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Dirt stars Courtney Cox as Lucy Spiller, the editor of two celebrity gossip rags, Now and Drrt. With the help of a schizophrenic paparazzo (Ian Hart) and celebrity informants, she breaks the stories none of the stars want the world to know. In two episodes, she’s already uncovered a “good girl”’s pregnancy and she’s onto another couple’s fraudulent conception.

”It’s really sexy and dark and also funny and hopefully, it’s as real as possible,” said Cox, who developed the idea from personal experiences at her production company. “It was a Coquette idea. One of the girls at our company, after seeing what I went through with the paparazzi when I was pregnant, said, ‘We should do a show about the paparazzi but make it about the tabloid world’. We spent time developing it and took it to FX and they loved the idea but they wanted to add a female character. We were producing this. I had no intention of being in the show and then I read the script and it was great. I thought, ‘if I were going to go back to television now, this would be a thing I’d like to do’. The character is really strong.”

Cox reported paparazzi chasing her car and surrounding her in public to get shots of her pregnant belly. The invasion has not ended since she gave birth to Coco. Now family outtings are fodder for the cameras.

”I went to Disneyland and there was a photographer taking pictures as I was riding a rollercoaster and the wind flapping my mouth back. I was like, ‘Oh, David!’ [Arquette, her husband] David jumps over the thing and gets him and says, ‘You got to get out’ and calls the security because Coco was there. We were there for her birthday so we had him kicked out. But then I felt bad. Maybe he was just there to ride the rides.”

Perhaps giving the paparazzo the benefit of the doubt was stretching it a bit, but the pause did give Cox the idea to turn him into a valuable resource for the show. “I said, ‘You can stay in the park, you can have one picture but I have to have your card and we want to interview you.’ So he came into the writers’ room and gave us a lot of information.”

That stratgey proved so fruitful, Cox decided to keep using it. “This other guy sits out in front of my house. I saw him behind the curtain and I said, ‘I see you’re there. You can have a picture but give me your card.’ So I’m now making friends.”

To be serious though, the problem has gotten out of hand. Now that she knows all about how they operate, Cox is done handing out cards and trading photos for interviews. “To them it’s a job but to me, it makes me want to sell my house in Malibu. A job is one thing but do it at a restaurant...Take our picture anywhere but don’t take it in the backyard of our home.”

Celebrities have always complained about the invasion into their private life, with little sympathy from the masses who devour every stolen shot of a star without makeup, or news of their infidelities. Now armed with all of this insight into the industry, Cox has figured out the demand that allows several such tabloid magazines to co-exist on the news racks.

”They sell magazines and they want to see if we’re relatable. People want us to be human. I think the press goes out to prove that we’re human. Hey, we take out our trash and do all those things. Of course, we’re human beings. Maybe people can live vicariously.”

And if the Cox-Arquette household ends up on any of those subscription lists, it’s purely research. “I usually don’t but since we’re doing the show, I’ve been getting all of them. I talked to the editor of Us and I just had dinner with Rebecca Wade from The Sun. Yeah, I’ve done some research.”

While her own experiences provide plenty of material for show scripts, Cox intends to change the details enough to keep it fictional. “I’m using what I’ve lived the last few years. There’s so much information. It’s endless how many different tabloid stories you can pull from or expand. They aren’t going to copy exactly what I’ve been through or what anybody’s been thought but it definitely gives you a lot of ideas.”

With such justifiable animosity towards the characters of Dirt.

”There’s something about her that I like. Even though she’ll go to extreme lengths to get a story, she always tells the truth. She never reveals her sources. She’s good to her male paparazzi friend. I’d say it’s a drama that is so clever that it’s funny. She’s someone you will probably love to watch scheming. She works really hard. She’s multi-layered and well-written. I already got to play in a comedy with the best writers in the world. I think we now have the best writers for a drama.”

Speaking of which, Courtney Cox has spent most of her professional life on television. 10 years of Friends will forever be her most iconic, but remember she also did a stint on Family Ties and many guest spots on episodics in the ‘80s. The difference is, this time she’s running the show.

”I really like to produce and I would only act if I were producing as far as television goes because I like to have a big say. I have a baby, life’s short and I want to be creatively involved and not just be an actor for hire. After producing you have more respect for just how hard their jobs are, just how many elements that go into making a show. The hours of writing a sitcom are insane.”

David Arquette is also jumping into television with In Case of Emergency. With both adults working the daily grind of series television, raising the baby will get complicated. “We’ve never done this before, both working at the same time, so we’ll see how that goes. It could be horrible or great. So who gets Coco out of bed if I’m leaving at five and he leaves at five-thirty?”

If either of them ever slip up in their parenting duties, be sure one of the gossip mags camped out on their lawn will be the first to report it.

Dirt airs Tuesday nights at 10PM on FX. / Issue 67 - September 2018
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