Eliza Coupe Interview: 'Happy Endings' Star Talks Season Two Premiere, Improv Comedy & New Projects
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If you're not watching "Happy Endings," then I highly suggest that you start tuning into this ABC comedy.
It may not be up to the caliber of "Cougar Town" or the Emmy winning "Modern Family," but it certainly has the potential. "Happy Endings" follows a group of friends, living in Chicago, trying to keep the gang together after a devastating breakup between the two people that brought them together, Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave (Zachary Knighton). But what really makes this comedy stand out is its quirky ensemble cast -- and one of these quirky characters is portrayed by an actress who's probably better known for wearing scrubs.
Eliza Coupe is known for playing the crass tomboy type -- like her character Denise in "Scrubs" -- but in "Happy Endings," she takes on the role of neurotic wife Jane, something completely outside of her comfort zone.
Coupe gives The Huffington Post the scoop on what to expect for season two, explains the story behind her spontaneous haircut and reveals that her and Damon Wayans Jr are actually the same person -- just different colors.
Jane is a bit of a control freak. Are you as well?
She and I are the same but very different. I mean, I’m a control freak, but it manifests itself differently than it does in old Jane. I’m always late, and I’ve had people tell me that that means I think my time is more important, so that makes me feel like a really nice person.
I have to say congratulations for being picked up for a second season. For a mid-season show that’s pretty incredible.
Totally, oh my god. I chopped all my hair off. I didn’t thinks this show was coming back. Seriously, I cut it myself in my bathroom. I was like, f-ck this show, it’s not coming back. It was mid-season, and they barely gave us a chance. Thank god I cut my hair though, because looking back on season one, it kind of looked like a wig.
I was actually just talking about that this morning -- about how many television stars wear wigs.
I know, it’s crazy! What’s funny is that mine was real and it looked like a wig, so that’s horrible.
So, for season two Jane’s coming back with a shorter do -- or did you really need to wear a wig this season?
Jane cut her hair, she’s looking hot. Her clothes aren’t as conservative. Everybody looks pretty hot this year. We all just got a little hotter.
Now let’s talk about the comedy on the show. What’s it like working with Damon Wayans Jr.?
He’s the greatest. We’ve never worked together before, but he and I are just so similar that it’s creepy. I mean, we have the same hands. Our hands look exactly the same, obviously, different colors, but they look exactly the same. And we have the exact same sense of humor. I just adore him. We’ll make a joke and no one else will get it, and the two of us are just cracking up. We have so many inside jokes -- it’s disgusting. We both have a very gross sense of humor.
What about the rest of the cast? Is the chemistry as magnetic?
Honestly, we were talking about this the other day. It’s just not normal. We do bits when we’re hanging out by our trailers. We hang out between my and Elisha’s [Cuthbert] trailers, there’s this nice shaded spot, and Elisha brought this Canadian folding chair, and we all just hang out and do bits. Then we end up incorporating the bits into the show, and it’s hilarious. It’s why our show seems so effortless. The comedy is coming from an authentic place because it’s actually making us laugh -- unless it’s Damon and I doing something perverted.
How do you not just crack-up during every scene?
Oh, we definitely try and get each other to break, which is fun for us but not so fun for the crew. Adam [Pally] was saying that Casey [Wilson] and I are the hardest to break, but it’s so funny because I break all of the time. I’m like Jimmy Fallon on “Saturday Night Live.” We all just have so much fun. Fred Savage is actually directing this week, and he’s awesome because he’ll let us play, and if we find something that works, outside of the script, then we’ll just continue to do it.
It seems like improv is such a huge part of the show, right?
Definitely, and I’m learning so much. I think we’re all learning equally from each other. Damon and I do a lot of scenes together, and we have such a partnership. If I know that he wasn’t happy with a take, them I’ll say, no, we’re doing it again, and he’ll do the same for me. He’ll pitch jokes to me for my character to play, and I’ll pitch stuff to him. Even if we’re just walking back to our trailers, and we do something funny, we’ll try to work it in.
Let’s talk about season two. In the first season Jane was a little baby-crazy, but I’m hearing that this season, there’s going to be a real baby involved.
Yeah, there sort of is. Jane sort of has a kid -- sort of. I’m going to stress the words sort of. She does, and that’s a hilarious episode. Brad and Jane are also going to test-drive the suburbs, and of course, chaos ensues. There’s a stabbing in the first episode, there’s also an allegic reaction to shrimp. There’s a lot. It’s pretty jam-packed this year with just hilarity and insanity.
So, essentially, you never get any work done.
We hardly do. At the end of the day, I don’t even know what they’re cutting together -- my obnoxious laugh when I’m off camera watching everybody?
Is it a different environment from when you were on “Scrubs”?
The thing about being on “Scrubs” -- and I actually kind of love it know -- is that I never got one compliment. I never got told that I was doing well. I never got anything. Then at the end of my first season, Bill Lawrence was like, you f-cking ripped it, that was great. So I kind of worked in a vacuum, which I think is good for me because I don’t need the ego part of it all. That’s just all fluff and bullsh-t.
You’ve done so much comedy work, but do you ever think about going into drama?
Definitely. I was trained classically, and that’s something that I want to do, but I do want to say that right now it’s a good market for female comedians, and I want to explore that right now. I really do want to do dramas and meatier roles, especially film. I did a film this summer. I was the female lead in a romantic comedy. It’s a little indie film that we shot in China called “America Town,” starring Daniel Henney and Bill Paxton. I actually had to speak Chinese in the film. It was funny because I found out I was doing the film and then a week later, I was in Shanghai. Someone had dropped out, and they were like, let’s do to second best, and I was like, alright, I’ll take it. But I had to speak Chinese! That is the hardest language on the planet. I had full scenes in Chinese, and I didn’t retain any of it.
So we’re not going to hear Jane speak Chinese any time soon?
I think that would be awesome, and it would be hilarious, but if I had to learn any of that again, I would lose my mind.
You’re also in “What’s Your Number” with Anna Faris coming out this fall.
Yeah, but I only played the slutty friend of Ari Graynor’s. I just played a little slutty whore. It was a very small part.
But you’re looking to do more movies, right?
I definitely want to do more movies, and I’m also a writer, so I have a few screenplays that I’m working on, one of them based off my one-woman show that I used to do in New York. Two of the screenplays I’ve written by myself, and then I’m also working on one with my writing partner, Tom Riley, whose in London. And then Damon and I have a couple ideas that we’ve been kicking around. We shot a sketch over the summer that would be, I think, a hilarious movie, and it would be the two of us, and it would be amazing. I just have so many ideas that I’ve been saving, so that when I actually get to a point where someone will listen to me, I can start making movies. But I have to earn that first. This show needs to be a success, and you need people to believe in you more and for someone to take a chance in you. It’s hard to do that in this town, but if I keep doing my work and keep being focused and professional, then it will happen in time.
"Happy Endings'" season two premiere airs Wednesday night (Sept. 28) at 9:30PM ET on ABC.
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