trust involved. Still, despite all of that, we had a blast, which I think says a lot about the people involved.”
As we all process the trauma of the last couple of years, and try to make sense of our new normal, Wilson hopes the series will speak to the world we live in now. “We’re all wanting human connection,” she says. “And that is what this story is about – someone wanting human connection. So I hope it is cathartic for people.”
Could this story about the perils of therapy gone wrong even help people process their own emotions?
“Gosh, I really hope so,” says Hahn. “I think it’s so important to get it out. This shouldn’t be any sort of cautionary tale about therapy because I think therapy is so important.
“It’s just about family and loyalty and friendship and partnership. And about catharsis, and forgiveness.”
The Shrink Next Door, starring Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson premieres on November 12 exclusively on Apple TV+