Martha Plimpton and Greg Garcia Talk RAISING HOPE

New episodes of RAISING HOPE return Tuesday, April 19 for more hilariously chaotic adventures with the Chances. The show has been a success for FOX, earning the first full-season pick-up of the year and an early second season renewal to boot. It’s been a happy surprise for the cast, especially Martha Plimpton, who is happy to show off her comedic side playing the sharp, warm-hearted, and slightly off-kilter Virginia.

Daemon’s TV was there when Martha and show creator/executive producer Greg Garcia talked about why Greg wanted Martha to play Virginia, the Burt/Virginia and Jimmy/Sabrina relationships, and what it’s like working with the babies who play Hope. They also tease some of what’s coming up during the rest of the season.

On playing Virginia

In the many roles Martha’s had over the years, one common quality made Greg think she would be perfect for Virginia. “One of the things that Virginia has as a character is some balls. In the things I’ve watched Martha in, I just always thought, ‘There’s some balls there.'” To which, Martha laughed, “Oh, thanks, Greg. That’s so sweet.

Martha admits she had worried about playing a single character for a long period, but she needn’t have. “I haven’t one time ever been bored at all,” She said. “I can’t say I’m surprised exactly, but it’s more of a happy relief.” She credits the writers and cast for making the work so enjoyable. “I like to have fun and Virginia’s really fun. Greg’s written some really funny characters and I’ve never done a television series where I was a regular before. I figured if I were going to do something like that, I’d want to do it with people I like who seem smart, kind, funny, and sweet. It all worked out perfectly.”

On the babies who play Hope

Anyone who has watched the show knows that the twin girls (Bailey and Riley Crecut) who play Hope are about the most expressive babies ever to have appeared on television, and Greg said they’ve been surprisingly easy to work with. “It’s been a delight. So far, we’ve been very lucky. Our babies have grown close to the cast. They kind of consider the cast their family at this point. We’re now going to be getting to the terrible two stages as we go into season two, so we’ll have to see what happens, but hopefully our luck will continue.”

Though there have been no baby mishaps, Martha noted, “We did shoot a scene where one of the twins was pooping the whole time. That was pretty good,” leading Greg to quip, “You’re going to have that with the twins or any other various cast members because of our catering.”

Greg said the show is going to age Hope in real time, using the same twins. “That’s the plan right now that we will stick with our Hope that everyone has met and fallen in love with. We’ll stick with her and watch our family raise her.”

On Raising Hope’s humor

With sitcoms, there is always the question of where the writers draw the line with their jokes, but Greg said it’s not that simple. “The lines are blurry and constantly moving. You sit in that writers’ room and you hear jokes and you decide kind of on the spot if that’s something we want to do. The general rule is that if it makes everybody laugh, we do it. You’re going to occasionally offend some people, but hopefully you’re making more people laugh than you’re offending.”

The network, of course, does have standards and practices that must be followed, but Greg said there are no surprises there. “There have been very few occasions where the network has said, ‘We don’t want you doing this joke.’ They have certain buzzwords and topics that they want to stay away from no matter what, so you kind of know what you can put in a joke. You can say pecker, but you can’t say Jesus Christ. You have to go with your gut and see what makes you laugh.”

If the April 19 “Cheaters” episode is any indication, we can expect more pop culture references to be sprinkled into the show. Both Katherine Heigl and Charlie Sheen take gentle hits–Heigl in the show itself and Sheen when Greg had his son mock him over the Amigos de Garcia vanity card. Greg explained, “The Katherine Heigl thing-I think one of the writers put that in there. I don’t even know who Katherine Heigl is. I guess she does movies that are kind of chick flicks or something, but I’m really not sure. Whatever joke makes us laugh we go with and sometimes using some pop culture references is an easy way to get a chuckle.”

After first giving simultaneously ad-libbed opposite answers to the question of how much of Raising Hope is scripted versus ad-libbed, Martha and Greg agreed that almost all of the show is scripted. Greg explained, “I think it’s a combination of the cast trusting the writers and the writers spending a lot of time trying to get the words right on paper. We also have a lot to do in a day. We shoot from 12-14 hours a day and have a lot to get done, so as long as the actors are comfortable with what’s on the page, we stick to it and get the job done and move on. That doesn’t mean there aren’t discussions before we shoot a scene. If something feels wrong coming out of their mouths or just doesn’t feel like the character, we’ll talk about it and make changes.”

Martha reminded us that she and the rest of the cast are simply actors, not writers. “Maybe Cloris is the one exception because she’s been doing this so long and is such a pro, but the rest of us are pretty confident that we’re not sure we could come up with anything funnier than our writers.”

On Burt and Virginia

Burt and Virginia are one of the most fun married couples on television right now, and Martha is thrilled with how they’re written. “I love the relationship that Greg and his writers have been developing over the first season. I love that they grew up together. I love that they’re childhood sweethearts and have that history and that they’re so familiar with each other-that they’re best friends as well as husband and wife. I like very much that they’re not like the Bickersons. They’re not your typical sitcom couple in that they’re not always fighting about who’s right or wrong about something. Obviously, the show has its conflicts because it has to-that’s comedy, but I like that they’re in it together because it gives us more room over the long haul. ”

Greg likes to keep Burt and Virginia on the same side of a fight. “It’s always better when we can have the two of them against something else. As a team-a nice married team. They may not always agree on how to go about whatever conflict they have, but it’s nice to see them working together.”

Cheating and flirting are major themes in a couple of upcoming episodes and Martha said that Burt and Virginia have their own way of dealing with those issues. “I’m pretty sure that they have an agreement on cheating that is not the best for a marriage, but when you’ve been together as long as Burt and Virginia have, you’re obviously doing something right. They’ve been together since they were kids; they grew up together. They have a whole long backstory that we’re mining. Whatever they’ve got going is working for them.”

On Jimmy and Sabrina

I don’t think there’s any doubt that a Jimmy/Sabrina pairing is the long-term goal, but we apparently shouldn’t expect any real movement there for a while. Greg said, “I think one of our main things to think about in season two is exactly where the relationship is going with Jimmy and Sabrina. We have a lot of different ideas and we haven’t decided everything yet ourselves, so it’s a whole process of getting them there and seeing where the stories go and what’s the best thing to do.”

That’s not to say there won’t be some more good scenes with them this season. In “Cheaters,” for example, Greg said that Sabrina will think her boyfriend “Wyatt is cheating on her, so Sabrina and Jimmy are going to investigate.”

On the rest of this season

Jerry Van Dyke guest stars in “Cheaters,” playing someone Maw Maw meets at Shelley’s daycare. “There’s a little bit of a love story between Jerry and C loris Leachman and there’s some controversy because Cloris thinks that she is still married even though her husband has passed away. She thinks she’s cheating and Martha’s character has some problems with that. ”

Greg has worked with Van Dyke before on Yes, Dear and My Name Is Earl and he teased that this will probably not be the last we see of him on Raising Hope. “He’s an extremely funny guy and I’d love to have him back more next season.” This was Martha’s first time acting opposite Van Dyke and she said, and I could not have been more excited and star-struck. I’ve been watching him for years and I think he’s one of the funniest people in the world. He was dreamy and I’m thrilled to know Greg’s going to have him back.”

Ethan Suplee and Jaime Pressly will be in the next to last episode as a married couple with whom Burt and Virginia get a little too involved.

According to Greg, Raising Hope is going back in time for the season finale. “We end our season this year on a flashback episode that happened five years in the past that we have a lot of fun with. If you’re just tuning into the show, you’ll get a lot of laughs and I think for people who watched the whole season, there are a lot of little fun things in there-callbacks to other episodes and questions about why people are where they are in their lives. We try to cram a bunch of people in who’ve been on the show, so there will be a lot of familiar faces in that episode.” Martha jumped in to add, “There are a couple of nice cameos, too-people coming in and out of the frame really fast and you go, ‘Oh wow, that’s awesome that he’s on this.'”

Martha’s a fan of the flashbacks. “It’s a lot of fun that we get to play these people now and we’re seeing them as teenagers and it’s a lot of fun that we get to jump all over the place.” Her only complaint is that Virginia looks exactly the same in the finale except for some barrettes. “I thought maybe I should shave my head or something.” Greg said they’d save that for another time.

Raising Hope airs on FOX Tuesdays at 9pm eastern/8 central.

You can read all our Raising Hope coverage here.

Don’t forget to watch Martha Plimpton when she reprises her role as snarky attorney Patti Nyholm in The Good Wife on CBS Tuesday, May 3 at 10pm eastern/9 central.