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Oct 22

Stephen LangStephen Lang admits that one of his first thoughts upon reading the script for “23 Blast” — about a high school football player who goes blind, then manages to return to his team — was “‘This can’t be true.’ But it is! It is true.”

The film, opening Friday (10/24), has the esteemed “Avatar” and “Gods and Generals” actor/playwright in the real life role of Coach Willard Farris. It was Coach Farris who had the audacious idea of putting football-loving young Travis Freeman back into action after he became completely sightless. He turned him from a “gazelle” into a “pitbull” by moving him into the position of center.

Recounts Lang, “My agent said ‘I want to send you a script for a football movie that Dylan Baker is going to direct,’ and I was immediately intrigued because I’ve known Dylan for years as a very, very fine actor. And I thought that was exciting.” Once he read “23 Blast,” Lang realized, “‘This is actually a very delicate film. It would be a simple thing to slip into a cloying kind of sentimentality.’ But, in a way, you know, that’s not my problem. I can only be responsible for what I do.”

He went ahead and made the movie on the story’s actual location in the hamlet of Corbin, Kentucky. The youthful cast includes Alexa Vega (“Spy Kids”), Mark Hapka (“Criminal Minds”), Max Adler (“Glee”) and Bram Hoover — with stalwart support from elder actors including Timothy Busfield, Fred Thompson, and Baker himself.

Then, “Cut to several months later and I went to see it, and I was absolutely thrilled because there was an authentic, simple honesty to the film; not one time in the movie did it ever get syrupy or sentimental,” Lang declares. “It delighted me, and it filled me with admiration for Dylan and for the editors and the production team. You know, it could have gone another way, but I thought he elicited lovely performances from a cast of really, really vibrant and fine young actors. I thought the old pros did their jobs just great.”

“23 Blast” is one of a flurry of diverse projects Lang has taken on before battening down to reprise his role as Colonel Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s three “Avatar” sequels — all of which are to be made simultaneously. Besides the inspirational sports flick, he was in the recent Stephen King “The Good Marriage,” and next month, he’s taking his Beyond Glory solo show on the road with plans to perform in “eight or nine states.”

Speaking of the consuming experience of making “Avatar,” he notes, “I’ve already been there once — and now instead of one ‘Avatar,’ we’re doing three! I’m thinking for the next couple of years, probably beyond that, it’s going to really dominate my life. So it’s good to be able to get other stuff done and exercise my chops before I plunge into that — something I’m really looking forward to plunging into.”

The excitement in his voice is palpable, in fact. “It’s great stuff. Sometimes it comes easily, but sometimes it doesn’t come easily because there’s so much technical wizardry that has to occur simultaneously in the ‘Avatar’ world, and it’s kind of one foot in front of the other, working scene after scene,” he says. “We’re looking forward to the whole process. We know that not only do we regard it as an extraordinary thing — which we did when we were making the first one — the world has expectations as well. We better be good.”

Meanwhile, he’s looking forward to the unveiling of “23 Blast.” Certainly, coming in the wake of month after month of player scandals that have rocked both the professional and high school football establishments, the story comes as a breath of fresh air.

Lang tells us that a classmate of his happens to be director of public relations for the NFL. “She’s coming to see the film and she is so looking forward to it,” he notes with a smile. “She says, ‘I just want to see something about football in a positive light.'”

Despite the recent spate of negative stories, Lang believes that football “is a very venerable institution. What is that line — ‘When sorrows come, they come in battalions.’ I think there’ve been battalions of sorrows, but still, it is a great, great game.” He pauses, then can’t resist adding with a laugh, “It’s not baseball, but that’s just my opinion.”

Both Freeman and Farris were on the set a number of times during production of “23 Blast.” “We filmed in Corbin and Corbin is a small town,” points out Lang. “It was very nice to meet them. I think the fairest thing to say about what I did — it’s a creation. But I’m not going to say ‘loosely based’ — it was based on this man, Coach Farris, who is clearly a good man. Obviously, without the coach being part of the whole thing, it never would have happened.

“It was terrific having the folks around,” he adds. “They weren’t there on a daily basis. There was never a feeling of ‘I wish they would get out of the way.’ I never felt that at all. I think they’re all quite pleased. What was a very significant event in the history of this town, and of course, high school football. Aside from Travis, high school football is a very important element in that town in terms of a sense of community. So to be able to have his story told, I think, is a really important thing. Everybody was extremely supportive.”

He enjoyed portraying the Coach. “Very often the coach in this type of film is a real hard ass kind of guy, a bit of a drill instructor, real tough. And I think that Farris has that; he stands strong, but there’s also this side where you’ve got heart, and he cares about his people. It’s immensely helpful,” notes Lang, “that the first time you see the coach, he’s coaching six year old boys.”

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Oct 17

Erica durance imageAfter seven years of comic book adventures as Lois Lane in “Smallville,” Erica Durance was glad for a shift into more serious territory with her medical drama, “Saving Hope.” Now the beautiful Canadian actress is trying something different again with the Oct. 19 Hallmark Movies & Mysteries romp, “Wedding Planner Mystery.”

“It was fun. That’s one of the reasons I picked it,” she tells us from her home in Vancouver. “It’s a mixed bag of different things, a little bit of a spy and kind of who dunnit feel, more funny than what I’ve been doing. My heart is in a lot more comedy and that’s how I do life — with a lot more positivity.”

The movie is based on Deborah Donnelly’s novel “Veiled Threats,” about a wedding planner named Carnegie whose work with a rich and notorious family in the midst of a fraud scandal leads to her becoming a suspect when a member of the wedding party is murdered and the bride is kidnapped. This being Hallmark, there’s a suave and oh-so-handsome and wealthy friend of the family who is romantically interested in our girl, and a pesky but oh-so-handsome reporter dogging her footsteps.

Might there be more movie tales of the daring, tulle-wielding Carnegie? “I know that it’s part of a series of books. There wasn’t a lot of heavy discussion about it at the time, but I know that they have other material they can pull from,” she replies. “I never make assumptions. I always come away thinking this is a one-off, a great experience. I’d never say never, but the industry is a little too fickle for me to say ‘I want to do more of these.’ I just want to enjoy this one, and then we’ll see where we’re all at.” She would love to do more work with Hallmark.

Married since 2005 to Canadian actor, writer and director David Palffy, Durance’s life revolves around her professional pursuits.

She currently tied up shooting “Saving Hope.” The series that began life in 2012 as a CTV/NBC offering went on to success in Canada, while NBC pulled its first season from the air with two episodes to go. Now Durance and company is beginning season three, and the show will be making its way back to American audiences via a newly closed deal with the ION channel.

“They haven’t worked out the schedule yet, but I believe we’re starting in January sometime,” Durance reports. “It’s been so gratifying, the people who have been loyal to the show and have found it in a variety of ways despite the fact that it’s not airing in the U.S. It’s pretty incredible — they tracked it down, found different places that it’s streaming from and got a hold of it. I’m really grateful for that kind of tenacity and that kind of support.”

Especially given its unusual beginning, Durance is pleased that “Saving Hope” has kept going. She notes that CTV “loved the show and kept it and pushed it and the fan base continually keeps growing. So I kind of think of us as ‘The Little Engine that Could.’ We keep plugging away and people find it and fall in love with it, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s certainly a different type of thing for me to be doing,” she says of the paranormal-infused medical drama in which the spirits of the comatose and the dead roam the hospital halls.

Not only does she star as Dr. Alex Reid, Chief Surgical Resident of the fictional Hope Zion Hospital in Toronto, she is one of the series’ producers. “I wanted to be able to study the art of storytelling from many different perspectives, not just the acting side. Being in more of a leadership position, learning a little bit more about the other side of things has been really interesting. You realize more fully how every single part of this working mechanism is crucial. One thing that for me was quite new was the editing — to get into that whole other world and just witness just how different your story can be depending upon how you choose to edit. It’s really fascinating.” She feels, “I’m getting paid to go to film school.”

 

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Oct 14

stephen collinsHas there ever been a faster fall from celebrity to ignominy than that of Stephen Collins? With TMZ’s release last week of a recording made during a therapy session — in which Collins apparently admits to three instances of exposing himself and/or inappropriate touching with three girls under the age of 14 — he immediately became poison to the public and the industry. His scenes were cut from “Scandal,” he was dropped from the film “TED 2,” and countless media outlets reaped ratings, sales and page views from his shame. The TV Guide Network and UpTV dropped “7th Heaven” series reruns from their schedules. And all before a single charge was filed.

Criminal charges may happen, of course. People magazine confirmed that the NYPD had received an official complaint about Collins after the audio came out, and that the case is under investigation by the Manhattan Special Victims Squad. The LAPD reopened a 2012 investigation. Collins’ estranged wife, Faye Grant, secretly made the tape and then handed it over to police that year. She now claims she had nothing to do with the TMZ leak, although Collins’ attorney has pointed out that the timing, on the eve of their divorce trial, is questionable to say the least.

Given the fact that Collins once enjoyed a squeaky clean, religious faith-inflected image, his fall from admiration is particularly brutal. And of course, the accusations are much uglier than in most of even the worst celebrity scandals. But not all.

Going all the way back to the death of actress Virginia Rappe at a wild party in 1921, some of Hollywood’s famed have dropped to the lowest depths. Then-superstar Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of raping the young ingenue violently and assaulting her with foreign objects, leading to her death. It was also said, however, that she was ill with venereal disease when she went to the party. Three manslaughter trials later, Arbuckle was exonerated, with a public apology from the jury, no less. Nevertheless, he remained persona non grata to his formerly adoring public. The case is still argued about today.

From 2003 into 2005, the media was full of awful step after awful step of the case against the late Michael Jackson. Some 70 investigators from the Santa Barbara D.A.’s office descended on Neverland Ranch with a warrant, you may recall, and accusations led to his indictment and trial for child molestation.

On June 13, 2005, the jury found Jackson not guilty on all fourteen charges, but he was a shell of his former self; his old life was over. He lived in self-imposed exile for a while. His health deteriorated and his dependence on pain medication increased, until he died in 2009.

On the other hand, director Roman Polanski’s life and career went on with a great deal of success after the 1977 incident when he was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. He pled guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor, but fled the U.S. before he could be sentenced. Last year, “The Girl,” Samantha Geimer’s disturbing memoir about the rape, was released. Polanski has said he’s regretted the incident ever since.

There were many who believed the star best known as Pee-wee Herman would never come back from lewd conduct charges filed against him in 1991 — the masturbation incident in a Florida adult theater — or the 2002 scandal when his home was raided by police and the L.A. City Attorney’s office seized what they claimed was a massive collection of child pornography. But Paul Reubens has reclaimed his career — possibly due in part to his steadfast insistence that his collection of vintage gay erotica was not child porn.

He issued a statement that people “may think I’m crazy or anything that anyone wants to think about me. That’s all fine. As long as one of the things you’re not thinking about me is that I’m a pedophile. Because that’s not true.” The child porn charges were dropped. Reubens went on to a series of high-profile TV guestings including the role of a European prince on “30 Rock” (created for him by Tina Fey), then his triumphant return as Pee-wee in 2010. This year, movie audiences saw him in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and TV viewers watched him in “The Blacklist.”

Only a few years ago, an Access Hollywood poll showed that 72 percent of moviegoers planned to pass on future Mel Gibson films — that after the star’s anti-Semitic tirade while being arrested, his hurling of the N-word, and his accusations of abuse by ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

However, industry insiders we spoke to at the time predicted he would overcome. After all, he was worth almost a billion dollars and had an entertainment empire. “If you’re saying people won’t come to see his movies because of this, no,” one writer-producer who had worked with Gibson said flatly. “That’s just not how it works in this business. As long as he’s productive, he’ll have an audience.”

You may have noticed that in the recent “The Expendables 3,” Gibson’s villainous character’s wife is a beautiful young woman with a Russian accent. The casting was not a coincidence. Some joke.

Some stars have struggled back from ignominy. Whether Collins can find a pathway to some sort of public reconciliation is a question that won’t be answered for a long time.

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Oct 08

Along Came A Nanny Final Photo AssetsHandsome and energetic, Cameron Mathison has amassed several different constituencies of fans at this point in his career. He’s known to soap followers for his long running role as Ryan on “All My Children,” his hosting of the SoapNet reality show “I Wanna Be a Soap Star” and the online “Dallas” after shows.

To “Dancing With the Stars” fans, he’s Edyta Sliwinska’s season five celebrity partner. To “Good Morning America” and “Entertainment Tonight” watchers, he’s a cheerful lifestyle and entertainment segment host.

And to devotees of the Hallmark Channel and the newly renamed Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel, the Ontario-born Mathison is an engaging leading man — soon to be seen in the Oct. 12-debuting “Along Came A Nanny.”

Mathison says that his eclectic career grew on its own energy. He didn’t plan it this way. However, beneath his hearty and congenial personality is a persistent perseverance — that Mathison guesses may stem from his childhood of having to contend with Perthes disease. The disease that affects the hip socket and thigh leaves some children unable to bear weight, with a high risk of broken bones and arthritis.

“From about 2 1/2 to almost 7, I had this big metal contraption on my legs day and night,” he recalls. “It was bigger than what Forrest Gump had in the movie. It’s a tough thing for a young guy. But I have a feeling that on some level, maybe subconscious, it added a lot of drive for me to do what I want to do — to try new things, and to be very active. I’m a very active guy. I think it plays into my life in more ways than I even know.”

To be sure, those who saw Mathison doing his thing on “Dancing With the Stars” know how brilliantly he succeeded in overcoming any physical limitation.

His latest starring role is less demanding on his athleticism — but does call upon his ability to shoot hoops and do physical comedy. In “Along Came a Nanny,” he plays a police detective who goes undercover as, yes, a nanny in order to solve a string of robberies.

It turns out that as a domestic majordomo he makes a great cop.

“Some of the most fun I had was the comedic stuff,” says the actor, whose character becomes smitten with a lovely fellow nanny in the neighborhood (Sarah Lancaster from “Chuck”) in the TV movie. “I had a lot of fun being a disastrous nanny around the house, trashing the place, ruining the laundry room and the kitchen. I had a lot of fun with the kids.”

His own son and daughter with wife Vanessa Arevalo are not so different in age from his on-camera charges, Valin Shinyei and Jena Skodje.

“I got to teach this boy how to play basketball, and I’ve taught my son how to play. I literally have those scenes in my life with my son a lot. I coach his basketball team. Those were fun,” notes Mathison.

Other scenes in “Along Came a Nanny” were more intense, there being bad guys and all, so Mathison got to show some different sides.

As far as his own domestic skills? He laughs. “I’m a very hands-on dad with respect to the kids, helping them with homework and things like that. As far as cooking, I’m very good at breakfast and there are some specific dinners that I am in charge of like meatloaf that I do. In general, though, lunches and dinners are usually my wife’s doing.”

He’d love to see “Along Came a Nanny” have a life after this movie. “In any actor’s head, you know, I can spin this into a series in a heartbeat,” he says. “I would love to continue. It’s such a fun character, and it has potential, I think.

“As far as Hallmark in general, I have nothing in the books right now, but I’d love to do more with them. I love working for Hallmark. I love the kindness and the good intentions in their projects. I love the opportunities that they’ve given me to play. I love how I feel doing their scripts and in their stories, and watching the finished projects. It’s a very feel-good, family-oriented place. I’m proud of these movies, proud to show them to my kids,” says the actor, whose other Hallmark credits include “The Christmas Ornament” and “My Gal Sunday.”

He’s also glad to be a part of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries (formerly Hallmark Movie Channel) rebranding.

Mathison is so enamored of his new movie, in fact, he even imagines that he could have been a nanny in real life. “Who knows? I really enjoy being around kids,” he says. “I’m like a big kid myself.”

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Oct 06

MARIA CANALS-BARRERAHollywood can be very hard on couples, as anyone who has seen “A Star is Born” — any version — can readily attest. However, tackling the challenges of husband and wife dual acting careers is all in a day’s work for Maria Canals and David Barrera, who have been married for 15 years and are the parents of two daughters, Bridget, 10, and Madeleine, 8.

Maria, best known for her 106-episode run on the Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” returns to the series game Friday, Oct. 10, playing the sister of breakout comedy star Cristela Alonzo in ABC’s new “Cristela.” She was up for the series with her husband. She got the job. He got a couple of callbacks, but ended up not being cast. Still, he’s very supportive, she says.

“He works all the time. He’s very fulfilled. It would have been fun to work together, but it’s OK,” says Maria, whose series spouse is being played by Carlos Ponce. She adds, “We’ve been up for husband and wife and boyfriend and girlfriend before, and sometimes we’ve gotten it.”

When it’s noted that some couples couldn’t handle such tricky ego territory, she is quick to shoot back, “I would question their priorities if they couldn’t handle it. I mean, we’re a team. We see things very much as a team. He works a lot. He just had a great big juicy guest star role on the first episode of this season of ‘Big Bang Theory.'”

In fact, David, whose credits range from big screen roles including Gunnery Sgt. Ray “Casey Kasem” Griego in “Generation Kill” to numerous TV gigs, was possibly better known to Cristela Alonzo at the outset of her sitcom’s casting than was Maria.

“The funny thing is she’s from the same small town in Texas that my husband is from,” notes the actress, referring to hamlet of San Juan in Hidalgo County. “They even attended the same high school, albeit 10 years apart. My husband was like the small town big star — everybody in that tiny town knows of David Barrera, the famous actor in Hollywood. Now it’s Cristela: ‘Oh, wow Cristela is our girl! She’s doing so great.’

“So, she knew who he was, she knew of him and knew I was his wife and about ‘Wizards’ and all of that.

She told me that she told the casting lady to make sure to bring us in because we’re a husband and wife team.”

Maria recalls that she and her new on-camera sister clicked immediately. “I did not know her personally before, but it was something that instantly felt great. It was so much fun — she’s so much fun to play off of, she’s easy to love like a sister. We both have sisters in real life, so we get the sister thing, how the sisters interact, how they keep bringing up things from the past.”

“Cristela” could have been even more of a Barrera family affair. Her elder daughter is in the “Cristela” pilot. “It was so much fun. The part of the kid was a recurring character. And then when the show got picked up, it became a regular. My daughter said, ‘Mom, I love doing the show, but I don’t want to miss middle school.’

“I said, ‘You know what? You’ll only have sixth grade once in your life. You can always do a show’ — because she’s really talented. So she chose school! Let me tell you, we were very blown away,” notes Maria with pride.

She keeps in touch with her former series daughter, Selena Gomez. She keeps in touch with all of her former “Wizards” family, in fact.

“We don’t see each other that often because we’re all doing so many different things, but we do talk, we do connect. I just connected with Jennifer (Stone). I saw David DeLuise recently. I see David Henrie. I was at the premiere of his film — he had a short film he wrote and directed that was terrific. I see Jake (T. Austin). And I do see Selena a little bit, but it’s been several months because she’s been so busy. We all stay connected, we support each other, we text,” she says. “It was a very special thing we had there. We’re grateful for it and we’re grateful for each other.”

Maria reports that she’s reunited with former occasional “Wizards of Waverly Place” director Victor Gonzalez, who’s been directing “Cristela.” And Peter Murrieta, a former writer-producer on “Wizards,” works on her new series, too. “It’s a small, small world,” she says.

So far she is having a blast on “Cristela.” “I love doing sitcoms with a live audience. There’s nothing like it. I love interacting with the people out there. It’s exciting to laugh with the audience. And it’s a family show, which is unusual and wonderful,” she adds. “You can watch with your kids and not flinch because of something highly inappropriate.”

Perhaps David Barrera will come in for a guesting some time?

Maria laughs. “Of course!”

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Oct 01

James Denton and Beth Stern

James Denton and Beth Stern

Marlee Matlin, Pauley Perrette, Larry Miller, Kellie Martin, Cristina Ferrare and Mark Steines were among the celebrity dog lovers who turned out the other night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to honor a group of very special pooches at the American Humane Association’s Fourth Annual Hero Dog Awards. The awards will be shown on the Hallmark Channel Oct. 30.

With this year’s group of honorees representing one moving story after another, it was a four-hanky affair.

There were interesting stories on the human side as well. James Denton was a last-minute replacement for Terry Bradshaw, who bowed out of co-hosting duties with Beth Stern in the wake of the stunning news of the death of Bradshaw’s son-in-law, former Tennessee Titans player Rob Bironas, in an automobile accident. The former “Desperate Housewives” actor gamely dove in, getting some of his best laughs of the night via a video bit showing him “interviewing” dogs and other critters using a device that purportedly translated their thoughts.

Between takes, Denton asked Stern how come there had been so many “Desperate Housewives” Mike-the-plumber jokes through the evening, but not a single quip about Beth’s husband, Howard Stern. “It’s in my contract,” the beauteous blond Mrs. Stern replied with a dazzling smile. Then the “Kitten Bowl” host told the crowd that Howard was home taking care of their 15 cats. The Sterns, we are told, have successfully fostered and placed more than 50 cats to date.

Wilson Phillips performed. The ’90s favorites are in the midst of a string of concert dates right now, including one at Beverly Hills’ Saban Theatre last week during which Chynna Phillips’ mother, Michelle Phillips, joined them onstage to sing “California Dreamin'”. The last surviving member of the iconic 1960s group The Mamas and the Papas was present at the Hero Dog Awards also, looking lovely at age 70 in a flowing white gown.

Chynna talked to her “mommie” several times from onstage and it was as sweet as Wilson Phillips’ singing “God Only Knows” backed by photos of their dogs.

Of course, the night really belonged to the hero dogs and their stories. For instance, there was the tearful parting and joyous reunion of a soldier and his four-legged buddy after tours of duty in Afghanistan; the fluffy white friend who turned out to have a gift for early detection of a little girl’s life-threatening extreme allergic attacks; the amazing career of a 15-year-old search and rescue dog whose first assignment was Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. And the over-all winner of the 2014 Hero Dog Awards, Susie the therapy dog, a Pit Bull mix whose story of the healing power of forgiveness and love exemplifies what the event is all about.

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Sep 29

sniper legacy“Sniper: Legacy” star Chad Michael Collins is hoping that the Sept. 30 DVD/Digital HD release keeps the “Sniper” movie franchise going. “We’ll see how this one does,” says the handsome actor, who ran up hills and down cliff sides carrying a 35-pound rifle as part of the required physicality of his role. He adds, “Hopefully, ‘Sniper: Legacy’ does well enough to do another one, and we can shoot it sooner rather than later.”

Collins was chosen to star in the 2011 reboot of the “Sniper” franchise as the son of Tom Berenger’s character, the original “Sniper.” In the new film, the preternaturally gifted marksmen father and son are thrown together after long years of absence and estrangement. “We’re trying to break that awkwardness and just get the job done,” he says. Dennis Haysbert also stars as the colonel in charge of their mission in the film that was shot in Greece.

Meanwhile, Collins has also been busy on the TV side of late. “Castle” fans will see him playing a billionaire app inventor who gets attacked by an invisible assailant this season, and in the Oct. 15 episode of “Bones” he’s playing an actor starring in a motion capture movie.

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Sep 20

charlie sheen mug shotchris-brown-mugshotHere is hoping the outcry over domestic violence perpetrated by Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and other NFL players has more impact than similar rounds of public disgust and media attention directed at Hollywood celebrities — which have done nothing positive.

One need look no further than Charlie Sheen for proof. With a rap sheet including multiple episodes of assault and threats to several girlfriends and two wives, Sheen has done better than survive — he’s made hay with his image. His FX “Anger Management” series has been on since 2012 despite what critic Maureen Ryan described perfectly as the show’s “core ugliness and toxic narcissism.” Sheen and brother Emilio Estevez produced a game show pilot called “Charlie Sheen’s Bad Influence” this past spring for WE tv.

See how pop culture has rewarded someone who made his women into punching bags?

Chris Brown gets downright ticked off when people have the nerve to remember that he once almost killed his on and off again girlfriend Rihanna (currently off, but rumors of a persistent obsession continue). How dare we bring up something we were all supposed to forget? After the headlines in ’09 that Brown had choked Rihanna and left her for dead, questions resounded in the media over whether his career was over. We predicted that he would carry on, as, indeed, he has.

It was impossible not to notice Brown and Rihanna cuddling in the audience at the 2013 Grammy Awards. She was also on hand at his probation hearing shortly before that, where prosecutors said that he had failed to complete the community service part of his sentence for felony assault against her in 2009. Yes, she blew kisses at her man in court. Yes, she at one time was planning to be a role model for young girls to get out of abusive relationships, but a few years after the incident, she and Chris were sending Instagram pictures from the same bed and letting the world know their relationship was “Nobody’s Business” — as in one of their duet titles. Of course, she’s made it our business with ongoing teases of S&M in her songs and duets with the misogynistic lyric-spouting Eminem.

Like Sheen, they’ve exploited their own sorry story to burnish their public notoriety. Now we have a sideshow with Rihanna’s gripe against CBS over her song being pulled/used on their Thursday night NFL broadcasts. Bah.

Speaking of Eminem (who has been investigated on domestic violence allegations, but never charged), as you may be aware, his songs have explored a myriad of vicious sex crime fantasies like raping his mother and assaulting underage girls.

Most notorious, perhaps, is his song named after his ex-wife, Kim Mathers, in which he verbally abuses her and slits her throat. She attempted suicide after watching him perform the song. And then there’s Eminem’s song “Kill You”, which includes lines such as “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore / till the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?”

It follows the hideous tradition of hate speech against women in hip-hop, with stars like Akon referring to women as bitches and hos. This disgrace has gone on so long (in rock, too — “Brown Sugar” anyone?) that sadly, young women and men today simply view it as part of the scenery, the way things are.

Again, in the entertainment world, there’s money to be made and fame to be gained by exploiting domestic violence.

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when the mere accusation of spousal abuse could kill the momentum in an actor’s career. In 1983, going public about his history of uncontrollable anger — which had led to his wife charging him with battery — put then-hugely-popular “Starsky & Hutch” star David Soul’s career in deep freeze.

Then things changed. In 1998, when Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee was sentenced to six months behind bars over domestic violence involving then-wife Pamela Anderson, many thought that would be the end of his stardom. Few would have imagined that Lee would go on to even more success — including his own reality show, a rap metal band called Methods of Mayhem and joining in the fun on Pam’s popular cable TV roast.

The public got used to the revolving door of breakups and make-ups — including telltale signs and stories of violence — between Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston.

Some celebrities have plea bargained and been sentenced to various diversion programs, probation, etc. in spousal abuse cases (examples include Christian Slater and John Singleton), with barely a ripple in their careers.

“Celebrities have a powerful influence on our culture. We admire famous actors, athletes, musicians and other public figures. What does it mean, then, when they fail as role models, when they batter their partners, and we as a culture continue to admire them and pay to see them perform?” asked the Family Violence Prevention Fund on its endabuse.org website a few years ago. “When we continue to view our celebrities as sexy or heroic even after they are known to be violent to their partners, we condone their behavior and perpetuate domestic violence by helping to create an environment in which violence is viewed as acceptable. Celebrities, and the media that publicize and employ them, must be held accountable. It is up to us, as consumers of entertainment, to make sure that this happens.”

We have not. And unfortunately, with Hollywood’s double standard on domestic violence, and the NFL’s disingenuous stance (they’re shocked — shocked! — that any of their players might hit their girlfriends or experience steroid rages) it’s unlikely any change will come without consumers forcing it.

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Sep 17

charlie roweCharlie Rowe is a bit bemused by widespread speculation that he and his fellow young cast mates on “Red Band Society” will become hot little new celebrities once their show debuts on Fox tonight (9/17). “I don’t really know quite what it means, to be honest,” he admits. “Everyone’s mentioning it. I don’t know if I accept it,” adds the 18-year-old, who already finds himself with a burgeoning Twitter following, though he has yet to be recognized on the street.

Certainly he will be easy to spot, having had to shave his head to play a cancer patient on the Steven Spielberg-produced show that has been hailed as “The Breakfast Club” in a pediatric hospital.

“That’s true. That’s why I’m buying more hats,” he says jovially.

Rowe plays Leo Roth, de facto leader of the collection of friends brought together by shared serious medical plight — a complex charmer with an edge of sadness, the kind of character that does indeed turn up-and-comers into stars. His portrayal is all that much more impressive when you hear his natural British accent and realize that behind the all-American Leo is a Londoner, born and raised.

Rowe played Peter Pan in Syfy’s “Neverland” prequel and Billy Costa in the big-screen “Golden Compass.” Last year, he became the youngest lead actor in the history of The Old Vic, where he played the title role of Ronnie Winslow in “The Winslow Boy.”

So how did a nice British teen wind up working in Atlanta, Ga., playing a cancer-stricken California boy?

“This is the first pilot I’ve ever auditioned for. I’ve never done pilot season or anything like that,” notes Rowe. “I was just going off the pilot script, reading it in the U.K., and I got to page four, and I knew I wanted to do it — it just seemed to be more ambitious than other shows. It was one I could really relate to. It wasn’t about guns and cops or the Middle East; it was very clearly something I related to, yet it was something far away from me. An interesting mix.”

There was also the character himself. “I really, really like Leo. I think he’s very powerful. There are things that are different from me about Leo, but I’m not quite sure what those things are yet. There are things I find similar. He has an urge to know everything, not be left out.”

Once Rowe put in his bid for the role, he had an audition for a London casting director within a week. “The director was on Skype, and the writer was on Facetime, so it was a strange conception of screens,” he recalls.

“They enjoyed it, and I got the part about a week and a half later.”

Rowe has the theater in his blood. His mother is a drama teacher whose students have included “Coronation Street” actor Charlie Condou. His father is an actor and writer. His aunt is on television in the U.K. His grandmother on his father’s side is an actress, as well, and his grandpa is a camera man. “I’ve grown up with it, and I can’t imagine myself doing anything or attempting to do anything else,” he says.

Taking the edge off his homesickness as he toils on sound stages half a world away from the British Isles is the fact that he’s become fast friends with his young “Red Band Society” cast mates. “Some of us live in the same building, some five minutes away. We’re all almost the same age. It’s almost like family,” he notes. The show also stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable.

Another bonding experience: Cast members did a cross-country tour of pediatric hospitals. “We went visiting different cities and different hospitals and talked to the kids there about what we were doing and why we wanted to talk to them and get to know them. Partly it was very formalized, in that we were there to do interviews and we had a whole publicity team with us, and it was very much part of the publicity process. But part of it was going to these kids and chatting with them, one on one, about what they were going through and stuff like that. That was the part I really loved,” he recalls. “There was some really funny and hilarious stuff. You don’t have to use a lot of imagination with this. It’s easy to relate to the real thing.”

Asked whether the visits were emotional, Rowe says no. “None of them were really upset. They were very happy to be where they were and very happy they were getting better, and tremendously interested in telling their stories. You know, they’re just ordinary kids. I’m going to try to meet this girl, I’m going to try to have new friends — that sort of thing.”

The series also benefits from writer/executive producer Margaret Nagle’s experience, having spent countless hours and days in the hospital with her brother, who was comatose for years. (He is now an outsider artist, though still disabled.)

Rowe reports that the company is working on episode five as we speak, and he says, “We’re getting to the good stuff now. We’re getting to the heart of the show. We’re going into more aspects of the characters. It’s great.”

Whether Rowe and his cast mates skyrocket to fame or not, his acting work is such that he’s bound to be around for a long, long time.

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Sep 12

Gladys Knight photoGladys Knight admits she would never have thought of tackling a romantic role in the just-wrapped “Seasons of Love” if Taraji P. Henson, executive producer and star of the Lifetime movie that just finished shooting, hadn’t brought her into it.

“This part is one of the main characters of the film,” the seven-time Grammy-winning singer lets us know. Speaking of Henson, with whom she worked previously in Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” Gladys goes on, “I don’t know what she saw in me that she would think I could even do a part like this, but they called me and, oh! I prayed so hard about it, because I wanted to do well. It’s a love story even though it’s coming out at Christmas time. I just really didn’t know if I could pull it off. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to be like this with a partner.”

So how was it to be affectionate on camera? “I felt like I was cheating on my husband!” admits Gladys, and lets out a great big laugh.

And her husband? “My husband is pretty protective when it comes to me,” she replies. “We share everything. I asked him, ‘How do you feel about this?’ and he was okay, you know, but at that time I didn’t know I was going to have to kiss the guy!” She laughs again.

Gladys’ mate since 2001, William McDowell, wasn’t on the set as she was going through her romantic paces. In fact, he wasn’t even in the same state. “We bought a school,” she explains, “and he’s working so, so very hard to get the school renovated so we can get going in making a difference in young people’s lives — young adults’ lives. He’s down in North Carolina working on that.”

Right now, Gladys is in the midst of a media blitz on behalf of her new “Where My Heart Belongs” inspiration/gospel album.

She wrote some of the material on the album as far back as the 1970s, when she was performing with her brother Merald, William Guest and the late Edward Patten, a.k.a. The Pips.

“I was looking for certain stories, certain information I could put on this album, just as a reminder to people about the spirit that we should have and that God is still amazing and we need him in our lives,” she explains. “I wanted to give people just a peek into the most important part of my life and how I feel about that.”

She says she was prompted to start the album as a response to the troubled shape of the world: “I think sometimes a little message is like a candle in the dark.

“At first I thought it was going to be a Christmas holiday album, where we would talk about the spirit of the Lord and loving each other and that kind of thing. And then the closer I got to it, I felt like his love for us and our love for him should be for all seasons. I started putting songs in there that people usually just listen to around certain holidays, like ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus,’ like ‘Were You There When They Crucified My Lord’ — songs that we should be thinking about any time of year.”

Gladys has been out touring this summer, including some dates with Kool and the Gang, and has more performances ahead. The devout Mormon (since 1997) is also still managing to find time to do Latter-day Saints firesides in-between. Then, too, there are her 16 grandchildren and eight great-grands. Gladys tells us that she does indeed get time with them, that “If we’re away from North Carolina too long, they come to see me.”

That the beloved Empress of Soul and her husband are embarking on brand new major enterprises at this time of life is no small inspiration in itself.

How does she do it? Answers Gladys, “I just take it all in stride and be grateful for the blessings that I have, and if I stay focused on the blessings, I ain’t got time for nothing else.”

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