Hope and nappiness
LUCAS Neff’s story is literally one of rags to riches. The star of the US sitcom Raising Hope went from cleaning houses and scrubbing toilets (a sideline job between theatre roles) to playing a lead role in a TV series.
It’s the kind of story that makes you smile, especially as it has happened to a likeable chap such as Neff, whose good humour and upbeat attitude is very reminiscent of Jimmy Chance, the single father of baby girl Hope.
‘‘What attracted me to the role was first, I was really broke and unemployed. It’s the best job offer I’ve ever received . . . so I’d have been a fool to turn it down,’’ he says.
‘‘Then, second, 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 (Garcia, the series creator) 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.
‘‘As far as similarities between myself and Jimmy (Chance) I guess – sad to say – I think we both try really hard. But we don’t always succeed on the first round. We both have a learning curve.
‘‘I think both Jimmy and myself have to learn to accept we don’t always get it right out of the gates, and to keep trying.’’
Speaking of good people, Neff’s co-stars in Raising Hope (people such as Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt and Cloris Leachman) have been doing great work for years. What has he picked up from them?
‘‘One of the main things Martha talked to me about was, in an actor’s life, you never ‘arrive’ anywhere,’’ Neff says.
‘‘You never reach a plateau where you’re like, ‘This is it, I’ve made it’. You’re always mid-journey. You’re always embarking on something new.
‘‘So the important thing is, since we never know whether it’s going to succeed or how people are going to take to it or what’s going to happen, just enjoy as much of it as possible.’’
That, Neff says, is the attitude he tries to take with Raising Hope. ‘‘I’m just having a great time. That’s what I’m going to try to do for the whole of it.’’
At the other end of that spectrum, though, the show involves working with babies. How much experience did he have with babies before Raising Hope?
‘‘I would say I had, before this show, pretty much zero experience. I’m a lot like Jimmy. I’m learning everything on the fly. Of course, unlike Jimmy, I’ve got the parents of the babies 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 the set.
‘‘But there’s been a fair amount of vomit on me. One of them, in particular, really likes to break wind mid-scene. It’s just unbelievable how loud they are. I mean, unbelievable – this tiny little thing.’’
Raising Hope is one of those ‘‘little shows that could’’ – and Neff has an idea why it keeps chugging along, and why the people who enjoy it really enjoy it.
‘‘It has really good values at its core,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a very sweet-hearted, kind show, and it places family first and doing the right thing first. You don’t see a lot of that in TV or movies. We celebrate a lot of fancy heroes and fancy criminals and infidelity and, generally, just a lot of bad behaviour. It’s nice to be part of a show that celebrates decency and being good to one another.
‘‘We’re a bunch of whack jobs and loonies. But even this crazy family of nutballs really cares about one another and I think it’s really refreshing to be a part of that and then see it as an audience member.
‘‘There’s injustice and consequences and bad things happen – but at the end of the day, we still care about one another and we still try to do the right thing.
‘‘We take this huge, huge, wacky scenic tour in every episode. We never take the shortest path and it’s just fun to be a part of something that’s so surprising and sweet.’’