On May 14, 2013, ABC officially announced that “Happy Endings” (a comedy about six close friends in their 20s and 30s) has been cancelled after two years on the air. The show’s cancellation had been expected since the news leaked out before the official announcement had been made. “Happy Endings” had been “on the bubble” (an industry term for “on the verge of cancellation”) for several months prior to the ABC ending the show. The “Happy Endings” series finale was televised on May 3, 2013. Many fans blamed the show’s ever-changing time slot as one of the reasons why “Happy Endings” didn’t get a bigger audience.
About a month before the cancellation was announced, “Happy Endings” co-stars Elisha Cuthbert and Eliza Coupe (who played sisters Alex Kerkovich and Jane Kerkovich-Williams on the show) did a telephone conference call with reporters. During the interview, Cuthbert and Coupe admitted that they were very uncertain about the show’s future. (Now that Fox has announced that it is reviving “24” for a limited run for the 2013-2014 TV season, maybe Cuthbert can reprise her “24” role as Kim Bauer.)
In a conference call with journalists on May 14, 2013, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee commented: “I do think ‘Happy Endings is absolutely on brand. What we found was it was just too narrow. It was a very hard decision, because, as you know, I love that show and I found it very hard to make that decision.” Here is what Cuthbert and Coupe said during one of their last interviews for “Happy Endings.”
What’s the biggest challenge for each of you for playing your characters and keeping them fresh and energetic?
Cuthbert: Eliza, do you want to start?
Coupe: Yes. Sure. I just always every episode it’s like there’s always some random thing that Jane’s obsessed with so I just kind of like go for it even if it’s the dumbest little thing. That kind of keeps it fresh because it’s like the first obsession she’s ever said. Like every single one is like the biggest obsession so I just make it that that’s her number one thing and then until the next episode when it’s something totally different.
Cuthbert: I think my character’s kind of similar in the sense that maybe not obsessed but I think Alex tends to get really, really overly excited about the things that she’s involved with so it’s similar. And I think when we’re all in a group and working together, our energy seems to always be up. Eliza and I spoke about this on set kind of toward the end of wrapping up Season 3 where it was like it’s not that difficult to find the energy when we’re all together for some reason. I think we just kind of draw off each other and it keeps things definitely high energy.
Coupe: Yes, I agree with that completely. It’s actually pretty easy to keep things fresh because we’re always having fun. I mean we’re genuinely having a good time with each other. So it’s pretty easy actually.
It looks like in this season’s finale you’re going to be working with the very talented Stephanie March, who’s going to be playing your alpha sister and she’s getting married. You want to tell us a little about that?
Coupe: Sure. Elisha, you can take that first.
Cuthbert: Yes, there was a lot of talk of bringing in a third Kerkovich sister through the course of the whole third season and it really wasn’t until the last minute that we realized Stephanie March was coming in and we were all so excited. Then it was kind of a question of was she going to be more Alex or more Jane and I think people are going to see that she’s definitely Jane to the max. So it’s kind of fun to see them together and kind of getting competitive and it was a lot of fun to have her and it was a great time.
Coupe: I completely agree. Yes she was fantastic. It was so fun and she was perfect for it.
What do you think we are going to see from Penny’s love life coming up?
Coupe: Something with Penny’s love life.
Cuthbert: Oh boy.
Coupe: Yes, so I don’t remember. What did she do?
Cuthbert: I don’t know. That’s the funny thing, I was just thinking the same thing. I was like I feel like I only know what happens in my character’s life.
Coupe: Same here, same here.
Cuthbert: I think it’s probably just the same old Penny stuff. I mean she’s always got a new guy and things are always going crazy and obviously with last week’s breakup with Pete which is pretty devastating she’ll be kind of back at her old self and out on the prowl as Penny does.
Coupe: Yes, that is what happens, yes.
How much in real life are you like your characters?
Coupe: I’m definitely like Jane in a lot of ways just kind of I’m definitely a perfectionist. My Jane-isms are wrapped in a little bit of a different package. I mean Jane is always so perfectly put together and the clothes are so tight and so fitted and I’m just not that person. Seriously, I’ve put on Jane’s clothes and I’ve said this before in interviews, it’s like putting on a back brace, like I feel I am just very upright and very like ready to go.
I’m not as controlling as she is. I don’t try to fix other people’s lives like she does. I’m just all about making sure that I’m perfect in real life. So yes, there’s not enough therapy in the world for Eliza, but Jane I think she’ll probably get better in time.
Cuthbert: You know it’s funny I base a lot of my character off my sister. Yes, she does. I’ve already said it a few times and I think she’s actually now enjoying it because I think her friends are also going, “Oh my God, it’s so true.” So she’s coming to the realization that it’s definitely her.
Alex definitely dresses better than I do. That helps when you have a costume designer dressing you ever single day. But there’s definitely more of my sister in there than of my actual true self and also a little bit of Joey from “Friends.”
Max is going to enter this Mr. Gay Chicago pageant, and Alex and Dave are going to be his coaches. What can you preview for us? Are they good coaches, bad coaches, what’s that going to be like?
Cuthbert: Dave and I are going to have different takes on how we want to coach so that’s obviously going to pose for some conflict. But I think what you should be more excited about is the fact that Max dresses up in the most insane outfits you’ve ever seen and it’s going to be pretty incredible what he puts together and what he ends up wearing. I remember being on set going this is not happening, he definitely not wearing this outfit and he was. So you’re going to see Max in some pretty crazy clown costumes.
Can either of you were able to speak to the future of “Happy Endings”?
Cuthbert: I’m glad that we’re consistently on and I think the fans have done everything they could to keep watching and following us. I think it’s up to ABC now to decide where they want to put us and if they still want us around. That’s the problem. We don’t really have control over those things and don’t always have knowledge of what they’re doing or what they’re planning until obviously when they make their decision.
I feel like the last three years we have been moved around, but I think the studio has to do what it has to do and we’re still here so to me I feel like that is a testament to ABC wanting us to work and wanting to give us our own night. So I don’t know. It’s just one of those things we just have no control over, and we hope for the best and we want to keep doing it that’s for sure.
Coupe: Yes. I completely agree with that. Well put, Elisha.
Cuthbert: It’s funny, Eliza, how many times have we had these conversations over the course of like the whole three years that we’ve been on. I think every show sits there and wonders whether it’s after 13 and hoping for a back nine or having a full season and hoping for a second. Every show talk about it, and every show wants to be on as long as possible. And we’re no different.
Coupe: Yes, absolutely. And I think it’s like we can speculate. I can definitely talk myself in circles about, “Well, if they did this and they did that …” And you know what? It’s not up to us. We just keep doing our work and that’s our job. Like we can only do our job and then they do theirs.
I’m not going to try to micromanage and be like, “Oh my God! OK, this is what we should do.” We do our job, we have fun doing it, and we really hope that we can continue because it’s just a really great show and it’s a really fun time. Selfishly, I just want to do it because it’s fun. And I think that hopefully everyone agrees.
Eliza in an upcoming episode we see that that Max enlists your help in sort of a life makeover of sorts. What sort of help does Jane give and what can we expect to see?
Cuthbert: You killed it. He looked so good.
Coupe: Yes, he did. I definitely cleaned him up meaning the wardrobe and hair and makeup team cleaned him up but then I took credit it for as the character of Jane. But Jane doesn’t do anything just kind of halfway. She’s like, “Oh, we’re going to do a makeover.” She doesn’t just kind of do a makeover.
When you play football, they have the whole plan mapped out and she’s got the whole thing mapped out, the play-by-play mapped out. And she does a complete overhaul of Max. It was quite fun shooting that, actually, because there’s like this whole little montage of the makeover. And it’s not your typical makeover. There’s a hose involved, there’s a lot going on there.
Cuthbert: It’s so funny.
Coupe: It was ridiculous, yes.
What was like working with Rob Corddry? Can we expect to see Jane continue to work with him and what’s up next for them?
Coupe: Eliza hopes that Jane continues working with him because I think that he’s amazing. I have like such a comedy crush on him. He’s so talented and he’s just the nicest guy, like he’s such a great guy. He’s so easy to work with.
Cuthbert: So nice.
Coupe: Yes. So fun and just really super-professional, incredibly prepared and just a really great actor. And he’s also just like such a fun character. The Car Czar is such a weird like character that came in and the dynamic of Jane and The Car Czar I think is really fun and he comes back in in full force and does some pretty interesting things with Penny. So that will be fun to watch for everyone. I got to see it firsthand so let’s see what you guys think.
During the first season, the cast got to improv. How much improv-ing did you guys get to do this season?
Cuthbert: I think we do the same as we did in the beginning. It’s just a matter of whether or not when the creators of the show get into the editing room if it makes sense for and fits in with what we’re doing. There are already so many jokes that the writers write for us and then it’s just these little like fun inside things that we kind of throw in there.
For example, Eliza put a spin recently on when Max and myself are trying to sell new products and you came into that scene and added an Irish accent or Scottish accent and, it just was so great. And they kept it because it worked. I think that’s sort of like a testament to taking what’s on the page and then kind of adding more to it and these actors are so good at doing that. So there’s definitely still improv in there, it’s just more of a matter of them realizing if it works and makes sense and adds to the show, or if it’s too much because we definitely sometimes go too much too.
Coupe: Yes, I totally agree and thank you. That was so fun to do that scene and it’s like I feel like now we definitely do the same amount of improv but now I feel like — and I can only speak for myself — but I’ve just gotten so much more sharp when I do it now like I kind of like what Elisha just said like we sometimes we go too far, and I feel like now it’s like we know how long the days can get on set especially when we’re like all improv-ing.
It’s so fun but like we just like are, “OK, I try to be a little bit more exact with what I’m doing.” But also improv-ing off of like my storyline or just the story in general is going to get in way more than just like making some random off-the-cuff thing that they can cut because … it’s a 22-minute show, so if it’s not going to move the story along, it’s probably not going to stay in but sometimes it does. The accent I did, it kind of fit because I was trying to be overly exaggerating, like what the effects of the hair products would be so that’s why it worked because it was part of the story.
Cuthbert: Yes and I think that scene too was like, “I had improv gosh darn it., What the heck!” You did the Scottish accent and Max did the spraying of the lens-less glasses and it was like that’s a case when all three improv and it works and then there’s’ cases where we’ll do it and it never ends up on screen.
Coupe: Right. No you’re right and that’s a really good point. That’s a really good point because it was such a ridiculous storyline to begin with and in order to sell it, it had to be even more ridiculous and I think by all three of us, one after the other kind of adding a little bit more ridiculousness. You can stretch the audience’s imagination and their reality of that story to actually go, “OK, this is ridiculous, but I’m just going to like buy into it because they’ve now gone so far that you can’t help but not buy into it.”
Cuthbert: It’s fun and it’s kind of magical when it works, and because obviously the writers write so well and everything is already there and when you can actually contribute and it works, it’s kind of an amazing feeling.
Coupe: Totally, I agree.
Are there any funny stories from your real life that made its way into the characters’ lives on “Happy Endings”?
Coupe: Oh, I don’t know.
Cuthbert: No, I don’t think so. And even if there was, I don’t know if we would tell.
Coupe: Yes, I know exactly. The Gallagher thing when I dressed up as Gallagher and smashed the watermelons, it went straight from my real life.
Cuthbert: Oh my God that is so funny. No, not for me particularly no. I know some actors have had but not myself unless I don’t know about it.
Coupe: I know, right? I have random thoughts sometimes, like when something does kind of like hit really close to home, I’m like, “Wait that just happened to me or that’s very similar to my relationship with so and so. Is my trailer bugged? Are they bugging my trailer because the writers are like let’s just get into it. Let’s just find out what makes them tick.”
Cuthbert: Did they find me secret stash of ribs in my trailer, what is happening right now?
Coupe: Oh, that’s really funny.
What was each of your favorite episodes to shoot this season and why?
Cuthbert: If we can remember. Oh my God.
Coupe: I don’t know.
Cuthbert: I find it’s so funny how they kind of all meld together when you’re going that quickly and you’re doing one episode a week and it’s like, “Which one are we on now?” And then it starts becoming all one episode. That scene was really fun when you’re just basically schooling me to the waitress.
That was really fun … which is so weird because it’s so against both of our characters that it was almost like we had swapped characters for that moment but we had fun working together. I think the finale was a lot of fun too because you know you’re in the last one in the season and you’re enjoying it and taking it all in and that’s a lot of fun. And I think the prankster one was probably one of our best episodes. There’s a lot. I feel like they’re all fun really.
Coupe: They are because the thing is that like every episode, there are scenes that we all get to have these great [storyline], even if we’re not in the main storyline, everyone kind of is in their own main storyline, but there’s always that one scene that we get to kind of do something crazy or something like we wear a crazy costume. I always get put in these insane costumes. Some are flattering, some are hideous but that’s still fun either way. So I think every episode is actually my favorite because there’s always a scene in each episode where I get to do something incredibly fun.
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Interview with Elisha Cuthbert for “Happy Endings”
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