Busy Philipps certainly lives up to her nickname. The actress, born Elizabeth Jean Philipps, earned her unusual moniker by being an active baby. But the sobriquet — and the lively tendency — stuck long past infancy, and Philipps has been busy (and Busy) pretty much ever since.The 31-year-old, who hails from Oak Park, Ill., has worked steadily in television for the last decade, with parts on cult hit Freaks and Geeks, teen phenomenon Dawson’s Creek and long-running medical drama ER. Now she’s starring alongside Courteney Cox on ABC’s hit show Cougar Town, a honest and slapstick-style comedy about the relationships of women in their 30s and 40s.
But work isn’t the only thing keeping Philipps occupied these days; she’s also mom to a 2-year-old daughter, whom she had with her screenwriter husband, Marc Silverstein, almost a year before she landed herCougarTown gig. Philipps says that the serendipitous intertwining of work and motherhood has helped her let go of her perfectionist ways.
Having a hit show and a growing toddler certainly makes for a packed schedule. But Philipps acknowledges that her job puts her in a unique position to be able to balance work and family life. “If you’re going to be a working mother, you want to be an actress in a television show,” she says with a laugh. “It’s the best gig ever. I can have full-time help, and my nanny can bring my daughter to work.”
In her spare time, Philipps enjoys live music — both watching it and performing it. She occasionally sings at a cabaret at Los Angeles’ Vermont Restaurant, where she almost always performs songs by Tori Amos, one of her all-time favorite artists. “I’ve done ‘Baker Baker,’ ‘Winter’ and ‘China,’ ” she says. “ ‘China’ is my favorite, because every time I heard the song when I was younger, it was very evocative to me of a boozy housewife in the ’50s who was incredibly unhappy and unsatisfied in her marriage.”
The topics of love and marriage are also central themes of Cougar Town. And though the show received some initial criticism over the somewhat controversial connotations of its title, Philipps believes that the sitcom is a positive step for women of all ages. “I think it’s great to have three women on a show who aren’t just setting up the guys for jokes,” she says, pointing to shows like 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation as examples of other female-centric comedies. “I think, in that respect, our show is doing something kind of empowering.”