Cougar Town star Brian Van Holt had plenty of reasons to be nervous about the directing the second episode of the sitcom's fifth season.
Not only was Tuesday's episode (10/9c, TBS) Holt's directorial debut, but he was also tasked with directing Friends alum Matthew Perry's highly anticipated guest appearance. "100 percent I was nervous for sure," Holt tells TVGuide.com. "But Matthew is such a great guy and such a great actor and an amazing comedian, he was very supportive and ready to play. I was so relieved at how enthusiastic and motivated he was. He brought so much to the table."
On the episode, Perry plays Sam, a charming man with whom Jules (Courteney Cox) gets into a car accident. When Jules happens to notice that her wedding ring has fallen off during the fender bender, she can't help herself from accepting Sam's invitation to take her on a date. "He plays a very charming character that is enamored and charmed by Jules, and there is a little bit of a confusion there, which lends itself to some awkward comedy," Holt says. "There are hilarious moments and there are also very sweet, adorable moments between the two of them."
Given that Perry played Cox's TV husband for so many years on Friends — not to mention their recent reunion on Go On — it wasn't hard to establish the chemistry between their two characters. "The chemistry was just there. They didn't have to work it out," Holt says. "You really just had to put the camera on them and let it go."
However, Holt says that the Sam role is definitely a "departure" from Perry's famous Friends alter-ego. "He's not Chandler at all, but he's still very witty and also vulnerable," he says. Holt says the episode will reference the classic series in other ways. "We shot a lot for this episode, but there might be an homage to Friends," he teases.
In addition to the help from his famous guest star, Holt says the entire Cougar Town team was supportive of his ambition to step behind the camera. "This is something that I've been wanting to do for quite some time now," he says. "It's more creative. I've been acting for a long time and when you're directing, you're on all the time and you're using more parts of your brain. It seemed like something that I would hopefully be good at and that I was definitely interested in."
Fortunately, Holt was able to lean on Cougar Town's regular directors as well as Cox, who has helmed seven episodes of the series. "The one thing that sticks out is be prepared and know what you want to do." he says. "[But] then be able to let it go because everything changes on the spot."
Although Holt has been trying his hand at several new projects — he recently recurred on the first season of the FX drama The Bridge — Holt won't be moving away from the cul-de-sac anytime soon. "It's good for me to have a little bit of a departure from Bobby Cobb, but it just helps keep me balanced and it really makes me appreciate the character of Bobby and Cougar Town for sure," he says.
Cougar Town airs Tuesday at 10/9c on TBS. Are you excited for Perry's appearance?