Years ago, I had a discussion with a fellow journalist about whether it was better to write about television or film. TV seemed to be the best way to go because not every TV actor will be in a movie but almost every movie actor will work on some TV project. The most recent example was the casting of Matthew McConaughey in the HBO series “True Detective.”
The work McConaughey and Woody Harrelson did in the cable crime thriller earned them both nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards” to be handed out Aug. 25. McConaughey already has picked up honors at the Television Critics Association Awards and the Critics Choice Television Awards for his performance.
Josh Thomas had some major concerns when he first met with executives from the cable channel Pivot about moving his Australian TV series, “Please Like Me,” to an American market. In a very colorful way he explains that his chief concern was that they might engage him in sexual relations. (Don’t make me spell it out.)
“They’re just really lovely. They sort of let me do whatever we like. We film it in Australia. They have notes, which we listen to, sometimes. And if I say to them no, I really think this is better, they’re just quite cool about it,” Thomas says. “They’re quite comfortable with the facts that they came into the season six episodes. We’d already made six episodes that they really liked and have never tried to interfere.
Actors research roles in a variety of ways. All Christina Elmore, who plays Lt. Alisha Granderson on the new TNT drama “The Last Ship,” had to do was attend a family dinner.
“I have a brother who was in the Navy and I asked him a lot of questions before I started this about what made him want to do it, how could he sign himself up for five years, six years not knowing what his life was going to look like? He was on a ship that we shot right next to and his life was this normal life. Every day he woke up, and he had a job to do.” Elmore says. “He was a part of some crazy things that he wasn’t even able to tell us about at one point.”
Her brother’s missions were top secret but “The Last Ship” makes the mission of the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James very public. The ship and crew have escaped a global catastrophe that has nearly wiped out the world’s population. The crew must find a way to stay alive while searching for a cure. The series starts June 22 on TNT.
Back in 1995, Steven Bochco produced the series “Murder One” for ABC. What made the crime/legal drama different was that unlike a “Law & Order,” where a case began and ended in one episode, the entire season of “Murder One” was spent dealing with one case. The series had trouble hanging on to viewers in the middle who drifted away but came back for the finale.
The big difference with Bochco’s new series, “Murder in the First,” that also covers one case over one season, is that instead of trying to keep the viewer interested for 23 episodes, there will only be 10 episodes in the new TNT series that launches June 9. That reduced numbers a blessing as when Bochco was halfway through the season of “Murder One,” he wasn’t sure how the season was going to end.
During a recent chat with producer/director Doug Liman for his new feature film “Edge of Tomorrow,” I took the opportunity to quiz him about Christopher Gorham, the Fresno native who stars in “Covert Affairs,” one of the many TV series that Liman produces. The director was happy to stop talking about Tom Cruise, alien invasions, time travel and all of the other elements in his new movie to heap high praise on Gorham.
“Chris is not only an extraordinary actor but the care and love he has brought to the character of Auggie is amazing,” Liman says.
Although I have not been as big a fan of the second and third installments of “American Horror Story” on FX, the one great thing about all three has been Jessica Lange. In each incarnation, she’s been doing her best work since her Oscar-nominated work in the 1982 feature “Frances.” The reason her work is so strong is that Lange is so happy with the bizarre characters she’s had the chance to play in the three versions of the show.
It often takes actors on a TV show a few episodes to feel comfortable working together. In the case of Skylar Astin and Alexis Knapp — stars of the new TBS comedy “Ground Floor” — the bond was immediate. They had already worked together on the feature films “Pitch Perfect” and “Cavemen.”
On the new TV comedy they share, Astin plays a white collar financial whiz while Knapp’s character is part of the company’s blue collar support staff. The comedy comes from what happens when their different worlds come together.
There are few people who can play sneaky, back-stabbing, slimy characters as believable as Gregory Itzin. His best work was as President Charles Logan in “24.”
I chatted with Itzin during a visit to the set of his new series “Lost Angels.” He’s playing another politician so I had an opening to ask him about being on “24.” He says it was a great part and he would love to reprise the role for other “24” productions.
Maybe, I’ve been doing this job a little too long. Or maybe, I’ve been doing it just long enough.
I had a chance to sit down with Anson Mount to talk about his very under appreciated cable series “Hell on Wheels.” If you aren’t watching, pick up the first two seasons on DVD to get ready for the third season that starts in August.
We talked a lot about the series, his acting career and finally his early years growing up in White Bluff, Tenn., a town that is little more than a bump in the road. I’m familiar with it because I grew up only a few miles away in a town that doesn’t even qualify as a bump. I asked Mount how he was able to go from such a small town to a professional acting career.
AMC continues to turn out exceptional dramas. The latest jewel from the cable channel that already airs “The Walking Dead,” “Mad Men” and “Hell on Wheels” will launch “Low Winter Sun” on Aug. 11. It’s a gritty cop drama set in Detroit starring Mark Strong.” The first episode is the best new series in this genre since “The Shield” launched.
The series is the same high quality AMC has delivered with past shows but this one’s starting even stronger because of Strong. The British actor brings such a distinct look and superb acting style to the show that it’s elevated by his mere presence. It also helps that he played the character in the original series that ran in Britain. He jumped at the chance to take on the role again.
I had a chance to catch up with Fresno’s Christopher Gorham to talk about the new season of “Covert Affairs” that begins July 16. It was time to chat again as the third season ended with a big event for Gorham’s character.
If you haven’t been watching the show, you have been missing an Emmy-worthy performance by Gorham. He plays CIA agent Auggie Anderson, who’s always been there when fellow agent, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) needs help. Auggie just happens to be blind.
Gorham doesn’t play the character as if the blindness is a handicap. It’s just one of the things Auggie deals with in doing his job. An actor of lesser skill would have played the character more as a stereotype but Gorham never falls into any of those bad acting mistakes.
Charlie Day, one of the twisted minds behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” is always a fun interview. That’s why it was so great to talk to him twice in a month, first for his voice work in “Monsters University” and then for “Pacific Rim.”
Not only is he very grounded but has a great sense of humor. On his role in the new action film “Pacific Rim,” Day says he’s excited that he finally isn’t playing “the dumb character.” He’s actually the smartest character in the upcoming film from director Guillermo del Toro about a war between giant robots and massive creatures. Day’s character is the one who comes up with a plan to stop the invasion.
Casting him in the role as a super genius shows the confidence del Toro had in Day. The director knew the actor from his work on “Sunny.” I’m not saying the character on the cable TV series is dumb but he once pretended to have cancer as a way of picking up women. And his character in “Monsters University,” Art, is a few pixel short of a full picture.
Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne in “The Walking Dead,” is playing such a popular character on the AMC series that you can bet her star power will have shot up dramatically when she finally decides to go back to stage work.
She doesn’t worry about how a TV show will impact her career on stage because long before Gurira started leading two limbless, jawless zombies around on the AMC series, she had distiquished herself as a stage actor and writer.
She made her Broadway debut in August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” in 2009. Before that, in 2006, Gurira won an Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award for writing, and the Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress for her off-Broadway play “In the Continuum.”