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Jul 26

Freya Tingley and Peri Gilpinperi gilpinPeri Gilpin would like to get back to the funny. The actress who rose to fame as lusty radio producer Roz Doyle on “Frasier” — and more recently appeared as the compassionate mother of an Olympics-bound gymnast with medical trouble on ABC Family’s “Make It Or Break It” — says she had a blast playing a hooker on “Modern Family” last season. That’s even though the job necessitated explaining to her 10-year-old twin daughters what a hooker was.

“I’d love to do more comedy again,” declares Gilpin, who does, of course, have a major humorous bent. She admits her former “Make It Or Break It” daughter Ayla Kell would jokingly insist she act more serious on the set. Gilpin is also occasionally seen as the wife of Ted Danson’s “CSI” character, and they joke about being a couple of old sitcom actors.

Her latest made-for-television film definitely takes her into the serious
dramatic realm.

Lifetime’s “The Choking Game” has Gilpin as the mother of a bright high
schooler (Freya Tingley) who begins to slip in her studies and show other
alarming signs of being involved in something sinister. That something turns out to be a “game” of deliberately choking — sometimes self-strangulation, sometimes at the hands of another — in order to get high. These “flights” are stunningly common. Gilpin says she was surprised to learn “teenagers doing this are organized online,” something the movie reveals in detail.

Notes Gilpin, “I loved the script, and the fact that my character was not ‘just the mom.’ This was a mom who really cared about her child, who was racking her brain trying to figure out why all of a sudden she was appearing with red eyes and bruises on her neck.”

She gives kudos to her young costar. “Freya — oh, my God she is just so good technically. She’s Australian, and I never heard her Australian accent until we finished shooting. She’s wonderful. She and Alex (Steele) made it so believable that they passed out. They made it real in a scary way.”

“I’m glad this mother was written in a sympathetic way,” notes Gilpin of the
script drawn from the book “Choke” by Diana Lopez, “even with though she
couldn’t see the pressures on her daughter. Having two 10-year-old daughters myself — having kids — reminds us what it’s like facing these pressures of trying to get along with their peers and gain independence from us.”

Gilpin also sees “The Choking Game” as “a metaphor for so many things kids can get involved with that aren’t good for them. And with all the interaction and information available on the internet, the dangers increase exponentially.”

The other day, in fact, she says she had her girls at her mother-in-law’s house and, looking something up on a laptop, they all “saw something on the laptop we shouldn’t have seen. I was so embarrassed. It’s a whole other realm, and it’s only going to get more complicated.”

She stresses that “there’s no bad guy” in “The Choking Game.”

And, “Like ‘Make It Or Break It,’ this brings up stuff to talk about for
families, which is great. I think the more specific you can get, the more
universal something is.”

Still, after all that, it’s easy to see why a good laugh looks very inviting.

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Jul 22

Elliott GouldA month shy of turning 76, Elliott Gould is quite pleased with himself for having two — count ‘em, two — high-profile television series gigs simultaneously. Showtime’s excellent “Ray Donovan” has been using the one-time counterculture icon to great effect as the aging Hollywood power lawyer who is Ray’s (Liev Schreiber) mentor and boss. And, come October, he’ll be seen as Oscar, the flamboyant, advice-giving neighbor of John Mulaney in that “Saturday Night Live” alumnus’ new Fox sitcom, “Mulaney” — along with Nasim Pedrad, Zack Pearlman, Seaton Smith, and Martin Short.

The two shows have been cooperating on Gould’s schedule “so I get to play different characters in two different series,” explained Gould the other day, following the “Mulaney” panel at the Television Critics’ Association summer press tour.

What accounts for his being so busy at this stage of the game? “My answer to that question is, my mother never gave up, and I have to be the way I am,” replies Gould in one of his trademark convoluted answers.

He adds, “And as far as my own ignorance and lack of perspective and judgment through a good deal of my career, it’s taken me forever to attain this character. And therefore, to have this opportunity to have the nature and the strength and the health to work in these productions.”

That makes sense if you recall Gould’s roller coaster career trajectory. He spent 20 years attaining the status of top in-demand film star with “M*A*S*H” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” only to become a pariah overnight after the shut-down of his big-budget “Glimpse of Tiger” amid rumors of a breakdown or drug problem. “It had been a week rife with reports that…he was behaving strangely…walking around with a pacifier in his mouth, blowing whistles during camera takes, flying into screaming rages at director Tony Harvey,” wrote Marilyn Beck. He did, of course, eventually work again, logging dozens of film and TV roles, but it was never the same. Decades of forgettable roles and near-misses followed before Steven Soderbergh cast him as one-time casino owner Reuben Tishkoff in his 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven,” and its follow-ups.

Now Gould is enjoying playing two series characters that are nothing alike. According to him, his “Ray Donovan” character will be more prominent in the future. “Ezra is a very serious character, a rather pios character. He’s a highly successful, deeply-connected person. We haven’t seen too much of Ezra, but we will see more of him since his brain tumor is corrected,” he says. As far as “Mulaney,” “With Oscar, you see all of Oscar’s inside. Oscar expresses what he’s feeling. This character is a highly original character for me to do.”

Another difference: “Mulaney” is being shot before an audience with multiple cameras. It’s a challenge. However, says Gould, “I enjoy working and a challenge for me to work with these young people. I enjoy the opportunity and I work at it.”

As for how he maintains his vigor, Gould says, “What do I do – I have a family, I have grown children, and I have a very good relationship with nature. To me, it’s all about the family and mostly about chemistry and being honest and true.”

Of course.

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Jul 21

Do you watch TV on your tablet, use Video On Demand, download shows? The tectonic shifts in viewing habits among U.S. TV audiences are speeding up precipitously, according to Alan Wurtzel, President, Research & Media Development, NBC Universal. For example, as he pointed out during NBC’s TCA day, smartphone viewing is on the rise. “It hardly existed in 2008. Today half of the population has it. And that’s definitely going to grow by the end of the year…. One out of five people watched a TV show or a movie on a smartphone in the past seven days.”

Wurtzel points out, “It’s very interesting, kind of counterintuitive ‑‑ most mobile consumption doesn’t occur outside; it occurs in the home. 61% of consumption is in the home, 39% out of the home. Where is it basically consumed? Half of it’s consumed in the bedroom. By the way, it’s consumed around a little after 10:30. I won’t make any further comments about that.”

And you probably thought you were the only one looking at your phone in bed.

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Jul 19

McCartney and MichalkaLife is a whirlwind for Jesse McCartney, with his new “Expecting Amish” Lifetime movie, his new “In Technicolor” album, and his five-week House of Blues tour about to get underway. The timing of it all sounds like smart strategy, but according to McCartney, “It was a happy coincidence. The album release was set back around the end of January, and the movie came up very last minute.”

In the made-for-television film, McCartney plays an L.A. disc jockey who mixes
it up with an Amish girl (AJ Michalka) who is confronting worldliness for the
first time on a Rumspringa trip.

“It was all very new for me. I knew very little about the Amish culture,” says
McCartney. And while “Breaking Amish” and other reality shows in recent years
have put the spotlight on young members of the religion getting out and mingling
in the 21st-century world, he hadn’t seen the subject in a drama.

“I talked to the director; he really knew what he wanted. I liked the script.
I’d known AJ for years and I knew it would be fun to work with her,” he adds.

When his character meets AJ’s at a party. “He’s struck by her reaction to her
surroundings, and when she says she’s never been to a party before. There’s
something sweet about it. Before he knows it, he’s falling madly in love.”

And more. The drama centers on the choices she’s forced to make when she finds
herself pregnant by an outsider.

Meanwhile, it’s a huge week for McCartney, musically speaking. He released a
teaser EP of “Technicolor” late last year, and says he was happy to find an
appetite for his venture into disco/pop.

“These fans were waiting for it. People seem very excited about it, genuinely
excited about the new sound. Honestly, I thought they would like it. I think
music on pop radio is on its way back,” he says.

He doesn’t mind admitting he was influenced by his parents’ music. He thinks we
all are, “Big time. Whatever your parents listened to is your foundation of
music.” In his case, that meant Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees.
“I was singing at an early age,” notes the 27-year-old, who performed in
community theater musicals at 7, joined the boy band Dream Street at 12, and was
a bona fide teen heartthrob with his own solo success, as an actor as well as
singer, by 16. He feels he found his best voice doing blue-eyed soul.

McCartney says he wants to “push the album as long as I can and then get into
the production side of things in television by the end of the year.” He has
several projects on the burner.

And … what of the fourth Alvin and the Chipmunks movie? “There’s talk about
it. I’ve heard rumors but no official word,” says McCartney, who voices Theodore
in the feature series. “I’m sure they’ll make another. We work with the
Bagdasarians and they’ve been great about doing these.” Voice work, he adds,
“really is such an easy job — way less stress than being on camera. I went in
to work on ‘Alvin’ in sweatpants.”

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Jul 11

miles adcoxThere’s nothing like aiming high. Nashville-based therapist and life coach Miles Adcox says that when it comes to dealing with the personal problems of real-life people on TV in a non-exploitative way, “the best example of that, who was great at it, is Oprah Winfrey — and anybody who is even thinking about doing a talk show uses her as a reference.”

He’s certainly had occasion to do more than just think about Oprah of late. Come July 14, the handsome wellness workshop entrepreneur and entertainment industry favorite will be seen co-hosting Fox’s new “The Daily Helpline” with radio advice talk show host Spirit. Everyday folks with problems from overcoming abuse to battling cancer, coping with teen pregnancy to confronting sexual woes show up in person in the studio, or contact Adcox and Spirit via social media.

(Requests were already streaming in weeks ago.) Celebrities including Marie Osmond, Tom Green, TLC’s Tionne Watkin, Loni Love, Tabatha Coffey and Brandy guest in segments to weigh in with their own opinions and experience.

So there is quite a bit of potential for exploitation — depending upon how the show is done.

Adcox admits, “The therapy world is often scared of the media world and vice versa, because we feel like media is about sensationalism and we don’t want to do that. But the truth is we can reach way more people with a media platform than we could ever do one person at a time in our office, so that’s why I wanted to be involved” — in a healthy, Oprah-esque way.

“She didn’t come across as another expert dropping advice from 10,000 feet and hoping something would change. She was real. She was vulnerable. She connected with people,” Adcox points out. “And people had healing experiences on her show because of how good a listener she was. I haven’t seen that recreated since she left, and that’s what I’m excited about — stepping in in a way that can help people. I believe there is an audience interested in seeing human connection, and seeing real people helping real people and holding people in pain.”

Real people in New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina will be able to see “The Daily Helpline” test run on TV. Elsewhere, viewers are being invited to sample via YouTube. A week’s worth of shows are in the can and more are being shot.

Adcox, who has guested on a number of shows in the past, including “The Doctors” and “Dr. Phil,” says he was initially asked to come in and help vet prospective hosts for “The Daily Helpline.” However, as the weeks went by, he went from being asked about other candidates to being asked how he would feel about taking on the hosting chores himself.

“It wasn’t my dream to do this, but it’s a neat opportunity for me to step into,” he says.

According to him, the celebs involved so far have been taking to the show as a neat opportunity as well. “Daily Helpline,” he says, is “not there to get the dirt on movie star. These celebrities are coming and sitting in our chairs to share an experience in order to help someone else. I was surprised — the few I had relationships with that I asked about doing the show, it wasn’t a hard ask. They were pleasantly excited about it.”

He says that Tom Green, for example, “was able to help someone probably more than we were because they were going through same experience Tom had and he was able to share how he got through it.”

That particular episode had to do with cancer and its accompanying stresses on personal and work relationships. Green, a testicular cancer survivor, has been a guiding light for countless men going through that ordeal for since his own battle in 2000.

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Jul 10

christine baranskiTelevision is in the midst of a new golden age, as this year’s Emmy nominations attest. Actors go where the best writing can be found, and TV is that place to judge by the flood of movie star names among this year’s Emmy nominees, including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Lange, Jon Voight, Jane Fonda and Julia Roberts.

It’s especially true for actresses, as Halle Berry has been pointing out on the promotional trail for her new “Extant” series. The women’s categories this Emmy year represent an array of meaty characters — Taylor Schilling’s prison inmate in “Orange is the New Black,” Lizzy Caplan’s sex researcher in “Masters of Sex,” Kerry Washington’s D.C. fixer in “Scandal,” Claire Danes’ CIA agent in “Homeland,” Margo Martindale’s Cold War era Soviet spy in “The Americans,” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ U.S. vice president in “Veep” to name a few.

Christine Baranski, up for Emmy honors (her 12th nomination) for playing law firm partner Diane Lockhart on “The Good Wife” is quick to attest to the multi-dimensionality of her character. “What I really love? She’s a powerful, well-educated woman, very well-spoken, and she can just go toe to toe with the guys. Women love that, they love to see it,” she told us. “There are so many powerful women in the world now, running companies, running countries, running the international monetary fund. They know how to talk to guys. They don’t, you know, bend and try to be all cute to try to deal with the guys. It’s a new world, and I love that Diane is totally comfortable with men. She actually likes men. You get the feeling, this is a woman who can sit down and drink scotch with the guys and talk sports.”

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Jul 05

KeenePhillip P. Keene — that’s hunky surveillance expert Buzz Watson to fans of “The Closer” and “Major Crimes” — plays things close to the chest when it comes to divulging what is ahead for his hugely popular TV homicide investigating team. As the current season continues to unspool on TNT, “I can say we will see dead people,” he notes playfully.

The actor and former Pan Am flight attendant also plays things close to the chest when it comes to chatting about his work life at home and vice-versa. “It works out best that way,” he says — especially since his husband happens to be show creator/executive producer James Duff. They’ve been together for 21 years.

“I have an interesting position here, being one of the cast members and also being so close to one of the executive producers and creators of the show. I’m one of the godfathers to other creators’ children. I’ve got to walk pretty nimbly,” he notes. “I really do try to keep things as separate as I possibly can.”

How does that work? Well, some cast matters never leave the soundstage — not with Keene, anyway — according to him. Duff, meanwhile, “is in the office most of the time, not down on the set,” Keene points out. “When it’s time to be at home together, we give each other space. There are a lot of ways. Sometimes he’ll start conversations on the telephone, and I’ll just walk away. If I don’t see it, I don’t know about it, I can’t talk about it.”

At this point, such I-know-nothing moments are second nature for the affable actor — after seven seasons of “The Closer” and three of “Major Crimes.”
He’s enjoying his gig as much as ever, even after 10 years. “I guess the best part for me is I get to stay and play with the people I like being around,” he says. “We’ve really bonded as a family unit.”

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Jul 01

bergeron pbsTom Bergeron expects to touch down in Washington, D.C., today, July 1, to start the whirlwind of activities leading up to his hosting of this year’s “A Capitol Fourth” gargantuan Independence Day concert on PBS. “I’ll do some satellite TV interviews alongside Kermit the Frog on the 2nd,” he reports, speaking of the greenest member of his talent line-up. “On the 3rd we do a dress rehearsal to which the public is invited, which is the whole show except the fireworks. And on the 4th of July, obviously, we do the live show.”

Bergeron credits the “Capitol Fourth” team for doing “all the heavy lifting, all the hard work” in preparing the concert that’s beamed around the globe each year. This year, the affable “Dancing With the Stars” and “Funniest Home Videos” host will be joined by Frankie Valli, Patti LaBelle, Phillip Phillips, Jordin Sparks, Michael McDonald, Sara Evans, Kendall Schmidt, Kelli O’Hara, the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jack Everly — and John Williams in a special tribute to the National Anthem — plus The Muppets’ Miss Piggy as well as Kermit.

“There are so many lures involved in doing this. The fact that it’s live TV is certainly one. The fact that it is America’s premiere birthday party on PBS is another,” Bergeron says.
When the party is through, Bergeron and wife Lois will be taking a vacation on the West Coast for three weeks, and then he will shoot his final season of “America’s Funniest Videos.” He announced earlier this year that he was going to call it a wrap as host of the show that, as he’s pointed out, often revolves around someone taking a hit to the head, gut or groin. His feelings about ending his run now?

“Well, you know, it was my decision,” he says. “It’s the show’s 25th year. It will be my 15th year hosting, and it just felt like a good time to, as I’ve said, pass the pinata stick to somebody else.” As for who will be the new host, he says, “I’m hoping that will be part of what plays out during the season. They’ll be auditioning people, some tongue-in-cheek and some legitimately.”
Then it will be on to season 19 of “Dancing With the Stars” — coming off one of its best and best-rated seasons in recent years. The team is still enjoying the afterglow of viewer adoration for winners Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis, and for dazzling Paralympian Amy Purdy. “There were a number of other elements that people brought to their hearts this season, but I think those two were the key,” Bergeron says.

He does hear rumblings about celebrities who may become contenders for next season, but “I always play dumb,” he admits.

“It’s always better to unveil them all at once if possible. In late August, I imagine, we’ll announce the new cast. And they’ll have about three weeks to rehearse and get ready. Typically, it’s the middle of September that we premiere.”

When it comes to celebrities he’d like to see on “DWTS,” Bergeron thinks of “a friend of mine who I’ve often cited — he’ll never do it — William Shatner. I thought he would be great. He has said he’s willing to be a guest judge, but he’s not willing to put himself through all that hassle of actually competing. I can understand why. It becomes all-consuming, and more so as you get deeper into the run of the season because you’re doing more dances and it takes more of your time and commitment. But he’d be a riot.”

How about a Shatner guesting on “America’s Funniest Videos”?

“I would love to have him,” says Bergeron. “The stage we’re on is right next to where ‘Boston Legal’ used to shoot, so he’s familiar with the neighborhood.”

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Jun 29

103576_D0106bKim Wayans has little doubt that at some point she and her famously funny siblings will work together again — but it won’t be for awhile. “Everybody is really off doing their own projects and raising their families and things of that nature,” says the actress, who debuts as sleuthing paralegal Vi in CBS’s sizzling summer series “Reckless” tonight (6/29)

“Part of the artist’s journey is fulfilling your own personal desires and everybody has different ideas about things they’d like to accomplish creatively. But we do love working together and we have such a good time doing it, when the right things come along we’ll get back together.”

“Reckless” reunites Kim with director Catherine Hardwicke, who was production designer on
Keenen Ivory Wayans’ wacky 1988 “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” blaxploitation film spoof. “Catherine was just the best — such a fun, kooky, creative individual. I always really dug her,” notes Kim, speaking of the talent who would go on to direct the first “Twilight” movie among other credits. “She was really one of the primary reasons I got in on ‘Reckless,’ which is a whole different direction than some of the projects I’ve been working on. I thought the script was great, well-written. Then when I heard Catherine was going to be directing it, and she wanted me to come in and read for her, you know, I couldn’t say no.”

The legal drama, set Charleston, S.C., stars Anna Wood and Cam Gigadent as super attractive
sexy legal eagles set on opposite sides of a police corruption case involving a gang rape. The steaminess quotient, including the camera’s long, lingering shots on bodies beautiful, is mighty high — including beefcake such as a shirtless Gigadent.

“That’s the wonderful thing about a woman director. You get to see both sides, so to speak — good for the goose, good for the gander.” Kim laughs. “This is the new world. With cable the way it is, I guess the networks are trying to push the envelope as much as they can so they can stay competitive with these shows where it’s like, everything’s out there.”

She’s hoping that her character gets a chance to expand if there is a Season 2. Meanwhile, viewers will get to see more of Vi’s story toward the end of this season. While waiting for word on the series’ future, Kim has her plate full of her own creative projects, including big and small screen comedies she’s written, and expansion of the Amy Hodgepodge children’s book series that she writes with husband Kevin Knotts. They’re working on an animated “Amy Hodgepodge” project as well as interactive digital possibilities for their multiracial school girl character.

Should “Reckless” be picked up for a second series, the Knottses wouldn’t mind at all going back to Charleston. “My husband and I just loved living there. It was so peaceful. You don’t even realize how much stress you’re under living in a big city until you pack up and go somewhere else for an extended period of time. It was so stress-free and peaceful and beautiful. I mean, it was like being in a little European town every day walking down those cobblestone streets, looking at those beautiful old buildings from the 1700s, the 1800s. It was a magical six months.”

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Jun 29

Johnathon Schaech photo/Alan Mercer

Johnathon Schaech photo/Alan Mercer

Fatherhood has made Johnathon Schaech a better man. At least, the actor, whose wife Julie gave birth to son Camden last September, certainly feels that way. “It puts life in a whole different perspective. In my relationships, in my career path — everything,” he enthuses. “Trying to achieve success now is so I can make Camden’s life better, give him more opportunities. It’s adding to my courage. I’ll ask for something that I never would have asked for before. Maybe my ego would have kept me from doing it, or I was scared. Now I’ll step forward and try to make it work.”

Work has been the operative word of the last two or three years for Schaech, whose performance as movie-star-in-trouble Sean Walker on Showtime’s acclaimed Liev Schreiber series, “Ray Donovan,” has him among names being bandied as Emmy prospects this year. He’s been going from assignment to assignment.

“I was doing ‘Ray Donovan’ the same time I was doing ‘The Client List’ with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Talk about a purpose-driven life! I had a baby on the way. I knew I had to get back into the business,” he says, referring to a spell of disappointments he went through a few years ago.

He has certainly gotten back.

The character of Sean Walker, who lived in the valley of the shadow of a 20-year-old murder throughout Season 1, gave Schaech several gifts as an actor. One was the opportunity to work with Voight, whose slimy ex-convict, Mickey Donovan, was the very last person Sean Walker wanted to see.

“The experience of working with Jon Voight was the most amazing thing. I think we’re kindred spirits. I think we’re like the same guy, you know? Every time we played a scene, we raised the level of stakes,” he says. “It was like he was going to make me take a chance on doing something I wanted to do — and then he would counter that. It was everything I’ve ever learned about acting to the highest degree — to be free and playful and discover. Even in the saddest moments we were still trying to change things and make things happen. It invigorated me, gave me hope again.

“He’s the most generous actor,” Schaech goes on. “Even when he was off-camera, he was giving me stuff that was helping my performance.”

Also adding fuel to his performance was the fact that Sean Walker was “trying to save his family, the new little baby that he had” — motivation to which Schaech obviously related.

From “Ray Donovan,” he went on to the CW series, “Star-Crossed.” Then it was on to film roles including “Vice” with Bruce Willis and “Ray Donovan” actress Amber Heard. “There’s nobody like Bruce Willis. I learned so much. What a movie star!” he extols.

“Vice” takes the sin city concept of Las Vegas to a souped-up futuristic science fiction level. It’s “a magical place where you can do anything you want in the world, good or bad,” Schaech explains. That movie’s due next year.

As we speak, Schaech is on a break from production of the History Channel’s eight-hour limited series about Texas’ revolution from Mexico and the birth of the Texas Rangers, “Texas Rising.” Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta and Chad Michael Murray are among his cast mates. They’re shooting in Durango, Mexico, former stamping grounds of John Wayne.

“It’s been like a great big play,” says Schaech, who plays Col. Sidney Sherman in the series from the same producers who gave us the violent and vaunted “Hatfields & McCoys” mini of 2012. This saga, “is one of the bloodiest chapters in history,” adds Schaech. “This is a movie about war, about how people deal with it, about how they overcome and go back to their families, about how they fight in a noble way — or not.”

He has three more months of shooting ahead. “Three months — I know, it’s too long. I fly back as often as I possibly can,” he says.

And after that? Schaech makes it clear his work drive is still on high. He’s been fully booked for so long, but says, “I wish I was more fully booked. One thing about my job is, when the good work is coming, you want to work around the clock.”

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