An Our Prattville Exclusive Interview with Carolyn Hennesy: Co-star of new ABC series Cougar Town

Carolyn Hennesy - File photo
Carolyn Hennesy - File photo

Carolyn Hennesy is doing triple duty right now. By day, she plays smart, sharp-tongued mob-connected defense attorney Diane Miller on General Hospital; a woman who spends quite a bit of time in amorous acrobatics with gangster bodyguard Max Giambetti, and still finds the occasion to use her lawyerly wiles to keep the Corinthos crime family safely out of prison.

At night, Hennesy gets a chance to highlight her delightful comedic skills with three other talented actresses Courteney Cox, Christa Miller, and Busy Philipps, and the rest of the cast of the new ABC sitcom Cougar Town. The series premiered on September 23 with a strong start, and won its 9:30 (EST) time slot with adults younger than 50.

Hennesy’s other passion and one in which she definitely finds the time for is writing. She is penning a series of critically acclaimed children’s books based on the Greek mythological character Pandora. The author entertains and educates young readers, in addition to introducing them to the world of mythology.

Our Prattville recently spoke with Hennesy about her busy life.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Hi Carolyn, congratulations on Cougar Town! How did you get the role?

Carolyn Hennesy: In this town, it could be regarded as a stroke of pure luck. I went in and read for the entire producing team. Once. No callbacks … no testing. When that kind of luck comes your way, you just have to be grateful.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Tell us about your character.

Carolyn Hennesy: I play “Barbara” or, as she is more affectionately known, “Barb.” She’s a realtor by day, conservative, repressed, no-nonsense. But by night, she’s the Queen Cougar. No morals, no shame, no filters. Pure delight.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What does the show have that will grab the viewer’s attention and keep it from one episode to the next?

Carolyn Hennesy: You mean besides the flawlessly beautiful Courtney Cox?

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I know, and so talented … and she was born about 60 miles north of me.

Carolyn Hennesy: Well, first of all, the show doesn’t center on a weekly Cougar/Prey pick-up. It’s a classic “fish-out-of-water” scenario.

Courtney’s character is a recently divorced forty-ish mother of one … a son who is constantly mortified by his mom. She gave up her twenties to raise her him and be a loving wife to her rather ne’er-do-well husband, and now that the marriage has fallen apart, she finds herself at loose ends and attempting to live her twenties over, only this time to the fullest … and wacky hi-jinks ensue.

Her ex is still in the picture, barely … best friends and next-door neighbors are there with advice … her friend/employee relationship with a co-worker is getting her into all kinds of trouble. And then there’s Barb. It’s a woman struggling, hilariously, to find her new place in her new world.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Does Cougar Town have any Soap Opera similarities?

Soap qualities? Well, no one gets shot in the head … no one has fathered seventy-five children … no one has been possessed … and no one has died and come back looking completely different. Yet.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Would you like for your recurring role to turn into a regular one on Cougar Town? If so, would you consider quitting General Hospital?

Carolyn Hennesy: Absolutely, I would love to be a series reg. But this whole “quitting” thing is just not in the lexicon regarding soaps. Once the soap world has you, they don’t let go. I could be doing CT for seven years, and the next year “Diane” could be back in Port Charles … having just returned from doing missionary work in the Congo. Or some such act of martyrdom and selflessness.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I’m really not that familiar with all of the slang terms that are used to describe different relationships. But, doesn’t Diane treat Max (on General Hospital) as sort of a “boy toy,” similar to what a “cougar” might do?

Carolyn Hennesy: There can be many variations within a cougar relationship. The term, in its broadest, most recognized use, means a woman who is markedly older than the man she’s seeing.

But a cougar relationship can span everything from a one night stand to a long term marriage (witness Demi and Ashton) … so yes, Diane (who is only slightly older than Max) does treat him as a boy-toy in some instances … but then she’ll actually turn around and talk to him. There’s a great deal of love there.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): It seems that Diane and Max have been happy way too long … in Soap Opera time, that is. Now that Max has saved a lovely woman from certain injury or death during the carnival mishap, will we find out that Diane truly does love Max when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head?

Carolyn Hennesy: Diane has always loved Max; that’s not the issue … the issue is with commitment and the loss of independence. I hope that Max’s heroic act does jolt Diane into realizing just what she might lose if his eyes start wandering.

Of course, if it comes to that … Max should probably be worried about what he might lose … and they’re both far more precious to Max than Diane. But she might just end up with them, in a jelly jar, on her nightstand.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): In your wildest dreams, can you imagine Diane with Sonny, or would he not understand her shoe fetish? How about with Jason or with anyone else on General Hospital?

Carolyn Hennesy: There isn’t a hallucinogen strong enough to make me dream of Diane and Sonny. Or Jason … God love him. With either of them, it would be brutal and funny and rip-roaring. Pure animal lust … and then she’d probably get shot or something. So NO … a thousand times no. Now Johnny … on the other hand. Or Lucky. Hmmmmm … well, a girl can dream.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Where would you like to see Diane ten years down the road, in terms of personal life and her career?

Carolyn Hennesy: She’ll hang out a new shingle with her son, Damian Spinelli (after she’s released from Sunnybrook where Diane will have been hanging out for the past several years due to a complete mental collapse at discovering and being reunited with her lost child) and the two will have a wide variety of adventures.

Then Diane and Co. will be asked to aide a top-secret govt. agency with legal advice and computer hacking. They’ll be relocated to Manhattan, which Spin will hate because he won’t want to leave his still-beloved Maxie, even though she moved on years ago and now has as many kids as Sonny. Diane can’t wait to get to the Big Apple, though … she’s already researched the best sample sales.

She and Max parted but remained friends (with benefits … until Max married ADA Addison, who, Max discovered on their wedding night, was actually born a man. Ooops.) Diane, after years of searching, finally meets the person of her dreams … Rush Limbaugh … on a crazy blind date at the skating rink in Central Park. But that’s another story.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you feel that there is a reason to be worried about the future of soaps, especially when Guiding Light has ended and All My Children has moved to Los Angeles?

Carolyn Hennesy: Not at all … the world needs its stories. It is simply the form that is changing, not the content. Used to be oral … then written … then performed live … then filmed. There’s no cause for alarm, as I see it.

We’re a world based on myth and legend and we need the lessons to be told again and again. I am actually interested to see where we will go from here.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Describe your writing process. Do the words normally flow quickly and easily for you while writing your books?

Carolyn Hennesy: Some days, yes. Some days, no. On those days, I don’t force it. I’ll make a tuna sandwich and knit … or toss some plants about in the garden … try to visualize the next chapter or story twist. But when I am in the “groove”… even my husband knows not to talk to me cause he’ll just get a blank stare in return.

I’ll have days when the muse is just hovering over me and the words rush out … and then there will be dry days. The secret is to not beat myself up. I don’t write at any set time, but I do always write in my office. Can’t really concentrate on a set or a plane.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Tell us about the 3rd book in the Pandora series and what the 4th one will be about.

Carolyn Hennesy: In book three, Pandy’s going after Laziness … and she thinks it’s hiding somewhere in the Atlas Mountains. She’s separated from Alcie, Homer and Iole at the very beginning of the book so the two separate groups are having their own interesting and possibly deadly adventures. She finds the Evil in one of the most odd places and gets to meet her very famous uncle.

Book four sees Pandy & Co. pursuing Lust. Hmmm … how does one write about Lust for 8-13 year olds? I thought it was going to be incredibly difficult and then, out of the blue, I hit on an idea, which just made the whole story a pure joy to write.

Pandy and her friends get to go to one of the most famous weddings in all of Greek mythology … in all of history, actually. Of course, they have to pose as cater-waiters, etc., but they’re there and witnessing everything that happens. And then, there’s the end of the book … won’t give it away, I’ll only say that I shuddered while writing it.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What would be the most important thing that you would want your young readers to learn from these stories?

Carolyn Hennesy: Two things actually with the first being that your friends are your family. They can be as important, if not more so, than anyone related by blood.

The second thing I’d like anybody who reads about Pandy to take away is that you must always own up to the mistakes you make and do everything in your power to make them right. Or your mistakes will find you and kick you in the …!

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Will there be 7 books in all to correspond to the 7 “nasties” that escaped from Pandy’s box in mythology? After that, would there possibly be a TV series or a movie based on the books?

Carolyn Hennesy: Yes, one book for every big Evil that escaped and, yes, we’re looking into filmed projects as I write! I’m seeing something in the animated feature vein with a delightful spin-off series for all ages.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Is there anything you have not accomplished in your life so far that you would like to?

Carolyn Hennesy: Yep … I would like to go into space. Seriously. And now that you can pay for it …!

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): If you could only take 5 movies with you while alone on a desert island for a month (with a DVD player, of course), what would they be and why?

Carolyn Hennesy: City Lights … because it’s a master class in acting.

District 9 … because it’s the “feel good” movie of the summer … and I’m not being cute. It is.

Casablanca … because it’s flawless and you can never get enough.

Love Actually … delicate and seamless storytelling.

The Great Race … never fails to make me laugh, and if I’m only eatin’ bananas and drinking coconut milk, I’m gonna need a laugh.

Interview by Melissa Parker

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