October 20, 2012
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TV Show: Happy Endings

Cuthbert overjoyed with 'Happy'
By Bill Harris, QMI Agency


ABC's "Happy Endings" stars Elisha Cuthbert as Alex.


Elisha Cuthbert told me so.

It was early in 2011, back before her sitcom Happy Endings debuted in the spring of that year.

I had a conversation with Cuthbert about the various "Friends wannabe" series that were scattered across the TV landscape at that time.

But from one Canadian to another, Cuthbert had a message for me.

Just hang in there with Happy Endings, she said. Don't bail before Episodes 3, 4 and 5, she said. There's something special happening, she said. It's not like those other shows, she said.

When I met up with Cuthbert a couple of months ago, she had a big smile on her face.

"I told you!" Cuthbert said. "I said, 'Just wait, you'll see.' "

Happy Endings now is heading into its third season, beginning Sunday on Citytv and two days later on its network of origin, ABC. Notably, all those other "Friends wannabe" series from almost two years ago -- Perfect Couples, Traffic Light, etc. -- are long gone. Happy Endings is the only one left.

"That is true," said Cuthbert, perhaps coming to the realization for the first time. "That is true."

The question, of course, is what does Happy Endings have that those other shows didn't have? Maybe it's simply the quality of the cast.

Happy Endings is about six young adults living in Chicago: Alex (Cuthbert), Dave (Zachary Knighton), Jane (Eliza Coupe), Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Max (Adam Pally) and Penny (Casey Wilson).

The series began with Alex leaving Dave at the altar. Much of the first two seasons dealt with the aftermath of that cataclysmic event, and how it impacted all the relationships within the tight group of friends.

Moving into Season 3, though, there will be a significant development on that front (SPOILER ALERT: Cuthbert discusses an upcoming plot detail in the next few paragraphs).

"I asked the creators and I'm allowed to say that Dave and Alex are going to be back together at the start of Season 3," Cuthbert said.

"I love it, you want to know why? I feel like last season, the writers and the creators really gave me an opportunity to show Alex outside of the relationship. There was kind of a meltdown in the first season and we had to find a way to recover that. Then in Season 2, I got to explore who Alex was outside of a relationship.

"But we've never actually seen her in a relationship. So it's nice, I get to come in, everyone knows who Alex is, but who is she with Dave? It could get ugly. Or it could get weird. Or it could provide the moments that bring Alex back to a grounded place. Who knows?"

While Happy Endings is a six-person ensemble comedy in the truest sense of the term -- three pairings per episode, making up A, B and C storylines, you know the drill -- Cuthbert knows the project has been particularly good for her career.

"Oh, for sure -- it was a reinvention, right?" Cuthbert said. "I'm proud to say I'm doing it at my age (29) again, first proving something with 24 (where she played Kim Bauer, Jack Bauer's daughter), and then time to reinvent again, what is that? OK, it's comedy.

"To do it successfully with this group has been a dream. I pinch myself. I've had success on two different shows, two different genres. When you start as young as I did (with the educational Canadian series Popular Mechanics for Kids), your goals change as you get older. I think ultimately it always has been about reinventing myself, just to prove that I'm not a one-trick pony.

"I feel like a real actor is capable of doing all things. Am I capable of doing all things? No. But I try."

In real life, Cuthbert -- who was born in Calgary and grew up in Montreal -- is engaged to Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.

"It's really a dream to be able to do both, to have both lives, my personal life and then to go back to my professional life, and have it work and meld well, it's great," Cuthbert said.

So there appear to be Happy Endings everywhere these days for Elisha Cuthbert. And as she reminded me, she had a feeling right from the start that it was going to work.

"Uh-huh," Cuthbert said. "We talked about it. You remember? I told you!"

Elisha's comedy inspirations:

Playing Alex on Happy Endings has allowed Elisha Cuthbert to flex her comedic muscles. But that's the perspiration part of it. There's an inspiration element, too.

"I'm taking a lot of inspiration from past characters like Betty White and her work on The Golden Girls," Cuthbert said. "I grew up watching that in reruns and seeing how funny she was. Rose just kind of floated in, had these quirky boyfriends, said a couple of weird, crazy, zany lines, and had fun doing it, and had this enthusiasm.

"Phoebe on Friends. Rhoda on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Chrissy on Three's Company. I can watch those and learn about timing. Some of them played it a little dumber than others. They honed in on certain aspects of it.

"So I'm finding my own path, but there has been so much inspiration for me to go there. And I'm not comparing myself to them, I'm just saying that's where I get some of my inspiration."

It's hula time:

Elisha Cuthbert couldn't possibly have predicted that an invisible hula hoop would set her free.

"People say there are defining moments for characters," said Cuthbert, who plays Alex on Happy Endings. "Last year David Caspe (series creator) came up to me in the first episode of Season 2 and said, 'We've got an opportunity here, there was something you did last season off-camera, this invisible hula hoop thing. It works in this scene. It's up to you. Would you do it on-camera?'

"I stopped, and I was like, 'OK, here's the moment. If I do this and it goes well, then maybe we have something, as far as separating me from the group. But if it bombs, this is the end of it.' And I thought, 'I have to just go for it.' "

So it terms of comedic confidence, it wasn't only a defining moment for the character, but for Cuthbert, too.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Cuthbert said. "I knew I could do it, but how do I break in with all these brilliant comedians? You sit there and go, 'Well, what's my shtick? What's my thing?'

"I went for it, and the fact that it worked kind of set me up to go anywhere."

Even around and around and around.




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