For Courteney Cox and her new co-stars, it might be fortunate that another series this season has already gotten many viewers accustomed to ghost stories.
Though it was in production well before CBS’ “Ghosts” premiered, “Shining Vale” — which Starz debuts Sunday — also blends comedy and the supernatural. Created by Jeff Astrof (“Trial & Error”) and Sharon Horgan (“Catastrophe”), the show casts Cox as a now-sober novelist who moves with her husband (Greg Kinnear) and children (Gus Birney, Dylan Gage) to the title Connecticut town, hoping to save her family life after her marital infidelity.
She may be foiled by the history of their new residence, a 200-year-old house that was the setting of a triple murder and suicide. Ella’s character Cox is the only person who can see the ghost of the killer (Oscar winner Mira Sorvino), and the lethal specter may be out of her to possess her. Merrin Dungey (“Alias”) and Judith Light also are regular cast members.
“I love to be scared and I love to laugh,” said “Friends,” “Dirt” and “Cougar Town” alum Cox, who has done the same (including recently again) in the “Scream” movie series, “and this is such a unique combination of these two things. It deals with real-life issues…family, infidelity, mental illness, fill-in-the-blanks. It’s just so rich and funny and great, and I was so excited to be considered.”
Though “Shining Vale” has an overall arc, Astrof — who worked on “Friends” as a story editor — noted, “Each episode stands alone. I come from a 30-minute(-show) background, so you know that there has to be a beginning, middle and end — but if you look at how the story unfolds, it is a four-hour movie, basically. There’s a different pace to it, and it really ramps up. It is just very, very big and very, very thrilling. And everything pays off.”
“It would be impossible to do this in a movie,” said Kinnear, who also made his Broadway debut in “To Kill a Mockingbird” earlier this year. “I obviously love films as well, but this is entirely different. First of all, we’re shooting on the Warner Bros. lot. We shot the first episode in South Pasadena (Calif.), where we found this amazing house; then, somehow, they managed to create this whole universe on the lot. Just the transformation of that has been amazing.”
In playing the ghost of “Shining Vale’s” ghost story, Sorvino said, “I try to find the vulnerability in her as well, even though she might be doing some things that some might consider questionable. I try and find the humanity of her in her… even though she’s not of human flesh anymore, I guess.