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).

Renewed or Canceled — 2015-16 TV season

The networks have announced the renewed and canceled shows for the 2015-16 television season.

In alphabetical order, renewed shows include: 2 Broke Girls (CBS), 48 Hours (CBS), 60 Minutes (CBS), The 100 (CW), The Amazing Race (CBS), America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC), America’s Next Top Model (CW), American Crime (ABC), Arrow (CW), The Bachelor (ABC), Big Brother (CBS), The Blacklist (NBC), Beauty and the Beast (CW), The Big Bang Theory (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Black-ish (ABC), Blue Bloods (CBS), Bob’s Burgers (Fox), Bones (Fox), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox), Castle (ABC), The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC), Chicago Fire (NBC), Chicago P.D. (NBC), CSI: Cyber (CBS), Criminal Minds (CBS), Dancing with the Stars (ABC), Elementary (CBS), Empire (Fox), Extreme Weight Loss (ABC), Family Guy (Fox), The Flash (CW), Fresh Off the Boat (ABC), Galavant (ABC), The Goldbergs (ABC), The Good Wife (CBS), Gotham (Fox), Grimm (NBC), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Hannibal (NBC), Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), Hell’s Kitchen (Fox), Hollywood Game Night (NBC), How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), iZombie (CW), Jane the Virgin (CW), Law and Order: SVU (NBC), The Last Man on Earth (Fox), Last Man Standing (ABC), Madam Secretary (CBS), Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC), MasterChef (Fox), MasterChef Junior (Fox), The Middle (ABC), Mike & Molly (CBS), Mom (CBS), Modern Family (ABC), The Mysteries of Laura (NBC), Nashville (ABC), NCIS (CBS), NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), New Girl (Fox), The Night Shift (NBC), The Odd Couple (CBS), Once Upon a Time (ABC), The Originals (CW), Person of Interest (CBS), Reign (CW), Scandal (ABC), Scorpion (CBS), Secrets and Lies (ABC), Shark Tank (ABC), The Simpsons (Fox), Sleepy Hollow (Fox), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), Supernatural (CW), Survivor (CBS), Undateable (NBC), Undercover Boss (CBS), Unforgettable (canceled by CBS but picked up by A and E), The Vampire Diaries (CW), The Voice (NBC), World’s Funniest Fails (Fox).

TV shows that have either ended their run or have been canceled include: A to Z (NBC), About a Boy (NBC), Allegiance (NBC), American Idol, after season 15 (Fox), Backstrom (Fox), Bad Judge (NBC), Battle Creek (CBS), Constantine (NBC), Cristela (ABC), CSI, which will gave a two-hour wrap-up movie in September (CBS), The Following (Fox), Forever (ABC), Gang Related (Fox), Glee (Fox), Gracepoint (Fox), Hart of Dixie (The CW), Kitchen Nightmares (Fox), Manhattan Love Story (ABC), Marry Me (NBC), The McCarthys (CBS), The Mentalist (CBS), The Messengers (The CW), The Millers (CBS), The Mindy Project (Fox), Mulaney (Fox), One Big Happy (NBC), Parenthood (NBC), Parks and Recreation (NBC), Reckless (CBS), Red Band Society (Fox), Resurrection (ABC), Revenge (ABC), Selfie (ABC), Stalker (CBS), State of Affairs (NBC), The Taste (ABC), Two and a Half Men (CBS), Utopia (Fox), Weird Loners (Fox)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Zuleikha Robinson: It's "Refreshing" to Be on The Following

Zuleikha Robinson, courtesy Fox
If you’ve been following “The Following,” then you know it is an intense, roller-coaster ride of serial-killer madness — and it’s one of the most addictive shows on television. Starring Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy and Zuleikha Robinson, “The Following” is now airing its third crazy season on Monday nights at 9/8c on Fox. I spoke with Zuleikha recently, and she shared with me some insider secrets and fun facts about working on the series.

Celebrity Extra: When you first knew you were going to play Gwen, were you a little intimidated, knowing what an intense and gory show it can be, or were you excited to take on the project?

Zuleikha Robinson: I can’t say I’m a huge fan of anything gory, in general, but this is a really great show. I was drawn to it by the actors in particular. They’re just brilliant, and they work so well together. It is really well cast. When I watched the previous seasons to prepare for the role, I got so caught up in all the performances.

So, I was actually really excited to get to work. I worked with James Purefoy on “Rome,” and of course Kevin Bacon is incredible — very well-respected actor, deservedly so. I was really looking forward to getting into it. And also, it’s probably the first time that I’ve ever played a role where I haven’t had some sort of bad streak — unless, of course, something changes.

CE: Yeah, no offense, but I just don’t trust Gwen. I’ve learned not to trust anyone on that show after season one, when we found out Joe Carroll’s crazy cult members had infiltrated the FBI.

ZR: Of course — I totally understand. Kevin’s character, Ryan Hardy, feels that way pretty much all the time. It’s so hard to trust anyone. I’m sure it’s very hard for him to bring women into his inner circle for that reason. Not only because they could possibly turn out to be planted, but also just because of what he goes through from all the threats of death to his loved ones and losing people. It’s really hard for him.

CE: And that has to have an effect on Ryan and Gwen’s relationship.

ZR: It’s a real challenge for him. He never really allows himself to fully be there in a safe and loving way. There’s always been so much turmoil around everything he’s had to deal with. It’s clearly hard for him to open up, but he does his best. That is certainly where we tend to butt heads the most.

CE: What’s it like working with Kevin?

ZR: It’s really lovely. I met him before I started working. We had a lunch to just talk about stuff. It was really nice that he reached out. And we’ve had this wonderful progression to our relationship. It’s really lovely working off him. I’m enjoying it. He’s a very generous actor and extremely present and wonderful to work with. It’s been a real joy.

CE: Now that the show is well into its third season, you can tell that the actors have really developed a chemistry and camaraderie. What’s it like working on that set?

ZR: It’s one of my favorite sets I’ve ever worked on. Everything is pretty seamless on the show. Everyone gets on really well. It’s comfortable — it’s a very nice, comfortable energy. It can be challenging when you’re always going off to some other city or town to work on something. Well, most of the time, it’s great. But there have been a couple of instances when things haven’t worked so well. So, it’s always refreshing to come onto a show like “The Following,” where everything just kind of melds together in a beautiful way. The cast and crew are the best group of people I’ve worked with.

CE: Can you give me any clue as to what viewers can expect as the season progresses?

ZR: There’s not really much I can say at all. The difference between, I think, last season and this season is that family and relationships are a lot more front and center. That goes for both the heroes and the villains of the show. It’s nice to be able to learn more about people’s personal lives. So, we will definitely be seeing more of that this season.

CE: And I love that we are seeing more of Joe Carroll as well.

ZR: I think people really love James’ character. My mother, she’s never really excited about TV, but when I told her I was going to be on the show, she was like, “Oh my God, I love that show.” She just loves James’ character. He definitely has a huge following.

CE: Can you tell me what you know about Gwen’s future? As you know, many of Ryan’s love interests don’t make it a full season.

ZR: I can tell you that I’m in the full season, so far. We’re almost done filming, and so far I’ve pretty much worked the whole season.

CE: But Gwen could still die — we just don’t know with this show!

ZR: That’s true. I could be gone.

CE: With so much killing and gore on the show, how do you keep the mood light? Is there a prankster on the set?

ZR: There’s one instance I can think of, but I don’t know. I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so I probably shouldn’t say exactly what happened, but it was pretty funny.

CE: It’s good to know that you guys can keep your sense of humor amid all the carnage.

ZR: Oh, yes; it does tend to be very light in between takes, before all the killing starts happening. It definitely breaks up all the tears and the screaming.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Interview: Haylie Duff — It's a Dream Come True

Haylie Duff, courtesy the Cooking Channel
Actress and singer Haylie Duff is perhaps best known to audiences for her roles on “7th Heaven” and in the cult classic “Napoleon Dynamite,” but nowadays, when she’s not preparing for the birth of her daughter, the soon-to-be first-time mom is cooking up a storm on the Cooking Channel. Her series, “The Real Girl’s Kitchen,” begins its second season on Saturday, April 25, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, and Haylie promises lots of fun, surprises and, of course, food.

Celebrity Extra: I know that your show started out as a blog, then became a book, and now it’s a series. How did that evolution come about?

Haylie Duff: Well, we kind of did everything backward, which is funny. I think most people end up on food television in some way, and then write a cookbook related to their series. But I didn’t really have a plan to ever actually be doing anything in the food world. I started my blog as a way of sharing my experience of learning how to cook and realizing that I was enjoying it and falling in love with how creative you get to be. Everything grew at a nice, organic pace. After the cookbook came out, I was approached by OraTV, which is the company I produce the show with, and they offered me a Web series.

I felt like: “Oh, I can do a couple of episodes of a Web series. It’s kind of low pressure, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to keep doing it. Or if people don’t respond to the show, then it’s like, no harm, no foul.” I had so much fun making the show. By the time our promo was released online, we got a call from the Cooking Channel saying they wanted to buy the show, and it just grew from there, which was probably one of the most insane moments of my life to get that phone call. I am so excited to be starting season 2. It’s truly like a dream come true.

CE: For those who aren’t familiar with the show, can you tell me about the show and what viewers can expect?

HD: “The Real Girl’s Kitchen” really just is about a real girl in the kitchen: me learning how to cook, and sharing recipes that I love, and cooking for my family and my friends. Nothing is really a format on the show, which is what I love so much about it. It is very loose, and every episode is different. And we get out of the kitchen. A very fun way to share the love of food with someone is getting out there in the field, so to speak, and going to farms and farmers markets. We describe our style of food as “healthy decadence.” It’s a balance of healthy food and indulgent things as well.

CE: Speaking of healthy decadence, I’ve already bookmarked your recipe for creamy kale and pea pesto, and I can’t wait to try it!

HD: Oh good! I did that for the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. I did my first cooking demo there this year. I’ve cooked on morning shows and things like that, but I had never done a live cooking demonstration in front of, like, 200 people before. We ended up turning it into an episode of the show where you see the behind-the-scenes stuff of my recipe — testing what I’m going to make on stage, and then the episode will end at the festival. I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but it was terrifying to get up in front of that many people.

CE: I know you like to include your family and friends in episodes of “The Real Girl’s Kitchen.” Tell me about their involvement with the show for season two.

HD: We had a surprise birthday party for my mom. I love to mess with my mom. She hates to be on the show, but she’s so funny, I force her. She’s a riot; everybody loves Mama Duff. I told her I was going to be out of town for her birthday, and so she was giving me a hard time. And, of course, I surprised her in the end.

There are a lot of my friends on the show, and my family. We do a great Italian episode. My fiance is Italian, and he is always giving me a hard time, saying that Texas girls can’t make Italian food. So I set out to prove him wrong this year. It was a lot of fun. There’s another great episode where my buddy Jimmy — who is kind of a man about town with the ladies — has a date, and he suckers me into cooking for them, and then he pretends that he made the meal. It’s all very loose and fun, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

CE: Do you incorporate your pregnancy into the show in any way, like showing how you’re eating and/or cooking habits have changed?

HD: We didn’t because when I first started shooting, I was pregnant, but I didn’t look pregnant. And sometimes they change the order of the episodes when they air, and we were concerned that it would be confusing if an episode aired where I looked very pregnant and then another where I didn’t look pregnant. So we just avoided mentioning the pregnancy all together for season two.

However, I just finished shooting a summer special for the Cooking Channel that will kick off their summer programming, and I got to be very pregnant for that. I’m excited that I get to share pregnancy cravings and all kinds of fun stuff in the summer special.

CE: How have your eating habits and cooking methods changed since you’ve been pregnant?

HD: In the beginning of my pregnancy, I was never really sick or anything. I wasn’t nauseous, but I really just wanted light and healthy food. I had a lot of green smoothies and a lot of fruit. But as my pregnancy has advanced, I’ve become more lenient with what I allow myself to eat. There’s definitely been more pizza, more macaroni and cheese — you know, all the good things in life. And now that I’m done shooting and just enjoying these last few weeks, Matt and I are definitely eating some bad meals around here.

CE: You’ve got all this stuff going on professionally, and you’re preparing for a new baby. How do you fit it all in?

HD: I’m renovating a house, too. Isn’t that crazy? They tell you that you get this weird burst of energy when you’re pregnant, and it’s really true. The first trimester you want to take a nap every day. But after that, there’s something that takes over where you’re Superwoman. I can’t believe how much I can fit into one day. I’m sure that will calm down once the baby is here. I think it comes from nerves of not knowing what to expect and wanting to have everything in order before she arrives. And my mom is very much a multitasker as well, so I think I inherited that trait from her.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Interview: Jeremy Piven (Mr Selfridge) on His "Humbling" Role

Jeremy Piven as Harry Selfridge
Film, stage and small-screen star Jeremy Piven is a jack-of-all-trades. He’s co-starred in numerous films, like “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Serendipity,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Old School” and the soon-to-be-released “Entourage” movie (June 5). But he’s also had his hand in many hit TV shows, like HBO’s “Entourage,” “Cupid,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and much more. His latest project is, in my opinion, one of his finest: PBS’ “Mr Selfridge.” The fantastically brilliant period drama returns for its third season March 29, and a lot has happened: The year is 1919, World War I is over, and Harry (Selfridge, played by Jeremy) must face the loss of his beloved wife. I spoke with Jeremy recently about the new season, and he is anxious for folks here in the States to discover what the folks in England already know: that “Mr Selfridge” is can’t-miss TV.

Celebrity Extra: Tell me about what you thought when you first heard about the role, and that you’d be playing such an iconic, fascinating and brilliant man.

Jeremy Piven: I remember exactly where I was: We had finished eight seasons of “Entourage,” and I was taking a little bit of a much-needed break. I was passed information that here was a guy from the Midwest who had made a name for himself at a store (Marshall Field) that I had grown up going to, and my mother and her mother before that. He was incredibly ambitious; he decided to jump on a boat — it takes about three weeks to take a boat from New York to London — and go to England to invent a department store. At that time, department-store shopping didn’t exist over there.

He had an incredibly colorful life, and those involved (with the show) said: “Listen, let’s tell his entire life in four years. You’re the guy for it.” To be offered a role of this magnitude was humbling. I pretended like I needed to take a beat to think about it, but I didn’t. I needed to take no beat. I thought: “This guy exists? Are you kidding me? When do we start?”

CE: I don’t blame you for your excitement; this is such a wonderful show. What can you tell me about season three?

JP: It’s great, and the show itself is continuing to evolve. The third season, the stakes are raised; there are incredible turning-point moments, which I can’t tell you about too much, but it’ll completely take you by surprise. To be able to tell his life was so fascinating. It was beautiful and inspiring and tragic and all those things. It’s been a feast and just a gift to do this. It’s also a fascinating journey in terms of how it’s coming to people’s attention here in the States. As you know, we’re on PBS; it’s a very select audience. Overseas it airs on ITV, which is the equivalent of one of our major networks or HBO or something. It’s a monster hit. It’s been sold to 165 out of 200 countries. That’s more than “Entourage,” “Downton Abbey” — it’s just staggering. Here in my own backyard, it’s still kind of catching on. With season three starting on March 29, you can binge-watch the first two seasons (on Amazon Prime or iTunes), and then catch up on season three, which I think is the perfect way to see it.

CE: A lot of people compare “Mr Selfridge” to “Downton Abbey” simply because they are both period dramas set circa World War I and take place in England. How would you describe “Mr Selfridge” to dispel those misconceptions?

JP: I happen to be a fan of “Downton Abbey.” All of us as Americans are absolutely living in the present moment, and to see a simpler time where people have to confront each other face to face, it’s fascinating — it’s something, I think, we all secretly long for. “Downton” deals mostly with the country. And “Selfridge” is very much in the heart of the city. Those are two totally different energies. Yes, you get the period drama, but you have the pace and the energy of the city. It’s incredibly vital and edgy. It’s a faster-paced, energized version of maybe what one’s reference is for “Downton.”

CE: Harry Selfridge truly was a man ahead of his time when it came to advertising and modern-day selling hype. He was a brilliant trendsetter. What were your thoughts on the man as you did your research to portray him?

JP: He was ahead of his time in every aspect. At Marshall Field (his flagship store in Chicago) in the late 1800s, he built these enormous windows and portrayed scenes like a still-life play. That’s how he got people to come in. Quite a bit of what we see in department stores nowadays was his doing: putting all the products and perfumes where you can see them as soon as you walk in — he stole that particular idea from the French, but if you’re going to steal, you’re going to steal from the best — but those were all his ideas.

As soon as the television was invented, he put them in his stores and made it so the people could film themselves and show themselves in his store like a reality show. He wanted people to have a place where they could gather, be themselves, be whomever they see themselves as, and treated like guests. My mother and my grandmother have memories of being in Marshall Field, where there were places for my mother, as a little girl, where she could go and play and have the time of her life.

CE: Tell me about Harry Selfridge, the man.

JP: He had an incredible wife and family. He was a man-made celebrity and loved it. He put so much money into advertising. He was there every morning greeting all the customers, and there they could see the famous Harry Selfridge. It’s like walking in and seeing P.T. Barnum or Harry Houdini. He fancied himself a performer and an artist.

He wasn’t faithful to his wife, and she passes away (at the beginning of season three), and it completely rocks his world. He feels like he’ll never find love again. And that’s where we begin the season. He’s been taken down quite a few pegs. It was a little risky the way I’m playing it. I played him as a performer from the onset, and he’s been taken down quite a few notches. His heart is completely broken. He doesn’t know how he is going to continue. He’s got his mother there, and she’s been a rock for him, but now his wife is gone. And so he’s completely given up on love. And then enters Nancy Webb, who is this incredible force of nature who he completely falls for. I can’t tell you too much more.

CE: Why must you tease? I’ve read that Lord Loxley is back to make trouble for Harry …

JP: I think that’s one of the things that both “Mr Selfridge” and “Entourage” do so well is that they really take a cue from the performance aspect of the show itself — the execution — and they can see when a character is really executing well, and then continue to explore and heighten that character. And that’s the case with Lord Loxley. He comes in — he had no idea that he had been spoken of. Lady Mae would speak of him, and he was an off-camera presence the first season. And then enter Aidan (McArdle). Aidan is this brilliant Irish-British actor who plays him so brilliantly; he plays him almost like Richard III in terms of he relishes in his own evilness. He enjoys it. And he really is a thorn in Harry’s side. He’s back, and he blames Harry for the loss of his wife because Harry was very close with Lady Mae. They had a great relationship. I think they are alike in a lot of ways. They’re both survivors and incredibly crafty and all that stuff. But it was totally a platonic relationship. There’s something about that relationship that really makes Lord Loxley crazy. And he’s hellbent on bringing Harry down and his store down. He’s quite capable of doing it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Interview: Billy Campbell's Helix Quest

Billy Campbell as Dr. Alan Farragut on Helix
Billy Campbell made women swoon on “Once and Again,” he surprised us all on “The Killing,” and he has us all enthralled as Dr. Alan Farragut on the apocalyptic thriller “Helix” (which airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the Syfy network). As a brilliant scientist trying to figure out the source of and stop the progression of a life-threatening disease outbreak, Billy certainly has his hands full. But he made time recently to talk with me about the series, and to tease a little about what fans can expect as season two gets down and dirty.

Celebrity Extra: The premise behind “Helix” is fascinating and frightening. What was it about the show that appealed to you most?

Billy Campbell: I loved the premise. I loved the possibilities. This kind of show could be really spectacular. And I wanted to work with (executive producer) Ron Moore (who produced season one, but is now busy with Starz’s hit time-travel drama “Outlander”).

CE: And what did you think about your character, Alan Farragut?

BC: I thought I was right for the part; that’s about all I thought, really. A lot of the choices I’ve made over the years have to do with whether I can see myself in the role. It doesn’t matter how good the project is, if I don’t see myself in the role, I generally don’t go after it.

CE: How was it working with new cast members Matt Long and Steven Weber?

BC: They’re both, first of all, first-class gentlemen. They are wonderful actors. I’ve known Steven for many, many years. We first worked together in the mid-80s and then again on “Once and Again.” He’s a rake and a rogue and an imp, and I always knew he was a creepy guy inside. And now he’s had the chance to prove it. He’s one of the funniest, and now, I believe, one of the creepiest guys I’ve ever met. (Laughs.)

CE: What can you tell me about how season two will progress?

BC: I will say that I come uncomfortably close to realizing my quest. Everything about the second season ties very neatly into that story line. If you were shocked and surprised by season one, then you will be doubly shocked and surprised by season two. They really outdid themselves. I’m not sure exactly what they were smoking in the writers’ room during season two, but it sure seems like they had a great time smoking it.