Brian Van Holt hit the jackpot when he was cast as freeloadin', beer-swillin' Bobby Cobb, the full-on Floridian ex-husband of Jules (Courteney Cox) in everyone's favorite wine-soaked comedy, "Cougar Town."
Fans of the cult hit were stoked when the show found a second life on TBS after ABC let Cox and her talented friends go (because ABC is really great at nurturing offbeat half-hour shows). The move to cable has been good for the cul-de-sac comedy, which becomes paradoxically zanier and more grounded every week. Where else can a mother-son shower sex snafu be played for slapstick comedy and earnest familial pathos? Ah, Florida.
This week Van Holt hits two more jackpots: He directs the episode — awesome! — and the episode features a "Friends" reunion with guest star Matthew Perry — more awesome! Van Holt is grateful to have been at the helm of this action-packed episode wherein Jules gets into a fender-bender with Sam (Perry). The two go on a date, which is awkward given that Jules is, you know, married to Grayson (Josh Hopkins).
We talked to Van Holt about drinking, directing, and dancing. Drink up, read on.
So, what came first, the beard or the directing gig?
There's a little gray area. There was some time between scenes. I haven't seen the first episode, but my friend said there were going to be some scenes where the beard was longer or shorter and that they might not match. I grew the beard for a film, to be honest.
Let's talk about your episode. How did you like directing?
I really loved it. It's a lot of work, for sure, and there was definitely some pressure, but I found that I was really happy and I really enjoyed directing. You don't really sleep, and your brain is constantly moving and very active. I actually really enjoyed it.
And you got to take on some good action. A car accident!
We had a car accident. We had snow in Florida, a doppelganger, and a flash mob. We had a lot going on in the episode.
Is there a particular scene that you're most excited about?
Well, I had to direct a flash mob scene. And I've never even been involved in one of those, never directed anything like that. I think that was probably the most exciting scene.
What song was everyone dancing to?
It was "Hooked on a Feeling."
Nice. "Cougar Town" always nails it with the references. Does Courteney dance?
She might. I don't want to give it away.
And you have Matthew Perry. How was it working with him?
Matthew was amazing. Matthew is great. Thank God I had Matthew, I got really lucky. To direct Matthew Perry and work together, I was very blessed. Obviously, I didn't have to direct anyone. Matthew brought so much to the table and he was really supportive. I've known Matthew for a few years now, and he couldn't have been more gracious and supportive of me directing. He elevated our episode so much, through ad-libbing, bringing certain jokes to the table, changing things throughout, making it better. I was blessed. He's great.
Watch a clip from the episode:
Will we get any "Friends" references?
There might be a "Friends" reference here or there. It depends on whether or not they get cut out. I haven't seen the final cut, but there's a potential "Friends" reference that's pretty funny. Depending on whether or not we have enough time to keep it in there, I hope so. It's not subtle. It's overt! Watching the two of them work together again is pretty special. They're so good together.
Matthew Perry's character hangs out at Grayson's [Josh Hopkins] bar with Jules. Are we going to see any punches thrown?
Oh my God. There could be. There might be. There are moments of potential discord, moments that lend themselves to potential danger. That's all I will say.
And they meet in a car accident. Whose fault is the accident?
That would be Jules's.
Has she been drinking any wine?
[Laughs.] No, but it does come up just after the accident. I don't think we're going to support drinking and driving just yet!
Well, you pulled off mother-son private-part interaction, so...
Well, we're pushing the boundaries, for sure. And this year is crazier than ever, the best year. Every year it gets better and better.
Last year's season finale was really moving; we almost cried. Do we get more drama this year?
We do. You have really insane, surreal, gut-busting, bizarre belly-laughing scenes and situations. And then you have really heartfelt, emotional tear-jerking moments where you're like, "What is going on?" very real and very raw. We're swinging very extremely both ways, and that's what I love about this show. We have really raw, vulnerable moments more so this year than any other year, for sure. Love it.
Any dramatic moments for your character Bobby?
There are a number of those moments, for sure, and great moments for Grayson and Andy [Ian Gomez], a lot of bromance this season, a lot of bromantic moments. He's got great moments with his guy friends.
How was it to jump from acting to directing on set? Were you watching yourself in the monitor?
I started to at first, and then after a couple days I just trusted my assistant director and fellow actors and crew and would ask, "Did you get it?" I didn't have to go to the monitor and look. But it is interesting sometimes when you're directing and acting, you lose yourself for a second. It's a crossover, you find yourself watching and taken out of your character. You've got to remind yourself, no, you've got to be an actor right here.
Are there any directors you've worked with over the last five years who you were particularly inspired by?
I was inspired by most of them, if not all of them. And I learned a lot from all of them, watching them all very closely, especially Courteney, because Courteney is a really good director. I learned a lot from her, especially her being an actor as well. And yeah, I was inspired by all of them and learned a ton. They're all different and do things in their own certain way. I went to all of them and they all helped out a lot. I had a lot of support.
Do you want to do it again?
Absolutely. For sure. It was kind of daunting and overwhelming at times, but it was very fulfilling. I was very happy and I felt very at peace and comfortable directing. I really enjoyed it. I loved it.
Did anyone in the cast give you any trouble? Pull any pranks on you?
No, I was lucky. I was really lucky not only because the cast was really supportive, the best cast in town, they're all A-list talent, so you don't really have to direct them. And they all really stepped up, delivered, and were all there for me, and the crew as well. Everybody was really tight and they want you to do well, so everybody helped out.
Random question time. We heard that the wine is grape juice. What's in Bobby's beer cans?
[Laughs.] Beer! Um, what's in Bobby's beer cans? Nonalcoholic beer!
Do you ever get tired of drinking?
Are you talking about in my personal life? [Laughs.] I'm messing with you right now. I get tired of grape juice, yeah. It gets old fast.
Cox on the role of wine in "Cougar Town":
"Cougar Town" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on TBS.