Welcome to Role Call, where we call up TV’s leading ladies to talk about their most vital, memorable, and feminist episodes.
“I just can’t even believe that’s where we are now,” Four Weddings and a Funeral star Rebecca Rittenhouse sighs ahead of her Hulu show's July 31 premiere. She’s talking about the latest influencer-led proposal currently causing eye rolls across the country. The kind of engagement that takes all the intimacy out of announcing a lifetime commitment to another person… and replaces it with sponsored ads that were pitched to brands in boardrooms weeks earlier.
While Rittenhouse can’t stomach the “disgusting” ways social media is commodifying romance, as she says, it’s likely her Four Weddings’ character Ainsley dreams of a proposal-turned-wedding like the off-the-charts-trending one influencer Marissa Fuchs infamously experienced in June. Ainsley also gets left at the altar. That’s why Rittenhouse’s brand-new Mindy Kaling-created series, an adaptation of the 1994 rom-com of the same name, stands as TV’s first great long-form reminder there's more to love than the doing it for the 'Gram relationship.
Ainsley is at the head of that charge.
When we meet Ainsley in premiere episode “Kash With a K,” she is crushing hard on her hunky banker boyfriend, the titular Kash (Nikesh Patel). But Kash doesn’t tell Ainsley about his dream of becoming an actor. Instead, it’s Ainsley’s best friend Maya (Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel) who hears about Kash’s secret career desire during a chance meeting in an airport that quickly gets deep. Kash and Maya hang out for about an hour, at most. Kash and Ainsley are together for a little over a year, and the subject never comes up.
“Kash and Ainsley are really not meant to be. They don’t know each other — they’re not soulmates,” Mindy Project alum Rittenhouse tells Refinery29 over the phone. “Everything looked good on paper.”
It’s for that precise reason Ainsley and Kash’s beautiful wedding falls apart in the middle of their ceremony. Kash can’t say he takes Ainsley, the perfect girl on paper, to be his wife, or that he loves her. As Ainsley’s bridal façade starts to crack, it seems obvious that she, too, doesn’t exactly love him either. “Kash is always doing what he thinks he’s supposed to be doing, and it is the same for Ainsley, too. Ainsley in her heart of hearts knows that’s not the person she should be with,” Rittenhouse explains. “She just wanted to please her parents and have the picture-perfect life that looks good on Instagram.”
That’s why one of Four Weddings’ most revelatory moments so far arrives at the end of second episode, “Hounslow.” Over the instalment, Ainsley stares at Kash’s Instagram, marvelling at how nice they look on their trip to Thailand, one of the most social media-friendly destinations on Earth. To her, this is proof they were happy.
She just wanted to please her parents and have the picture perfect life that looks good on Instagram.
But Ainsley's loved ones put the threads on that fantasy. Ainsley’s employee Tony 2 (Misfits’ Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) points out how wildly impersonal the birthday present she got Kash — whiskey stones and an iPad — are. For contrast, we Ainsley’s learn London BFF Gemma (Zoe Boyle) gifted her husband a personally carved paperweight inspired by his childhood. And when Tony asks Ainsley what she loved most about Kash, she lights up when his fashion sense comes up. Oh, and they had great sex.
“When you’re looking at somebody, that’s an initial impression. But then once you get to know them, you stop seeing them physically so much,” Rittenhouse says. Kash and Aisley never got past that place — they only got to perfectly shot selfies in Thailand. It's a tough truth Ainsley admits in “Hounslow’s” third act. After Kash shows up at her home and confesses to creating the kind of persona he thought people wanted, Ainsley says she liked that fake guy. She didn’t care about the obvious cracks in the relationship because she wanted to marry that fake guy.
“It really is about her ego, because she really wasn’t in love with Kash,” Rittenhouse says of her character’s emotional revelation. “That in a way did make it easier for her to bounce back. It was more the humiliation and ego death of it all.”
That bounce back is what will fuel the rest of Ainsley’s Four Weddings and a Funeral journey. “She ends up dating someone older,” Rittenhouse teases. “So as time goes on, she becomes less and less concerned with all the image stuff. It’s a big growth experience for her.”
Does that mean this new relationship will give Ainsley room to approve of her best friend falling for her ex-fiancé who left her at the altar (a rom-com ending Four Weddings teases from the very start)? “I’m excited for that storyline,” Rittenhouse admits of her upcoming pairing. “And also for how things resolve themselves for the Maya-Kash storyline, and how Ainsley relates to that. It’s a very poignant and real [conclusion] because life is so messy and complicated.”
With a conspiratorial laugh Rebecca Rittenhouse promises, “I think it might activate some different opinions on things from people.”