Hope and nap­pi­ness

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV -

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.’’

8pm, Eleven.

Mon­days,

Lu­cas Neff

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