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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Q and A: Week of March 2

Billy Campbell as Dr. Alan Farragut
Q: I am so glad that “Helix” is back on Syfy. Can you give me any hints of what to expect this season? — Lily T., via email

A: I spoke with series star Billy Campbell not too long ago, and he gave me enough “Helix” scoop to get you through the next few episodes. When we caught up with our season-one survivors when season two began on Jan. 16, we were introduced to two new characters, Brother Michael and Dr. Kyle Sommer, played by Steven Weber and Matt Long, respectively. Billy told me what it was like to work with them: “They’re both, first of all, first-class gentlemen. They are wonderful actors. I’ve known Steven Weber for many years. We first worked together in the mid ’80s and then again on ‘Once and Again.’ And he’s a rake and a rogue and an imp, and I always knew he was a creepy guy inside. And now he 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.”

As far as season two goes, will Billy’s character, Dr. Alan Farragut, continue his quest to uncover the truth behind Ilaria and the virus outbreak? “I would say that I come uncomfortably close to realizing my quest. Everything about the second season ties very neatly into that storyline. If you were shocked and surprised by season one, 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 for season two, but they sure seemed to be having a great time smoking it.”

Stayed tuned later this week to read my full interview with Billy.

Q: I am sad that Will Arnett’s series “The Millers” was canceled. Can you tell me if I’ll get to see him in something else soon? — Jean F., Branson, MO

A: The hilarious and talented actor is set to team up with Netflix again, this time developing a series called “Flaked,” where Will stars as a self-help guru named Chip who’s struggling to stay a step ahead of his own lies. Will also co-created, co-wrote and co-executive-produced it with Mark Chappell. The series will premiere next year with eight episodes.

Q: When will “Mad Men” be back? — Mike D., via email

A: The award-winning drama returns to AMC with its final seven episodes on April 5 at 10/9c. Regarding the finale, series star John Slattery told “Variety”: “It was surprising to the end”; while January Jones said: “It’s a beautiful story. It’s perfect in every way.”

Series creator and writer, Matthew Weiner, told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that while he hopes fans will be pleased with the ending, “as the person telling the story, I think people sometimes have to be protected from what they want to see happen. To delight them with a surprise, you can’t give them everything they want.”

Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden
Q: I absolutely loved Lifetime’s “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax,” and was so happy when you wrote that the network was turning it into a series. Can you give me any more information about that? — Steff S. in Florida

A: I do have a few more details about the Lifetime limited series, which sees Christina Ricci taking up her ax again as Lizzie Borden, with Clea DuVall returning as her sister, Emma; the series also stars John Heard, Cole Hauser, Jessy Schram and Jonathan Banks. And more great news for fans: “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” has been extended from six episodes to eight, with the series airing sometime this April.

“Chronicles” delivers an intense and fictionalized account of actual events and people surrounding Lizzie’s life after her controversial acquittal of the horrific double murder of her father and stepmother in 1892, when the exonerated figure lives a life awash in newfound celebrity filled with scandalous love affairs. But when numerous people close to Lizzie — ranging from her half-brother, William, to Broadway luminaries to business associate/underworld kingpin Mr. Flowers — start to mysteriously die under brutal and strange circumstances, legendary Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo becomes determined to prove her involvement in their demise. Jessy Schram plays Nancy O’Keefe, an alluring and ambitious actress and dancer who befriends Lizzie; Emmy nominee John Heard portrays William Almy, the business partner of Lizzie’s murdered father.

Q: You told us that “Hannibal” would be back as a midseason show, but I haven’t heard anything about when it will be on. Please help! — Daniel S., via email

A: I promise I did not lie to you, Daniel. NBC merely changed up the timing of the season-three premiere of cult-hit drama. The network announced recently that it will air the series this summer, which I think will actually be good news for the show, which sometimes is lacking in the all-important viewer numbers. With less competition over the summer, maybe more people will find their way to this show and help propel it to a much-deserved fourth season. The new season will take story elements from Thomas Harris’ “Hannibal Rising” and “Red Dragon” novels, and will include a different origin story for Dr. Lecter, according to show runner Bryan Fuller.

Q: I miss Eva Longoria. Will she star in something soon? — Olivia F. in Connecticut

A: NBC has given the green light for 13 episodes of a single-camera comedy called “Telenovela,” which will star Longoria as Ana Maria, the domineering-diva star of Latin America’s most popular telenovela, whose off-screen drama rivals that of her on-screen personality.

According to NBC president Jennifer Salke: “[Longoria] is a perfect fit for ‘Telenovela.’ Her character will try to navigate the hysteria and high jinks that everyone must endure in putting together a daily show.”

Q: I was so excited to see the teaser trailer for “Heroes Reborn” during the Super Bowl this year. Do you have any spoilers or news about it? — Amelia D., via email

A: As I reported earlier, “Heroes Reborn,” which will air on NBC sometime in 2015 (an exact airdate had not been set as of this writing), will be a 13-episode event series. Although this reboot will be a brand-new series featuring new, extraordinary characters, Jack Coleman will return as Noah Bennet, aka HRG. “Chuck” alumnus Zachary Levi has joined the show in an undisclosed role.

Regarding other former cast members returning for the reboot, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt recently revealed: “I’m not trying to be coy, because we just don’t know, but I think you’ll see several of the old cast popping in to episodes.”

Q: I think this season of “Portlandia” might be the funniest one yet. Please tell me I’ll get to enjoy new episodes for years to come. — Paula T., via email

A: I am happy to tell you that you’ll get at least two more seasons of funny from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. IFC announced that it has picked up the hit comedy for seasons six and seven, each encompassing 10 half-hour episodes.

Q: I wanted to ask about two ABC shows that I very much miss and wondered if there's any chance they'll be aired again: “Red Widow” and “666 Park Avenue.” I very much enjoyed both shows, especially the eye candy in “Red Widow.”—Marsha R., Naples, Fla.

A: Both ABC series premiered in the 2012-13 season — “666 Park Avenue” in September and “Red Widow” as a midseason replacement — to much hullabaloo and fanfare, however, both were canceled due to low ratings. Of the two series, “Red Widow” is available on DVD, in case you are feeling nostalgic, and want to relive the drama and intrigue and eye candy.

Q: I truly hope the writers and producers of “Galavant” know what a superb show it is. I laugh so hard and watch each episode several times since there are so many jokes and bits every second. I thank them for this wonderful production. If it comes out on DVD, I will buy it! — Nancy M., Venice, Fla.

A: I know a lot of people who feel the way you do, Nancy. And they are all hoping for a second season, as I’m sure you are. If anything, it’s just nice to have the option to watch a series that is inventive and unique, and there really is no other show out there like it right now. I believe in rewarding people for thinking outside the box, and I hope ABC does too. While “Galavant” is one of the shows that started out really strong, it then slipped in numbers as the limited series went on. However, since it is a limited series (meaning each season has fewer episodes than a normal series, and it can air at any time during the season as a place-filler or replacement), its low numbers won’t necessary be nails in its coffin, but I’d still place this show very much on the bubble. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

Q: I read that Andrew Garfield will no longer star in “Spider-Man.” Does that mean the franchise will be ending? — DeeDee R., via email

A: The franchise will go on — but with a new Spidey. Like Tobey Maguire before him, Andrew is moving on to other things, and a new (not-yet-cast) actor will take his place. The premiere date for the new “Spider-Man” movie has been set for July 28, 2017. Because of this, “Thor: Ragnorak” will now open in November 2017, since Peter Parker and company have taken his release date.

Readers: A few months back I answered a reader’s question about whether “Outlander” would be available on DVD. I answered that of course it would, we just didn’t know when yet. Well, now we know. “Outlander: Season One, Volume One” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray (it came out yesterday). The two-disc set includes the first eight episodes of season one, some “making of” featurettes, a 32-page book with photographs, and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray version has even MORE deleted scenes and featurettes. It might even give you enough to keep you occupied as you wait for the season half of season one to begin on Starz on April 4.

Interview: Bree Williamson's Unexpected Journey

Back in 2013, I was obsessed with the NBC nighttime drama “Deception.” I loved everyone on the show, especially Bree Williamson, who played murdered heiress Vivian Bowers (in flashback scenes, as we backtracked trying to figure out who killed her) in the soapy drama. I was sad it was canceled, especially because the Canadian beauty is such a nice woman. Prior to "Deception," I met Bree at Disney/MGM Studios' (now-defunct) Super Soap Weekend, and she was kind, generous and insightful. Which was why I jumped at the chance to interview her about her latest project. Bree stars in the Hallmark Channel original movie, “Portrait of Love,” which premieres March 14 at 9/8c. She plays April Littleton, a world-renowned fashion photographer who returns to her small town to help it raise money for its centennial celebration. When she gets there, she finds there’s a lot to love about her hometown, including the boy she left behind.

Celebrity Extra: What did you think when you first read the script and were considering the role of April?

Bree Williamson: I empathize with being at a crossroads in your life, where you’re doing really well and you’re feeling successful and everything’s great, but you’re not feeling completely fulfilled. She went on an unexpected journey. She goes to her hometown, and she’s swept away in the journey of finding love. She’s a really cool character; I thought it was written very well, and it is a really sweet love story that my son can watch.

CE: The chemistry between all of you onscreen was very good. Did you all get along well off-screen too?

BW: We did. It wasn’t acting. We really did all get along. I had a great time. It was really fun to work with everybody. It was a fun set, and we teased each other a lot. And Jason (Dohring, who plays Luke) really likes to work. He was available and really wanted to make it a great film and a great experience. Plus, he’s really a nice guy. And Frances Fisher is so cool. I love her so much. Caitlin Carmichael is just the sweetest little girl ever. I’m always fascinated with young actors and was impressed by how she was such a pro. I really enjoyed working with her.

CE: She really is phenomenal. She handled all the fun scenes well, and with her crying scene, she knocked it out of the park!

BW: I’ve seen grown-up actors who have to cry, and they’ll call for a clear set so they can cry, and be very high maintenance about it. But Caitlin was just such a pro about it. She was amazing.

CE: How was it working with Hallmark?

BW: Amazing. It’s a great network. They treated me so nicely. I can’t say enough. It was such a positive experience. I loved the entire crew, the hair and makeup, wardrobe. The director, Kristoffer Tabori, was amazing. He’s a classy guy. He was so open to talking about everything and the whole process. Plus, I was home every night at a regular time, and that’s a dream situation for an actor, especially for a mom. I can’t say enough good stuff about the experience. It was so wonderful.

CE: What do you hope viewers take away from the movie?

BW: I always hope that everybody just ends up feeling great after they watch something, that it brings some joy and happiness into their life. If it means more to them, that’s awesome, but that’s all I really want.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Interview: A Story Angela Robinson Is Excited to Tell

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has its share of new and exciting programming. And as millions of viewers have discovered, it also has a sudsy, seductive and addictive nighttime drama, by none other than Tyler Perry, that has taken the soap world by storm. I am speaking of “The Haves and the Have Nots,” which is a one-hour drama that airs on OWN on Tuesdays at 9/8c. The show stars John Schneider, Tika Sumpter, Angela Robinson and Peter Parros, and centers on the rich and powerful Cryer family (headed by Schneider) and the hired help who work in their opulent Savannah, Georgia, mansion. I spoke with series star Angela Robinson, who plays the sharp-tongued and formidable Veronica Harrington, about the show as we get into the thick of season three.

Celebrity Extra: The role of Veronica Harrington is the talk of the fans: You either love her or you hate her. She’s smart, sassy and very much someone you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. What did you think about her when you were first presented with the role?

Angela Robinson: Thank goodness for people like Tyler Perry for writing this kind of role. When I first got the script, the only thing that really defined my character in it was my relationship with my son. The character had not been developed much more than that. I was the best friend of Kathryn Cryer, and I was the mom who was going to be against her son [and his sexual orientation]. My goal with that was to just be as faithful as I possibly could about hating that. I felt as though people who really feel that way and who would go to such lengths to change their child’s sexuality, if they could see a glimpse of themselves, they may actually think twice about it if they could actually see how painful and hurtful that could be. It was my goal to go all the way with that and not worry about being liked, to be OK with being hated.

CE: Were you nervous or excited to take that on?

AR: Definitely excited. It didn’t make me nervous. I was really excited to take it on, to be a part of telling this story of this young man’s journey. So, it didn’t make me nervous at all, but it did give me pause. I just really didn’t want to sugarcoat it. That was important to me, and it was also important to Mr. Perry.

CE: Do you consider Veronica to be a villain, or just misunderstood?

AR: That’s a really good question. I think that she’s probably one of the villainesses on the show. I say that because she is one of the ones who manipulates and tries to control a situation. I would say that she is. She, along with Candace, yes.

CE: I’d put Veronica up there with Erica Kane (“All My Children”) and Alexis Colby (“Dynasty”) in the “sophisticated and gorgeous villainess” category, but also Olivia Pope (“Scandal”) and Annalise Keating (“How to Get Away with Murder”) in the “powerful, smart and woman-in-control” category.

AR: What I love is that you mentioned these women, the leading ladies on television now of color. I love that it’s not all peaches and cream, you know? These ladies are complex; we have villains, and we get to play all these different types of characters. I think that’s great.

CE: A big moment — which for me harkened back to the “Dynasty” days when Alexis and Krystle had a lily-pond catfight — was when Veronica and Maggie went at it over David.

AR: It’s crazy, the reactions we’ve been getting. I didn’t know people were so into fighting! I think it says a lot about how people feel about marriage. No matter how much they hate [my character], they didn’t like anyone trying to come between a married couple. Allison (McAtee), the young lady who plays Maggie, is a good friend, so it was all done in fun and love. It was a lot of fun. I have fun speaking my mind and telling it like it is.

CE: People were saying that since David and Maggie weren’t intimate, it’s not cheating. I say, they were in bed making out half-clothed, so, yes, that’s cheating, and Veronica has every right to be mad.

AR: I know! We talked about that a lot on-set when we were doing it. People were like, “But he didn’t do anything!” And I would always say: “But I don’t know that. He was in her room all night. That’s enough.” They could have just been talking. I think that if you know a woman is into you, you probably shouldn’t be in an adjoining room. Probably should check his clothes. David’s such a good guy. But I agree it was cheating.

CE: How does “The Haves and the Have Nots” stand out from other nighttime dramas?

AR: I think it’s a number of things. I think it’s extremely diverse. You have different races; you have people of different economic backgrounds; you have different sexual orientations. And all are on the same level on the show. You are seeing their stories play out; it truly is an ensemble cast. Our show speaks to so many different issues, and the show is really relevant. I just think people really relate to it.

CE: Onscreen there is a lot of drama, but what’s it like backstage?

AR: We are a close cast. We all get along really well. We hang out in each other’s dressing rooms. Sometimes we talk about the story line together like it’s for real. We have to catch ourselves, because we’ll be done with a scene and walking back to the dressing room, and I’ll say to David, “But you had no business in her room.” And he’ll say, “Well, you should have let me come home.” And we look at each another and say: “What are we saying? That was business. We’re done.” Sometimes we take it very seriously (laughs).

And we genuinely really like each other. We enjoy spending time with one another off-set. I miss the cast so much [when we’re done filming for the season]. It’s really hard to say goodbye.

CE: What can you tell me about season three?

AR: I really think it’s the best season we’ve done. Fans can expect a bold ride every episode. Every character gets a moment this season. Last season we were really praying that Benny was going to come out of his coma, which was a big part of last season. And Candace was kidnapped most of last season. Now Benny’s back and Candace is back, and everybody gets the photo lens on their character more this season than any other season. It’s going to be really great. You are going to see different sides to the characters. Sometimes writers like to keep their characters in a box, but Mr. Perry doesn’t write that way. We get to see different sides of the characters, which is great for an actor to not be tied to a specific interpretation. It will be a great season.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Interview: James DuMont Discusses His "Indie" Film, Jurassic World

With “American Horror Story: Freak Show” behind him — although I’m sure a lot of viewers are still thinking about that ending — James DuMont is ready to move on to even bigger things, namely dinosaurs. James has a role in the sure-to-be summer blockbuster “Jurassic World,” which opens June 12. While he couldn’t tell me a lot about the hush-hush project, he did give me a little glimpse of what we can expect this summer.

Celebrity Extra: Tell me about “Jurassic World.”

James DuMont: Well, it’s this little, independent, low-budget film that’s got some dinosaurs in it and stuff. (Laughs.) But seriously, I can’t tell you anything about story, plot, my character or anything. I’ve signed all these heavy-duty nondisclosure agreements up and down the street. But the good news to tell you is that it’s absolutely amazing. The cast is amazing. A good indication of the excitement around it is when the trailer came out; 15 million people saw it within the first 24 hours. I think we’re up to 80 million views on YouTube. So, I think I can go out on a limb and predict that we’ll be the box-office hit of the summer. Chris Pratt’s in there. Bryce Dallas Howard’s in there. It’s just really great people involved; it’s going to be a great franchise. There are a lot of cool things about the movie. They got it right. Steven Spielberg’s on board. The director, Colin Trevorrow, is amazing. I’m just excited to be a part of a big movie like that. It’s the largest-budget movie I’ve ever done.

CE: I know you can’t tell me about the plot, but can you tell me about the filming process? How was that, and where did you film?

JD: They did half the film in Hawaii, where the majority of the amusement park is. The rest of it was done in Baton Rouge, and that is where I come into the movie. Louisiana has so much filming going on. At some point we were sharing space with “Terminator: Genisys.” And “The Fantastic Four” was also filming in Baton Rouge. So, you had three $100-million-plus movies all being shot in Louisiana at the same time. That was kind of wild.

CE: And all three of those movies are so hush-hush, which I fully approve of, because I am a no-spoilers kind of movie/TV watcher.

JD: I respect that they want to keep it secret. I feel the same way about the TV shows, too. When I’m doing shows like “American Horror Story,” and even when I was doing “Treme,” I didn’t know about the other scenes. So, I get to watch the show with fresh eyes as well because I don’t know about what other people are doing other than my own scenes. I absolutely like that idea of keeping it quiet and secret. It’s fun to know inside information, but I wouldn’t want to share it, because it kills the story.

CE: I keep expecting to see you pop up as country DJ Bobby Delmont on “Nashville” again, but, alas, you haven’t made another appearance yet.

JD: Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere) is going to have to circle back around to Houston and give them a little Bobby Delmont. I thought for sure that returning was a possibility, but, you know, it’s all about the gals and the singing. But you never know. I’m just glad the show’s still going.

CE: I do love “Nashville,” and Hayden has been phenomenal this season.

JD: She’s so incredibly talented. I mean, she’s amazing. She’s the sweetest person and is so smart and sharp, and so on her game. Beyond “Nashville,” I think that some Oscar work is going to come out of her within the next five years, for sure. I was blown away by her, to be quite honest.

CE: I see you’re currently filming a movie called “Mind Puppets.” Tell me about that one.

JD: It’s this cool little ensemble comedy where seven people at a fair are up on stage and are hypnotized by a mind reader/hypnotist. He gives them particular things to do, and the audience is loving it and having a good time. But before he pulls everybody out from under hypnosis, he has a heart attack, so they are stuck in this hypnotic state. It’s a really cool film, a very fun movie. It stars Kevin Pollak, Vinnie Jones and lots of others.

CE: That sounds like a wonderful premise for something I’d like to see.

JD: It is a great premise. The other thing that I loved about it is that it’s a very different follow-up to “Dallas Buyers Club.” I mean, half the movie I’m shirtless. And I’m not built, I’ll tell you right now. I’m a fat dude who sometimes has man boobs. But I researched being hypnotized in real life, and there are no limits or boundaries. Once you’re in that hypnotic state, you’re free from all the limitations that your mind and heart and experiences put on you. There’s something kind of amazing and scary about that.

CE: Tell me about “I Saw the Light.”

JD: It is a Hank Williams biopic, which stars Tom Hiddleston. That definitely will be cut and ready in time for him to be considered for an Oscar nomination, or at least a Golden Globe. He did an amazing job of channeling his inner country singer, and him being the low-key Brit from the “Avengers” movies; you couldn’t ask for more polar-opposite characters to embody. But that one is going to be pretty exciting.

CE: Was this made with cooperation and approval from Hank Williams Jr.?

JD: Absolutely — Junior had approval. We also consulted the people who handled the estate, the musicians who worked side by side with Hank pretty much from day one. You’ve got a lot of old, seasoned folks who handled his business and his personal life. I knew there was a big Hank Williams following, but I had no idea the generational levels of his contribution. I’m excited to be a part of it.

CE: What about the movie “Little Boy”? That comes out soon, right?

JD: That comes out April 24, and I did that about three years ago. I saw a screening of it, and it’s magical. It’s really quite amazing. It’s set during World War II, and it’s about a little boy whose dad goes off to war, and he’ll do anything to make sure his dad comes back home safe. A Japanese man comes to the little town, and he befriends the boy. It’s a beautiful lesson of if you can learn to love your enemy, you can learn to love anybody. Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, David Henrie, Kevin James — they’re all in it. It’s the kind of movie that people make with their heart, and I hope it will get a lot of attention.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview: Nancy Lee Grahn's General Hospital Now! Cohorts Are Here to Entertain

We all know Nancy Lee Grahn for playing Alexis Davis on “General Hospital” since 1996. And in that time, we’ve seen Alexis commit vehicular manslaughter, accidentally stab Cameron Lewis, kill Luis Alcazar by pushing him off a balcony, break and enter, and steal and lie — but you’ve never seen her like this. On her new Web series “General Hospital Now!” — which she created and co-wrote with Kaore Bonell — Nancy shows us her silly, smart and hilarious side. She also gets some of her castmates into the act with skits, talk-show panels and man-on-the-street interviews. Six episodes (each of which range from seven to 10 minutes) are now available for online viewing at I spoke with Nancy about this fun new project recently, and she is thrilled to give “GH” fans the chance to see their favorite stars cutting up and letting go.

Celebrity Extra: Who’s idea was “General Hospital Now!”?

Nancy Lee Grahn: It was mine. I have a writing partner, Kaore Bonell — we met through mutual friends — and he’s a huge “GH” fan. He’s a sketch writer, and I loathe writing, so we came up with ideas together. We just laughed and had fun and thought this would be fun to do. We pitched it to ABC, and they were receptive.

CE: I had a ball watching the episodes; this idea was long overdue.

NLG: Yes, that’s the thing — people don’t get to see that this is a very fun medium. Everyone works hard, and they take what they do very seriously and they do it really well, but it’s also entertainment. And we laugh a lot. We have a great sense of humor about all kinds of things that we do. And that to me is the fun thing about doing “GH Now!” — I think it’s important to find the humor in everything. So we are finding the humor, and we’re letting the audience know that we know that they know that we know that we know that they know (laughs). You know what I mean? It’s just really good fun, and it’s done out of love, and it’s a wink and a hug to the audience.

CE: You guys look like you’re having so much fun; is that an example of the fun you all have together off-screen?

NLG: Oh, yes, we do. That’s what’s fun about this show is we get to show what we do when the cameras aren’t rolling. We’re having a good time.

CE: Do you do this in front of an audience? I know I heard laughter and audience reactions during the talk-show portions, but I didn’t know if that was live or added later.

NLG: No, there wasn’t an audience for these first six episodes. When you do a pilot, there’s not a template for this kind of thing, so you experiment. When we saw the playback of the talk show, we realized that it sounded too hollow. There’s a reason why talk shows have the formula that they have, because it works.

CE: With the immense “GH” fan base, you should have no trouble scrounging up an audience if you decide to shoot more of these webisodes.

NLG: Oh, yes, if we get the privilege of doing more, that’s something that’s going to be addressed. We did this for a very modest budget. And if we do more, hopefully there will be some advertising money, and we can get a little more luxurious.

Nancy with Jackie Kashian, Ian Buchanan (Duke Lavery) and Jen Kober 
CE: Some of my favorite parts were when Jason Thompson could guess all of his male co-stars’ identities by their bare chests, the Alexis Jones law-office commercial, and the on-the-street fan interaction where you were teaching them to do a soap-opera face slap. What are some of your favorite moments?

NLG: I am very partial to the sketches. I love “The Crying Game” sketch, the gurney race. I like the commercials; I love doing on-the-street stuff. And there’s a funny bit where everyone goes to the bathroom in my dressing room, thinking it’s the bathroom. You know, things you’ve never seen before on “General Hospital.”

CE: How is the shooting process?

NLG: I can tell you there’s never been a moment shooting this that was not fun in some way. There was no fighting. It wasn’t like, “What are we going to do?” It was a good group. Everyone got along. Everyone pitched in. Every day was fun that we worked on the show, and I loved it.

CE: How has the fan feedback about the series been so far?

NLG: I’m knocking on wood, because it’s been very positive, extremely positive. People have been so supportive. I’m overwhelmed by how nice everybody is.

CE: I’ll bet your “GH” die-hard fans have their share of ideas for future shows, don’t they?

NLG: We’re getting all kinds of ideas. People are saying, “How about you do this in the next one?” And the actors are coming up with ideas. It’s really gotten a very wonderful response, and I’m really grateful.

CE: You said earlier that you don’t know yet if you’ll get to do more — it depends on the reception these first six episodes get — but I really hope you get the OK to do more episodes. They really are a pleasure to watch.

NLG: You are so nice; thank you so much. I so want to do more. Kaore (Bonell) and I have so many more ideas. It really is fun. And the actors involved are really good sports, and they are willing to play. Kaore and I are already starting to talk and come up with some stuff, so if we get green-lit for more, we’ll be ready.

CE: How can fans help you get that green light?

NLG: We just need a lot of website clicks, lots of clicks. People can go to, and click on the “General Hospital Now!” link on the right side of the page, and watch the episodes. And share them with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s get the word out!