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Eliza Coupe Digs Into Her Wild Career in TV Comedy, From Pivoting to Happy Endings

Coupe answers all of our questions about Casual, Community, Scrubs and more

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Eliza Coupe Interview
Pivoting (Fox)

    She’s played a warrior from the future, a type-A car salesman, a medical intern, a CIA agent, and more, but in her new series Pivoting, Eliza Coupe plays a type of character that she’s avoided playing in her years as an actor: A mom.

    The Fox comedy stars Coupe alongside Maggie Q and Ginnifer Goodwin as three lifelong friends dealing with the loss of a fourth friend, whose recent death from cancer has all three women re-examining their lives. As Amy, Coupe plays a woman trying to balance a career she cares about with being a parent to her two kids, something Amy’s more ambivalent about than most on-screen depictions of motherhood.

    It’s that ambivalence that made the character interesting to Coupe, who tells Consequence in this one-on-one interview, edited and transcribed for clarity, about why Pivoting was the right show for her to explore a mom role — and why she never wanted to do them prior to this.

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    But then, we look back at how her career has allowed her to explore so many other realms of human experience, as we asked her about a random assortment of her past roles, including Scrubs, Community, Wrecked, Angie Tribeca, Sherman’s Showcase, and of course Happy Endings, and what exactly she remembers about them. Spoiler alert: Wardrobe comes up a lot more than you might think.


    To start off, how did you get involved with Pivoting?

    It was so great, I actually got a call from my team at UTA. They sent me the script and they said, “Hey, they want to meet with you.” And when I read it, I was just like, “This is incredible,” so we all just went and got coffee and I signed on to do it.

    Then this little thing called the pandemic happened and we just really didn’t get to get into it.

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    I actually did not know it has been in development for that long.

    Yeah, I met them in February [2020] and we were supposed to go into production in March — they were getting the cast together. It’s so funny, they were like, “Hey, I think we need to push a couple of weeks because people are shutting down for this thing.” I was like, “Oh, okay, it’ll only be a few weeks.” Cut to a year later, when we actually film it.

    Of course. In terms of those conversations initially, was the character you’re playing kind of already locked down, or were you invited to contribute ideas as to how the character would work?

    Liz and I have a very similar sardonic approach at life, so a lot of it was already there. But upon meeting me, she shifted it a little bit… [making it] a little bit easier for me to do it. There was a lot of improv while we filmed it. There were strong bones of the character on the page already, and she gave me the freedom to fill it in.

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    What’s interesting about the character of Amy is that if I would personally look at all three characters and be like, “Which one is the closest to having it all together?”, the answer would probably be Amy.

    Yeah, I agree. She has a great husband, that whole thing. What I can relate to is that it’s her own internal conflict — the mother thing and trying to juggle it all. When we really break it down, anyone’s life who isn’t all together is because something in them is not altogether — it’s not about any external thing. You can go and think that it is, but it’s all about our inner point of view about ourselves.

    From your perspective, you’ve gotten to do a lot of interesting work. This is a bit of a cliché, but how do you think things have changed for women in comedy, especially for older women? Have you noticed a difference in even the past five years?

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    Yeah, big time. Let’s real talk it: I have never gone for or even considered doing a role that is a mother, because I thought it was a boring role. “Oh, she’s the mother or the wife to the funny guy.” They didn’t really have much going on, or it was so ridiculous.

    [Pivoting] was so real and so complex, with so many dimensions and layers of this woman. My manager, who I love and has been with me forever — she and I were like, “I’ll never take a ‘mother’ role because they’re so boring!” Either they’re supporting the funny kid or they’re these stock characters that are boring as fuck. Or it’s the girlfriend role to the really funny guy.

    Now these are the fucking great roles because they’re actually going, “I’m a woman first, and then yes, I’m also a mother.” The whole show isn’t about me being a mother. This is a real person who happens to be a mother, which is so much more appealing and beautiful. If I can be a real person showing people that, then god, that’s exciting.

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    Yeah, absolutely, it is one of the rare instances of a woman getting to basically say, “I am a mother and I love that aspect of my life, but I’m not 100 percent on board with it, exactly.”

    Yeah, exactly, and that’s how I would be if I had kids. I have dogs and my dogs are my life. But I look at people who are… there’s certain dog people and I’m like, “Thank fuck I’m not that, right?” I look at parents and I think I would be a different kind of parent. I would be like Viggo Mortenson in Captain Fantastic. I’d be off the grid. [Laughs]

    That’s the only safe place to be.

    It is, and I’d like Viggo to be with me.

    In terms of the show, how far ahead are things worked out? Do you have a sense of where these characters go in Season 3 or 4?

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    No, I don’t. I can speculate the trajectory we’re on. What I would love is for it to be… as these women are coming into their truth. To see people finally living their truth that is their highest choice, getting away from all the stereotypes of what they think they should be doing. Actually living life? That’s exciting. That’s what we should all be doing. It shouldn’t take ’til death to do that.

    No, absolutely. And I think there’s an interesting undercurrent — the show doesn’t ever push too far into dramedy territory, but it’s possible.

    For sure, it’s there. I think that that’s what makes it so funny. [Comedy and drama] are right next to each other; they’re always right next to each other. That’s why the most tragic things can tip to being funny because that’s the nature of how it is. For us to be able to — if you were to read the synopsis of this, you could think, “Oh, this is a really tense hour-long drama” or “This is a lighthearted comedy for a half hour,” and I love that about it.

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    Absolutely. I think we’ve gotten to the point where the constant of “Is it a comedy just because it’s just a half hour long?” is gone, at least.

    Yeah. I mean, I think it should be an hour. I would love this to be an hour-long comedy, because I think it could be so cool and have a little more dramedy but not tip it to be a drama. I think it would be a really cool thing if we had an hour.

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