Josh Hopkins talks the return of 'Cougar Town,' and his new movie 'Lebanon, PA'


Image Credit: Mitch Haddad/ABC

Our long national wait for the next new Cougar Town is almost over. The show returns with two episodes this week — one tonight after Dancing With the Stars, and one in its regular Wednesday time slot. Tonight’s episode has Bobby (Brian Van Holt) and Laurie (Busy Philipps) partnering for a business venture to bring “Penny Can” to the masses. Viewers will be able to dial a working phone number for details on how to purchase their own “Bobby Cobb Official Competition Penny Can” — and for a chance to speak to a member of the cast or one of the creators. (According to ABC, the cast and co-creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel will take turns carrying a cell phone connected to the number for at least a few weeks and answer it when they can.) We talked to Josh Hopkins recently, and though he couldn’t tell us when his first shift was, he was already thinking up ways to entertain callers. “Maybe I could sing a song. Maybe I could leave outgoing messages on answering machines with a ‘Penny can!'”

Something Hopkins did know the answer to: How Lou Diamond Phillips cameos as himself on Cougar Town‘s May 4 episode. “Apparently Grayson and Lou Diamond Phillips have a bit of a past together. Grayson, you find out, at some point, used to do some jewelry-making. Bizarre. I don’t know,” he laughs. “And Lou Diamond really liked the jewelry for some reason.” He’ll also guest on the May 18 episode.

“How cool is that to all the sudden have Lou Diamond, who I’ve been watching in movies since I was young, be on set? Really, that took my breath away,” Hopkins says. “He couldn’t have been nicer, but I was just too embarrassed to start saying, ‘Remember that one time when you were singing ‘La Bamba’? And then in Young Guns…‘”

Looking ahead to the special hour-long May 25 season finale, the Cul-de-Sac Crew travels to Hawaii to bring Travis home after he quits college. (Yes, Hopkins really wrote the song he sings. “And I had to learn the ukulele to write it. I’m a genius. I’m like Prince.”) Producers have teased that an issue comes out that could force Jules and Grayson to question whether they should be together. SPOILER ALERT! “Grayson really wants kids, and Jules has Travis and she’s feeling pretty good about things — she might be done,” Hopkins says. “I would imagine it’s gonna be a bit of an ongoing issue in season 3.”

Having the man be the one asking for a baby is a nice change. But then Cougar Town has never been afraid to break the mold when it comes to Grayson and Jules’ relationship. “That storyline in television has become cliché where we expect to see a lot of tension, but oh, they hate each other and they stay way, and then in the third season they kiss, and then in the fifth season, they get married!” Hopkins says. “To avoid that, [producers] very smartly got these two together. It’s such a bizarre show, but they’re really tackling this one story line in a very adult way — more so than what you’d see on most television shows. They’re two adults that ARE together and they’re working out the problems of being in a relationship, rather than working out the problems of almost kissing and almost being the one to take the first step. It’s really an adult story line in a very childish show.” (Speaking of childish … Another tease: Neighbor Tom was not invited to go to Hawaii, “but I’m not saying that he won’t sometimes maybe sorta be there,” Hopkins says. “That’s my favorite thing in the entire episode.”)

As for what Hopkins will be doing on his hiatus from filming the series, that’s easy: Promoting his new movie Lebanon, PA, which opens in New York and Philadelphia on April 29 before expanding to other select cities. He stars as Will, a charming 35-year-old Philadelphia ad man who heads to Lebanon to bury his father. There, he forms an unexpected friendship with CJ (Rachel Kitson), his newly pregnant 17-year-old cousin, and becomes interested in CJ’s married teacher (Samantha Mathis). “With my character, it’s almost a coming-of-age story in his late 30s. He’s a guy who is just now sort of waking up and wants to define who and what he is,” Hopkins says. “One of the things that really attracted me was that so many times you see characters who are kind of a cad or bad guy with a heart of gold deep down. This guy is externally nice, and inside, he’s a little bit hollow. He’s got a deep part of his spirit and soul to fill and he realizes that on this trip.”

It’s another nice change for the actor who admits he’s played a lot of “heart-of-gold charming cads.” He also appreciated writer/director Ben Hickernell’s subtle touch. “There is a divide in the country right now. It’s a crevice that is growing, and [the film] does get into those iffy gray areas pretty well. It’s distinctly American in that way, and the fact that it’s a small independent movie means it can impact the subject matter in a way that a big movie couldn’t. If you are a staunch liberal or a Tea Party guy, you’re probably gonna think it chooses some sort of side, but I don’t think it does,” he says. “I think it’s unique in the fact that it does tell a story that could be a hot-button topic for a lot of people, and it does it with such subtlety. It’s just kind of beautiful.” Watch the trailer below.

Read more:
Spoiler Room: ‘Cougar Town’
Which TV character would you date in real life?

Comments (27 total) Add your comment
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  • Ada

    When did Grayson become a kid person?! Haha he is so not the kind of guy who seems like he wants kids to me. I can’t wait for Cougar Town and I can’t wait to order a Penny Can. Haha! Love it.

    • The Dude

      Grayson has always been a kid person! If I’m remembering correctly, that’s why he and his ex-wife separated (he wanted kids, she didn’t). And that’s why it was so devastating when he saw his ex-wife pregnant. The guy is a clown, but he’s got family on the mind.

      • Remy

        Ha, I love that we phrased it pretty much identically.

    • Remy

      They’ve brought it up before that he’s always wanted kids – if I remember correctly, that was the biggest reason he and his wife divorced. He wanted kids, and she didn’t (and then she remarried and got pregnant right away – sad day for Grayson).

      • Airhead

        Are you two the same person?

  • Remy

    This movie looks really good – I’m intrigued.

    And so very excited about the return of Cougar Town. Thanks for the scoop!!!! PENNY CAAAAN!

  • TorontoTom

    The trailer sold me – I will plan to see Lebanon, P.A. when it opens.

  • Ryan

    Best comedy on TV!

    • Tommy Marx

      I have to agree. I think “Modern Family” is the funniest comedy, but “Cougar Town” is the one I look forward to the most. I love these characters, and the last two-and-a-half months have SUCKED without them.

  • Brett

    Thanks for the heads up, EW. I wouldn’t have even known about this movie if you guys didn’t post the trailer. Looks good, would definately like to see it and can’t wait for C-Town’s return. More Grayson songs pls!

  • Rho

    All I can say is that they better pronounce it right. It’s Leb-nin not Leb-a-non and though it may seem like nothing it’s a big deal when you’re from there.

    • TishMich

      EXACTLY! I’m already anticipating going crazy every time I hear someone say Leb-a-non. It’s just a Pennsylvania thing. (Like Lan-cuh-ster is unfortunately said Lan-caa-ster)

    • Marko

      What happened to the 1st amnedment? We, as Americans, have the right to express our anger at ABC/Disney for the cancellation of AMC and OLTL. I didn’t know Disney would censor negative comments. They are playing with the ABC Daytime message board by not posting current messages. Walt would be very disappointed at TPTB in charge. Shame on Disney/ABC for stompping on the constitution. Shame on Disney/ABC for not listening to the millions of viewers.

  • Plugh

    Love Cougar Town! It’s the best guilty pleasure on TV in years! (well, not really any guilt associated with it anymore! LOL!)

  • Mrs. Crabtree

    Do we get to see any nudey Josh scenes in the movie? That would sure sell a lot more tickets. And panties too because I’d have to wear two pairs just to watch in case of an emergency!

    • Wha’ever

      Naughty girl… :p

  • lettergirl

    i have missed C.T. sooooo bad!!!! i need my PENNY CAAAAAAAAAAAAN fix!! i have to pull BIG JOE out of the dust bin and get him cleaned up and full of wine so i can drink with cul de sac crew!

  • Cecelia

    Ooh, Matt Pond PA does the music for Lebanon, Pa. May have to see it just for that.

  • Harrison

    That picture of Josh does not do him justice! He is much better looking….

  • mindy

    Anxious to see the movie – I am a 3rd generation Pennsylvanian with roots to the business world of Lebanon since 1925. Lebanon High School graduate.

  • Jessica

    was this actually filmed in lebanon pa? this is my hometown. Where in lebanon county was this filmed?

  • tresorparis

    Thanks for interesting blog post. You guys are always provide information that it makes it impossible not to want to buy your next product ;I cant wait to see what you guys come up with based on all your research and data that you gather.

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