Tag Archives: Wanda Sykes

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.

Hollywood’s putting anti-Prop. 8 feelings on display

Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin

Their state may have voted against same-sex marriages, and their state supreme court may have ruled to uphold California’s Prop. 8 ban, but Hollywood very clearly does not agree — and you can expect to be seeing many more illustrations of that fact.

Kathy Griffin‘s “My Life on the D List,” which begins its fifth season on Bravo June 8, has already filmed “a Prop. 8 episode,” Griffin recently told us. “We went to Iraq a couple of years ago. We went to Walter Reed (Army Hospital) last season. This is our serious episode for this season. We’re really proud of it.” Besides filming at an anti-Prop 8 rally, “D List” has “Rev. Al Sharpton, who “laid out the greatest civil rights argument for gay marriage,” according to Griffin.

Griffin wasted no time responding to the court’s decision, issuing a statement that she would not only be protesting, but that “My 89-year-old mother has asked me to get her a wheelchair to take her to a protest … She is neither gay, nor the parent of a gay person, but she is as passionate about this decision as I am.”

The cast and creative team on Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ “New Adventures of Old Christine” have been anxiously awaiting this week’s decision by the California Supreme Court — “a decision that’s an issue to us both behind the scenes and in front of the camera on our show,” as costar Clark Gregg pointed out.

Wanda Sykes, who came out as a lesbian and got married to her partner last year, is among the 18,000 gay Californians whose same-sex unions have been ruled valid (along with such show business notables as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, and George Takei and Brad Altman.)

The state Supreme Court also just handed the “New Adventures of Old Christine” writers a twist to the ongoing storyline that has Louis-Dreyfus’s and Sykes’ characters on the show in a green card marriage. Since the characters are both straight, this can’t help but underscore the farcical aspect of the court’s decision — a subtlety that fits the series’ style. Clark stressed that “Old Christine” has never gone the rout of “becoming a public service announcement,” and added, “What I admire about (creator) Kari Lizer and the writing staff is that they wade into uncomfortable waters — going back to Julia’s effort to get a black family into her son’s school, only to have the father turn out to be a raging homophobe.”

And you can be sure that lines and scenes dealing with Prop. 8, if not full story lines, are being scripted even as you read this. “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris, who is not married to the man with whom he shares his life, David Burtka, but is an outspoken proponent of gay marriage, summed up the feelings of many when he told this column, “It’s wrong to try and squelch love. It’s pure and simple discrimination.”

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: “It was great the way Season 4 ended because there are a lot of things we’re going to have to sort out and clarify,” says Mexican actor Demián Bichir, who will return June 8 in the fifth season of “Weeds” as the corrupt mayor of Tijuana. He is also the onscreen love interest of the show’s star Mary-Louise Parker, and when things ended last season, Parker’s character Nancy had informed him that she is pregnant with his child.

“Whatever is in Nancy’s mind, that’s going to have to be proven first,” says Bichir of the story line, but before we know for sure if she’s having his baby, he tells us we will definitely see a change in his ruthless character. “Now that there’s a possibility of a child on the way, that’s going to change a lot of things and maybe bring Esteban to a different state of mind. Hopefully he will be able to show not only his more sensitive side, but also many other sides without killing anyone.” Hopefully.

One good part of the pending pregnancy is that music superstar Alanis Morissette has signed on for seven episodes to play Nancy’s obstetrician, and Bichir admits the cast couldn’t be more excited. “I haven’t had a chance to meet her, but I think it’s fantastic to have her on board. I’m not sure if there will be some interaction with our two characters, but, regardless, it will be interesting to meet someone whose music you admire so much.”

TOGETHER AGAIN: A July 6 production start has been set for “Going the Distance,” which might just end up being an appropriate description of stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. You may recall the couple were quite into each other while making “He’s Just Not That Into You,” then split up last summer after a year, then seemed to be on again (hand-holding, acting affectionate and telling reporters they adored each other at the “Grey Gardens” premiere in April, for instance).

In “Going the Distance” they play a couple who decide to try making a go of a long-distance relationship, with both their characters having dream careers at stake on opposite coasts of the country — a familiar show business situation. It’s a comedy. Drew says that Justin makes her laugh.

JUMPING IN: Sarah Chalke, who stars in Lifetime’s two-night adaptation of Gigi Levangie Grazer‘s “Maneater” this Saturday and Sunday (5/30 and 5/31), says that the biggest challenge in making the miniseries was “how dense it was in terms of production and just being in every scene. It was a really fast turn-around.” The tale of a gold digger determined to marry a rich and successful Hollywood power player before she hits Botox age has the “Scrubs” actress in scenes ranging from zany physical humor (as in a dance sequence in which her very pregnant character is onstage with a group of seniors) to drama (when her character gives birth).

What helped was that the production — which also stars Gregory Harrison, Maria Conchita Alonso, Judy Greer, Philip Winchester, Marla Sokoloff and Paul Leyden — shot on location. “It was so intense, hours-wise, it was nice to be somewhere else and not have to deal with everyday stuff in your life,” she says.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster