Courteney Cox and Greg Kinnear are a match made in TV heaven, but they find themselves facing hell when they move into a new home on Shining Vale.
We got the chance to take part in a round table discussion about the new Starz horror-comedy.
Check out the full conversation below.
Courteney, You’ve had such an exciting year with the Friends reunion and Scream, and revisiting two of your most iconic characters. But, when you read the script for this one, what compelled you about Pam, and what are you excited for people to discover with this character?
Courteney: I think I was just so excited to play a character that was so layered. She’s going through so many real things. She has an affair, obviously marital strife. She’s depressed. She’s having writer’s block. She is a mother of a teenager, which in itself is really difficult, and then she gets possessed.
So I’ve never played a character that had so much going on, and that was really exciting, really challenging.
Jeff talked a lot about how the chemistry between Courteney and Greg really balanced out the marriage. Obviously, there’s kind of an unbalanced ledger sheet there, in terms of how they feel at this point in their relationship.
But, I was just curious if that was something that you really played in the line readings, whether it was a rehearsal thing, just a conversation on how to kind of tonally make sure that there’s a balance, even though there seems like there’s an imbalance because of what Pat did?
Greg: I would say that it just happened through probably all of those things played a role. I think there were plenty of discussions. There certainly was rehearsal. In fact, I thought a pretty healthy amount of rehearsal, and I felt like Courteney and I had a really great relationship, and we could talk through everything.
I felt like there was great collaboration on the show. I never felt like there were any edicts.
We all worked hard to kind of find a balance though, that you’re talking about, which was really just to keep it believable, because there’s a lot of stuff that happens in this marriage that you could watch it and be like, “Well I’m out. I’m out of this marriage, are you insane?”
But, I think Terry’s kind of optimism and his Hail Mary pass of hope here, to try and hold this together, is plausible. And I think what Courteney is dealing with is very difficult, but I think she’s trying to hang on to the family in certain ways, too. So I guess it felt like it happened fairly naturally, but there was… it was a lot of work too.
Courteney, there’s a line with everything that Pat is going through, and you’re standing in the foyer, I believe, and you say, “I’m your mother and I’m doing the best that I can.”
And you say that with so much emotion and so much passion, I’m wondering what was going through your mind in that minute? Especially knowing everything thing that Pat is struggling with.
Courteney: It’s funny, even you saying that it kind of brings tears to my eyes because as a mother, sometimes you are just absolutely doing the best you can and it’s not always the right thing, but it’s just all you got.
And so I was just so happy to play a character that gets to be that real and that vulnerable. And she has so many challenges with her daughter and it’s tough.
It’s tough being a parent to a teenager, even though it’s incredible and it’s fun, it’s silly and it’s all the other things, but you know, they can push your boundaries and I don’t have the best anyway to start. So I love that part of the show.
So with both of you guys, you guys are so good with the comedy in general, and in this one, it’s not necessarily a laugh-out-loud comedy, but you guys both find your moments. So I was wondering, how did you guys kind of work together to find that?
And also if you guys did any kind of improv, because there’s one specific scene, for example, when Pat convinces Terry to just check in the closet and then he exits and then he just comes out and Greg does such a good “Boo!” and Courteney, you seemed genuinely scared.
And so I was wondering, what was that like? How did you guys work together to find that? And if you did any improv?
Greg: Did Jeff and Sharon tell you that was what happened?
They did not.
Greg: Courteney, it worked!
Courteney: It worked. That was correct.
Greg: That was literally just bored on the set. No, I don’t know, we were doing the scene and she’s in this closet. First of all, I just want to say, the beautiful Courteney Cox, such a lovely little scared butterfly in a scary haunted mansion in Tableau.
So great to just go up at any given moment and get her to jump. So I enjoyed that, but yes, there were times including that one that you just cited where I felt like my character would come back and scare her and it really was very effective and I’m so happy they left it in the show.
But we actually shoot this out in this house out in South Pasadena to start. And it generally had some ooga booga to it. It was a little freaky. Right, Courteney?
Courteney: Oh God, yes. There was a guy who, in his 80s had passed away in the house and his wife is pretty certain that he is in the house still. And I do believe stuff like that. Yeah. So Greg would scare me and then I’d have to do take two, take three. So I was like, “Greg, do you really have to scare me?”
So now I have to repeat that same scare and scream, but it was really, it was fun. And I do like to be scared and I don’t, and also hate it. But I am scared across the street, even in London, because I still don’t know which way to look.
Greg: Right. Well, London’s tricky that way. Because they drive on the wrong side of the road!
Courteney: Yeah. How come in America, I’m in London. That’s why I say that. I’m not just crazy. But how come in America we don’t say, “Look left, look right. Just fend for yourself.” Here they at least give you some direction. Anyways, just some thoughts I have.
This question is for Courteney. It kind of is in playing with that, with the reaction that you just talked about with that improv moment.
I mean you’ve kind of had this really wonderful opportunity in your career to kind of have these great moments of stepping back into the scream series and then with this, kind of revisiting your approach to horror.
So you’ve had Wes and Matt and Tyler now, and now you’ve had Jeff and Sharon’s approach to this. Are there lessons that you’ve taken from each of those directors that impact how you navigate performing in the horror genre?
Any tips or insight for you to get back into that space? You even just talked about right now to be able to sell the moments when they’re, they sometimes have to be repeatable and don’t feel organic?
Courteney: Well, I think Wes was a… I mean obviously, he was just my teacher for all of it in so many ways, in personal ways, and in learning how to be afraid and scream.
But I will say in Shining Vale because I have had experience with people jumping out and things happening. Jeff was very open to hearing, I would say, I don’t know if that would happen in a horror film or… because I do feel like I’ve done enough of them.
And we did have one of our writers who wrote on Scream, the series. And so it was interesting. I think there was a series Scream. Right?
Courteney: And she wrote on that. So I was always like, “I don’t know.” And she’d be like, “Yeah.”
And then we’d have a little bit of a thing, but yeah, I think that just all the training I had of doing all of the Screams, and then doing Friends, kind of set the perfect tone for me to be able to play this, but adding the drama in it.
So it was a nice balance. And they kept it, the tone, which was so hard to come up with in the first place. And then when I read things and go, “How is that going to work?”
That’s just out of it… I mean, that’s just on another playing field and it just… you accepted it because anything could happen when there’s a spirit. Anything. And when you have somebody who doesn’t believe you.
Shining Vale premieres Sunday on Starz.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.