GARRET DILLAHUNT MILKS FAMILY CHAOS FOR LAUGHS IN
★ ★ ★
RATED PG CAST Garret Dillahunt , Cloris Leachman, Garret Dillahunt, Lucas Neff, Shannon Woodward, Martha Plimpton
SUMMARY Adding some lighter characters to his repertoire, Deadwood star Garret Dillahunt plays the patriarch of the dysfunctional Chance family in Ten’s new comedy about a 25-year-old becoming a father after a one-night stand.
P laying Jack McCall, the man who shot legendary gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok in the back on the magnificent TV western Deadwood, Garret Dillahunt not only caught the eye of audiences but came to attention of series creator David Milch.
Milch was so taken with Dillahunt’s performance, in fact, that he quickly recast the actor in another role on the show.
And when he memorably played Francis Wolcott, a seemingly quiet and reserved gent with a terrifying violent streak, Dillahunt quickly became the go-to guy for characters with a dark side.
It’s a development that makes the affable, self-deprecating and soft-spoken Dillahunt laugh, because when he branched out from his career as a stage actor to start taking film and television roles “ I couldn’t get a drama to save my life”.
“ When I first started doing TV, the first jobs I got were sitcoms,” he said. “ And I became known as a sitcom guy. Finally I got Deadwood, and once I became known for that I then couldn’t get a comedy to save my life. ‘ He can’t do comedy! He’s the killer guy!’
“ Memories seem to be very short in Hollywood, so there’s this continual process of proving yourself.”
Indeed, after a string of roles in heavy dramas and darker fare ( including the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men), Dillahunt realised it was time to lighten up.
“ I’d done a film called Last House on the Left, which was a foray into horror, and I was starting to get offered all these roles where I was doing horrible things to women, so I said to my small entourage ‘ Let’s do something funny’.
“ I’d enjoyed making these heavy films but not only had people forgotten that I could do lighter stuff but I could also use the break!”
As luck would have it, he landed an audition for the new sitcom by Greg Garcia, the creator of My Name Is Earl. His screen test with Martha Plimpton and newcomer Lucas Neff, who’d already been cast, went “ swimmingly” and Dillahunt won the role, which is how he came to be part of Ten’s new comedy Raising Hope.
The Hope of the title is the daughter of Jimmy Chance ( Neff), a good-hearted but kinda clueless young guy who finds himself a father after a one-night stand with a woman who turns to be a wanted criminal.
With Jimmy still living at home with his parents Burt and Virginia ( Dillahunt and Plimpton) and his grandmother Maw Maw ( Cloris Leachman), the arrival of Hope – whose original name was Princess Beyonce – adds a new element to an already dysfunctional household.
Calling his character ( who was a teenager himself when Jimmy was born) “ the patriarch of the family”, Dillahunt says with a chuckle that “ being a grandfather is puzzling to him because he’s so young and vital”.
A happy-go-lucky pool cleaner, Burt is, in Dillahunt’s words, “ one of those guys who will eternally be a kid – he refuses to grow up or is incapable of doing so, and I kind of appreciate that about him. He’s not nearly as ambitious as I am or worried about what the Joneses are doing. He’s right where he’s at”.
Still, having Hope join the Chance family gives Burt the opportunity to grow up a little.
“ The mistake he made early on with his own son was trying to be too much of a pal,” he said. “ He didn’t really prepare him for the world the way he should have, so I think you’ll see Burt be a better father to Hope.”
Dillahunt is taken with the tone Raising Hope has adopted, claiming that “ there’s a reality to it, and the people in it seem utterly believable to me”.
“ They’re a little extreme but at their core they’re genuine and honestly touching,” he said.
“ I love Martha Plimpton, who plays my wife, and what she’s doing with Virginia is what I hope I’m doing with Burt. She’s certainly sussing out the comedy but she’s also finding and expressing these moments of love and generosity in ways that might seem surprising.”
Baby on board: The cast of Raising Hope features ( from left) Cloris Leachman, Garret Dillahunt, Lucas Neff, Shannon Woodward and Martha Plimpton.