The “little comedy series that could” is still finding ways to steal hearts across America. Debuting strongly in its freshman year, RAISING HOPE was quickly picked-up for a second season and is now finding ways to lure in new viewers from its prime time-slot behind Fox’s NEW GIRL. Taking a few minutes to chat with press in a recent conference call, creator and executive producer Greg Garcia and star Lucas Neff shared a few candid thoughts about the show.
How did the concept for RAISING HOPE actually come about?
GREG: Well, I had a couple of ideas for movies, but I didn’t really know how this movie would end. So then it was time for me to go and pitch new shows after My Name Is Earl got cancelled; so I went into Fox and pitched this. I think I kind of wanted to do a domestic comedy, but a twisted domestic comedy – and this is what I came up with.
Lucas, what attracted you to the role of Jimmy Chance — and what are the differences and similarities between the two of you?
LUCAS: Well, what attracted me to the role was twofold. One, I was really broke, and unemployed. It’s the best job offer I’ve ever received in my life. So I’d have been a fool to turn it down. Then, two, the writing is really good. It’s especially good considering it’s in the sitcom format, which can be difficult to write for. And Greg obviously has a lot of experience writing comedies for television. So it just seemed like a wonderful opportunity for me — a gift from the sky. And then as far as similarities between myself and Jimmy, I guess — sad to say — I think we both try really hard. But we don’t always succeed on the first go around. We both have a learning-curve. I think both Jimmy and myself have to learn to accept that we don’t always get it right out of the gates, and to keep trying and hope for the best, and know that we’re surrounded by good people.
How did you get Greyson Chance to play the young Jimmy on the show? Did you come up with the storyline just because he does look a little bit like Lucas and will he be back?
GREG: Yeah, well, how it came about was I have three sons. One of them was at a bar mitzvah and Greyson was playing at the bar mitzvah . . . They had hired Greyson to perform and my son came home and was raving about him. So I looked him up on the Internet and then I realized, “oh, yeah,” I had seen this kid’s YouTube clip. Then, as I watched him, I was like, “Gosh, I think he could look like a young Lucas pretty much.” And, then, I just kind of got this idea that what if Lucas used to have this crazy musical talent that nobody told him about, then, we could do a flashback to that time. And then we figured out a whole episode about it . . . He’s been on there once, but he’ll be in three episodes in the second season.
Lucas, what do you think of having someone so talented playing your younger self?
LUCAS: Well, unfortunately, I feel like you instantly start getting into a bit of a comparison game. There’s no way I’m going to beat this little tween phenom, who is super-talented. But he’s also a really nice kid. You’re actually going to get to see him act a little bit too, which he’s got a lot of talent. I was really happy to meet him. His YouTube videos blew my mind along with all of the other teen girls out there. Yes, he was fun. I wish the best to him.
GREG: This was nothing new to Lucas. My son plays the four-year-old version of Jimmy, and he’s way more talented than Lucas. So Lucas has been getting used to this for a while.
LUCAS: Yes. Greg’s son likes to say that I play his part.
GREG: You play the grown up version, yes.
LUCAS: I play the older him.
Lucas, are your talents for singing are on par with Jimmy’s or are they better or worse, or what you have to do for that?
LUCAS: The truth is a mysterious thing. No. They dubbed in a voice for me for the good singing, which was to the good of the show. I’m certainly not a trained singer. The only place I could probably carry a tune is my shower. So, no, I’m not that great of a singer. I’m not necessarily bad as I was on the show. I’m still more in that gray, murky territory in between the two, but closer to the bad.
GREG: He’s not bad enough to be funny. He’s not good enough to be good.
LUCAS: Yes, exactly.
At what point did you know the Season 1 finale that was going to be Jimmy’s backstory?
GREG: No. More it was like we got our pick-up very early. So, if anything, it’s more like, “Hey, we’re green lit for a second season. Let’s do something … get crazy with this.” But, no, I think just towards the end of the season, we, the writers and I, sat down and thought about what would be a good season ender. And, then we came up with all those people’s backstory and stuff. It was just fun and we knew what we had done during the year. So we knew what we kind of had to stick true to as far as the reality of things.
Lucas, are you getting more comfortable with being around a baby every day on the show?
LUCAS: I think I’m getting a bit more comfortable. I’m a creature of habit. I spend a lot of time around these babies. So, I would be really surprised and saddened if I wasn’t getting a bit more comfortable. If my kids were like Bailey and Riley, the two girls who play Hope — I would love to have those kids as my children. They’re adorable and happy and playful and curious, all the great things about being human, with not too much of the bad stuff – just mainly smells and odors and things of that nature.
Has there been an episode that was your favorite episode? If so, why?
LUCAS: That’s always a tough question for me to answer, because there are different episodes that are my favorite for different reasons. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the pilot, because it was the first episode of television I ever shot in my life. It was a huge door opening and life changing experience for me. So, it’s that seminal moment’s always going to be treasured by me. But, I also loved our season finale for a ton of reasons. There’s almost a moment or more moments in every episode where I just really love what I do. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. I have a lame answer, but it’s just the truth. I really like, and am proud of, all the episodes that we do. On any given day, any one of them could be my favorite.
Do you think that Jimmy will ever get a chance to be with his girl?
LUCAS: Well, I think that’s a better question for Greg as he’s the writer. I hope so. I really hope so. I think that this season I can safely say we will answer the “will they, won’t they” question. Or, at least, we will have an answer along the way. Maybe that answer will change. But, speaking as far as my hopes and Jimmy’s hopes, yes, I hope they get together.
Is there’s a particular line or scene that you either had a ton of trouble getting through or just gets quoted back to you all the time that just really seems to define your role?
LUCAS: Well, I know that a lot of people talk about. A lot of people talk about the car seat moment in the pilot as being sort of a defining moment for the series as to what the show’s sensibilities are, which is that we’re a family that’s figuring things out. We make some, sometimes, pretty loopy mistakes, like not tying a car seat to the seat. But, everything works out okay, she ends up fine. We learn from it. As far as an actor goes, there’s a scene almost every day that cracks me up. I think, maybe a little to the detriment of our shooting schedule. But, I think that and the execution scene in the pilot, I think, were real tone setters for us.
How do you think Twitter is changing the relationship between fans and the actors and executive producers and everybody behind the scenes?
GREG: I just think it’s a fun little way to get feedback and to have a little contact with your audience. I’m not so sure how it’s wildly changing ratings or anything like that. I don’t think the 8,000 people following me on Twitter. If they’re following me, they’re probably already watching the show. So, I’m not so sure what it does there. But, it is fun and it’s a nice little diversion from the day to get feedback on the show and to say stupid things.
Can you help us put your finger on what is the reason the show’s such a hit and why people love it so much?
GREG: Gosh, I don’t know. I wish more people loved it. If you look at some of our ratings compared to some of the other comedies on TV, I certainly scratch my head as to why more people watch some of those than ours. But, I think that the people that do watch the show and like the show, it’s because a lot of it, I think, has to do with our actors and how they play these roles; and that they’re very believable and also very likable. You like these people. You root for them. You want to see what they’re doing on a daily basis. Then, I think our writers do a fantastic job of not only coming up with funny things, week to week, but really coming up with solid stories. I think a lot of comedies you watch on TV, the stories aren’t always there. I’m not sure that a lot of the audience cares about that too much sometimes. But, we do. So, I think on a weekly basis the fact that you’re getting a nice solid story every week, in addition to your comedy, hopefully, that brings people back as well.
To see more of the wacky adventures of the Chances and mischievous baby Hope and the trouble she creates, be sure to tune in for new episodes of RAISING HOPE Tuesday nights at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.
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