Cougar Town's Busy Philipps: "Having a baby made my career."Christina Couch
For a while, we thought Busy Philipps might have hit her peak. After playing Kim Kelly on the epically-awesome Judd Apatow series, Freaks and Geeks, in the early 2000s, (she also had a pretty successful role on Dawson’s Creek) Philipps spent the next few years taking on supporting roles in films like White Chicks and Made of Honor that didn’t fully showcase how badass she truly is. Last year Philipps resurfaced with a title role in Cougar Town – an ABC series by the creators of Scrubs that’s actually much smarter than the name implies – as well as a new daughter, Birdie Leigh, with husband and screenwriter Mark Silverstein. The Cougar Townie chatted with us about babies, birth and being in the spotlight once again.
I hate to start the interview like this, but I read that last year you actually pulled your baby [Birdie Leigh Silverstein] out yourself. Um:let’s start there.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, yes. That’s true, sort of. I had a natural childbirth, which was something that I felt very strongly about. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen beforehand, but I was completely squatting and after my doctor got [Birdie’s] head and shoulders out she asked, “Do you want to pull your baby out? Give me your hands.” I didn’t even know my midwife took this picture of me with my hands pulling my daughter out and then right onto my chest. It’s hard talking about it because it sounds like I’m taking away from how sacred it was. It was an incredible experience. I also want other women to know it’s possible to have a crazy, spiritual, amazing birth in a hospital. I was in a hospital. I had a doctor. I was also lucky because I had an amazing team. I had an incredible doctor and a really great midwife and my husband who, honestly, was the most traumatized. For him, seeing me in that much pain and not being able to help me – that loss of control was difficult for him. I also had this idea that I was going to have a natural childbirth and he would [look] up at my beautiful, angelic face and the birth would be happening below the waist and he wouldn’t see. Obviously that’s not how it goes down.
How did you even begin to prepare for natural birth?
Nothing prepares you for it. I did lots of different birthing classes so that I would be able to do it on the day. I was lucky because the kind of breathing you have to do is what we’re taught to do as actors, so I’ve been doing it my whole life. It’s about isolating and figuring out how to breathe deeply and go somewhere else to get away from the pain. It was really intense, and on top of that, I had an immensely big kid. She was 9 pounds, 7 ounces and was 22 inches long, so it was not easy getting her out of me. But we did it.
If you were to have kids in the future, would you do it that way again?
Absolutely. 100 percent. My recovery was incredible. I wasn’t in pain. I gained a lot of weight, but other than that, I was skipping around the room after the birth and all of the nurses kept coming into the room saying, “Oh, we wanted to see the lady who gave birth to that big baby all by herself.” I’m not kidding. She was the biggest baby in the nursery by over a pound. She was a sumo wrestler! During the days and weeks afterward, I felt like I could do anything in the world; there was nothing in this world that you could present before me that I could not conquer. [Natural childbirth] is not for everyone. I totally respect that. The best thing for your baby is the best thing for you. I have some friends who feel really strongly about an epidural and I’m 100 percent behind that, but that was not my plan.
You’ve gotten an insane amount of publicity since Birdie’s birth. How are you dealing with that?
I only became a celebrity because I had a kid. Before I was pregnant, nobody cared. My husband has a theory that celebrity gossip feels so seedy, but if you can put a positive spin on it, like touting a new baby, then people somehow feel like it’s okay. I joke to my agent that having a baby made my career.
We saw that the Internet went nuts when you tweeted that your daughter looks like Justin Bieber. Do you pay attention to stuff like that?
Favorite vacation spot: The Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean
Favorite exercise: I’m doing the Tracy Anderson method and I love it.
Weirdest habit: I eat five or ten dark chocolate chips a night.
What make me cringe: Bad comedy
Guiltiest pleasure: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, because if you enjoy something, it’s just a pleasure.
Before I had kids, I swore I’d never: Talk incessantly about my child.
I do, and a lot of times it’s to my detriment. I have to show [co-star] Courteney Cox how to look up mean things that people have said. She has no concept of gossip. Right after Birdie was born, I consciously tried not to look at what people were saying, [but] a relative forwarded me a link to people saying, “The name Birdie is so stupid” and “What a terrible made-up name.” First of all, she’s named after Lady Bird Johnson, and second of all, it’s not a made-up name; it’s an old-timey name. It was very popular in the 40’s and 50’s; they use it on Mad Men, for God sakes! I struggle with it. I honestly would like to be able to say, “Oh no, I don’t even pay attention,” but that would be really disingenuous.
When doing research for this article, I came across what is perhaps the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. Someone has put together a Youtube clip of photos of you either pregnant or playing a pregnant character, soundtracked by the song Barracuda.
WHAT?!?!?!? Luckily I’ve never seen that because that is really, really bizarre. Are they implying that I’m a barracuda that ate my young because I’m so fat?
I don’t think so. The song doesn’t seem to be related to the photos.
That’s really random. No. The weirdos stay on the internet. I get fans who are super passionate about what I’ve done. People are very passionate about Kim Kelly and Audrey from Dawson’s Creek. I was blessed enough to play one of the greatest girl television characters of all time in Kim Kelly. She was pretty fucking awesome.
The character you’re playing now on Cougar Town seems that way too. What attracted you to that role?
I had just had Birdie and really wanted to get back on television. I said to my agent, “Only send me comedies. I don’t want to be on a procedural drama where I have to be crying all the time. I have a newborn at home and I can’t handle that.” I didn’t want to be the lead in any show because I couldn’t handle that either. Cougar Town was one of the first scripts they sent me, and I was laughing so hard I said to my husband, “I’m doing this show!” And he said, “Alright, take it easy, buddy!” because I say that about a lot of jobs. I like playing Laurie [Keller, friend and co-worker to Courteney Cox’s character on the show] because she’s light and fun and ditzy and kookie and a little strange.
Would you want Birdie to follow you and go into acting?
I always think that it’s weird when musicians and actors say that they don’t want their kids to go into this business because, dude, someone let you. My job as a parent is to encourage my kid to follow her dreams and passions and to help her figure out what those are. If her passion is [acting], believe me, my kid is going to know the ups and downs of it. I want her to be happy and I want her to be passionate about her job. I tell her every day when I go to work, “Your mommy is so, so lucky because I have two jobs that I love.” The first one is the most important one – and that’s being her mom – and the second one is awesome because it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl – and that’s be on TV. If she finds something that she wants to do and that happens to be on TV or in movies or writing movies, then I’m all for it.
You’ve stated before that you were a wild teenager. Do you have any concerns about that for Birdie?
Of course I have concerns. I went through my wild phase and I turned out pretty okay. That’s why I’m going to therapy now. I’m just going to stay in therapy until she’s 18, and hopefully it’ll all work out. I don’t know. Ask me in 10 years.
Catch episodes of Cougar Town on Wednesdays at 9:30 EST on ABC.