Before landing the role of Larry David’s wife on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Cheryl Hines was an assistant to Rob Reiner. Now that she’s a TV star, she has had her share of assistants, including one she’ll ask to do anything — and he’ll do it.
“There is a really gritty, unglamorous underbelly to show business called the assistant world,” Hines says.
From that dynamic come many stories that inspired Hines and her friend Rachael Harris to create “We Need Help,” a show about Hollywood’s less savory side, produced by Principato-Young Entertain-ment and Vuguru. “We Need Help” debuted Monday on Yahoo as part of the site’s new comedy slate.
Hines talked about the life of a Hollywood assistant — based on her own experience being one and bossing one around.
A lot of people know you for playing Larry David’s wife on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and you’ve now made a show where, like Larry on that show, you play a caricature of yourself. How much did “Curb” influence you?
It was an influence, although I’ve never thought about it in concrete terms until now. The real reason we’re playing ourselves is because of the subject matter of the show — of an assistant. We’ve both been assistants, and there is a really gritty, unglamorous underbelly to show business called the assistant world.
I don’t think anyone could ever do a true reality show about an assistant to a celeb because the celebrity would look horrible. In the real world, you ask your assistant to do awful, unspeakable things, and no one with any self-respect would want that on a TV show.
Who were you both assistants for?
I was an assistant for Rob Reiner when I got “Curb.” Rachael did some nanny and assistant work for Roy Scheider.
Any good stories?
I had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
What about theoretical situations?
I can tell you about other people. In the world of personal assistants, there’s a very gray line drawn between professional and personal. I know assistants who go to parties with celebs or are assigned to not allowing that celebrity to eat fast food.
I know someone who had to fly to San Francisco to get a cake and then buy a seat for the cake on the flight home. That assistant is now responsible for a cake that costs probably $1,000. These are things that are so ridiculous and stressful that I find it really funny.
Do you base some of the skits in the show on your own experiences?
I can definitely use the experiences that way, and now that I’m a working actress I’ve had a few personal assistants. I have one now. I ask her to do awful things. The show comes from true places; it’s like “Curb” in that respect.
Is there something you’ve regretted asking your assistant to do?
I only have one child, so I felt guilty. I got her a dog to keep her company. That led to another dog, which led to two guinea pigs, a gecko, a hamster, two turtles and a hedgehog.
All animals I just listed off live in my daughter’s room in different cages, and I had to ask my assistant to clean out every cage. By the way, it’s not easy to handle a hedgehog. They are prickly and there’s a lot of poop involved. Maybe if I wasn’t working I’d do it, but I don’t think so. I’d rather work at 7-11 and hire someone to clean hedgehog poop. This is the town where you can do that. I wouldn’t say I ever regretted it, but it certainly came with a lot of apologies.
Max Adler plays your assistant on the show. How’d you pick him?
Max was my assistant for a while. His dream is to be on “Saturday Night Live” and be a comedic actor. We’d written this part for a young guy; it’s funnier that it’s a guy.
It just makes everything more humiliating because he has these two women he has to do things for. In real life, Max was a great assistant and will do anything for you. If I ask him to strip down to underwear and run down the street to get you a Slurpee, he’d do it.
He wouldn’t ask questions; he’d just do it. That’s what you want.
You and Rachael talk about auditioning for TV shows in your series. When’s the last time you had to audition?
This is an issue in our friendship. I did just have to audition for a voice-over, but I haven’t had to audition for TV or film in a while. It drives Rachael crazy. We do cross over that blurred line of reality.
How’d you meet Rachael?
I met Rachael at the Groundlings Theater. I don’t know what year that was but probably 1999 — right before I got “Curb.” We wrote sketches and performed sketch comedy together at the Groundlings. It’s so exciting when you move up in the food chain in show business and you go from writing sketches to writing a show. We wanted to work together on a bigger platform.
What else should I know?
There’s an episode where Rachael is frustrated about being cast as an angry lesbian. She wants the industry to see her as a sexy feminine woman, so Max jokingly suggests she make a sex tape. She decides it’s a perfect idea and asks me to shoot it. I have a guy lined up to do it in my hot tub with Rachael, and at the last minute he doesn’t show up. So we make Max do it.
It is the most awkward sex scene anyone has ever seen in a hot tub. We leak it online, and when it comes out you see Max’s side boob from behind. It starred out his nipples, and the caption reads, “Rachael Harris caught in lesbian sex romp.”