Megan McLachlan is attending the 7th annual SCAD aTVfest in Atlanta, Ga., which includes television panels and celebrates the best in TV.
Admittedly, I watch a lot of TV, but there are some shows that I’m not able to watch because there are only 24 hours in a day (and I’m the last holdout who still doesn’t have DVR!). Thankfully, Day 3 of the SCAD aTVfest allowed me to catch up on shows I’ve always wanted to check out, in quite possibly the coolest binge-day ever.
Manifest on NBC: A Show about Redemption
During Day 2 of the fest, I had a chance to chat with Manifest star Melissa Roxburgh, and then in Day 3, I got to watch a new episode of the NBC sci-fi series about a plane that returns after disappearing for years. After the screening, the cast and creator chatted with Ruth Kinane of Entertainment Weekly.
“Jeff [Rake] and our team of writers have created such a beautiful story,” said J.R. Ramirez (Jared) during the panel discussion. “I love the fact that it’s complicated.”
Showrunner Rake admitted that while it’s a complex story, the aim is to present it in a real way.
“It’s such a big, impossible-to-digest concept, [that] it’s so important that everything else plays as real as possible,” said Rake. “[We ask ourselves] How would the real world deal with it?”
On the series, passengers (and some non-passengers) experience “callings” or predictions of future events, something Roxburgh’s detective character Michaela is apt to believe.
“Either she’s too trusting or very stupid,” laughed Roxburgh during the panel. “The nice thing that Jeff set up is that Ben [Michaela’s brother] (Josh Dallas) and Michaela balance each other out.”
With comparisons to ABC’s LOST, there’s a lot of secrecy when it comes to the scripts and knowing what’s going to happen in the future. For the actors, sometimes it’s good to be in the dark.
“I do think it’s better that we don’t know as we go along,” said Josh Dallas.
The Resident Cast and EP on the Series’ Darker Look at Medicine
For The Resident showcase, SCAD aTVfest audiences were treated to an early screening of the February 11 episode, and after the screening, stars Matt Czuchry, Manish Dayal, Jane Leeves, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and EP Rob Corn talked about what it’s like to work on the Atlanta-based series.
Corn talked about how one of the things that drew him to this show in the first place was that it was a darker look at medicine, something the rest of the cast echoed.
“In that first scene, a medical error is committed,” said Matt Czuchry. “To me, it wasn’t shocking, but personal. I was drawn to the show for showing fallible heroes.”
“It’s a front-row seat to medical error and does it unapologetically,” said Manish Dayal, who plays Devon. “Something you don’t see on network TV.”
The screened episode, “Stupid Things in the Name of Sex,” features an intense autopsy scene. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who plays Dr. AJ Austin, says that scene, with its cadaver closeups and a detailed look at human organs, exemplifies the success of the show.
“It’s a perfect example of how everyone is at the top of their game,” said Warner.
The episode ends with quite the cliffhanger for a main character, but we didn’t get many answers as to what will happen.
“You’re gonna have to watch,” said Corn.
Miss J Alexander on Voting, Always Being Himself and Ahead of Everyone Else
After The Resident, I took a shuttle to SCAD Atlanta main campus and had an inkling that everyone on the shuttle was going where I was going, as they were mostly well-dressed young women. Obviously, this was a group going to the Miss J Alexander discussion.
Miss J showed up in what looked to be a priestess outfit and had the audience rolling almost immediately with his facial expressions and quick wit (“I have the first autographed copy of the Bible; that’s how old I am!”).
Even though he had a viral tweet back in November encouraging everyone to vote, it wasn’t until Obama’s second term that he admits to actually voting for the first time.
“I never went to any gay pride parades until 2016,” he said. With LGBTQIA rights being threatened and more people being aware of trans issues, Alexander considers himself and his gender-fluid fashion ahead of the curve, before the term was trending. People often ask him if he’s going to transition to a woman, but he says no. “A woman goes through as much drama as a gay man.”
When it comes to fashion, Alexander serves as a consultant with SCAD and talked about picking pieces from students to wear at Fashion Week. He serves as an inspiration for these young people, especially since he came from humble beginnings.
“I couldn’t afford designer clothes, so I would take old clothes and make them new.”
Proven Innocent Premiere: The Innocence Project with a Twist
Following the premiere of Fox’s Proven Innocent (which starts Friday, February 15), Vulture’s Hunter Harris led a panel with cast members and executive producers Danny Strong and David Elliot. The series follows a legal group who seeks to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals; the twist is that the lead lawyer Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre) was wrongly convicted as a teenager, serving 10 years in prison, and still hasn’t been able to discover who murdered her best friend Rosemary Lynch (Casey Tutton), whom which she was accused of murdering.
“This is literally my biggest fear,” said actor Riley Smith, who plays Levi Scott, Madeline’s brother, who was also wrongfully convicted of murder. “In America, a lot of times you’re guilty before you’re innocent.”
“The system is huge,” added Nikki M. James, who plays Violet on the series. “I love that this show has people saying, ‘What can I do?'”
“You understand why people want to stay ignorant,” said Russell Hornsby, whose character Ezekiel Boudreau butts heads with Madeline in the pilot. “Knowledge is power but the truth is painful.”
While star Rachelle Lefevre wasn’t in attendance, her hair certainly was a topic of discussion. Clare O’Connor, who plays Lefevre’s character in flashbacks, spoke about how a rash style decision helped her get the part. “Before pilot season, I dyed my hair red,” she said. “It was super weird and serendipitous.”
“That red hair clinched the deal,” laughed Strong.
This show is a fresh legal drama, especially with that compelling twist. In the age of activism and sticking-it-to-the-man, Proven Innocent is very relevant and had audience members cheering.
NBC’s New Amsterdam Earns Its Best Ensemble Award
The cast of New Amsterdam received SCAD aTVfest’s Best Ensemble award, and rightfully so. The screened episode, “The Blues” (airing Tuesday, February 12 on NBC) is an acting showcase, especially Janet Montgomery, who wasn’t in attendance but delivers a powerful performance.
Lynette Rice of Entertainment Weekly led a panel following the episode, with cast members including Ryan Eggold (Max), Jocko Sims (Floyd), Tyler Labine (Iggy), Anupam Kher (Vijay), and executive producer David Schulner. They talked about failures in their career (Labine described a botched audition for Andy Samberg’s Hot Rod), big decisions (Simms turned down a Rite Aid gig in Los Angeles because they told him he couldn’t hone is acting craft and work), and even made deals with the audience—Kher agreed to be in one of the students’ movies!
Also in attendance were employees from the Burn Unit at Grady Hospital in Atlanta (a spotlight singled them out). The New Amsterdam cast had visited the hospital earlier in the day were moved by the experience, with Labine admitting he cried.
That wraps up SCAD aTVfest 2019! What a fun weekend of television.