Scream

The former hor­ror movie vic­tim is now a sit­com star on Happy End­ings writes Holly Byrnes

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

ELISHA Cuth­bert is ter­ri­fied of fly­ing. And not in an Alec Baldwin Twit­ter tirade against age­ing Amer­i­can Air­lines flight at­ten­dants way.

Get­ting ‘‘ bounced’’ from a com­muter jet is as likely as Cuth­bert get­ting on one with­out be­ing pushed.

So much so when she landed the role of the spoilt Alex Moore in new Chan­nel 7 com­edy Happy End­ings, pro­mot­ing the se­ries across the US proved her first hur­dle.

So se­vere is her aero­pho­bia, that Whoopi Gold­berg, the star and co-host of The View, of­fered to loan Cuth­bert her lux­ury bus to get back to Los An­ge­les af­ter ap­pear­ing on the New York-based chat show.

But fac­ing her fears has been the foun­da­tion of this tal­ented 28-year-old, too eas­ily stereo­typed as the pretty girl­next-door type.

Like many as­pir­ing ac­tors, Cana­dian-born Cuth­bert was work­ing as a wait­ress in Times Square be­fore a leap of faith took her to France.

There she tack­led Shake­speare’s King Lear, then starred in a one-wo­man show.

‘‘ Just me do­ing five char­ac­ters . . . and I took it to the Aspen Com­edy Fes­ti­val. That’s kind of where my whole ca­reer opened up,’’ Cuth­bert says.

Self-dep­re­cat­ing, she agrees the start was a brave one, ‘‘ or just in­cred­i­bly des­per­ate’’.

Her choices in film and TV se­ries since have been mixed: an ex-porn star in The Girl Next Door; the widely panned hor­ror House of Wax, op­po­site Paris Hil­ton; then nom­i­nated for a Razzie as worst ac­tor play­ing the tar­get of a psy­chopath in Cap­tiv­ity.

Bill­boards pro­mot­ing Cap­tiv­ity were pulled down fol­low­ing ac­tion from the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. Var­i­ous im­ages on the bill­boards showed Cuth­bert gagged, caged, en­cased in a mask with blood drip­ping from her nos­trils and ly­ing sug­ges­tively on a couch. Joss Whe­don, cre­ator of Buffy, wrote a fu­ri­ous let­ter to the MPAA say­ing the ad cam­paign pro­moted ‘‘ tor­ture porn and the to­tal de­hu­man­is­ing not just of women, but all hu­man be­ings’’.

Cuth­bert re­sponded to the furore by say­ing the film was ‘‘ in­sane’’.

‘‘ I can’t even tell you, like, I had no idea that it was go­ing to turn out that crazy,’’ she was re­ported as say­ing at the time. ‘‘ It’s un­be­liev­able. It star­tled me, and I made the movie.’’

It wasn’t un­til she played the bratty daugh­ter of Kiefer Suther­land’s Jack Bauer in 24 that Cuth­bert found main­stream fame — as well as be­com­ing tar­get No.1 with the show’s crit­ics.

Con­trived writ­ing help things any.

So shak­ing off the dra­mat­ics for a role in a light and breezy com­edy seemed like the per­fect next step.

It’s just that her new gig, as the run­away bride, doesn’t get

didn’t her off to the best of starts. The al­pha fe­male in a group of six friends, Cuth­bert’s char­ac­ter left the al­pha male, Dave, at the al­tar in the first episode. How the sex­tet re­cov­ers af­ter Alex leaves the church — with a roller-blad­ing mys­tery man, as you do — will also test the viewer’s abil­ity to put Cuth­bert’s past be­hind her. Still, the ac­tor says she had to make the break.

‘‘ Play­ing Kim Bauer for so long and be­ing that sort of char­ac­ter ev­ery­one loved to hate ... I re­ally wanted some re­demp­tion from that. There was this feel­ing of want­ing to play a char­ac­ter that ev­ery­one loved.’’

Stretch­ing her legs in a com­edy was also part of the chal­lenge.

‘‘ I’m goofy, I’m a nut, I do stupid things,’’ Cuth­bert says. ‘‘ Off set, you know, I’m danc­ing and act­ing like an id­iot. I’m not afraid to make fun of my­self. Am I a comic ge­nius? I don’t know. But I can be funny.’’

The en­sem­ble se­ries has drawn the ob­vi­ous com­par­isons to the cast of Friends — up­dated for the new era with a gay char­ac­ter, Max (Adam Pally). Happy End­ings Chan­nel 7, Thurs­day 8.30pm

Headed for the heights:

Elisha Cuth­bert has em­braced

com­edy.

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