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★ ★ ★

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.”

Rais­ing Hope,

Baby on board: The cast of Rais­ing Hope fea­tures ( from left) Cloris Leach­man, Gar­ret Dillahunt, Lu­cas Neff, Shan­non Wood­ward and Martha Plimp­ton.

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