The “Workplace Half-Hour Comedy TV Series” might as well be an American cultural landmark. Maybe it’s the way work has ingrained itself so deep into our everyday lives as Americans, that we have no choice but to poke fun at it, or maybe it’s because no matter what the job is on TV, there’s still that sense of relatability. Everyone’s had an egotistical boss, a coworker who gets on your nerves, a “work best friend”, or maybe even a work crush. It’s practically a given that you’ll encounter at least one of those people at any workplace.
Rachel Marsh knows this all too well. She’s studied workplace shows like The Office as her “comedy bible”. Her career spans from a background in improv at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, to now starring as Luna Castillo in Netflix’s “Unstable”, created by and starring Rob and John Owen Lowe. She’s come a long way from her Seattle roots, and is starting to make her own mark on the comedy world like the comediennes before her.
Marsh has loved the world of acting since she was young. Her first ever memory of it was seeing a national tour of the musical Annie in Seattle when she was a kid. “I just remember being like, ‘Wow! Real movie stars are here in Seattle!’” Marsh reflects. “I had no idea what the industry was, or how it worked, or how kids could literally audition for a play.”
Years later, Marsh has a pretty good idea of how the industry works, and how she wants to make it her own. Connecting with Luna, her character on Unstable, was easy. Both Marsh and Luna are finding ways to take risks in life, being bold and unapologetic, and trusting their instincts. Fortunately for Marsh, her improv background is key on trusting her comedy instincts. “If you feel like you have a good idea, you should speak up about it,” Marsh tells me, “because it could lead to a better idea or a better picture for the director. But that’s only done through the practice of doing that all the time and in improv.”
Having a director and production team that understands the importance of improv, especially in a comedy series, can be rare. “There were opportunities for me to improvise and add on little buttons at the end, or the beginning. Sometimes I’d try it, and Marc [Buckland, director] and Victor [Fresco, co-creator] would be like ‘no’, or they’d be like ‘yes, do that again’.” Marsh knows to take the good with the bad, and at the end of the day, there’s a lesson learned. “You’re not going to be for everyone all the time, but hopefully if you keep sticking true to what you think is funny, something will stick.”
The cast of Unstable is made up of a good mix of younger actors, like Marsh alongside Aaron Branch (Malcolm) and Emma Ferreira (Ruby), but comedy veterans such as Rob Lowe, Fred Armisen, and Sian Clifford. Working on any Netflix show is intimidating, especially as your first series regular credit, but add in the people who worked on legendary shows like Parks and Recreation, Portlandia, and Fleabag? It’s a whole new can of worms.
Marsh took it all in stride, reminding herself to soak it all in, and appreciate the experience she’d worked so hard to get. “We were all super grateful to be there, and that created this community of being down for whatever and having fun.”
As for working with Sian, Rob, and Fred? “It was like an acting class. Just watching Sian work, and having scenes with her, and Rob, and Fred, it was just the cherry on top. It just made it so much more fun.”
By the end of filming, they’d all formed a close knit group. While working in a tech lab run by Rob Lowe seems like a dream job on screen, the work Marsh and company put in on Unstable was, for Marsh, the real dream job. Going to act as a character you love, with your now best friends, and some of the people you’ve watched on screen for years? “Those days can be so long, but with the fact that you have all your friends on set with you, it didn’t really feel like a long day, or didn’t even feel like work at all.”
What’s next? A lot of actors can often feel like they have no idea what to do or where to go after a role as big as the one Marsh just had. Besides maybe a second season of Unstable (which Marsh said she’d love to do), she’s always going to be looking for the right time to create something herself. “I feel like the next step for me is to be able to write, produce, and act in something. It’s a lifelong dream of mine. It might not be currently, or even in the near future, but I don’t want to be too pushy about it. Just letting it happen when it does.”
If fate has it, Marsh will surely be dominating our screens one day. Her easy going demeanor, charming wit, and razor sharp comedic timing makes her one to watch. Sure, workplace comedies aren’t so few and far between anymore, but Marsh makes it fresh and invigorating. No matter what she decides to do next, she’ll make it worth your time.