Playing a bad boy turns out to be good work

Actor and Lexington native Josh Hopkins' star is shining a little brighter these days.

He's starring opposite TV star Courteney Cox on the comedy Cougar Town, and he has a Christmas movie coming out on the Lifetime network.

In its first season, Cougar Town is a modest hit for ABC, and its ratings and critical accolades appear to be on the rise.

For Hopkins, 39, who plays Grayson, the lovable jerk who lives across the street from Cox's fortysomething divorcée, Jules, it's seemingly one of the most stable shows he's been on in a while.

The Sayre School grad has had steady work in Hollywood for years. He has had parts on Cold Case, Private Practice and Brothers and Sisters, but they've been recurring guest spots. And the shows on which he has been a regular cast member have been short-lived (Pepper Dennis, Swingtown) or have run their course (Ally McBeal).

It has been a while since he has really gotten to enjoy the security of a TV actor's dream: a regular spot on a hit show.

Perhaps, with Cougar Town, his luck is changing.

"I'm having such a good time," he says.

We chatted with Hopkins about working on the show, what it's like playing a jerk and his holiday plans.

On Cougar Town: Having worked mostly on dramas, he says it's fun to come to work and not have to go into some dark place. "I get to fool around and be funny," he said.

On the show's name: Hopkins says the name Cougar Town, which might conjure some image of the Real Housewives preying on unsuspecting frat boys, is "polarizing."

"Cougar Town is not about women dating younger men," he says. "It's about a woman getting back into the world" and her relationships with her family, friends and neighbors.

On the show's recent production shutdown: Cougar Town was all over and other entertainment rags two weeks ago after production of the show was stopped because of Cox's "private family matter." Last week, it was announced that the show would resume filming Nov. 30.

Hopkins says the whole thing "was blown out of proportion." He said the cast and crew were already scheduled to be off for the week of Thanksgiving when the announcement came Nov. 20. With the scheduled week off and the return to work Nov. 30, the show was out of scheduled production for only one day.

On working with Cox: Hopkins, who has worked with some huge stars (Diane Keaton, George Clooney), says working with the former Friends cast member is a no-attitude affair.

"It's cliché to say, but she seriously is down to earth," he says.

Cox, 45, is from Birmingham, Ala., so she and Hopkins have a Southern connection, he said. They often have fun by using Southern colloquialisms in conversation that no one else on the set understands, he said.

On his singing debut on Cougar Town: In an episode last month, Hopkins' character breaks into a goofy song called My Sexuality (pronounced sex-u-aalll-a-tay). Hopkins did his own singing, evident in a YouTube video of the recording session.

"I play guitar and goof around" on set, Hopkins said. One day, the show's creator, Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Spin City) saw him with the guitar and said, "That'll be in the next episode!" And it was. "It was a lot of fun," he said.

He even had a hand in writing the song (sample lyrics: "I'm confident in my sexuality, just like Mariska Hargitay").

On being included in a list of TV's bitchiest characters: In the Nov. 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Hopkins was in a salute to actors who play TV jerks, including Heather Locklear from Melrose Place, Jane Lynch from Glee and Kristin Cavallari from The Hills.

In Hopkins' dialogue that EW sampled, Grayson says to Jules: "It is kooky how many women find me attractive. ... They range in age from 18 all the way up to, like ... well, how old are you?''

He says he was surprised when the call to be a part of the story came, but that it "was a ball."

An added bonus, he says: He got to be around a bunch of pretty women for the photo shoot.

On the holidays: Hopkins plans to be back in Lexington for Christmas and New Year's to visit his family. But Thanksgiving was spent in Southern California. Three years ago, he started a tradition in which his nieces and nephews come to sunny, warm Los Angeles. "They love it," he said.

What's next: Hopkins stars opposite Kristen Chenoweth in the Lifetime television movie 12 Men of Christmas, first airing Saturday. It's about a woman who moves to Montana and creates a charity calendar featuring the town's hunky men. One of those guys is Hopkins' character, Will, the town bad boy.

Despite that titillating plot, Hopkins is afraid no one in Lexington will see the movie. Why? It's on the same day of Kentucky's basketball game against rival North Carolina.

He said, "Hopefully everyone can celebrate winning the North Carolina game by watching my movie."

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