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Cougar Towns Carolyn Hennesy On the Prowl


Like Sue Ann Nivens, Blanche Devereaux, and Samantha Jones before her, Carolyn Hennesy's man-hungry real estate agent Barb flirts with, seduces, and sinks her claws into just about any man under the age of 30 she can find on ABC's Cougar Town. And just like the aforementioned legendary seductresses, she does it with the passion of a gay man on the prowl.

Though Cougar Town focuses on Courteney Cox's newly single Jules, it's Hennesy who has emerged as the show's scene-stealer, rattling off lines like "Innocence should be lost in the bedroom ... or on a commercial cruise liner" with unapologetic bite. Though her role is recurring for now -- she has a full-time gig as lawyer Diane Miller on General Hospital -- with any luck, when Cougar Town returns for a second season, Barb will be back in full force ... seducing barely legal men and taking no names.

The Advocate: We should just get this part out of the way ... Barb is basically a gay man.
Carolyn Hennesy: Barb is a gay man and happy to be so ... very, very proud to be.

Do you play her that way intentionally?
No ... I don't. I really play her as just [letting out Barb's trademark throaty cackle] this testosterone-filled woman -- this cougarish woman who has this overabundance of testosterone and free will. She has no scruples. What she lacks in scruples, morals, and possible character she makes up for in testosterone.

She made a crack in a recent episode, and it's true, that Barb just pops up to make a witty aside or a nasty crack and then disappears. Are we ever going to get to see her back sory?

I'm hoping. Listen, I am kind of as in the dark as everyone else about that. I've created my own backstory for Barb, but I'm loath to say it because the writers may have something different in mind and season 2 we may get to see it. So, you know, they give me fabulous, just razor-blade lines to say, and that's fun. That's a gift. But I would love to see a little more of the tragicomedy side of Barb. Where she came from. What made her this fabulous creature.

Do the lines they give you ever shock you?

Yes, oh, absolutely. What I had to say yesterday, which ... I'm not going to spoil it for you, but I literally am reading the script, and I was sitting in the makeup chair at General Hospital, when I should have been studying my General Hospital lines. I burst out laughing, and the makeup girl said, "You're not reading General Hospital's script." I said, "No, dear, I'm not. I'm reading what I have to say on Cougar Town," where I just pop in and pop out. They do shock me. Sometimes I look around and I say, "You're gonna film this? God bless!"

Not to liken her too much to another TV character, but she is very reminiscent of Blanche from Golden Girls ...
God bless you. Blanche and another golden girl, Sue Ann Nivens.

Are those characters that you think of when playing her?
Yeah, absolutely, especially Sue Ann ... because Blanche Devereaux was kind of benign. You just imagined her draped over a chaise sitting on a veranda on a plantation somewhere with a julep. But Sue Ann Nivens ... she'd cut you off at the knees. She had many, many sets of testicles in jars scattered around her room. You just knew it.

I get the impression Barb started as a background character intended to pop up on occasion. But you've made such an impression now, you're there all the time.
I am there all the time. I think out of the 23 episodes that we will have shot, I'm gonna guess I'm in 15. That's a lot ... that's a heavy recur. That's not even a recur, that's kind of somebody who has become a peripheral staple of the show. And I say that with all humility. But now we're talking in terms of quantity. Barb's the shocker. Barb's the cougar. When a show is finding its way, and the lead character is finding her way as a character -- not the actress, certainly, but the character -- she's recently divorced. She's testing the waters. She's thrown into a whole new world. You want to see someone from that world coming in and, good or bad, showing the ropes. It's very much a "follow me if you will" or "don't let this happen to you" kind of character.

She seems like the type of woman who doesn't know about boundaries.
Boundary, what's a boundary?

Do you think we might see Barb with a younger woman in the future?
One can only hope. Why not. I think Barb's been there and back again. She brought a sack lunch, stayed for the day.

You're doing double duty, on General Hospital and Cougar Town. What is that like?

There are weeks when it's very light. There are weeks when, like the past three or four weeks, when Sonny Corinthos [from General Hospital] is on trial yet again, and Diane is very handy in the courtroom. Those are long, long days. But everybody's playing nice in terms of scheduling. So I did General Hospital yesterday and went right over to Cougar Town. Again, Barb's only got one or two lines, so it's in and out. Drop the comic A-bomb and hit the road.

Do you ever have any character confusion -- Barb accidentally steps onto the General Hospital set?
[Laughs] No, only because I remember Diane does have principles, some scruples, some morals ... plus they always put me in a suit. They put Diane in these suits; there's no way Barb ... you aren't going sexy enough in a suit.

Why do you think gay men connect with Barb?
There's a fearlessness to Barb that I think straight men, gay men need to have.

Well, I think straight men are intimidated by Barb, and gay men ...
Want to be her. But in terms of how to live one's life, fearlessness ... there's a stepping outside of the norm, a tossing away of social mores, of restrictions, and that liberation, I think, is very appealing to gay men.

Indeed. And with that, you've worked enough for one day ... I'll let you get on your way.
Oh, thank you. I've done my gigs for the day, and now I'm very excited ... I think I'm going to go take a nap.

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