Kevin Can F**k Himself’s Eric Petersen explains the series finale

Center: Eric Petersen (AMC);  Left and right: Eric Petersen in Kevin Can F**k Himself (Robert Clark/Stalwart Productions/AMC)

Center: Eric Petersen (AMC); Left and right: Eric Petersen in Kevin Can F**k Himself (Robert Clark/Stalwart Productions/AMC)
Graphic: Carl Gustafson

As the credits roll on Kevin Can F**k Himself for the last time, it looks like Kevin McRoberts (Eric Petersen) has well and truly taken the series title’s advice. He learns that his wife, Allison (Annie Murphy), faked her own death to escape him, and now she’s returned to demand a divorce. Enraged, heartbroken, and isolated, Kevin vengefully burns her passport while drinking. It leads to an accidental fire that consumes the McRoberts house, most likely with him in it.

AMC’s genre-bending dramedy has centered Kevin’s scenes in multi-cam, full of fake laughter and harsh lights. However, his final confrontation with Allison, at last, takes place in a grim single-cam setting. It provides a full picture of Kevin’s controlling behavior. Audiences have long awaited a glimpse of Kevin in the “real world,” so to speak. KCFH delivers it in a compact but poignant way.

The AV Club spoke to Petersen about bringing Kevin to life outside the sitcom, why he preferred seeing this dark side of him a small amount, and the experience of working with Erinn Hayes, whose sudden dismissal from CBS’ Kevin Can Wait loosely inspired Valerie Armstrong to create KCFH.

The AV Club: Everyone has been waiting to see Kevin out of the sitcom and in the real world. What conversations did you have with [series creator and episode director] Valerie Armstrong about how you wanted to portray Kevin in real life?

Eric Petersen: It was so exciting to finally get to do that in the last 15 minutes of the finale. There was talk during season one where Valerie thought we might not need to see Kevin in single-cam. She did say that she heard fans were like, “We need to see the truth of what he is.” There were some people watching sitcom bits going, “Oh, he’s not that bad. He’s dumb and a jerk to her, but he doesn’t deserve to be murdered.”

AVC: There were several similar comments below The AV Club‘s recaps too.

EP: Exactly. Personally, I thought it was wise to get a quick glimpse at the end of the monster he was. It was made more powerful by not seeing it until the end. Once we got to the day of filming, I was amped to show that other side of Kevin. As an actor, it’s nice to show people that the broad choices I was making in the sitcom world were stylistic choices. There’s a purpose to that, so we see he’s controlling and emotionally abusive. In that scene, he doesn’t hit her, but he’s cornering and physically trapping her. He’s showing his true colors.

It was an intense day of shooting. People have seen Kevin in one way in the first 15 episodes, and then the truth of who he is could not be such a huge flip where he’s gnashing his teeth or something. It had to be the same guy but without the laugh track. You see the physical space between Kevin and Allison because it’s not filmed from a wide angle. All those things contribute to showing who he was. Annie Murphy also knew I was excited to show another side of my acting and the character, so we shot it a bunch of times to keep the intensity and make it scary without being too over-the-top.

AVC: Kevin is isolated when Allison returns to ask him for a divorce. It’s when she brings it up that Kevin moves into single-cam. What did you guys want to evoke with how lonely he’d gotten by the end?

EP: The writers did a great job in the last four episodes of season two to peel away his support system. Pete and Neil fall away, and he’s left alone. The multi-cam scene that comes right before he reunites with Allison clues you into how alone he really is. It’s a tiny detail when he’s sitting in the kitchen saying, “It’s too quiet,” and you can hear the chair creak as he turns. It’s not something you hear in multi-cam scenes; it’s such a minutia detail.

Annie Murphy and Eric Petersen in Kevin Can F**K Hisself's series finale

Annie Murphy and Eric Petersen in Kevin Can F**K Hismelf‘s series finale
Photo: Robert Clark/Stalwart Productions/AMC Studios

AVC: Kevin’s long beard in this final episode is quite a shocker. How did you land on that choice?

EP: It shows that time has passed; it’s the easiest way to depict that. But I did read that in Kevin Can Wait, after Erinn’s character is killed and the show comes back, her husband has a beard. So it was a bit of an homage to that. I’ve never had a beard that big before. I sent a picture to my manager, who told me to grow one. It was fun to see Kevin’s different physical look. It made those final scenes with Allison more menacing. As opposed to having a baby face, the grisly beard made him more intimidating.

AVC: What was it like to develop Neil and Kevin’s dynamic in season two, considering Neil acts differently even in the sitcom world, and Kevin’s ignorance of that further informs their friendship?

EP: Alex Bonifer is such a great actor and he was stoked to see both sides of Neil in season two. It was interesting to play some of the scenes, like the middle chunk of season two, where Neil is starting to push back and not be a puppy dog. I like that Kevin would kind of clock Neil is not being a good soldier, but he’s got such blinders on that he never asked his best friend, “Hey, why are you acting like this?” Instead, he thinks, “Huh, this is weird, but it’ll figure itself out.” It was weird knowing as me, Eric, that the character of Neil is going through all this stress, and then as Kevin to act completely unaware.

AVC: It’s striking that Kevin straight-up laughs when he discovers Neil and Diane together. It’s very different from how Allison and Patty reacted when they found out.

EP: What a cruel, cruel scene. The fact that Kevin is so terrible to Neil and to Diane. I mean, at this point, Diane is still his family. Neil is as close as you can have to family. I don’t think I have lines in that scene, and I’m just laughing. It’s so mean. But as you said, it was meant to shed light on what their friendship truly is like.

AVC: What did you think about how Kevin’s story ultimately ends with the fire he sets?

EP: Once again, Valerie and the writers did a great job. After Kevin’s penultimate scene with Allison, he burns her stuff, and all the breadcrumbs were laid too well before that. We say he’s laid a bunch of fires throughout season two, so we know he’s an arsonist. He took all the smoke detector batteries out to run the generator [in episode five]. I love that it wasn’t Allison who kills him. He does it to himself out of his own boorishness, petulance, stupidity, and alcoholism. It all comes together to start the fire that ends him. I also love that we don’t see him dying. I think we can all assume that’s what happened, but I do like the ambiguity that maybe he found a way out and is roaming around Worcester. I do think he probably died, but I like that his body isn’t shown on a stretcher or something.

Erinn Hayes and Eric Petersen in Kevin Can F**K Himself's series finale

Erinn Hayes and Eric Petersen in Kevin Can F**K Himself‘s series finale
Photo: Robert Clark/Stalwart Productions/AMC

AVC: What was it like to have Erinn Hayes on board for the final episode, considering Kevan Can F**k Himself was inspired by her sudden dismissal from Kevin Can Wait a few years ago?

EP: It’s funny because when the press release came out that I was cast as Kevin two to three years ago, I was doing a musical workshop at the Pasadena Playhouse, and one of the people in that musical was Erinn Hayes. She had already seen some of the posts about KCFH, and how her experience inspired it. I knew I had to at least talk to her about it. So we had that moment where I told her, and I said, “We’re gonna honor your experience.” Cut to when they told me she would play Molly, my new girlfriend, in the finale. I thought it was perfect. She’s a total pro at the multi-cam scenes, so we fell into the rhythm easily. I asked her when we were filming, you know, “How is this for you?” She was so lovely. She said it’s odd knowing this whole production is inspired by a personal experience, but it has a nice full-circle moment of wrapping up this thread. I thought that was good and I hope we did honor her.

AVC: Kevin started dating Molly two months after Allison’s death, so we don’t get to see him mourn his wife. Do you think he did?

EP: I do think he mourned her in the way that was most self-serving to him. I keep saying Kevin never disliked Allison. He loved her in a controlling, manipulative way. He’s ignorant and stupid, so he thought he’s being a good husband when he actually mistreated her. I think when she died, he was sad that things will change, and he’s wondering who’ll clean up after him now. I don’t think he was like, “Oh, my wife, my lover is gone.”

AVC: Conversely, have you wondered whether Allison will mourn him or now throw him a funeral considering she’s back in town?

EP: Oh man, that’s funny to imagine. I have not thought about that. It’s a deep question. Would Allison have any kind of funeral for him, or would she want to completely take her hands off of him? I do not know. I want Allison to have a happy ending, so I want to believe that he doesn’t get some kind of great funeral where everyone is crying over the tragic loss of Kevin McRoberts. Somehow the truth about his real self comes out, and people rally around Allison upon realizing the terrible situation she was in that made her run. For her sake, I believe that’s how it ends for Allison.


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