In Fox Network’s new half-hour comedy COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE, Sunday’s at 8:30 PM, Cooper (Jack Cutmore-Scott) and his two roommates, plus their pet pig, try to navigate life after college. Cooper’s older brother Josh (Justin Bartha, of the HANGOVER movies) teeters between exasperation and envy of his sibling’s adventures.
Then there’s Josh’s wife Leslie, played by Liza Lapira. Lapira’s career has spanned TV comedies (TRAFFIC LIGHT, DON’T TRUST THE B**** IN APARTMENT 23, SUPER-FUN NIGHT), playing law enforcement in one-hour drama (DEXTER, NCIS, BATTLE CREEK) and genre (DOLLHOUSE, the features CLOVERFIELD and REPO MEN).
At the same time that Lapira is costarring in COOPER, she’s also in the Vimeo thirteen-episode Web series CON MAN from creator/executive producer/director/star Alan Tudyk. Lapira and Tudyk both had guest arcs on DOLLHOUSE. In CON MAN, Lapira plays Brenda, who worked with Tudyk’s character Wray Nerely on a one-season cult-hit science fiction show SPECTRUM, which bears some similarities to another show Tudyk appeared in, Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY.
AX: Is Leslie Barrett in COOPER BARRETT the most relatively normal character you’ve played, or is she as odd as your people in DON’T TRUST THE B**** and SUPER-FUN NIGHT?
LIZA LAPIRA: I stand by that she’s the most normal of the cast. Meaghan [Rath]’s character [Kelly, Cooper’s love interest] is probably a close second, but in terms of having her life together, she represents adult responsibility, stability and family life. It’s revealed later that she’s actually the female version of her husband. Her husband Josh is Cooper’s older brother, and he longs for his twenties that he missed out, because we got married right out of college. And he joins in on the adventures, and you find out later on as the series goes that Leslie, though she’s the most stable one, also casts a sidelong glance at the post-college years that she missed. And she joins in on the adventures and she pursues a friendship with Kelly, and her weirdness is revealed later.
I would say, this character is a hybrid between the normalcy and the steadfastness of the mom in TRAFFIC LIGHT, with a little bit of the wacky from DON’T TRUST THE B, because she gets weird, this character. But she starts off very much like that character in TRAFFIC LIGHT.
AX: There is a very large pig and at least one explosion, though the two are unrelated. Are you involved with either of those?
LAPIRA: Yes. The explosion is [in] “How to Survive Losing Your iPhone,” and the whole episode is an adventure – Cooper Barrett loses his phone, goes on this goose chase to get it, and then it begins with the end, which is, it’s my van that explodes in flames, and I got to be on set for that, because I was in that scene. The car explodes and I very aptly say, “What did you do to my car?” [laughs]
I’m also involved with the [pig]. I love having animals on set. I know they were saying it’s difficult, but there were goats, and I always hugged the goats, baby pigs, big pigs, there’s a gag coming up where I think that my husband is in my bed, and I uncover it and it’s actually a many-hundreds-of-pounds pig, and the pig did not want to go in that bed. He did not want to stay in that bed, it was like a scene that should have taken an hour that took many hours.
AX: Did you pillow talk him at all?
LAPIRA: I tried. I tried to rub him, they were like, “Get away from the pig, Liza, he will hurt you” [laughs].
AX: Are you enjoying the stunts and explosions? You got some of that in BATTLE CREEK, too …
LAPIRA: I did. I got to jump out of an exploding house in BATTLE CREEK, so that was fun, and then in NCIS, I got to shoot guns. So I got to do a lot. This is different, because there are more animals involved, which is fun for me, and it’s also different because, if it makes sense, I’m reacting to things instead of participating in them. So I’m reacting to the car exploding in my face.
AX: Is it harder to be reactive than active?
LAPIRA: There’s less sense of control, so I guess that’s harder, but it’s all the same. I feel safe.
If I’m not firing the gun and I’m just waiting for the car to explode, it’s a little more surprising. It’s really fun; I can’t complain.
AX: How are you enjoying your fellow ensemble members?
LAPIRA: They make me laugh like nobody’s business. Sometimes just their faces [are funny] – like James and Charlie [Sexton, who plays Cooper’s roommate Neal], all of them, they’re very charming people. They’re fun, they’re crazy. Meaghan Rath is awesome. I’m a big fan of her from this. And I also think she’s gorgeous [laughs].
AX: How was CON MAN?
LAPIRA: I loved it. I love Alan Tudyk, I love Nathan Fillion [who plays the star of SPECTRUM], I love that character – I based her on – they had more of a BUCK ROGERS thing in mind, but I based her on the beautiful woman from STAR TREK, Nichelle Nichols, like just being the hot young one, and then cut to ten years later. Nichelle is still beautiful. So that’s how, in the scenes where I’m the young me, and playing SPECTRUM for real, for keeps, I imagined me to be that, and then the image they had for me later was Kirstie Alley, doing commercials for weight loss things. I’m in the [fat] suit. My character gained a hundred and fifty pounds [between the end of SPECTRUM and the present]. And I thought it was very funny.
There’s a [SPECTRUM] comic book and a game. [CON MAN] had Amy Acker [another DOLLHOUSE alumnus], and did you see Summer Glau [of both FIREFLY and DOLLHOUSE] do the one quick scene? She played Nathan’s makeup artist. They had Joss – it was brilliant. So I’m really excited about that.
AX: So you’re looking to do CON MAN Season 2?
LAPIRA: Yes. And I’m in theatre stuff – I’m hoping to do a reading over at LACMA.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE?
LAPIRA: I would like them to know it’s fun, and it’s appealing to every stage of life. [As far as the] question about who it appeals to, I did the Lapira friends and family test, and we got my nephew, who’s twenty, my goddaughter, who’s very, very young, and then we got one of my best friends, who’s in his thirties. I think it runs the gamut, and it’s funny.
This interview was conducted during Fox Network’s portion of the most recent Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA.
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Article: COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE star Liza Lapira – exclusive interview