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Margaret Cho happy to be ‘a wild child again’ on Atlanta club scene


Margaret Cho

Funny lady Margaret Cho tells us she’s found a new social life in between shooting scenes of her July 12-debuting “Drop Dead Diva” series.

“We’re about a third of the way through the first season, shooting in Peachtree, Ga. It’s fine. It’s a very small town. I go to Atlanta, which is about 45 minutes away, a lot. I actually fit in very well there. I’m getting to be a wild child again, getting to go out to the clubs. I’m hanging out with a lot of Atlanta musicians and doing sort of the rock thing,” says Cho, who is getting ready to record a music album of her own. Make that a funny music album. A funny music album with song titles unfit for repetition in a family-friendly column.

In Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva,” Cho plays the wise friend and colleague of Brooke Elliott‘s character. It’s about a shallow model who dies, then finds her spirit inhabiting the plus-sized body of a crusading attorney. (Oh, another one of those.) She tells us she and her husband, performance artist Al Ridenour, “are hanging out when we can” — but as far as collaborating anytime soon, “We’re not even, like, living in the same state.”

MEANWHILE: Cho, who for years has been an activist on behalf of equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and of same-sex marriage, found herself inundated with calls this week after the announcement of California Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Prop. 8. She feels it’s a temporary setback.

Cho has been remarkably open about her life — her bisexuality, as well as her past problems with drugs and with being overweight. Has she ever been sorry for baring herself in such a way?

“I’ve found that it’s been very gratifying to talk about personal issues,” she replies. “My talking about weight issues and body image, for example I felt could help women — help people — talk about their own body issues. I feel like that’s been a good contribution. Talking about my personal issues in my work doesn’t feel invasive.”

THE VIDEOLAND TWO: AMC’s Emmy-winning “Breaking Bad” has its season finale Sunday (5/31), and the show’s Aaron Paul — meth seller Jesse to “Breaking Bad” fans — is turning his attention to his other hit series, “Big Love,” which gets back into production June 4, for Season 4.

“I love that my character in ‘Big Love’ is completely opposite from ‘Breaking Bad’ — it’s like zipping on different skins,” says the actor, who plays Scott, the fiancé of Amanda Seyfried‘s character, in the HBO series set in a community of rogue Mormon polygamists. It’s especially gratifying to Paul since his “Breaking Bad” character has led to interest in his playing other drug-related roles — and “I don’t want to be the type of actor who does the same character with different names,” he makes clear.

Paul’s been doing “a little bit of traveling” and getting in some relaxation between “Breaking Bad” and “Big Love” this year. “It’s worked out for me. It didn’t overlap like it did last season, when I had to fly back and forth.”

A GOOD TURN: Jamie Lee Curtis, who was honored with the 2009 Entertainment Industry’s Courage to Care Award at the recent Noche de Ninos Gala, just learned that more than $1.8 million was raised at the star-studded evening benefiting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Jamie Lee’s friend and former co-star California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented her with the award. She rewarded him with a big kiss on the lips, which delighted the crowd of close to 1,000 in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Jamie Lee has been a tireless activist when it comes to the kids. She even wore a bright pink wig that night in honor of a 14-year-old cancer patient she had met while touring Children’s Hospital in Pittsburg several years ago. After the young girl died, Jamie Lee asked her mother if she could have the wig to remember her courageous spirit.

The celebrity-filled room included host Mary Hart, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, Ed Begley Jr., Noah Wyle, Kevin Sorbo, Jewel, Monique Coleman, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon and Jennifer Lopez and her husband Marc Anthony. Jennifer received the same honor by the hospital in 2004.

THE INDUSTRY EYE: “True Blood” will soon be adding fresh blood — the character of Sookie’s (Anna Paquin) cousin Hadley, described as a “fresh-faced twentysomething country girl,” who’ll wind up, according to casting sources, “seduced into a whole other world …” and “locked in a steamy kiss with vampire queen Evan Rachel Wood.”

Casting notices have gone out for outgoing, strong, socially active and community-involved housewives, who love to live the good life in Beverly Hills for — can you guess? — Bravo’s next “Real Housewives” series. “They’re coming?” responded one such local lady on hearing the news. “How they lived without us for so long, we don’t know.”

— With reports by Emily Fortune Feimster

Hollywood’s putting anti-Prop. 8 feelings on display

Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin

Their state may have voted against same-sex marriages, and their state supreme court may have ruled to uphold California’s Prop. 8 ban, but Hollywood very clearly does not agree — and you can expect to be seeing many more illustrations of that fact.

Kathy Griffin‘s “My Life on the D List,” which begins its fifth season on Bravo June 8, has already filmed “a Prop. 8 episode,” Griffin recently told us. “We went to Iraq a couple of years ago. We went to Walter Reed (Army Hospital) last season. This is our serious episode for this season. We’re really proud of it.” Besides filming at an anti-Prop 8 rally, “D List” has “Rev. Al Sharpton, who “laid out the greatest civil rights argument for gay marriage,” according to Griffin.

Griffin wasted no time responding to the court’s decision, issuing a statement that she would not only be protesting, but that “My 89-year-old mother has asked me to get her a wheelchair to take her to a protest … She is neither gay, nor the parent of a gay person, but she is as passionate about this decision as I am.”

The cast and creative team on Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ “New Adventures of Old Christine” have been anxiously awaiting this week’s decision by the California Supreme Court — “a decision that’s an issue to us both behind the scenes and in front of the camera on our show,” as costar Clark Gregg pointed out.

Wanda Sykes, who came out as a lesbian and got married to her partner last year, is among the 18,000 gay Californians whose same-sex unions have been ruled valid (along with such show business notables as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, and George Takei and Brad Altman.)

The state Supreme Court also just handed the “New Adventures of Old Christine” writers a twist to the ongoing storyline that has Louis-Dreyfus’s and Sykes’ characters on the show in a green card marriage. Since the characters are both straight, this can’t help but underscore the farcical aspect of the court’s decision — a subtlety that fits the series’ style. Clark stressed that “Old Christine” has never gone the rout of “becoming a public service announcement,” and added, “What I admire about (creator) Kari Lizer and the writing staff is that they wade into uncomfortable waters — going back to Julia’s effort to get a black family into her son’s school, only to have the father turn out to be a raging homophobe.”

And you can be sure that lines and scenes dealing with Prop. 8, if not full story lines, are being scripted even as you read this. “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris, who is not married to the man with whom he shares his life, David Burtka, but is an outspoken proponent of gay marriage, summed up the feelings of many when he told this column, “It’s wrong to try and squelch love. It’s pure and simple discrimination.”

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: “It was great the way Season 4 ended because there are a lot of things we’re going to have to sort out and clarify,” says Mexican actor Demián Bichir, who will return June 8 in the fifth season of “Weeds” as the corrupt mayor of Tijuana. He is also the onscreen love interest of the show’s star Mary-Louise Parker, and when things ended last season, Parker’s character Nancy had informed him that she is pregnant with his child.

“Whatever is in Nancy’s mind, that’s going to have to be proven first,” says Bichir of the story line, but before we know for sure if she’s having his baby, he tells us we will definitely see a change in his ruthless character. “Now that there’s a possibility of a child on the way, that’s going to change a lot of things and maybe bring Esteban to a different state of mind. Hopefully he will be able to show not only his more sensitive side, but also many other sides without killing anyone.” Hopefully.

One good part of the pending pregnancy is that music superstar Alanis Morissette has signed on for seven episodes to play Nancy’s obstetrician, and Bichir admits the cast couldn’t be more excited. “I haven’t had a chance to meet her, but I think it’s fantastic to have her on board. I’m not sure if there will be some interaction with our two characters, but, regardless, it will be interesting to meet someone whose music you admire so much.”

TOGETHER AGAIN: A July 6 production start has been set for “Going the Distance,” which might just end up being an appropriate description of stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. You may recall the couple were quite into each other while making “He’s Just Not That Into You,” then split up last summer after a year, then seemed to be on again (hand-holding, acting affectionate and telling reporters they adored each other at the “Grey Gardens” premiere in April, for instance).

In “Going the Distance” they play a couple who decide to try making a go of a long-distance relationship, with both their characters having dream careers at stake on opposite coasts of the country — a familiar show business situation. It’s a comedy. Drew says that Justin makes her laugh.

JUMPING IN: Sarah Chalke, who stars in Lifetime’s two-night adaptation of Gigi Levangie Grazer‘s “Maneater” this Saturday and Sunday (5/30 and 5/31), says that the biggest challenge in making the miniseries was “how dense it was in terms of production and just being in every scene. It was a really fast turn-around.” The tale of a gold digger determined to marry a rich and successful Hollywood power player before she hits Botox age has the “Scrubs” actress in scenes ranging from zany physical humor (as in a dance sequence in which her very pregnant character is onstage with a group of seniors) to drama (when her character gives birth).

What helped was that the production — which also stars Gregory Harrison, Maria Conchita Alonso, Judy Greer, Philip Winchester, Marla Sokoloff and Paul Leyden — shot on location. “It was so intense, hours-wise, it was nice to be somewhere else and not have to deal with everyday stuff in your life,” she says.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

Expect gloves-off treatment of Sinatra in Scorsese pic

Frank Sinatra and daughter Nancy.

Frank Sinatra and daughter Nancy.

Just because Nancy Sinatra is producing Martin Scorsese‘s planned movie biography of her father, Frank, don’t expect the picture to shy away from the controversial, less flattering aspects of the show business legend’s life.

At least, it won’t if the film — for which Leonardo DiCaprio is already being mentioned — follows the tell-all pattern set out by Nancy’s sister, Tina Sinatra, back in 2000. Tina’s “My Father’s Daughter” disclosures about her dad getting the Mafia to help deliver the union vote to elect John F. Kennedy as president and his doing secret work for the CIA got her play on “60 Minutes.” Her exposure of family strife and discord — in particular with Sinatra’s fourth wife, Barbara Marx — got her in hot water with some Sinatra friends who felt those stories should never have been made public. Though the tome clearly showed how much Tina adored her father, she did, as she put it, “cover the good and the bad.”

Which is, of course, by far more interesting than a mere love letter about the entertainment great’s vocal prowess, enormous charm, loyalty and generosity to friends and charities. The dichotomy between the Sinatra loved by pals and fans and the Sinatra loathed by his many enemies were both real. His infidelities, grudges, temper and other negative behavior was depicted in CBS’ five-hour miniseries of the ’90s — which was produced by the family as well.

With more than 10 years having passed since his death and all the perspective that time brings, and with the talent of Martin Scorsese going into it, the Sinatra big-screen biopic just might capture lightning in a bottle.

STEP BY STEP: “Psych” star Dule Hill, who is a longtime tap dancer, tells us he’s trying to find a way to bring the dance back to the forefront. “I would love for the opportunity to bring dance to television in terms of dramatic scripted television. I’d also love to do tap on film and tap back on stage,” says Hill, whom many know from his days on “The West Wing.”

Gregory Hines was the one carrying that banner, so with his passing you lose some of that. Hopefully we can get back to it,” adds Hill. “We’ll see what comes next after ‘Psych,’ but first I’d like to do an episode on the show where we can do some tapping.” The cast and the crew of the USA network series certainly get to see Hill in action in between takes. “I do it on the set all the time. I have a piece of wood that I’m always dancing on in my trailer. I dance in my garage back home. I dance with friends and young students. I love tap dancing. I’m a tap dancer at heart.”

BY ANY OTHER NAME: Nine-year-old cutie Jadagrace Berry of “Terminator Salvation” tells us she loved doing scenes with Christian Bale in the flick, opening tomorrow (5/21). “He was so nice. He was always helping me, but he’d only answer to John,” she notes, referring to Bale’s character, savior of humanity John Connor. So did John — er, Christian — have any words of wisdom for this young co-star? “He told me to just stay in the moment and try to react,” she says. The pint-sized actress was among the young-uns at the premiere of Disney-Pixar’s “Up,” where she told us her burning desire for her next job: “I really want to be on the Disney Channel.”

AND: The audience was charmed by “Up,” another gem of a film from Pixar, a fanciful adventure about an old guy (Ed Asner) who travels to South America via a multitude of balloons from which his house hangs suspended. The poignant and funny modern fable is due on screens May 29. Producer Jonas Rivera told us, “For this one, we went back a little bit; we wanted to make an old-fashioned Disney movie. Computer animation tends to make things look very photo real, like in ‘Wall-E.’ For this, we went back and looked at ‘Peter Pan, “Sleeping Beauty,” ‘Snow White’ — we wanted it to have a little bit more of a painterly feel. That’s harder, technically,” he says. “A character drawing is a distillation. How does a Hirschfeld drawing of Lucille Ball look more like her than a photograph? There’s no computer that does that. This was a case of computer science and art colliding.”

JUDGING THE JUDGES: Season 8 of “American Idol” goes down as The Season of Judges’ Conflicts — in the view of “Access Hollywood’s” self-described “reality chick,” Laura Saltman, and who wouldn’t agree? Saltman spends January-to-May giving “Idol” her full attention, chatting with contestants, hanging out on set, etc. She points out, “Paula (Abdul) and Simon (Cowell) have grown closer this season because of their mutual feelings about Kara (DioGuardi). They mimic her … ” she notes. “They, of course, downplayed it, but things were pretty tense at first. It’s gotten better. They’ve kind of found a groove,” she says.

“I like Kara,” she adds. “I really do. She really says something, where Randy (Jackson) is just pretty much saying, ‘Dog. Dog, you’re great, Dog.’ And Paula you can’t always understand.” Still, “I don’t think the four-judge format works because it takes too long to get through the comments. I think they should go back to three.” So, who would she vote off? “Kara. You know, it’s a last one in, first one out kind of a thing.”

Laura says she’s not losing any enthusiasm for her “Idol” gig, though she’s covered all eight seasons. She’ll not only be at tonight’s (5/20) finale for the naming of either Adam Lambert or Kris Allen as the new American Idol, she’ll be up at 3 a.m. to be back on the job at 4 a.m., “spending the day with the winner and showing what he does. Who wouldn’t want to do that?” she asks.

With reports by Emily Feimster.

Motherhood most challenging role for Marissa Jaret Winokur

Tony-winning actress Marissa Jaret Winokur has had some challenging roles in her career, but to hear her tell it, being a mom is by far her toughest.  It’s especially been difficult trying to balance motherhood with hosting the upcoming Oxygen reality competition “Dance Your A– Off.” 

Marissa Jaret Winokur

Marissa Jaret Winokur

“The show just wrapped so I’m being a mom right now.  I’m overwhelmed every day,” admits the former “Dancing With the Stars” contestant, whose son Zev was born via a surrogate almost a year ago. 

She is approaching this Mothers Day with a fresh appreciation for the generations of moms before her.  “I’m like, ‘How did our mothers do it?’  And I’m doing it with a job and my mom didn’t work.  I’m like, ‘How did she not go mad?'” 

Winokur admits that her life certainly is not as glamorous with her baby on the scene.  “Oh my God!  Twenty minutes before I’ll get to a party now I’ll be covered in spit up or changing diapers and then I’ll go do a press line.  You’re like, ‘Oh, none of this matters.’  So it definitely gives you perspective.”  

In her little free time, Winokur says she’s trying to get in better shape thanks to being inspired by the contests on her Oxygen show – on which contestants are judged not only on their dance skills, but also on their weight loss. 

“I think my having done ‘Dancing With the Stars’ really helped the contestants because it was really hard and I saw myself in each one of them.  Being on set all time, I kept feeling like I had to help everybody.  But I wanted to, because I’ve been through everything they’re going through and I’m going to go through it my whole life and so are they.” 

TAKE THAT:  “Southland” star Michael Cudlitz is downright annoyed by certain critics’ comments about the NBC police drama that debuted last month.  “Some people who have reviewed the show talked about it as a standard formulaic cop show.  With all respect to those people, I don’t know what show they’re watching,” says the actor, who’s at the center of “Southland” action as seasoned cop John Cooper, who is gay.  “Maybe they’re just looking at the surface and haven’t paused to see what is going on.  You cannot watch the show and not see a difference in the way it’s done.  Visually, there is nothing here like a typical cop show.  I’m not saying you have to like it.  If you say you don’t like it based on what is actually there, that is fine.  Otherwise, take a nap and reconsider your career choice.”

With “Southland” shot on L.A. and Hollywood locations with RED cameras that allow for a guerilla filmmaking style, “The only time they block off the streets for our production is for public safety when we have vehicles moving around fast,” says Cudlitz.  So much of the background color seen on the show is real.  “We had some stuff we were shooting at Santa Monica and Highland [Boulevards] and there’s a lot of life going on on those streets that’s just insane.  It’s very, very alive with the tourism that goes on down there and an active nightlife during the day.  There are not too many places where you can just walk out on the streets and see men in dresses that are doing it as a lifestyle and a profession.  Shooting on a street like that, you’re aware of everything going on around you.  It’s definitely invigorating.”

Production has wrapped on the first seven episodes of the generally well-reviewed series from Emmy-winning producers Ann Biderman and John Wells.  The good news is, the network has already renewed it.  The bad news is, the gritty show will have to air at either eight or nine o’clock in the fall, what with Jay Leno’s new prime time talk show taking up all the 10 p.m. slots.

A TIME AND A PLACE:  “Cupid” star Bobby Cannavale says he doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about which medium he’d like to perform in next.  “I’ve never mapped out my career that way,” notes the actor, who also has a long list of big screen credits – and who concludes his and Sarah Paulson’s run onstage in “The Gingerbread House” at Off-Broadway’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theater this weekend.  “The only choice I’ve made is to stay in New York City.  I spent my childhood in New Jersey dreaming I’d get across the river when I grew up and stay here.  When there’s an opportunity to stay at home, it makes the decision a lot easier for me.”

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW:  This season’s “In Plain Sight” has costar Lesley Ann Warren’s long-time alcoholic character continuing along her road to sobriety – while her daughter finds her increasingly healthy way of life hard to take.  That’s the word from series lead Mary McCormack, who explains that for her Mary Shannon character, “a lot of her self-esteem comes from being ‘the together one.’  So with her mother now straightening out, this is a role change.  If you love an addict or a person who is in dysfunction and you’re used to dealing with that, and then they become functional, you have to rethink your identity.”  She adds, “We have action, guns and all that” on the series in which she plays a Deputy U.S. Marshall with the federal witness protection program.  “But thanks to (series creator) David Maples we also have storylines that are fairly adult and complex.”

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

Kathryn Morris optimistic for ‘Cold Case’ seventh season

Kathryn Morris

Kathryn Morris

Things look bad for Det. Lily Rush, who is currently stuck in a Ford Taurus under 18 feet of water at the bottom of a river thanks to a sideswiping driver with murderous intent – but it’s safe to predict she’ll manage to emerge in Part 2 of the “Cold Case” season finale Sunday (5/10).  Lily’s real-life alter ego, Kathryn Morris, is also predicting her CBS show will emerge from its place on the bubble and survive with a Season 7 renewal.

“We’re hearing very positive things,” reports the star.  The two-parter is getting into Lily’s own past, finally revealing the origins of her relationship fears and opening up an array of story possibilities.  Morris says, “I think we’ve taken it to a new level.  It feels like this is page 68 at the height of Act II, and now we’ve opened Pandora’s box.”

Morris’ man in life, Emmy-winning producer-director David Barrett — with whom she formed their Hot plate Productions company — helmed the episode.  They met doing the show, and, she says, “It was nice to go back to the roots of how we sparked creatively.  Working with him is like going home.  It’s just home.  We just understand what the other one expects from the scenes.  I knew I was safe in his hands.”

Barrett’s five-year-old daughter, Makenna, plays Lily Rush as a child in flashback scenes.  Her casting, says Morris, “happened organically.  She’s used to visiting her dad on sets, and coming to visit me.”  As far as coaching, “She and her mom were prepared.  They’d worked on lines together.  I stayed out of it.  Nobody pushed.  Everybody wanted her to just be as pure as possible without the pressure a lot of child stars are under. I told her that it was an honor to have her play my character as a little girl.”  

SIGN OF THE TIMES:  Mark Feuerstein’s newest show, “Royal Pains,” has the actor playing a hunky doctor in the Hamptons, but considering the state of the economy, he tells us it’s not going to portray wall to wall wealth.

“Originally it was conceived as a doctor to the rich in the Hamptons, but notes came down from the executives of NBC Universal that we can’t just tell stories about rich people right now.  Our country is not in a place where showing a world where everyone’s rich reflects what’s going on,” notes Feuerstein of the show premiering June 4 on the USA network.  “In a brilliant move to reflect current times, in every episode we show a story about someone of means and someone not of means because I don’t think people want to sit back and go, ‘Oh, they have everything!  I have nothing.'”

However, considering the Hamptons is known for being one of the more affluent places in the United States, Feuerstein points out you can’t just ignore that either.  “The houses we’re shooting in are sick.  They’re these incredible beachfront mansions so you do get a taste of the life.  But the beauty is not that you see the way the rich live in our show.  The beauty of it is that you see the characters that exist in the world where everyone is supposed to be really happy and life is supposed to be really great, but death and illness hit everyone, no matter how much money you have.  It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” 

IN THE SWING:  Tom Malloy, who wrote, helped produce, and stars with Amy Smart and Billy Zane in the big screen “Love N’ Dancing” flick that’s opening in limited release tomorrow (5/8), says that without a doubt the hardest part of making the movie was getting the financing

“We were scammed, screwed over, left hanging. There were times we were literally on the brink of collapse and money came in a day before we would have gone under.  In fact, there was an actual judgment against us.  The problem started when we had this financial entity that backed out during the filming.  We were going to be foreclosed on if we didn’t come up with the money by Dec. 31st.  We’d been trying everything we could think of since April.  And finally, on Dec. 4th, financing came through.  No matter what happened, we just focused on the goal…I do have gray hairs from it.  I hope I don’t have ulcers,” he says.

Malloy’s hair-graying adventure was packed with such tension and drama, he could have written a book about it.  In f act, he did . Or at least, large swaths of his new industry book coming out in June, “Bankroll: A New Approach to Financing Feature Films,” cover what he learned to do, and not to do, thanks to the “Love N’ Dancing” film that showcases West Coast Swing dancing. 

Not all surprises connected with the movie were bad ones.  Malloy notes, “Amy Smart had ballet training for about 10 years as a kid, and we didn’t know that. She was exactly the kind of actress I saw for the role.”

TRIBUTE FROM THE HEART:  There’ve been a lot of stories about celebs who reach out to give happy times to ailing children, but it’s not that often celebs talk about the lasting impact such children have made on their lives.  “iCarly” actress Jenette McCurdy has written and recorded three songs in honor of a boy she befriended named Cody, who died of brain cancer recently.  “I did three to insure that at least one of them makes it onto my album,” she tells us.  “It’s part of the grieving process for me.  I took it really hard when he died.  I’d cry myself to sleep,” she admits.  “My family met him through a mutual friend who found out he really liked ‘iCarly,’ and my character was his favorite.  They asked if I’d take this little boy to dinner and I said, ‘Yes, of course.’  I’ve never encountered anyone so brave in my life, or anyone more optimistic, or with a stronger spirit.  He was the most well-mannered child – person – I’ve ever met.  A real inspiration.”   One of her songs, “Homeless Heart,” is being released as a single May 19, with 20 per cent of all proceeds from the sales of the song reportedly earmarked for the newly formed Cody Waters Foundation.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster.