Interviews

Donna Lynne Champlain

Emmy contender Donna Lynne Champlin takes the traditional Rhoda/best friend role into the modern era with great success on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Theater and television actress Donna Lynne Champlin is a refreshing Hollywood rarity. In sharing her experiences on The CW’s critically acclaimed comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Champlin gushes about the improvisational set and about working with Golden Globe-winner Rachel Bloom as if she were a 20-year-old ingenue on her first big break into television.

And that’s half-true. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is Donna Lynne Champlin’s first recurring role on a major series, but she’s far from the young starlet who typically portrays Champlin’s level of unbridled enthusiasm. That’s not to say she’s ancient – far from it – but it is extremely refreshing and promising to see a 40-plus actor hit it big in an unlikely role on an unlikely series.

Donna Lynne spoke with me fresh from fourth-week rehearsals for her upcoming stint as Hortensio in Phyllida Lloyd’s (Mamma MiaThe Iron Lady) all-female take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. It’s clear she’s an actress enjoying blossoming success in both television and theater. Plus, her enthusiasm and passion for acting resulted in a supporting role in Alexandre Payne’s 2017 film Downsizing alongside Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig.

As the Emmy nomination window approaches, some insiders are starting to whisper about the potential strength of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and its crazy great cast, including Donna Lynne Champlin. While star Rachel Bloom has most of the Emmy heat for the series, there’s always room for surprises in the Comedy Supporting Actress category.

Just think back to last year’s surprise nominee Niecy Nash (Getting On). A deserving Emmy nomination would be a great way to cap Donna Lynne Champlin’s crazy great year.

Donna Lynne Champlin

AwardsDaily TV: So, Donna Lynne Champlin, tell me how you prepared yourself for a dual career in theater and television?

Donna Lynne Champlin: I kind of didn’t honestly. I pretty much was straightforward theater. I actually majored in musical theater at Carnegie Mellon and then I did a semester at Oxford where I was on scholarship to study in Shakespeare and Chekhov. So, I was pretty focused on theater and happily so.

Once I got an agent, I started going out for day player stuff like auditioning for “cop on Law & Order.” It wasn’t really until a few years ago on this web series called Submissions Only, written by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead, and they’d seen my theater work since they were both theater people. It’s a really funny series, sort of a behind the scenes series about what it’s like to be a theater actor in New York. They’d asked me to come and do this funny bit in season two that lead to a series regular role in season three. It was this wonderful way for me to learn the ropes, not only learning about on-camera logistics but also these amazing guest stars (Joel Grey, Harriett Harris). It was such an education watching these heavy hitters come in one after the other and watch them work. It really opened something in me where I became more receptive. Before that I’d never considered on-camera work before. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was the first series regular part I’d ever auditioned for in my career.

ADTV: That’s so interesting because you show such a comfort level on camera and deep camaraderie with the cast. I would never have known that that was your first big role.

DLC: Oh, thank you! I’m not going to lie to you for the first couple of episodes… You know, I’ve always been comfortable with the acting, but I was very nervous about the logistics of everything. It was a very big learning curve for the first four or so episodes, and I was just so grateful because the directors and crew were so patient and kind and understanding. The first episode, I felt like I was in a foreign country, and our AD gave me this great book [Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde: An Insider’s Guide to Film Slang] so I could understand all the terms and what the hell everybody was saying. Just the blocking was so different and nuanced than from the theater. On stage, you have a foot here or there to hit the mark or be in the light, but on television you have to be within the inch. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was a learning curve. I messed up a couple of shots ’cause I didn’t know what I was doing. (laughs)

But by the grace of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast and crew, they ushered me through what I needed to know. I thank God every day that I had the opportunity to learn the ropes on this show. Everyone is just extraordinarily kind and funny. I learned later that my nickname on set was “sabotage,” and somebody told me by accident. They were horrified that I found out, but I thought it was the funniest fucking thing I’d ever heard in my life. I’m getting t-shirts made!

ADTV: So, how did the show come to you? How did you find out about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?

DLC: You know, it’s not a very exciting story. It was through a standard submission, and because it was on camera, I had this freedom in the audition thinking they would never cast me. It was kind of crazy because the sides for Paula were so similar to how I actually speak. Plus, it was so surprising that there was a role for a not thin, middle-aged woman that was three dimensional and not just a dramaturgical device. So that was shocking, and I just walked in and was completely myself.

After the audition, I called my agent and said, “I had the time of my life. They’ll never call me back, and I wish them the best.” And then I got a call back. I went in and had the same second experience. My third audition was my big test, and Rachel [Bloom, star and co-creator] was there with Aline [Brosh McKenna, co-creator] and we just had a ball. We tapped into this playful energy where Rachel kind of gave me this look like “We’re going off-script a little bit. Are you coming with me?” I was like “Oh I coming. I’ve packed a bag. Let’s go!”

ADTV: With the character of Paula Proctor, did you imagine a backstory for her as you were prepping?

DLC: Well, in the theater, you know the whole play before you get the audition. A pilot is kind of a one act play. I didn’t really find the character in the pilot until I got to California and got into a room with [the creative team] when we had to work out that hairpin turn Paula makes in the pilot [going from suspicious near-antagonist to best friend material]. At that time, we were shooting for Showtime, and it was only a 30-minute pilot. We had even less time to sort of work out that hairpin turn with Paula.

So, Rachel and I sat in this random office room and did a bunch of improv of the scene outside the party where the whole thing flips around. Fifty percent of that scene came from the original material, and the other half came from the improv I’d done with Rachel. It was really so wonderful and very unexpected because I’d been brought into the process and make that hairpin turn less tight. I think in the original script, Rebecca hadn’t technically lied to Paula from the get-go… but I think we added the definite lie so that we could touch on it again in the last scene where I tell her I’m just busting your balls because you lied to me [a theme that is echoed later in the series]. That whole line about Rebecca being so brave, that came from the improv as well.

ADTV: My personal favorite episode of season one is “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!”  One of the things I like best about it is where you explore the emotions and stability of Paula’s marriage. How did you prepare for such an emotional and true episode? 

DLC: Personally, I was engaged before my current husband to another man. We went to couple’s counseling, and I just had a personal relationship… where you do everything you can, you break shit, you break a law… and at the end of the day you either move forward or you break it off. I, personally, had a similar relationship [to Paula’s], and in my life we ended up parting ways. When we did the couple’s counseling scene, I asked the props department for a pillow because every time I went to couple’s counseling I always took a pillow and pressed it against my stomach. It’s just visceral for me… I felt like I needed protection. That’s why when you see me in that scene I’m holding a pillow because when I went to couple’s counseling I always had to have that pillow on my stomach to protect myself from what was going to come up.

ADTV: That’s really great and such a huge personal touch in your work.

DLC: It’s the environment that’s created on set by the crew and by the writers. I know that I can [improv] and nine times out of ten they’re going to go along with it. I don’t think it’s like that on every set. I think most sets are like “Do what the script says and shut up!” (laughs) I’m able to do that because our set is very open to allowing the actors to bring our personal ideas and touches. That was a very particular memory for me…

ADTV: So given the improvisational nature of the show, what’s it like approaching it as a musical and all of the preparation that has to go into that?

DLC: Well, it really depends on the number. “After Everything I’ve Done For You” was the most choreographed. That was the first one I’d even had choreography one. Coming from the Broadway musical world, there’s a huge difference in the amount of time we have. I think for my finale number, we had like three hours of rehearsal. In a stage musical, that would have had hours and hours dedicated to it. Even then, you rehearse in a room, but you don’t get to see the set because they’re still building it hours before you step onto it. I got on the set and realized my shoes were slipping, so we had to modify tons of choreography because of that. You have to be willing to let go of all that and be flexible to say “OK, we’re going this way.” The theater training comes in extremely helpful with that. When you’re filming numbers like that, you kind of have to treat it like you’re on a theater in the round. You have to really make sure you have all your angles covered because they may be whizzing around you with the camera. All up in your nook and crannies.

 

ADTV: I actually think Paula fits comfortably into the sitcom tradition of the best friend. I’m thinking about Rhoda or Ethel from I Love Lucy. What do you think Paula brings to that tradition? What does she bring to the table that’s different?

DLC: There’s a few ways I think she’s different. Just the way she’s written is different because she’s sexual. Generally if you see a sidekick best friend female, they’re not allowed to be sexual. They’re paired with the lead female who is usually sexual. [Paula] breaks that fallacy of two women not being allowed to be sexual at the same time. They’re not in competition for the same man at the same time. It’s interesting to see two women who are both sexual and not fighting over the same guy. I don’t really think that’s ever been done. The sidekick is always very safely asexual.

ADTV: Oh, that’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought of [Paula] that way. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because Paula’s so in love with the concept of Rebecca being with Josh that she’s usually scowling at Greg or every time his name is mentioned.

DLC: I know, but it’s also really fun though that Paula fully admits she wants to jump his bones though. That’s the element that I think is different. She’s like “Look, he’s a nice guy, and he’s not for you. But I wish he was a search term on porn sites because he’s half Italian, and I would throw that man down in a second if I wasn’t married.” The think I love about Paula is that she’s not cut and dry. She doesn’t have ninety degree angles which usually the second banana is. She’s got her own fallacies and her own weaknesses… Another thing that I love is that I am a size 14. I am 45 years old. And neither my age nor my weight is ever mentioned. In any way. Positive or negative. It’s just not an issue… There aren’t any lines like “Whew, I’m gonna be late for my Weight Watchers meeting!” There’s no apologizing or even commenting on how I look when my type is not a common one on television. It’s really great that I’m on a show that doesn’t comment on that.

Another thing that I love is that I am a size 14. I am 45 years old. And neither my age nor my weight is ever mentioned. In any way. Positive or negative. It’s just not an issue… It’s really great that I’m on a show that doesn’t comment on that.

ADTV: Yes, that is really great. She doesn’t have to pay penance for eating that doughnut with Rebecca. So, what’s next for you in season two? What do you think is the next evolution for Paula as a character? 

DLC: You know, I have no idea. I literally just got an email from the creative team asking for ideas on musical numbers if it works with our storyline. They’re going back into the writer’s room soon, and I sent my email. Aline wrote back and said, “We’ve got a lot of plans for Paula that I think you’ll be very happy about.” I don’t know, but apparently they think I’m going to be very happy next season.

ADTV: I love what you’ve described about the behind the scenes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I love the collaborative nature. 

DLC: It’s really is great. I don’t really have anything to compare it to since this is my series regular role, but I do get the sense that our show, our set, our writers are uncommonly open and generous. I don’t think it’s like this on other shows. I guess that’s why we have a long list of guest stars that want to come on the show. Word has gotten out that our show is a blast. It’s like going to summer camp! A really well run theater camp! That word has gotten out and a lot of heavy hitters have asked The CW to come and play.

ADTV: So, what’s next for you as an actress outside of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Taming of the Shrew? What would you like to do as an actress in your next stage?

DLC: Well, I just wrapped some work on Downsizing, the new Alexandre Payne film. That was just thrilling. And again I was so grateful to have had a full season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend behind me before I walked onto an Alexandre Payne set. I would really love to explore more feature or indie film stuff. I would love to experience that. This whole television thing has been such a happy surprise and such a wonderful adventure that it’s opened my mind. You know, why not investigate film work and see what that’s like? I had so much fun on the Downsizing shoot. I had a scene with Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, and they were the nicest people – they could not have been nicer. I’d love to explore more opportunities like that if the chance arises. I love theater though. Just coming back to Shrew has been just great. I’ll never forget where I came from.

ADTV: So, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. I know you’re in the middle of rehearsals for Shrew, but I do have to ask before I go… When you’re not rehearsing Shrew and when you’re not making movies with Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, what are you watching on television? What are your favorite shows right now?

DLC: Ohhhhh… I love Schitt’s Creek. It took me like three or four episodes to really get into it, but I love it. I love Game of Thrones. I love Silicon Valley. I love that whole HBO Sunday lineup, honestly. I like Lucifer. I like to watch our show, and then I like to watch Lucifer. I think the lead [Tom Ellis] is marvelous. What else do I watch? I don’t have much time. I think The Grinder is hilarious, and who know who else likes that show? Carol Burnett. Carol Burnett likes our show and The Grinder.

ADTV: Have you met her?

DLC: Oh yeah! I played her on Broadway. She wrote a play based on her life, and I played her. We actually know each other very well. We’re very close. She’s a big fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and of Rachel [Bloom].

ADTV: Oh you’ve got to get her on the show.

DLC: We all would, but she’s so busy. She’s got a book tour and then she’s coming back to Broadway in the fall. That lady never stops!

The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will return in the fall for a second season. Season one is currently available free for a limited time on iTunes for a For Your Consideration Emmy campaign. Donna Lynne Champlin can next be seen in Shakespeare in the Park’s The Taming of the Shrew at The Delacorte theater from May 24 through June 26.

Donna Lynne Champlin

David Sullivan

Jazz talks to David Sullivan about his role as Will Arnett’s Flaked sidekick

David Sullivan has appeared in films such as Argo and The Astronaut Farmer. On the small screen, he’s also appeared on The Fosters, New Girl, and, most recently, Will Arnett’s Netflix dramedy Flaked. 

I caught up with Sullivan to discuss his real life friendship with Arnett. We find out why his character Dennis goes after women who are out of his reach. Sullivan also gives some of his favorite spots in Venice where the show is set. More importantly, he answers the question, “To binge or not to binge Flaked.”

AwardsDaily TV: The show is actually set in Venice which is an area that I like a lot. I like the food and the beach is interesting down there.

David Sullivan: It’s fantastic. I come from a really small town in east Texas. When I decided to move to Los Angeles I was like “Well, I have to be near the beach.” I moved to Venice 11 years ago when I first came out here.

AD: Oh my gosh, that’s really interesting.

DS: Yeah, it’s really cool. I already had the lay of the land so by the time the show started I was like “oh yeah, my old stomping grounds!” I love it!

David Sullivan

AD: What are some of your favorite spots there?

DS: I literally lived right across from the ocean at like Pacific and Rose so The Rose Cafe was somewhere I went to a lot. I was mainly just up and down Main Street. Dagwood’s was a good pizza joint that I always went to. Finn McCool’s was a cool bar. There was just so much all up and down there. I had so many options over there it was great. But, then, I had to start working, and once I started working, every place that I had to go was like a 45 minute to an hour and a half drive into Hollywood, you know? My time there was limited, but I loved every second of it.

AD: That’s great. I’m actually in Hollywood so I don’t get out the beach as much as I would like to.

DS: Right? Isn’t it a shame, though? It’s only like 30 minutes away, but for some reason once we’re no longer there we stop going [laughs]. You have to make a day out of it!

AD: Exactly. So Flaked was great. I had not seen it before so I binged it one weekend. What do you, or what does your character, think Flaked means?

DS: Oh, wow. Those are two totally different answers. To Dennis, it’s the life and world that we grew up in. It’s the life that he loves and kind of the only way that he knows how to manage. You find out later in the show that, before you meet Dennis, he had a tough upbringing with his mom and she was not really available to him in a motherly way. So he decided to travel the world for a little bit and then his mom sent him vindictive emails and texts blaming him for stuff so he came back. He adapted and became a drunk and met people that enabled his behavior. He eventually meets Chip who helps him turn his life around and helps him get straightened out. That’s kind of the only way that he knows how to live responsibly.

Dennis is very different than me. I see Venice as this cool place where anybody can go and do anything that they want to do and start fresh. It’s a great melting pot of people from all over the world from all classes of life with the very low class and all the way to highest class because you have the beach which attracts all different types of people. I think both Dennis and myself love [Venice]. If I had a way of living there that made sense, I would probably buy a place over there, but right now it doesn’t make sense for David.

AD: Are you a pet owner?

DS: No, I have a son who’s ten years old now. I call him my little pet monkey. When I met his mother, I actually lived in Venice.

AD: There’s that scene [in Flaked] where Cooler sticks his finger up the dog’s butt. Would you have still freaked out if that happened to your pet?

DS: Oh, of course. Especially from a dude like Cooler. George Basil, who plays Cooler, played that role perfectly. He was so fun to work with it was actually frustrating. Every time that I had a scene with him, I had to try so hard not to laugh. I was like biting the insides of my cheeks just trying not to laugh. Dennis’s family is his mother, who is in Palm Springs with some new boyfriend, and Chip. His dogs are his family so he entrusts his dogs with one of his friends, Cooler, and last thing that he thinks is that they’re going to get violated! That thought never even crosses one’s mind. Maybe the dog might poop on the floor or maybe forget to eat breakfast, but to think about your dog possibly getting sexually violated by one of your friends [laughs] is ridiculous! It wasn’t hard to play that scene because if you just had a visual image of that it pretty much tells the story for you.

AD: Absolutely. It stuck with me. The other thing that strikes me about Dennis is why does he choose women who are unattainable?

DS: See, that’s the thing. I think because he never attained the love or affection from his mom – he always wanted more from his mom but never got it – he developed a pattern at an early age. When we develop these patterns or certain ways of life, you start to repeat them. So, consciously, I don’t think that he thinks that she’s out of his league, be it Kara or London or whomever. I just think that he thinks with enough planning and with the proper focus, that he can attain these women he wants. You actually see him start to do that with Kara. What you find out in the show is that he had a crush on Kara and Chip swooped in and started dating her. Once Chip starts spending time with London, Dennis has the opportunity to start spending time with Kara again. There is a moment when they’re eating pizza – I think this is a perfect moment – and, unfortunately, pizza gets caught in my throat and I end up almost throwing up on her [laughs]. It’s not because he thinks they’re unattainable. He just thinks with the right preparation and enough patience, it’s something that he could pull off.

AD: Yeah, that was a great moment. Do you believe that Chip is a good friend to Dennis?

DS: David doesn’t. Dennis does. Dennis needs Chip in his life. He needs that camaraderie and friendship and support. The audience sees Chip clearly manipulating Dennis, but Dennis just sees Chip being Chip so there are some things that he forgives and some things that he doesn’t forgive. As the show goes on and as the lies start to become more evident to Dennis, you see Dennis start to realize “Wait, my friend is not who I think my friend is.” As the show continues, you start to learn that Dennis does see Chip for who he actually is and that he’s been lying this whole time. It was hard for him to believe and understand who Chip really was. Chip did a great job of fooling him.

David Sullivan

AD: Let’s talk about Chip and Dennis. They’re not the most likable people. 

DS: I think a lot of people in life choose to put forth what they want everybody to see. The difference between real life and TV is that in real life, you can get away with that for a long time and people won’t know that you’re being dishonest. In TV, you have a story to tell. In this Netflix show, there was definitely a story to tell and, up front, we see Chip being a certain way. When he’s by himself, you see him being somebody completely different. I don’t know if I’d say I’m likable. I would say that they’re not people I would necessarily want to get to know better because I can’t discern what’s real and what’s lies. I totally see how they can come across as unlikable. I don’t think Dennis is unlikable; he’s just searching and wanting something to be true that just may or may not be true to the audience.

AD: I like that description a lot [laughs]. So what’s your relationship with Will [Arnett] in real life and off-screen?

DS: It’s so great. He’s such a professional. He had so much on his plate between writing the show, producing the show, obviously leading the show, overseeing the music. So much of the show is on his shoulders and so he’s such a hard worker. It’s so inspiring because a lot times you do scenes with people and you leave and go back to your trailer, but the cool part about Will is the time in the hair and makeup trailer before the day stay or riding with him from one location to the next and just talking about our kids. He’s a great dad and a great guy. And he’s very smart and unfortunately I didn’t get to spend enough time with him. We shot the show over two months and then it was done. We’ve hooked up a couple times since then, but it’s like I can’t seem to get enough of this guy. It’s tough to make time because he’s so busy.

AD: You shot it over two months. What was that like? Most shows shoot over six months.

DS: It wasn’t really that difficult for me. I’ve done a lot of indie movies and a lot of times with them you try to get as you can in the day because obviously you don’t have the funds or resources to make it an incredibly long shoot. The majority of the work is done before the camera is turned on. I had a couple of weeks from the time that I got offered the role to the time we got started shooting where I got to devour the script and break it down and understand where Dennis came from. In all honesty, as an actor, when the cameras are turned on that’s the play time. All the time before and after that, that’s when you do the work. Whether it’s a two day or two week or two month shoot, its like “Oh, we get to play for two months.” So for me, it was just the time of my life. Yeah, we had stressful days, but that’s all part of the job.

AD: That’s incredible. So for people who haven’t seen the show yet, should they binge it or should they watch it in installments?

DS: That’s what’s great about this format that Netflix has set up. They leave it up to the consumer. I couldn’t watch just two episodes and turn it off. It was killing me! I watched it the very first night it was available. I was lucky enough to see the first two episodes. We had a small premiere for some of the cast and crew and then I had to wait two days for it to come out on Netflix! During those two days I was like, “I want more! I want more!” If you’re the type of person who can’t wait for dessert, then you should probably binge it. But, if you’re the type of person who likes to sit and think about things and enjoy each little bite and swish it around in your mouth with a little swig of wine or whatever, then maybe just watch one episode a week. That way you have something to look forward to. But I couldn’t. I got hooked by the story and I was all in.

AD: It draws you in. I liked your comparison with the food!

DS: It’s true! I’m the type of person where when I sit down to eat lunch or dinner, I’m already thinking about dessert [laughs].

AD: I love it a lot [laughs]. So what’s next for you?

DS: Well, right now it’s back to the job hunt. We haven’t gotten a second season announced yet so I can’t say if we’re going back to work or not. The life of an actor is going from job to job to job. Love it or hate it, that’s what you have to do. I just auditioned for this movie that Jason Bateman is doing with Speck and Gordon, who directed our third and fourth episodes and I’m waiting to hear back from that. It shoots in Atlanta for a little bit. That would be awesome to be a part of. I also auditioned for this new role on The Mindy Project. There’s all kinds of stuff out there; it’s just a matter of if I fit the role or not. Fortunately, Flaked just came with the right role at the right time and I happened to fit it and I was able to work on it for two months. Right now, it’s back to the grind of teaching acting and I’m writing and reading a lot of scripts. Just looking for the next project.

AD: That’s exciting. I wish you all the best. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

DS: Thank you. The pleasure is mine. Thanks for taking the time.

 

Flaked, starring Will Arnett and David Sullivan, is currently streaming on Netflix

 

Ryan Shore

Ryan Shore talks with ADTV about his path to scoring such a wide variety of films and TV shows

Ryan Shore is an Emmy and Grammy-nominated composer. His uncle, Howard Shore, gave him his first keyboard at the age of 13, and he hasn’t looked back. I recently sat down to talk to Ryan about his influences, his work, and scoring Penn Zero Part-Time Hero for Disney.

CaptureAwards Daily TV: Let’s find out more about your background, for those who aren’t familiar with your work.

Ryan Shore: I am primarily a composer for film, television, games and theater, and also a songwriter. So far, I’ve scored 30 feature films. I mostly do features, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of TV. Currently I’m scoring an animated TV series for Disney XD called, Penn Zero Part-Time Hero. It’s so much fun scoring the show.

I just finished scoring season one, and it was about 7 1/2 hours of music that I wrote, plus about 40 songs. Now I’m about to start on season two this week.

ADTV: So, going back. Do you remember the very first soundtrack that you listened to and how that affected you?

RS: That’s a good question. I remember one of the first CD’s that I ever bought. It was a collection of themes from movies, and that may have been one of the first times that I really had a chance to listen to music that was in movies. One theme I remember was the score for Fletch. Did you ever see that movie?

ADTV: I did.

RS: Harold Faltermeyer wrote the score. I remember hearing that, but I already knew the music because I knew the movie so well. It was cool to hear it on its own. Maybe some scores like that, but I think when I first really started paying attention to scores were ones my uncle had composed, Howard Shore.

ADTV: I actually spoke to him recently.

RS: Did you talk to Howard?

ADTV: Yes for Spotlight. He’s a lovely guy.

RS: Fantastic. You’re talking to my whole family. I love it. [laughs] Have you talked to my mom?

ADTV: No. I haven’t, but I’d be happy to. [laughs].

RS: Howard was a big influence and has been a big influence for me. We play all the same instruments; saxophone, clarinet, flute and piano. He recommended Berklee College of Music which is where he went, then I went there. He gave me my first keyboard for my 13th birthday, and that started my piano playing, and beginning of composing. It was the first time I’d ever had a keyboard in my house was that keyboard he gave me.

When I graduated from Berklee, Howard offered me my first employment, and so I worked for him for four years on probably about 12 of his movies. I started out doing music copywork, then orchestrations and some music producing. So, Howard was a huge influence in how I’ve developed.

I was definitely influenced by him, and I started paying attention to film scoring by really paying attention to his scores. I feel like the first scores of his that I really paid attention to were probably Silence of the Lambs and, for some reason, I really remember the score to Prelude To A Kiss. I went to see that in the theater, and he had scored that.

ADTV: He’s a very talented man, his catalog of work is so impressive, and you’re right, his scores stick with you.

RS: I agree. One thing I love about Howard’s writing is that it is distinctly his own voice which is beautiful, for example his dramatic use of music in picture and how he applies the music, where he makes shifts in the music, or uses different beats within the music and how that marries with picture. When I worked with him, I paid attention to that a lot because I was so involved in all the music, and I’d watch it closely and I thought it was so cool. I learned a lot about dramatic storytelling with music by observation from him.

ADTV: You’ve also worked on horror and the comedy genres, but what attracted you to working on horror?

RS: I first got into scoring for horror because a friend of mine was making a horror film. Andrew van den Houten was making his first feature film called Headspace and it was a horror film. It might have been the first one I scored, and what brought me into it was really just a personal relationship with the film maker. It wasn’t like I sought out the genre, I was just looking to write music, and he was making a movie that was a horror movie, so we did it.

Prior to that, there were certainly some horror movies that I was aware of, and some of my favorites were Poltergeist and Psycho. I wouldn’t say that I was really I was a huge fan or even checking them all out. So, when I did Headspace I wasn’t really thinking of horror scores and what had and hadn’t been done. I just thought about that movie and what would be an appropriate score for that movie.

I did what I would do. Since then, I’ve probably done ten or twelve horror films, and after having done them, you do a movie, it plays in a film festival, you go to the film festival, you go to the screenings, you read the magazines that are commenting on the movie .You know like Fangoria and Rue Morgue, you see what people are writing about them, and I’ve become much more familiar with the genre, and also talking to the films and film-makers you get to be familiar with it. I’ve grown a great appreciation for that genre because there’s such a loyal fan base for it.

ADTV: Is Fangoria even still around?

RS: I haven’t checked recently, but I remember it being around a few years ago.

ADTV: We should look into that. [laughs] So, is one medium harder than the other?

RS: You know, most composers will say that comedy scoring is the hardest because it’s all about timing, and I do agree that for sure with comedy there’s absolutely an element of timing that has to be very precise for jokes to feel right. You’re never pushing the humor, but you’re also supporting it. I would agree that comedy can be a challenging medium.

When I think about it, there aren’t any genres that stick out to me as being any more inherently more difficult or challenging than another. It usually comes down to the individual film and the film-makers you’re working with. That affects how challenging a project may be.

ADTV: You’ve done so much work, but is there one piece that you’re particularly proud of?

RS: Many. It’s a difficult question to answer because every piece of music in a way, is like a child, this thing that I’ve given birth to. Every single piece of music that I’ve written, I remember every thing about it. I remember the decisions that I made when I was writing it, and how it was recorded and mixed, and what I’d do different. Every piece becomes personal.

I would say there are definitely a few milestones along the way that have stood out to me. One of them was a movie that I scored, Cadaverous. It played at the Woodstock Film Festival. Elmer Bernstein was giving the award for Best Score at the festival. I remember we applied to that festival because Elmer had that award. We went to go see a masterclass that he was giving. It was awesome to see and hear him. Then myself and the director of the movie went up to talk to him after the masterclass and Elmer didn’t let on that he knew our names or the movie. He was “nice to meet you.”

Michael, the director, and I went out to lunch after and figured we would never win anything because he didn’t even know who we were. [laughs] We went to the awards ceremony, and Elmer said, “And the person who receives this award will know that I know how to keep a secret.” Then he announced my name, and I was shocked because we had met him earlier and we had no idea.

That was a really important moment for me to have that score recognized because when you’re starting your career, often things can be slow between projects, you don’t get a lot of recognition, you don’t get a lot of money. You need some nice “attaboys” to keep you going. That was a big one for me to be recognized by someone I have so much respect for.

There are a few other occasions, like when I wrote the score to a film called Rex Steele Nazi Smasher. It was the first time I’d ever gotten to write for a full orchestra and record it live. I recorded it with a 110 piece orchestra, with the Czech Philharmonic and choir. It was an action-adventure score, and that gave me a lot of confidence because that was the first time I’d ever done that, and it came out the way I thought it would.

The last project I’ll mention is the movie Prime. That was the first time I’d ever scored a feature with a major studio and major stars in wide release. That was a tremendous experience for me to be able to see my movie in a theater, the advertising campaign, to see the poster on a bus stop. That was an amazing experience.

 

 

ADTV: That was a great score. It totally worked because I laughed a lot.

RS: I loved scoring that movie. Coming up with the sound, I wanted it to have a classic sound to it. I remembered listening to The Beatles when I was working on that score. I was thinking whether I could write anything that could remotely resonate in the way I listen to these classic songs.

Ben Younger, the director, liked the approach and that’s what we went with. I loved scoring that movie. It was surreal to be looking at these quick time movies with Meryl Streep in them. I was thinking, “Don’t mess this up there’s amazing talent in this.”

ADTV: Do you use digital libraries? Which ones?

RS: In my studio, I’ve built out a facility. I have all the major sample libraries. There are other custom libraries that I’ve built over the years. Whenever I’m writing a score, I always mock everything up with all the sample libraries. I work really hard to make sure everything sounds as real as possible. Even if I’m going to record everything live, I’ll still mock everything up so hopefully the mock ups sound world class and leave no room for misinterpretation.

I use Cinesample library for woodwinds, brass and percussion. I use cinematic strings, Hollywood strings. I still use sonic strings. I use omnisphere and trillion, a whole bunch of libraries.

For more on Ryan Shore visit http://ryanshore.com/. Disney’s Penn Zero Part-Time Hero returns later this year.

Simpson

Hemingway brings a personal perspective and respect for the truth to The People v. O.J. Simpson

It was named the Trial of the Century when O.J Simpson stood trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and Ron Goldman. Twenty years later, Ryan Murphy’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story tells the story of the trial. The critically acclaimed series is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Director Anthony Hemingway reunites with Murphy to direct several episodes of FX’s smash hit series. I sat down with Hemingway to find out more about working with the cast and what it was like to direct an important scene in the series.

Simpson
Anthony Hemingway (Photo by Larry French/Invision/AP)

Awards Daily TV: You’ve worked with Ryan Murphy before. What was your reaction when he said he wanted you to work on The People v. O.J. Simpson?

Anthony Hemmingway: Ryan didn’t ask, he told me I was doing it. [Laughs] Before I accepted I needed to know more information like why this story? Who’s point of view is it from? Who else is involved? And after I sat down with the writers Larry [Karaszewski] and Scott [Alexander] my questions were answered and I was all in.

ADTV: The appeal of the show seems to be people remembering the trial and the Bronco case. How did you reconcile directing this with your memories?

AH: First, truthfully and respectively. This was the most galvanizing trial in history but what was interesting to me was the stuff I didn’t know. Therefore it needed fresh eyes. This allowed me to help highlight the humanity it needed, balancing the complexities of life as it even reflects today’s headlines.

 

ADTV: I can’t single out any one performance because everyone is so superbly cast from Sarah Paulson to Cuba to Travolta. Did any performances stand out for you?

AH: It’s as hard for me to single any one person out as you. They’re all so undeniably amazing. I am happy that the rest of the world will see the  brilliance in those that have been underrated like Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson, and Sterling Brown.

 

ADTV: You directed the courtroom scenes, how much of the trial did you go back and revisit when directing those episodes?

AH: I referenced a little of the footage we had to study, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with it. This isn’t a documentary so I didn’t feel it was that necessary. I only wanted to homage a few of the key moments – the glove episode I directed.

 

ADTV: You also directed Johnnie’s visit with O.J. in jail. It was a powerful moment as far as that relationship goes. What can you tell us about that?

AH: This scene is incredibly powerful. It highlighted the genius of Cochran and how he helped transform the case. He finds O.J. who no longer believes in himself. A lost soul. Cochran can’t win the case if O.J. has given up. So Cochran takes it upon himself to remind O.J. of what he means to the world. To instill hope and pride back into O.J. We need more of this support in our the world and in our communities.

 

ADTV: What were your own memories from that actual time?

AH: A fun fact – I was working with our Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson). We were both 19 years old working on a TV show called American Gothic in Wilmington, NC. I remember watching my parents and the rest of the black community celebrate after the verdict. This was the first time I had actually experienced and seen through my own eyes a racial divide. This trial was about race and privilege in America – which in the justice system is in favor of rich white people. And for the first and pretty much only time, a black man beat the system.

 

ADTV:  What else are you working on and what can you tell us about that?

AH: I have a new show premiering March 9th on WGN titled Underground, an inspirational action adventure about a group of revolutionaries who fought not just for themselves but for a nation. Their courage and ingenuity led them to become true american heroes. It’s pulsating, aggressive storytelling, mixed with an in-your-face musical component and a visual style that drags the past into the present. Currently, I’m prepping a pilot for A&E titled The Infamous, a crime series examining race and music in a city torn in two: 1990’s Los Angeles.

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story continues Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on FX.

Ellen Pompeo

Ellen Pompeo discusses working with Denzel Washington, her Greys character, and how she manages to have fun

Adulteress. Whore. Medusa. These slurs are just some of the nicknames title character Meredith Grey (star  Ellen Pompeo) has heard over her years at Grey Sloan Memorial. A little under twelve years ago, Meredith first graced our TV screens as an intern at Seattle Grace Hospital. Through the subsequent years, her character would see and hear it all. And Ellen Pompeo has seen it all as she has consistently inhabited the character of Meredith Grey.

I caught up with Pompeo earlier this week as the actress, producer, wife and mother was taking some time out for a little pampering. She discussed the mid-season opener (directed by Oscar-winner Denzel Washington), her blossoming talents as a producer, and her methods of having fun after all these years.

 

AwardsDaily TV: Hi Ellen. How are you? Are you on set right now?

Ellen Pompeo: I am not. I actually having a pedicure. [laughs] This is the only time for me to get my toenails, Jazz. I mean… mamma needed some love, so I had to come and take care of myself one day. I took an hour for myself.

ADTV: Sometimes you need that. You need a little pampering. I remember when I first watched Grey’s in 2005. Did you ever think you’d still be doing this in 2016?

EP: No, I had no idea. No one, including [Shonda Rhimes] expected the show to go this long. It’s an unbelievable gift, and a fantastic challenge also just to keep it going this long and to keep the quality as good as it’s been is a challenge we’ve all been really excited by.

I really get excited by it. I love a challenge. It’s my personality.

ADTV: You never know what’s coming next. As you say with the writing, the chemistry, the actors, that’s what keeps me coming back. What do you think keeps people coming back week after week, year after year?

EP: I think it’s a combination of things, it’s not just one thing. From what I gather from the fans and social media, the show makes people feel things, and it makes people think. It makes people laugh and cry, and those are two things people love to do. The show is an emotional journey and people really look forward to that every week. We’re able to touch and move people, and twelve years later that’s incredible.

I think that’s what it is. There’s something about the show that we move people.

ADTV: You sure do. You mentioned social media, so many fans have said they’d like to see Meredith and Alex get together. How do you feel about that?

EP: Oh do they? I didn’t know that.

ADTV: There’s a few people out there who have said they’d like to see her get together with him.

EP: I think whatever Shonda’s vision is, I usually trust that and it’s worked out so far. [laughs]. How I’ve been able to do this so long is I just keep my heart and my mind open to whatever is next. It’s served me well so far.

ADTV: Meredith is something of a heroine. She’s gone through so much and has survived. As you said, you trust Shonda’s vision, where would you like to see Meredith go?

EP: You know, I don’t ever have ideas in mind where I want her to go. I don’t do that to myself because that’s a trap. Because you don’t know what Shonda is going to do. I’ve learned that in twelve years, I keep my heart and my mind open. I try to tell the stories that she wants me to tell. It doesn’t do me any good to want something for the character because I can only get disappointed if that doesn’t happen. Ultimately, I have to serve the story. So, I don’t waste my time wanting things for the character. I really focus on what piece of the story that I’m telling. I focus on how can I make my performance honest and true as I can to our seasoned fans. Staying in the moment and being present is my sole focus.

ADTV: Talking about the journey your character has been on, one episode that has been amazing was when Denzel Washington directed the episode where Meredith was attacked. What was your reaction when you read that script and how was it working with Denzel?

EP: When they first told me that that was going to happen to Meredith, I initially, like everybody else, I cringed. I thought, “Can the audience handle something else happening to Meredith?” I did question it, and I had heard Shonda was going to write it. So I said, “OK, I’m on board. I’m super excited.” Then I said, “Listen, if they don’t like it, it’s not my fault.” [laughs]. I just have to tell the story. I don’t have to write it.

I got that info a few weeks ahead of time about what was going to happen. It turned out that Shonda wasn’t going to write it, but Denzel is going to direct it. He’s definitely one of my favorite actors. I was super excited that someone of his caliber would come and direct a 12-year TV show. I thought it was so generous of him, and I was really moved by his eagerness to come and hang out with us for a couple of weeks. I was super inspired by him.

What was different about it is that series television is so difficult to shoot. We’re really shooting a movie every eleven days. We take eleven days to shoot an episode. It’s 60 pages – a lot of material. He’s all creative and that was so amazing and so refreshing to have that experience twelve seasons in.

 

Ellen Pompeo

ADTV: I’m not going to ask about the toughest scenes, I want to know about the fun stuff. We’ve been with Meredith now for twelve years, what have been some of the highlights for you?

EP: So many scenes that I had with Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang). I’m most proud of my scenes with her. We had some incredible moments together. We had some intense scenes too. I think the scenes with her are the ones I’m most proud of.

ADTV: Well, you know I’ve been told to ask you if Christina’s coming back, because now’s the perfect time for her to return.

EP: [laughs] I don’t think Sandra has any plans to come back, not that I have heard. When people are ready to leave the show, they’re ready and they want their separation from the character, from the show, and it’s only fair. They have walked away from the character. That’s something that actors have to deal with. You’re finally ready to walk way and do that, but the audience won’t let you. [laughs]. I would love to have her back, but I don’t think she has plans to come back. But you never know, maybe for the series finale she would come back.

 

Ellen Pompeo

ADTV: Oh those Greys fans. I tweeted that I was interviewing you, and my twitter exploded.

EP: Our fans are very serious, Jazz [laughs].

ADTV: I was reading Paul Lee’s comment: “There’s no end in sight for Greys.” Are you happy to play Meredith for as long as it runs?

EP: No. I wouldn’t say forever and there’s no end in sight. I can’t talk about specifics, but I think Shonda and I want to end the show on a high note. There is an end in sight for sure. It’s not this season.

ADTV: You’re an inspiring leading lady. Now you have a production company, Calamity Jane. What can you tell us about that and your project such as Final Confession?

EP: We’re out there trying to sell TV shows. It’s super challenging because everybody is trying to sell TV shows. I love finding the material, and I love the development process. I guess that’s why I can stay on Grey’s because I feel creatively fulfilled in other ways.

I feel the producing, the developing of ideas, and even if people say no, it’s okay because it’s the development and watching how things change. It’s getting to get up and bat all the time. You’re constantly having to knock down doors. I’d rather do that and have a steady day job which allows me to have creative freedom. I’m having a lot of fun with the producing for sure. It scratches all my creative itches. It’s just using a different muscle.

ADTV: Would you ever like to direct?

EP: I have thought about directing our show a bunch, but I think I’d be interested in directing something else. For sure, I’d be interested in directing a pilot or an episode of something new that I’ve helped develop and create. I kind of side-share direct now. [laughs] I’m always jumping in and saying annoying things to actors which I’m sure they love. I feel like I have such emotional instincts when it comes to acting, so that part of it comes easy to me. To direct actors, I really feel like I have a knack for because I have this intuition.

The technical piece is less interesting to me, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do it. With our show, our scripts are so long, it’s hard to be creative to do our show. You really have to be super technical to make sure that you can shoot seven scenes with ten actors and get it done in under fourteen hours.
That was what was so great about Denzel’s directing. He’s never really seen the show. He was coming in just as an actor, as a director. His only concern was the storytelling and the performance. He is just a completely different animal than what we’ve ever had before. That was so refreshing.

ADTV: When you’re off and you get to watch TV, who are some of the women you enjoy watching on TV?

EP: Let’s see because some of the shows I watch aren’t very female centric. I love Robin Wright on House of Cards. I love Mister Roberts. I think Juno Temple on Vinyl is AMAZING! She’s killing it. I love Juno Temple. That’s what I’m watching right now. I’m watching Vinyl. Viola is amazing on How To Get Away with Murder. She’s riveting. So is Sarah Paulson [on The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story].

ADTV: I’ve recently spent time in Cedars, and it was exactly like what you see on Grey’s and Seattle Grace. Everything that I saw happen there, I’d seen on Grey’s, and it was really bizarre in that sense. So, have you have any bizarre hospital experiences, aside from child birth?

EP: I mean no. I actually haven’t. I volunteer at L.A. Children’s sometimes, but nothing strange. You had a strange experience? Tell me.

ADTV: It was just bizarre. I was in the OB/GYN ward. I sat in the food court watching the doctors, I was in the ER. It was straight out of the show, and I asked myself, I think I tweeted how much time did Shonda spend here doing her research because it could have been an episode. It was really bizarre in that sense.

EP: I mean think about it. Think about going to work every day and people could die. It’s just an intense world. It’s really such a fantastic set up for drama and emotion because you have these super high highs and super low lows. It’s quite a rare experience. That’s why most hospital shows… the good ones… run forever like Chicago Hope and E.R.

ADTV: Right. You have doctors who come in, perform these surgeries that save lives and then at the end of the day she goes home to her family.

EP: She goes home, eats a cheese burrito and watches Scandal. It’s crazy. It’s such a fun part to play, because in what other situation would I be able to do at my age, 46, what other situation would I be able to play comedy, drama, intensity, over the top, and get paid the way I get paid? Also where else do get to play the range of things I get to play and get to act with some amazing co-stars and guest stars? It’s really still so fun for me.

ADTV: How do you still keep it fun after all these years?

EP: It’s challenging. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t, but I fight to do that and to keep it fresh. If that means going to Shonda or going to the writers and going to Debbie Allen and say, “This needs to happen. We need to do this.” I’m very much in everybody’s face making sure that the quality is that we are making the best show we can make. I guess that’s what keeps it fresh for me. I want it to be good. I want the show to end on a high note.

Annabeth Gish

Annabeth Gish on her return to The X-Files, a new role on Scandal, and the most important role of her life

Annabeth Gish and I had an immediate connection. Jealous?

Gish popped in many memorable films like Mystic Pizza and Nixon and had pivotal roles in such hot television shows as The West WingSons of Anarchy, and of course The X-Files. But she attended college at Duke University, which is just down the road from me here in North Carolina, where she majored in English with a unit in women’s studies with cum laude honors. Taking the time to pause her acting career and focus on education was an important step in her personal evolution. It gave her roots outside of Hollywood and the acting business. It helped her become a more well-rounded and grounded individual.Annabeth Gish

Not to mention it made her a life-long Blue Devils fan.

She carries that stable, mature air with her today as she inhabits the most important role of her adult life – that of a dedicated and nurturing mother.

But Annabeth Gish still finds time to take a break from motherhood and come out to play. She just started a recurring role on ABC’s hit serial Scandal as Lillian Forrester, a reporter writing a feature on the Scandal POTUS’s (Tony Goldwyn) last days in office.

However, it’s her return to The X-Files that has the Internet’s tongues wagging. Gish’s pivotal role as Monica Reyes in the supernatural drama’s final seasons was designed to transition the series, along with Robert Patrick’s John Doggett, beyond the core characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out that way, and X-Files shuttered in 2002.

Gish returns as Reyes on Monday’s X-Files limited series finale to add a crucial piece to the series’ broad mythology.

AwardsDaily TV: You have a tremendously diverse body of work in both television and film. How did you get your start in acting?

Annabeth Gish: Well, I grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and I started doing local theater when I was eight. It was something I somehow knew I wanted to do. I’m not sure how, but I did. I told my parents I want to act. Then, there was an open casting call for a film called Desert Bloom, which I got when I was 13. And that sort of opened the doors of Hollywood for me.

ADTV: Knowing people who have gone to Duke University, that’s not an easy task to negotiate – having an active acting career and attending a prestigious university. How did you manage between the two?

Gish: Both my parents are educators, so education has always been incredibly important to me. So, I took four years off, essentially, and it was right about the time Mystic Pizza came out. But, somehow, it was a very good thing for me to do to mature and stay grounded. Those four years at Duke were invaluable to me for so many reasons – academically, emotionally, and socially.

ADTV: You’re returning to The X-Files this Monday night for the limited series finale, coming back home to the show you joined in 2001. How did your involvement with The X-Files originate?

Gish: I joined Robert Patrick in the last two seasons of the show during a bit of a transitional period. They were wondering if they could continue the franchise, and I had an amazing two years with Robert… and David and Gillian. David came back and directed some episodes and was still around the set. It was a huge gift.

ADTV: Were you a fan of the show before joining the cast?

Gish: Yes, in fact, I remember distinctly being in my dorm at Duke when The X-Files premiered. I remember being captivated and intrigued. I don’t think I’m quite astute in all of the mythology, but I certainly had a vested interest in the show personally as a fan beyond being an actress in it.

ADTV: You mentioned coming into the show during a transitional phase from David and Gillian. What was the atmosphere like given the pressure to pick things up from their departure and reduced involvement?

Gish: Well, you can’t really focus on that. That show for nine years is an exhausting show. It wears you down because of the physicality of it, the thought, the dialogue behind it. There’s a lot that’s going on, so, for nine years and twenty-two episodes a season, they were tired I’m sure. But, as the show comes back, you see there’s so much love in the creation… and the overall franchise of The X-Files. The success of the overall experience is a testament to their dedication and love for it.

ADTV: Your character of Monica Reyes was so uniquely different from a standard FBI agent. What drove your interpretation of the character?

Gish: Well, Chris [Carter[ and Frank [Spotnitz] had very specific direction that they wanted Monica to be a “sunny” character. I remember that adjective being used – “sunny.” And I think think inherently, like Mulder, Annabeth Gish is a believer, and Reyes is as well. There’s sort of a positivity and buoyancy that they wanted Reyes to have. We just focused on adding some lightness to the overall series.

ADTV: One of the things I found incredibly endearing about Reyes is that she was constantly trying to quit smoking, which is interesting given the show’s main villain – the Cigarette Smoking Man. Was that something you added to the character or was that written in the script?

Gish: Oh, are you kidding? No, everything on The X-Files is very strategically created and placed. Monica smoked Morley’s, if you recall. [Morley’s are a fictitious brand of cigarette best known for its usage in The X-Files.]

ADTV: That’s right! See, you know more about the series mythology than you think you do.

Gish: (Laughs) Oh yes. After a certain amount of time, yes. But I don’t know know all of the randomness and the deeper corners of the series mythology.

ADTV: What was your favorite scene or episode from the original series?

Gish: Well, my two favorite episodes that I have personally are “4-D” and “Audrey Pauley.” “4-D” was so fascinating to me – the concept of what would you do if there were four dimensions that we could actually be living in. That’s fascinating to me, and the subject matter really helped focus my excitement and attention on the material during that episode. “Audrey Pauley” was great because it was so surreal, this miniature world in the hospital.

ADTV: You mentioned Annabeth Gish is a believer. When you looked at some of the scripts you were given, did they seem outlandish to you? How did you find some grounding in reality in terms of how to play the character?

Gish: Well, that is sort of the amazing ability that Chris and all the writers have with these crazy situations that seem totally implausible somehow, as an investigative agent, you had to buy into. Remember The Brady Bunch episode (Season 9’s “Sunshine Days“)? It was sort of very abstract, but you go along with it because it’s a ride and it’s so creative and intelligent and imaginative.

ADTV: Let’s jump forward to your appearance on Monday’s revival finale. How did you find out you were written into the new series?

Gish: Well… (pause) I think Monica’s piece of the puzzle is a crucial, integral part, and it reveals a lot about what’s been going on for the past 10-12 years. So, while it’s a small role, it’s very meaningful and has a lot of import.

ADTV: I can tell you’re trying to tiptoe around spoilers.

Gish: (Laughs) Yes, I’m trying to choose my words carefully.

ADTV: Ok, so without giving away any spoilers, how do you think the character has changed over the past 14 years?

Gish: Well, I think Monica had to make some hard decisions and made her choices. As with any woman who makes those choices, you’re life changes accordingly. So, I think there’s a harder tone to Monica this go-round. She’s worn down some of her brightness.

ADTV: How have you changed personally within the past 14 years?

Gish: Well, I got married. I’ve had two children. I think as with any woman you go through a deepening and get wiser and smarter and care less about the bullshit. (Laughs)

ADTV: And you’re still a believer?

Gish: Yes, I am. Perhaps a more critical, wiser believer, but yes, I am.

ADTV: So, you were on ABC’s Scandal this week. What can we expect from you there?

Gish: I don’t know! I’m going to play over there for a few episodes in a recurring role.

Annabeth GishADTV: How is that different from something like The X-Files?

Gish: Well, X-Files more frank and dense. Scandal is a nighttime drama, a beautiful drama, and it’s really very different given how polished it is. But it’s really very fun too!

ADTV: So, outside of Scandal and The X-Files, what’s next for Annabeth Gish?

Gish: Well, I have two features coming out soon. One coming out April 8 which is a wonderful horror-esqe film called Before I Wake with Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns) and Jacob Tremblay (Room), and a movie called with Vince Vaughn called Term Life (due April 29). But you know, I’m really focused on raising my kids – I have two sons – and they’re my first priority… But that’s a good thing. It’s great that I get to sort of dabble in these roles, but I’m predominantly a mom first.

ADTV: And then watching Duke basketball games…

Gish: Oh yes, my kids are already, you know, Duke fans and have their Blue Devil gear. Fans by proxy.

Fox’s The X-Files limited series wraps Monday, February 22, at 8pm ET with “My Struggle, Part 2.” ABC’s Scandal airs Thursday nights at 9pm ET. 

The Affair

Showtime’s Golden Globe-winning drama The Affair wrapped up its critically acclaimed second season on December 20 and achieved exactly what a season finale should. It answered questions asked by viewers since its first season and whetted viewers’ appetites for a third season by putting one of its main characters into even more dire straights, resulting in series-high ratings. It was a fitting end to a season that deftly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump thanks to the sharp eye and gentle guiding hand of show runner and series co-creator Sarah Treem.

It’s amazing to consider that The Affair is Treem’s first series as show runner. After writing and co-producing HBO’s acclaimed In Treatment as well as How to Make It In America and writing episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards, Treem guides her series with the confidence and foresight of someone well beyond her experience. Additionally, her work is perhaps best appreciated for showcasing a wide array of female experiences, a rarity in a medium long dominated by men. The Affair is a richer experience because of the perspectives she brings.

Sarah Treem recently discussed The Affair‘s second season with AwardsDaily TV and offered a few hints as to what to expect from Season Three.

Note: Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t yet seen the finale.

ADTV: The finale had one thing in common with last year’s finale in that two major events are seen in completely different lights. In the Season Two finale, you have Alison making a confession Noah about Joanie’s parentage in two dramatically different ways. Is this a recollection issue, or are the narrators spinning the truth for their own gain?

Treem: This season they weren’t telling their stories to the detective, per se, so it’s not about spinning the truth for gain. What I try to get at, when the POVs diverge, is the emotional truth of moments, instead of the literal truth. From Noah’s POV, Alison told him about Joanie’s paternity in order to save their relationship. That’s why she’s crying on the steps as she tells him. She’s sorry and she wants to be forgiven. From Alison’s POV, she tells him the truth in order to leave him. In order to break the relationship apart. Now the “truth” is probably somewhere in the middle. Alison probably wants to be forgiven and she wants to escape. Most of the time, especially in relationships, we want both things at the same time. We want to be forgiven and punished. We want to be joined and freed. Like last year, I wanted to push the storytelling differences at the critical moment beyond the literal – so the audience wouldn’t waste time trying to figure out “what really happened.” It doesn’t really matter, does it? Whether it was night or day. Whether she was on the steps or listening to Scotty sing. What matters, at least to me, is not how Alison tells Noah… it’s why.

The Affair

ADTV: Season Two saw the much-publicized broadening of the show’s perspectives beyond Noah and Alison, and the critical and audience reaction to this change has been overwhelmingly positive. Looking back over the season, what was the biggest challenge for the writers with this shift?

Treem: I’d say servicing everyone’s stories. Suddenly we had four arcs to do justice for, not two, and so the amount of storytelling we need to accomplish increased exponentially. That’s why we also added on two more episodes this year. We just needed more time.

 

ADTV: The ninth episode actually had no dueling perspectives, instead relying on the four main characters’ vantage points during a hurricane. What drove your creative team to abandon the standard structure for this particular outing?

Treem: We’ve always been interested in doing a 4-way split, and this seemed like the episode to do it because the hurricane was a way to unite their experiences even if they never interacted. I was surprised by how quickly people assumed that the various story lines were suddenly being told by an “objective” POV because we didn’t label the character’s screen time by name. That was actually something Showtime wanted me to do but I thought, by this point in the storytelling, the audience understood that nothing in this show is ever objective. And I wanted to make sure everyone knew this episode was being told in continual, progressive time. So we put the times of day on screen instead of the character names. That seemed to confuse a lot of people.  Live and learn.

 

ADTV: My personal favorite episode in Season Two has to have been Helen’s (Maura Tierney’s) stoned comedy of errors resulting in her arrest. Tonally, this episode felt completely different than anything else you’ve done over both seasons. What led you down this path with Helen?

Treem: Helen is like so many women in that she has spent years and years taking care of everyone else before herself. And that’s her way to keep control over her life. If she plays by all the rules and puts herself last, she feels like she somehow deserves what she has. When that system breaks down, Helen’s boundaries break down with it. And because she has no practice fucking up, she’s not very good at it. So one bad decision leads to another and then another until a juggernaut ensues and the consequences become disastrous. So that was the idea behind the story of the episode. But credit for the execution goes entirely to the writer, Anya Epstein, the director, John Dahl, and Maura herself, who is naturally a very funny actress. She’s fearless.

The Affair

ADTV: One of the things I love most about the show is the Season Two focus on such amazingly strong and robust female characters. One running theme through the series has been variations on motherhood. Alison and Athena. Helen and Margaret.  Cherry and her boys. What do you think the show ultimately says about motherhood, and is this a theme you’ll continue to explore in Season Three?

Treem: I also love all the mother-and-daughter axises at play this season. One of my favorite lines from the season is when Athena says to Alison “How long are you going to spend seeing every decision life offers you as another opportunity to prove you’re not me?” And Helen and Margaret, of course, have that epic showdown where Helen accuses Margaret of sabotaging her happiness, which then has reverberations in Helen’s relationship with Whitney… and Alison now has a daughter…. so all these women in our series are continually wrestling with their matrimonial legacies. I read once that the child learns to understand herself through her relationship with her mother and the world through her relationship with her father. That might be pop psychology mumbo-jumbo, but it always struck me as truthful. In terms of Season Three, I don’t know. I don’t like to retread territory. I have a feeling Season Three may be more about fathers and sons.

 

ADTV: Speaking of the Lockharts, now that you’ve dug into their past a bit, they’re starting to feel like a raucous Greek tragedy. Are there more Lockhart secrets to uncover and will you continue to explore the Lockhart family roots? Will Cole continue to struggle with “the curse” on his family?

Treem: I’m not sure. I’m very much interested in the idea that all four of these characters are trying to separate from their parents and not repeat their mistakes and all of them are failing at it. I don’t think Cole’s relationship with Cherry has been explored in enough depth yet. There was originally a scene in the finale which gave us more insight into Cherry’s character but we had to cut it for time. So I definitely don’t feel like that well has been exhausted yet.

 

ADTV: My personal take on Season One versus Season Two is that we’re shifting from a season of excitement over the new sexual encounters between Noah and Alison to a season of reality as they (and their extended family) deal with the fallout of their actions. Through this, most viewers seem to loathe Noah. Was that by design initially? Where did you want to take Noah over the second season?

Treem: In the first season, the reason I think viewers like Noah more was because he seemed so put upon. His in-laws were horrible, his wife didn’t stuck up for him, he was constantly being emasculated. But this season, all of those external obstacles fell away and he got everything he ever wanted. The fact that he didn’t say no to any of it – that he became self-absorbed and myopic – really bothered people but that was the plan all along. Give a man everything he’s ever wanted and see how he responds. Usually, that scenario doesn’t end well. Noah says in the first episode that he liked being married because “you give up certain civil liberties to live in a secure state.” He demonstrates a lot of insight into his own character in that line. He knows that he, like most of us, needs boundaries. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The second season was intended to be Noah learning that lesson the hard way.

 

ADTV: Episode 10 saw Cynthia Nixon appear as Marilyn, Noah and Alison’s couples therapist. It was an enlightening and frank way of exploring Noah’s conflicting appetites as well as a neat throwback to your HBO series In Treatment. Will we see more characters in therapy over Season Three?

Treem: Probably not. I think it worked well because of where it was placed in this season – on the heels of the episode where Noah had finally hit his nadir. We figured, by that point, the viewers would be incredibly hungry for a window into Noah’s head. And Anya (who, again, wrote that brilliant episode) and I had both worked on In Treatment, so we were excited to pay homage to our experience on that show, which had been so meaningful for both of us. But as much as I want to bring Cynthia Nixon back to this universe, I don’t see her therapist’s office becoming a regular set.

The Affair

ADTV: If Season One is about exploring a blossoming relationship between Noah and Alison and Season Two explores the outcome of their actions, then what theming can we expect from Season Three?  

Treem: I think if Season One was the affair itself, and Season Two was the immediate aftermath, Season Three is the legacy of the affair. How what happened has altered the DNA of all these characters respective psychologies forever. As Helen says to Noah about Whitney in Episode 8, “There are some mistakes that a person doesn’t recover from and I think this is one of them.” I don’t mean to say that all the characters are now forever screwed. But they’re altered. They’ve lost their collective innocence.

 

ADTV: Finally, I have to ask, what made you choose “House of the Rising Sun” for Scott (Colin Donnell) to perform? Was this is grand farewell from the series, or will there be more Scott flashbacks in Season Three?

Treem: No, Scotty is gone. But “House of the Rising Sun” is basically a warning… don’t live the way I have lived or else. The truth is that Scotty is probably the least morally complicated character on the show…. he was just a hustler and not a very good one. But all the other characters have reason to question their choices and fear the consequences. Everyone always wants to know if The Affair will prove to be a morality tale … like “don’t cheat or your life will fall apart.” I don’t see it that way… I’m not that interested in the morality of monogamy. But I am interested in archetypal stories. In the idea that we share a collective unconscious and we are all sort of tragic characters blindly replaying the same scenes over and over again for the pleasure of the gods. So there was something about the tone of “House of the Rising Sun” that appealed to me on a kind of primal level. That and it’s in the public domain. So it was cheap!

The Affair‘s Maura Tierney is up for a Supporting Actress Golden Globe, which will be announced in a televised ceremony on Sunday, January 10. Both seasons of the acclaimed drama are available on Showtime’s streaming service with Season One available on iTunes and Netflix. Season Three will premiere on Showtime in Fall 2016.

In prepping to sit down with Veep‘s Reid Scott, I’d assembled a series of questions based on the relatively small footprint his character Dan Egan has had in Season Four’s first two episodes. After last week’s game-changing episode “Data,” I tossed all of my work out the window. Gladly. Scott’s performance as now-former Presidential staffer has always been best informed when Dan Egan is dealt a blow to his massive Alpha Male ego. The episode, which saw Dan become the scapegoat for a widespread privacy scandal in President Selina Meyer’s administration, provided Scott some of the juiciest material he’s ever had on the Emmy-winning HBO comedy. He simply knocked it out of the park.

Now that Dan is on the ropes and floundering for that next opportunity, perhaps it’s time the Emmys took notice of Scott’s tremendous skill as a comic actor. Scott’s range through the episode ran from manic highs at saddling nemesis Jonah Ryan (Tim Simons) with bumbling aide Richard (Sam Richardson) to desperate lows, melting down alone in his car. Scott’s performance in “Data” was even better than Dan’s Season Three stress-induced mental breakdown.

What can we expect from Dan Egan moving forward, and how has the cast reacted to the recently announced departure of Veep show runner Armando Iannucci? I chatted with Scott about these topics and more, including his favorites in the upcoming Emmy race.

 

I ran across this quote in Vulture by [exiting Veep show runner] Armando Iannucci about Dan Egan. He was asked to pick a character from [Veep] and determine which reality show he/she would be best suited for. He responded with ‘I’d like to see Dan Egan, who thinks of himself as an ambitious and natural leader, see himself whither and sweat in the jungle in I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.’ How accurate do you think that is for Dan?

I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment on Armando’s part just because, while Dan is not necessarily a celebrity, he certainly thinks of himself as one, and he has the ego to kind of go along with that. And as we’ve seen in the show, one of the fun things about Dan is watching him squirm constantly because he always thinks he has the answer, and he always thinks he’s more important than everyone else around him. To see him get close to his goal and eventually sort of fall flat on his face… Yeah, I think that’s probably pretty fair. A pretty good call.

 

Where do you get your inspiration for Dan? Is that something from your experience? Did you know someone like Dan or is it just all there on the page for you?

It’s a little bit of both. We’ve actually gotten some incredible access for research purposes in D.C. because of the popularity of the show in Washington. So, I’ve gotten to interview a ton of staffers that would be sort of similar to Dan, some lobbyists, some D.C. movers and shakers. He’s a bit of caricature based on them. I also have a very good friend who has been in and around politics at a very, very high level for a very long time. In fact, when I actually got the job I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at this and sent him the pilot script to read. He wrote me back and said, ‘Oh, shit. You’re playing me.’

He’s been great just because he’s sort of out of that particular game that Dan is in at the moment… He’s been sort of guiding me in where this kind of guy comes from, what this guy does on a daily basis, who he thinks of himself as, what his goals are, where you’ll find this guy eating, where you’ll find him drinking… [Dan’s] really an amalgamation of people, and I like to see the guy succeed and then subsequently fail. I think that’s interesting because given that A-type, Alpha male that he aspires to be… there’s nothing worse than seeing those guys succeed so I kind of like tripping him up whenever I can.

 

That’s interesting because it seemed like he was on this upward trajectory in Season One and Season Two. Then in Season Three, he became the [Presidential] campaign manager until he had a complete mental breakdown. There was a scene in the hospital after the panic attack where it seems there’s a mixture on Dan’s face of simultaneously being horrified that he’d lost the job and totally relieved.

Absolutely. That’s totally what I was going for. It’s sort of the first time ever where he’s realized that he’s not going to survive this, and I think he can’t quit. I don’t think he knows the meaning of the word quit. But I think he was secretly relieved to be relieved of his position.

 

There’s an interesting parallel here to last week’s episode where he was the scapegoat to the privacy scandal. The episode closes with Dan scrambling for friends and contacts in his car, and nobody’s returning his call, nobody’s answering, and the one person that does hangs up on him. He’s definitely more desperate this time. He doesn’t necessarily have any idea where he’s going, and he clearly doesn’t have the same sense of relief as before.

Oh, no absolutely not. You know, when he had his breakdown, the Veep was just the Veep, and now that she’s the President, everyone’s stock has risen, his as well. And then to fall from that position – to really get pushed out – amidst a controversy… There’s a very short life for politicos under that circumstance. You only have so many avenues you can pursue, and there’s a rapidly closing window as to your viability, as to your importance, as to your connections. So he’s panicking. It’s different than just the sort of ‘Oh my god, I couldn’t handle this job.’ He was actually really good at his job or getting good at his job. He was wielding some power finally, and to get pushed out because someone needed to be the face of the fall… It’s desperate times for Dan for sure.

 

So were you in touch with your friend that’s involved in politics after that episode?

Yeah, he dug it. He had something similar. He wasn’t pushed out of an office, but a politician he was working for sort of went [bust]. Not really amidst a scandal, but for other reasons. He really kind of quickly found himself having to tread water and seeing where he was going to land. He somehow landed upward, but he absolutely said that moment of sheer panic – where Dan is about 31 at this point – at 31 is your career over? Especially when you’re the face of a scandal at the White House no less. You’re sort of toxic for a while. He said that absolutely was perfectly legit. I keep needling for how I’m doing, and he tells me how hard it is to watch me being him.

 

Without giving any spoilers, what can we expect from Dan now that he’s jobless in Season Four?

Well, he flounders for a bit, which I felt, was really fun… to take the Black Knight and tarnish him a little bit. That’s always sort of fun. But Dan goes on to not necessarily bigger and better things, but he ends up finding a gig that is so well suited to his skill set that it’s disgusting.

 

Ha. Does he become an agent?

[Laughs] You’ll see. I don’t want to give it away.

 

I was relieved to see some of the original cast coming back into prominence. Watching the beginning of Season Four at the presidency level, there are so many new characters. There’s only so much you can fit within a half-hour show, and there are a lot of great actors on the show. I was glad to see the focus shifting on Dan for a little bit.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, one of the things we like about the world that we’ve created in this show is it does keep expanding. To your point, it can get sort of confusing at times – there’s so many new storylines, trajectories, to keep straight, but I think it really gives the show a certain air of authenticity because to keep the entire world of D.C. limited to our seven main cast members becomes a little disingenuous. There’s so many people coming in and coming out [in reality]. This is a fun season because the world got bigger, but we were still able to get back to the roots of the main characters.

 

So what happens now between Dan and Jonah?

[Laughs] Oh god. Well, now that Jonah has this great new sidekick in Sam Richardson’s character, the three of them – again without giving away too much – sort of embark on a little journey together, and it’s some of my favorite stuff. I’ve always loved the back and forth between Dan and Jonah, and Tim Simons and I have a blast playing that stuff too. Now that Sam Richardson [aide Richard] has come on the scene, it makes this little idiot triumvirate and becomes that much more entertaining. Veep won’t ever really edge into slapstick comedy – they try not to go broad with it – but if there were some of that classic Three Stooges sort of comedy, it lives in those three. It’s really fun. It sort of rekindled and renewed the Jonah / Dan relationship for Tim and me this season by adding [Richard].

 

Picking up on something you just said about the tone of this show – not a broad comedy, very specific and very specific to Armando Iannuci’s style – now that he’s leaving as show runner, what are your thoughts on a future with David Mandel?

We’re really excited about David. Obviously, we were saddened that Armando’s going to be leaving us, but we totally get it. He’s been absolutely crushing political comedy for almost two decades now. It’s really remarkable. I think he’s set a tone for the show and a high bar for the show, and I honestly don’t think there’s anyone better suited to take over from Armando than someone like David just because he understands this type of comedy. Granted, he hasn’t worked necessarily in the British comedy sphere as much as Armando, but his work with Julia in Seinfeld and then on a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm… You know Seinfeld could both be broad and sometimes very specific, but Curb is a very solid example of an American translation of that [British] style of comedy. It’s a testament to him having run that kind of show.

We all sat down with David at Julia’s house a couple of weeks ago to say ‘Hi’ and get to know him and discuss ideas for the future. I think he’s right on point. I think what he’s going to bring to the show in terms of a new, fresh outsider perspective to the world we’ve already created is just going to juice it up that much more. He’s a political junkie like the rest of us. He’s so smart and so funny. He’s also just a big fan of the show too, so I think he’s really keen on not changing the show but just sort of dialing up the color on it a little bit by getting some new blood in there. So we’re really happy to have him.

 

So, before I let you go, tell me what’s on your DVR? What kind of TV shows are you a fan of now that we’re headed into Emmy season?

Oh man. Game of Thrones, obviously. Love that one. Vikings is a big guilty pleasure for me. It’s just a fun show. We love The Americans – my wife and I – and I’m still not sure why it doesn’t get the Emmy love that we think it deserves because I think it’s some of the best dramatic acting on television. I think Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are just stellar. Last Man on Earth I think is hysterical. I think Will Forte is doing something really, really special in terms of comedy, and I think he’s going to be a hard guy to beat, at least in my book, for [Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series]. I think he’s just absolutely out of this world fun.

 

Veep continues airing new episodes Sundays on HBO at 10:30pm EST through June 14. Current episodes are available through HBONow and HBOGo. Old episodes are available on iTunes, steaming on Amazon Prime, and through DVD on Netflix as well as HBO outlets.

Entertainment Weekly caught up with Bruce Campbell to ask about his return to his character, Ash, for Starz’ 2015 10-episode horror-comedy series Ash vs. Evil Dead. You’ll be happy to learn that Ash is a little older, but he isn’t any wiser.

“He continues being a trash-talking know-it-all who doesn’t really know anything. He’s the ultimate anti-hero. He’s a guy with no appreciable skills. He’s not a former Navy SEAL, he’s not a former CIA or FBI. He’s no special anything. He’s just a guy from S-Mart, you know? And think that’s part of what people relate too. All these super hero movies—I rather relate to a garage mechanic who gets into a sticky situation. That’s what I look forward to playing—a guy with horrible flaws. In Army of Darkness he can’t memorize three words and he’s responsible for the deaths of a 100 people—this is your lead character!”

Head over to the once-proud entertainment rag for the full chat.

 

 

Sign In

Reset Your Password

Email Newsletter