Heléne Yorke Remains Eternally Optimistic

Heléne Yorke
Heléne Yorke photographed by Emilio Madrid.

If there’s one rule Heléne Yorke lives by, it’s that she doesn’t let herself get upset for longer than 24 hours. She’s an eternal optimist, not letting even a torn ACL stop her from showing up to work with a smile. “What are you going to do about shit that goes wrong? What are you going to do about stuff that isn’t exactly what you wanted it to be?” she says one afternoon on a Zoom call, ready to talk about the emotional journey taken by her character Brooke, one half of the titular “other two” on the HBO Max series The Other Two. “Why not try something different, then stumble and fall?”

She launches into a quick anecdote about the ways in which she relates to Brooke Dubek, who finds herself in season two working as not only the manager for her newly famous younger brother Chase Dreams (Case Walker), but also her mother Pat Dubek (Molly Shannon), whose daytime television show rivals that of Rachael Ray’s. It’s a far cry from where she was in season one, squatting in the apartments that she, a real estate agent, was supposed to be showing to clients. “I did the most Brooke thing right before we were supposed to film season two,” Yorke says with a laugh. “I went to the Catskills with my fiancé who was planning to propose to me then, but I didn’t know that. I figured he was working a couple days so I would try skiing. I watched YouTube videos to learn, and I went to the Bunny Hill and I was good at it. I was sending pictures of myself to friends like, ‘Oh my god, I’m killing it!’ while I’m on a ski lift totally alone. I tried another easy hill and started going so fast so quickly, I tore my entire ACL. I shot half the season with a fully torn ACL.”

She was devastated for just a day, she adds, and needed surgery. But listening to Yorke tell this story, one would never know that she ever felt traumatized by the incident—the tale is peppered with genuine chuckles all the way through. And she’s right, that is the kind of thing her affable yet often misguided character on The Other Two would do. “The way Brooke throws herself into things with such wild abandon, and when she gets knocked down, she gets up like she hasn’t been touched,” Yorke explains. “She’s like one of those blow-up clowns that you punch and comes back up again. I find myself to be ruthlessly positive.”

Although she grew up in Los Angeles, Yorke has worked in New York for so long, she would need more than two hands to count all of the neighborhoods she’s lived in. Recently, she settled in Brooklyn with her fiancé. Throughout the pandemic, and especially before it was safe to return to set to finish filming the second season of The Other Two, she found solace in cooking, like many of us anxiously awaiting the green light to return to work. “I collected cookbooks, and I would make these recipes—I can’t believe I’m saying this, it’s humiliating—without gluten or dairy,” she says, adding that she faced another unexpected, albeit smaller, challenge in her life when it comes to her man’s lactose intolerance. “It remains devastating,” she says jokingly. “I used to take cheese classes at Murray’s Cheese and learn about pairings. Then I started dating this guy who doesn’t eat cheese and avoids gluten. I was like, will this work?”

But ever the optimist, the actress has faith in the relationship, even if she can’t do her favorite activity, which is make a cheese plate to share: “I can’t pass him off, he’s too good.”

Before Yorke worked in television, she studied musical theater at the University of Michigan, and planned to perform in stage musicals for the rest of her life. Then, her manager, a producer for High Maintenance, convinced her to start thinking about working on camera. It paid off, and she ended up playing a deranged customer on High Maintenance, when it was in its infancy as a web series, then reprised the character when the series went to HBO. But when she finally got cast in a major series role (in Showtime’s Masters of Sex, specifically), she felt that her performances were too “huge” for the screen. “It was a really crunchy transition from theater to TV,” Yorke admits. “I didn’t know how to be an actress that talked like a human being and wasn’t addressing a theater full of people.”

When she got the call to audition for The Other Two, she didn’t think she was going to make it. “I was like, they’re going to cast a professionally funny person,” she says. “[Showrunners] Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly were SNL head writers. They know 20 people off the top of their head that would be great.”

But Yorke was one of these people, and she felt especially nailed by their depiction of Brooke. “I read the character and it freaked me out,” she says. “She was me and I was her, in a deeply embarrassing way. I realized it was mine to lose and wanting something that badly is so scary.”

In the second season of The Other Two, Brooke lands a job, but she’s exhausted. She gets an email every minute. She can’t enjoy the party because, as her mother and brother’s manager, her phone requires her full attention. She finally achieves a modicum of success, but her hijinks reveal that everything she’s got now is not exactly what she expected. “This season is an exploration of expectations and how they’re rarely met. We have ideas of the way things will be when we get what we want, and they’re almost always different,” Yorke explains. “I related to that. You don’t get into acting thinking, I’m going to have a predictable and stable life. If you’re going to do it, you have to be okay with the fact that things are going to change all the time.”

Since premiering in 2019, The Other Two has garnered a cult following (after being dropped by Comedy Central, it was revealed that HBO Max snapped it up, and its fans rejoiced online). Although it certainly was an unexpected twist in the narrative of this show’s life on air, if there’s one thing Yorke has learned, it’s that feeling jostled in the moment is part of the process of being alive. “People are shocked that Brooke and Carey don’t have any animosity towards Chase or Pat. But there’s no place for jealousy—it gets you nowhere and it gets you nothing,” she says. “There’s an inherently positive lean to life where everything just kind of works out, so be alright with yourself now. Have hopes and dreams, but there’s real power in appreciating who you are and where you stand right now.”