Kat Dennings was living the dream of many an up-and-coming Hollywood actress. In the hit CBS sitcom "2 Broke Girls," Dennings starred as Max, a wisecracking waitress in a downscale Brooklyn diner, a character who showcased her offbeat charisma and sharp comic timing.
While Dennings was grateful, the journey had its share of ups and downs, mostly fueled by controversies over the show's raunchy humor and its depiction of minority characters. By the time "2 Broke Girls" concluded its six-season run in 2017, Dennings was ready for the ride to be over.
"By the end, I just wanted to burn that waitress uniform," she says. "Not that there's anything wrong with the show. I'm very proud of it. But going forward, I needed to do something that was the polar opposite. I would have played a reanimated corpse if I could."
Her new project, Hulu's "Dollface," finds her very much alive but not particularly well, portraying a character who's more heartbroken than broke. She plays Jules, a young woman devastated when her longtime boyfriend abruptly dumps her. Her remedy is to reconnect with the female friends she abandoned during the relationship. The result is relentlessly awkward and comedic.
The series, which premieres Friday, is a departure from traditional romantic comedies, in which a suddenly single woman launches a desperate hunt for the next Mr. Right.
"We've seen breakups a million times in rom-coms, and the girl is always searching for another guy," says Dennings, dressed in an all-black ensemble with her hair in a high ponytail as she sits in a conference room at Hulu's Santa Monica headquarters. "Here, the breakup happens and the person sees that their friends are gone. So instead of her going for another romance, the rekindling is between the friends. I think it's kind of a fresh take."
"Dollface" also puts the actress in uncomfortably familiar personal territory: The title was inspired by a pet name an ex-beau called her. Like Jules, she hated the name.
"I've been through this thing where you're so in love that you forget yourself," Dennings says. "I'm guilty of being completely swept up and ignoring everything around me. It's no one's fault. I just feel like it happens to everyone to some extent. Maybe I'm a little more intense about it. I've been working on it. I'm 33 now, so I'm a little better at it."
Although Dennings is revisiting some painful touchstones in "Dollface," she is playful and upbeat as she discusses the series, celebrating a sense of freedom and dark-humored tone that are worlds away from the formulaic joke-fest of "2 Broke Girls." "Dollface" was developed by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie's production company LuckyChap Entertainment.
Says Dennings with a chuckle, "I've been Jules, and it's unpleasant. It kind of sucked to revisit it as an actress. It made me feel my progress and my lack of progress at the same time. Like, 'What painful thing can I revisit and exploit and make myself really miserable?'"