It was two weeks ago today that Courteney Cox sat down with her onscreen son, Dan Byrd, to chat with a group of international media on Cougar Town’s L.A. set. The show, which airs on Citytv here in Canada, centres on Cox’s character, Jules Cobb, a recent divorcee who explores love and life alongside her family and friends — son Travis (Byrd); ex-hubby Bobby (Brian Van Holt); best friend Ellie (Christa Miller); Ellie’s husband, Andy (Ian Gomez); employee Laurie (Busy Philipps); and boyfriend Grayson (Josh Hopkins).
Sadly, tonight marks the last new episode to air until April 13 — Cougar Town is going on hiatus to make room for the debut of Mr. Sunshine, which stars fellow Friends alum Matthew Perry, on ABC’s schedule. It’s taking over Cougar’s 9:30 p.m. timeslot for the next nine weeks.
Don’t despair. There’s lots more Cougar in store, as the Letter net renewed the hilarious comedy for a third, well-deserved season earlier this month. Seated out front of Jules’ real estate office (in 20 C weather, I might add), Cox and Byrd were only too happy to dish about their hit project. Here, they give TV Guide Canada the scoop on potential Season 3 storylines, the pressure of ratings and what the term “cougar” means to them.
TVGuide.ca: Courteney, I might as well ask you the obvious question about working with Jennifer (Aniston) on the first episode. What was it like and how long had you two been planning that one?
Courteney Cox: It was amazing and fun — just everything about it was fantastic. I don’t know how long we’d planned that, it was something that Bill (Lawrence, Cougar Town’s co-creator) — I remember in the summer she was over and he was like, ‘It would be so great if she could do the show and do the opening episode,’ but she was doing a lot of films and we had to try to film it in a time that she was going to be around and have a day off. She was so busy last year. But it was great, I’m so glad that it happened.
TVG: Was it your idea to have her as your therapist?
CC: We just were trying to find something that would be fun for her to play and she wanted to be a character — something that kind of would be kooky and fun, and that seemed to be the right job for her.
TVG: Now that the show’s been renewed for a third season, where would you like to see your characters potentially go?
Dan Byrd: I’d like mine to get more muscles. No, personally I kind of like the direction they’ve been taking Travis this year. My fear is always since he is kind of the kid and somewhat removed from the rest of the group that he just becomes too removed, so as long as I stay in the mix, which they’ve been good about finding ways to get me in the mix, then I’m happy. I don’t really have any other specifics besides that.
CC: I think I’d love to stay in my relationship (with Grayson) and continue to explore parts of relationships that people are having that are real. Whether it’s he wants a baby and I don’t ‘cause I’ve already had one, or just real-life things that happen.
And I just want to continue — I was just talking to Bill about this today — I love the fact that Jules is game for anything and she takes risks, and she’s just really fun and kind of out there. The most important thing for my character — for me to play my character — is just to continue to have her be just kooky as opposed to stable.
TVG: Is it for personal or professional reasons that you chose to keep doing TV shows?
CC: Well, after Friends I wanted to do a drama and I wanted to do something kind of a little more outrageous, something that I could be free. And we came up with [the idea of Dirt] — my own production company — and we sold it to FX and we hired the writer. I learned so much from doing that show, but I liked being on that network that was just completely — anything went. It didn’t matter. Not anything, but …
DB: Pretty much. (Laughs.)
CC: Pretty much. It was very racy … there was just no constraints. So that was really fun. And then I wanted to get back to comedy, but I did want to give it a certain amount of time because it’s risky … and I wanted to work with Bill Lawrence. Even though I met every producer in town, I knew I wanted to work with Bill. I think he had a little bit of reservations working with someone who was going to be his partner as opposed to just an actor for hire. So we worked together on Scrubs and that worked out; he could tell I was someone he would jell with.
I’ve been doing this for too long just to be an actor on a show. I really love to produce; I love to get my hands in it. I really care about editing. I don’t have to do this so much — I just want to be surrounded by nice people, no assholes. I want to be in charge of the casting; if I saw someone come in who’s a jerk that would be it. Life’s too short. And I don’t really have that kind of control in film.
TVG: Do you still feel the pressure, having to score, having to deliver?
CC: Bill’s always saying, ‘Oh Courteney, don’t look at the ratings. It doesn’t matter. We’re doing fine.’ You know, I was on a show where — times are so different. There were only four networks, maybe five, I don’t know. Our ratings were huge! We were in the Top 10. And now it’s like, ‘How many people watched?’ It’s just so crazy, so I’m not quite used to it yet just because of so many channels. But I do really care, I do … luckily, we just got picked up for a third season and I guess some of the pressure’s off. But not really — we still got to be as good as possible and get the word out there.
TVG: Is it an honour then?
CC: To be picked up for the third season — that’s quite an accomplishment, I feel. So I feel very excited about it and yeah, I’m proud of all of us.
TVG: We all know what the term “cougar” means, but the show has evolved beyond that. What does the term “cougar” mean to you now?
CC: Really the title is just something that we make fun of. It’s not what the show’s about. It went from me dating younger guys and then they realized, as opposed to getting to know these guest stars every week that will just be there for one week and leave — we’re not really investing in this. Let’s invest in the characters because it was always an ensemble show; let’s invest in the characters that we see every day and work on those relationships.
DB: I think the title’s much cooler now that it’s kind of abstract. It doesn’t really apply to what the show’s about.
CC: And his football team from his high school — they were named the Cougars. So it kind of had a double entendre.
TVG: What is your choice of wine in your free time?
CC: I like French wines and Italian wines. I like Californian wines too, but I don’t like them as sweet as I used to. And I enjoy vodka as well.
TVG: How much of you is in Jules, do you think?
CC: A ton. Bill is really good about getting to know all of us as people and incorporating it into our characters. Before he wrote the pilot with (co-creator) Kevin Biegel, we spent so much time together and he got to know me so well — he interviewed my friends and talked to David (Arquette, Cox’s husband). He likes to write for the person and that’s what makes it so much fun to play ‘cause they’re taking parts of your personality that now have been exaggerated.
TVG: Do you plan to have any more of your former Friends co-stars guest-starring?
CC: I don’t think there’s time or room. It seems like everybody’s either on a show — David’s (Schwimmer) probably directing and he just got married; Matthew’s (Perry) got a show; Matt LeBlanc’s got a show; and Lisa (Kudrow) and Jennifer have already done it. So I don’t see that happening.
TVG: Courteney, over the years, how have you managed to stay so grounded?
CC: I guess just the way I was raised or something, or maybe I’m just extremely insecure. (Laughs.) I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve changed one bit. If anything, I’m probably more compassionate. I just feel thankful. There’s no time to be above.
TVG: The series has been very well-received abroad. How do you feel about that?
CC: First of all, that’s fantastic. That just means someone’s going to fly me someplace nice! Also, it’s just great because to be accepted by all different countries that understand this particular kind of rhythm … just it’s fantastic. And on top of that, it does really help you in other things. Like if I were to get a film or something, to be known in other countries and accepted — it’s just so nice. So I’m glad [Cougar Town] is taking off … I’m so thankful, gosh.
Cougar Town airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Citytv/ABC.