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March 28, 2014

Brian Van Holt Catches a Creative Wave

Actor Brian Van Holt of The Bridge returned to his old stomping grounds Cougar Town for his directing debut.

Amy Amatangelo

Recently Brian Van Holt asked his mom not to watch him on TV.

A scene in FX’s The Bridge required his character, Ray, to perform a sexual favor to secure a business deal. “My mom had to close her eyes and look away,” Van Holt says with a laugh. “I said, ‘Mom, I warned you!’”

While that scene may have shocked his mother, the role allowed Van Holt to step away from the endearing Bobby Cobb he’s played for 5 seasons on TBS’s Cougar Town. “I was itching to do something different,” he says. “I had to do a lot of work to find Ray and what he’s all about.”

Originally Ray was to be killed off, but he lived and Van Holt plans to return for season 2. But The Bridge isn’t the only place Van Holt is stretching creatively. He directed an episode of Cougar Town for the 1st time this season.

“It just seemed like the right time to break into the directing world,” he explains. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Five years ago, when he got the call to audition for Cougar Town, it was for the role of Grayson, the straight-laced neighbor who would eventually marry Jules (Courteney Cox). But he preferred Jules’s ex. “After I read the script I was like, ‘You know what? Bobby Cobb. That’s the guy. I want to play him.’”

The key to Bobby, he says, is infusing the seemingly simple character with depth. “I like those moments when Bobby surprises you. There’s a lot more going on with him than he lets on. It’s all about how you see it — you can interpret a character to be a scumbag or you can see him as a lovable loser and play him that way.”

Born in Illinois, Van Holt was raised in southern California, where he developed his love of surfing. He even considered becoming a pro surfer before earning a sociology degree at UCLA. He still surfs and calls the sport his form of therapy.

Van Holt will soon be seen on the big screen in Wild, as a park ranger who crosses paths with Reese Witherspoon, who plays a hiker trying to change her life. Hopefully, Mom can watch all the way through. 

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