Faith Hill and Courteney Cox are both from the South, and when they sit down to talk, for Variety “Actors on Actors” series presented by Apple TV+, they begin chatting with ease. They discuss Nashville, and whether Hill ever forgets the lyrics to her songs onstage. (“Sometimes, yes, I do,” Hill says.) They delve into their recent television work, with Cox asking Hill about her starring role on Taylor Sheridan’s “1883” — opposite her husband, Tim McGraw — and Hill responding with queries about Cox’s “Shining Vale,” a genuinely scary horror comedy. They also cover the “Friends” reunion, amusement park rides and armpit hair.
COURTENEY COX: Did you have to train to ride a horse like that? Because you are really good at that.
FAITH HILL: Oh, thank you. I do ride horses. Not as well as Tim. After our second child, Maggie, I was on my horse, Bandit, and I was not an avid rider. But Bandit took off with me one day on the farm towards the barn, which is something you should never allow your horse to do, run to the barn.
COX: But did you have a choice?
HILL: I didn’t have a choice. He took off running so fast — it was probably over a mile. And I couldn’t stop him. And it freaked me out. After you have kids, it’s like, this is so irresponsible of me. So it kind of freaked me out for a while, and I stayed off of horses for a minute. But I ride casually.
COX: That’s like me on a roller coaster. I love roller coasters so much, and then as they check the bar, and you’re checking the belt, I’m like, “Wait a minute. I’ve got a kid. What am I doing? Why do I need to go upside down right now?”
HILL: Have you ever done the — what is it called — the Tower of Terror, where you just free fall?
COX: I did it one time, and I thought, this is the worst thing I’ve ever done. And then someone talked me into doing it another time, like months and months later, and I kinda like it now. But you said, “I shouldn’t have let that happen.” What would you have done about the horse?
HILL: I should never have allowed him to even trot. I learned so much during the process of the “cowboy camp,” is what Taylor called it, and thank God for it.
COX: How long was the cowboy camp?
HILL: Tim and I were there for about two weeks.
COX: Where was it?
HILL: It was in Texas. It was at Taylor’s farm. I learned how to drive a wagon, which, by the way, is so hard.
COX: I mean, you’re incredible in it. You’re a performer, and you’re this incredible singer that is beloved, and you have to go out onstage and feel so comfortable. Is it weird to act?
HILL: I love performing, and it does come naturally to me three songs in. I stand near my band most of the time, and I’m constantly having to be reminded, “Oh, yeah, the audience is that way!” However, having the opportunity to play a character other than myself was nice. It was really rewarding. And to be able to do it with Tim was remarkable. And we’ve been married for 24 years. We’ve done everything together. This was the first thing we had never done together.
COX: Never acted together? He’s really good in it too.
HILL: He’s so good. Thank you, by the way. I’ll tell him. He’ll love that you said that. Margaret was my character; James was Tim’s character. The first time we ever spoke the lines together was when the camera started rolling and they said, “Action.” We never practiced our lines together.
COX: I heard that to be authentic, people had to grow their hair under their arms.
HILL: Yeah, honey, let me tell you something. I can call you honey, because you’re from —
COX: Of course. I’m from Alabama, and we do it there.
HILL: Where’s the sweet tea? No, that was really difficult, and Taylor actually called my husband. We were at a wedding, our nephew’s wedding, and he said, “Who’s gonna be the one to tell your wife that she has to stop shaving under her arms?” And I’m thinking can this wait? He goes, “No, stop tonight.”
COX: I’ve lasered, so I wouldn’t be able to do it.
HILL: It really grossed me out, I have to say. All due respect to those who love that, and, and all that freedom, woo! But for me personally —
COX: That’s right. I’m sorry. Yeah, I’m not judging it. I’ve just never done that. And the accents were really — I mean, how do people know what people sounded like in “1883”?
HILL: We actually did not work with a dialect coach, but some of the actors did. Taylor wanted us to just be ourselves.
COX: Smallpox was going rampant around there. I looked it up later, and I wanted to know how you get smallpox. You probably know, but you get it from face-to-face contact.
HILL: If you’re in the vicinity of someone who had smallpox — yeah. Because it was kind of like, wow, if you had smallpox, you were gone. Shot and killed, or just kicked out into the woods or in a river, whatever was closest. It was brutal. Taylor, it was important for him for it to be as authentic as possible, meaning the struggle, the discomfort. And it was uncomfortable. I’m not gonna lie. It was probably — it wasn’t even “probably.” It was the hardest thing that Tim and I have ever done. How was it coming back to television — was the last time 2015? Since “Cougar Town”?
COX: What did I do for those six years? I must have done something. I was excited to come back, but I had to be really cautious because I had done one pilot, and I was like, “Oh, I don’t really like it if it doesn’t get picked up. That’s not fun.” I was really careful, and I read “Shining Vale,” and I thought, this is the best character I’ve ever played.
COX: It was the richest, the most layered. I love Sharon Horgan — she’s completely my sense of humor and style of writing, and the whole thing. And Jeff Astrof, who wrote on “Friends.” And so I knew how funny he was, but I didn’t know how incredible. It was everything. It combined the horror —
HILL: Your comedic timing in this show is insane.
COX: It starts with an idea, the writing. I think we have an incredible cast. The people in the town were just cast beautifully.
HILL: Do you ever get frightened when you’re filming these shows? Like, does something ever scare you?
COX: Well, I am a real scaredy cat, and everything kind of scares me, so, yeah. I have a scene with Mira [Sorvino] in the window — the way she was lit was creepy. One of the things is it’s very easy to jump out and scare me. So Greg [Kinnear] would sometimes scare me just on the set, and then I could re-create it because I’m a pretty quick screamer. I’m a quick study for scary.
HILL: That is hilarious, especially since the movies that you’ve done.
COX: Yeah. I don’t watch them.
COX: No, no. I don’t. “Scream” — I just go like this. [Covers her eyes.] There’s no way. I don’t care if I know what’s happening, who it was behind the mask.
HILL: “Scream’s” scary, though. I’m a scaredy cat. What was it like filming the “Friends” reunion? I mean, did it bring closure to you? Is there such a thing?
COX: It was incredible. I’m really close with every – one, but we don’t all see each other, and we had not all gotten in the same room since the actual show.
HILL: Are you serious?
COX: Isn’t that crazy? But the girls see each other a lot, and we’ve seen each other separately. But, yeah, walking on the stage at Warner Bros. was the most emotional thing. I just immediately burst into tears, and I mean so many things had happened. So many years of being together. I mean, you name it, we had gone through it. So I don’t feel closure, but I just feel like it was the luckiest. I can’t believe that I got that part and was able to make those friends and be a part of something that’s still going on.
HILL: It just doesn’t happen anymore, what you guys did. And our youngest daughter, Audrey, is obsessed and watches it all the time. Obviously, I did too.