Martha Plimpton shares the joy of working on “Raising Hope”

Martha Plimpton has been working in the entertainment industry for 30 of her 40 years, wracking up fans with parts in audience favorites The Goonies and Parenthood, but it wasn’t until Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) approached her with the role of Virginia Chance that she decided to take the plunge into TV. Raising Hope, which returns on FOX tonight, cast her as the head of a rough-around-the-edges family trying to raise a baby. Virginia is a headstrong but sweet mother to Jimmy (played by newcomer Lucas Neff), who also must look after her senile grandmother Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) and her bumbling husband Burt (Garrett Dillahunt).

Plimpton spoke with reporters recently about why she felt this project was the right one to lure her into TV, and why the Chance family works so well:

On working with Dillahunt, and the relationship between Virginia and Burt: “Working with Garret is a dream, an absolute dream. He’s wonderful. He’s hilarious. He’s incredibly smart. He’s a very, very smart actor. I love the relationship that Greg and his writers have been developing the first season. I love that they grew up together. I love that they’re childhood sweethearts, and they have that history, and they’re so familiar with each other that they’re best friends as well as husband and wife. I love very much that they’re not like the Bickersons. They’re not like your typical sitcom couple and that they’re not always fighting about who’s right or wrong about something. Obviously, this show has its conflicts. You have to because that’s comedy. But I like that they’re in it together. I think that it gives us way more room over the long haul just as characters to have fun and to get to know these people, the fact that they’re not always at each other’s throats. That I really like.”

On why she had avoided becoming a TV-series regular: “I was afraid that I’d get bored, like I’ve never played the same character for a year before, ever. I haven’t ever one time been bored at all. I can’t say I’m surprised by this necessarily, because I knew what I was getting into and I knew Greg. I was a fan of his and I know how good our writers are. So I can’t say it’s necessarily a surprise. I guess it’s more of a sort of a happy relief. I don’t know. I don’t know how else to describe it. Yes, I’m always happy to go to work every day.”

On her lack of strategy toward her career: “I very rarely think about things like that. I almost never have a plan for myself or think about some — I’m not ambitious in that way. Like I don’t see someone else do something and go, ‘Man, I could really kill that. Man, I could do that way better.’ I’ve never actually had that thought.  Things tend to come when they are meant to come. I know that sounds kind of like spiritual and cheesy, but I think things come when they’re meant to come. If you try to push it or you if you try to overly strategize as an actor I think you stop having a good time and you start white knuckling life a little more and I don’t like to do that.”

On why Raising Hope doesn’t feature much improvisation: “Maybe Cloris is the one exception because she’s been doing this so long and she’s such a pro, but I think the rest of us is pretty confident that we’re not sure we could come up with anything as funny as our writers come up with. I think we’re all pretty confident that they’ve got their eye on the ball with it.”

On working with upcoming guest star Jerry Van Dyke: “It was my first time working with him and I could not have been more excited and star struck. I mean, obviously I’ve been watching him for years. I think he’s one of the funniest people in the world. … I really think he’s a genius. I love that he came and did our show. He’s such a pro.  He was just dreamy. I’m thrilled to know that Greg is going to have him back.”

Photo: ©FOX BROADCASTING CO.  Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX