Feb 07

Jamie Kennedy Hallmark Channel photo

Funny man Jamie Kennedy admits that Valentine’s Day is having a strong impact on him this year.  That’s partly because he’s playing a finder of true loves working for Cupid, Inc. in the Feb. 11 Hallmark Channel movie, “Cupid.”  It’s also because the whimsical romantic comedy, in which he stars with Joely Fisher, has him thinking about matters of the heart.

“Turning 41 — not 40 — it’s been a turning point for me,” he lets us know.  “I’m probably going to want to be at a point where I get to come home and I’ve got a little woman there, and a little mini-me, you know, and maybe a little Pekinese.  I’d like to have Friday night pizza night — like we did when I was a kid growing up.  That was family night in our house.”

Since we haven’t seen Kennedy linked with anyone since he and former flame Jennifer Love Hewitt parted company, we wonder if he has someone specific in mind.

“If love is a box of chocolates,” he replies, “I’ve got a few pieces I’d like to nibble on.”

Jamie points out that his character in the movie not only helps people find their true loves, but realize “what’s important in life.  You know, the script is light, but it also has a good message that resonates.  I could relate to Joely’s character myself.  She’s a successful person in the entertainment business and she’s put all her eggs in the entertainment basket — and then she realizes she wants to share it with someone, and that the most important thing is human contact.  Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day — you want to cuddle.

“The greatest thing about this movie is, I’ve got a billboard right across the street from Jerry’s,” he adds — meaning that the industry types who hang out at Jerry’s Deli get to behold him, giant-sized, resplendent in his Cupid red suit and bow tie.

If the former “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” star and “Ghost Whisperer” cast member has his way, he’ll soon be back on the tube in a regular way.  He reveals that he’s just finished a comedy pilot, details of which he’s keeping under wraps.

“I love TV, man.  I love movies, too, obviously,” adds Kennedy, who has done plenty of them, including a role in Tyler Perry’s “Good Deeds” drama, coming out Feb. 24.  “But TV is quicker.  You get to do your ideas and it keeps you out there.”

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Feb 06

“Smash” hasn’t even hit the airwaves yet, but the highly-touted NBC show that debuts tonight (2/6) has already boosted Megan Hilty’s celebrity status to the point she’s finding herself getting stopped frequently by viewers who recognize her.  “It’s been happening especially the last couple of weeks,” says the Broadway performer of Wicked fame, whose character on the new series is vying with Katharine McPhee’s to star in a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. 

Her favorite example?  She got into a taxi with a “Smash” ad on top of it a few days ago, she tells us, “and the driver said, ‘Hey, I know you.  You’re the girl on my cab!’  He had me write down the premiere date, even though I think it was on the sign,” she says with a laugh.

Despite their roles as rivals, Hilty says she and McPhee have become pals through their months of intense “Smash” schedules.  According to her, they both like to make people laugh around the set, goof around and occasionally talk to each other in silly voices.  They’re also the two who’ve been working the most constantly.  “When we’re not shooting, we’re being fitted for costumes or learning choreography,” she explains.  Hilty stresses that the long hours are fine with her.  “The fact that I really love what I’m doing makes all the difference,” she points out.

The hardest part, for her, “has been not talking about my character’s storyline.  I know how that sounds, but it’s true.  You know, Ivy will do just about anything to get this part, and her journey has some very startling twists.  All the characters’ do.”  Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll?  “All of it, everything that happens behind the scenes in the world of Broadway, happens here,” she says.  “If there’s one thing I would like to say, though, it’s that we also show the side of Broadway that is like a family among these large-sized personalities, these creative people who come here.  We’ve been asked a lot about cat fights and the casting couch, and that’s all part of it, but so are these relationships.”

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Feb 05

Mark Harmon

“NCIS” marks its 200th episode Tuesday (2/7) with a storyline that will bring back past events (and stars) as Mark Harmon’s character sees his life flash before his eyes when he encounters a gunman in a diner.  The nice-guy actor-producer is always quick to credit his team when asked about the success of TV’s No. 1 series.  In fact, he lets it be known, he doesn’t think about himself and the rest of the cast and crew in terms of star and supporting players:  “I don’t see myself in life that way.  I know how to do the team thing,” explains the one-time UCLA quarterback.

“Everyone has a say, everyone gets to speak their minds.  Everything is out in the open.  If there is a problem, we talk about it and deal with it, so it’s a pretty rare way to work.”  Indeed.

On the other hand, it seems one person alone has a say when it comes to Mark’s wife, Pam Dawber, ever guesting on “NCIS.”  Here’s what he says about that:  “You know, she’s got her own career.  She’ll figure it out.  It’s not my decision.  It’s not my choice.  It’s her choice.  If she wants to come in on something, she’ll come in on something.”

ALSO:  Harmon is looking forward to reprising his role as Lucas Davenport, author John Sandford’s sleuthing Minneapolis Deputy Chief of Police — the part he played in the USA Network’s hit November movie, “Certain Prey.”  Chatting after the “NCIS” panel at the recent TV critics press tour, Harmon said, “There are plans to do another one, but whether that will be this hiatus, I don’t know at this point.  Part of my job here and commitment to the show is to come back somewhat rested.”  Fitting a TV movie during his seven-week seasonal hiatus doesn’t leave much time for R&R.

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Feb 04

Joey Fatone

While some other ex-boy band members might not have much career action these days, Joey Fatone couldn’t be busier.  Maybe that’s because the one-time *NSYNC  singer’s professional life is diversification personified.  He’s a man on the move, crisscrossing the country as he juggles multiple demands.  “I’m hustling,” declares the pop star cum actor-dancer-host — who has now added Celebrity Foodie to his list of personas.

Viewers of the “Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off” saw Joey make a respectable showing as an amateur chef this week.  He made it to the final four and picked up a $5,000 prize for his charitable foundation by acing an on-the-spot challenge — before Lou Diamond Phillips became the winner and Coolio came in second.  Now, Joey’s about to head out on the road to shoot more episodes of his new Live Well network cooking show, “My Family Recipe Rocks.”  He tells us that “Family Recipe” — in which he visits everyday people making extraordinary dishes in their home kitchens — actually came about before he even signed on to the competition show.

“We’ve already done 10 episodes.  We’ve gone to West Palm Beach, Chicago, Vegas, North Carolina…Now we have 10 more to do.  In the next couple of weeks we’ll go to New Orleans and on from there.  I don’t know what I’m getting,” he says.  One memorable cooking episode featured fried gator with bourbon, he says.  This week’s show (2/4) has a man demonstrating the “old school, Southern kind of way” to fix collard greens.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” says Fatone, who is now headquartering in Orlando, Florida with wife Kelly and their two daughters.  “I’m about to fly back to Vegas to do the live version of ‘The Price is Right,’ and my family will come join me for a couple of weeks.  It’s a blast.  You pay for a ticket, you might be called to come on down.  We play Plinko and stuff like that.  It’s also great because it keeps the hosting chops up for me.  This is a great way to do that, because these players come from all walks of life, they’re not pre-screened, they’re normal people who come to see a show,” he says.  They’re doing the live “Price is Right” in Atlantic City as well.

Joey’s also been working on his acting career, he says.  His latest project is the recently-released slasher movie, “Inkubus” with Robert Englund.  It’s coming to home viewing On Demand and DVD Feb. 21.  “It was my first horror film.  That took me completely out of my element,” says Fatone, a scary movie buff.  ” It was so cool.”

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Feb 03

Mary Birdsong

Funny lady Mary Birdsong just finished her first guesting on “Raising Hope,” playing the mayor of the town inhabited by the hapless Chance family – a city official who might have a future on the show.

“On the outside, she is very Sarah Palin-esque adorable.  She could have been a runner up in a beauty contest.  She’s all smiles, knows what to say, wears great little suits from Talbots.  But she really likes to party.  A weekend warrior.  She’s kept it in control, she is a good mayor, trying to do a good job.  But she’s of course a drunk and a loose woman…I feel like I’ve monopolized the market on slutty drunks,” Birdsong says.

But that’s not a bad thing.  She explains, “The women who play bitches will give you the shirt off their backs; it’s the ingénues have to watch out for.”
Birdsong is also being widely seen now in George Clooney’s “The Descendants,” for which she gives director Alexander Payne credit.  “To cast a comedic actress, someone like me who is known for sketch comedy?  It’s a real testament to Alexander Payne’s conviction of his own vision.  That goes for Rob Huebel, too,” she notes of the “Descendants” actor and Upright Citizens Brigade alumnus.

A veteran of the audition process and knowledgeable about the prevailing wisdom in actor circles, she tells us, “It toughens you up, gives you a sense of gallows humor.”  For instance, when she was asked to meet Payne, she thought, “‘Okay, you guys are having fun with this crazy joke?’”  One gets so jaded, according to her, “When they say something complimentary, you know you’re never going to hear from them again — that’s the kiss of death!  It’s like, ‘You are so talented.’  ‘Oh, yeah?  You know what?  $#@! you!’”

But cast her, Payne did — and to the film’s benefit.

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Feb 01

Lady Gaga


Madonna, back in the Superstar spotlight with her “W.E.” film and her date to perform at the Super Bowl, finally addressed the matter of her self-described biggest fan, Lady Gaga. 

Of the homage to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” that is intrinsic to Gaga’s “Born This Way,” she told ABC’s Cynthia McFadden it “feels reductive.” As in reduced, abridged, less than.  She also said “I can’t really be annoyed by it…because obviously, I’ve influenced her.” 

Obviously indeed.  Where does the line fall between being influenced by someone and plain old copying them?  Grace Jones, another Gaga influence, was quoted in the U.K. saying, “I’ve seen some things she’s worn that I’ve worn, and that does kind of p— me off.”  But it’s Madonna, more than other celeb, who keeps getting the Gaga déjà vu.  Acknowledging that both ladies’ talents are far beyond those of more run-of-the mill stars, we decided to run a comparison check:

 Madonna, nee Madonna Louise Ciccione
Vital Statistics:
Birthplace: Bay City, Michigan
Age: 53
Height: 5′ 4½”

 Lady Gaga, nee Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Vital Statistics:
Birthplace: New York City
Age: 25
Height: 5’1”

 Madonna record-holding: The Top Selling female recording artist of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, with more than 300 million records sold world-wide.

 Lady Gaga record-holding:  First music artist to get a billion viral views on You Tube; Most Followers of anyone on Twitter — 13 million – according to 2012 edition of Guinness Book of World Records.  

 Madonna, Structure:  Flab-free perfect muscular dancer’s body, and toned yoga arms 
Gaga, Structure:  Flab-free almost androgynous-looking body with bones apparent 

 Madonna, watch it with those things:  Cone bras
Gaga, watch it with those things:  Machine gun bras

 Madonna, ancestry:  Italian and French Canadian
Gaga, Ancestry: Italian and French Canadian

Madonna, outrageously eye-catching in: “Erotica” book S&M gear, “Sex” book nudity including nudity hitchhiking; topless with black leather, whips in a stable evoke bestiality in a W photo spread; male drag and more.
Gaga, outrageously eye-catching in: “Alejandro” video S&M gear, meat dress, plastic bubble dress, Muppet dress, antlers, horns, no pants, male drag, lobster hats, dozens of other wacky performance art-ish outfits.

 Madonna, Family:  One of eight children of an automobile design engineer father, she lost her mom to breast cancer when she was a young child.  The traumatic life event scarred and strengthened her.
Lady Gaga, Family:  Elder of two sisters.  Her father Joseph is an internet entrepreneur, mother worked in telecommunications.  Resists description of childhood as “affluent,” but it was at least comfortable. 

 Madonna, Coming of Age:  Dropped out of the University of Michigan, where she attended on a dance scholarship, and headed to New York City on her own to make it as a performer with $35 in her pocket.  “The bravest thing I’d ever done.”  She worked at Dunkin’ Donuts until her dance gigs supported her, eventually getting into the music scene, singing, playing drums and guitar in her earliest bands.
Lady Gaga, Coming of Age:  Dropped out of NYU, where she was a musical theater student at the Tisch School on early acceptance (age 17).  A pianist from age 4 and song writer from age 13, she went and got her own apartment in the City (her father agreed to pay the rent for a year) to make it as a performer.  Before she hit it big, she says burlesque dancing was her No. 1 source of income.

 Madonna, Religious Background: Had a strict Catholic upbringing. Now she strongly supports the Jewish related Kabbalah faith.
Gaga, Religious Background: Grew up in the Roman Catholic faith, attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart private all-girls school on Manhattans Upper East Side.

 Madge, Provoking the Church: In the “Like a Prayer” video, she danced in front of burning crosses and it was so controversial that she lost her endorsement with Pepsi. Ongoing tweaks, such as her “Immaculate Collection” compilation album.  More recently, upset the church leaders by performing a song during her concerts while hanging from a cross.
Gaga, Provoking the Church:  Her “Alejandro” video with Gaga sucking on rosary beads and wearing a nun’s habit in scenes suggesting S&M and group sex led to Katy Perry’s Tweet: “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.”  Her “Judas” song caused the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to accuse her of blasphemy, too. 

 Relationship status, Madonna:  Twice divorced (Sean Penn, Guy Ritchie), son Rocco with Ritchie, daughter Lourdes with Carlos Leon.  She’s been linked to choreographer Brahim Rachiki and studly male model Jesus Luz in recent years.
Relationship status, Gaga:  Single, boyfriend of six months is handsome actor and model Taylor Kinney

 Madonna and girls:  She made headlines by deep kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the VMA awards.
Gaga and girls:  Proclaims her bisexuality.

 Madonna influences: The Supremes, Martha Graham, Karen Carpenter, Led Zeppelin, Rudolf Nureyev
Gaga influences: Madonna, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Yoko Ono

Madonna, Quote:  “People think being a star is about being fabulous, having your picture taken all the time, going to parties in limousines, having everyone worship and adore you, being rich, rich, rich… …having it all. And you know what? They’re absolutely right.”
Gaga, Quote:  “I’ve made it my goal to revolutionize pop music. The last revolution was launched by Madonna 25 years ago.”


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Feb 01


Adorable teen star on the rise Cymphonique Miller is all too aware of the extra scrutiny often awaiting offspring of the famed when they try to launch their own careers.  (Case in point: the flap over Jim Carrey’s daughter’s progress on “American Idol.”)  So Miller, who is a mere 15 years old, says that when she heard about a general audition for Nickelodeon’s forthcoming “How to Rock” comedy, “I didn’t want my brother or my dad to be any part of it.  I wanted to do it on my own.”  She flew to New York leaving behind her famous family members — father Master P, and brother Romeo.  And when she went in to the audition, she insists, “They didn’t know my affiliation at all.”

 She did a scene in which “I had to sing, dance and act all these different emotions,” she says, and when it was done, she flew back to Los Angeles.  According to her, it was only after the audition that the “How to Rock” forces realized she was the daughter/sister of two of Nickelodeon’s former stars. 

 “That’s why I feel like my accomplishment came from my hard work rather than just from being related to someone.  If you are a kid of a celebrity, or related to a celebrity. sometimes I think it’s a great motivator,” she adds.  There’s no doubt of her drive.  She’s already released a studio album and guest starred on several other shows.

 Cymphonique says she received a call about a month after her audition, and was told her video had been circulating around the network, “and we want to do something with you.”  Now, she’s shot 15 episodes of the Feb. 4-debuting show — and her brother is about to make a guest appearance. 

 “My dad has never been one to push me into the entertainment business at all.  He’s always saying, ‘Education is Number 1.’  That’s another reason I wanted to do it on my own,” she says.  “My family — they were definitely supporting me, but always telling me no matter what happens, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.  Never do it for the fame or the money, or you will not be happy.  When I said this is what love to do, what I want to do for the rest of my life, and this is my dream job, they were for it.”

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Jan 30

“The Artist,” which is up for 10 Academy Awards and has won just about every other award in sight along with the hearts of the film community here,  is the only film among the nine Best Picture Oscar nominees that was actually made in Hollywood.  Yes, if a French filmmaker, director Michael Hazanavicius, had not felt passionately that he had to make his film about Hollywood IN Hollywood, there wouldn’t have been a single movie made exclusively in Movietown among the nominees.

Hazanavicius also made sure that moviegoers see Hollywood faces on the screen.  Sixty-six of the 68 actors in the film were Hollywood actors (67 out of 69 if you count Uggi, America’s new canine heart-throb).

Michel Hazanavicius

The film could have been shot in Paris, but the director — who took home honors from the Directors Guild of America over the weekend — wanted it to be done on the streets and in the sound stages that were around over 80 years ago when movies were making the change from silent flicks to talkies.

You’d better believe that many in this town, home to the greatest reservoir of film-acting talent and craft talent and site of the world’s best movie-making facilities, are hoping that the spectacular success of “The Artist” serves as a reminder that it can be done best here.

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Jan 27

Jennifer Ehle, Patrick Wilson CBS photo by Heather Wines

Patrick Wilson’s “A Gifted Man” is gearing up to finish its first season with a bang.   They’re about to shoot the final episode, according to Executive Producer Neal Baer.  And, he lets us know, the last two episodes should be especially satisfying for those viewers who’ve embraced the ambitious series that’s attempted to meld medicine and spirituality.

Expect Broadway’s Tammy Blanchard to make an important appearance — and Eriq LaSalle’s role to be key.

Baer says the show — which changes time slots to 9 o’clock Fridays starting Feb. 17 — will revisit questions about the nature of surgeon Michael Holt’s (Wilson) late ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle).  Is she a ghost?  His conscience?  Why is she there?  “Then you’re going to see something pretty emotionally moving involving the character.  Patrick has a big scene, a wonderful scene,” Baer says.  “We’ve been very careful, up ’til now, that nobody ever sees him in conversation with Anna, other than a word or two, but Eriq La Salle catches him in a screaming match with her, and from his point of view, Patrick is just yelling in the air.”

That will lead to issues being addressed, explains the distinguished writer/pediatrician, whose credits include “ER” and “Law & Order: SVU.”

He adds, “I love doing this through Eriq La Salle.  It’s a wonderful deja vu.  He hasn’t aged in 18 years.  He looks the same as when I first saw him in 1994.  I said, ‘Eriq, have I been here before?’”  However, Baer stresses that La Salle’s current character, psychiatrist Edward “E-Mo’” Morris, is nothing like his former TV doctor.  When Baer talked to La Salle about “A Gifted Man,” the actor said, “‘Don’t make him anything like Peter Benton.’”  La Salle also directed the Feb. 17 episode that features Christina Milian.  “A Gifted Man” may not surmount its ratings struggles, but no one can say they’re not making a worthy effort.

Neal Baer

MEANWHILE:  Baer’s dividing his time right now between multiple writing chores.  His and Jonathan Greene’s just-released (ital.) Kill Switch (end ital.) page-turner is already earmarked for the big-screen with Katherine Heigl attached to play the heroine, forensic psychiatrist Claire Waters.  Baer says, “We’re working on it.  Kevin McCormick, who just finished a film (“Gangster Squad”) Sean Penn and Emma Stone is going to produce.  It’s going out to studios and companies.  The movie business takes time, you know.  That’s what I like about TV.  A script I wrote last week is going to be shot next week and it will be on in February.”

Ironically, Baer and Greene originally wrote “Kill Switch” as a movie, “about 10 years ago.  We wrote about a 35-page outline, and worked on it for a couple of months.”  Time passed.  “I was busy doing ‘SVU’ and life…a couple of kids were born…”  The outline literally sat in a bottom desk drawer until Baer’s literary agent let him know she was looking for a medical thriller.  Now he and Greene are into writing the second book of their three-book deal.

This is the second time Baer’s been involved in a project that lay dormant for a decade before coming to life.  The first was a drama Michael Chrichton had written based on his experiences while a med student at Harvard in 1969 that “was in a trunk in Steven Spielberg’s office for 10 years, as I heard the story,” relates Baer.  Baer, a later Harvard Med grad, wound up updating that script — “ER.”

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Jan 26

Janet McTeer on Browadway in Mary Stuart

Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Janet McTeer is enjoying her time in the Academy Awards spotlight for “Albert Nobbs” much more than she did when she was nominated as Best Actress in 1999 for her portrayal of a single mom in “Tumbleweeds.”  The reason:  “It’s easier because it’s a bit less scary,” she explains. 

“I suppose I’m older and wiser so I suppose I can take it more lightly.  I know more people here now.  I’m more likely to bump into a lot of mates.  When I first went to the Academy Awards, I knew not a single person.  You think, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to do the wrong thing, fall over my dress, do something embarrassing and lose every friend I’ve ever met and end up without a dime in my pocket,” she dead-pans. 

Now, she says, her feeling is, “How lovely.  What an honor to be included and see all these wonderful people.”

The RADA-educated, Tony and OBE-awarded actress was quoted in the past, talking about the whole Oscar business as “silly” and noting that the English tend to be embarrassed by the idea of admitting they’d like to win, whereas Americans have been known for declarations about the nominations constituting the best day of their lives and such. 

Reminded of that statement, she says, “I would probably say the best day of my life was the day I got married, as opposed to the day I got nominated.  It’s a wonderful thing, not a defining thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mean to sound trollish.  I think they’re wonderful.  I think they’re a great honor.  And it’s absolutely fantastic for the film — how many more people will see it and see what Glenn (Close) has achieved.  I’m grateful for that, and genuinely, hugely flattered.”

McTeer’s awards season whirlwind continues.  She has the big screen chiller “The Woman in Black” starring Daniel Radcliffe opening Feb. 3.  She’s also been busy with projects for the BBC and HBO, and a German film, in addition to her upcoming guest arc on Close’s “Damages.”  She tells us, “I’ve been going back and forth, racing back toMaineto see my family whenever I could.  I live inMaineand work inNew York.  Truthfully, I think when we get to March I’ll vacation for a week.”

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