Raising Hope has always been good at striking the perfect balance between gross-out, over-the-top humor and those warm, fuzzy moments that make it a distinctive family comedy. Thursday's PaleyFest panel for the freshman Fox comedy was no different: It provided a mix of big laughs and heartfelt stories about the cast members' lives before the show and their encounter with its biggest fans. From the cast member that almost didn't make the show to the long-term plan for baby Hope, here are the night's six most surprising revelations:
Raising Hope almost wasn't Raising Hope: When the cast and crew shot the pilot, it was called Keep Hope Alive. "People were worried that Jesse Jackson would sue," creator and executive producer Greg Garcia said of the name change.
Cloris Leachman is in it for the long haul: According to Garcia, Leachman asked how many years the show would be on the air. When Garcia estimated seven [when Leachman would be 92 years old], "she said, 'I can do that,'" Garcia recalls. To prove it, the Oscar winner will be promoted from guest star to regular cast member next season when, Garcia joked, she will appear in the credits as follows: "Introducing Cloris Leachmen as Maw Maw."
One cast member (almost) had cold feet: Shannon Woodward auditioned for the show, but chickened out of the screen test because she had never done comedy before. The pilot was shot with another actress and Garcia called Woodward again a few months later and asked her to reconsider. "It's kind of an embarrassing story," Woodward said.
Don't expect any sudden growth spurts from baby Hope: Raising Hope won't follow in the footsteps of Growing Pains, which had the baby go from first steps to first grade in one summer hiatus. "The plan is to have the babies age as the babies would age," Garcia said. Beyond that, Garcia says he hasn't planned the show too far in advance because he likes to "be surprised."
The cast does not miss their old day jobs: Lucas Neff had just cleaned his first two toilets the week before his audition for the series. "When you're elbow deep in someone else's toilet, you've got to imagine things are going to go up from there," he said. Added Garcia: "We plucked [Lucas] from obscurity. When we're done, we're going to put him back."
When shooting, the later the better: Martha Plimpton said they work long hours on the show, but the late nights sometimes produce the best takes because that's when the cast gets vulnerable. "Our defenses are down," she said.
Raising Hope airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.