At a recent press junket, any reporter who walked into a room with the stars of “Betas” was greeted with bright smiles, cheers and laughter.
This is not common behavior for ensemble comedy casts who have spent hour after hour under hot lights, cycling through the same questions over and over again delivered by different journalists. Cheering at a journalist’s arrival is particularly rare. As in, it never happens.
Then again, “Betas” is not a common situational comedy, which is what its cast of relative newcomers clearly love about it. Series co-star Charlie Saxton sums up the setting thusly: “It’s like the industrial revolution, except with bytes and chips and hard drives!”
“Betas” follows the quest of four young Silicon Valley-based programmers working at Mind Hub Communal Workspace — and their 35-year-old porn-loving colleague, who laments that 35 is, “like, 95 in Silicon Valley years”. All are in fierce competition with other software engineers to design the next lucrative app, which would in turn launch their careers and fill their meager bank accounts.
In order to do so, the group needs funding… which brings them to the doorstep of venture capitalist George Murchison (Ed Begley Jr., playing the role of the aging billionaire Silicon Valley playboy with aplomb), a man who has the power to crush their dreams just as quickly as he can fulfill them. This is where the adventure kicks in.
While this is not the first time TV viewers and movie fans will have seen Joe Dinicol (“The L.A. Complex“), Karan Soni (Safety Not Guaranteed), Saxton (“Hung“), Maya Erskine (“Hart of Dixie“) and Jon C. Daly (“Happy Endings“), for most of them “Betas” represents their first outing as leads of a high profile project: the second series released by Amazon Studios, a startup (of sorts) releasing a series about a startup. Their chemistry percolates onscreen and off, as both the actors and their characters vibrate with the sensation that accompanies being on the verge of something very new and potentially very big.
“There hasn’t been a show about this yet,” says Soni, speaking to the show’s setting in a burgeoning Internet firm. And he’s right. Though it is a workplace comedy at its heart, the politics and odd interpersonal dynamics on display in “Betas” mines relatively new territory in the realm of TV series. Unless you work at an Internet company, the social awkwardness and weird proclivities that seem everyday to the average software geek become surreal comedy to the average non-techie. Soni’s character Nash, for example, craves silence and solitude, and can only tune out the world by blasting ’70s-era soft rock into his ears. You know, perfectly normal abnormal stuff.
Nash is the right hand of the startup’s leader Trey (Dinicol), the most charismatic of the bunch, and certainly possessed of more of a clue about the opposite sex than Saxton’s Mitchell, a would-be romantic with no game — but a lot of time logged as an online gamer. Mitchell pines away for Mikki (Erskine), a stand-offish cool chick who nevertheless displays a soft spot for her co-workers. Daly’s Hobbes is the “old” guy in the office getting his kicks where he can — mainly in the form of online porn. Because, why not?
With the star-studded “Alpha House” having preceded the premiere of the first three “Betas” episode by a week, this is a cast and a project in very good but very high-profile company. That also means meeting very high expectations. Given “Alpha House’s” mostly positive reception by critics and online viewers — it was the most watched show on Prime Instant Video over the weekend of its premiere — the onus is on Studios’ second release to at least meet the same level of buzz as its cohort.
While the world of Silicon Valley and software engineers in general has a reputation for being male dominated, one criticism that “Betas” reportedly fielded during its sampling round was the lack of well-rounded females in the pilot. The producers appear to have ameliorated this concern by beefing up Erskine’s role, making the likable Mikki not only grounded and hip but also the snarky voice of reason.
“She’s incredibly intelligent and she’s kind of like one of the guys in the sense that she’s not afraid to be in this world,” Erskine says. “But we also have other female characters that come in who are very strong. I feel like every female character in this show is fierce.”
“Betas” also seems engineered to attract a younger demo, an audience that is very vocal and can be much harder to please. Working in its favor, other than the fact that it is smartly written and enjoyable to watch, is an important factor DiNicol points out, which is “there’s starting to be a whole generation of people who have worked in that world, who… have had these epic battles within that world.”
What about the old world of broadcast TV production? Begley Jr., who has plenty of experience in that realm (like a show called “St. Elsewhere“…look it up, kids), found the realm of online TV production both familiar and freeing.
“You walk on the set and it looks like a big budget TV show,” he says. “It has that wonderful aspect to it…but there’s not a lot of micromanaging you often get with the network people giving the notes there on the set. Whatever Amazon is saying to the producers doesn’t affect our world at all…and it’s great.
He adds, “I think we’re part of an important trend, the way music made that transition years ago.”
If politics is theater, then it may be best characterized as a never-ending comedy, with Washington D.C. providing the world’s largest stage.
Few people know that better than Jonathan Alter who, along with Elliot Webb and Pulitzer Prize-winner Garry Trudeau, serve as the executive producers of Amazon Studios’ first original series “Alpha House,” making its debut on Amazon Instant Video on Friday, November 15.
Surely the conceit of “Alpha House,” which follows the lives of four Republican senators living under one roof in the nation’s capital, may seem a strange to the average person who might not know that sharing housing is actually a common practice among national lawmakers. Inspired by the actual living situation of Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard J. Durbin, who share a house with Representatives Bill Delahunt and George Miller, the central quartet displays a sense of brotherhood born less out of party allegiance than from the sheer empathy of being stuck together in a strange world where nothing they do or say goes unnoticed.
Thanks to nuanced portrayals by its four leads — anchored by rock-solid performances by John Goodman and “The Wire‘s” Clark Johnson, with Mark Consuelos and Matt Malloy adding delightful levity to the mix — the housing situation takes a backseat to the poignant characters and their various personal and political challenges.
We should say, three of them are facing struggles. Goodman’s Gil John Biggs has glided through his political career virtually unchallenged, thanks to his status as a legendary basketball coach. But in an upcoming election, he must contend with a bonafide challenge in the form of another coach — this one gilded with a recent string of victories and backing from the far right. Robert Bettencourt, Johnson’s character, has an ethics-related scandal to contend with thanks to his overt coziness with lobbyists.
Nevada Senator Louis Laffer, Jr., played by Malloy, has a challenger who questions his “manliness”, a situation that isn’t helped by frequent, public missteps that reveal an air of ambiguity surrounding his sexual orientation and his demonstrated expertise in evaluating women’s fashion. The only Teflon character in the house, for the moment, is Consuelos’s young and freshly divorced Senator Andy Guzman, whose overwhelming confidence and hunger to become president could one day be his undoing…but, for the moment, have carried him through to the peak of political stardom.
Having spent nearly three decades analyzing the media and national politics for Newsweek and other outlets, in addition to authoring three bestselling books about U.S. presidents, Alter is more than familiar with the Washington political scene’s oddities.
For example, in referring to a plot point in a future episode, “when we say that there’s a mohair subsidy, you know, for mohair production – it’s real! We’re not making that up,” Alter says. “We make up a lot of what happens after that, but…”
“Alpha House” is the latest politically-themed series to enter a field already occupied by Netflix’s “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Veep,” both Emmy award-winners with star-studded casts. At the same time, it manages to stake out its own space within this realm thanks to Trudeau’s singular approach to the subject and to comedy. Though Alter contributed a number of suggestions to propel the plot, “this one was very much (Trudeau’s) vision and his voice,” he says.
“The thing for people to understand when they watch ‘Alpha House’ is that it’s different than the sort of standard network comedy,” Alter continues. “If they’re kind of looking for a standard network comedy that happens to be on Amazon, they’re going to be surprised. Because it is not setup-joke, setup-joke, setup-joke. In fact, Garry says, ‘I don’t write jokes.’ It’s humorous and highly entertaining situations that grow out of the characters and it works on a few different levels at once.”
Alter also points out another key difference between his project and the alternate universes occupied by Congressman Francis Underwood and Vice President Selina Meyer: “We’re the only political comedy where Obama is president and Mitch McConnell is the Senate minority party leader. The rest of the comedies and most of the dramas are all made up. So strangely enough, even though we’re a comedy, we’re realistic.”
As such, not only are there passing references to the immigration debate, the war in Afghanistan and the government shutdown (which occurred while season one was still in production), there are also prominent personalities in the political landscape passing through the first season. In addition to cameos by Chuck Schumer, Alter says viewers will also see guest appearances from TV journalists such as Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, and Chris Matthews, in addition to a very funny scene in the second episode with Stephen Colbert. And as previously reported in the New York Times, Consuelos’s wife Kelly Ripa also will pay a visit, as does Jane Pauley, who has a scene with Bill Murray in the season finale.
It should also be mentioned that taken at face value, “Alpha House” is likely to take a few knocks for being unfairly skewed toward a liberal viewpoint. The four main characters are Republicans, and though the second and third episodes introduce Wanda Sykes and Cynthia Nixon as liberal lawmakers — with Nixon, in particular, seeming at first blush to be the somewhat joyless voice of reason — the action is heavily weighted to skewered the main character’s foibles. No surprise there; Trudeau’s liberal viewpoint has been on parade for years in his cartoon strip Doonesbury, and played heavily in his script for HBO’s miniseries “Tanner ’88,” which was directed by Robert Altman.
Alter acknowledges that, while also defending the producers’ desire to avoid pursuing a phony sense of balance for its own sake. “Everybody gets satirized, but everybody also gets humanized,” he explains. “I think …the viewers, including very liberal viewers, will find themselves rooting for these conservative Republicans.”
“Do you have to be reasonably intelligent to enjoy ‘Alpha House’? I’d say yes,” he adds. “But there are millions and millions of intelligent people out there.”
Considering the image that still comes to mind at the mention of the name Ichabod Crane– an unattractive, physically weak, easily intimidated Revolutionary-era schoolteacher, as Disney drew him –the fact that British actor Tom Mison has made him one of this TV season’s hottest characters may seem like a minor miracle.
That is, it might appear that way to those who have not seen Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” which returns with a new episode 9pm ET/PT Monday. Passionate fans of the series connected with Mison’s Crane from the very first hour, watching him swing a sword to behead the muscular Hessian that would go on to become the famous Headless Horseman during an 18th century battle that was going badly for the American Revolutionaries.
In this version of the tale, that’s before things started to really get weird.
“Sleepy Hollow’s” Ichabod Crane is a man plucked out of his time and plunked down in ours, where he’s not as thrown off by horseless carriages and electricity as he is by the idea that there’s a Starbucks on every corner and that Americans pay sales tax at a rate of nearly 10 percent without blinking an eye. He has no problem relating a tale of his lost love to a disembodied voice over of a vehicle’s emergency response system. Why not? When the forces of Hell are slipping into on the modern world in the form of demons, undead witches and plagues that cross through time, all heralds of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, mechanical innovations seem perfectly plausible.
“I always like to have faith that an audience will suspend their disbelief if you present it to them in the right way, ” Mison recently told a group of reporters. “I find it peculiar when people scoff at one bold idea, and yet they’ll then turn over and watch a man travel through time in a police phone box. …Once you can get an audience to go with you on an idea then you can just go anywhere, and that’s where the fun stuff happens.”
But the central partnership between Crane and his modern-day ally, “leftenant” Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is the heart of the series. Ichabod and Abbie are each nursing wounded hearts, as he pines away for a wife trapped in Purgatory, Katrina (Katia Winter), while Abbie contends with both the loss of her mentor and father figure (Clancy Brown) and the need to mend her frayed bond with her sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood).
These humanizing layers transform “Sleepy Hollow” from an exciting and frequently humorous genre show into a study of faith, family, redemption and undying commitment — factors come together beautifully in this week’s new episode, “The Sin Eater,” guest starring John Noble. Newcomers to the series may want to watch the pilot (currently available on Amazon Instant Video,) but the show is easy enough to comprehend without viewing previous episodes. Besides, with its flashbacks showing Ichabod’s transformation from redcoat to George Washington’s most crucial weapon in the war, this is the strongest entry of “Sleepy Hollow’s” 13-episode first season.
Already renewed for season two, “Sleepy Hollow” has more the time to further enrich its mythology, much to the delight of “sleepy heads” (or is it “hollowers”?) excitedly watching every moment of Ichabod and Abbie’s adventures. Mison, a relatively new face to American audiences, seems to be having the time of his life.
“Every chance to show a different side to Ichabod is great…as a very obvious example, the difference between Ichabod we see in the 18th Century and the modern-day Ichabod,” Mison said. “There are different sides to him, and equally the well behaved and the less well behaved, the more unhinged Ichabod. There’s plenty of that to come.”
Last week Mison chatted on the phone with a group of TV reporters about his role, his love of history, and what’s coming up for Crane and the “leftenant” in future episodes. Granted, he was fairly tight-lipped about the future, but read on…
On Ichabod losing his manners: “When things start to get very personal, when there are revelations that are personal attacks on Crane and his past, that’s when the rules start to fly out of the window, and he starts misbehaving a little bit more,” the actor teased.
On maintaining the delicate balance between the comedy and the drama in each episode: “The temptation could be to just go nuts on the comedy; not only for me but for the writers as well because there’s a wealth of things we can do with that. We worked out very early on… that the only way you can really sell the comedy is to play it as straight as the serious stuff. Finding the balance between the confusion and those funny scenes and the more serious, ‘Oh my God, the apocalypse is coming’ scenes.”
On Ichabod’s (hilarious) encounters with modern technology: “When we go into a new set, it’s always nice to have a look around and wonder what Ichabod would be attracted to or repelled by, and what would be baffling. And it’s kind of… everything. Everything’s new. There will be plenty more of that… there’s a wealth of stuff to mine into.”
On Ichabod’s high intellect and the fact that he isn’t a jerk about it: “Everyone always goes to the fact that he would be lost in the modern world and everything is above him and baffling. What I find really fascinating is that any room he walks into, he’s probably the most intelligent person in that room. But no one will allow him to show that because everyone thinks he’s insane… That’s really fun. He knows that he’s cleverer than everyone else, but his manners won’t allow him to tell people to stop being stupid.”
On when (if ever) Ichabod will trade in his 18th century threads for modern clothing: We quite liked…giving Ichabod an iconic look, which I think everyone’s managed to achieve rather nicely. In terms of the character, he’s a long way from home — 250 years away from home– so anything that he can hold on to from his time, I think he certainly will.
“Any time you think of how much he stinks, just think of it as a big stinking security blanket that he carries around with him.
As the third season of NBC’s “Grimm” kicks off tonight at 9pm ET/PT on NBC, life is not looking so sanguine for Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli). Poisoned into a coma, locked in a coffin and whisked away to parts unknown by his boss’s sinister brother, our resident Grimm is in no position to protect Portland’s citizens from crimes committed any malevolent Wesen, the drama’s name for the supposedly mythological creatures Nick hunts. This is especially inconvenient given that a small army of citizens, also felled by the same Wesen toxin that took down Nick, have risen as violent zombies and are wreaking havoc on the street.
The End of this particular Grimm’s tale? Hardly. Don’t expect Nick’s love Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), along with the couple’s Wesen allies Rosalee (Bree Turner) and Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Nick’s partner Hank (Russell Hornsby) to let him go quietly. As for what kind of shape our Grimm will be in when he’s found — if he’s found — you’ll have to tune in to tonight’s episode, ominously titled “The Ungrateful Dead,” to find out. NBC also has released plenty of photos like this one that give viewers an idea of what to expect.
But as executive producer Jim Kouf reminds us, “Grimm” is not merely a creature-of-the-week kind of series. “Our show is really about the monsters inside people,” he says.
Earlier this week we spoke with “Grimm’s” executive producers/co-creators David Greenwalt and Kouf to get an idea of what’s in store for Nick and his growing band of brethren holding the line between the Wesen and human worlds. “Everything gets bigger and badder, particularly Nick,” teased Greenwalt, who added, “People are going to have start choosing sides now, too.”
How big? How bad? For starters…
Nick’s undead experience will leave him significantly changed. Until now, Nick has done his best to keep his moral compass pointed squarely in the direction of good, striving to limit any collateral damage or casualties within his community. But the zombie toxin may shift a few things within him.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing in the long run. “It enhances his abilities in various ways,” Kouf explains. “It makes him a little stronger, a little more effective.”
But, Greenwalt adds, “He can’t just walk away from what he did, or from what’s happened to him. You’ll see remnants of this (idea) throughout the season.”
New players will be entering the arena. During season two, “Grimm” viewers found out more about the Royal houses and discovered Nick’s boss Captain Sean Renard’s connection to one house: Renard (Sasha Roiz) is the half-brother of Eric Renard (James Frain), who is more charming and ruthless than his sibling, and who is responsible for engaging the Haitian Wesen Baron Samedi to hunt Nick and create his zombie horde.
Although Frain appears in a few scenes in the premiere as part of a short recap of last season’s pivotal final frames, scheduling conflicts have prevented him from showing up this season. Instead, viewers will meet the Renards’ cousin Viktor Albert Wilhelm George Beckendorf, played by Alexis Denisof, who is just as sinister and dangerous as the rest of his family. Yes, “Grimm’s” world is expanding far beyond Portland’s city limits: On the European side of this chess board, Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee) is determined to get her Hexenbiest powers restored and will go through anything and anyone to make that happen. Shohreh Aghdashloo’s Stefania leads her through a series of trials to help her, even as Adalind’s pregnancy — presumably by one of the Renards — continues to progress.
As Adalind knows, her baby has great value attached to it. “A lot of people are going to want to get their hands on this child, ” Greenwalt says.
Get ready to meet new Wesen. The world of “Grimm” has a lot of myths and fairy tales from which to draw in order to create new adversaries for Nick. At least seven new creatures will be introduced over the 22-episode third season says Greenwalt, and possibly even more. Among them are Wesen based on the sewer alligators urban legend, which was previously announced, as well as beings Greenwalt describes as “mean, sexy mermaids” and a storyline based on the legend of the Mexican boogeyman known as El Cucuy. Season three also explores the ideas of possession and exorcism as it relates to the Grimm universe.
At the same time, Kouf explains, the producers intend to explore the existing relationships they’ve already established. “The characters are expanding. The more we write the characters, the more we realize how complex they are.”
To that end, as certain key characters grow closer, the writers have planned to give fans a wedding this season — and, given Adalind’s “delicate” condition, a birth. On the less sunny side of things, there will be a resurrection of the feud between the Blutbaden and the Bauerschwein, with Bauerschwein gaining the upper hand. “They’ve grown less meek,” Kouf explains. “They’re in a technological world where they can gain some more control.”
What about Wu? The only member of Nick’s circle who remains unaware of his colleague’s secret, Sgt. Wu (Reggie Lee) has overlooked most of the oddities present in Grimm-related cases because as Greenwalt explains, “he merely thinks that lots of strange things go on in Portland because Portland is weird.” That may change in a Wu-focused episode scheduled to air in the back half of the season that brings the cop in close contact with clues and crimes reminiscent of a childhood monster myth from the Philippines. Kouf and Greenwalt say it’s their creepiest episode yet. But first, let’s see how Wu and the gang wrangle those zombies.
When Walter White’s problems grew to be bigger than he could handle, he decided to enlist the services of an unctuous, law-bending attorney named Saul Goodman.
The moment White made that decision — and really, the moment “Breaking Bad‘s” creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan added “Better call Saul!” into the hit drama’s canon — AMC’s very serious show received a much-need injection of levity. Shortly after Saul’s first few appearances, Bob Odenkirk made the character one of the biggest reasons to watch each episode, and certainly one of the characters that will be missed now that our time with Walter, Jesse Pinkman and every other colorful character connected to Saul is drawing to a close.
Fortunately, AMC has announced the development of a spinoff, “Better Call Saul,” which will share the tale of Goodman’s life prior to that fateful day the man known as Heisenberg knocked on his door. While other details about “Better Call Saul” are still brewing, spending time in Saul Goodman’s flashy suits has opened many doors for Odenkirk. He recently made a memorable appearance playing Nixon on “Drunk History” and is executive producing a sketch comedy for IFC called “The Birthday Boys“, premiering on October 18 at 10:30pm.
We chatted with Odenkirk about his expectations for the spinoff, how “Breaking Bad” has affected his career, and what kind of life he thinks Saul would have after his time in New Mexico — that is, if he manages to truly extricate himself from Walter’s web.
IMDb: So, let’s talk about the spinoff…
Bob Odenkirk: I wish I could. I wish I could tell people more about the Saul spinoff possibilities, but I can’t. It’s all up to Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.
IMDb: But surely you’ll have some input, though.
Bob Odenkirk: Well, I suppose I could have some input, but I don’t want any.
IMDb: I find that odd. You’re such an incredible comedian and you’ve demonstrated such versatility as a creator, with writing…
Bob Odenkirk: One of the greatest things about this role, and I told this to Vince, is that when he called me up, it was already written. And I did it verbatim. Those are things I’ve never done. I’ve always written my own stuff, or gotten the thing and it was in progress, and I’ve contributed to the writing. And on the set, I’ve reinvented it, like comic actors usually do. This has brought on a whole different set of skills and challenges, and I love it. I’ve said (to Vince and Peter), if you do that spinoff, I want to do that same thing again. You write it, you create it, you envision it, and you send it to me and I’ll figure it out.
It’s been refreshing, it’s been challenging. But you know, when you get older and you’ve done stuff, it’s so neat to get to do a different thing. Most people don’t really get that. You know, show business is so eager to put you in a box and say, ‘That’s what you do, and that’s it, and don’t do anything else. I don’t care if you want to, I don’t care if you’re good at it. Just don’t do anything else.’ But luckily I never got famous enough as a sketch actor, or doing sketch comedy, that I couldn’t be seen in a new light. That’s luck, really. So when I got to do Saul, enough of the audience either didn’t know who I was at all, or didn’t know me well enough that they were willing to watch me portray this guy or they were willing to look at it in an eminently fair, open-minded kind of way. A lot of actors don’t get that chance.
IMDb: It surprises me that you say that you’re not as recognizable as, say, David (Cross). David has gone through a number of different shifts in his career. But I’ve never seen him do anything like Saul, where you get to dive into some deep dramatic moments. I’m surprised that you feel that you’re not as recognizable, because I’ve always recognized your work since “Mr. Show”.
Bob Odenkirk: Yeah, but look at what you do for a living. (Laughs)
IMDb: Aren’t there parts of that experience that you bring into Saul?
Bob Odenkirk: For sure. Listen, I’ve always thought that comedy, the stuff I did, much of it is just about committing to that character, its lunacy or its reaction to a given situation. So playing Saul, and acting, is just committing to this guy.
You know, comic actors are always surprising people every year, right? There’s always a couple of them where people are like, ‘Wow! You did a drama! I can’t believe it!’ But I just think comedy acting mostly is about commitment. Committing to craziness. So I just think that if you can commit to real craziness, you can commit to a more real-world version too. Some people maybe can’t modulate it enough to make the character believable, or their hunger for a laugh makes them push it, because that’s what they’ve trained to do. But luckily I haven’t gotten enough laughs to be trained. (Laughs.)
Remember Jon Lovitz at the beginning of Happiness? That was crushing. Crushing. So you know, maybe it’s about having the right role. I’m lucky to have this chance…that popular culture was able to see me in this popular show, “Breaking Bad,” and accept me and not say, “Oh, it’s that guy from ‘Mr. Show’! They never saw ‘Mr. Show’. They just watch the character and, I think, enjoyed him. Which is amazing in its own right. Like, why do you like this guy?
IMDb: Do you really wonder why people like Saul so much?
Bob Odenkirk: I do. He’s a snake and a self-interested creature a bit. But I get it. He’s funny. He’s good at what he does. He kinda has fun doing what he does. It’s kind of a laugh to him, at least for a little while. The last season, not so much. But for a good part of it, it was almost like he was playing chess with their lives, and it was only to his benefit in the end.
IMDb: Should the audience feel more assured, knowing that Saul has a spinoff series?
Bob Odenkirk: You know, I do have a spinoff. It’s called The Rest of My Career. I really do. And this part has given me a new dimension of opportunity in acting. Alexander Payne’s film Nebraska, I’m in that. The Spectacular Now, James Ponsoldt’s film, this film that Dito Montiel is doing, Boulevard, with Robin Williams, these are things I wouldn’t have been approved for before Saul. Bottom line, that’s the spinoff. I get to do more dramatic, comic acting, and I’ll get to do that hopefully for a while to come. And that’s good enough for me. If there’s specifically a Saul Goodman spinoff, that’ll be great.
IMDb: In the aftermath of the events of ‘Breaking Bad’– without telling me what the aftermath is –what would you like to see for Saul, spinoff or not?
Bob Odenkirk: I can’t help but think about Oscar Goodman who was the mayor, two-term mayor of Vegas. Now his wife is the mayor of Vegas. Wouldn’t Saul want to move somewhere where he could potentially be the mayor someday, no matter what he’s done in his past, because the community allows for that kind of fluidity of judgment? … A community like L.A., or Vegas, where you can have a dark side to your character and the public won’t necessarily hold it against you. Actually, they might think, ‘Yeah, that’s who we want in our corner, that guy who can play hardball behind the curtain.’ That the only thing I think, is that he would move to a place where he can do that.
IMDb: I just got a fleeting vision of Saul Goodman having a Carlos Danger alter-ego, and doing either some accidental sexting or becoming embroiled in some huge scandal.
Bob Odenkirk: But I don’t think Saul would be embarrassed by it, or apologize.
IMDb: I think we may have inadvertently written a storyline for the spinoff.
Bob Odenkirk: Yeah! Why not? I’d go down that road.
“Thank you so much. …Thank you so much. … I gotta go, bye.”
Ah, Merritt Wever. In twelve succinct words, the “Nurse Jackie” star and Emmy winner for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy charmed the Spanx off of everyone watching the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday night, whether in the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles or as one of the 17.6 million viewing from a comfortable couch at home. When host Neil Patrick Harris called Wever’s response to unexpectedly winning the statue the best acceptance speech ever, he wasn’t kidding. It was unexpected, short, and hilarious.
The Emmys telecast itself was blessed with none of those qualities. On paper, at least, it seemed like the production would be entertaining. Harris has proven himself time and again to be an extraordinary host. After previous Emmys ringmaster gigs, some critics declared that he should host all future award shows for all time. As recently as the Tony Awards, the man was killing it.
Why then, midway through a sluggish, bloated telecast when Harris was joined onstage by Nathan Fillion and Sarah Silverman for the song-and-dance number everyone expected at the beginning of the show, did we feel like we were watching the television industry sink into a depressive episode? The heartfelt and personal In Memoriam segments for “All in the Family” star Jean Stapleton, presented by friend and co-star Rob Reiner; “Family Ties” creator Gary David Goldberg, remembered by Michael J. Fox; Jonathan Winters, honored by Robin Williams; Cory Monteith, as remembered by Jane Lynch; and James Gandolfini, touchingly honored by Edie Falco; were not the cause of the torpor. Yes, they forced the festivities to pause, but five more clouds in a dark grey sky shouldn’t take the blame if the rain is already falling.
As one of the producers, Harris shared the responsibility to balance dazzling spectacle with structural efficiency, ensuring that the train would not only get into the station on time but that the view during the journey would at least be pleasant. Instead, this was an awards telecast that emphasized the showiness of the show at the expense of the winners themselves, including unnecessary segments such as his “How I Met Your Mother” co-stars’ pre-recorded skit that created an addiction disorder out Harris’s penchant for hosting awards shows. (As Lily Aldrin might say, irony much, Emmy? Look in the mirror.)
No, the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast was headed off the rails from the beginning, when Harris sat down in a room to supposedly binge watch the season on tens of TV screens, only to stroll out on stage and open with a dud of a monologue highlighted by past hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Lynch and Conan O’Brien joining him to joke about the fact that he was dying up there and they all could have done it better. Har!…Har! Thank goodness Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were in the front row to heckle them, not to mention Kevin Spacey’s short cameo to mug for the camera in the guise of his “House of Cards” character.
Even Sir Elton John could not save the evening with his alleged tribute to Liberace, which began pleasantly with a conversational intro in which he explained why Liberace meant to much to him and to culture in general. But then he segued into a song off of his upcoming album which has absolutely nothing to do with the man he was honoring. At least his Captain Fantastic jacket still sparkles.
And you know things are not going well when a dance number designed to showcase the Outstanding Choreography nominees, which included two modern dancers in hazmat suits harmoniously prancing around the stage in recognition of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” was actually one of the highlights of the evening.
The misery of it is, when one looks at the actual list of winners, there were plenty of surprises. True, ABC’s “Modern Family” won Best Comedy again, and after a season that was not even its best. But “Breaking Bad” finally won Outstanding Drama just one week prior to its series finale.
All told, HBO took home 27 Emmys this year (out of 108 nominations), with CBS coming in at a distant second with 16. However, the most nominated series, FX’s “American Horror Story: Asylum,” only netted two statues. HBO’s celebrated film “Behind the Candelabra,” on the other hand, walked away with 11.
The individual wins were downright astounding at times, and not necessarily always in a good way. Honestly, Bobby Cannavale trumping Aaron Paul in the Supporting Actor in a Drama race is acceptable; he did some great work on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Anna Gunn‘s victory in the Supporting Actress category over Maggie Smith was brilliant. But Jeff Daniels winning Outstanding Actor in a Drama over Bryan Cranston? Really?
On the other hand, we got Wever. It also was a welcome surprise to see Tony Hale come from behind to seize the hardware from the “Modern Family” actors in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy category. “The Colbert Report’s” win over its friendly competitor “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in both the Best Writing for a Variety series and Outstanding Variety Series categories is well-deserved after a truly inspired season. Michael Douglas’s jovial acceptance speech for his Outstanding Actor win for “Behind the Candelabra” injected laughter into an evening starved of liveliness, particularly when, in thanking his co-star Matt Damon, he referred to the award as a “two-hander” and asked Matt if he wanted the top or the bottom.
Hale even provided a glorious assist as Julia Louis-Dreyfus accepted the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy for “Veep“, remaining in character behind her as the camera cut to co-star Anna Chlumsky pouting and texting in her seat, putting the cherry on that bit.
Louis-Dreyfus is a repeat winner, as are Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy winner Jim Parsons and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama victor Claire Danes, which is part of the longstanding snore element of the Emmys: if the voters aren’t proving that they’ve stopped watching TV by rewarding the same shows long after their best seasons have passed, they’re proving they’re more content with sticking with a known performer as opposed to branching out to reward a newcomer in a category who deserves recognition.
But perhaps the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will show a bit of boldness next year by giving a vote of confidence to a fresh host. With “How I Met Your Mother” headed into its final season, and following last night’s performance, Neil Patrick Harris needs a rest. As for the nominees who didn’t walk away with an Emmy, there’s always next year.
For the complete list of winners, nominees, photos from the Red Carpet and more, visit IMDb’s Road to the Emmys special section.
There’s a short list of actors who can believably play calm, sophisticated and sadistic, with silky smoothness on top – and James Frain is certainly on it. Because of this, Frain usually is cast in less sympathetic roles – the latest being Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick in “The White Queen,” the main who went down in history as The Kingmaker.
Lord Warwick was King Edward IV’s closest adviser until Edward botched Warwick’s plans for a political marriage by secretly wedding Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner. The Kingmaker’s disapproval bloomed into a full blown rebellion, culminating in a battle that ended his ascension and his life. The real Warwick died in battle in 1471, but U.S. viewers of “The White Queen” saw Frain’s Warwick slain last Saturday night. The day before that episode aired, we chatted with him on the phone about what it was like to go out swinging a sword; how different this onscreen death was from his messy demise on “True Blood”; what dream role is next on his inner-child’s wish list; and whether viewers will see him again on NBC’s “Grimm” when it returns at the end of October.*
(*Please note that the “Grimm” portion of this Q&A was previous posted on Friday due to previously unreported details about the future of Frain’s character Eric Renard.)
This is the second time in recent memory that cable viewers have seen you die spectacularly onscreen. Before that, I think, we watched you explode into a pool of goo on “True Blood”.
Mmm-hmm. Yeah. And in Tron:Legacy, someone cuts my head off and then my head explodes on floor into a million pieces of glass. Dying is a bit of theme, isn’t it?
Well, I think you have a little bit to go before you catch up with Sean Bean. But in terms of talking about onscreen death, I must imagine this (“The White Queen”) was a little bit different. Usually, when one reads interviews with actors after their character has died, they talk about the experience of saying goodbye to the character, and maybe admit that it was a bit of a surprise. But here, you knew going in that your character was going to die because it had already been written in the history books. Can you talk about the difference between that, and say, “True Blood”? Did you know that you were going to have a limited run there?
No. I didn’t know I was going to die on “True Blood”. But, you know, they go through a lot of people. People have got to get eaten and stuff, don’t they? I mean, I came in as a new character, and when you come in as a new character on those shows, you’re brought in as a recurring guest star and they either decide to either develop your character or not. And I got the feeling that they felt that Franklin was so crazy and so obsessed with Rutina Wesley’s character that he was never going to leave her alone. He’s gotta go! But it was a fun flash-in-the-night kind of part. Great part. I loved it.
In this one, originally you weren’t going to see my death. But one of the director said, ‘I think with Warwick, we need to see him on the battlefield and we need to give him his death moment.’ And I was like, ‘Now that’s my kind of director. I’m feeling that!’
So what we did was, we shot a battle scene that they didn’t actually have scripted. And I basically fight to the death in a full suit of armor with a massive great sword, and a cape and the whole thing, and I give a speech, and it’s just awesome! It absolutely ticks the box on your eight-year-old fancy of being a knight in shining armor. I’m like, “Tick! Next: alien! Alien next!”
Ha! You want to play an alien next?
Yes, because I did a cowboy in The Lone Ranger but I can probably get another shot at that because, um, The Lone Ranger didn’t take off. But it was fun to be a cowboy. We trained how to ride a horse, cowboy-style. It was an amazing experience. But for me, slugging it out with these dudes with the broad sword and the shining armor, it was like, yeah, that is totally my speed. I loved it.
Did the armor get kind of heavy after a point?
No, because you’re so sort of adrenalized. The armor is made of some form of fiber…I’m not sure what exactly it was made of. It looks metallic but isn’t the weight of metal. It was interesting, one of the things we learned about this period was that, you know, the knights would ride into battle with full suits of armor, and their horses would be armored as well. But the stuff was so heavy to fight in that they were like a tank division. They would charge through, hacking people to pieces. But if you fell off your horse, you were done. The weight of the armor would leave you flailing on the ground like a beetle. And basically, the other side would just walk around the battlefield and just sort of stab the knights that had fallen off their horses… but we also discovered that they didn’t always wear full suits of armor because of that. Sometimes they just had a breast plate, and arm plates, and a helmet. Just more like almost Greek levels of, like, a shield and a sword-hand, basically. That was kind of fun to play around with that.
All the things we found out about the period were new information to me, and really interesting and exciting to peel back. In England we know this history really well from Shakespeare, but Shakespeare was writing Tudor propaganda, effectively, because otherwise they would have cut his head off. And so, Philippa Gregory comes along, and says, ‘Well, here’s this untold story of these three extraordinary women,’ and she wanted to tell the history from their point of view and correct our understanding of the history. Putting these three women front and center, it’s feminist drama, really. Which I found incredibly cool.
Before we wrap up this interview, I did want to ask you a couple of questions about “Grimm” because you’re going to be coming back this season, yes?
I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.
Are you being coy, or are you being serious?
No! Have they spoken to you about it?
No, I just know that your character (Eric Renard) is still alive on the show. The last we saw on the show was that Nick was being locked in some sort of a coffin, and there you have it. I thought you’d perhaps have some clues.
Well, no. I’ll tell you what happened, and this is just the logistics of the industry. They had me as a reoccurring guest star (in season two), and they had the hiatus. And during that hiatus, I got another job that was shot in England. I did the British and French version of ‘The Bridge’, that Danish show ‘The Bridge’?…We remade it in England, and set it in the middle of the channel tunnel. The body is found, and the French and English cops have to work together. But I got that gig, and when “Grimm” came back and they said, “What’s your availability?” we couldn’t figure it out somehow. And so, they had to kind of jiggle their plans. I don’t know if they’re going to want me to come back. Maybe they’ll decide to kill me off. I’ll know probably about the same time that you do.
I hope we do see you this season, because you had a great arc last year. What is your next project, the one that you’re working on right now?
There’s a project that I’m really excited about called The Architect (going into production in November), which is an indie movie set, I think, in Silicon Valley. It’s about a couple redoing a house. It’s basically a really quite well-observed comedy of manners, an almost Woody Allen-style of movie: A couple hire an architect to build their dream house, and he comes in and builds his dream house. It’s an absolute nightmare of narcissism and ego – and it won’t surprise you, I think, to learn, to discover I will be that architect.
You’re used to playing those kinds of characters by now, I take it?
I probably have a Ph.D. in narcissistic personality disorder by now. I should get an honorary degree, don’t you think? I’m going to press for that.
You absolutely should. You have to make sure you choose the university very carefully though.
Very carefully! But I think it should be in psychiatry, because I’ve played so many nutters.
Do ever think to yourself, “…Even if that kind of part is offered to me I’m going to turn that down and wait for a romantic lead”?
No, because I don’t think the industry works that way, and I just sort of think you have to do the most interesting project that’s in front of you, whatever that is. If the story’s good, and the people are good, and it looks doable, I’m not going to turn it down because I’m trying to shape my career in any way. Not in this climate! (laughs) There are no guarantees. You have to sort of go where the energy is, and if that’s what they’re interested in hiring me for right now, I’m not going to turn opportunities down just because I want to be the lead. The industry has its cycles, and when a romantic (part) is offered, I would be delighted. But right now, they like me as a nutter. So I’m going to roll with that. Get me a degree. Maybe the keys to a city!
Will “Grimm” viewers be saying “Goodnight, Sweet Royal” to Captain Renard’s half-brother Eric?
During season two of NBC’s “Grimm,” viewers got to know a lot more about Nick Burkhardt‘s boss Captain Sean Renard, including his connection to the Seven Royal Houses that covertly monitor the Wesen world. One of the most significant revelations was that Renard has a Royal half-brother, Eric, played by James Frain. The cultured, ruthless Eric appeared in six episodes and played a key role in getting Nick out of the way at the end of the cliffhanger finale episode.
But during a conversation with Frain on Friday, the actor — who is currently playing Lord Warwick in Starz’s “The White Queen” –says that at this point, he has not been asked to return to “Grimm” for season three.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with that,” Frain said. “…I’ll know probably about the same time that you do.”
According to Frain, Eric Renard’s unclear future on the show is in part due to a scheduling conflict.
“They had me as a recurring guest star (in season two), and then they had a (production) hiatus,” Frain explained. “During that hiatus, I got another job that’s shot in England: I did the British and French version of that Danish show ‘The Bridge’…We remade it in England (as “The Tunnel“), and set it in the middle of the channel tunnel. The body is found, and the French and English cops have to work together. But I got that gig, and when “Grimm” came back and they said, “What’s your availability?” we couldn’t figure it out somehow.
“And so, they had to kind of jiggle their plans,” Frain continued. “I don’t know if they’re going to want me to come back. Maybe they’ll decide to kill me off.”
We certainly hope not.
According to a representative from Universal Television, while there are no specific plans to bring his character back to “Grimm”, Eric Renard’s fate is best characterized as “to be determined”. The rep added that Eric’s storyline is somewhat explained in the first episode of the new season, which premieres 9pm Friday, Oct. 25 on NBC. (This news comes a couple of weeks following the announced casting of Alexis Denisof as Renard’s cousin.)
In the meantime, watch Frain in a new episode of “The White Queen,” airing Saturday at 9pm on Starz. Our full interview with the actor will run early next week.
Amazon Prime members can also watch seasons one and two of “Grimm” for free on Amazon Instant Video.
A chill crawled over her skin as the woman made her way home, the grey light of an early autumn sunrise illuminating the concrete sidewalk before her as well as the expanding hollowness in her chest.
Stepping past the threshold of her front door into her warm apartment, she inhaled deeply to fuel a mournful sigh, wrinkling her nose at the scent of stale beer, fermented sweat and unidentifiable sourness wafting up from a blouse in desperate need of laundering. Gingerly placing her keys in the bowl by door, she crept inside so as not to awaken Ellen and Maggie… but of course, they were already up, seated on the couch and ready to greet her in their soft fluffy pajamas accessorized with sympathetic but slightly amused expressions.
“So,” Maggie began carefully, “I’m curious if you’re still naming ‘Hello Ladies’ as best new comedy.”
The woman’s hangover sharpened to a knife’s point jabbing into the center of her forehead. “Huuhhh,” she replied. “Ohhh.”
“Have you seen it yet?” Maggie continued, but the question was posed in jest. Clearly the wreck of a human standing before her had seen it.
From another corner of the room, Ellen piped in. “I did think of you when I watched,” she said, shaking her head in empathy. “So dangerous to give our hearts to a guy who gives good press conference.”
The woman managed a wan wave as took the final ten steps of her Walk of Shame to her bedroom, where she would lock herself in and think long and hard about her most recent bad decision.
While I suppose this could be some weird lost passage from Bridget Jones’s diary, that’s a similar scene to what played out in my head (and in a Twitter conversation) after finally watching Stephen Merchant’s upcoming HBO comedy “Hello Ladies.” A fairly disappointing new addition to the channel’s Sunday line-up– destined to look even paler in comparison to its spicy 10 o’clock-hour partner “Eastbound & Down” which, like, “Ladies” premieres Sunday Sept. 29 – Merchant’s comedy would not turn have merited much of my attention under normal circumstances.
The problem is, I had faith in it. Publicly-declared, blind (oh, so very blind!) faith. And faith, blind or otherwise, is a dangerous, foolish practice when it comes to evaluating the fall TV season.
You see, last month I was one of many critics asked by the Huffington Post (and my pal Maggie Furlong) to give my opinions about the fall TV season. What was the best drama? Worst new show? Star you’re most looking forward to seeing? Favorite new comedy?
What got me was the last one. You see, this season, like so many before it, is not exactly rich with recommendable half-hour chucklefests. In fact, I could only think of two comedies that could be considered shoo-ins for our Top 10 Picks list, and of those two, one was far and away the clear winner: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”. The Andy Samberg-vehicle is terrific for many reasons, the most important being not that Samberg was starring in it, but that its executive producer is Michael Schur, one of the guys who gave us “Parks and Recreation”.
Star power is all fine and good, but the talent behind the camera, plugging away in the writers room, tends to be the difference between a show’s creative success and its failure. A TV series’s odds of connecting with the audience are much harder to gauge and riddled with all kinds of X-factors, but at the very least looking at the creative sparkplugs under the hood will give you some idea of whether it is worth test driving beyond the pilot.
The thing is, if someone asks a bunch of people to give their individual opinions on a show, and everybody says the same thing, that’s not all that interesting is it? So, while everyone was mobbing Mr. Lonely Planet, a girl decided to consider other options and scanned the room. A girl saw a tall, impossibly gangly guy leaning against the wall. He’s funny. He’s self-deprecating. He’s Ricky Gervais’s writing partner, which is great, and unlike Gervais, a girl sees herself taking him home to meet Mother.
Hello, Stephen Merchant.
“Hello Ladies” was not available to screen for critics in July, but HBO did have a sizzle reel, and it was cut perfectly to make the show look hilarious and touching and sweet. Merchant took the stage and told funny tales from the dating front about his allegedly pathetic love life. Merchant’s body of work with Gervais includes “The Office,” “The Ricky Gervais Show” and “Extras” – all entertaining. A safe bet, right? I pronounced him “Hello Ladies” as my pick, because surely it would be better than everything that wasn’t “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” right? I wasn’t just ready for more episodes, I was ready for a commitment! In fact, I was so hooked on that Stephen Merchant feeling that I originally featured the show in our Top 10 Picks. The man really did have me at “Hello.”
Then I received the first two episodes for review, and I realized I had been wearing beer goggles.
Such clunky, juvenile sadness. Not pathos, sadness manifested in the form of depressing, awkward set-ups anchored by a character you want to like but who is addicted to creating his own misery for no discernible reason. Frankly, I’ve been at this long enough to know better.
The fact of the matter is, most of the shows rolling out in the next couple of weeks will not be around at this time next year. Worse, a number of the ones that survive aren’t going to be nearly as well-made as some of them that get cancelled. That Top 10 List we’re touting will be riddled with casualties, trust us. In case you doubt, consider that last year one of our top picks was “Last Resort” which starred Andre Braugher and was executive produced by the incredibly talented Shawn Ryan, who previously gave us “The Shield“. We maintain it was still one of last season’s best new series. It was gone by the end of January.
You will now notice, if you click on that link to the Top 10 list, that “Hello Ladies” is no longer there. My shame, however, still lingers. Instead, we moved up “The Michael J. Fox Show,” which has its flaws but is quite watchable and proves that Betsy Brandt has more versatility than we might have thought, and allows Wendell Pierce to show off his funnier side. Is it comedy gold? No. But it’s starting from a solid foundation and has room to grow.
So does “Hello Ladies,” for that matter. Fall shows are like insecure middle-schoolers at their first dance in that sense: little foals lacking coordination, standing on wobbly legs and painfully unsure of which opening lines will work. Like so many series, Merchant’s may yet develop into something work sticking with. I truly hope it does.
But I will not be keeping my evenings open until that happens. Sorry, “Ladies”, but this woman’s on to the next.
“Hello Ladies” premieres at 10:30pm Sunday, September 29 on HBO.
The day will soon come when Rebecca Ferguson, star of Starz’s lush and lusty period drama “The White Queen,” will require no introduction to American audiences. Already an up-and-comer in the UK where the limited TV series began running in June, next year will find Ferguson sharing the big screen with Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt and Joseph Fiennes in Hercules: The Thracian Wars, playing the King’s daughter Ergenia. The Anglo-Swedish actress also co-stars with Kyle Chandler, Anna Friel and Bruno Ganz in Showtime’s pilot “The Vatican“, which has yet to be officially picked up to series — but if (when?) it is, she’s likely to become a household name… at least among premium cable-subscribers.
As as far as the media is concerned, the red carpet is already waiting to accommodate our curiosity. Elle UK gushed that she “shimmers like a young Cate Blanchett.” Vanity Fair, The Daily Mail and other publications have already categorized her as one to watch- quite a bit of attention for a 29-year-old actress who, until recently, had only a few roles in short films and a soap under her belt, and lived a relatively quiet life in the Swedish coastal town of Simrishamn.
Currently American viewers are getting to know her as Elizabeth Woodville, a polarizing figure in England’s War of the Roses and the titular star of Philippa Gregory‘s novels, upon which the series is based. Elizabeth is a perfect romantic heroine, a Lancastrian commoner who seduced Edward IV (Max Irons) after a flirtatious roadside encounter in 1463. Edward wed her and bedded her in secret, ruining the plans of his advisor Lord Warwick (James Frain) to forge an alliance with France through political marriage and earning his ire as well as the enmity of many other powerful women in the King’s court. In this week’s episode, airing Saturday at 9pm on Starz, the young Queen and her mother (Janet McTeer) use drastic methods to fend off their enemies.
Jumping from portraying a historic royal (Elizabeth) to a figure based on Greek myth (Ergenia) gave Ferguson, never much of a history buff in her youth, an interesting education.”What you do is you just go deep diving into history,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s a privilege.”
We recently caught up with Ferguson on a phone call from Budapest, where “Hercules” is currently in production, and chatted with her about what it’s like to play a pair of royals and how she won the role of Elizabeth Woodville after spending so much time out of the spotlight.
Ferguson also revealed that she has very interesting hobby.
IMDb: How much preparation did you do for your role in “The White Queen”?
Ferguson: I wasn’t really given much time to prep. When I was asked to cast for “The White Queen”…I was thrown into a chemistry test (with Max Irons) and I think it went really well. …I did some English lessons to see if I could work on my English accent– I’ve got quite a lot of Swedish intonations in my English –just to see if I could carry it.
Then I sort of gave up because I didn’t hear anything from them. Then they called me and said they wanted me to be… at the last casting. I flew over on a Sunday. On a Monday, I had my last casting. Tuesday morning they said, “It’s yours.” During that day I got to color my hair blonde. I had to read the script with all the actors in the room. I got some weird dyslexia, which I have never had – I was so nervous! – costume fittings, and two days later I had moved to Bruges. Three days later, we started shooting. It was sort of thrown in gear.
But since everyone was well aware of that, I had Philippa Gregory, I had Emma Frost – the author and the screenplay writer – they were on set. I got a breakdown of my character, where she starts and when she ends. My family was Googling things and e-mailing me until I said “Stop, that’s enough, I can’t even read right now.” And then I gradually I grew into it whilst filming and reading the script.
IMDb: Recently at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour, Chris (Albrecht, CEO of Starz) said that you sent in your own tape to audition for that role –
Ferguson: (laughter) He did talk about that! That was really weird!
IMDb: –and you were very, very coy about what was on that tape. So what was actually on it?
Ferguson: …I can’t stand doing these things, because I feel so stupid and I feel naked, and I never really know what to say. And I never prepare, because I think that always looks very fake. I mean, if you burp or laugh, yeah, OK, that’s life. I didn’t, by the way. However, I did build up this bookshelf thing, I put my camera on it, I pressed play and I just talked about various things: Who I am, my dreams in life – not too private, of course – that I own a windmill, that I love projects. And I just gave them a profile, everything that I know that a casting director does, because I’ve done it so many times. I just gave them a little private message.
IMDb: Wait a minute. Did you just say that you own a windmill?
Ferguson: I do. (Chuckles.) I know. Not a lot of people in Sweden do, by the way.
IMDb: So, um…what exactly does that do for you?
Ferguson: Nothing. (Laughter.) I love architecture. I love houses. I love buildings, and I love the idea of people buying old run-down houses and restoring them. Going in there and finding the authentic details. I’m not very good at it, but I love it. My partner, he had just found a windmill. And we sort of said, yeah, let’s buy it. Let’s renovate it. It was a good price and it came with an apple orchard. When in doubt, buy a windmill. It’s sort of our little hobby that we have great plans with.
…I’m going to give you a little secret now: I love weird things, and when I get to a new place when I travel, the first thing I’ll do is find out about the oddest, strangest places. I love farmers markets, and they have gorgeous ones here in Budapest. … I found this sort of bistro thing, and it’s a circus wagon that they’ve placed on a beach. And they serve great coffee… they have a couple of chairs and they have circus lights. It was literally, for me, being home in my garden.
…I think the world is moving so quickly when it comes to technology and God knows what. I think that owning a bit of land, if you have the possibility of buying it, and being able to grow your own vegetables, it’s a good investment for the future and for your children.
IMDb: OK, back to “The White Queen”. What was the most unexpected thing that you learned about this character as you started to embody her more over the process of the production?
Ferguson: …First of all, I hadn’t done much. I’ve done a couple of things in Sweden. Lots of short films. And then I was thrown into this massive production, so if you just talk about a learning process, it was school for me, going to set and watching these incredible actors like Janet McTeer, who is just marvelous, I love her. That was the basics of everything. That was my school.
But then, also, when it comes to history, just that deep diving into the facts of what happened in England during medieval times from a female perspective is very, very interesting. We’re still fighting the same battles today… when it comes to religion, when it comes to love and safety and children. It’s just we deal with it in different ways.
…At TCA, (Philippa said) there’s not a lot of literature or books or facts on Elizabeth. You have to follow the men, to see where the women were, and count backwards when it came to the births. Where would she be? You’d have these small letters of sanctuary, you’d have these different leads. It was so impressive. And there’s so much more that we don’t know.
The latest episodes of “The White Queen” make their U.S. premieres each Saturday at 9pm on cable’s Starz.