Eye On Emmy: Cougar Town Trio Dish on Kick-Ass Chemistry, Drinking on the Job, and Cox's Hurtful Friends Snub

Finding two actors with the magic of perfect chemistry is hard. And finding three? Near impossible. But in the underrated, unfortunately titled banter-fest that is Cougar Town, ABC has exactly that. The rapport among Courteney Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps can’t be forced, faked or, yes, bottled. What makes their on-screen partnership work so well? The secret may lie in their easy off-screen camaraderie, evident even when the conversation is about career challenges and Emmy chances. It doesn’t really come from vino. We think. During this interview, they drank iced tea… (We’re pretty sure…)

TVLINE | The truth: Are your performances enhanced by alcohol?
I think so.
BUSY PHILIPPS | I think so, too.
CHRISTA MILLER | Just a little free-er.

TVLINE | Kidding aside, there’s no actual alcohol consumption during shooting, right?
I would not say the word never. At the very end of the day when we don’t have that much left to do, we ask for some “pomegranate tea.” That’s what we call it. I even got the craft services lady to hang a little teabag from my “tea cup.”
MILLER | But only if you have tiny things to say or no dialogue or you’ve finished your coverage.
PHILIPPS | I can’t drink it if I’m going to be talking a lot, because a) I’ll start slurring and nobody wants that, and b) I’m too much of a control freak.
COX | Her brain is very fresh, though. She’s very young so she has a great memory. I can’t remember anything sober, so I definitely can’t drink and [then] speak.

TVLINE | When did you feel the chemistry between the three of you start to click?
I don’t remember which episode it was where we were filming at the beach. What’s the name of that beach where the planes take off? Dockweiler Beach?
MILLER | Yeah.
PHILIPPS | Literally, it’s right in the takeoff path of LAX. So you can only film for five minutes at a time and then a jet comes overhead. But I remember doing that scene with the three of us sitting on a blanket and [executive producer and Miller’s husband] Bill [Lawrence] coming over and saying, “I just want you guys to know, this is the show. I love this.” It was the three of us sitting there drinking wine on the beach.

TVLINE | How familiar were you with each other’s work beforehand?
I had personally known Christa years ago. I could tell we were going to become really close friends, and I don’t know what happened. We had all these plans.
MILLER | We had kids.
COX | Life happens. But we immediately were like, “Oh my God, I’ll tell you everything. I’m telling you everything — every secret.” But she has three kids and things happen.
PHILIPPS | Christa and Bill knew me personally from our mutual friend [and fellow actress] Nicole Sullivan (The King of Queens).
MILLER | I obviously can’t help but be very familiar with Courteney’s career. And then you [guested] on Scrubs. I think Bill and Courteney were both trying to see how it was going to be working together. It was like a little test run for both of them. Courteney was such a good sport, because Scrubs is hard to come on. It was such a tight, clique-y kind of group.
COX | I did three episodes in two days. It was the most work I’ve ever done. And Bill was so much fun that I was like, “Oh God, please, I hope we work together.”

TVLINE | Courteney, as a producer on Cougar Town, I’m guessing you had a hand in casting… Did you instantly know Busy was your Laurie?
COX | I knew instantly. We read tons of people. We took a couple of people to the network. But hands down, hand to God, on everything I have inside of me, when she came in, I was like, “I love that girl. I love her energy.” She was my first choice. There wasn’t a question.
PHILIPPS | It was actually one of the crazier testing experiences for me, because the other girl I [competed against] had another test offer, which happens a lot in pilot season… [She was also] up for another job at ABC. Bill came out into the waiting room and he’s like, “OK, so Busy, you’re going to get [this] job,” and he turned to the other girl and he’s like, “And you’re going to get that other show. I already talked to the showrunner. I just want you to know that that’s what’s happening right now. I’m only saying this because I just want to alleviate all the pressure from the room, so Busy, you have [this] and you, you’re getting this other job this afternoon in two hours.” … And he walked away and she was like, “Well that was weird.” I’m like, “Yeah. It was super weird.” She’s like, “I mean, awesome for you.” I was like, “No. Awesome for you too, you have a job too!” It was like one of the greatest testing experiences ever.
COX | I didn’t know that story. That actually is crazy.
PHILIPPS | I have been in many situations before where I’ve been told by showrunners and executive producers going into a network test that I am the first choice, that they will be damned if I don’t get this part. I’ve had more than my fair share of phone calls and e-mails after the fact saying, “I’m just so sorry. They just really feel like this 23-year-old Canadian girl is fresher.”
COX | That happens at the network?
PHILIPPS | Yes. Part of the reason why I had [my daughter] Birdie, this is no joke, is because that happened with me with Kath & Kim [NBC’s short-lived Molly Shannon/Selma Blair-starring adaptation of the Australian sitcom]. I wanted that show so badly. It was the same exact situation, and then the next day, the showrunner wrote me this crazy email. “I don’t feel like this is the end of our story, but [then-NBC president] Ben [Silverman] wants to just go in a different direction and we have to play that out…’’ I just looked at [husband] Mark [Silverstein] and was like, “F— it, should we just have a kid? I can’t do this anymore.”

TVLINE | What is your perspective on the Emmys? Do you think about that stuff?
I had a dream the other night that I was not nominated for an Emmy and I was really upset in my dream. So I don’t think about it on a daily basis, but clearly, in my dream world, it affects me.
COX | I’ve never been nominated for an Emmy, and I’ve been doing this for a long time.

TVLINE | Did getting snubbed for Friends all those years harden you to award shows?
No. I’d love to be nominated. God, it would be such an honor. I’d be so excited. I’d probably be one of those people who just cried. I wish I could say I didn’t care about stuff like that. Maybe if I didn’t, it would be some sort of karmic thing for me, but I actually do. I think it’s nice to be recognized. [Not being so] makes me go, “Oh s–t maybe I don’t know what the f— I’m doing.”
PHILIPPS | Sorry, but it’s crazy that you were never nominated.
COX | Now I’m going to get really personal. When the first person [on Friends] was nominated for an Emmy, I think it was [David] Schwimmer, you’re so excited. Then the second person, [still] so excited. The only time I was like, “Whoa!” was [in 2001 when Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow] were both nominated and not me. That’s when it’s like, “I have a lesson to learn here.” I had a hard time not taking it personally when it was both Lisa and Jennifer at the same time. One guy, one girl, whatever. But both girls and not me? It hurt. I’m very sensitive, though.
PHILIPPS | For me, it doesn’t even really seem like a possibility. So, it would be the most exciting thing ever and I would love it. Clearly, my dreams are stating so. But it just doesn’t feel like it’s even going to [be a possibility]… Especially our category is like the hardest ever.
MILLER | You don’t want to look at it. You want to pretend it doesn’t happen, but then there’s that secret part of you that thinks, “Wouldn’t that be the greatest, most fun thing?”

TVLINE | Courteney, what would a nomination mean now versus if you had gotten one during Friends?
It would mean more now. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been great back then. But I think it would mean [now] that I’m on another show that is regarded and is written and performed as well as [Friends] in some ways.
Let’s see how much work Michael wants to put in so he can get all three of us nominated.
PHILIPPS | You have a lot of work ahead of you.
MILLER | What would we buy you? I’m going to say a house. Courteney?
COX | Do you like to fly privately?

TVLINE | I’d be happy with just an upgrade to Business.
Done. You’re getting that today.

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  1. Rebecca Parker says:

    Love these ladies, and their chemistry definitely jumps off the page. They all SHOULD be nominated, but it’s likely they won’t, and that’s a true shame. This show is like “Arrested Development” for me – I just want to grab and shake people and go “Why the heck aren’t you watching!?!” It’s absolutely brilliant and they are amazing. every. episode.

    Thanks for the fun interview, Michael! More please!

  2. Brad says:

    Thanks for this interview. I love this show so much. So so much. Courtney needs some Emmy loving this year. The entire cast does.

  3. Paisley says:

    Love Cougar Town, the writing, the cast, the editing, all of it. It is so quick-witted sometimes and thank heavens for the DVR so I can rewind to catch all of the funny lines. Love Corteney Cox and her self-deprecating humor. She looks amazing ,too.

  4. Sam says:

    It’s always shocked me when producers/writers/actors can’t remember the episode order/episode names/where they were then. I guess it’s like a job to them, but I mean, if I can remember all the episodes where they shot on the beach (I’m betting it was the “Jules turns 42” one) it weirds me out that they can’t.

  5. Lauren says:

    Still can’t believe Courteney Cox never got nominated for Friends!! She was my favourite and IMO, the best girl Friend. I would be so happy if she was nominated for Cougar Town, and she deserves it in Cougar Town just as much.

  6. april-ann says:

    I remember that year when Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston were nominated but not Courteney Cox. I couldn’t understand it, considering the characters of Phoebe and Rachel had become parodies of themselves while Courteney stayed true to Monica and just seemed to get better and better as her fellow actors stagnated. It was just another reason to disrespect the Emmys. But the biggest one, two words: Lauren Graham.

    • Christine says:

      While I think all of the Friends characters eventually became parodies of themselves, I actually felt it was the most obvious with Monica. This absolutely wasn’t Courtney’s fault though, it was clearly the writers that did that, and I think she still did really well with the material she was given.

      • april-ann says:

        I didn’t mention the writers. I decided to wait for the inevitable post about the writing. You’re so right about how all the characters became parodies of themselves and that Courteney still did really well with what she was given. Good point. Thinking back to then, if you compare the acting, try to leave the writing out of it just for a second (I know that is hard to do), it is clear that Phoebe and Rachel appeared more silly and stupid as time went on, but Monica stayed Monica, but with more layers thanks to Courteney. It was a travesty that the only girl-“Friend” deserving of a nod that year was the only one left out. Seriously, who decides these things?

    • The47th says:

      YES. Lauren Graham is the biggest injustice ever in the Emmys.

      I have to say critics are starting to appreciate this show. Both Courtney and Busy are nominated for the Critics’ Choice, so maybe they can get som options for the Emmy if they can call some attention.

  7. godzilla_foil says:

    I still watch this from time to time just to be sure the buzz (still) makes no sense at all. Honest to God… what is this show about?? It’s not about laughs, not about wit, not about the drama.

    • april-ann says:

      LOL. I’m still giving it the old college try because of the buzz. I think it started out as a show about an older single woman with an almost grown son on the prowl. Then it seemed to be about a group of acquaintances trying to out-do each other in the department of mean-spiritedness. It has witty moments and fun moments, but I’m afraid I haven’t quite been able to warm up to it, either.

    • Dax says:

      It’s about friendship and fun and life’s crazy moments and how we build our own support system. It’s like Scrubs minus the hospital.

  8. kathy says:

    The name of the show is terrible; they should have changed it on day one.
    It is funny though and I’ve always loved Christa (and her aunt as well). I think the show is being treated terribly by not being allowed to start in the Fall.

    But Michael, did you get your upgrade?

  9. Jason S says:

    Loved the girls in the cast(especially Busy Philips)and Bill LAwrence and Scrubs but the writing on this show is forced and none of the guys in the show are funny. No Ross,, no Chandler, no Joey, No Zach Braff, No Donald Faison! When half your cast is boring and unfunny you have a problem!!

  10. Aiden says:

    I absolutely love these Cougar Town ladies. Very underrated cast and show, but I’m glad big league TV reporters such as Ausiello recognizes them. And I concur, the fact that Courteney Cox hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy yet is appalling. She was marvelous on FRIENDS and she’s marvelous on CT now. Here’s to hoping she gets her chance.

  11. Vanny says:

    frankly, Monica was my favorite woman character on Friends, she was the glue, and I could never understand why she was not nominated, and the other two were… But anyway, I adore Cougar Town, Think it is hilarious..!

  12. Liz says:

    Lucky Ausiello!

  13. Susan says:

    As much as I enjoy Josh Hopkins, this show is a yawnfest for me, personally. I am in this age group, and I have to say they seem like the most vapid over- the -hill women still desperately trying to cling to their lost youths.That to me is the saddest thing about the two main actresses:Cox and Miller.It kills me that women this age have gone to these lengths to preserve their looks.Sad. Not a funny show in my opinion- far too scripted.I suspect people do check out this show- the buzz may be there- but to have to listen to the ridiculous banter between characters that couldn’t seem less real if they tried probably shoves them away in droves.Bleccchhhh…

  14. Tracy says:

    Great interview. These ladies really make the show. And I hope CC gets her nom, she deserves it.

  15. Sherry says:

    I hope the leave the name, just because we now love watching the opening shot with the snarky remarks on the map under the show’s name. LOL!

    This show is just so damn hilarious and the entire cast is just spot-on.

  16. SC n' KC says:

    I like this show more than Friends and think the entire cast is just great. I DVR it every week. I really think Busy has been a standout. Just love her. Keep up the good work!

  17. Eli Swanson says:

    I think this show is hilarious. I wish I had a cul de sac crew of my own. I am in this age bracket and laugh and cry in all the right places. It’s genius to actually express what one is feeling. We all feel the way Jules does at some point. We all are mean, weak, strong and loving. Way to go Cougar Town!!

  18. Jenny says:

    I like this show. Glad it took another turn..don’t know how longer the “Cougar” part could go on..But honestly Emmy worthy performances? I don’t see it. It’s good, and similar to Friends, but it’s not AS good as Friends. Characters on CT, are mostly funny, but sometimes annoying. It’s just not Emmy material in my opinion.

  19. Jenny says:

    Oh, and can SOMEONE recast Jules’ kid? Am I the only one who thinks he looks a like a pedophile, not to mention the lazy acting!!

  20. Selina says:

    I don’t understand either why Courteney wasn’t nominated for an Emmy on Friends – it took the three girls together to make it all work, they kind of bounced off each other, so why was CC left out? Makes no sense. I really hope she scores with Cougar Town.

    Also, Busy Philips is the most brilliant young actor I’ve seen on TV in recent years – LOVE HER!!

  21. Bridget says:

    Me and my friends in Australia love this show! So clever! Just had a cougartown marathon over the weekend and laughed hard!!

  22. Amy says:

    I think they should stop hating on the name. It makes the show look bad. Have some confidence. I don’t mind the name and think they should keep it.

    Also, I love Christa because she was on Clone High.

  23. Amy says:

    Moreover, I initially go into this show from the first episodes (
    Jules being a club trying to pick up younger men. At one point she does her awkward guns. Ellie is like ‘you don’t want to be here, do you?’ And Jules is like ‘please get me out of here’ or something). I related to her character then. (Not about picking up younger men, though).
    I like the new episodes’ I”m just saying I miss the old ones.

  24. Almost Cougar says:

    They should have a re-naming contest if they really are going to pick a new name. Let’s see…spitballing…Grownups? (only works with question mark)…..Go Home Tom! (too inside-jokey?)….Jules’ Wine Glass….Pennycan!

  25. Almost Cougar says:

    I love the quick scene they had where someone asks “why don’t we ever talk about work?” and then they cut to a zombie-like scene of everybody at work….loved it! Take that, critics!

  26. Tim in Tx. says:

    I love ‘Cougar Town’ and I hope one of those 3 will be nominated for an Emmy this year. I’m thinking Busy. We’ll see.

  27. Tyson in SC says:

    This show is my out right my guilty pleasure i watch on demand but I have never missed an episode and dont plan to start now .To the Girls and Guys (who are awsome too) Keep up the good work and good luck on Emmy nods for all of you not just the girls I think dog Travis deserve it the most lol just playin yall luv it keep on keepin on .

  28. Tina says:

    I love Cougar Town! I want to live in that neighborhood!! I am currantlly shopping for a awesome wine glass (a large one ofcourse) and am in a bit of a delyma as to what to name it… but I guess it’s like having a baby, you don’t know it’s name until you have seen it face to face. (o: I LOVE YA’LL !!!

  29. AJ says:

    For those of you out there that just don’t get Cougar Town I kinda feel sorry 4 u. Cause If you haven’t got it by now your not gonna.
    The entire cast are great but, you three ladies are the bomb.
    Once on set, individual character portrayal evolves into a brilliant, as well as an amazing chemistry between the three. This coenciding with each ones unmistakable acting talent as well as ability to take a storyline & make their product. Which has become for us fortunate ones that get it. &/or them one of the best comedies on today.
    Just wanted to also add this. The character Christa portrays, on Cougar Town as well as her character on Scrubbs, is & has been, in my opinion, the hottest on TV for sometime now.
    Yea, shes on fire.