Courteney Cox starred in two of the most popular sitcoms on television and became a cult favorite. It was her first time doing a TV pilot that didn’t go to series, and she says it made her wary — perhaps too wary — of pursuing another. But she’ll be the one to admit that no one is clamoring for her to appear on their TV shows these days.
So when she came across a script for a new TV show about a woman in her fifties trying to rediscover herself, she was ecstatic. The 57-year-old “Friends” star dialed up Courteney Cox to pitch her as the ideal actor for the part. “It’s the only thing I’ve done that was specifically tailored to me,” Cox said. According to Jeff Astrof, the show’s co-creator who had worked on NBC’s beloved sitcom but hadn’t kept in touch with her.
Pat Phelps, the central character in “Shining Vale,” is a former wild child turned author who rose to fame after writing a bestselling romance novel. Seventeen years later, she’s still unsatisfied: stuck in a creative rut and unable to finish her second novel; her marriage on the rocks after cheating on her husband with a handyperson; and her attempts to connect with her two teenage children seem futile. Her family relocates from Brooklyn to a run-down house in the Connecticut suburbs to make things better. (Greg Kinnear portrays Pat’s husband, Terry, and Mira Sorvino portrays a ghost that only Pat is aware of.)
Pat isn’t sure whether she’s depressed, possessed, or both in the Starz series, which premieres March 6. Cox’s emotional tenor was familiar, but it pushed her as an actor in new directions.
“To play someone going through all of this emotional stuff provided me with so many opportunities,” Cox says. “I understand if you’re having a midlife crisis. We don’t like to use the word menopause,’ but that’s what she’s going through. And, man, what about marriage and how it works? It’s been a lot of work. And what it’s like to be a teen mom, which isn’t easy. This show provided me with some of the best acting moments in my entire career.”
Cox is sitting at her pergola-covered terrace’s dining table, looking out over the sweeping ocean view. One of her two Cavalier King Charles beagles, Lily, sits on her lap. She’s at ease but thoughtful as she considers her return to television. This is a stark contrast to just minutes ago when the more laid-back Cox was on display. In a faded black T-shirt and black jeans, she whizzed around her kitchen. Her hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail, and she was preparing a quick snack: a turkey slide with a delicate layer of Fritos (her favorite) curled inside.