On Showtime's Huff (Sundays at 10 pm/ET), Paget Brewster plays the forlorn and fed-up wife of Hank Azaria's sad-sack psychiatrist. Could she be playing someone more different from the hottie Friends' Chandler stole from Joey? TVGuide.com spoke to the actress about her Huffing and puffing, Lara Flynn Boyle's racy yarns and her big-screen swimming lesson.
TVGuide.com: It must be kinda amazing/sorta funny that a "one day" Friends role led to your career.
Paget Brewster: Yeah! [Laughs] Tell me about it!
TVGuide.com: Why do you think Kathy caught on with Friends viewers as she did?
Brewster: Honestly, I don't know. I was just lucky to get that job. I thought it was just for one episode and then it became more and more. The show was such a huge hit then, a real smooth machine with the writers at the top of their game. I benefited from the luck of being there at that time.
TVGuide.com: Fans also were probably excited to see Chandler strike a spark with someone.
Brewster: Yeah, yeah. Although there had been Janice... but nobody wanted that to work out.
TVGuide.com: And here you are eight years later on Huff, playing another quirky yet very depressed gal.
Brewster: This is the first drama I've ever done, and it's been a big, big learning experience.
TVGuide.com: In your eyes, why is Beth so unhappy?
Brewster: I think she's unhappy for the same reason that Huff is unhappy they've sort of woken up and realized this is the place where all of our choices have brought us. People change and goals change and they aren't necessarily happy with where they've steered their lives. Their marriage is in trouble as a symptom of that separate unhappiness.
TVGuide.com: Having had the occasional marital squabble myself, I have to say that the scenes are hard to watch sometimes.
Brewster: Oh, sometimes it's hard to do what they write. Our writers are really good at writing fights where people say the wrong thing to lash out. These nasty little barbs come out when people are hurt and angry. We've done scenes where Hank and I go, "That is so rough."
TVGuide.com: There's a scene this Sunday where Beth quietly explodes at "Miles Drentell" [actually, thirtysomething alum David Clennon playing a catering client named Braden]. You feel like she has all this stuff bottled up and is looking for any outlet.
Brewster: Yeah, she's looking for a hole in the dike to spew her [anger] into.
TVGuide.com: Beth and Huff are finally giving couples counseling a go. What do you think their chances are of cleaning up this mess?
Brewster: I don't know what I'm allowed to tell you.... [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: It's an "uphill battle," shall we say?
Brewster: Yes, yes. And they both are seeking answers from other people outside of their marriage for help on what is their marriage. He goes to [a peer played by guest star] Anjelica Huston, and Beth starts talking to a pastor.
TVGuide.com: Is the pastor some hunky Thorn Birds type?
Brewster: Nope. It's a lady. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Oh, so we're not going down that road....
Brewster: There's some pretty interesting stuff coming up. There is a hunky guy [played by Warren Derosa starting June 4] showing up at some point, and also a chick [Mulholland Drive's Missy Crider, first airing May 14].
TVGuide.com: O-kay.... I believe the French have a term for that.
Brewster: Oh, no, no... well, maybe a little bit.
TVGuide.com: Did you enjoy being stalked last season by Lara Flynn Boyle?
Brewster: She's a blast. We tried so hard to get her back this year, but she was committed to Las Vegas. She was so much fun to work with and has the best stories that I can't tell you! But they were really good!
TVGuide.com: Oh, c'mon...
Brewster: No way, I can't, I can't. It seemed like she had a bad reputation and she turned out to be such a dream to work with so game and so much fun. We tried really hard to get her back. The crew wrote a letter to her agent saying, "Please bring Lara back."
TVGuide.com: Share just one story. Tell us what Jack Nicholson's into.
Brewster: I can't, I can't. But she's a lusty lady, that Lara!
TVGuide.com: And look at what Vegas goes and does to her.
Brewster: They threw her off a roof! And the other thing is she eats like crazy. She's just got some Ripley's Believe It or Not-type metabolism. That girl does not have an eating disorder.
TVGuide.com: Sharon Stone was on this season, Anjelica Huston debuts this Sunday. Any other "name" guest stars coming up?
Brewster: Swoosie Kurtz is back as my mom [in the season finale]. Her tumor starts inexplicably shrinking, and that is one of the reasons Beth starts this spiritual quest, because she saw Paula lay hands on her mother. She thinks it's possible that Paula faith-healed her mother.
Brewster: It's especially interesting that I love this our executive producer [Bob Lowry] is an out gay man who wrote a story line about God, faith religion and prayer that in no way attacked it or mocked it. That was courageous when you consider that the church does not accept what he does sexually. Yet he wrote about the power of faith, and it wasn't snarky or demeaning.
TVGuide.com: On a scale of 1 to 10, with the Huffs being, oh, an 18, how would you rate your own family's dysfunctionality?
Brewster: We're really boring. My mom and dad are still married and crazy about each other. We also don't live under the same roof [like the Huffs], which can only aid and abet anger and misunderstanding! I'm incredibly fortunate in that we don't fight or anything, but it did take me well into adulthood to tell them the truth about my life and what I was doing.... I felt this pressure to get married and have kids and be this person I felt I should be in their eyes, and that's the root of all family dysfunction not feeling comfortable being honest with each other. It's almost like everyone has low self-esteem, and [relatives] are the people you want to be proud of you and think the best of you, so you try to be someone you're not. That leads to dysfunction.
TVGuide.com: You know, you could have just given me a number. Like, "2."
Brewster: Holy crap. I'm sorry!
TVGuide.com: You have a film coming up, The Big Bad Swim, about a swimming-instruction class for adults. You play another woman in a lousy marriage?
Brewster: Yes! I'm right in the middle of a divorce! I like that movie and I'm proud of it. It's really good. You'll see when you watch it that that pool was freezing. And we were in it for a whole week.
TVGuide.com: No one had the thought to rent a heated pool?
Brewster: We didn't have the budget! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: You achieved new levels of pruning, didn't you?
Brewster: Oh, it was something. Finally, they got this big black bucket that they would fill up with hot water. We made up a song [sung to "Hot Blooded"] "Hot bucket! Kick it and see!" as we ran down the length of the pool to jump in the bucket.
TVGuide.com: George Lucas would have shot y'all against a green screen....
Brewster: And put the water in later, yeah. But it's one of the unique joys you can only get from superindependent filmmaking!
Additional reporting by Tami Vernekoff