There are an infinite number of elements that work in a mysterious alchemy to create a Good Television Show. As someone who writes about television for a living, I’m nearly always compulsively rotating through a mental roster of things I should be analyzing: acting, writing, cinematography, soundtrack, humor, costumes, etc. But sometimes, just sometimes, things aren’t that complicated. Sometimes a show is just good because you can’t stop watching it, because you care about the characters and you want to know what happens next. All of the aforementioned elements coalesce in easy harmony, disappearing into the whole and creating something that’s just entertaining, goddammit.
Such is the case with Imposters on Bravo, my favorite surprise on television this year, a scripted series following Ezra (Rob Heaps) a month into his marriage to Belgian beauty Ava, who suddenly disappears with all of his money and leaves a video explaining that Ava never actually existed outside of her the long con.
“Ava” is actually Maddie (Inbar Lavi), whose trail of targets also included jock-type Richard (Parker Young). For Richard, she became “Alice,” an east coast blonde who stoked Richard’s ego with fantasies of him becoming a senator.
The two men, heartbroken and plain old broke, pair up to find the woman who pretended to be the woman of their dreams.
It’s a good premise, but one that could have descended into soap opera in less capable hands. The plot of Imposters is full of surprises, but perhaps what surprised me the most was just how sharp the writing is. Especially once Uma Thurman shows up in a reoccurring role, even an overanalyzing television cynic like me couldn’t help but just enjoy the ride.
OBSERVER: So what has been your worst real life breakup?
ROB HEAPS: My first girlfriend I asked out when I was 16 in school, and a day and a half later, she said, “Can I have a word please?” and we hadn’t kissed, we hadn’t done anything. And I was thinking, This is it, we’re finally gonna kiss, we’re finally gonna kiss. And she went, “I think I just like you as a friend?” And I can still feel the blood just coming to my face it was the worst thing ever. And then of course, it’s a school so everyone’s talking about it. I remember the rest of the day, I was playing rugby and people were just laughing at me on the pitch.
INBAR LAVI: I have so many. I guess the worst one was the last one—I found out that my boyfriend of seven years had been seeing one of my good friends behind my back, and it just tore me apart. It was someone I trusted completely, and I was just so blindsided, I did not see it coming, and I trusted her fully, and it just broke me. He was like my husband, you know, my partner my best friend, my family. The other one is a little lighter—I remember I was so in love with this guy and we were dating for a little bit and I thought we were gonna get married and have babies! And we were dating for two months and he asked me to come to his house and he said, “We need to talk,” and I was like, Oh fuck. I came to his house and he was like, “I don’t think this is gonna work out,” and as he was saying this, there was a knock on the door, and he ordered take-out from a fried chicken joint, and I’m just standing there waiting for him to pay the guy and get the chicken. Then the delivery guy left and there was just silence in the room, and I said, “Go right ahead, have your fucking chicken.” So mortifying.
PARKER YOUNG: I’ve really only been in one relationship in my life. But we had some on-and-off periods, and during those offs they felt like really bad breakups. I broke down a door on my girl with another guy. Shouldered it in. I had a Christmas gift for her with a ring in it underneath the Christmas tree.
Oh my god. Okay, a little bit lighter—what’s your favorite rom-com?
YOUNG: The Lion King.
HEAPS: Bambi! [Laughs]. You’ve Got Mail. I’ve always really liked. I love how it’s like completely irrelevant now because it’s based on this idea that email takes like, two days to send and open. So I’ve got a soft spot for that.
LAVI: I like Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I think it’s hilarious.
You look a lot like Mila Kunis.
LAVI: I do get that a lot.
So what doppelgangers do you guys get?
HEAPS: Parker Young
YOUNG: Rob Heaps
LAVI: Doesn’t Rob look like Hugh Grant?
HEAPS: I get different people a lot. Andy Samberg,I get a bit.
LAVI: I think Parker looks a little bit like Tom Cruise sometimes. It’s just the swag.
HEAPS: They had a problem casting his part because when the character first enters, the script says “He opens the door and there’s this guy standing there that looks like a young Robert Redford.” And you know, this was the best we could do.
So, aside from the massive physical discrepancy, what are the similarities between you and your characters?
HEAPS: Jewish, I’m not Jewish. American, I’m not American. Pretty similar apart from that.
YOUNG: I’m a boy. My character played sports heavily in high school and I did as well.
LAVI: I think Richard put on a facade of this tough guy, but really inside he’s such a softie and a romantic, and I saw a lot of that in Parker throughout the season.
Which of Maddie’s personas do you relate most to, Inbar?
LAVI: I relate to all of them, to different extents. They’re all different versions of me, and I found more of her in me throughout the season which was fun to discover. I think Maddie is the core, and I think I relate to her the most—someone who desperate craves the escape and the run and the thrill of living in different places and being different people all the time, and yet is thirsty for a place to call home and finding some roots somewhere.
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
LAVI: I did. I don’t remember a time I didn’t want to be an actor. I remember every cake I got for a birthday, when I got to close my eyes and make a wish, I would ask for my parents to get a divorce, and I would ask to be an actor.
YOUNG: I always played pretend, a lot, and wanted to be a secret agent or a ninja. Never settled on one, but decided it would be fun to pretend.
So what would a con artist pretending to be your ideal significant other look like?
LAVI: you know what’s interesting, and [show creators Adam Brooks and Paul Adelstein] keep repeating this, is it’s not really about what we want our partner to look like—it’s about what we want to look like when they’re next to us. It’s all selfish at the end of the day. So, with Richard, he felt smart and powerful with Alice on his arm. It’s about how she looks at him, and how it makes him feel. It’s all about the reflection.
So what how would Maddie’s person make her feel? Who does she want to be?
LAVI: That’s exactly the question she needs to ask herself. She has no idea, and that’s something I hope our viewers are able to ask themselves—who is it they want to be?
So which has been your favorite physical transformation?
LAVI: Looking at myself, the character I felt prettiest in was probably Ava. Alice was a dream come true—as a Jewish girl from Israel with a really dark jew-fro and really dark features, I got to be blonde with blue eyes. I felt like jennifer Aniston for a day and that was amazing. But physically, to morph into CeCe, that was for me the biggest thrill because she was just very different from any character I got to play, and she’s just very free and loose and rebellious.
Did you already know how to do a Belgian accent [for Ava]? How did you even know what a Belgian accent sounds like?
LAVI: It’s a little softer, and breathier than French.
HEAPS: That’s exactly what Ezra says on the show!
LAVI: But it’s true! I think an Israeli accent, if you tune it a little bit, it can sound a little French, and my grandma spoke French and Arabic in the house, so I had that already. But for the Belgian, I did some coaching with our wonderful coach in Vancouver.
Rob, did you need coaching on the American accent or were you already ace?
HEAPS: It wasn’t perfect. It was pretty good, but we had coaches who were just fantastic. I listened to lots of podcasts—”You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes?” I’m obsessed with it. It’s weird because the same time our show was picked up, he was on his podcast going, “I’ve just been picked up” because he’s got this new show, Crashing on HBO. And his posters are up with our posters.
So what were your first jobs?
HEAPS: I was a waiter, at a hotel near where I live. But they had a thing where the guests stayed all week, so you’d get to know the guests—you do dinner and breakfast for like five days. So you’d get quite big tips on Friday morning when everyone would check out. I was awful. I was sixteen. I would always drop things. I was carrying a fully loaded cutlery basket on the way to the dishwasher, and I dropped the thing. You would not believe the sound. It was like a grenade had gone off. I remember a hundred guests in the restaurant just falling silent and everyone looking at me.
YOUNG: I worked at a shitty retail store. I was dating a girl that I met on a family vacation and at the time she was like, the face of Abercrombie, so you go to the mall and she was the big picture when you walk through the door. So that was at the time when that shit was cool. I worked at the store. Not one of the shirtless guys.
LAVI: I worked at a video store when I was thirteen, and that was my way of learning English. The store was called “Video Giant,” in Hebrew, and they went under when Blockbuster came out, but I worked there for four years, and I would literally just take home every video tape I could get my hands on. My mom would find mass amounts of tapes under my bed and in my closet.
What movie did you rent the most?
I was a teenager! I was a thirteen-year-old girl. I watched Clueless all the time. I used to fantasize about being able to play a role like that. You see what I look like—I thought I would never be able to play the part of Cher. And then I got this role, so dreams do come true, kids!
So what other dream roles do you have?
LAVI: I always wanted to bring Jasmine from Aladdin to life. I would love to make Aladdin, but I would switch the roles, and make Jasmine as the girl running in the streets and stealing apples and being a scavenger, and I would have her find the lamp and her find the genie.
ROB: It’s the most cliche answer, but Hamlet. Everyone says Hamlet, but it’s the role that has everything.
YOUNG: Simba, from Lion King.
The greatest romantic comedy of all time!
* * *
‘Imposters’ airs Tuesday 10/9c on Bravo