Thursday, November 19, 2015

Q and A: Week of Nov. 16

Scott Michael Foster, courtesy ABC
Q: I love ABC’s new series “Blood and Oil.” The actor who plays Don Johnson’s son in the drama looks familiar. What else has he done? — Eric P., Lancaster, Pennsylvania

A: Scott Michael Foster is the fellow you’re thinking of. The 30-year-old actor was a regular cast member on “Greek,” spent a season on “Californication” as Becca’s boyfriend who Hank couldn’t stand, was on “Once Upon a Time,” and “Chasing Life.” Now he plays Hap Briggs’ (Don Johnson) ne’er-do-well son, Wick, on the nighttime sudster. He recently wrapped on the feature film “My Dead Boyfriend,” which was directed by Anthony Edwards and also stars Heather Graham, John Corbett and Gina Gershon.

Despite the star power of Don Johnson, Amber Valletta and Chace Crawford, ABC recently announced that it has cut back its original order of “Blood and Oil” from 13 episodes to 10, which could mean that this first season of “Blood and Oil” very well might be its last if there isn’t a drastic upturn in its ratings. Look for season one to air its finale in December.

Q: I just found “Mike and Molly” on reruns, and I love the show. Please tell me it has not been canceled. If not, when will it return for a new season? — Tony O. in Florida

A: The hit CBS sitcom starring Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell will be back for a sixth season. While the network (as of this writing) has not yet announced a premiere date, it will be toward the end of this year, so keep an eye on your local TV listings. For late-breaking news about this show — and many other shows, movies and celebrities — be sure to follow me on Twitter (

Q: Can you give me an update on Masterpiece Mystery’s “Sherlock”? I can’t wait for this series to start back up again! — Diana T., via email

A: While season four of the series doesn’t start shooting until spring 2016, we do have a TV special to tide us over. Called “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride,” Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprise their roles of Sherlock and Watson, respectively, to bring us this 90-minute movie. It will premiere on Jan. 1, 2016, in both the U.S. and U.K. — a first for this series, as the U.K. usually airs the series first — at 9 p.m. ET, as well as online at

Q: Where has Chris Vance and his series “Transporter” gone? Will TNT air season three? If he is not involved with the series, what is he doing now? — Laura B., via email

A: As of this writing, TNT has not announced whether “Transporter: The Series” will be back for a third season. However, if you need your Chris Vance fix now, he has a recurring role on CBS’s “Supergirl” as the villain Non. His first appearance is in episode eight, which airs Dec. 14.

Q: Can you tell me what the actress who plays Maeby on “Arrested Development” has been doing lately? — Linda R. in Virginia

A: Alia Shawkat stars in a new TBS dark-comedy series of her own, which is currently in development. It’s called “Search Party,” and it co-stars John Early, John Reynolds and Meredith Hagner. The show follows a group of four self-absorbed 20-somethings who come together when a former college acquaintance mysteriously disappears. The series will debut sometime in 2016.

Q: My wife heard that there is going to be a new “Star Trek” series. Is that true? — Paul T., via email

A: A new “Star Trek” series has indeed been greenlighted at CBS, with an expected debut in January 2017. Prolific writer and producer Alex Kurtzman (producer of the “Star Trek” feature-film reboots) is developing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The new ‘Star Trek’ will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.” The latest in the “Star Trek” feature films won’t premiere until 2019, but die-hard Trekkies will have plenty to tide them over until then.

Gatlin Green, courtesy NBC
Q: I am so happy that “Heroes” is back! Will there be another season? — DeeDee T., via email

A: “Heroes Reborn,” which started airing in September on Thursday nights on NBC, has been billed as an “event miniseries,” although that’s not to say there can’t be another season of this event. I recently spoke with series co-star Gatlin Green, who plays Emily on the show, and she told me she’d be down for continuing her role on the show. Gatlin said: “I think with a show like ‘Heroes,’ or any of these shows that have such big followings, there’s always going to be talk about more seasons, spin-offs and stuff like that. Obviously, anything can happen, and I’d be super happy if something did happen. We’re all on our toes waiting to hear if anything will happen.”

Gatlin gave me some minor spoilers to get you through the rest of the run of this miniseries, which wraps in December: “There will be some romance between Emily and Tommy. And, like ‘Heroes’ always does, I think it’s really cool to see how we’ve started seeing the characters cross paths with each other. There’s obviously intense drama and more conflict in certain areas. I think it will be cool to see what happens with all the different characters and all the different storylines. But definitely look forward to plot twists and drama and romance.”

Check back later for my entire interview with Gatlin.

Q: A local boy was nominated for a Nickelodeon HALO Award for his service to the community, and I wondered where I can watch the ceremony? — Fred R., Miami

A: Hosted, created and executive- produced by Nick Cannon, the “2015 Nickelodeon HALO Awards” is a one-of-a-kind concert event that honors young leaders from across the country. Now in its seventh year, the awards show recognizes teens who are doing extraordinary things in their communities by Helping and Leading Others (HALO).

The ceremony will be simulcast Sunday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT) across Nickelodeon, TeenNick, Nicktoons, TV Land, CMT, and the Nick App. Walk the Moon (“Shut Up and Dance”) will perform. The four award honorees are Ethan Cruikshank (16) of Mechanicsville, Virginia; Riley Gantt (15) of Sherman Oaks, California; Joshua Williams (14) of Miami Beach, Florida; and Ruchita Zaparde (18) of Plainsboro, New Jersey.

Q: Can you give me any “Nashville” news? — Eric P., Lancaster, Pennsylvania

A: Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor, singer and guitarist Steve Kazee will join the show as Riff in early 2016. His character is described as a country-music star at the top of his game 10 years ago; however, everything changed when he met Heidi, a Southern beauty with a budding musical career of her own. He fell in love and chose to leave fame and fortune behind for life with Heidi. But since he’s a new character on the nighttime sudster, I’ll assume it didn’t work out and he’s trying to make a musical comeback.

Interview: Agent X's Olga Fonda—Next Big Action Star?

Olga Fonda, photo by Dorit Thies
Russian beauty Olga Fonda is perhaps best known to TV audiences for playing Nadia on “The Vampire Diaries.” She also wowed moviegoers — and Hugh Jackman — when she co-starred in the feature film “Real Steel.” Now she’s co-starring opposite Hollywood heavyweight Sharon Stone in the new TNT drama “Agent X,” which airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT. I spoke with her recently about her new role, and she can’t wait for fans to get drawn into the action and intrigue of this sure-to-be-hit action/spy drama.

Celebrity Extra: You came to the U.S. from Russia when you were 14. Tell me how this opportunity came about for you.

Olga Fonda: The United States was always known as a land of opportunities and dreams. So, when I got the opportunity to go to the United States as an exchange student, I happily grabbed it. I always wanted to get an experience of living in different countries, studying in different countries, learning the different cultures and, of course, learning English was such a plus because I knew having this experience that when I got back to Russia, I’d definitely have better opportunities. I’m very happy and grateful that my parents supported this, because I know it wasn’t very easy for them.

CE: What brought you back to the U.S. after the exchange program was over?

OF: I came back after two years to go to university. Within those two years, the exchange rate of dollars and rubles grew dramatically. If I’m not mistaken, when I went there the first time the dollar was about six rubles; two years later, the dollar grew to like 26 rubles. My parents just couldn’t afford it. I’d been trying to get a scholarship to college, and they called me and said, “We can give you half a scholarship,” and I said, “Unfortunately, I just can’t afford it.” So they called me back and said: “You have a presidential scholarship. Please come back.” So, I couldn’t let that opportunity go. It was beyond something that I could imagine.

CE: I know you’ve modeled and you’re an actress; how did you get involved in it in the first place? Was it something you’d always wanted to do?

OF: I’ve always been fascinated with the beautiful and glamorous world of the film industry. When I came here, I got discovered into modeling, and I started filming commercials, as well. So, I started taking acting classes to make myself a better actor and to work on the dialects and my accent. I just fell in love with it. One day a friend of mine called and said: “Listen, in my building they are casting this role for an independent movie and they can’t find a girl. They are looking for a Russian girl with a dancing background.” I said: “Yes, I have a dancing background, but I don’t have any credits. I don’t have a presentation theatrically. I’m just in commercials and taking acting classes.” She said: “Why don’t you try? Why don’t you call casting and go in?”

So I talked to casting. I was so nervous. I went into the room, and the director was there. Her name is Barra Grant. I read it once, and she had me read it again. It was the most terrifying experience ever. Before I left the room she goes: “Congratulations! You booked it.” I think I almost fainted. I was so shocked. Barra pretty much started my acting career. She was the first director who believed in me and gave me the opportunity before I had any credits or theatrical presentations. And then after that, I was able to get a presentation together.

CE: Tell me about your audition for “The Vampire Diaries.”

OF: To be honest, I was struggling with the audition. I went into the room, and it went so quickly. When I came out, I was so nervous because I didn’t know if I did well. When I got home, my manager called me and said: “You booked the role. Can you get on a plane in two hours?” I was like, “Wait ... what?” I had to drop everything. I went to Atlanta for one episode, and I ended up staying there for several more. They were great, the cast and crew. They were such a great team and very welcoming. And they are like one big family. I couldn’t have asked for a better first big TV series. It was the best.

CE: I am going to assume that it was wonderful working with Hugh Jackman in “Real Steel.”

OF: It was my first big film, and working with him was amazing. He is such a nice guy. Probably one of the nicest guys I’ve met, and he’s very professional. He has a beautiful and sweet family. He used to bring his kids on set a lot. One memory that I still have, it was so cute: His son, Oscar, at that time was fascinated with the Russian language and was studying Russian. I remember he says, “Come with me outside.” So Oscar takes me outside, and he spells my name and a few Russian words with chalk on the ground. I even took a picture of it. That was a beautiful moment.

CE: What was filming like? What was life like on the set?

OF: No matter what kind of role you had — big or small — on the set, everyone — directors, producers, main actors — they all treated everyone with such respect. They were so humble, and they were so professional. That experience became such a great lesson for me that I try to take with me on every set I go.

Olga Fonda at the Agent X premiere
CE: You have to be so excited to be co-starring in the highly anticipated TNT series “Agent X.”

OF: It’s a dream come true! I cannot express how excited and honored I am to be working with this cast and crew.

CE: What did you think about the show, as well as your character, Olga Petrovka, when you first read the script?

OF: The pilot is very well-written. It’s entertaining. It’s a great combination of drama and action. And (creator) Blake (Herron) did a fantastic job of creating an interesting story and strong characters. Of course, playing Olga Petrovka is a dream come true for me because I’ve always wanted to play an action character.

CE: That leads right to my next question, which is that it looks like such a fun and bad-ass role to play, you must be having a ball!

OF: When I read about Olga, that was the first thing that — besides her having colors and layers, and being an interesting, intriguing and fun character — she always had a lot of action. And that was something that originally drew me to her.

CE: What are some other things that will draw viewers to the show?

OF: It’s a great mix of different genders and different ages, and a great mix of action, mystery and drama. And it has a sense of humor. It’s a well-done show. As you know, it’s about a secret agent who works for the vice president. And you have beautiful Sharon Stone and Jeff Hephner, who is this really good-looking guy. And I think people would be drawn to the show because of them and because of big action sequences. But I think they will enjoy learning about the different characters within the show and what their real intentions are.

CE: What is everyone like to work with?

OF: Everyone is amazing. When we first started filming the pilot, especially the first day of being on set and shooting with these guys, everyone was so excited to be there. It was such a magical day. For me personally, it’s a great experience just to watch them perform; I learn so much by just watching them. Sharon is beautiful and smart and a talented woman. And she is fun to be around. She is very supportive of her fellow actors. She’s a superstar.

And Jeff, I call Jeff a super action star. He’s this talented, nice good-looking guy with a great sense of humor. We have so much fun together. We have moments where we are filming a scene and laugh so hard that we’re crying. It’s nice to work with someone who you can share these laughs with.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Interview: Eden Sher on Sue Heck's "Small Victories"

Eden Sher got her start on nighttime dramas like “Weeds,” “The O.C.” and “Veronica Mars,” but these days she’s known as the dorky and lovable sister on “The Middle,” which airs Wednesday nights on ABC. She has been nominated for and has won countless acting awards for her work on the sitcom, garnering Sue Heck a place in everyone’s hearts. When I spoke with her, she told me how it all got started, as well as how much fun they all have on “The Middle.”

Celebrity Extra: Had you always know you wanted to be an actress, or was it something you came across and said, “Hey, I can do this!”?

Eden Sher: A little bit of both. I watched a documentary about Spalding Gray, and he has this part where he is saying his one monologue where he’s like: “Some people are trained to become actors and some people are just born acting out.” Constantly attention-seeking, I guess. And I think that’s more the route I took. It always felt natural, and I was just always performing.

When I was 8 or 9 is when I finally convinced my mom to let me try it professionally. I would just see TV shows and I was like: “I can do that! I can do that better! I can do that better than that person. Please let me try. Please.” Until finally she let me, and then when I was 15, I thought, “OK, this is not just something that I love to do — I think I can actually make money doing this.”

CE: “The Middle” has been going strong for six years now. That is always such a milestone, especially for a sitcom in these fickle times of short attention spans and whatnot.

ES: Oh, yeah, definitely. Everyone hopes that their show will go more than two episodes without getting canceled, but no one really expects it. But to go six years, and to be a universally liked show, you can’t possibly predict how it’s going to be received. And it is so gratifying when it is received well. It’s a really intense feeling of gratitude.

CE: I think it helps that “The Middle” isn’t your typical sitcom. It’s smart, sometimes outlandish, and always funny.

ES: Totally. I always think of it like, OK, our show was definitely consumer before realistic. My character especially is an exaggerated version of what is presented, but I try to play it with as much authenticity as possible. I think this person might exist in every city in every state, but on a smaller scale.

CE: Sue is ridiculously optimistic, even when she fails. How do you approach playing her?

ES: It’s so funny, because I get asked a similar version of that question a lot, and I sometimes don’t understand it, because I feel like she succeeds once an episode. Sue has these small victories throughout the episode, and I never feel like Sue’s been let down.

CE: What’s it like on the set of “The Middle”?

ES: I hate every single one of those people. I do not make eye contact. They address me as Mademoiselle Sher. (Laughs) Of course, I love them. When we’re not filming, I always hang out with Charlie (McDermott), and I lunch with Neil (Flynn) on the reg. And I see Patty (Patricia Heaton). I don’t see Atticus (Shaffer) that much outside the set, but he also doesn’t live in LA. When we all have scenes together, it’s super. There aren’t words to express the immense feeling of gratitude that I feel on a daily basis. It’s so unusual to get a work environment where you truly enjoy every person you work with.

CE: What are your fan interactions like? What’s their feedback been like?

ES: They are the best. I love seeing and reading what they think on Twitter. My favorite was on Halloween — I was shocked by how many people tweeted me pictures of themselves dressed up as Sue. Oh my God. It was amazing. It was awesome.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Q and A: Week of Oct. 26

Greg Nicotero
(Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus / AMC)
Q: I am so excited that “The Walking Dead” is back on AMC. I love the story, of course, but the special-effects makeup is awesome! Can you tell me who designs or created the zombie makeup? — David D., via email

A: Greg Nicotero is the talented man behind those awesome effects. He got his professional start back in 1985, when he worked on “Day of the Dead,” and has scores and scores of film special-effects makeup credit to his name. On “The Walking Dead,” he serves as co-executive producer, director and special makeup effects supervisor. He recently was in Orlando, Florida, for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights 25 (which runs through Nov. 1) with director John Landis and “TWD” co-star Chandler Riggs, where the two directors discussed their respective haunted houses: “The Walking Dead” house and “An American Werewolf in London” house. And I have to report that “The Walking Dead” haunted-house maze was the scariest house again this year. Its definitely a dont-miss attraction.

One of the many things he loves about working on “TWD” is that most of the makeup effects are practical and not CGI. He said: “On ‘The Walking Dead,’ the most exciting thing for me is that it opens practical makeup effects for a younger generation. Growing up, I was really inspired by practical effects. … And it’s not easy. It’s a tremendous compliment that the work that I love, that I grew up wanting to do, is being celebrated more and more.”

Q: A while back you mentioned that ABC Family had picked up a series based on “The Mortal Instruments” books. Is this still happening? I haven’t heard any updates in a while. — Pamela T., Wheeling, WV

A: ABC Family announced at New York Comic-Con in early October that its highly anticipated series “Shadowhunters” will premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. As you mentioned, the series is based on the bestselling young-adult fantasy book series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare, which follows 18-year-old Clary Fray (played by Katherine McNamara), who finds out on her birthday that she is not who she thinks she is but rather comes from a long line of shadowhunters — human-angel hybrids who hunt down demons.

Q: Is “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” ever coming back? — Violet F., via email

A: IFC recently announced that the third season of its original comedy series “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” starring David Cross will premiere on Thursday, Jan. 7, with the first three episodes of the six-episode series airing back to back beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The remaining three episodes will premiere the following week on Jan. 14 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Says Jennifer Caserta, IFC’s president: “Since we last saw Todd Margaret — SPOILER ALERT!— which we thought was ACTUALLY the last time we’d see him, this show has become a favorite among comedy fans. Only David Cross could write his way around destroying the world to resurrect this character and story in a way that’s mind-blowing and completely hilarious.”

Q: I saw a preview for a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio where he has a beard, is all dirty, and is seeking revenge on Tom Hardy. Can you tell me about the movie? It looks really good! — Douglas C., Annapolis, Md.

A: You are referring to “The Revenant,” which will open on Christmas Day in select cities (to qualify for Oscar consideration), and opening wider on Jan. 8, 2016. Leo plays explorer Hugh Glass, who is left for dead by Tom’s John Fitzgerald, after Hugh is mauled by a bear. Set in 1823, the film is based on Michael Punke’s novel “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” and, of course, there is already Oscar buzz surrounding the film.

Q: You mentioned that the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon-produced show “Project Greenlight” would be back, but I haven’t heard anything about it. I watched it on Bravo a few years back, but it’s not there anymore. — Felicia F., via email

A: “Project Greenlight” moved back to its original home, HBO, for its fourth season, which premiered on Sept. 13 and has its season finale on Nov. 1, airing a total of eight episodes. The show made news recently not for the competition itself, but for Matt Damon trying to explain diversity in the film industry to an African-American producer, Effie Brown, who serves as a judge on the show.

Italia Ricci
(courtesy ABC Family)
Q: Please please please tell me it isn’t true that ABC Family canceled “Chasing Life”! That’s my favorite show on television today, and it always makes me count my blessings. — Layla F. in Georgia

A: I’m sorry to have to tell you, but the tear-jerking season-two finale from last month was indeed the series finale. ABC Family decided not to renew the one-hour drama, which centered on 24-year-old April, played by Italia Ricci, a journalist trying to work her way up the ladder at a Boston newspaper while balancing her career and family. Just as things start to come together for her, she gets the devastating news that she has leukemia. The series finale saw April take her best friend, Beth, and love interest, Dominic, to Italy, where she reveals to them she is not eligible for the clinical trials for her cancer treatment and has decided not to pursue a bone-marrow transplant. She just wants to live out her days in peace. She tells Beth: “It’s not giving up because I’ve already won. I could die happy here.”

Q: Is it true that Richie Sambora and Heather Locklear are back together? I saw pictures of them online frolicking on a beach together. — Nina H., via email

A: The former Bon Jovi guitarist and his gorgeous yet down-to-Earth ex-wife have not gotten back together. They are one of those rare Hollywood ex-couples who others could learn a lesson from: They have remained good friends since splitting up eight years ago, and they take the co-parenting of daughter Ava very seriously. Recently photos surfaced of the trio having fun in the sun and sand in Bora Bora, where the friendly exes were treating their daughter to a family vacation before she goes off to college.

Q: Can you tell me what Aaron Eckhart has been up to lately? — Rita C., via email

A: The handsome and versatile actor is currently shooting Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “Sully,” which chronicles the January 2009 real-life events where Capt. Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed his aircraft on the Hudson River after a flock of geese knocked out both engines. Aaron plays first officer and co-pilot Jeff Skiles opposite Tom Hanks’ Sully. The film is based on Sullenberger’s 2009 autobiography “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.” The film just started shooting, and as of this writing, a premiere date had not yet been set.

Q: Did they cancel “Person of Interest”? I’m getting nervous because I haven’t been able to find it on CBS’s fall schedule. — Paul T., via email

A: CBS did renew the crime drama for a fifth season — a 13-episode order of the series will premiere midseason. Although CBS hasn’t yet made its final decision, show runners are approaching this season as if it could be the final one, as executive producer Jonathan Nolan revealed during this summer’s Comic-Con.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Interview: Shalita Grant Won't Take a Backseat on NCIS: New Orleans

Shalita Grant is a relatively new face on the small screen. This Julliard graduate was nominated for a Tony Award in 2013 for her performance as Cassandra in Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which also happened to be her first Broadway gig, in a role that she originated. It’s hard to top that, but Shalita did, by being cast in last season’s No. 1 new drama, “NCIS: New Orleans.” While she played recurring character Sonja Percy last year, she was promoted to cast regular for the second season, which airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on CBS. I caught up with the versatile and super-nice actress last week, and she’s thrilled to be a part of this wonderful ensemble cast.

Celebrity Extra: How thrilled were you when you first got the part on “NCIS: New Orleans,” knowing you were going to be a part of such a popular and well-loved franchise?

Shalita Grant: It’s my first serious, regular gig. It’s my first time having a parking spot that’s designated for me, having a big ol’ trailer, and all these things that are designated for me and my character. It’s something I’ve wanted for a really long time, and I’ve got it now. The transition itself was crazy, because after leaving New York, I thought the world was just going to open up for me in L.A. That was NOT what happened at all. I got there and people were like, “Who are you?” And in some instances it was like: “Well, yes. Broadway, yes. Tony, yes. Julliard … but can you act?” And it’s like: “Are you kidding me? What happened?”

CE: Tell me about your first season on “NCIS: New Orleans.”

SG: When I got the job, it was for three to five episodes, and we’ll see from there. And I was like, “OK, cool.” So, while I was shooting the last episode (of the first season) here in New Orleans, I sent in a tape and booked another job, for PBS: a miniseries called “Mercy Street.” So we’re done shooting and they call everyone in, and I’m like: “OK. This is it. This is over. Bye, everyone.” And James Hayman, the executive producer, is like: “This is not the last time we’re going to see you. You’ve earned a series regular.” And I was all smiles. They told me on the spot, and I called my manager and said: “They announced it. So, it’s going to happen.” It’s been really, really sweet. And everyone I work with, I have a deep sense of respect for, and we have a good time, which is really awesome.

CE: What do you love most about your job?

SG: I love my job specifically because I am so active in the show. Yesterday I got a call from Jeff Lieber, the show runner, and he had watched episode 203 and was like: “Oh look. You’re a real good runner. You run real good.” I’m like: “Yeah? That’s great.” They have me doing all kinds of stuff. I can’t tell you, but girl, it’s crazy. I do all of the stuff.

Every episode, when I’m reading the script, I’m like, “Oooo, what do I get to do this time?” It is so much fun. And it means a lot to me, as well, because I love Marvel; I love superhero movies. I love the action stuff. But it’s so unfair because there’s not a lot for women to do. So often in those stories, women take a backseat. They rarely have anything to say in those movies. So, it’s hard because it is a genre I really, really enjoy. But women are often not allowed to play. I work on a show where not only do I get to play, but it’s celebrated and it’s respected. It’s not like, “Oh, that’s a girl’s part,” but rather, it’s like, “No, let’s give this to Shalita to do.” They don’t make it a gender thing, which feels really great. And it’s really progressive as well.

CE: Gimme some scoop on what we can expect for this second season of “NCIS: New Orleans.”

SG: It’s explosive. I mean, we blow up a bridge — it’s insane. Scott Bakula’s character (Dwayne Pride) is all about giving the newbie, or “probe,” the business. So, I’m a probe, and they really give me the business. They’re not letting me in easy; it’s not going to be easy for Sonja Percy. At one point, I call them my “agent abusers” because that’s kind of how they are. But Sonja can take it. And throughout the series, she will be dishing it out. Sonja and LaSalle, Sonja and Brody, and even Sonja and Pride are getting closer, and those relationships are all unique. It’s not all the same at all between Sonja and Brody, Sonja and LaSalle, and Sonja and Sebastian. You get to see where Sonja is coming from in some of these cases.

CE: Now that you are a series regular, I’d assume that we’ll get to see different sides of Sonja this season and really get to know her.

SG: Yes, all of those things. You get so many sides. And that’s another credit to our bosses Gary Glasberg, Jeff Lieber, Jim Hayman, that she feels like a real person. And they let me be funny and they let me be serious — it’s great. It’s not all the same. It’s wonderful.

CE: What is it like working with this outstanding cast? You’ve got Scott Bakula, CCH Pounder … so many great people.

SG: It’s so boring on set in that we all get along. Sometimes in the middle of the workday, I’ll just think, It’s so great when you like the people you work with. It’s so great and it’s so easy to go to work. And you watch everybody as they’re filming, and it’s just so great.

We get a different director every episode, and I feel like we outnumber them. So we’ll be like, “Hey, next take, we should change this.” And Lucas (Black) is like 2 years old, and he’s always doing something. It’s so funny. And Zoe (McLellan) is so goofy. And Scott, he’s just fun and easygoing. I think everyone’s grateful to be working, and grateful to be working on something that means something to so many people. There isn’t a ton of ego. It’s just we like what we do. And it’s great to be included in that.

CE: And now you’re included every single episode.

SG: That’s right — every stinking episode!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Interview: Emmy Winner Regina King Joins the Cast of HBO's The Leftovers

Regina King, photo by Ross Ferguson
Last season, the HBO hit drama/fantasy/mystery “The Leftovers” astounded viewers and left them all in suspense, patiently waiting for season two. While season one was based on the bestselling novel by Tom Perrotta, season two is all-new material, which promises to be equally enthralling. The show takes place three years after a global event in which many people disappeared, known as the “Sudden Departure,” which caused the inexplicable disappearance of 140 million people, 2 percent of the world’s population. The story focuses primarily on the Garvey family and their acquaintances in the fictional town of Mapleton, New York.

Season two takes us to Jarden, Texas, which is the only place in the world that was not affected by the Sudden Departure. Created by Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, the series stars Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler, with new cast members Regina King and Kevin Carroll. I spoke with Regina (who just won an Emmy for Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her work on ABC’s “American Crime”) recently about the new 10-episode season, which premieres on Oct. 4, and she can’t wait for fans to see what Damon and company have in store for us.

Celebrity Extra: Were you familiar with the book and/or the show before signing on to join the cast for season two?

Regina King: I knew of the show, but I hadn’t seen it yet. When I read the script I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I was really floored. I thought the writing was just amazing. It totally locked me in, which I’m sure for the cast members from the first season, that’s what grabbed them. So I went back and watched the show, and just like everybody else, I was filled with a bunch of questions. I don’t feel like the first episode of the second season necessarily answers all of those questions, but it stands on its own and creates even more questions. There are some things from the first season that will be answered in this season. But this season kind of stands on its own because it’s the life after the book. It’s its own journey.

CE: This is a fantastic show with loyal fans and great reviews. Were you excited for the opportunity to join its ranks?

RK: I was very excited. The thing about that is it’s hard to find work, or a subject, that is entertaining and also provocative. So often it’s either/or. It’s provocative and it’s entertaining for a minute, but it doesn’t keep you in it. When you have subject matter that challenges really big sects in our society, it’s pretty awesome to be a part of. I love the way they deal with religion in this show. Religion is always a touchy subject, and you always have people who have different beliefs or don’t believe in religion. This show challenges all of that.

CE: Tell me about those first few days of work, being the new actors on an already established set.

RK: It didn’t particularly feel like, “Oh, we’re the new kids at school, and we have to make that adjustment.” Some people I don’t ever get to work with; so far our story lines have not crossed. And that’s the case a lot of times on shows. But one of the things that everyone has shared, which has remained since last season, is how much Damon helps you through your character because there’s so much secrecy with the show. We don’t know what’s coming from episode to episode. We signed on based on this amazing first script and just trusted that Damon, being so talented, was going to continue with a season as impressive as that first script we read. He’s so good at giving you help, because sometimes you get into the place of, “I don’t know what my character is doing because I don’t know where I’m going.” He’s good at guiding you through that moment without revealing too much about where your character is going.

There’s a part of it, as an actor, that’s terrifying. I talked to Justin and Carrie (Coon) about it, and they mirror that same sentiment. They felt like this last season. They tell me, “Just go talk to Damon; it will calm your nerves.” It totally did. But as terrifying as it is to not know where your character is going, in a way it’s a bit liberating because it really forces you to just be an actor and explore and be vulnerable.

L to R; Kevin Carroll, Regina King, Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux
(Photo by Van Redin/HBO)
CE: What can you tell me about season two?

RK: Oh gosh. I’m trying to figure out what I can say without getting in trouble. Jarden, Texas, is the name of the town where we live. It’s referred to as Miracle, Texas, because we are the one town that no one departed when the Sudden Departure happened. And because of that, here you have this town of a little over 9,000 people, who prior to the departure probably didn’t feel like there was anything special about them. Like towns across the world that we have never heard of, and now the entire world has heard of Jarden, Texas, because of this lack of something happening in our town. All of these people are trying to get into our town so they can be touched with what’s special, and it’s made the property value in our town shoot up sky-high. And all these weird things that have come to happen in Jarden have been heightened to the third power.

CE: Tell me about your character, Erika Murphy, and her family.

RK: We’re a respected family in the town; I’m an urgent-care doctor, so everyone in the town has seen me at some point. And my husband has his certain views about the departure, things that came to be when the departure did not happen in our town — and this is the part that I can’t give up. You can imagine there are a lot of people who were trying to capitalize on that. So, my husband has his feelings about that, and he expresses those feelings. It’s so funny trying to talk about this show because you really have to dance around.

CE: What is the mood like on the set, and how are the others to work with?

RK: You know what? It’s funny because as dark as this show is, we keep it terribly light. We’re always joking, especially Carrie (Coon) and me. We always are just silly all the time. Kevin Carroll, who plays my husband, he’s fun and a light guy. Justin (Theroux), believe it or not, smiles quite often. I am probably telling a secret, but he’s not this dark person. I see him sometimes in photos and in interviews, and he’s always real serious. But he’s a real cool cat.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Q and A: Week of Sept. 21

Q: A show on A+E called “Longmire” was on for several seasons. Will it be back? Thanks for any info you can give me. — Dave S., Gulf Breeze, Fla.

A: I’ll forgive you for missing my column where I let everyone know that “Longmire” was indeed renewed for a fourth season, however, it now airs on Netflix. In fact, the 10-episode season four just started streaming on Sept. 10, and you can also find seasons one through three there if you need to catch up, or just to refresh your memory. Returning cast regulars include Robert Taylor, Bailey Chase, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman and Adam Bartley. Gerald McRaney also reprises his role as Barlow Connally for a story arc.

Executive producer Greer Shephard revealed this past summer at the Television Critics Association press tour that season four picks up moments after the finale, in which Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) found out who was behind his wife’s murder. Succumbing to his darker impulses, Walt takes off in pursuit of the killer with one thing on his mind: murder. “Now that Walt thinks he knows who his wife’s killer is, how does he go on?” executive producer Greer Shephard asks. As for the future of the show, executive producer John Coveny told reporters that he hopes to be talking to them at the press tour for seasons eight, nine and 10. Everyone involved, including series star Robert Taylor, are all on board for that possibility.

Q: Is it true there is going to be another “Harry Potter” film? — Patty T., via email

A: Sort of. There is a new film slated to open December 2016 that’s set in the world of Harry Potter, however it’s a spinoff of sorts. It’s called “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — which was a textbook (featured in the films) written by Newt Scamander that the prospective wizards had to read at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — which J.K. Rowling wrote as a tie-in to the Harry Potter books and made available for us Muggles to read. Starring in the feature film are a bunch of high-profile actors like Collin Farrell (who portrays the aforementioned Newt Scamander), recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller and Alison Sudol.

Q: I love CBS’s “Under the Dome,” especially the super-intense season finale! Will there be a season four? — Jack M., via email

A: The struggling summer thriller series, based on the Stephen King bestseller of the same name, will not be back for a fourth season. In a glass-half-full sentiment, “Dome” lasted two seasons longer than it should have. When the script was ordered to series, it was intended as a limited-run event series, however the producers figured out a way to keep the action and intrigue going when CBS ordered another season, and then another. However, the show has officially run out of steam and won’t return for a fourth season.

Regina King, photo by Ross Ferguson
Q: I got hooked on this show on HBO called “The Leftovers,” and I wondered when and if it was coming back. I hope so! — Kelly K., via email

A: The drama/fantasy/mystery series, season one of which was based on the book of the same title by Tom Perrotta (who also wrote “Little Children”), will be back for its 10-episode second season on Oct. 4. The second season — starring Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler, Regina King and Kevin Carroll — will be based on all-new material, and will take viewers to the little town of Jarden, Texas. I spoke with series newcomer and recent Emmy winner Regina King about season two, and she can’t wait for fans to see what executive producer/co-creator/writer Damon Lindelof has in store.

“One of the things that has remained since last season is how much Damon helps you through your character because there’s so much secrecy with the show. We don’t know what’s coming from episode to episode. We sign on based on this amazing first script and just the trust that Damon, being so talented, is going to continue with a season as impressive as that first script you read.”

She could tell me only a teeny bit about season two: “It takes place in Jarden, Texas, which is referred to as Miracle, Texas, because we are the one town that no one departed when ‘The Sudden Departure’ happened. All of these people are trying to get into our town so they can be touched with what’s special about it. You’ll discover all these weird things that have come to happen to Jarden, which has heightened to the third power.”

Q: My book club just finished “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” and I loved it. Is it true it’s being made into a movie? — Mallory F., via email

A: “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” which is based on the unpublished diary of Antonina Żabińska, recounts the true story of how she and her husband, Jan Żabiński, director of the Warsaw Zoo, saved the lives of 300 Jews who had been imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto following the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Award-winning actress Jessica Chastain has signed on to play Antonina, and Daniel Brühl and Johan Heldenberg are set to co-star. The movie is scheduled to premiere sometime in 2016.

Q: What has William Hurt been up to lately? — Paul T., via Facebook

A: William Hurt will co-star opposite Billy Bob Thornton in the Amazon Studios series “Trial” from David E. Kelley. “Trial” follows Billy McBride (Thornton) a once-respectable lawyer who was ousted from the high-profile firm he co-founded. Billy now spends his days getting drunk, with the occasional case tossed his way by his ex-wife. His professional life is turned upside down when a young lawyer, who has just been fired from his old firm, brings a wrongful death case that pits him against the head of his former firm, attorney Donald Cooper, played by Hurt.