5 Things to Know About ABC’s ‘Happy Endings’

Posted: April 12, 2011 in happy endings, interviews, set visits

Much earlier this year, I got to visit the set of ABC’s new comedy Happy Endings. It was so early, in fact, that the series, which follows a group of friends dealing with one couple’s breakup at the wedding altar, didn’t even have a premiere date yet. The cast chimed with their timeslot pick – Wednesdays after Modern Family, of course.

Working without a premiere date is just par for the course for Eliza Coupe (Scrubs), who plays Jane, the straight-laced sister of Alex (Elisha Cuthbert of 24), aka the one who left her fiance at the altar. “That’s kind of my M.O.,” explained Coupe. “I was on a HBO show [12 Miles of Bad Road]. We shot six episodes. It was like, ‘This is going to be the greatest thing!’ I was playing Lily Tomlin’s daughter. The whole thing was amazing. And then it was like, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to do that.’” And then there’s the ninth season of Scrubs, Coupe added, which had its own ups and downs. “The UK really loves it,” she joked.

But the cast got its wish (sort of) with Happy Endings. The series will make its debut after Modern Family this Wednesday, April 13, at 9:30 p.m. with two back-to-back episodes before moving to its regular timeslot of Wednesdays at 10 p.m. next week. To gear up for the show’s premiere, I present 5 things to know about ABC’s Happy Endings:

1. The cast maintains that Happy Endings is different from the plethora of friends-in-different-stages-of-relationships comedies this season (Perfect Couples, Traffic Light, Mad Love, and the unseen Friends With Benefits). “I think the fact that we are a group of friends that deals with an actual, huge breakup sets the tone for a pretty unconventional relationship, especially between the two that broke up,” said Coupe. “We all have to take sides. … It’s just a very current dynamic of individuals coming together or being together and then having to deal with that.”

But if you’re looking for something familiar, “I feel like our show is like Friends meets Arrested Development,” added Adam Pally, who plays the straight-like gay friend Max. “It’s got the normal friendship vibe of Friends, where it’s six people in their late twenties kind of going through life, but it has the quick, snappy jokes of Arrested Development. … And it’s got a lot of heart too.”

2. Several Happy Endings cast members are coming off heavy dramas, so its a welcome change of pace. Zachary Knighton, who plays the would-be groom Dave, “had to lose a bunch of weight to do the cancer stuff [on ABC’s FlashForward] so it was nice to eat food again,” he said, adding “This set is so loose and fun.” But he had some hesitations about getting back into comedy. “I didn’t really think about doing comedy. They gave it to me, offered me the part,” he revealed. “I just was really nervous because I didn’t know if I could jump back into the comedy stuff. I just felt a little rusty.”

Cuthbert, meanwhile, has had to reel in her dramatic tendencies on Happy Endings. “We never let anything get too too emotional,” she said. “But it’s hard for me because I definitely want to go there. I definitely want to be like having a dramatic moment, but it’s always just reminding myself to keep it light and fun and sort of airy.”

3. “Max is not the typical gay guy,” said Pally. “I think that you’re not supposed to know that Max is gay. I think that Max is just like anybody else, but his sexual preference is dudes.” Although he may act more like a straight guy, we will see Max deal with coming out to his parents in the episode “Mein Coming Out” and dating other guys. “You play it the same way that you would play a heterosexual love story. I think that that’s really real. I don’t like other shows where the gay character is The Gay Character.”

4. Single gal Penny, played by SNL vet Casey Wilson, is searching for love, and that search takes her to some interesting places. “She goes out with a guy that’s like perfect, but his last name’s Hitler,” described Wilson. “Her last name’s Harts, so it’s Penny Harts Hitler.” But she’s so desperate for love, “she’s fine with it. She can look past it.” It helps that Hitler is played by Greg Cromer (Dr. Rich on Community). Another episode finds Penny “doing laundry, so she’s like in a really crazy laundry day outfit. This hipster’s into her because he thinks she’s a hipster, so she throws herself into the world of being a hipster.”

And the adventures aren’t just limited to Penny. “She sets Alex up with a guy who ends up being a grifter,” teased Wilson. “She’s like, ‘Oh, he’s scruffy and cute.’ But he’s homeless. So she sees what she wants to see.” Said grifter? Played by Coupe’s Scrubs boyfriend Michael Mosley. (A lot of the show’s writers are also from Scrubs, Coupe noted.)

5. There are plenty of cool people behind the scenes too. When I visited the set, Fred Savage was on-set directing an episode. “He’s awesome,” raved Damon Wayans Jr., who plays Jane’s husband, Brad. “He’s one of the most hands-on directors we’ve had. He’s an actor. He comes in and he’ll give great acting notes.” Savage also made for a very enthusiatic and excited director. Every time he yelled, “Action,” “His whole body gets an erection,” joked Wayans Jr.

In addition to Savage, the Russo brothers, who have directed many episodes of Community, helmed the Happy Endings pilot. “They’re just incredible,” said Coupe. “Working with them, it’s just different than working with any other directors I’ve actually ever worked with. … They care a lot about not just the arc of the entire episode, [but] the arc of the entire show and the arc of your individual character within a scene.”

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