In FX's Dirt
, the hunted gets to play the hunter.
As tabloid editor Lucy Spiller, Courteney Cox oversees the same kind of paparazzi that hounded her when she was pregnant with her daughter, Coco, now 21/2.
"It was completely insane," she says.
It also provided inspiration for what would become Dirt
(Tuesday, 10 p.m. ET/PT).
Cox, who also had experience with paparazzi while starring in Friends
, insists her new drama isn't a tool for revenge. In Dirt
, as in the real Hollywood, celebrities also have a role in the tabloid fame game, she says, providing information, negotiating coverage and trying to put their spin on the story.
"Magazines need paparazzi, paparazzi need celebrities, and the celebrities need the paparazzi to get in the magazines. It's just a cyclical thing," she says. In Dirt
, "I don't think we're making anyone look particularly great."
Cox, 42, an executive producer with her husband, David Arquette, initially wasn't going to act in Dirt
. But she loved the Spiller character, a tough-as-nails editor whose shell is starting to crack. "I played a girl for 10 years, and it's nice to play a woman," she says.
She gets raves from Arquette. "I'm so proud of her as an actress, this amazing character she's developing. She's taking all these risks," he says. Spiller "is strong and kind of cutthroat, an amazing woman and also really damaged. … It's such a departure from Monica" of Friends
As a producer, Arquette says, "my favorite part is the story elements, looking at cuts, having suggestions."
His starring role in the upcoming ABC comedy In Case of Emergency
means much of his Dirt
involvement has been on the phone. One benefit is that he doesn't have to be on set for Cox's intimate scenes.
"Love scenes are rough, but it is part of this business. It used to be a lot harder to deal with, but we're really secure in our relationship now," Arquette says. He says some producing responsibilities are necessary but not a lot of fun.
"Your phone gets so hot you can hardly hold it to your ear."
Cox has support from some familiar celebrities. Friends
co-stars Jennifer Aniston, who Cox says "loves the show," and Matthew Perry attended a premiere screening. Dirt
isn't based on real people or particular events, and at heart, "it's a salacious drama, all in fun," Cox says.
Nevertheless, Cox, Arquette and creator Matthew Carnahan, who has a daughter with actress Helen Hunt, can call upon real experiences.
During her pregnancy, Cox "couldn't leave the house without five cars following me." That has subsided, but she sees Aniston having to deal with that kind of scrutiny "all the time."