“I’m a mythbuster,” declares Melissa Leo, the highly-regarded former “Homicide: Life on the Street” actress who won an Oscar nomination for her work in “Frozen River.”
“I will be 50 in September, I live in the United States of America, and things have never been better for me.” Far from finding jobs drying up as has so often happened to actresses of a certain age in the past, Leo says, “I’m getting more and more varied and better work.”
Leo will be soon be doing double duty, shuttling back and forth between shooting of the Kate Winslet remake of “Mildred Pierce” in the Tri-State area, and New Orleans, where she is filming HBO’s April 11-debuting series “Treme” (trem-ay). The latter is a moody piece from her former “Homicide” producers, David Simon and Eric Overmyer (“The Wire”), following an assortment of Big Easy residents dealing with life in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
“It will be a little crossover work for me, like switching the channel from the 1930s in Brooklyn to contemporary New Orleans,” reports Leo, who’s living in New Orleans for “Treme” production.
She’s glad to be among the actresses over 40 who’ve found quality work on cable – along with the likes of Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and Kyra Sedgwick. She and her acting peers, she notes, “know how much better we are with our experience and knowledge”
NO SPILL: Laura Harring has been turning heads as Ed Westwick’s mysterious birth mother on “Gossip Girl,” but as for whether her character will be sticking around, Laura won’t comment. “I think it’s part of the mystery,” she says. The actress tells us she’s no stranger to keeping mum. “I was told when we were promoting ‘Mulholland Drive’ 10 years ago that mystery is a part of keeping people going to the movies. When David Lynch gave Naomi Watts and I the last part of that movie, he made us promise that we would never say what the movie meant, but we could say our own interpretation. I even remember at the Cannes Film Festival, I bumped into him and he said, ‘Remember, Laura, keep the mystery during these interviews,’” she recalls. “I’m very fortunate in ‘Gossip Girl’ that they kept that same kind of mystery for me. All the way to the end you don’t know what’s going on.”
The actress says the experience of being on set was certainly a very positive one. “The people that I worked with, I couldn’t believe how down to earth they were. Paparazzi were around all the time so that’s got to affect you when you’re that young, but I was very impressed with how they kept their humor about them,” says Harring. “Ed Westwick and Leighton [Meester] especially made me feel like I was a part of the club. I like the mystery that Ed brings to his character. It’s very James Dean-esque. I see why people are such big fans. I know for myself, it was amazing the response I got from people when they found out I was on the show.”
THE BIG SCREEN SCENE: Playing the mother of a boy who’s fighting cancer in “Letters to God,” opening Friday (4/9), “was more than tough,” admits Robyn Lively. The actress, familiar from such movies and TV shows as “Teen Witch” and “Saving Grace” – as well as being the half sister of “Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively – tells us “It was harder tRobyn LIvelyhan I thought it would be. I tapped into real emotion. Of course, for me, the cameras cut and life goes on. I can imagine what this would be like for a parent. This movie gave me such a feeling of gratitude for my life and for the health of my children.”“Letters to God,” has its eight-year-old protagonist (Tanner Maguire) writing prayers to God and mailing them. They wind up being read by a mailman (Jeffrey S.S. Johnson) fighting his own demons – divorce, alcoholism. The story lies in how they affect him, the boy’s family, and the community surrounding them. Producer-director David Nixon (“Fireproof”) and the rest of the “Letters” filmmakers are hoping it will be embraced as an inspirational movie about how faith can get people through tough times.
However, as Lively acknowledges, selling “Letters to God” will be “tricky because it’s such an emotional film. There are a lot of families going through these types of situations. But it’s really special,” she says.
NOTE WORTHY: “Cougar Town’s” hottie hunk Josh Hopkins knows how to turn heads on television but he’s also known for strumming the heartstrings of the ladies thanks to his singer/songwriter skills. However, he tells us he has no intention of switching his day job. “It’s nothing I think I’m going to pursue as a profession. On a fluke one year I ended up playing the Lollapalooza music festival and as someone who’s very much a novice, I felt like after that I’ve already hit the mountaintop,” says Hopkins, who performed his popular song “Feigning Interest” with James Marsden. “People asked me if I caught the bug. I said, ‘Nope! I was terrified the whole time.’”
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster