Category Archives: Hollywood Inspirational

Overcoming Childhood Ailment Gave Cameron Mathison Special Kind of Drive

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.”

Stars Who Overcome Illness Give Inspiration and More

Olivia summer nightsIt’s fabulous to see Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts out on the international 14 On Fire Rolling Stones tour at age 72, more than three years after recovering from throat cancer.

It’s fantastic that Fran Drescher is on Broadway in the revival of Cinderella, nearly 14 years after successfully battling uterine cancer – and becoming a tireless advocate for cancer patients.

We honestly love the fact that 21 years after beating breast cancer, Olivia Newton-John is busy as ever. beginning her “Summer Nights” residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas next month. She was on hand for the opening of Australia’s Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in 2008, has put out music releases as cancer fundraisers. Her “Hope is Always Here” song for her 2009 “Kaleidoscope” television special was performed by figure skating great and fellow breast cancer survivor Dorothy Hamill.

Knowing that such admired and diverse famous personalities as Edie Falco, Colin Powell, Eddie Van Halen. Gerald McRaney and Kylie Minogue have faced down cancer gives countless patients all the more resolve.

The fact is, when it comes to battling debilitating or life-threatening ailments, celebrities find themselves in the unique position of being able to quite literally help millions by their own examples.

It is an act of courage and enormous generosity toward their fans and the general public when they choose to share, inspire, fund-raise, lobby on behalf of cures. Melissa Etheridge, at the White House last week for the Women of Soul celebration, is the embodiment of that courage. No one who saw it is likely to forget her flipping off her breast cancer with her 2005 Grammy show performance of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” her head shaved bald rather than showing a chemotherapy hair loss.

Going public with an illness can be a career-ender, which is why it’s unusual for performers to be as open as Etheridge. Or Tom Green.

That the king of tacky taste was chosen by fate to get hit with testicular cancer – which predominantly strikes men between the ages of 15 and 35 — turned out to have unforeseen pluses. Who else would have turned the occasion into an MTV “Cancer Special”? The show caused a surge in testing for testicular cancer, which Green told Playboy wasn’t “the main plan.” Still, he added, “I hope the show made kids realize that testicular cancer isn’t embarrassing. It’s #$@!% hilarious. Feel your balls!”

Drescher told us she never made the decision to tell the world of her disease. “I was outed by the tabloids while I was still in the hospital. I turned that into a positive, because it forced me to come to terms what had happened,” she said. “Some people make believe they never had cancer. They keep it a big secret. With me, everyone had heard about it before I had a chance to digest it.”

Fran found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Fran has received many messages from cancer patients and their loved ones thanking her for the inspiration in her best-selling “Cancer Schmancer” book. She’s become the unlikely pal of legislators, lobbying for legislation on behalf of cancer prevention education and cancer care, particularly for women’s cancers, which she believes have received far less attention and research funding than other forms.

Many stars have come through the trials of illness or disability with insight and appreciation, and their words have staying power.

“My teacher told me at the age of 10 that when I grew up, I was going to be given a gift. Diabetes turned out to be it. It gave me the strength and toughness I needed for my life,” said Halle Berry at a Diabetes fund raiser.

Michael J. Fox’s 2003 No. 1 New York Times best-seller, “Lucky Man,” takes readers on a journey through his self-indulgent days as a young star through his denial of his illness to his final acceptance and then advocacy for Parkinson’s sufferers. He’s often bitingly funny and never allows himself to get maudlin – and makes it clear he really does believe in the title. His “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” (2009) and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned” (2010) give readers incalculable inspiration along with the laughs. His Michael J. Fox Research Foundation proudly states it has granted more then $450 million in research since 2000. Fox’s ongoing acting career, his roles on shows including “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife” in addition to his own NBC sitcom are a further testimonial to his grit and gifts.

Meredith Vieira and her husband, CBS News journalist Richard Cohen, have made an art of surmounting the insurmountable. He literally wrote the book on it: “Blindsided: Living a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir.” Cohen has had multiple sclerosis since age 25 and has gone through two bouts of colon cancer. He is also legally blind. But his is a full life anyway, rich with accomplishment and family love.

Breast cancer survivor Suzanne Somers sums up how life feels with a drastically changed perspective: “The birds are singing more sweetly and the foxes don’t scare me. Everything has slowed down. Cancer does that for you,” she told People magazine. “That’s the first of the blessings. Worrying about work and all those things that were so urgent seemed so stupid. I just want to live.”

SANDRA BULLOCK GIVES – AND RECEIVES – TUOHY FAMILY SUPPORT AS ‘THE HEAT’ AND ‘FAMILY ADDITION’ LAUNCH

Leigh Anne TExpect to see members of “Team Tuohy” out en force to support Sandra Bullock at the premiere of her new action comedy flick, “The Heat,” May 26.  That’s the word from the Tennessee and Mississippi-bred blond dynamo known as Leigh Anne Tuohy, whom Bullock portrayed to Oscar-winning excellence in 2009’s “The Blind Side.” Since then, they’ve remained close pals — though it’s only rarely that the public gets a glimpse of that closeness, such as when Bullock was on hand to cheer with the Tuohys at this year’s Super Bowl, when son Michael Oher and the rest of the Baltimore Ravens won.

Lately, it’s been Bullock lending her support as Leigh Anne prepares to launch her new “Family Addition With Leigh Anne Tuohy” reality show centered on fostering and adoption of children.

“She has held my hand through every episode. She gave a wink and nod with every family,” Leigh Anne tells us. “I just spent five hours layin’ side by side with her on a couch Thursday night, talking about it.  I couldn’t ask for a better friend.  She is an amazing lady and I’m still humbled and honored that God connected us, because it’s a powerful relationship.”

The series follows some pretty extraordinary families across the nation who are fostering children and are on the verge of adoption — families the show tries to help, whether in terms of redoing homes, finding jobs, or coping with the system.  In a couple of instances, the show’s cameras have been in court when a child became a permanent part of a new family.

Leigh Anne is adamant that foster care in the U.S. is fixable.  “There are a lot of different situations that aren’t manageable; this one is,” she declares.  “The average citizen can get involved and make a difference.  There are 400,000 kids in the foster care system.  We have 450,000 faith-based organizations in this country.  If every faith-based organization would get off their butts and place one kid in a loving home, we would wipe out the need for foster care.”

Leigh Anne says that she and her family “are very cognizant that we have been granted stewardship of a message, that there are Michael Ohers in every nook and cranny of this country — and every night we go to bed and think, ‘Wow, if someone who is as immensely valuable as Michael almost slipped through the cracks, imagine who gets left behind?’ So our goal and desire is to make sure people know there are no unwanted kids, just unfound families. How do we hook ’em up? How do we make a difference?  Because we know when you invest in a kid’s life what can happen.”

Asked whether she’s ever concerned over the possibility of exploiting youngsters already in difficult straits for the sake of a TV show, she replies, “We’re never going to put a kid in a bad situation.  I would never do that.  That’s not who we are.  We’re doing this for their benefit.  Some of these kids, the system is trying to take them away from a loving family. And if we’re at the point where we have to tell a little bit of their back story in order to accomplish our goals, I’m going to say, ‘You’re going to have to put on your big boy pants today, because we’ve got to go through this river to get to the other side, to make a difference in your life.'”

Six episodes of “Family Addition” are already in the can, and Leigh Anne says that so far, she’s had positive experiences with the production — or, as she puts it, “It’s all cupcakes and cartweels.”  The only negative is going away:  the GMC network name “is going to be changed to UP — because GMC is such a bad name.”  In fact, Leigh Anne so dislikes the name GMC, she pressed for the name change to take place in time for “Family Addition’s” launch rather than in fall as originally planned.

Come June, “We’re going to get on social media loud and proud in advance of the first air date June 7,” she promises.  “I’ll get my boys tweeting and Facebooking and everything else.”

Her daughter Collins will be seen on the show.  Son S.J. came in for an afternoon.  As for Michael, who was occupied with NFL chores during shooting, Leigh Anne says, “My goal will be if we get this picked up that we can get him for an episode before July 24 or whatever day they go back to camp — or we go up to Baltimore where he is and get him involved in it.”

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Kevin Sorbo Takes to Role as Inspirational Force

sorboKevin Sorbo is pleased with the real-life role he’s taken on – as an inspirational force and example of someone who’s come back from serious illness.  The actor who rose to fame as the mighty Hercules came out a couple of years ago with his frank memoir, True Strength: My Journey From Hercules To Mere Mortal And How Nearly Dying Saved My Life — disclosing the full extent of his battle back from three strokes and an aneurism that left him physically weak and with permanent blind spots in 1997.  The paperback version of the book came out a few months ago, and to his surprise, “I’ve actually gotten more attention from the paperback than I did when it originally came out,” Sorbo admits.

As a result, he finds himself being approached “not only by stroke survivors, but people who’ve battled cancer, come back from car crashes, whatever it may be.  People tell me that this book inspired them to really find their own true strength.”

Once having done his utmost to hide his condition from the public, he now concedes, “It was a fight to get back, I’ll tell you. I told my wife many times, you know, if it wasn’t for my support I don’t know how I would have done it, but I had great people around me and I also believed in myself and had a strong will.”

Sorbo is cohosting “‘The View’ Friday (3/8), “so I’m hoping we can talk about these things,” he says.

He will definitely be talking about his two latest projects — his March 23 “Shadow on the Mesa,” a Hallmark Movie Channel Original movie Western, and his newly-released on DVD “Abel’s Field” movie that he also produced.

“I love doing Westerns it’s my third Western with these guys,” he notes of the Hallmark project.  “It’s a great old classic Western, with two families fighting over some land — a Hatfields and McCoys type of situation.  Gail O’Grady plays my wife and she’s not so nice in this one.  She’s been having an affair with Greg Evigan, who is the bad guy who tries to take over my property.”  Meredith Baxter is also in the cast, and Wes Brown of “Deception” plays Sorbo’s son he knows nothing about, who’s tracking him down intent on killing him in revenge for his mother’s death.

“I wish I could do more Westerns,” he tells us.  “They used to play very well overseas, but that’s not so much the case anymore.  I don’t know what happened there.”

He has movies and how they play very much on his mind, with a slate of six film projects of his own in development.  As soon as Sorbo finishes his promotion tasks for “Shadow on the Mesa,” in fact, he says he’s heading to Arizona for huddles with potential investors.

His “Abel’s Field” movie, with Samuel Davis as a teen struggling to overcome a terrible home situation, was five years in the making, and Sorbo was aboard for two and a half of those years helping bring the film to fruition.

“We shot it in Texas, put some of it together, and Sony – who I did ‘Soul Surfer’ with – loved what they saw and picked it up for distribution, which was awesome.”

There is a mentoring aspect to the film, in that “the character I play is pretty much thrown in a situation with a teenage kid who’s thrown in a situation with me.  At first we don’t want to deal with each other at all, but eventually we become friends and mentors to each other and ultimately that helps lead him lead his own life.”

Mentoring, of course, is a subject close to the actor-producer’s heart, as Sorbo’s Fit for Kids program continues strong.  “The mentoring started back 15 years ago, in my ‘Hercules’ days,” he recalls.  “It was something I’ve always wanted to do, and we’ve created the Number One after school program in the States, with a 98 per cent graduation rate for kids in the program and we’re very proud of that.”

As far as his health these days, “Oh, I’m feeling good, yeah,” he says with a smile.  “The stroke happened in 1997, and it took six years for me to fully recover but I went on and did the last year of ‘Hercules.’  I did 110 episodes of ‘Andromeda,’ and I’ve done about 40 movies since then, so I think I’ve proven I’m back in good health.”

Not too surprisingly, Sorbo says he has another book percolating.  Write on.

 

Roma Downey, Mark Burnett — Touched By The Bible

Regardless of the response to Roma Downey’s and Mark Burnett’s 10-hour History Channel treatment of the Bible when it premieres next March, the project already stacks up as one of the most profound experiences of the couple’s life.  The actress immortalized by “Touched By An Angel” tells us they began filming in Morocco in February “and are just back.  We produced it together.  The opportunity for us to work together as husband and wife has been extraordinary.

“I know it’s epic, and I think it will be the must-watch event of the spring,” she adds.  “You’ll see the Red Sea parted with the latest special effects that are available.  We have Hans Zimmer creating the score…We have Noah, we have Abraham, we have Moses.  We have Jesus walking on water.  We have scenes coming to life in the extraordinary ways.  Yes, it’s going to be a faith journey, but it’s also going to be really exciting and dynamic television.”

In the course of the production, exec producers Roma and Mark and company were out in heat and sand and “all of that.  The climate was extreme.  When we started it was cold, then it was boiling — in excess of 110 degrees.  We were caught in dust storms.  And of course, during the filming, Mark was back here a lot because he as a few other things going on,” she says of the husband she clearly adores, whose many productions include “Survivor,” “Stars Earn Stripes,” “The Apprentice” and “The Voice.”

Roma had other things going on as well — including a role in the Bible series.  “I am on camera as Mary, the mother of Jesus.  We have a young actress of course playing Mary during the nativity and the early years of Jesus’ life, and 30 years go by.  An early version of the script referred to that as Young Mary and Old Mary and when I stepped into the role, I said, ‘You know, could we have Young Mary and Mother Mary?'” She laughs.  “Oh, vanity.  It was  more than I could deal with.”

She and Mark are well aware they’re treading on controversial ground, no matter how their Bible depiction is done.  “But you have to step out there,” she says.  “We are stepping out together and I’m sure people will hurl what they want to hurl.  But it is being made with full hearts. We’ve had scholars and theologians help. We’re not pretending to be biblical experts. We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible, but obviously we’re making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that.”

She’s hoping the TV event will attract the faithful and the Bible illiterate alike.  “I think it’s going to bring the Bible alive in new and exciting ways to a lot of people.  I think it’s really going to touch another generation,” says the actress. Covering Genesis through Revelation, the series is scheduled to conclude on Easter Sunday next year.

AND:  Roma just smiles and closes her eyes when we ask about the chances for a “Touched By An Angel” reunion movie.  It’s not on her radar, to say the least.  But she does continue her close friendship with fellow “Angel” angel Della Reese.  In fact, “She was just here at our home yesterday for lunch,” reports Roma, who lives in a spectacular seaside mansion in Malibu with Mark and their family.  The posh digs are a long way, both literally and figuratively, from Mark’s and Roma’s similarly humble backgrounds — in London and Derry, Northern Ireland, respectively.

The executive producer of the “Little Angels” animated children’s video series notes, “Clearly, there’s a theme going on in my life.  I don’t have to work.  I’m very blessed , very fortunate.  So my passion, my purpose is to be involved with things that uplift and open people’s hearts and raise their consciousness.”