- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Courtney Henggeler is a rising star. Following a growing list of notable appearances in shows such as House, Mom, Bones, and as Sheldon Cooper’s twin sister on The Big Bang Theory, Henggeler was cast as Amanda LaRusso, wife to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), in YouTube Premium’s popular and critically lauded series, Cobra Kai (with its second season premiering in 2019).
Sharp comic timing, dramatic promise, and a magnetic and endearing quality, Henggeler is a joy to watch and was able to make an impact in her brief turn in Tyler Perry’s more adult-oriented comedy, Nobody’s Fool. Home Theater Forum caught up with her to talk about the auditioning process for the film, the joy of improvisation, and what makes her laugh.
Nobody’s Fool is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from Paramount Home Entertainment.
HTF: How did you get involved? Did you audition? Were you approached, and what was it that sparked your interest in taking the role of Hillary?
Courtney Henggeler: It's funny. I auditioned, and I brought my son, who was maybe seven months old, with me. I couldn't find a sitter. [But] I was like, "Oh, it's a Tyler Perry movie. I would love to do a Tyler Perry movie." Usually when I go to auditions and I have to bring my son, maybe there's a nice other actress out there [and I’ll ask], "Would you mind watching him for like five minutes?" [But] there was no one in the hallway, so I brought him into the room. And the casting director kind of looked at me like I had five heads, and I'm like, "I think he's going to be quiet." And the whole time, I was so distracted hoping he didn't scream that I remember thinking, "Well, I blew that audition." They had me just kind of improvving a little bit, and I think I was talking about Santa Claus since I was trying to keeping it family friendly for my son [laughter]. And I was like, "Well, I guess I'll never be in a Tyler Perry movie." [But] a few weeks later, I got a call, and they're like, "Would you like to do a Tyler Perry movie [laughter]?" So I guess it all worked out. Yeah. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. I mean, he does so many fun things.
HTF: So talk about the audition process. Is that something that you enjoy? Do you always get nervous? Do you throw up a little in your mouth? I mean, how does that go for you?
“There are the ones that will throw you for a loop. I remember my first time I was in a room when Tori Spelling was producing something. You would have thought it was Jesus Christ across from me.”
Courtney Henggeler: [Laughter] I've been doing it for so gosh darn long that I don't. I mean, there will be the occasional thing that will make me nervous. If Tyler Perry was in the room for my audition, I probably would have been a lot more nervous. But it was just with casting, and so you feel a little more free. So, I don't mind auditioning. I think it's kind of fun. There are the ones that will throw you for a loop. I remember my first time I was in a room when Tori Spelling was producing something. You would have thought it was Jesus Christ across from me. I was so nervous [laughter]. I was like, "Why is Tori Spelling putting the fear of God in me right now?" But I've grown since then, I'd like to think. And now I think that they're just kind of a fun opportunity to show what you can do, usually.
HTF: Now, I'm guessing that there was plenty of opportunity for improvisation on Nobody’s Fool, and that was probably encouraged or expected in the role. Is that right?
Courtney Henggeler: Yeah. I didn't know. The original audition, they did have me improvise. But then we got onto set, and Tyler Perry is notorious - that I learned while I was on set - notorious for working faster than anybody on the face of the planet. Usually, movies, TV take forever to set up the shots, set up lighting, everything. He doesn't work that way. He shoots at a crazy pace. And so I didn't want to improv. I didn't know what we were allowed to do. I just wanted to just stay in line, just make sure he could get his work done. And then he just came up to myself and Jon Rudnitsky. He played my coworker. We were kind of in the same boat together. He was like, "Yeah. Whatever you guys did in your audition, do that here." And we're like, "Right now?" He's like, "Right now." We're like, "Okay. So I think I talked about Santa Claus." And Jon's like, "I think I talked about Drakkar Noir." So, we did that, and [Tyler] seemed to like it, so we just keep going until he told us to stop.
“From the comfort of my own home, that's how I like to watch it. I don't like to be with other people and see how they [react], I'm too paranoid.”
HTF: I was glad to see what I assumed was one of your riffs in the outtakes. Have you seen the final? Do you go to the theater to see how audiences react, or you would never want to do that?
Courtney Henggeler: I don't, and that scares the bejesus out of me. From the comfort of my own home, that's how I like to watch it. I don't like to be with other people and see how they [react], I'm too paranoid. But people have taped me and sent it to me. They've gone to movie theater and sent me my scenes and stuff. But I did hear that something made it into the extras of our riffing. My mother-in-law told me about it. She loved the movie very much.
HTF: It's very funny. When you watch it, you'll laugh at what you said.
Courtney Henggeler: [Laughter].
HTF: While Nobody's Fool is a comedy, Tyler Perry is known for a having a real big heart at the center of his work, and there's a dramatic through-line as well. The scenes you're in, they're clearly funny. But throughout your career, you've enjoyed quite a range of genres, as it were, and very different characters. Your guest role on The Big Bang Theory is markedly different from your guest spot on House. And I'm very jealous that you got to meet Hugh Laurie. And, of course, you play on Cobra Kai. Do you have a preference for the kinds of roles that you take? Comedic versus dramatic? Is there a genre that you'd like to spend more time in, or you don't care as long as the role interests you?
“I do love a good comedy role where they let you improvise, and you get to work with other people who are great at improvising, and you get to just do that. That's kind of the dream scenario for me.”
Courtney Henggeler: I think as long the role is good, I mean, I do love a good comedy role where they let you improvise, and you get to work with other people who are great at improvising, and you get to just do that. That's kind of the dream scenario for me. I don't really have a preference as long as it's something interesting, whatever that means, I guess. As long as it's interesting. Don't be boring [laughter].
HTF: So what's it like working on Cobra Kai? You're a series regular. Is that a refreshing change from sort of the dancing around with the multiple guest spots?
Courtney Henggeler: The grind? [Chuckles]
HTF: Yeah, the grind, the hustle!
Courtney Henggeler: Absolutely, it is. Yes. Although I found myself getting jealous. I can't work on a lot of other things because I'm contractually obligated to Cobra Kai. But I watched my friends right now - it's the pilot season - going out for different pilots. And one of my best friends just got a recurring role on Magnum P.I., so she got to fly to Hawaii for the week. And I was like, "Oh, damn. [Goin to] Hawaii to do a recurring--" and my husband looked at me. He's like, "You're crazy. You have a steady job, Courtney. You have a steady job on a show that's successful." And I'm like, "But it doesn't shoot in Hawaii." The grass is always greener somewhere, right?
HTF: Right [Laughter].
Courtney Henggeler: But, yes. It's much better to have a job right now, believe me.
HTF: A little bit of professional jealousy is healthy, right?
Courtney Henggeler: Always. I hope so because I have it. It's terrible.
“I have a very clear memory of being maybe four and watching hula dancers on a parade. Maybe it was the Rose Bowl Parade, I don't remember. I just remember watching hula dancers in a parade and being like, "I'm going to do that [laughter]."”
HTF: So how old were you when you knew that you wanted to become an actor? Was it a moment that it became clear to you, like a light bulb going off? Or was it a slow and gradual realization that, "Hey, I want to perform"?
Courtney Henggeler: I don't remember a time where it wasn't something I thought I was doing. I have a very clear memory of being maybe four and watching hula dancers on a parade. Maybe it was the Rose Bowl Parade, I don't remember. I just remember watching hula dancers in a parade and being like, "I'm going to do that [laughter]." And my mom said, "What?" And then [of course] I saw figure skaters. I'm like, "I'm going to do that." There was always this performance element in me and I knew that's what I want to do. I just knew I wanted to be in front of people, preferably, in something scantily clad [laughter] [apparently]. Ive grown since then, but basically, "I want to be pretty and dance in front of people," was what I wanted to do ever since I was a kid.
HTF: In watching some of your performances, you are able to turn on an affect, a style of speech that really enhances the comedic performance and timing. Is that something that you enjoy doing, putting on sort of an affect or building an unusual cadence in how you're speaking when you're doing comedy? Or does that just come naturally?
Courtney Henggeler: I do? I wasn't even aware I did that [laughter]. So, I guess, that just comes natural. That's just one of the quirks of being me [laughter].
“I think with Hillary, in particular, I somehow made the choice, without trying to make the choice, that she was just a little flighty and ditzy.”
HTF: Well, and I've been watching a lot of Boston Legal lately because I'm an enormous James Spader fan, and I've been paying attention to how he speaks because he's got a very particular way of speaking, and it's got an unusual affect. He has a broken or a pausing cadence to how he speaks. So, lately, I've been paying attention to how people deliver their lines and it was one of the things that I picked up from the brief moments of you in Nobody's Fool, that you had this really interesting control of your speech, which made it funnier to me.
Courtney Henggeler: Well, I think with Hillary, in particular, I somehow made the choice, without trying to make the choice, that she was just a little flighty and ditzy. And so, I guess, that's how it came out. But I remember being like, "I don't think she's the brightest bulb," and that's how I ended up speaking.
“I admire actors who have become directors, or actors who've become producers. Actors who've made that successful transition, because I feel like, as actors, we speak a certain language, and we come from a certain background, and all kind of faced a certain sort of struggle, if you will, to do what we…”
HTF: Who out in the industry do you admire today? And, I guess, I'm asking about, perhaps, maybe role models who might be in your field, but also people out there that you think, "Gosh, I really want to work with that person," or, "I want to be in a film that that person's directing."
Courtney Henggeler: I admire actors who have become directors, or actors who've become producers. Actors who've made that successful transition, because I feel like, as actors, we speak a certain language, and we come from a certain background, and all kind of faced a certain sort of struggle, if you will, to do what we do because this never comes easy. And so, I'm always drawn to those creatives who've kind of fought that struggle. I mean, the big version of that is the Clint Eastwoods, the Clooneys of the world. George Clooney mostly because I just find him so very handsome [laughter]. But he's made it seem seamless, his transition from actor to creator to director to producer, who makes these really incredible films. He's making a miniseries right now that I remember auditioning for - I did not get - but [it was something] I would love to do that because he's producing it and he's directing it, and I would love to work somebody who can speak our language, if that make sense.
HTF: Absolutely. Let me wrap up with a short question. I'm always interested in people who make me laugh, what makes them laugh. So is there a film that you saw last year or TV series out there that you just find incredibly funny?
Courtney Henggeler: You know what I can't stop laughing at, and it's not that recent, [but] 21 Jump Street, the reboot with Channing Tatum. My husband's like, "You're watching it again?" I'm like, "It makes me laugh every time," and that doesn't happen a lot. It's that damn movie, just I cannot stop laughing at it.
HTF: That's a good choice. That's very funny. Well, Courtney, thanks very much for speaking with us today.
Courtney Henggeler: Absolutely. Have a great day!