Courteney Cox and David Arquette have spent their fair share time centered in the lens of the paparazzi while still living a scandal-free life together. So when it came to freshening up their FX tabloid series Dirt (Sundays, 10 p.m. EST) for a second season, they turned to some other headline-grabbing celebs — and they hope there’s no hard feelings.
At a premiere screening of the first episode at L.A.’s Arclight Cinemas, Cox Arquette told PEOPLE the new season will be more lighthearted than the darker first installment of her series and that it borrows bits and pieces from the fast lane lives of tabloid faves like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
“I don’t think that we’re doing anything to hurt anybody, and hopefully will know that we’re just doing TV,” Cox said. “The that we write about are on the tabloids every single week, and I can’t imagine that we’re saying anything worse than what’s already been said.”
Her husband agreed that there’s no malice intended in the send-ups. “I’ve never met Britney and Paris or certain other scandalous characters, but we like them,” Arquette told PEOPLE. “They’re actually sweet and sometimes the media twists them up.We take certain characters like that and have fun with it … It’s not who the real Paris is … it’s our take on her. And so hopefully she’ll know that and won’t take anything personally.”
The creative team faced the challenge of inventing fresh spins on familiar scenarios, Arquette said. And they’ve turned out to be surprisingly psychic.
“We did something with our Britney character that actually came true, which was kind of wild,” he said. “There’s a thing about a relationship with the paparazzi. We filmed it before it actually happened, and so when it happened we were like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.'”
Ashley Johnson, who co-starred on Growing Pains as the youngest member of the Seaver clan, now at age 24, and plays the character inspired by the troubled pop diva, has nothing but props for her doppleganger.
“I love Britney Spears and I think she’s awesome,” Johnson said. “She’s super-talented and I hope that she can make a comeback and shock everyone and be like, ‘See, I can change. I can do it.’ Still, Johnson is a little nervous at the prospect of running into the real Britney Spears.
“I’ve thought about that,” she says. “I hope that she won’t be too upset.” –Scott HuverMichael Becker/FX