Tag Archives: HBO

Jazmyn Simon of Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Ballers’ Loves Playing With the Boys

Jazmyn SimonIf you’ve seen any of the HBO promos for Dwayne Johnson’s June 21-debuting “Ballers,” you know the half-hour dramedy about a retired pro football player looks like a high octane, chest thumping, head bumping, heart pumping, flash-with-cash testosterone fiesta.

Jazmyn Simon is the sole female star in the cast of the show, a position that could have quickly gone sour. However, the fact she starts laughing when asked about that lets us know right away that hers is not a tale of woe. “It was the best thing in the world,” insists the 5’5″ beauty, who plays the wife of 6’6″ Omar Benson Miller. “It was like a clinical study of the male habits of these guys. After awhile, they stopped treating me like a girl and just started treating me like a little sister. The ‘representative’ them leaves, and then the real them arrives, and I have to tell you, men are hilarious.”

Well, yes. Of course.

“On our show, half the guys are married and half are single, and when you get a group of handsome single guys in Miami, you get to see funny stuff. I got to see guys hitting on girls — that they would not normally allow me to see. It was amazing.”

Amazing as in pickup lines that make you roll your eyes?

“I rolled my eyes all the time, do you hear me? I rolled my eyes,” she declares. “All I’m doing is rolling my eyes with these guys.”

She also notes, “They took great care of me. Any time the cast and crew went out, they made sure I had a production assistant walking me to my car. I loved it. And not only was I a little sister, I was like a big sister. One guy, Donovan Carter, is younger than me and we got extremely close, we spoke a couple of times a day every single day, before and after production.”

And to hear her tell it, Johnson led the way in gentlemanly ways. “Any time I walked in the room, he’d stand up give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and then make sure I sat down before he sat down. His parents raised him right,” says Jazmyn. “He is just an exceptional person, by far one of the nicest people around. I’m laughing because it’s crazy how someone could be so handsome and so talented and such a big name and still remain so humble. He’s kind. He’s approachable.”

We will see Johnson as we haven’t seen him before, according to her. “If I drive down the street, I’m going to see, like, three different billboards for movies he has coming out right now,” says Jazmyn, speaking of the star who has “San Andreas” opening May 29, is among the stars of “Furious 7” (released last month, the blockbuster has a worldwide box office gross of $1,467,817,000 so far) and has several films in the works in addition to “Ballers,” which wrapped its first 10 episodes in Miami this past March.

“I can honestly say he’s an action star up until this point. He does a lot of muscle — ‘Hercules.’ On this show, Dwayne is acting his a— off. He is acting. It’s not Dwayne being a muscle man, it’s Dwayne being the actor, and he’s really so great.”

As for her own role — is she like a little or big sister on camera as well as off?

Jazmyn is quick to reply in the negative. “She’s definitely not sisterly. Julie is sexy and sassy and ambitious and funny, but not sisterly. She is a very ambitious woman who wants the best for her family. She is married to a retired football player, just navigating life after the game of football. When you’ve spent so much time navigating one thing, and then you have to open a new book, it’s chapter 1. It’s post-football. She really wears the pants in her family, which is a good strong character for a woman.”

It’s also a surprising character in this context.

“It’s such smart writing, because it’s true, you generally don’t see that in this context. If I say, ‘She’s married to a football player,’ you automatically thought of something. You thought of a tight skirt, high heels, an expensive purse and an expensive car and there’s nothing wrong with that. They have a lot of money and they know how to spend it. But you don’t really see strong, smart and professional. My character is a doctor, so not only is she sexy and funny and ambitious, but she is very smart and she has a career. So you’re going to see her and her husband figuring out life after football.”

“Ballers” was Jazmyn’s 200th audition — and what a show, what a part to land!

“It feels like a dream. It feels surreal,” she says of the series, which was created by Stephen Levinson (“Entourage”) and is executive produced by Johnson, Levinson, Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”), who also directs.

“I’m so grateful, I count my blessings every day.”

Diane Ladd’s Surprising Journey Toward Getting ‘Enlightened’

Diane Ladd is delighted to find herself being named by media entities including the Los Angeles Times as one of the actresses whose work merits Emmy consideration this nominating period.  But the Mississippi-born dynamo’s strongest Emmy pitch goes for her “Enlightened” leading lady — daughter Laura Dern.

“Thank God ‘Enlightened’ came along.  Nobody gets killed, nobody gets raped and it’s not a reality show,” she declares.  “The Wall Street Journal called it the best show in 50 years.  And Laura, she’s another Lucille Ball as far as I’m concerned.  Laura’s got more energy than God’s angels.  She never stops working so hard to make this a hit.  And she’s so honest and kind to everybody on the set.  It’s harmonious for the actors to come on and play.”  There’s more, but you get the idea.  The show has already won honors including a Golden Globe for Laura for her portrayal of the “Enlightened” executive who underwent a life-changing philosophical awakening while in rehab.

Considering how happy Ladd is to be aboard the dramedy, playing Laura’s mother, it’s interesting that initially, she expected to stay out of it.

“The absolute truth is, I wasn’t going to do the show because HBO previously had trouble with some mother and daughter show which shall be nameless.  And so — I was told — they were turned off mother-daughter shows.  Even though this was not going to be an equal, fifty-fifty mother-daughter show,” recounts Ladd.  “I thought, ‘Wow, you know, if I end up doing this with Laura — if it’s Jane Fonda or Shirley MacLaine, or

some other actress, and they have a problem, they can go in and scream and kick, you know?  But if I have a problem, in that position, and go in and try to solve it, it’s going to be: ‘Oh, Laura’s mother.’  I really saw that, and I thought ‘No, just let me back off and let Laura go do her thing.'”  That was in spite of the fact they’d successfully worked together before, including their dual Oscar nominations for “Rambling Rose.”

Three months passed, as Ladd tells it, while Dern and her co-executive producer, writer and co-star Mike White talked to other prospects for the part.  “At one point there was an actress they were talking about, who shall be nameless, and I said, ‘Don’t get her, Laura.  She’s not a team player, she doesn’t play the game fair.  She won’t support you all the way.  She will chew you up and spit you out and try to take your show.  That’s not what you want.’  I said, ‘Go get Jane Fonda.  She plays fair.'”  They went to Fonda, says Ladd, but she didn’t want to do TV at the time.  “Then some of my friends started calling me, actresses with star names, and they said, ‘Diane, there’s not a lot of work out there for actresses our age.  Are you going to take this series or not?'”  Then, “Renee Taylor called, and said, ‘By golly, if you’re not going to play your daughter’s mother, I can do it.  You’re a fool not to do it.'”  She laughs.  “Renee is a very dear friend.”

The turn-around came when Diane had a moment of transformative realization of her own — after her husband, Robert Hunter, lost a baby granddaughter to SIDS.  The funeral scene was all too familiar for Diane, who tragically lost a baby daughter herself in 1962, after the 18-month-old fell into a swimming pool.

She recounts that before the service, “My cell phone went off, and it was Mike White.  I went out to take the call — I needed a distraction,” she says.  White, it turned out, was calling to ask her to meet with him about “Enlightened,” saying he’d have a car waiting for her at the airport.  He wanted her to reconsider.

“God knows life is so vulnerable,” she says now.  “Each minute, none of us knows tomorrow what’s going to happen.  Every minute of each day is a gift, an opportunity.  And I thought, ‘What better could I do with the gift of talent that the universe gave me than to share and support my own child?’

“And that,” she says, “is why I did the show.”

Thomas Jane Re: ‘Hung’ 3D, Pricing, and a ‘Sexier, Funnier Season’

Thomas Jane is a proponent of 3D.  He made his “Dark Country” film in 3D.   And last week, he hosted the second annual 3D Film & Music Festival.  So it was only a matter of time before a cheeky TV station brought up the idea of “Hung 3D” — as in his ribald HBO series about an unusually well-endowed high school basketball coach-turned-male prostitute.

Jane laughs at the suggestion.  “Yes, if we ever do decide to do full frontal with Ray Decker, I think we should do it in 3D,” he dead-pans.  “Things look bigger in 3D.”

Jane confesses he is as surprised as anyone that the dark comedy is in its third season — which launches Sunday (10/2).  “I never expected this to go beyond one season, to tell you the truth.  But the chemistry between the actors — especially between me and Jane Adams — is really strong.   And the writing continues to be strong.  One of the questions that’s often asked is, how long can they keep this going?  I think the characters are complex enough and the relationships are deep enough that we can keep going and going.”  In fact, he says, “Now I’ve had so much fun making Season 3, I’m really hoping for a Season 4.”

To hear Jane tell it, Season 3 goes light on harsh reality compared to the show’s past.  “We started out with our heroes trying to make ends meet in unconventional ways and we got a lot of mileage out of that.  But by Season 3, the economy still sucks and we don’t want to talk about it all the time.  I think people don’t want too much of a downer. So we decided, ‘Let’s just have some fun.’  It’s a sexier, funnier, faster season and it’s my favorite season because of that.” 

This will also become the season “the cat’s out of the bag” in terms of Ray’s new profession becoming known to the people in his life, including his ex-wife (Anne Heche).

Ray’s clients are more attractive this season as well, something Jane says was a conscious choice.  One of the creative challenges of the series, it seems, is coming up with plausible reasons why a beautiful woman would “pay for the experience,” as Jane puts it.  Could be personal peccadilloes.  (“If you want to chase me through the park dressed as a cop, that’s what you get.”)  Could be wish fulfillment, such as his comely blond rich former student satisfying her schoolgirl crush at last.  Talk about fantasy time!

The star (whose divorce from Patrica Arquette became final in July) says that doing the show has impacted his own outlook on sex.  “As a man I’ve learned to sort of see the sexual experience through the eyes of a woman.  That’s where men and women, their wants and needs are different,” he notes.  “A man’s point of view is, ‘I’m going to meet this girl, go to dinner and then if I’m lucky go back to my house and get down to the business of [sex].  But there is a whole list of criteria for a woman to have sex with a guy.  Ray has to deliver a full-service package, almost like a boyfriend experience.  The woman wants to feel taken care of, to feel safe….It’s very elucidating.  Men are interested in this stuff, you know.  Men want to know how to satisfy a woman.”

But still, as far as what male viewers ask him about when he chats about the show at events and such, Jane says, “The most frequent question I get asked is, ‘How much?'” 

Okay.  So, how much?  “Six hundred bucks,” he answers.  “We’re in a depression, or it would be more.”

How Will Pacino, Levinson, Etc. Get Along With The New Mamet?

David Mamet

Even as literati across the land process the information that F-bomb spewing, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet is “no longer a “brain-dead liberal” but rather a “newly-minted conservative” — as he spells out in his new book, “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture” — the next question becomes clear.   How is his self-proclaimed conversion going to impact his interactions with all his liberal show business colleagues?

Mamet is already speculating that he won’t get as much work in the future as he skewers idealogy and institutions the leftward-leaning hold dear along his caustic jaw dropper of a book tour. (NPR stands for “National Palestinian Radio,” for instance, and college is “socialist camp.”)

But how about right now? He’s supposed to be making his Phil Spector movie starring Al Pacino, Bette Midler and Jeffrey Tambor for the gang at HBO, a place not known for a preponderance of Glenn Beck fans. The yet-untitled movie about the iconic record producer-turned-second degree murder convict is in preproduction with plans for filming to take place in July and August, with Barry Levinson producing. Mamet is writer-director on the project.

Interestingly, Mamet tipped his hand last year, when he told New York magazine that he considers Spector innocent of the 2003 killing of Lana Clarkson in the case involving sex play and a gun. He told the mag that while watching a documentary about the deadly event, he found himself thinking, “There’s no way he killed that girl. He got convicted of ‘I don’t like you.’ ”

Wanna bet that Pacino, Levinson et. al are wishing they had the old Mamet back?

‘Too Big to Fall’ Has Asner, Buffett in Mutually Admiring Mode

Edward Asner, Warren Buffett

The assignment of playing Warren Buffett in HBO’s forthcoming “Too Big to Fail” movie has left Edward Asner “very impressed” with the Bershire Hathaway billionaire.

“He seems to be, from all I’ve ever read about him, a square shooter.  He makes his money about as honestly as you can when you’re working in billions, and that’s quite an achievement.  Unfortunately, there aren’t that many who imitate him,” complains the esteemed, seven-time Emmy-winning actor and former Screen Actors Guild president.

Asner has learned through mutual acquaintances that Buffett is happy with his casting in the saga about the 2009 bank bailouts.  “I was pleased to hear that,” he says.

Asked whether he’d like to meet his real-life alter ego, he replies, “I’d love to.  I hear it’s quite possible, too.  Funny, I know of a rich entrepreneur who called him and said he’d like to meet with him.  Buffett said, ‘Sure, how about tomorrow at 4 o’clock?’  That surprised him and he said, ‘Well, I was thinking, I’ll be in town in June and I wondered if we could meet then?’  And Buffett replied, ‘Oh, I never know where I[m going to be that far in advance.'”

Chockablock with stars (William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, Matthew Modine, Bill Pullman, Billy Crudup, Topher Grace, Cynthia Nixon, Michael O’Keefe, Tony Shalhoub and James Woods), the event presentation, directed by Curtis Hanson, is coming our way May 23.  Asner says he’ll be flying to New York for the May 16 premiere.

“Mine is not a big role, but it gave me a chance to work with Curtis Hanson,” he notes.  “I liked it a lot.  He’s a very calm fellow who strikes only when he needs to.”

Among the challenges that faced Hanson and company, of course, was keeping the drama from downing in the myriad complexities of the threatened financial melt-down.  Does it?

“It better,” is Asner’s response.  “The book (Andrew Ross Sorkin’s best-seller, on which the film is based) was so successful in pinpointing the high crimes and misdemeanors of the period, if the movie doesn’t achieve that, it would be a surprise.”