Sunday, September 23, 2012

Interview - Martha Plimpton and Greg Garcia

"I want to have a good time." - Martha Plimpton

The cast and crew of Raising Hope is dedicated to making sure we ALL have a good time and it shows. Raising Hope is THE laugh out loud comedy for me this year, marching past last year's winner, Community. Surprising since when I first heard the pilot synopsis, I crossed it off my viewing list. Luckily I stumbled across a promo of Virginia-isms, watched a full episode, and then immediately went to iTunes to catch up. Now on the eve of a new Raising Hope episode (FOX Tuesdays, 9/8C), we heard from executive producer Greg Garcia and lead actressMartha Plimpton about the characters, political correctness, and future of Raising Hope.

Virginia Chance is the first lead TV character Plimpton has played. She got on board because the character is really fun and she wanted to work with people who are "really smart and kind and funny and sweet." She worried that she would get bored playing the same character but is happily relieved that she hasn't "ever one time been bored at all." Part of that is working with co-star Garret Dillahunt, who plays her husband Burt. "Working with Garret is a dream, an absolute dream. He's wonderful. He's hilarious. He's incredibly smart." She loves the relationship between the characters and the fact that they have grown up together. "They're so familiar with each other that they're best friends as well as husband and wife. I love very much that they're not like the Bickersons. They're not like your typical sit-com couple….always fighting about who's right or wrong about something." This is one of my favorite aspects of Raising Hope also. In too many sitcoms, laughs come because people are disrespectful or downright rude to each other. However, Raising Hope writers find the best comedy when Virginia and Burt are working together. "I think it gives us way more room over the long haul just as characters to have fun and to get to know these people." Garcia agrees, "It's always better when we can have the two of them against something else as a team, as a nice married team. They may not agree about the way to go about whatever conflict they have, but it's nice to see them working as a team."

Plimpton has worked in acting since she was 8. Daughter of Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton, she preferred to perform in plays instead of go to summer camp. In fact, she received the best acting advice from her mother following one of those plays. "You really were excellent. I just want you to remember one thing. Even when you're not talking, you're still in the play." The advice stuck and soon she was starring in projects from The Goonies to Parenthood. She stayed busy after the 80's heyday in movies and TV guest roles as well as in plays. It was this career that made Garcia a fan and attracted his attention when casting Virginia. " of the things that Virginia has as a character is some balls and the things I watch Martha in, I just always feel that there's some balls there."

That's a good way to describe the show too which is not known for being politically correct. The rule on Raising Hope is that if it makes all the writers laugh, it goes in. Well, except those rare times when the network squashes a joke. Garcia: "They have their certain buzzwords and certain topics that they always want to stay away from, no matter what. So you kind of know what you can and can't put in a joke….There are all these rules, but I think…you just kind of have to go with your gut and see what makes you laugh. Occasionally you're going to offend some people, but hopefully, you're making more people laugh than you're offending." They're not above poking fun at Charlie Sheen or Katherine Heigl either. "..Sometimes using some pop culture references is a nice easy way to get a chuckle out of people."

In a show known for its humor, SpoilerTV viewers wanted to know how much of the show was ad libbed. Answering at the same time, Plimpton said, "Almost none," while Garcia claimed, "It's 99% ad lib, right?" Yep, their answers were ad libbed too. In fact, almost everything is scripted. Since they shoot 12-14 hours a day, 5 days a week, they don't have a lot of extra time to ad lib. Garcia: "As long as the actors are comfortable with what's on the page, we try to stick to it and get the job done and move on. That doesn't mean there aren't discussions before we shoot a scene. If something feels wrong coming out of their mouths or it just doesn't feel like the character then we'll talk about it and we'll make changes." Plimpton agrees although sometimes Cloris Leachman, who plays Virginia's grandmother Maw Maw, will go off script. "I think the rest of us are pretty confident that (we couldn't) come up with anything as funny as our writers come up with. " I'd say they are doing a great job so far because the funniest thing I've seen on TV this season was when they tried to get Hope out of the garage.

So what's up next for the show? In Tuesday's episode entitled Cheaters, Jerry Van Dyke guest stars. The story revolves around Maw Maw picking up a man at Hope's daycare and since she often lives in the past, thinks she is cheating on her husband with him. Virginia's upset although her grandpa is long dead. In the meantime, Jimmy, Virginia's son, drives his crush Sabrina to her fiancĂ©'s college, where Sabrina suspects some cheating is going on too. Garcia has worked with Van Dyke several times before and was pleased to have him on Raising Hope. "He's an extremely funny guy…I'd love to have him back more next season." Plimpton, who met him on the show, was star struck. "I really think he's a genius…he's one of the funniest people in the world."

Other guest stars will include Ethan Suplee and Jaime Pressley who worked with Garcia on My Name is Earl. They play a married couple in the penultimate episode, and there are many cameos in the flashback season finale. The flashback takes place 5 years earlier and has the characters in braces, overweight, or over decked in make-up. Well, except for Virginia. "I was a little bummed about that. I kind of thought maybe I should have shaved my head or something." While anyone can watch the episode and laugh, Garcia thinks, "If people have watched the whole season there's a lot of little fun things in there that call back from other episodes and questions about why people are where they are in their lives and stuff like that." Sounds promising. I love a good flashback episode.

In a vote of confidence, Raising Hope received a second season early renewal from Fox. So while the writers and TPTB decide what's in store for the Chance family and their friends, we get to sit back and choke with laughter for the remaining 5 episodes. Whether you have been watching all season, just got caught up like me, or are a Raising Hope newbie, don't forget to tune into Fox Tuesday at 9/8C and be ready to chortle and snort your way through one hilarious half hour. You won't regret it. Just remember that drinking and laughing can be bad for your furniture.

Raising Hope - Tuesdays - Fox - 9/8C

Screencaps by Right Celebrity,, and Premier Guide Miami.
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