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Courteney Cox has been on the prowl for a new comedy series.The 45-year-old actress — whose last foray into comedy network television was NBC’s fan favorite Friends— found it with ABC’s Cougar Town (Wednesdays, 9:30 ET/PT).In the series, Cox, who also produces the show, plays Jules Cobb, a newly divorced mother who discovers the dating world has changed since she was in the game 20 years ago. On the show, the only eligible men seem to be much younger than Cox’s 40-year-old character, and the differences between the ages and the sexes ensure comical high jinks.
The series is edgy, and her character is brash, bold and speaks before she thinks, all traits that Cox says she has.”She’s funny, she’s goofy and she’s kooky,” Cox says, pausing to take a bite of her crab cake at the Four Seasons hotel. “And yet, she’s a good mom. I’m like that.”
Cox’s comedy has resonated with TV viewers. The series averages about 9.8 million viewers each week, numbers that led ABC to reward the show with a full-season pickup last week.In real life, Cox has been happily married to fellow actor David Arquette for 10 years. She’s a cougar and proud of it: Arquette is seven years her junior.Cox, who says she excels at giving advice, shares her outlook on life, her very own cougar commandments:
Rule #1: Be your own biggest fan
Cox smirks when she’s asked who her favorite cougar is.Naturally, it’s her. “I’m attracted to younger men, no doubt. Yeah, they’re cute. I’m like one of the original cougars.” Demi Moore is a close second.
“I think it’s inspirational and fantastic that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are together. First of all, they’re gorgeous. And they’re the nicest people,” she says. “Also, I can’t really tell their age difference. She looks so good that you have no idea how old she is.”
Rule #2: Embrace your age
Shaving years off of your age is an old Hollywood trick; Cox doesn’t do it.”It’s refreshing for someone to be in this business and be incredibly open about the things that she does to keep herself young,” says co-star Busy Phillips, who plays Cox’s younger, feistier assistant, Laurie Keller. “She’ll tell you about her diet, exercise and face creams.”
Still, Cox is aware that she’s no longer the ingénue, a realization she says came during her last TV series, FX’s Dirt. The best part about that? She’s fine with it.”I’m not the young one anymore. I’m not going to be the up-and-comer. When you accept this certain thing about getting older — and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong — it’s just that I’m just not 20 anymore. I’m not in my 30s. And that’s OK. There’s something very freeing about that.”
Rule #3: Put a good cub in your corner
Cox nods when she hears people refer to her husband as one of the sweetest guys in Hollywood. It’s one of the reasons she married him. “He’s a great-hearted person. He’s extremely talented. He’s extremely creative and he’s eccentric. He’s very unique,” she says, dragging out the last word and pausing a few beats. “But don’t get me wrong: He’s not always the nicest person in the world. He gets irritable. He’s impatient, but that’s because his brain is just going. It’s a very fast-moving brain.”
Rule #4: Know your career strengths
Cox is known for having impeccable comedic timing, but she didn’t want to rush into another comedy after Friends. Cougar Town was a match because to a certain extent, she’s playing a version of herself. “When you play a comedy, you kind of want to play close to yourself. I’m not playing a caricature of anyone. I’m playing a real character,” she says.
Series creator Bill Lawrence, who worked with Cox on the first season of Friends and during her three-episode guest appearance last year on Scrubs, says the lengths to which Cox goes for a laugh are what sells the series.Case in point: The show’s pilot opens with Cox examining her naked body in the mirror.
“It’s very hard to find a star of her level that is willing to be so shameless and put such a magnifying glass on herself this way,” Lawrence says. “Most people are holding on to the illusion that they’re in their 30s. Courteney was willing to jump in and embrace this character. It’s pretty gutsy.”
Rule #5: Offer sound advice
Before Cox became mom to 5-year-old Coco, she was the person kissing where it hurts and making it all better. In her circle of friends, Cox is the one people turn to when they need a shoulder to cry on.”I’m everyone’s mom,” Cox says. “I’m the one that you come to when you have a problem. I love it, and I’m really good at it.” She’s the kind of person who will hand out advice — whether it’s tips on getting pregnant or navigating relationships.”She has a huge matriarchal streak to her personality. We’re only on Episode 8, and I go to her when I need advice on something,” says co-star Josh Hopkins, who plays Cox’s newly divorced neighbor, Grayson Ellis. “This is weird. I don’t know her that well. And I’m like, ‘I don’t know why I’m not telling my friends, but I’m telling you …’ ”
Rule #6: Respect your body
Cox says she has never felt better.She has always been a health nut, but when she turned 45, she says, she kicked up her workout regimen. And no, she says, it’s not because she’s often shown in lingerie on the show.
“I love to eat. I love eating and drinking. And I don’t want to stop that. So now, I’d rather work out harder to eat what I want,” she says. “I’ve always been pretty obsessed with staying healthy, but as far as staying fit, I’m kicking it to a different level now.”
Rule #7: Multitask like mad
Like most working moms, Cox constantly struggles to stay on top of things. Coco just started kindergarten, but Cox says she has been able to pick her daughter up from school only once. With Arquette directing Medium (which stars his sister Patricia), scheduling conflicts often arise.
“This is the most taxing job I’ve had,” she says. “This time is the most challenging. Coco goes to school for seven or eight hours a day, and we have to schedule with the nanny. We’re making it work somehow.”
Rule #8: Learn from previous gigs
Jules Cobb is Cox’s favorite role to date — yes, it trumps her iconic portrayal of Monica Geller — because it’s truer to who she is, she says.”Monica was very competitive and she was a great character, but we all had such distinct personalities on Friends. But Jules runs the gamut,” Cox says. “She can make you cry. She can make you laugh. She embarrasses you. She’s really multifaceted in her personality. That’s why she’s my favorite.”
Rule #9: Make time for friends
Come Sunday, Cox’s friends always know where to find her.Every week, Cox and Arquette invite a group of friends over for food and drinks. (Yes, her BFF Jennifer Aniston comes, too.)Cox says the tradition comes from growing up in Alabama. “I would go over to my grandma’s house every Sunday at 5 o’clock. I had 21 first cousins. We all used to gather there and tell stories and talk and drink and have fun and eat great food.”The guest list varies, but there’s a core group in attendance every week. Arquette, whom Cox calls a social butterfly, often brings new guests.
“He’ll go out and meet somebody, and the next thing you know, they’ll be over at our house on Sunday,” Cox says. “So yeah. There are some days I wish we didn’t have so many people over. And some days I’m so happy.”