'Hart of Dixie': Tim Matheson on the magic of Gary Cole and working with Rachel Bilson

tim-matheson-rachel-bilson-hart-of-dixie.jpgThere's a certain sense of comfort whenever Gary Cole shows up on a TV show -- you know he'll be great, so you can relax and enjoy the show. When the actor shows up in the Monday, April 9 episode of "Hart of Dixie" as the father of Rachel Bilson's Zoe Hart, you have "HoD" star Tim Matheson to thank.

"We've talked about this character all season long, and now he's got to show up," Matheson tells Zap2it. "Who can live up to that? He's got to walk in the door and he has to have credibility and to be able to go toe-to-toe with Rachel, who is one of the most true, honest, believable actresses I've ever worked with -- and one of the most courageous -- so it was tough."

Thankfully, Matheson picked up the phone and called his pal Cole, who immediately agreed to the job. "I was really pleased to reach out to Gary Cole and to get him to do it, because I've worked with Gary on 'A Very Brady Sequel,' a broad comedy, I've worked with him on 'The West Wing,' which wasn't broad comedy [laughs], and I've seen him onstage and he is one of our finest actors. He loved the script and just jumped right in."

Matheson's Brick Breeland has complicated feelings toward Zoe, his new business partner. They're adversarial at first, which was difficult because he has such affection for Bilson in real life. Thankfully, Brick's opinion of Zoe has shifted slightly throughout the show's first season.

gary-cole-hart-of-dixie-rachel-bilson.jpg"Once I met Rachel, I had to work so hard to overcome my real feelings for her because she's just such a dear and you just adore her, you know? And the audience loves her. To be mean or devious or tough, you have to as a human overcome your natural caring tendencies and suppress those for the other characters before you can act against them. So I guess I was doing that, and now those feelings are being allowed to come out, how much I like her and how much I feel protective of Zoe Hart."

Aside from the daddy drama, Brick and the gang will face plenty of other challenges as Season 1 wraps up -- even romantic ones. Brick's daughter Lemon has been trying to get him to move on from her mother, and we'll see that storyline continue.

"The best defense is a good offense," he explains. "Lemon is trying to push him towards getting involved with somebody else, and she's done it a couple of times. I think that what's exciting about the character is that he is becoming aware of the fact that he needs to move on with his life. You can use all sorts of excuses and reasons to avoid moving ahead. There is a corner that Brick turns in the finale episode that is heartening and looks like it'll be fun."

Another fun challenge for Matheson? Taking on Gilbert and Sullivan in an upcoming episode. "It was perhaps one of the most challenging things I've ever done, because I don't consider myself a singer. On this show, every single one of these wonderful actors all are singers and have done it either on Broadway or in films or somewhere!"

He didn't quite realize the difficulty of what he was agreeing to when he said he'd sing on camera. "They came up with the fastest song, I think, that's ever been written. It's from 'Pirates of Penzance,' 'I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.' Which is literally, it's a joke. And it requires just the fastest elocution and just some of the most technical singing ever done, and I was just in a flop sweat panic for about a week while I tried to learn it."

Don't worry, things turned out just fine. "I was very pleased. It was really fun. Hopefully it'll be funny"

Photo/Video credit: The CW