"There's no one that's close to Laurie," Philipps tells TVGuide.com. "She was a real unique role."
It's an important question to ask now that Cougar Town is in the midst of its sixth and final season (Tuesdays, 10:30/9:30c, TBS). Following memorable turns on the cult favorite Freaks and Geeks and the teen hit Dawson's Creek, Cougar Town has since become Philipps' longest-running role and even earned her a Critics' Choice Award in 2011. "I enjoyed her optimism and her embracing who she is," she says. "She is one of those characters that genuinely doesn't care what people think about her and just is who she is, and is aware of who she is."
Although Laurie still has the same carefree attitude, many things in her life have changed. For one, she and (Dan Byrd) are now parents to a son. "The evolution of Laurie has been so fun to not only play but also to watch. When we started the show, she was like the wild young friend who was trying to get Jules to come out of her shell post-divorce and here she is six years later with her own baby with Jules' son," Philipps says. "We've seen her slowly evolve over the years from starting her own cake business and buying her first apartment and it's really been fun to be playing - even in this broad comedy - the real beats of what a person goes through in their life in six years. It feels like the natural progression for her."
However, Philipps admits she was a little annoyed to have to wear a fake pregnancy belly - "It's a total pain," she says - after having to hide her real pregnancy in Season 4. "I was mad that my real-life story line did not more line up with my on-screen story line," she says with a laugh. "Sometimes as an actor, you just have to roll with what the writers see fit for your character, but I was a little bit firm with [executive producers Blake McCormick and Bill Lawrence] that I would not spend the entire last season of this show pregnant."
Philipps got her way, and baby boy Bobby arrived in the second episode of Season 6. "In some ways, it was fun to play pregnant and to do the birth scene, having now given birth to two children," she says. "I know now more of what goes into labor and delivery than I did before, which is something you can only really understand if you've been through it."
Philipps was able to put her experience as a mom to good use behind the camera as well for her directorial debut this season. "I feel like I was really well-suited for it being a mom and being just the person that I am because I'm incredibly Type A and I'm very prepared," she says. "Directing really feeds into those qualities and I like making decisions and I like being definitive. That also is a good quality to have when you're directing a television show."
While many directors might have balked at working with kids, Philipps embraced her episode, in which Grayson (Josh Hopkins) fills in as the elementary school music teacher. Instead of hiring child actors, she brought on her 6-year-old daughter, Birdie, as well as the children of Lawrence and star Christa Miller, line producer Randall Winston and her on-set hairdresser. "We were in the middle of a heat wave and there was a lot of stuff outside and if there's one thing that little kids can't stand, it's being hot and uncomfortable," she says. "At one point, I gave a [production assistant] $40 and had him ride his bike to Trader Joe's and buy those mini ice cream cones to bribe the kids."
Much like Laurie's evolution on screen, Philipps was happy to add a new skill to her repertoire now that she has wrapped Cougar Town. "I've gotten older and the business has really evolved as well. I think that the more hats you can wear, the more skills that you have, the better off you are in a sense," she says. "I feel like there are so many incredibly opportunities, especially for women in television all across the board from network to cable to Amazon and Netflix, so it's a really exciting time to actually be this age in this position and in this business."
Philipps has wasted no time lining up her next gig. The actress recently signed on for a new HBO comedy series from the creators of Eastbound and Down. "Bill Lawrence was joking around with me last month and was like, 'Are you going to do that actors thing where you're going to go try to be on the next dark drama to prove to everyone that you can do that again too?'" she recalls. "Your inclination as an actor is to always keep it interesting not just for yourself, but for the people that watch you and remind people that you can do all sorts of different things. But that being said, it's really joyful to be on a comedy and to have a silly character and wear fun clothes and be ridiculous every day."
She continues: "I've always looked for characters, women that I feel like there's something for me to connect to and something that I want to find in them and show. I've been really lucky in my however-many-year career at this point to play all different kinds of characters."
Cougar Town airs Tuesdays at 10:30/9:30c on TBS.
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