Tag Archives: House of Lies

Rising Star Ben Schwartz Balances ‘Lies,’ ‘Rec,’ and ‘Ninja’

With his costarring role on Showtime’s ribald “House of Lies,” his recurring part as the cult fave wildman Jean-Ralphio on “Parks and Recreation,” plus a couple of big ticket film writing assignments, rising multi-talent Ben Schwartz is busy — so busy, he has literally rushed from one set to another to work on two different shows the same day. And now he’s doing 52 episodes as the title voice role in Disney XD’s “Randy Cunningham, 9th Grade Ninja,” debuting today.

“I don’t sleep much. I get very stressed out a lot,” admits Schwartz, whose credits include writing for David Letterman and “Saturday Night Live.” However, “I started from nothing, I had no connection with anybody in the entertainment industry. When I started I was just doing comedy for five or six years for no money, just trying my hardest to get work. So the fact I have opportunities now just blows my mind, it gets me so excited, you know, like, if I didn’t work as hard as I could, the person I was seven years ago would be so upset at me.”

Why a Disney XD animated show? Schwartz says he’s a long-term animation buff himself. With “Randy Cunningham,” he says, “I get to be a ninja! I get to be this big, funny, broad character and make action sounds like I’m slicing through robots and stuff like that. For me, that’s like the perfect fantasy.” Plus, his niece and nephew can watch it — unlike much of his other work. “Randy Cunningham” also attracted voice talent including Tim Curry and Megan Mullally. “It’s really funny, and it gets funnier as we go along,” Schwartz tells us.
MEANWHILE: Schwartz’ screenplay for Paramount’s planned updated version of the 1991 comedy hit “Soapdish,” with Rob Reiner producing, wound up on Franklin Leonard’s annual Black List of best unproduced scripts, voted on by producers. “I did it as a telenovela as opposed to a soap opera. Telenovelas sometimes get better ratings than American shows, so it’s like this big movement, this beautiful thing, so I wrote it that way,” he says. He’s also writing a comedy called “No Hearts Club” for Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment. “I’m almost done with the first draft of that.”

He has no idea whether he’ll land in front of the camera in either film, but he’s at the point of going for leads. “Independent films have been very kind to me to make me the lead of films,” notes Schwartz, who is remembered as Nathan Meyerwitz, the author who gave away his family’s secrets, in 2010’s “Peep Show” with Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson and Michael C. Hall. “But in $20 million ones, I’m totally aware that if you put Justin Timberlake or Shia LaBeouf in a movie, it’s going to sell a lot quicker than Ben Schwartz.”
The way he’s going, that could change before long.

‘House of Lies’ Not Being Treated Like a ‘Black Show’ Says Glynn Turman

Donis Leonard, Jr. and Glynn Turman Showtime photo

Don Cheadle’s “House of Lies” has already been picked up for its second season, and costar Glynn Turman is quick to applaud Showtime for its support of the series that has Cheadle as a slick, smart, ruthless and debauched management consultant for greedy Wall Street giants.

“They’re so behind it, pumping and putting it out there,” he notes. This being Black History Month, Turman looks at “House of Lies” through the lens of race. In his opinion, “It’s not being treated like a ‘black show.’ If there is a show with a black lead, it’s not usually given the push that other shows are given. But with this show, the wheels that make things a success are really spinning.”

Turman has a permanent place in black cinema history, thanks to his role in the classic 1975 “Cooley High.” He’s observed changes in film and TV with regard to African Americans since then, and he’s observed slips backward. The day of the African American network comedy, for example, has pretty much gone away.
The bitingly satirical “House of Lies” — which is, in case you didn’t know, a very wild Showtime show full of sex, drugs and profanity — is in a category unto itself.

Turman, who plays Cheadle’s retired shrink dad, feels the show, “does a wonderful job in presenting Don and his family, me included, as human beings. The issues we see him struggling with have less to do with him being black than him being human. That’s one of the things that’s so refreshing about it. The color issue is so secondary to his relationships with his coworkers, his boss. His coworker is a beautiful young blond white girl,” he notes, referring to Kristen Bell. “His ex-wife (Dawn Olivieri) is a white woman….They’re not ignoring his color. When issues come up, they tackle the issues.”

Cheadle’s wily character is also not above playing the race card, if it’s to his advantage. As Turman notes, “This is a guy who says, ‘This can work for me. I can use this.’ I think that’s so timely.” Its occupation with Wall Street “hits right on the sore spot of the country. I think everybody’s still in shock after seeing it,” Turman adds with a laugh. “People are saying, ‘Can they do that?'”

Richard Schiff: ‘House of Lies’ and its Cutthroat Wall Streeters ‘Will Be Huge’

Richard Schiff

When Don Cheadle’s “House of Lies” hits Showtime in January, “It’s going to be a watercooler show.  People will be having parties to watch this thing.  It will be huge,” predicts former “West Wing” star Richard Schiff, who plays the head of Cheadle’s cutthroat Wall Street consulting firm on the forthcoming dramedy.  “It’s so timely,” he adds.  “It holds nothing back.”

According to Schiff, it’s not that “House of Lies” — also starring Kristen Bell — has any direct correlation to today’s headline-generating Occupy Wall Street movement.  It’s that, “It depicts the disposition of people on Wall Street in a way that actually helps you understand it more.  These are human beings, not monsters, but they don’t have anything programmed within them to deal with the betterment of the rest of us.  They’re programmed to make more money for themselves and a couple of their clients, and that’s all.”  

Well, not quite all.  The show is also “very sexy.  You might see my bare a–,” advises Schiff, “but you’ll see other, much more sexy bare a–es.”

MEANWHILE:  “House of Lies” is one of a bundle of projects in the pipeline for Schiff.   Tonight (11/1) he’ll be introduced on “Up All Night”  as Christina Applegate’s father — an always-analyzing psychologist.  He tells us, “I’m enamoured of her.  I think she’s fantastic.” And then there’s his new “Up All Night” wife, Blythe Danner.

“I reminded Blythe that we worked together, must be 18 years ago now, on a TV movie in a scene were I was a lie detector test giver.  It was a time cut scene, done in one shot, in a kind of a tricky way to pass time.  They panned over to me, then panned back and it was Gwyneth Paltrow in the chair,” he recalls, speaking of Danner’s real-life daughter.  “It was before Gwyneth was a star or anything.  She was 16 or 17, and lovely.” 

The actor is also in TNT’s Nov. 29 adaptation of Scott Turow’s “Innocent” with Bill Pullman, Alfred Molina and Marcia Gay Harden.   This week, he’ll be on the set of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” playing Snow White’s father, King Leopold. 

“We watched the pilot and my 11-year-old daughter said, ‘Daddy, you HAVE to do this,'” he relates.  

Schiff reunited with his fellow “West Wing” alumnus Rob Lowe in the 2012 big screen political drama, “Knife Fight.” 

He’s currently trying to figure out his schedule between two more projects and a trip to Israel he intends to take later in the month on behalf of the non-partisan Creative Coalition.  And there’s more on his agenda beyond that.

Schiff says he wrapped up his stint on “West Wing” feeling the kind of fatigue that comes from “a seven-year grind.  It was a wonderful grind, but 10 1/2 months a year of 70-80-hour weeks, playing one character — I needed a mental break.”   He did a one-man show in the U.K., among other things, and “rejuvenated myself.  I feel spunky now — wanting to do things.”  It shows.

 ANOTHER HOUSE HEARD FROM:  Kevin Spacey, who is currently being seen as a sympathetic Wall Street character in the “Margin Call” feature with Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons and Penn Badgley, has his own “House” beckoning.   A February production start has been set for Spacey’s “House of Cards” political series that has Netflix and filmmaker David Fincher executive producing.  Fincher’s directing the pilot. 

This is the deal that got much atteniton this past spring, as part of the increasing jockeying for prime content between outlets including Netflix, Amazon, even Facebook, and their traditional media rivals.  Netflix reportedly outbid HBO for the series, and guaranteed 26 episodes.  Now being cast are roles including ambitious D.C. reporter Zoe Barnes, and Linda Vasquez, described as a “severe, deadly, cunning woman at the top of her game” who will serve as Chief of Staff to the President-elect.   

The series is based on the excellent 1990 BBC miniseries starring Ian Richardson that depicted political intrigue at the end of the Margaret Thatcher era in Great Britain.  If you haven’t already seen it, it’s well worth adding to your rainy day list. 

THE BIG SCREEN SCENE:  Warren Beatty’s not saying much about his Howard Hughes movie project that moved from Paramount to New Regency a few weeks ago — other than to say it’s not a biopic about the late billionaire.  He’s starring in the project as well as producing and directing from his own script, and it appears he’s planning to start shooting it early in the New Year, since he wants prospective cast members to be available from Jan. 5 “onward.”  That includes a young Warren Beatty look-alike being cast now for a flashback sequence.  He’s described as “handsome, late twenties to fifties, square-jawed.” 

NO, N.O.:  As if New Orleans hasn’t suffered enough disasters, now the city is about to be infested by giant killer spiders — in a creature feature called “Earthquake,” that is.  The tale has these particularly nasty arachnids making tunnels under the Big Easy, which then cause earthquakes.  Kinda sounds like a “Tremors” gumbo.