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The shrink gets a shrink on ‘Huff’

Anjelica Huston joins the cast as a therapist that helps out Dr. Huffstodt
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Huff” is back, and now the shrink will have a shrink of his own.

Things turn even more complicated personally and professionally for Dr. Craig “Huff” Huffstodt, so by the fifth episode of the Showtime series’ second season, the troubled psychiatrist, portrayed by Hank Azaria, seeks help from an alternative therapist, played by Anjelica Huston.

Huston isn’t the only big-name star signed on for an arc on the critically acclaimed drama, which returns Sunday at 10 p.m. ET. In the first four episodes, Sharon Stone portrays a larcenous public-relations executive who is taken on as a client by Huff’s best friend, emotionally berserk lawyer Russell Tupper, played by Oliver Platt.

“Huff” creator and executive producer Bob Lowry says this sophomore season was a particular challenge “because of the season finale of season one, which I call the convergence episode, where every single core character came together in Huff’s driveway — with people being pushed down the steps, being caught in bed, stealing cars and driving away, and dying of cancer.

“That’s a lot of threads to connect and pick up without riddling your audience with hype and exposition and still keeping it entertaining for new viewers, which I hope ... we get with Sharon Stone,” he says.

Despite a relatively modest audience, the series earned seven Emmy nominations last year and won two of them, including for supporting actress Blythe Danner, who plays Huff’s seemingly bigoted mother, Izzy.

The main cast also includes Paget Brewster as Huff’s seemingly grounded wife, Beth; Anton Yelchin as the couple’s rebellious son, Byrd; and Andy Comeau as Huff’s schizophrenic brother, Teddy.

One of the challenges of the new season “was not to create the same scenarios, the same emotional conflicts,” stresses Lowry. “For example, if Izzy was only to remain the bitchy mother-in-law with faux racist wisecracks, she would be tedious, so she has to change and yet still be Izzy. So she has a better relationship with Beth. She actually comes to Beth’s aid and supports her over her son.”

At production facilities in the San Fernando Valley, Danner was filming a sequence with Brewster that clearly demonstrated the shift in their relationship.

‘Archie Bunker in Chanel’Speaking in her trailer between scenes, the mother of actors Gwyneth and Jake Paltrow admitted it was “awfully nice” to have won the Emmy for her work in “Huff” after 40 years in the business.

“I think I deserve it for longevity, if nothing else, you know — hanging in there,” she commented. “But as I’ve said to the kids, you do it for the work, the work, the work, as Chekhov said, not the fame and the glory.”

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She thinks audiences love characters that are outrageous and enjoys playing Izzy’s “irascibility.”

“She reminds me of Archie Bunker in Chanel,” the actress noted. “She says those things that everybody knows are forbidden but sometimes have on their minds, and it’s very freeing to play, because I’ve always played so many nice women that it’s like being let out of drama jail or something.”

As one of “Huff’s” producers, Azaria says he’s pleased there’s more emphasis this season on the show’s ensemble cast, rather than just his character.

“I was kind of the center of it all, tying it all together last year. This year it’s everybody’s on their own journey, intersecting at different places,” he explains.

Lowry says Stone, identifying herself as “a Huff addict,” approached the producers about being on the show. So he created the character of Dauri Rathbun, who lies about having epilepsy, not just to take advantage of Stone’s movie-star good looks but also her emotional range as an actress.

Lowry also wrote the role of Dr. Lena Markova specifically for Huston.

“The challenge of that is we don’t want everyone sitting in chairs talking, and if Huff is to go to a shrink, how boring,” he says. “So the challenge is having him have a relationship with a shrink in a nontraditional setting.”

And that will include the two mental-health professionals dropping some Ecstasy together, the producer adds.

Definitely nontraditional. But non-boring? We’ll see.