Casey Wilson Almost Didn’t Include ‘Happy Endings’ in Her Book of Essays and More About Her Writing Process

Casey Wilson
Courtesy of Clayton Hawkins

Casey Wilson may be best known as an actor, with roles in “Gone Girl,” “Atypical,” “Happy Endings” and “Black Monday” as well as a stint as a “Saturday Night Live” cast member, and as a podcaster (“Bitch Sesh”). However, she also has an extensive writing résumé, including co-penning feature comedy films “Bride Wars” and “Ass Backwards.” Now, she is about to publish her first book, “Wreckage of My Presence,” out May 4 from Harper, a collection of essays reflecting on her familial and romantic relationships and some of her past work, all through a humorous lens.

“Wreckage of My Presence” does talk about some of your work experiences, but it also digs deep into your personal life. How did you know how much was enough of each part of you to include? And did you approach the behind-the-scenes stories differently if they were past shows where you may have told a lot of these stories before in interviews?

Some stories just aren’t concluded yet, in a way, and I think it’s easier to write things in hindsight. I used to really not talk about my experience on “SNL” because I think it was such a mixed bag of it was exhilarating and really painful. And now, I’m so many years on I genuinely laugh about it and I’m so grateful that I can tell that story a bit removed. I really was ready to write when I realized that I’m actually not going to try to reverse engineer this in terms of what people would think, or would they want that story, or had they heard this? I just said I’m going to tell the stories that are funny, make me laugh and that are meaningful to me, and hopefully they resonate with someone.

So, when is the “Happy Endings” tell-all coming?

To be honest, I wasn’t going to include an essay about “Happy Endings,” just because people either rabidly love the show or they’ve never seen it. My editor thought that it should be included, so I’m really glad I did it, ultimately.

How did this process start?

I wanted to do this, honestly, since I was little. My mom had these Erma Bombeck books, and she was this hilarious essayist who wrote stories about her life [as] a housewife. And I love David Sedaris so much and Nora Ephron and I’ve always wanted to do this, and I’ve been scared, frankly, to put myself out there in that way, but I was just about to turn 40 and I felt ready to tell some stories. I was far enough past my mom passing away that I felt there were some stories to tell there that would hopefully help people and make people laugh.

Was this a situation of literally sitting down between takes on “Black Monday” and episodes of your “Bitch Sesh” podcast? How did some of your other creative endeavors affect your work on the book?

Writing TV and movies or acting, it’s such a process done by committee that there was actually something wonderful about, once I got over the fear of writing alone, just getting to do what I wanted to do. I’m such a collaborative person that I’m always afraid to be left alone with my own thoughts, and really writing a book is the ultimate kind of version of that. Luckily, I wrote it at the Jane Club, which is this co-workspace and I felt less alone. I’m someone so social that the idea of just facing a blank page, not to mention excavating one’s darkest memories, was daunting. But I would just look around me and see all these women just tapping away and I felt inspired.

Did you share your work as it was in progress with any of the women there or people who are in the book to give you feedback?

I haven’t shown it to anyone except for Danielle Schneider, my podcast co-host, and my friend Matt McConkey. They read it at the very last stage before I turned it in; I just wanted to make sure I didn’t say anything so egregious. But other than that, I haven’t shown it to my husband or other close friends or even my family. I contacted everyone I mentioned in a even tangential way to just get their blessing because I’m always scared people don’t like me or will hate me. And I really just didn’t want the spirit of the book to have any fear with it. If I mentioned anyone, I wanted it to be with a good intention. A few people I say take aim at and I didn’t contact them, but I was calling old boyfriends. I felt I was making amends, calling people out of the blue and saying, “Can I read you a little passage? And will you OK it?”

What would have happened if they didn’t OK it? Would you have really left a story out?

100%. It’s not worth it to me. I wanted to there to be good energy around it, and my last thing I would want is to hurt some feelings for me to get a laugh. There’s too many laughs to be had to have them at someone’s expense that I love. That said, I have many laughs at people’s expense, just not people I love.

What happened with the things that were still a bit raw, that maybe you didn’t want people to laugh at or even know about?

My therapist always says that when you can make something into a funny story is when you’ve processed something. And I try to do that quickly, in a way, and almost be an outsider to certain experiences — to step out of them and say, “That’s wild that’s happening to that other person.” Yeah. But I also think it comedy is the best way to make a point that doesn’t feel like a lesson. And so, I just tried to be true to myself. I certainly wanted to tell darker things, but I also think it doesn’t mean you can laugh while you’re telling them

A lot of my mom’s story in the book, I’m revealing things about her, which is difficult when someone’s not alive. And I wanted it to be a love letter to my mom, but also a realistic portrayal. And so, I did ask my dad and brother about that and they said kind of what you said, “This is your story to tell.” And my brother said, “I really actually think mom would want her story out there and if it can help anyone, but she would love that.” So, I took that and ran with it.

You have a very honest, serious essay about your son and the food sensitivities he lives with, but also the journey to get that properly diagnosed. Did you have different rules about what you were willing to share when it came to your kids?

There’s definitely some darker elements of those stories that I just knew instinctively, “That’s too far; it’s too much to share.” In the case of my son, I think there’s so much mom guilt. At least in this one particular instance — and that’s not to say there’s things I shouldn’t feel guilty about as a mom — but in this particular instance, my son ended up having such a major health problem that it, almost in a slightly comical way, had nothing to do with me — although it does have to do with my genes, so I’ll take that on. But sharing that and also just sharing this notion that moms do have such an instinct about our kids, I want to empower moms. We do know when something’s wrong, and it doesn’t have to always be that we’re doing something wrong.

You talk about your anger a lot, and there’s a line that stuck out that said that anger served you well as an actor.

A lot of the roles I play are the friend and the relatable person you want to be friends with, which obviously, I love that. But I’ve always still had a really angry side and had to harness that and really learn like where that line is, just as a human on Earth. How angry you can be and how does that impact another person? I think getting that under control, and by that I don’t mean not being angry, but having it under control in a business setting, be it acting or anywhere else has really served me. I think anger’s galvanizing in the right way.

How did you determine how much “Housewives” to include, given that you have spoken so extensively already about the franchise on your podcast?

I wanted to write something about the housewives to speak to, what I’ve said before, which is, it’s not only OK to love them, it’s wonderful. But also, I wanted to give it the context, which I don’t think I really ever have, which is where I was in my life when I found the show and what a dark time it was. And I hear from so many people that those types of shows are actually really oddly there for them or playing in the background of grief. And I think that’s something wonderful about the shows. So I wanted to tell that story in particular — that when and how you come to things is sometimes more important than what they are almost.

May 4 is the day of the New York “Housewives” premiere and it felt such a beautiful coincidence. It’s thrilling and it feels divinely guided.

So then you’ll be focused on “Housewives” and not the launch of the book or new season of “Black Monday”?

[Laughs.] Exactly, I told my publicist to clear my calendar for that week because I’ve got to settle in with “Housewives.” There are priorities!

What can you preview about where Season 3 of “Black Monday” finds your character Tiff?

All I can say is that her fashion empire is on the rise and she may or may not become a full-blown gay icon, and it’s thrilling and exciting. And I’ve gone blonde.

Was that a wig?

It’s a wig, but it’s been thrilling to get super tan and blonde coming out of this quarantine. It just feels right. It’s what we all need. To be told you need to spray tan? How lucky am I?

Things You Didn’t Know About Casey Wilson:

Age: 40
Hometown: Alexandria, Va.
Cause she most cares about: The Kathy Wilson foundation
Hidden talent: “I have perfect pitch.”
If she wasn’t in entertainment: “I’m waffling between being in politics or being a floral arranger.”
Childhood hero: “Alex P. Keaton minus his political leanings.”