Courtney Cox grew up in a household where WEEI was always on. It was a pre-programmed in her father’s car and a constant source of conversation among him and his friends. And now, Cox will be a central figure in any discussions of the day’s radio drama.
Her career is coming full circle.
On Thursday, Cox was announced as the new co-host of “The Greg Hill Show,” ending a multi-month search that involved more than a dozen candidates and lots of anticipation. She was the long-suspected leading candidate, accompanying Hill on sojourns to the Seaport and returning to the show for a second audition last spring.
The move is a big transition for Cox. She’s spent the last five years at NESN, hosting shows across all of the network’s platforms. She’s covered three Super Bowls, one World Series and one Stanley Cup Final.
But is she ready to spar with Wiggy first thing every morning? That is not a job that anybody can prepare for.
Earlier today, I chatted with Cox about her big career shift, and why working in sports talk radio was so attractive to her. Answers are edited for brevity.
Alex Reimer: Why did you want to leave TV for radio?
Courtney Cox: I'm from the area, so for me, EEI has always been around and talked about in my household. Once the opportunity presented itself, I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn't try. I didn't know if I could do radio, or if I would even like doing radio. I guess we're still going to find out if I'm going to be great.
After I did it the first time, I felt really good about myself. When you're in the industry for seven years, you definitely have those moments where you're like, 'Is this what I should be doing?' There are so many opportunities, you audition for so many roles and don't get them. I left that first two-hour slot being like, 'I feel really good about myself,' and then the four-hour one, I slept so well the night before. I woke up, had a cup of coffee. It just felt really natural to me. I don't think I've ever felt that in any audition prior.
AR: What made you feel so good about your first two appearances on the show?
CC: I felt like I was able to be more myself, and show my personality. I'm still getting used to that -- not being so buttoned up. It's hard to train your brain to kind of relax a little bit when you're told to hold your personality back a bunch for seven years, and then it's a free-for-all in a two-hour live slot. But that feeling of, 'I can be myself; I can talk sports; I can also talk about other things that really interest me.' I can talk about things going on in the community; I can talk about Bravo and the Real Housewives, and these guys will find it funny and not, 'Ugh, here's a female who likes sports, but reality TV.' I think there's so much more overlap with pop culture and sports than people notice.
AR: Well, if you ever want to host a ‘Real Housewives’ recap show, I hope I’m your first call.
AR: What do you think you’ll bring to the show that they’re currently missing?
CC: I think obviously having a female voice, which Danielle (Murr) did such a great job doing. There's no replacing Danielle. It's more just becoming part of that family, and I think there is a big age gap between myself and Greg — even though Greg is very young at heart, I think to bring that perspective into the Boston market -- to be a female and to be somebody under the age of 30 who has lived in the city and experiencing stuff like that -- I think that will be really cool.
AR: You mentioned it, but I think we're both a little peculiar: I started at EEI in my mid-20s, and like you, I loved it growing up, was so pumped to be on the air. What about radio was so attractive to you, opposed to doing a podcast or something else?
CC: I think Boston is different than the rest of the country when it comes to radio. I think of my dad and his friends. My dad doesn't listen to a single podcast, my dad doesn't stray away from what he knows. And what he knows is EEI. I grew up with a dad who is all about Boston sports. Every time you get into his car, it's programmed onto that station, and he doesn't really change it. I think that's different than the rest of the country.
I also think it’s a wild space. People are very passionate. I don't think it has to be as negative as it always is, and I'm hoping to bring some positivity to that. But I just think it's so different. The whole time I was working in TV, people were constantly saying that radio is dying. But that two-hour slot that I did, I had more feedback than in seven years on TV.
AR: You will be the only woman on daily sports talk radio in Boston. How do you feel about that?
CC: I’m so lucky I have (Megan Ottolini). She and I are very close, so to bounce off her, and her experiences. But I'm excited. I think that's a really big responsibility, and that is now sinking in.
I also think things have really changed for females in sports broadcasting as a whole. There's still certainly a long way to go, but I think people that don't want females talking about sports are never going to change their mind, so it's not my responsibility to change it for them. I am who I am. Am I a stats person? No. Am I a play-by-play person? No. But am I storyline person, and do I really love talking about sports and the storylines that surround a certain game? Yeah, I love that.
I also love interviews, and getting to know the players and coaches off the field, and showing they are people just like us. To bring them down to earth, and show that 'John Smith' who's eight years old and lives in Roxbury likes the same TV shows as Chase Winovich. It's getting players to be relatable, and I think as a female voice, I can do that on the show.
AR: You mentioned it’s a big responsibility. Why do you feel that way?
CC: I do think there are still a lot of people who don't want to hear a female's perspective or point of view when it comes to sports. I know it's a responsibility to show that I am knowledgable. I definitely don't want to be looked at as a joke. I think the responsibility comes in that way -- that I'm doing my homework, prepping for shows. I think there are a lot of hot topics that come up. The first two times I was on, it was about Deshaun Watson and Kyrie Irving saying Boston is a racist city. Those were definitely not two softball shows. So that I'm making sure my words are thoughtful and that I'm not just speaking to speak.
(Courtney’s first day on air will be July 19.)