Friday, July 17, 2015

Byron Mann Is Hell on Wheels

Byron Mann, photo by Kevin Thomas
Byron Mann is no stranger to the small screen (“Smallville,” “Dark Angel,” “Arrow”) or the silver screen (“Street Fighter,” “Catwoman,” “The Man with the Iron Fists”). He’s acted alongside the likes of Russell Crowe, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry and Chuck Norris, and he’s always ready, willing and able to do his own stunts. I spoke with him recently about his latest project, playing a major new role in the hit drama series “Hell on Wheels.” The historical Western begins its fifth and final season on AMC tomorrow night at 9/8c, with the first half of the season airing this summer, and the second half picking up in summer 2016.

Celebrity Extra: What can you tell me about this final season of “Hell on Wheels”?

Byron Mann: I’m in Calgary now filming this great season. It’s fantastic. This season is about the Chinese workers on the railroad and all the stories that come out of it. My character is Chang, and he is the power broker. He controls all of the workers. He gets into all of these different conflicts and vies for power with Cullen Bohannan, played by Anson Mount, and with all the other railroad owners. He is a very complex, very interesting character.

CE: How does this season compare with other seasons?

BM: It will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And I’m telling you the truth. It’s very gripping. It’s no-holds-barred.

CE: Without divulging too much, what can you tell me about the season? How does it open, and how are you introduced?

BM: The season opens with the introduction of the Chinese workers on the railroad. As you might be aware, the railroad in America — and certainly the line from San Francisco out to the East — was built primarily by the Chinese workers and the Irish workers. There were 15,000 Chinese workers who built this line, and their stories have never been told, on television or in movies. Kudos to the writers that they’ve dug up all of these stories and these characters. I can tell you that there will be a bitter and very complex rivalry between my character and Cullen Bohannan, which will develop and escalate throughout the whole season.

CE: How did you prepare for this role?

BM: The writers and producers gave us a lot of books to read on this history. I did some research on my character. My character parallels Cullen Bohannan in that he just came out of the Civil War in America, and my character came out of the Civil War in China.

CE: What was it like coming to work on an already-established set, co-starring for the final season of such a well-loved series?

BM: Before we started, Anson Mount gave me a call. I asked him: “What should I prepare for? I’ve never been to Calgary. I’ve never shot a Western before.” He said, “Well, bring boots.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s going to be muddy when you come out of your trailer.” So I took his advice, and I brought my boots. And sure enough, the first day I come out of my trailer, I step down, and I’m in a pond of mud.

Also, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be in a Western. I didn’t even know what these guys wore. It turns out my character wears a lot of these coats and ties and stuff. I can’t even do it myself. I have to have someone dress me every day. It’s interesting. You have to have help to put them on.

CE: Tell me how it came about that you got the role in “The Big Short.”

BM: About six months ago, my brother, who works for a major bank in Asia, called me up and said: “Byron, there is this feature film that my client is doing. You should try to get a part in it or something.” But I blew him off. I said: “Well, you know nothing about the film industry. They’re probably just writing the script now.” And then six months later, I met Adam McKay (the film’s writer and director), and he cast me in the film. I found out that my brother’s client is Ben Hockett, the character that Brad Pitt plays in the movie. Isn’t that interesting? It is complete happenstance that I’m also in the film. But I can’t tell you too much, otherwise Paramount Studios will send ninja assassins to visit me.

CE: Without getting yourself ninja-ed, what can you tell me about the film?

BM: It’s about the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, if you remember, that totally caused the collapse of the American economy. There were trickle effects all over. A lot of people lost their homes. A lot of major banks — like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch — were all selling these products (that aided in the collapse). The characters played by Brad Pitt and Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling are bankers. They are trying to find out what’s behind these products and who’s selling them. So they track down my character, Wing Chau, who’s a bond manager in New York. He’s actually one of the world’s largest sellers of these products. He worked in conjunction with several major banks on Wall Street to sell them.

CE: I can’t wait to read the book this is based on; I already have it downloaded to my Kindle.

BM: It’s a great book. It’s by Michael Lewis, who also wrote “Moneyball.” He’s a great writer. And don’t be intimidated by the finance stuff, because he breaks it down very simply and very comically. Essentially that is what this movie is going to be like, too; it’s broken down in a very funny manner. It’s very accessible.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Astrella to Release New Single, "Friction," by the Late Michael Hutchence of INXS

(from press release)

Iconic INXS lead singer, Michael Hutchence, will forever be in the hearts and dance moves of fans across the world. Although known for his hit band songs "Need You Tonight" and "Never Tear Us Apart," he also embarked on many solo projects.

In a partnership with fashion designer Astrella, daughter to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Donovan, Hutchence's first solo recording to be released in 15 years will now be available through her famed hybrid, T-shirt collection known as the MUSICAL T's™. PledgeMusic is honored to be a part of this campaign, where the song and T-shirt will be available exclusively via Fashion Designer Astrella's Next MUSICAL T's™ Design and is allowing the fans to vote on several graphic options. The winning option will be produced onto a T-shirt and be for sale exclusively on PledgeMusic.

Previously unreleased and available only through this package, Michael Hutchence's song "Friction" will be available for pre-order. Sales will officially begin September 1, 2015. To launch our PledgeMusic storefront, Astrella is offering 5 designs for the public to vote on, to decide which design should be put into production. Astrella has collaborated with internationally recognized artist Miguel Paredes, as well as former head of design for Lucky Brand, Tom Garner, to help design the "Friction" MUSICAL T's™ graphics. The song came from his recording sessions in 1995, before his tragic death, to create a solo record with music producers Danny Saber (Rolling Stones, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy, Korn, U2, David Bowie) and Andy Gill (Gang of Four, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Jesus Lizard, The Futerheads, The Stranglers.)

PledgeMusic, a frontrunner in the direct-to-fan platform, is bringing fans a truly special and unique experience with this campaign. PledgeMusic will be the exclusive place to purchase the song and vote for and purchase the MUSICAL T's™ T-shirt.

Pledgers will have the opportunity to get the previously unreleased Michael Hutchence single "Friction" + 2 remixes, (EMF DJ, Milfredo Seven as well as Jeff Patterson of the 3 Jays). Fans can vote on 1 of 5 T-shirt designs from Astrella Inc., and the winning T-shirt will be come the official Friction MUSICAL T's™. Fans can purchase the winning T-shirt along with experiences from co-writer of "Friction", and a long time Michael Hutchence friend and storied engineer/producer Danny Saber. 10 unreleased photos of Michael will be premiered and Danny Saber will do video breakdowns of the lyrics in the track. To pledge, please visit, http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/michaelhutchence.

Saber says, "Michael was always looking to reinvent the wheel as an artist. Delivering music and fashion together through Astrella and the PledgeMusic platform is precisely the type of ground-breaking initiative he would have been proud to be a part of. This project honors the intimate connect between artist and fan, which Michael cherished."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Interview: Abigail Spencer Heats Up True Detective

Abigail Spencer
Abigail Spencer has come a long way since her “All My Children” days: Since she left the show in 2000, Abigail has been in numerous TV shows and movies. These include “Angela’s Eyes,” “Mad Men,” “Hawthorne,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “This Is Where I Leave You,” “Rectify” and, most recently, “True Detective.” I spoke with Abigail about “Rectify,” which comes back to SundanceTV for its third season July 9. But first we spoke about her new role, that of Alicia on season two of the critically acclaimed HBO drama “True Detective,” which premieres June 21.

Celebrity Extra: What can you tell me about the new season, and about your character, Alicia?

Abigail Spencer: Nothing (laughs). I can tell you my opinion of how wonderful it is. I don’t want to ruin anything, and I think if anyone were to give away anything about it, it would ruin the suspense. But I can tell you it was a really great experience. I think the season is going to be all the things that people loved about season one, and then some, with totally new and fresh stories. Nic Pizzolatto is just an incredible storyteller. And the acting is wonderful. Colin Farrell is so amazing. People are just going to be blown away, particularly by his performance on the show.

CE: Do you work mainly with Colin, and will we get to see you for the whole eight-episode season?

AS: I work with almost everybody, but I work mostly with Colin. I’m there throughout the season — heck, I probably shouldn’t say anything — but I am in it throughout the season.

CE: What can you tell me about the actual filming experience?

AS: When you have a really rich character, one who has a lot of depth, you really are just trying to bring all of that depth to the character that is on the page. It was hard. I was also shooting “Rectify” at the same time, so I was going back and forth between characters. Everyone was so great. Nic really supported me and really welcomed me into the fold of telling the story, so I really wanted to do it justice. It was incredibly intense but very fulfilling.

CE: I see Rick Springfield has a guest-starring role. Did you work with him?

AS: I didn’t, but I know of him being on the show, and I thought that was super cool. Junie Lowry-Johnson and Libby Goldstein cast “True Detective,” and they also cast “Rectify.” They are two of the most phenomenal casting directors ever. They love actors. They really hire great actors for every piece. A lot of the credit has to go to Junie and Libby for who they put forward for all the roles.

CE: Is it difficult being on a show where everything is so hush-hush, and you can’t slip up and give away any secrets?

AS: It’s so interesting — I’m pretty used to this from when I was cast for “Mad Men.” I couldn’t tell anyone I was on the show. I wasn’t allowed to walk the red carpet at the premiere or anything. But then after the fact, it’s fun. It’s fun to let people discover your work. That was a really beautiful experience for me. You do get these dream jobs where they’re like, “But you can’t tell anybody about it.” And you’re like, “What? Huh?” But really, I’m very OK with that. It’s cool that people just discover it. People will find shows or will find good work. Hopefully it’s through word of mouth and wonderful people like you spreading the word.

CE: For those unfamiliar with the show, tell me a bit about “Rectify.”

AS: “Rectify” is a story about a man, Daniel, who has been on death row for almost 20 years. The show picks up on the day he is released from prison because some new DNA evidence was brought into the fold showing that he most likely did not commit the crime. But the main issue is that it doesn’t totally clear him, but it’s most likely he didn’t do it. It’s his reintegration back into his family and the society that put him away, and back into the arms of his adoring co-dependent sister, Amantha, who has basically been in charge of his release. The show focuses on how intimately and emotionally it affects all of the people surrounding this one event and this one human by the name of Daniel.

CE: Tell me about Amantha.

AS: I would say that Amantha is a bit of the engine of the show. She’s moving things forward. She was the catalyst for his release. As we explore Amantha, we see that she is a very active character. What do you do when the active character is met with resistance from the one thing that she wanted? Her brother gets out of prison, and he’s like: “No thanks. I’m good. I don’t want to fight this anymore.” He’s had a life-changing experience. It really puts Amantha in a position where she has to start looking at herself and what her life is like. What is her life about? She has to make some hard decisions.

CE: Where do we pick up for the start of season three?

AS: We’re going to start right where we left off with season two. We left off with Daniel having this strange confession, or re-confession, of the time that he’s not even sure of, or what he did. When it comes to Amantha, she didn’t just want to get him out of prison, but she also wanted to clear his name. She wanted to go all the way with it. When Daniel says, “I just want it to be done,” that’s heartbreaking for her.

So she draws a boundary, like if you do this, I’m not going to be there. I’m going to go put my own life together. So we left with that really strong boundary, and we pick up after Daniel’s “re-confession” surprise for everybody. It’s different now. There will be more clues, and more people come into play. It’s really interesting. I’m always like: “How do we go deeper? We just went there. We went so deep.” And then season three happens, and you go: “We just did it. We just went deeper.” I’m always amazed. I’m amazed with the actors and writers and how they get right in there illustrating the complexity of human beings’ lives and celebrating it. The show is really about celebrating life — it’s about living your life and understanding who you are.

CE: You shoot this on location in Griffin, Georgia. What’s it like on set?

AS: Everybody is so supportive of us shooting there. It’s a very small town, and it is thick with the issues at play on the show. At times it can be difficult to shoot there just because there are certain needs when you are shooting a show. It’s like you live in your own world in your own town. It’s like you’re living in Oz all the time when you’re shooting something, and you have your own set of needs when you are working. So there are challenges there. But at the same time, it definitely puts you in the mood. Once we get off the plane and drive that hour south, it’s like: “Here we are. We’re back in ‘Rectify’ land.”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Interview: Shauna Rappold on Fantastic Four, Zipper, and Wanting to Be a Rock Star

After being featured in “Treme,” “Memphis Beat” and “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” you’d think that Shauna Rappold would be an old hand at the “Hollywood Thing.” But Shauna is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth actresses I’ve interviewed in quite some time. It was a pleasure to speak with her about her upcoming projects — first and foremost, the sure-to-be-summer-blockbuster “Fantastic Four.”

Celebrity Extra: Can you tell me how you got your start? Have you always wanted to be a performer?

Shauna Rappold: Oh yes, this is something that as soon as I was able to make a decision on what I could do or what I could be when I grew up, it was always that I wanted to be an actor or to tell stories or to be in this industry in some way. I think I did my first pilot when I was 7 years old. I was one of those girls who would sing into her hairbrush. And I’d be like: “I’m going to be a rock star. Or I’m going to be a movie star.” There are lots of incriminating photos of me as a kid.

CE: You’ve got “Fantastic Four” coming out Aug. 7, which was filmed in your hometown of New Orleans. So many TV shows and movies are being filmed there nowadays; it’s becoming the new Hollywood East.

SR: It really is. It’s awesome, because I moved to California and I lived there for a year last year, but I kept flying back to New Orleans to work. So, I got to move back and live near my family and my friends. New Orleans is just a really cool, magical place, and it’s awesome that I get to do what I love there.

CE: I know it’s really hush-hush, but what can you tell me about “Fantastic Four”?

SR: I can’t really talk about my role, but I can say that the people I specifically worked with were Kate Mara, who plays Sue Storm, and then Reg Cathey (Dr. Franklin Storm) and Tim Nelson (Harvey Elder). All of these people were phenomenal. Everyone was playful, but extremely professional, and really open and wonderful people.

CE: How about working with director Josh Trank?

SR: He knew exactly what he was looking for, so it made it easy to deliver and give him just that. The communication was there.

CE: This is one of those summer blockbusters I can’t wait to see.

SR: Me too. When you’re filming something, you know what you’ve done, but you never know how it’s going to turn out. And you never know how it’s going to fit into the big scheme of things. But I’ve heard things of how this is going to come out, and I can tell you that it’s going to be great.

CE: How was the cast to work with?

SR: They were really great. I will say this about Reg Cathey: He was always smiling and making jokes. I had to check myself and be like, “OK, stop being one of those bad kids in class and focus.” He is just so funny, you want to cut up on set. But you can. It’s work time, and you’ve got to get it together. There were, of course, long hours, but the morale stayed up.

CE: Tell me a bit about “Zipper” and your role in it.

SR: It premiered at Sundance in January. I worked directly with Lena Headey, Patrick Wilson and John Cho; all of these people were so awesome. I play Lena’s best friend — her character’s name is Jeannie Ellis, and I was her best friend, Heidi. I’m a career woman who’s not quite finding my relationship to be as successful as my career. Heidi is very jealous of Jeannie, but little does either of them know that maybe the men weren’t so good.

CE: You mentioned Patrick Wilson …

SR: He plays Lena’s husband, Sam, in the movie. Heidi always makes these comments on how good Jeannie has it. There are people getting busted for escort services, which Sam has been using, and Heidi talks about it, not realizing that Jeannie knows about it, and Sam’s involvement. So, Jeannie knows, but Heidi doesn’t know what is going on, and she’s telling her how great her life is. I can’t wait to see this film. It’s going to be amazing.

CE: You’ve been singing for a while now too; tell me about that.

SR: I took five years of voice lessons. I’m a mezzo soprano. I trained with Greta Hardey in Louisiana. More Broadway-type songs, but to be honest with you, I love to rock. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll fan. Growing up in New Orleans, of course I love live music. I love going to see jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. If there is a live band somewhere, you will find me there. I would love to be in a band. My boyfriend, Armando Leduc, has a band in New Orleans. They were voted as New Orleans’ best wedding band in 2014. I’ve sung with them every now and then. But I would love to be in my own band. If I had an ultimate dream, I would like to be in a movie where I got to sing.

CE: Then it would be the best of both worlds for you, artistically speaking.

SR: Exactly! When “Black Swan” came out, it made me realize that I want to do a film where I have to train for something — whether it be for dance or to learn an instrument better than I already know it — and then use that in a film. It would be a huge dream come true for me to do something like that.

CE: Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

SR: I just want to be able to tell stories that inspire me, that effect a visceral change in other people. That is honestly why I got into this in the first place, because a lot of people go to the movies or to the theater or to see some sort of art because they just need a pause. They need a pause to focus on something else. Or maybe they are already on a high in their lives, and they want an extra high by being inspired by art. People like to be entertained for different reasons: to laugh, to cry, to learn something, to be turned on, to be entertained. I want to be able to do that for people as my full-time job.

Q and A: Week of June 1

Cast of The Unauthorized Full House Story (photo courtesy Lifetime)
Q: I have two questions: The first one, is it true that they are rebooting the “Full House” series; and second, why? — Jeremy I., via email

A: The answers are yes, and heaven knows why, in that order. Netflix has confirmed that the monthly subscription online network — which has brought us such masterpieces as “House of Cards,” “Bloodline” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — is indeed resurrecting the schlocky sitcom (which originally ran on ABC from 1987-95). The new incarnation will be 13 episodes and is named “Fuller House.”

According to “TV Line”: “Candace Cameron-Bure, Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber are set to star, reprising their roles as D.J. Tanner-Fuller, Stephanie Tanner and Kimmy Gibbler, while John Stamos will serve as a producer and guest-star as Uncle Jesse. In the continuation, due to debut in 2016, veterinarian D.J. is pregnant and recently widowed, living in San Francisco. Her younger sister, aspiring musician Stephanie, and lifelong best friend/fellow single mom Kimmy, along with Kimmy’s feisty teenage daughter Ramona, all move in to help take care of D.J.’s two boys — rebellious 12-year-old J.D. and neurotic 7-year-old Max — and her soon-to-arrive baby. Bob Saget, Dave Coulier and Lori Loughlin are also set to return.

In other “Full House” news, it was recently revealed that Lifetime — the network that brought us “The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story”— is producing “The Unauthorized Full House Story.” The movie will cover the rise of the cast and behind-the-scenes goings-on during the show’s eight-year run. Ron McGee, who wrote the “Saved By the Bell Story,” is set to write the “Full House Story,” which premieres Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.

Q: It seems like I’ve been waiting forever. When will “Orange Is the New Black” be back? — Gina R., Fresno, Calif.

A: You’ll have to wait just a little while longer. Season three of the hit Netflix drama returns with 14 (instead of the usual 13) all-new episodes on June 12 at midnight PST. And, if you didn’t already know, “Orange” has been renewed for a fourth season, which will premiere in 2016.

Q: Can you give me any news about the next “American Horror Story”? — Nina D., Mount Carmel, Indiana

A: The list of big names who have signed on to star in “American Horror Story: Hotel” keeps getting bigger. I previously reported that Lady Gaga, Chloe Sevigny, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Cheyenne Jackson and Sara Paulson were checking into “Hotel,” and it was recently announced that Angela Bassett has been added to the hotel’s registry. Rumors have been swirling that Alexander Skarsgard and Michelle Pfeiffer would also be on the show, however, that casting news is looking to be more and more like a red herring, unfortunately. I’ll keep you posted on those developments as the premiere date gets closer. Season five is set to premiere this coming October on FX.

Gillian Anderson and Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal
(photo courtesy NBC)
Q: Aside from “The X-Files” reboot, can you tell me what Gillian Anderson has coming up? — Betty R., via email

A: Ms. Anderson is one busy lady. “Hannibal” returns to NBC for its third season tonight, where you can see Gillian as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier. You’ll recall at the end of last season, she and Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen) were fleeing to France after the bloodbath at Dr. Lector’s house, which included much blood being shed by Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne).

It was recently announced that she will co-star in the Lifetime/A and E/History networks’ joint production of “War and Peace,” which is based on the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy. The limited-series event also stars Paul Dano, Lily James, James Norton and Jim Broadbent, and will be simulcast on all three networks in 2016.

Anderson is also set to return for season three of the BBC2 psychological-thriller series “The Fall,” which should air sometime in 2016. “The Fall” also stars “Fifty Shades of Grey” heartthrob Jamie Dornan.

Q: I’m a huge fan of “The Good Witch” movies on Hallmark Channel, and was thrilled that “Good Witch” became a series. Will it be back for more episodes? — Deenie F., via email

A: The popular supernatural series starring Catherine Bell and James Denton recently aired its season-one finale, and I am happy to report that it will be back for a second season. Says Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming and publicity for Crown Media Family Networks: “Our viewers have fallen in love with Catherine Bell and her enchanting journey, as well as her talented co-stars, James Denton and Bailee Madison. After seeing the tremendously overwhelming response to the series, there was no question that ‘Good Witch’ would be renewed for a second season.”

This fall there will be a two-hour season-two premiere, followed by 10 new hours to follow in early 2016. While there is no word yet on the exact dates of these airings, I’ll be sure to keep you posted as the information becomes available.

Q: I am a big fan of “Secrets and Lies,” but I don’t have a computer. So you can imagine my dismay when I heard that a final, extra scene was available online only. I can’t believe ABC is leaving all of us without computers hanging. Can you tell me what I missed? — Mary B. in Virginia

A: I agree that it’s not fair to those without a computer. I’ll try to sum it up as best I can, and you’ll see that the scene is a setup for season two. The story picks up 14 months later. It’s Natalie’s 18th birthday, and she and Dave are having a simple celebration at a coffee shop. Detective Cornell walks in and tries to convince Natalie to testify on behalf of Ben. Natalie decides she does want to testify and clear her fathers name. Unfortunately, the way they keep referring to Ben, it sounds like he has died, but no one explicitly says that. (Ryan Phillipe recently released a statement that he will not be back for season two because his story came to and end, and a new story will be beginning.) After Cornell leaves, we see her approaching Abby and her mother as they’re on a shopping trip, giving Abby quite a scornful look. The scene fades as Cornell looks like she’s about to speak to Abby.

Kermit and Gonzo of The Muppets (photo courtesy ABC)
Q: This can’t be true, but I hope it is. Are they really making a new “Muppet Show”? — Todd T., via email

A: ABC is indeed making a new show involving the Muppets. According to “The Hollywood Reporter,” the new incarnation of the popular puppet/comedy/variety show is described as “a contemporary, documentary-style show that, for the first time ever, will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, breakups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires — a more adult Muppet show, for kids of all ages. Producers filmed a pilot presentation for the ABC Studios-produced series that sources say was incredibly well received.” The pilot episode of The Muppets was just made available on the ABC press site, and Ill be sure to tell you how it is as soon as Ive watched it.

Q: Can you tell me when “Cedar Cove” will be back? It seems like we’ve been waiting forever! — Donna R., via email

A: You’ll have to wait just a little while longer. The hugely popular Hallmark Channel original series, starring Andie MacDowell and Dylan Neal, will be back for its third season on Saturday, July 18, with a two-hour season premiere starting at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Q and A: Week of May 11

Shauna Rappold
Q: I just saw a commercial for “Fantastic Four,” and I can’t wait until it comes out this summer! Can you tell me anything about it? — Andy T., Canton, Ohio

A: Things are always so hush-hush with these big-budget superhero action movies, and “Fantastic Four” is no exception. I spoke with Shauna Rappold recently, who is in the summer blockbuster, which is due to hit theaters on Aug. 7, and she told me a teeny-tiny bit of what we can expect. “I specifically worked with Kate Mara, who is Sue Storm, and then Reg Cathey and Tim Nelson. My character is in the military, but that’s all I can really say, unfortunately, because it is so hush-hush. I’ve heard things of how it’s going to come out; it’s going to be great. Everyone was phenomenal to work with. And Josh Trank, the director, knew exactly what he was looking for, so it made it easy to deliver and give him just that.”

Check back next week for my entire interview with Shauna.

Q: Can you give me any more info on “11/22/63”? I am so excited for this series! — David F., Birmingham, Ala.

A: The time-travel fantasy-thriller series, based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, finally has its star: James Franco. The nine-hour event series will air exclusively on Hulu, but it does not yet have a scheduled premiere date. James will play the lead character, Jacob Epping, a high school English teacher who travels back in time to try to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Q: Can you tell me what Mireille Enos has been doing since “The Killing” ended? — Kyle F., via email

A: If Mireille isn’t already a household name — although she is in my house — she soon will be, because the red-haired beauty landed the lead role in Shonda Rimes’ latest drama pilot called “The Catch.” The thriller is based on the novel by Kate Atkinson, which is about a woman who is about to get married … and about to get conned. However, because Shonda’s leading ladies tend to be strong ladies who can take care of themselves, thank you very much, our fearless heroine will surely turn the tables on her slippery fiancé.

Q: Now that “Sons of Anarchy” is over, can you tell me Katey Sagal has planned next? — Glenn F., via email

A: The lovely and talented actress is set to reteam with “Sons” creator, Kurt Sutter — who also happens to be Katey’s hubby — for the FX period drama “The Bastard Executioner.” The series centers on a former warrior/knight for King Edward I, Wilkin Brattle, who is overcome by the destruction of war and vows to lay down his sword. When violence finds him, he’s forced to return to his violent ways. Australian actor Lee Jones plays Brattle, with “True Blood” alum Stephen Moyer playing his friend, Milus Corbett. Matthew Rhys, Sam Spruell, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Darren Evans, Sarah White, Sarah Sweeney and Danny Sapani round out the cast. Production on the series began on March 19, with no word yet on a premiere date.

Titus (Tituss Burgess) and Kimmy (Ellie Kemper)

Q: I thought Tina Fey had a new comedy coming to NBC, but I’ve looked all over for it, to no avail. Can you tell me what happened? — Kellie F., via Facebook

A: When NBC passed on the hilarious “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Netflix swooped in and saved this brilliant comedy from obscurity. “The Office” alum Ellie Kemper stars as the eponymous Kimmy, who recently escaped from being held prisoner underground by a man who claimed the world above had ended in an apocalypse. Kimmy moves to New York City, where she tries to put her life back on track, with the help of new employer Jacqueline Voorhees (played by the always wonderful Jane Krakowski), new roommate Titus Andromedon (the fabulous Tituss Burgess), and landlord Lillian Kaushtupper (the legendary Carol Kane). Season one consists of 13 episodes, all of which are now available for streaming on netflix.com.

Q: Can you tell me if the TV series “The Bridge” will have another season, and if so when will it start? — Peggy E., via email

A: If you are talking about the American series starring Diane Kruger, then I am sad to tell you that FX canceled the series after two seasons. However, if you are referring to the far-superior Danish/Swedish original version of the series — also known as “Bron” and “Broen” — it has been renewed for a third season. You can catch up on the first two 10-episode seasons on Hulu.

Q: Will “Under the Dome” be back for another season? — Terry V., via email

A: CBS’s futuristic sci-fi drama will return for its third season on June 25 with a two-hour season premiere from 9 to 11 p.m. ET/PT. The following week it will move to its regular timeslot of 10 p.m. ET/PT. Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, “Under the Dome” tells the story of a small town that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. This season, Emmy Award-winner Marg Helgenberger will guest-star in an extended story arc, beginning with the premiere episode, as the town’s inhabitants figure out the Dome’s purpose and what it wants from them.

Q: I loved “The Spoils of Babylon.” Please tell me it hasn’t been canceled! — Tina R. in Georgia

A: The second installment of “Spoils” will air on IFC this summer in the six-part miniseries “The Spoils Before Dying.” Returning to the series in brand-new roles are Will Farrell, Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Sheen, Val Kilmer and many more. New additions to the cast include Chris Parnell, Tim Meadows and Emily Ratajkowski, among others. Spoils will premiere as a three-night miniseries event on Wednesday, July 8, Thursday, July 9 and Friday, July 10. Two half-hour episodes of the six part miniseries will air each evening starting at 9:00p.m. ET/PT.

Q: A while back you wrote that “The Mortal Instruments” was going to become a TV series, but I’ve seen nothing about that since. Is it still happening? — Ellie R., via email

A: Back when I reported that, everything was still in the beginning stages of development, so we didn’t have many details. Finally, I can say with certainty that “The Mortal Instruments” book series will indeed be reimagined on the small screen and is called “Shadowhunters.” For those unfamiliar with the book series, the story centers on Clary Fray, who finds out on her 18th birthday that she comes from a long line of Shadowhunters, human/angel hybrids who hunt down and kill demons. ABC Family will air the 13-episode first season, with shooting expected to commence this month. There is no casting or premiere date news just yet, but just knowing that showrunner and executive producer Ed Decter (“Helix,” “Unforgettable,” “The Client List”) is heading up the project makes me feel confident that the TV series will fare better than the not-so-great 2013 feature film.

Q: I am so upset that “Parenthood” is over. Can you tell me what series star Craig T. Nelson will do next? — Paul Y., Indianapolis

A: Craig is all set to reprise his role of Coach Hayden Fox on the NBC revival of “Coach.” NBC gave the show a 13-episode straight-to-series order, with Craig returning as Coach Fox, where the now-retired football coach is called back to become the assistant coach to his own grown son, who is now the new head coach at an Ivy League school in Pennsylvania, which is starting up a new team. There is no word yet on its premiere date or other casting info, but Barry Kemp — who created the original ABC series — is on board to write and executive-produce the reboot.

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan
Q: When will “Ray Donovan” be back for a new season? — Howard T., via email

A: The Liev Schreiber-starring drama returns to Showtime for its 12-episode third season on July 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. This season’s guest stars include Ian McShane, Katie Holmes and Elliott Gould. “Masters of Sex” returns for its third season as well, which also happens to be 12 episodes, immediately following “Ray Donovan.”

Q: What does Poppy Montgomery have coming up? Also, will “Unforgettable” be back, or has it been canceled? — Ashley W., Medina, Ohio

A: Before “Unforgettable” returns for its fourth season (I’ll get to that in a moment), Poppy has a guest-starring turn in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered from Paris, with Love” on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. The seasonal two-hour movie installment of popular series premieres Sunday, June 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Poppy plays Holly, the estranged wife of lead postal detective Oliver, played by Eric Mabius. Poppy also returns as Carrie Wells, with Dylan Walsh back as Al Burns, in “Unforgettable,” which the A and E network saved from the fire after CBS canceled the show for a second time. Back in 2012, CBS canceled the series after the first season, but then decided to renew it for seasons two and three as a shorter, summer series. CBS canceled it for a second time this past October after season three, and in February, A and E scooped up the show and will air its 13-episode fourth season later this year.

Q: I need some “Devious Maids” news! — Holly K., via email

A: Hold onto your feather duster, Holly, you have a few more months to wait to see who, if anyone, bit the dust after gunfire erupted on the church steps after Rosie and Spence’s wedding. Season three premieres Monday, June 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, where I have a feeling all of your burning questions will be answered. Expect to see some new faces too, including Naya Rivera, Gilles Marini, Cristián de la Fuente, John O’Hurley, Justina Machado, Nathan Owens and Julie Claire.

Tia Mowry
Q: I love “Instant Mom” star Tia Mowry. When will that show be back, and in what else can I see her? — Janet F., Hartford, Conn.

A: Tia’s comedy series, “Instant Mom,” which airs on Nickmom, will finish out its second season this summer, and they are currently hard at work on the show’s third season. You can also catch Tia in her brand-new show on the Cooking Channel, which is called “Tia Mowry at Home.” The show, which airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET, centers on Tia’s home life with her friends and family — and of course, cooking. Tia told me about the show recently: “The cool thing about the format of the show is it’s not just about cooking or me just telling people how to cook. What I’m really excited about is you will get to see my family and my friends. And one person, in particular, is my dad. My dad is so reserved and so private, but he loves to cook. So, when I asked him to be on my cooking show, he was like: ‘Oh wow! I want to be a part of it.’ He loves to cook. There’s one episode where my dad comes over and we cook an amazing meal together.

“Another episode has me doing some yoga, and I make a great post-workout meal for my friends. And then another episode we have a cool mommy day with my friends who are moms. I cook for them and then I surprise the kids with a game of basketball with Metta World Peace. One of my favorite episodes is where I plan a dinner date with my husband, and we re-create memories from our wedding day.”

Q: I can’t get enough “Downton Abbey”! Can you please give me some scoop on the show? — Jessie F., via email

A: I also can’t get enough of this wonderful BBC/PBS period drama, but after season six, it will have to be enough. Series creator Julian Fellowes and executive producer Gareth Neame recently announced that the show’s next season will be its final season. Said Neame: “We wanted to close the doors of ‘Downton Abbey’ when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together. We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up.”

Q: I was so happy when Netflix brought back “Arrested Development.” Will there be more new episodes? — Jack F., via email

A: While series producer Brian Grazer hasn’t made an “official” announcement yet, he did tell Bill Simmons, when he appeared on the latter’s “B.S. Report” podcast, that they are making a 17-episode fifth season of the cult-hit comedy series. Grazer let slip: “I love ‘Arrested Development,’ but it was never a huge thing. But people are loyal to it. We’re going to do another 17 episodes.”

Interview: Victoria Laurie Talks Ghosts, Death Dates, and Her Real-Life Dutch

Mother knows best — well, at least in this instance, she did. A few years ago, my mom recommended a book series to me by New York Times bestselling author Victoria Laurie. The Ghost Hunter Mysteries series centers on M.J. Holliday, a spiritual medium who — along with her BFF Gilley Gillespie — runs a ghost-busting business, which often puts historical murder and mayhem front and center. With competing love interests, a best friend who’s scared of his own shadow, and a parrot with attitude, some days, it’s all M.J. can do just to stay focused. (Don’t let the lighthearted description, taken from Victoria’s website, fool you: These books will scare the beejeezus out of you!)

So I read the series, and I loved it. I quickly moved on to Victoria’s other series, the Psychic Eye books, and methodically devoured each one of those. I was really and truly in love — with Victoria’s books, and then with the author herself. While we all have certain authors we like, it takes a certain personality to LURVE. I joined Victoria’s Facebook Fan Page, and couldn’t have been more impressed by the time and dedication she devotes to her fans: answering questions, replying to comments, giving us a glimpse into her life. That’s why I was more than thrilled when she was excited to talk to ME, to give me an interview—and a bigger glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words.

Our interview took place over the course of two phone calls, both of which started with a half-hour of just chatting and catching up, like we were old friends who hadn’t missed a beat in our relationship. But once we got down to the business of interviewing, I was enthralled by what Victoria had to tell me. I think you will be too. (Author’s note: Don’t worry, we also discussed her newest book, When, in great detail, which I will get to later.)

Celebrity Extra: Your book series deals with characters who have well-developed psychic abilities, which you have yourself. When did you first become aware of your abilities?

Victoria Laurie: There were a lot of glimpses in childhood of, I wouldn’t even say an ability, but sort of an awareness. It was a very scary thing, because you don’t really understand the source — it’s just stuff that popped out of my mouth at inopportune times. No one ever put a title to it, least of all me. In my 20s I went to see a gentleman who came  highly recommended. He was a psychic, and he remains the best psychic I’ve ever seen. He eventually became my mentor. He intimated that I clearly had a talent. It wasn’t anything that I wanted to embrace because I figured all psychics lived in trailer parks with big hoop earrings with scarves on their heads, and barely got by; I wanted to be an economist. And then I wanted to be a lawyer, so there was no room for this psychic-schmichic stuff.

And then I moved to Florida from Michigan, and I had some really bizarre incidents where I really couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was almost in a panic because it felt like it was an assault of information. A friend in Michigan had befriended Rebecca Rosen, who is a world-renowned medium at this time, but back then she wasn’t even doing readings professionally. So he put us in contact. It was a wonderful gift because we were both experiencing a lot of the same things, and she was so much more OK with it than I was at that time. She was the first person to ever say: “You know what? You are psychic. You are an intuitive.” She made it OK for me to experiment and to try. Then she challenged me to start doing readings professionally, because I had been pushing her. So she said, “I will if you will.”

It took me a very long time to actually embrace the title of “psychic.” You say that you are psychic to people, and they put an “o” on the end of that: “psycho.” I didn’t want that label. For me it’s much more comfortable to say that I’m intuitive than it is that I’m psychic. It’s not my abilities and anything that I’m ashamed of — it’s the bad connotation that comes with the label.

CE: How or when did you discover you also had a talent for writing?

VL: I didn’t think I could write. I had read the first three books of Janet Evanovich’s brilliant, fabulous series — the Stephanie Plum series — and I felt such a connection to Janets voice.  I felt like I expressed myself that way. I didn’t think I could write like her, but I felt like I could express myself. We had a similar sense of humor and kind of looked at the world a little bit the same way. I was so naive at the time; I didn’t even know you could have an amateur sleuth. I thought you had to be like a private investigator-turned-writer or a coroner-turned-writer or a crime scene investigator-turned-writer. So the whole amateur-sleuth genre got introduced to me in that nutshell.

CE: The character of M.J. has medium abilities; do you share those abilities?

VL: I do have a little bit of medium ability. A lot of it comes from my friendship with Rebecca. It’s hard to be in her atmosphere and not experience a little bit of an amplification of that ability. Rebecca is so powerful. She opens that door, and if you are at all intuitive, you can feel them come through. I used to do readings where I would connect people with deceased loved ones, and I have had quite a few really great amazing connections, but it’s not quite my forte. But I’ve experienced it enough to be able to write authentically about how it feels. I wouldn’t have written M.J. as a medium if I didn’t feel I could pull it off. If it weren’t so hard for me and didn’t take so much out of me, I’d do it almost exclusively because it’s fun.

CE: I know some aspects of your characters’ personalities are based on people in your life. Let’s start with Steven.

VL: Steven wasn’t actually an ex of mine; we were really good friends. I had broken my hand in 2004, and I went to go see him to repair it. He took such wonderful, wonderful care of me. He treated me like he would a concert pianist because he knew I make my living through my fingertips, typing up my books. Every once in a while you come across someone who’s like a magnet, who just attracts other people through their light. Steven was definitely that.

He was a character I just couldn’t NOT put in a book. I thought he’d be a really great complement to M.J., who’s still a bit of a wounded child from the loss of her mother. I figured Steven could come along and repair that.

When I moved out of Boston, I just didn’t have enough interaction with Steven to be able to continue to pull on his character. So I thought, “OK, I’m just going to have to make up a new person.” And that’s when Heath came along.

[The real Steven] passed away of ALS. ALS comes in a couple of different forms, and he unfortunately had the most aggressive kind. It’s so heartbreaking to think of this person who was so alive is now gone. He was like sunshine walking into the room.

CE: What about Cat?

VL: My sister is Cat. It’s hard on her because the way I paint Cat is sort of as a base — the base of Cat and how much she loves Abby, and how smart she is. That’s my sister, but everything else is completely blown out of proportion.

CE: And Gilley?

VL: Gilley is my agent, Jim, and he’s been so generous.

CE: How about some of the Psychic Eye characters?

VL: Dave was a real handyman that I had in Florida. Dutch is actually based on my sweetheart. Milo is based on a really dear friend of mine. It’s hard to actually find a character who is in the books on a regular basis who isn’t based on someone I know. Don’t ever be friends with or date a writer, because you’re just doomed.

CE: For me, Dutch could be played by Aaron Eckhart. Who do you picture when you write him?

VL: The real Dutch[, my sweetheart,] is Polish, very cute, a beautiful dresser. He takes my breath away, which is all that matters. The very first time I met him, 20 years ago, he took my breath away and hasn’t stopped doing it sense. But I think Dutch in my mind looks a lot like [actor] Neal McDonough. For my readers, I want Dutch to be anyone who floats your boat. Anyone who makes your heart beat a little bit faster. So if Aaron Eckhart knocks your socks off, Cindy, go for it!

CE: Oh, he does. Switching gears to your newest work, When: How did the idea for that story come about? (Author’s note: When is a YA book told from the point of view of Maddie, a high school student who, when she looks at someone, sees a series of digits floating just above his or her brow, with the digits representing the date that person will die. She and her mom, struggling to make ends meet, use her talent to make extra money. Things get scary when a woman comes to ask about her sick daughter. While Maddie has good news about her daughter — she’ll get better and live a long life — the woman’s middle son is another story. His deathdate is within days, he soon goes missing, and the FBI thinks Maddie is involved.)

VL: My high school experience was terrible. It was horrible. I came from a really dysfunctional childhood. I was so isolated and so alone, and Maddie has many traits that point to me in high school. My editor kept trying to get me to lighten Maddie up, and I was like: “No. This kind of experience really does happen to tweens.” There are situations where it’s a struggle for some teens to fit it. It was a real struggle for me, that’s for damn sure. It was a great background for me to extrapolate from.

The idea behind knowing someone’s deathdate came from when I once told my sister when her mother-in-law was going to pass away. I said, “You know, she’s not going to make it past November.” And her mother-in-law died in early November, I believe. And then my best friend, her father-in-law was dying. And I said, “I’m so sorry, but I feel like it’s going to happen right around the holidays.” The first week in January was when he passed away. So then I thought: “What if I took that to the next level and narrowed it down to an exact date? Eureka! There’s a book there.” And so I ran with it.


CE: Recently you got the wonderful news that When has been optioned for television. Tell me about how that came about.

VL: I was at the library when my agent, Jim, called to let me know. He said: “We got a call from a scout about a week ago from Warner Brothers, and they were interested in When. I’m working with a sister agency on it for the media rights. They have now confirmed their offer.” And I slid out of the chair onto the floor of the library.

I’d had this streak of 24 books without nary a single bit of interest from anybody. And I thought, “OK, fine. I’ll just be one of those authors who just never gets optioned.” No big thing, right? In the book world, it’s kind of like you haven’t really made it until someone options your book, which is a sad thing because we all write books. We don’t write movies or television shows. But it’s that cultural perception. Like until Nicholas Sparks had Message in a Bottle made, he wasn’t really an author of note. Which is ridiculous. So, Jim was like: “This is the deal. They’re looking at it for TV. It’s a great offer, and I think we should take it.” I’m like: “Ahhhh, OK. Yeah, do that.”

CE: Do you have any details about how they’re going to handle the story?

VL: However they envision it is OK by me. I’m perfectly happy with however that proceeds. I have an executive consultant title, which I don’t even know what that means. But it’s a great title. I mean, this is such a great honor. Any way they want to include me is really amazing. But I’m trying to remain as level-headed about the whole thing as possible.

To keep up with Victoria’s books and soon-to-be TV series, go to her website at victorialaurie.com for all the info, and links to purchase her books (the newest Psychic Eye book, Sense of Deception, hit bookstores in July).