Courteney Cox Embraces Her Spooky Side In New Starz Series 'Shining Vale'

CUL PS Courteney Cox
Alexandra Jackson

"This is the most layered character I've had in years and years."

Courteney Cox knows a thing or two about scary stories—from the Scream franchise to having lived in Gypsy Rose Lee's house ("Everyone said, 'This house is haunted'"). Now she's putting this expertise into the new Starz dark comedy Shining Vale (March 6). "This is the most layered character I've had in years and years." Cox plays Pat Phelps, a wife and mother who starts to see mysterious things in the house the family moves into after marital struggles between Pat and her husband, Terry (Greg Kinnear). "Everyone thinks she's going crazy, but it's all happening around her. She just needs to convince everybody, but in her own sort of unstable way. It makes people not believe her even more." It wasn't hard for Cox to sign up for the role. "I was also attracted to who was involved in it. Being that it was (series creators) Jeff Astrof and Sharon Horgan, that was really appealing to me." Something not scary happening to Cox right now is her refreshing new home beauty brand Homecourt. "I'm really proud of it. It sold out already, on the first day, but now we're just getting more product."

What excited you about doing this series?

It's genre-bending in a way because it's about real subjects and intense things, and yet, there's this mystical element. I mean, it is scary. But I was also attracted to who was involved in it. I mean, being that it was Jeff Astrof and Sharon Horgan, that was really appealing to me. When I read it, I just loved this character and everything that she was, and everything that she goes through and what she's been through—going through a midlife crisis and having an affair and starting your life over. Everybody thinks that she's losing it and yet something is happening to her. She's so stuck and unhappy and she wants things to be better. But she's got the teenage daughter who's really on her all the time, or pushing her away all the time. So just themes that I understand. Even talking to Jeff about where it was going and what to play. This is the most layered character I've had in years and years and years. So I didn't want to just rely on my instincts. I worked with an acting coach who I adore and really wanted to give it my all.

Courteney Cox Embraces In Shining Vale
“This is the most layered character I've had in years and years,” Courteney Cox tells Newsweek about her new Starz dark comedy ‘Shining Vale.’ Starz

Are you attracted to parts where the character is more nuanced and complicated?

Definitely, it makes for a more interesting experience. I think this character has reinvigorated my passion for acting. When I read this it had so many parts to her personality and places it can go. I am attracted to characters that have layers, and this one, in particular, has to come out of this place that she's in. She goes to one of the worst psychiatrists ever and he prescribed her these drugs and she has an addiction problem anyway. Even the marital problems they have just trying to rekindle their relationship. I love that everyone thinks that she's lost it and yet, things are really happening and no one's believing her. It's really frustrating. Everyone thinks she's going crazy but it's all happening around her and she just needs to convince everybody, but in her own sort of unstable way. It makes people not believe her even more.

Do you believe in ghosts and spirits?

It's funny, I feel like if there was a ghost sitting in my lap right now, I wouldn't know. One time I lived in this house, it was Carole King's old house, but years and years and years ago it was Gypsy Rose Lee's house. And everyone said to me, "This house is haunted." And I'm like, yeah, whatever. And everyone would have a story. My friend would say, "Oh, I saw someone last night, she was wearing a white dress." All these different people had told me a story. I never could tell. But then Carole King actually came to my house and we did a seance and she said the house was haunted. There was a really bad divorce in the house. But then one time, I went to the door and there was a UPS guy at the door. He said, "Do you know this house is haunted?" And I go, "I've heard that. But why? What makes you say that?" And he goes, "Because there's someone standing right behind you." I moved pretty quick. [laughs]

Another aspect of the show that I love is how you're a different kind of TV mom? Very open to your kid's personalities despite how complicated they can be.

That I really enjoy. I'm not saying I'm that kind of mom, but I understand things that teenagers go through. I have a teenager, and you can't take stuff personally. Sometimes you got to snap back. Teenagers can be really incredible and loving and they can be disrespectful like we all were. I do like playing that kind of mom, because it feels really realistic.

Courteney Cox in Shining Vale
Gus Birney (left), Dylan Gage (center) and Courteney Cox (right) in Starz's 'Shining Vale.' Starz

The team behind Shining Vale has such an amazing list of credits, yet this feels very different from anything they've done before.

I had never met Sharon Horgan, and I only met her on Zoom before I got the part. When I first got the part I went over to London and went to her house for dinner. I had the best time ever. I think I stayed there till like four in the morning, we were laughing and talking. I adore her. She's so funny and so charismatic. Anyway, it was great working with her. I just feel so comfortable to be able to say anything, she's fantastic. And Jeff, he's worked so hard on this, this really is his little baby. I've never seen somebody put in so much effort, he cares so much.

You have a new home beauty line out called Homecourt, which is frankly a perfect name. What inspired this?

Well, I'm obsessed with design and obsessed with my home. I love where I live right now. I just constantly am changing it because I get bored or I'll find a piece that I really love and think oh, that's more of how I want it to be, and I constantly am doing stuff. But I love scents, and I love design. So what I wanted to do first was a candle and then I was like, why don't we care for our home as much as we care for our bodies? When you come home and you smell the kitchen, you want it to smell like something you'd buy for yourself or the way you would light a candle. Why can't that be in the cleaning supplies? So I did a dish soap, and I have a counter spray and a hand soap. Soon the hand cream comes out, and I've got an air spray. It smells incredible. I'm obsessed with the look of the bottle. I want to leave it on the counter. I want to leave it up there as opposed to putting it underneath the counter. I'm really proud of it. It sold out already, on the first day, but now we're just getting more product.

Your social media is so on point, a mix of funny, cooking and design. Do you enjoy posting to social media?

Ellen DeGeneres is the reason why I got on Instagram in the first place. She told me to, and she announced it on the show. I don't know what happened, because I'm not the kind of person that just wants to show what I'm doing today. Like, here's a picture of me, or here's the sunset or I saw this today. I don't find that interesting enough. And then I thought, are we supposed to be aloof and mysterious? That's not what Instagram is about. So then I just started with stupid little videos. It's kind of a creative outlet for me to try to think of what would be interesting to do. It just became a thing. I don't know why I do it, but I enjoy it.

Would you ever do a home show or a cooking show?

My boyfriend always says I can pretty much get anyone to talk about anything when I'm cooking. He thinks I should do a show where I have people over and do a thing where they can either teach me something like their favorite recipe from their grandmother or whatever, and then just sit and talk and I cook it with them. I don't know, maybe one day I would do that. I love to cook.