Tag Archives: Debra Martin Chase

Brooke Elliott: ‘Drop Dead Diva’ Gay Prom Episode Includes Prom Controversy Teen Constance McMillen

Brooke Elliott Lifetime photo

Constance McMillen — who was all over the news last year as the central figure in a firestorm of controversy, when her high school in the Itawamba County, Mississippi refused to allow her to bring her girlfriend to the school prom — will appear in a forthcoming episode of “Drop Dead Diva” that’s been dubbed the gay prom episode.

That is the word from “DDD” star Brooke Elliott, who tells us McMillen pops up as a bailiff in the July-airing episode, in which Brooke’s crusading attorney character is representing a “client who wants to go to the prom with her girlfriend.  They’re in a committed relationship, but the school won’t allow same sex couples to go together.”

Constance McMillen on Ellen Degeneres' show

Out stars Wanda Sykes, Lance Bass and Clay Aiken all appear in the segment as well.

“I think it’s great,” says Brooke.  “I think we do it in a way that, hopefully, is not preaching to people but is a reflection back of what is happening in our society right now, and what we as a group are going through.”

MEANWHILE:  Season 3 of “Drop Dead Diva” launches June19 with an armada of interesting guest star names including Paula Abdul returning as Brooke’s voice of reason (that’s right), LeAnn Rimes,  Kathy Griffin, Wendy Williams, Mario Lopez, Amanda Bearse, Tony Goldwyn, Howard Hesseman, Sharon Lawrence, Faith Prince, Jennifer Tilly and Louis Van Amstel.  The latter, you may recall, was “Drop Dead Diva” costar Margaret Cho’s dance partner on “Dancing With the Stars” — and Brooke says the two had a great time reuniting to perform together again.

The season opens with an episode that includes a musical dream sequence choreographed by “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Keith “Tyce” Diorio.  It also that gave Broadway veteran Brooke (Taboo, Wicked, Beauty and the Beast) a chance to exercise her pipes.  “The voice you’ll hear is mine.  It was a complicated song.  I hope people will like it,” she says.

Of course, Brooke has more than enough to do playing the character of a
shallow model who died and then, in an accident of cosmic cross-wiring,
wound up sharing the plus-sized body of a brilliant, socially conscious lawyer.

The role “is a challenge every day.  That’s why I like it,” she says.  With it all, “Drop Dead Diva” continues to be a show widely praised by critics — particularly for Brooke’s seamless performance — yet undiscovered by many viewers.  Brook observes, “You can drive yourself crazy spending too much time thinking about things that you can’t control.   I’m focused on my job and doing a good job with this character.”   Naturally, she is hoping that “Diva” will draw bigger viewership this coming season — and points out that people can catch up by watching the Season 2 DVD that just came out.  Of course.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE:  The L.A. Jewish Film Festival’s sixth year got off to an auspicious start in Beverly Hills with an eclectic group of luminaries — ranging from Buzz and Lois Aldrin to Miss India Préity Üupala, to “American Idol’s” Tim Urban — turning out for the opening night film, “An Article of Hope.”  The fest itself is eclectic as well, celebrating the Jewish experience from intense dramas like France’s “La Rafle” (The Roundup) to comedies, “Shalom Sesame” to the “Article of Hope” film about Israel’s first astronaut.  Thursday’s (5/12) closing night film is “Who Do You Love,” the story of rock ‘n’ roll’s fabled Chess Records.  Songwriter Diane Warren is among the musicos expected.

TRY, TRY AGAIN:  With the Disney Channel’s “Lemonade Mouth” movie attaining the distniction of being the No. 1 original television movie of the year among kids and tweens, it looks like the hoped-for sequel is a shoo-in.  “We hope so, we really want to do it,” says producer Debra Martin Chase.

Nick Roux

That’s also good news for the new collection of young stars in the movie.

Interestingly, Chase tells us that Nick Roux, who does a memorable turn as a rival band member in the flick, almost didn’t make it in.  “We brought Nick in give times.  There was a feeling in some circles that he might be too old” to play a high schooler.  But the handsome twentysomething actor, who is managed by none other than Blake Lively’s mom, changed his look to try again.  “I said, ‘Have him come in with his hair down like Justin Bieber,’ and he did, and he wore baggy pants and sneakers.”  And he got away with acting younger.

Besides her new Disney Channel franchise, Chase is the long-time producing partner of Whitney Houston, and she tells us they have another project in the pipeline.  “I can’t talk about it yet, but Whitney and I are planning something, hopefully for later this year.”

THE BIG SCREEN SCENE:  A Sept. 7 start date has been set for the Adam Arkin-Ethan Embry feature “Insecurity,” about a pair of security experts who decide to beef up business by robbing houses themselves — but run into major complications when they find a duffel bag full of money.

Scottish star Robert Carlyle (“Trainspotting,” “The Full Monty,”  “Angela’s Ashes,” etc.) will be tapping into his inner rock star for “California Solo,” in which he’ll play an aging rocker who lives in Los Angeles, but faces deportation back to Scotland after he’s stopped for DUI.  The movie’s described as being full of Brit pop and L.A. cultural references and pathos.  We’ll see.

‘Lemonade Mouth’ — Next Generation of Disney Channel Stars?

Adam Hicks, Blake Michael, Bridgit Mendler, Naomi Scott, Hayley Kiyoko Disney Channel photo

Will tonight’s Disney Channel Original Movie, “Lemonade Mouth” establish the next generation of Disney Channel stars?  That is the hope of producer Debra Martin Chase, and you’d better believe, it’s the network’s hope as well — especially now that the stars of the “High School Musical” franchise, “Camp Rock” and “Hannah Montana” have all grown up and moved on.

If Chase’s track record with fresh talent is any indication, the new gang will be well worth following.  Her “Princess Diaries” movies gave us Anne Hathaway and Chris Pine.  “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” introduced Blake Lively and gave America Ferrera a teen following.  Lucy Hale,   so hot in “Pretty Little Liars,” got an early career boost in “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” as did “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Jesse Williams.

What does Chase hunt for?  “I hate to sound like a cliche, but you really do look for that ‘It’ — that very special quality that makes someone stand out.  Sometimes I call it, people have light in their eyes, something that shines from within, coupled with intelligence,” she says. “They need to be attractive, but an interesting attractiveness.  They need to have some soul and depth to them, you know?  That’s how it happens, they just come in and you say, ‘Okay. that person is special.'”

As Chase points out, both Bridgit Mendler (“Good Luck Charlie”) and Adam Hicks (“Zeke and Luther”) are already Disney Channel stars.  Other members of the title high school band of “Lemonade Mouth” are starting to take off as well.  Hayley Kiyoko has opened for Justin Bieber.  And, “Subsequent to the filming of our movie, Naomi Scott was cast by Steven Spielberg as one of the leads in his new Fox series, ‘Terra Nova,'” points out Chase.  “She has already shot the pilot in Australia.”

Heartthrob-to-be Blake Michael “is really the Cinderfella of this whole thing.  He sent in a self-made tape with his mother reading lines with him in Atlanta.  The tape just popped.  We knew we had to have him,” Chase recalls.

Casting was a three-month process that made good use of new technology.  Rather than going city to city looking at candidates for the roles, Chase and her team viewed video posted to their website.  British actress Scott “auditioned via Skype.  That’s the first time we’ve done that.”

As for whether there will be a “Lemonade Mouth 2” — Mark Peter Hughes, who wrote the popular novel, is writing a sequel now — Chase smiles.  “It all depends on how we do Friday night.”

TRAFFIC ADVISORY:  L.A residents who want to catch a glimpse of a classic style pop superstar mob scene can drive over to Sunset Blvd.’s BookSoup book store in West Hollywood tomorrow (4/15) around three p.m..  (Others, take note and avoid.)  Janet Jackson will be there to sign a few hundred copies of her No. 1 best-selling book, “True You,” and it doesn’t take much imagination to predict what the scene will be like.  Miss Janet will have to tear herself away to perform at Universal City’s Gibson Amphitheatre in the evening.  All three of her concerts there sold out in ten minutes.

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW:  Tim Allen’s pilot is sounding like a better and better prospect now that Nancy Travis is aboard as Tim’s wife, and Hector Elizando’s in the mix, playing Tim’s boss at a demolition company — at least for awhile.  (The character steps down, moving Tim’s character up.)  Elizondo automatically confers quality upon anything in which he appears, as his buddy Garry Marshall would be first to agree.  Garry insists on using Hector in all his movies as his good luck charm.

Sounds like HBO’s planned television treatment of Femme Fatale magazine will be sexy stuff.  The producers (who have “NCIS” and “Castle” in their collective credits) put out a casing call for a “hot ethnic woman in her twenties, a hot ethnic woman in her thirties, a hot caucasian woman in her twenties” and four good-looking guys in their twenties and thirties.  Nudity required for everybody.