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Courteney Cox – star of five "Scream" films – is "scared of everything."
She relies on her 17-year-old daughter, Coco, from her 14-year marriage to actor David Arquette, for the tough tasks. "If something’s going on, I say, ‘Coco, you’ve got to come out here!’" Cox, 57, says. "She’s like, ‘You're my mom!’ I go, ‘I know, but you're braver than me.’”
Nevertheless, the blue-eyed Birmingham, Alabama, native's latest project, Starz's "Shining Vale" (premiering Sunday, 10:20 EST/PST), scatters moments of horror throughout a dark comedy.
"The show scared me, but just life is pretty scary to me," Cox says. "Any kind of little animals. My dogs – if I see them looking and patting something and barking, it doesn't matter if it's a lizard, that's it. Somebody's gonna have to get those dogs and that lizard."
Cox says "Shining Vale" has its "jumpy moments, but it's almost psychological more than it is horror." She plays Pat Phelps, a writer struggling to pen a follow-up to her successful erotic novel published 17 years ago. She's married to the achingly optimistic Terry (Greg Kinnear), whom she briefly cheated on with a handyman. Trying to save their relationship, the couple – parents of two apathetic adolescents – swap their Brooklyn apartment for a Victorian home in Connecticut that's haunted by a ghost (Mira Sorvino) only Pat can see.
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Cox says she relates to Pat. "I've gone through periods in my life where I didn't work, and that can be challenging," she says. "I've gone through marital issues, for sure."
Both paths have been bumpy at times.
Cox followed up NBC's hit comedy "Friends" (1994-2004) with two-season drama "Dirt" (2007-2008) in which she played the ruthless tabloid editor, a conscious departure from Monica Geller, the tightly-wound chef with 11 categories of towels.
"After 'Friends,' I was very cautious and nervous about doing something that wouldn't be compared to 'Friends,'" Cox says. "Because there's almost no comparing to that incredible show that I feel so lucky to have been on. I also wanted to do something different, just also to stretch myself and do something that challenged me." She thinks the "racy" and canceled FX series "was a little bit ahead of its time."
Next came "Cougar Town," a comedy from "Ted Lasso" producer Bill Lawrence, centered on divorced real estate agent Jules Cobb (Cox) and her close group of friends, which debuted in 2009 and ran for six seasons on ABC and later, TBS. Jules, along with Gale Weathers from "Scream," are among Cox's favorite roles.
"I remember one of the scenes in the ("Cougar Town") pilot. She had sex with this younger guy, and she was like, 'I can see colors,'" remembers Cox. "She hadn't experienced this awakening, and so that was a silly, fun character to play."
Since "Cougar Town" concluded in 2015, Cox guest-starred on series like "Modern Family" and "Shameless." The most recent "Scream" installment arrived in January.
Cox's breakout came at age 20 when she shared the stage with Bruce Springsteen in his 1984 "Dancing in the Dark" music video. She appeared on NBC's "Family Ties" as Alex P. Keaton's girlfriend, Lauren Miller, from 1987-89, where she says she got an education from the sitcom's star.
"Michael J. Fox is an incredible comedian, and I learned a lot about watching his timing and how he could say one line, and he could break it up enough that he would get three or four laughs, as opposed to somebody else (who) might say the line and wait for the punchline," Cox remembers. "He was a great person to learn from."
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Cox honed her comedy chops in "Friends." The show was the top comedy of its era, and its ensemble cast – which also included Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer – famously negotiated as a unit to secure a $1 million per-episode paycheck late in the show's run.
"When the show started, she was probably the biggest name of the six of them," "Friends" co-creator David Crane says of Cox. "After the first table read, I think she set ground rules that said, 'Nobody's the star. Nobody is more important than anybody else on this show.'"
Crane appreciated that move because "our vision of the show was always that it was a true ensemble, that was one of the things that set it apart. And I feel like she had a lot to do with setting the right tone."
Cox and her former castmates reunited last April for a highly-anticipated HBO Max reunion special. Reassembling on Warner Bros.' Stage 24 (now dubbed "The Friends Stage") brought back a surge of emotions and memories for Cox.
"To walk into the stage and see the exact place where I spent 10 years of my life, it just brought me back to so much," she says. "I definitely had tears streaming down my eyes, and I couldn't believe it. All the memories kept flooding in."
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She remembered when Joey and Chandler defeated Monica and Rachel in a trivia game and took over their apartment; when George Clooney and Noah Wyle (then stars on NBC's medical drama "ER") guest starred as doctors; and when LeBlanc dislocated his shoulder, in the episode where Joey and Chandler fought over a chair.
"My dad passed away while I was on the show," Cox says. "There's just so much that happened during that time – weddings, there (were) deaths, there were children born. It was a lot."
While she fondly remembers the camaraderie and support of her cast mates she echoed earlier comments from Crane and other cast members about a revival. "That was such a specific time in all of these characters' lives," she says. Though "And Just Like That..." revisited "Sex and the City" characters decades later, Cox insists "Friends" "was a show about people in their 30s. So to come back and it's people in their 50s, I don't think that would work."
Yes, time has marched on for the "Friends" stars. Cox recently spoke with The Sunday Times about turning to cosmetic procedures to maintain her appearance. “There was a time when you go, ‘Oh, I’m changing. I’m looking older.’ And I tried to chase that (youthfulness) for years,” she told the outlet. “And I didn’t realize that … I’m actually looking really strange with injections and doing stuff to my face that I would never do now.”
It's a conversation she regrets, as it spurred many news stories. "It was all years and years ago; it wasn't even new," she says. I'm never going to say that again because it doesn't matter, and that's not who I am, and it's not a big part of my life."
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Cox admits the entertainment industry has its challenges. "It is a tough business as far as feeling either you're being watched or you're being criticized." A London tabloid covered accusations on social media that Cox seemed "disengaged" in an appearance on BBC One's "The Graham Norton Show" last month, and she noticed. "I couldn't have been more engaged," she says. "People are just going to write what they want to write."
The future she envisions for herself includes "acting, and in parts that challenge me," directing, and her new business venture, Homecourt. The brand, which prides itself on "clean formulas" and "sustainable design" launched in January with $20 dish soap and surface cleaner and $30 hand soap, offered in four fragrances – one, called Cece, is inspired by Cox's signature scent..
"I just am obsessed. I'm so particular," Cox says of Homecourt. "I'm not the face of the product. I am the product." She recalls spending "so much time designing the bottle, and the font, and the color – just all of it."
Cox's attention to detail inspired the character of Monica, Crane says. "You're hanging out with somebody and you find out Courteney's a little OCD as well," he says. "So that line gets blurred between who Monica, the character, is and Courteney. You could imagine Courteney, the person, insisting that everyone close the pens so that the caps click."
She also wants to continue to decorate, a true passion she shared with her mother, also named Courteney, who died in 2020.
"I'm definitely more appreciative of a lot of things – even the way my mom used to decorate the house," Cox says. "I didn't notice when I was a kid, and the last time I was in her house, I noticed that she did a great job on the bookshelves, and I thought, 'God, why didn't she ever come out and do my bookshelves? She's really talented.'"
Cox also brings up her love, Snow Patrol frontman Johnny McDaid. They were introduced by a mutual friend, musician Ed Sheeran, and began dating in 2013. They were engaged in 2014 and split for a time in 2015, but reconciled the following year.
"I'm in a relationship, and I love my partner, and I'm a mom," Cox says. "I love to travel. I love my friends. I've got really good friends in London, and I got good friends in New York, and I want to just keep seeing them and having fun."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Courteney Cox: 'Shining Vale,' scrutiny of fame, 'Friends' memories