Raising Hope is a new single-camera family comedy from Emmy Award winner Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) that follows the Chance family as they find themselves adding an unexpected new member into their already terribly flawed household. At 23 years old, Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff, The Beast) is going nowhere in life. He skims pools for a living, parties every night and still lives at home with his family, including his Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman); his mother, Virginia (Martha Plimpton, How to Make It in America); his father, Burt (Garret Dillahunt, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Damages); and his cousin, Mike (Skyler Stone, The Mentalist, Dollhouse).
Jump with me to read more about the show and some of the great questions and answers from the call.
Jimmy’s life takes a drastic turn when a chance romantic encounter with LUCY (guest star Bijou Phillips) goes awry once he discovers she is a wanted felon. Months later, when Jimmy pays a visit to the local prison, he discovers Lucy gave birth to their baby, who he is now charged with raising. At home with his new daughter, Jimmy’s family is less than enthusiastic about a new addition to the household. His parents, who had him when they were 15, never knew anything about raising a child and have no interest in trying again. If Jimmy can work up the nerve to ask her out on a date, he might get some help from Sabrina (Shannon Woodward, The Riches, ER), a sardonic checkout clerk he met at the supermarket. Cousin Mike is only concerned about how the baby is going to affect their social life, and out-of-touch Maw Maw is no help either. But Jimmy is determined to take care of his baby – whom Virginia thinks they should name Hope. With very few useful skills but their hearts in the right place, will the Chance family be successful when they step into the unpredictable and immensely challenging world of parenting?
Lucas Neff auditioned for the show via video. When asked what drew the producer to him and made him choose Neff, Greg Garcia replied:
Greg Garcia: You know what? The funny thing is it didn’t take me long. I watched about half of the first scene that he did on tape. I knew that this was the guy. He was very funny, but in a relaxed kind of way where he wasn’t having to push anything. You see a lot of auditions with people coming in and sometimes just trying too hard. So, that was a big factor me for me. Also, he just felt very real to me; he felt very honest. I found myself rooting for him as a character. Then, when I met him as a person, I find myself rooting for him as a person. He has qualities as a person that bleed through into the role. He was perfect for it.
On what makes him keep telling stories about this type of family, Greg answered:
Greg: They just feel real to me. I mean, these characters just feel real to me. I mean, it’s not like I grew up with these exact, same people that were in both of these shows, but I grew up around a bunch of characters. It feels like home to me. I find them relatable and funny. Obviously, you exaggerate things for TV and comedy, but I’ve always connected with these folks more than the Frasier and the Friends of the world.
I’m just drawn to them. I’d much rather write real people with real problems than the opposite. I mean, I understand there’s a certain amount of the audience that wants to watch shows. It’s more lifestyle porn where they can imagine themselves living in that nice apartment or hanging out with the guys on Entourage. There’s certainly a place for all those shows; they’re good shows, but I’d much rather watch some people that I can root for and feel that they have some real problems. I’d rather go to the zoo and watch some lunatics behind bars and not necessarily want to get in there with them, but certainly watch and experience what they’re going through.
When asked how much experience he had with babies before this show, and whether that was a good or a bad thing, Lucas Neff said:
Lucas Neff: I would say I have, before this show, pretty much zero experience. I’m a lot like Jimmy. I’m learning everything on the fly. It’s a good thing because, unlike Jimmy, I’ve got the parents of the babies are there, on set, the whole time. There’s a crew of people also there to ensure the safety of the babies. There’s actually a surprising amount of people on set who are either recent parents or about to become parents. So, there’s a real familial vibe to set. Everybody has advice and has a real – there’s a real affection and concern for the babies, 24/7. So, it’s easy to tap into that and have fun.
On how much of his experience in being a parent went into the creation and writing of the show, Greg answered:
Greg: I draw from it a lot. I mean, I’ve got three kids. They’re 12, 10, and 3. So, it hasn’t been that long with the newest one that I’ve been going through some of the stuff that Lucas goes through. You draw from real life. Then, you amp it up. I mean, in the pilot, they change a diaper and throw up on the baby. I’ve never thrown up on one of my children, but I’ve certainly gagged a number of times. Also, there’s another thing. People are like, “Oh, you’re endangering the child with that joke where the carseat flips over.” I’ve forgotten to strap my kid in the carseat in before. You move it from one car to the other. Then, you go grab something. Then, you take a short trip. Then, you look. You go, “Oh, my gosh. We could have taken a left turn. It could have flipped over.” Then, you think, “Well, that would be funny in a show.” So, I use a lot of it, definitely. As the kid gets older in the show, I’ll use more of it.
In answer to the question of how do they keep the show funny while doing reprehensible things around one of the central characters, a baby, Greg replied:
Greg: In the pilot, we certainly have a few, more shocking moments with the baby, I guess. It’s not like, then we set off, and we thought, “How can we put this baby in peril every week?” Actually, just the opposite. We have this amazing ensemble of adults. We want to see a lot of them. So, we’ve been finding stories where the baby can be more of a catalyst into a story that stirs up conflict between our family. We’ll occasionally do stories that are more baby-centric, but for the most part, we’re trying to use the baby to get into more adult stories.
On what drew him to the role of Jimmy Chance:
Lucas: Well, just to be perfectly honest, just to be allowed to audition for it. I mean, I was not at a point in my career where I could really say, “Yes,” or “No” to projects. Certainly, people weren’t calling me on the phone while I was in Chicago saying, “Hey, we’ve got this script. We think you’d be perfect.” I went out, just like any other actor on any stage, I just went out and I auditioned for the part. Luckily, the part came through, and it turned out to be a project that I’m proud to be a part of.
On how it’s been to work with babies:
Lucas: There’s been a fair amount of vomit on me. One of them, in particular, really likes to fart, mid-scene. It’s just unbelievable how loud they are. I mean, unbelievable. This tiny little thing. I guess, the main thing is just learning to be patient with them as possible. We have to move at their pace because the babies are just babies. They’re doing what babies do. When they cry, it’s just because they’re going to cry for a while. They’re sleepy, or they’re hungry. So, you just try to do the things that will keep them happy and be patient with them when they’re not in the mood to sit around and be surrounded by strangers and giant, alien equipment.
On his most memorable moment so far on the show:
Lucas: Well, there’s a lot of memorable moments, but of recent memory, last Friday, right before we went into hiatus, I had a day of only working with Cloris. It was the point where she was laying sprawled, dressed only in a nightgown, and I was rubbing moisturizer into her feet while Greg and the rest of the crew howled with laughter from another room. That was seared into my memory.
Why should people tune in to the show:
Greg: Obviously, our first goal is make them laugh. So hopefully, they find our show funny. Then, second to that, I’m hoping that they connect with these characters and can relate to them and that, hopefully, at the end of every episode, when we earn it with the right story, that we can actually make them feel something for these people as well. So hopefully, they’re going to laugh, and they’re also going to feel good after watching it.
When asked about whether or not we will continue to see flashbacks of scenes from Jimmy’s childhood, Greg answered:
Greg: Yes, almost every episode that I can think of has one moment or another where we’re seeing Jimmy at various ages. We see him at about three years old. Then, we see him also at eight years old. So, we’re using that device from time to time. We don’t go into flashbacks for too long of a period, but we definitely see what his life was like, growing up with Martha and Garret. It also helps us that they’re still living in the same house. We can transition nicely from present day to the flashback, to see what they’ve done.
One of the best things in Greg’s previous show, My Name Is Earl, were the crazy side characters. Greg talked about whether or not we would see some of that same type of thing in Raising Hope:
Greg: You know what? To be honest with you, we haven’t met a ton yet. That’s certainly a plan as we go forward, but because this is a show about raising a baby instead of a guy going out on adventures every week, we’ve been finding that we’ve been staying a little bit more closer to home. We have met the manager of the grocery store. We’re going to see more of him. We’ve had some little, small characters, like a dancing homeless guy that rides around on roller skates, that I’m sure we’ll more of as well, but it’s planned for the future, but for the small amount of episodes we’ve done so far, we’ve stuck with the family.
On how they got Cloris Leachman to run around without her shirt on:
Greg: How do you get Cloris to put her top on, would be a better question, around the set.
Lucas: I mean, you do realize that none of that was scripted. Right? That’s all Cloris.
Greg: Yes. Cloris is up for anything that is going to get a laugh. I mean, she’s a pro. She’s not going to back off; she’s not going to balk at doing anything. So, that’s not a problem.
On what we can expect the ratio of Altzheimer’s fogginess to lucidness we can expect from Maw Maw and how to connect with her:
Greg: Yes, we go in and out of it. The family knows. We actually just shot some stuff on Friday where the family knows when to get her. If you really want her lucid, you wake her out of deep sleep. Then, you got her for a good couple minutes before she drifts off again, but it’s just dictated by the story, but I’d say, so far, it’s about 90% kooky and 10% lucid.
Lucas: It’s about as true-to-life as you can get.
When asked to describe the characters and the setup in his own words, Greg did.
Greg: Okay. I’ll do my best to do that. Jimmy Chance is a 23-year-old guy who’s a little aimless in life and is wondering what his purpose on this earth is. He goes out and has a one-night-stand with a woman who turns out to be a serial killer and also becomes pregnant. Then, when she’s executed, he gets stuck with the baby. He lives with his mother and father who had him when they were 15.
His mother, played by Martha Plimpton, Virginia, cleans houses for a living. Her and her husband are living week to week on their paychecks. Her husband, played by Garret Dillahunt, owns his own landscaping company and does a few lawns and pools around the neighborhood. I don’t think they were looking to be grandparents. They weren’t looking to be parents a long time ago, but they stuck with it and did the best they can. Now, they find themselves being grandparents and having the opportunity to try to do a better job this time of raising a baby, or at least, helping raise a baby.
They all live with Maw Maw, played by Cloris Leachman, who goes in and out of being lucid. When she’s lucid, she’s not a big fan of the fact that all these people are living in her house. When she’s not lucid, she’s just running around like a kook and having a lot of fun.
Sabrina, played by Shannon Woodward. She works at the grocery store. Jimmy’s character has taken a liking to her. She’s somebody that’s stuck at a job and has a lot bigger plans for herself. She’s going to college at night while she works there. She doesn’t take her job very seriously. She’s interested in Jimmy in the sense that he’s from a different world she’s from. She’s a little worried about this baby and has a watchful eye on it. As she meets our family and learns more about them, she’s going to be increasingly curious and interested to hang out with them. She’s a fan of David Sedaris as an author. So, because of that, when she sees a dysfunctional family, she’s drawn to it like a moth to a light.
When asked whether or not he was now ready to have his own babies, Lucas answered:
Lucas: No, I’m not in a hurry. I would like to have kids. To be honest, working with the babies has been one of the best parts of this job. I can’t wait until I’m established enough in life that that’s a safe thing to do, but not anytime soon.