Carolyn Hennesy: "I'm the Queen of All Cougars"
Before jumping on a Delta 747 headed for SoCal last week, I caught up with the deliciously-funny and ferociously-talented Carolyn Hennesy, who was recovering from a bronchial infection after a grueling stint promoting her Pandora Gets series, via a marathon session of readings and fan events in Athens, GA.
Hennesy was also gearing up for the Sept. 23 premiere of Cougar Town, the much-buzzed about Courteney Cox vehicle about a 40-something single mom who starts dating younger men. Though on recurring status with the show, Hennesy had already lensed the first three episodes (including the pilot), and was slated to appear in episode four, bringing to life what is sure to be her breakout role as Barbara, an uptight real estate broker by day and "the Queen of all cougars" by night.
And of course she's still adding a much-needed dose of heart and humor to ABC Daytime's General Hospital anytime she appears on the soap as no-nonsense legal eagle Diane Miller. Five seconds after talking to this lovely lady, it's no wonder why fans and show runners alike adore her so much.
Daytime Confidential: So you've been doing a book tour while sick? Bless your heart!
Carolyn Hennesy: Oh, I know, I've have a major bronchial infection. Do I sound okay?
DC: No, you don't but don't worry; this is for the website, not the podcast.
CH: Oh good! Yeah, I did eight schools in two days in Athens, Georgia. I ate at my new favorite restaurant, The National and visited a town called Social Circle, Georgia. Isn't that just the best name for a town you've ever heard?
DC: Oh you know I'm a Southern boy, so I'm used to those names! Were you promoting your latest novel about Ancient Greece's most misunderstood tween, Pandora?
CH: Oh yeah, definitely. I was promoting the entire Pandora series. Pandora Gets Lazy is the latest; it's been out about six months. In it Pandora has to find "lazy" one of the seven big evils she accidently let out of the box, but of course Hera isn't about to let that happen without a hitch!
DC: That Hera, she must be related to Helena Cassadine on GH! Are kids responding well to the books?
CH: Oh definitely. One of the neatest things about being in Athens was seeing so many kids coming to my events dressed as Pandy and her friends.
DC: That must have been a good feeling to know something you created inspired that?
CH: Let me tell you, it was incredible!
DC: So now that Pandy has found "lazy", what's next?
CH: Well, coming out at the end of the year is Pandora Gets Heart. Not, Pandora Gets a Heart, just Pandora Gets Heart. That will be the fourth book in the series, and I'm already halfway through writing Book Five.
DC: Now before you told me there will be seven books in the series, is that still the case?
CH: Yes, seven big evils, seven books.
DC: Well we might have to create a few more evils for Pandora to get in order to keep the book series going! Lord knows daytime would be a good place to look! Any updates on Pandora heading to the big or small screen?
CH: There's been a lot of interest, but I don't want to jinx it. I'm a bit superstitious. Movie producers want to make sure it won't be a fluke, you know? I said I would deliver seven books, and they want to see that I can do it, and I am on book five. So far, so good.
DC: Well, Pandora has actually already made her television debut, sort of. Little Molly Lansing was reading Pandora Gets Lazy on General Hospital recently!
CH: Yes, thank you so much GH cameramen, God love them! But yes, there is talk of Pandy living on beyond books. I've got two and a half more books to write, we are working seriously on the foreign rights and I think you are just going to love the character of Persephone in the next book. Let me tell you, she is a hoot and a half!
DC: Speaking of a hoot, your upcoming ABC primetime show Cougar Town looks like a lot of fun. What more can you share about the show since the last time we spoke?
CH: In Cougar Town, I play Barbara, a straight-laced, conservative realtor by day in Gulf Haven, Florida, and by night she's a take no prisoners man eater. I'm the Queen of all Cougars.
DC: Oh wow, I can't wait! [Laughs]
CH: My character takes Courteney Cox's character Jules, a recent divorcee with a teenage son, under her wing. She provides cougar training.
DC: This is going to be such a hit! I bet Barbara will be like Edie, Nicolette Sheridan's character on Desperate Housewives, who started off recurring then end up on the show for years.!
CH: Well, they obviously love writing for Barbara. I would love to be a regular. If God and executive producer Bill Lawrence, who are essentially the same person, are listening!
DC: Way to put it right out there in the universe.
CH: Oh honey, you have no idea, at home at night I am burning incense on my little shrine to Bill Lawrence!
DC: Do you think a lot of fans of General Hospital's Diane Miller are going to follow you to Cougar Town?
CH: I've been hearing from a lot of them that they plan to watch. I hope they love it. Barbara is like Diane in that she's smart and sassy, but unlike Diane she has absolutely no decorum or tact.
DC: What are you enjoying most about the show?
CH: Well working with Courteney and Bill is great, but let me tell you about the wardrobe. Prada shoes, Dolce and Gabbana clothes. It's Florida, so everything is bit bigger, bolder, more gold and animal prints. I'm literally a cougar walking upright!
DC: Let's talk about the term cougar, as describing a woman who dates a younger man. Many women in the industry, from Candace Bushnell to Morgan Fairchild have said they find the term demeaning to women. What's your take on the controversy?
CH: The cougar is one of the most powerful animals on the planet. I'd rather be a cougar than its prey. The men in Cougar Town are the prey, delightful, little ground hogs, we take them and shake them around a bit and teach them how a lady wants to be treated. They are willing prey. There's nothing at all demeaning about the term cougar. A cougar is a woman who knows what she wants, on her terms and goes out and gets it. It's casual fun and it's what men have been allowed since the beginning of time. I'm proud to play a cougar!