Whoopi Goldberg Didn’t Think Twice About Starring in ‘Day Late and a Dollar Short’

whoopi and vingWhoopi Goldberg didn’t have to think twice about signing on for Lifetime’s April 19 “A Day Late and a Dollar Short.”  p>”It was literally, the executive producer called and said, ‘Listen, we have this project and we want you to be in it.  We’re doing it for Lifetime.’  And I said, ‘Oh, okay.’  It was really that succinct,” says Whoopi, who turns in a brilliant performance as the irascible, dying Viola, trying to help her woefully dysfunctional family resolve their many problems — without letting them know her condition — in this adaptation of the Terry McMillan book.  She adds, “We shot it during a break that I had so it didn’t interfere with ‘The View’ or anything, so it was perfect.”

She tells us she liked the fact that “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” has an important underlying theme about living life fully aware that time will not stand still for anyone.  “Death comes to everybody.  It doesn’t care how old you are.  I’m sure that as a kid Viola thought she was going to live forever, and suddenly she finds, ‘You have no time left.’  So she tries to fix everything she can fix, and, you know, you can’t.”

Whoopi also has a role in the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” feature being unveiled in August.  “People know that I love superhero stuff. I’ve always loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and have wanted to be in it, and have said that over the years, and finally somebody listened,” she says.

Then there’s her dramatic feature coming out later this year with Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd, “Big Stone Gap,” based on the best-selling series of novels set in the Virginia hamlet.  “My friend Adriana Trigiani wrote ‘Big Stone Gap’ and when I met her, she said, ‘I wrote this for you.’ Isn’t that cool?” she says of the best-selling author.  “And she said, ‘When I get the money, we’re going to make this into a film.’  And it took her 15 years, but she did it.  It’s wonderful.”

Besides “The View” and acting assignments, she has a calendar filled with comedy show dates.  “You have to be 18 to get into my shows, but parents tend to bring their kids anyway,” notes Whoopi with surprise.  She works blue to put it mildly.  “It is interesting, whenever I spot kids, I go, ‘Do you know what I talk about?’ And they go, ‘Yeah.’  And it’s okay. We think it’s okay for her to hear it from you, or him to hear it from you.'”

Of course, then there are the kids in her own life, three grandchildren, offspring of her daughter Amarah Dean, and, since March 15, one granddaughter.

The EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winner is 58 now — very young for being a great-grandmother. Does her humor help her deal with getting older?

“Well, the only to answer to that question is, what is the alternative?  And once you come to terms with that,” she says, “everything else is gravy.”

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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.”

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First Time Filmmaker Jono Oliver Strikes a Chord

Home posterFirst-time filmmaker Jono Oliver never dreamed that his work would wind up winning accolades from organizations across the country — but his touching and beautifully rendered Home drama has been doing just that. The story of a man recovering from mental illness (Gbenga Akinnagbe), whose goal is to leave his group home, get his own apartment and reconnect with his son, “Home” has been nominated for a SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) and an Entertainment Industries Council Prism Award. It was recognized by the New York Metro branch of NAMI (The National Alliance of Mental Illness). And Oliver found himself nominated — along with the directors of “12 Years a Slave,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “The Best Man Holiday” — for an NAACP Image Award for directing.

“It wasn’t a goal to be acknowledged like this. The goal was to make an entertaining film,” says Oliver, who has a life-long awareness of the challenges of mentally ill people through his social worker parents. “I’ve always had the idea of doing a story that took place in that world,” he says. Oliver notes that it was of paramount importance to him to portray the challenges of mental illness truthfully, and never to allow the film’s light moments to veer into mockery. He enlisted the help of technical consultants including a psychiatric nurse to ensure verisimilitude.

“I’m glad didn’t screw that up,” says the filmmaker, who is a First Assistant Director on “Blue Bloods” when he’s not busy with his labor of love. “It’s unfortunate that most of the time you see people with mental illness in film, they’re either a joke or a psycho killer. There’s not a lot of in-between. And oftentimes in the media’s portrayals, you see headlines where they’re made into monsters.”

Oliver cites statistics that claim one in four Americans is dealing with some form of mental health issue, “millions upon millions of people. There are a lot of mental health organizations whose main goal is combating the stigma that surrounds mental illness — a stigma that leads to people being discriminated against when it comes to housing or jobs. There’s a preconception that these people are violent; they’re much more likely to become a victim of violent crime. There are a lot of statistics, a lot of knowledge and education people need. What’s been really cool about this film is that it’s opened up a dialogue on mental illness,” he says.

Pitching a “small story” with no guns or explosions wasn’t easy, he admits. Along the movie’s two-year journey to production, Oliver put his project on Kickstarter, where friends and family contributed 10 per cent of the budget. His “Blue Bloods” friends not only contributed monetarily, but gave him equipment to use and made it possible for Oliver to use rehearsal and office space when the show was on hiatus.

The film had a week-long theatrical release late last year. It will become available to the mass audience March 25, when Entertainment 1 releases it on DVD and video on demand. The Prism Awards are coming up April 22. Whether “Home” wins, Oliver says he feels its nomination — all its nominations and kudos — are “not just an honor, but a victory.”

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