Category Archives: Entertainment Industry Coverage
IR Print Interview: Michael Sheen For “The Good Fight” [CBS All Access – S3 – CBS TCA Winter Press Tour]
Michael Sheen has played the gamut of characters within the structure of his career. From the texture of “Underworld” and “Tron: Legacy” all the way to the essence of Showtime’s “Master Of Sex”, his characters always require a balance (or perhaps imbalance) of personality to give them a unique spin. After conducting a panel with his fellow actors at the CBS All Access TCA Press Day for the new season of “The Good Fight”, Sheen spoke with The Inside Reel about nuance, finding the character and knowing how to walk the line.
Was there a different approach to playing Roland Blum?
Michael Sheen: There’s something incredibly liberating about playing a character like this. Anything that’s put in front of him, he just pushes it over. He can say whatever he wants to say, and just says things to provoke and outrage. The pendulum has swung the other way, and I’m loving it.
On a demonic scale, how does he fare?
MS: The temptation was to talk of him as being Mephistopheles, a devil kind of character. But it actually goes beyond that. The devil was born out of the god Pan. There’s something kind of pagan about it and I love that. I am trying to still play with that a bit more so I’m trying to look a bit more like a forest creature. So there’s an appetite rather than putting up a moral or ethical judgment on him. He’s something that goes a bit deeper and hopefully people will be both attracted to him and repelled by him at the same time. Because he does go very deep into something very primal.
The character does dwell in a certain world of thought.
MS: It’s something very human. I make a joke about it but it’s true…I actually prefer being him. Because he is touching on things that we all have. When people often ask actors who are playing the bad guy, “Oh you must be having so much fun!” Everyone loves a good bad guy. It’s slightly lazy of me thinking like that but there’s something truthful in that we go around living a partly repressed life in order to all get along with each other. That’s what the most civilizations are, isn’t it? But then you have these characters who come along who are essentially parasitic. They’re thinking “As long as everyone else is keeping civilization going on, I can just wreck things”. And there’s something incredibly attractive about that. I think at the moment there’s a lot of disruptors…there’s a lot of people breaking down those pillars of what everyone else is trying to keep up. That’s a scary thing. And so to play a character who is doing that…that both makes people go “I wish could do that. I spend most of my day wanting to do that stuff but I don’t do it.” We are both attracted to that and repelled by that. Roland is definitely one of those characters. He fulfills two sides: on the one hand, he’s the trickster who remakes the world…who comes along and says we have to throw everything up in the air because things are too settled…that it’s unfair in society, both during the past Trump election and the Brexit stuff…about that false sense, that there’s an illusion of how the world is, and we need to throw it all up in the air and remake it. Roland represents the positive aspect of that but also the negative aspect of that, which is just about eroding things that we all really need in order to live a life and not be eating each other.
The mythology of Pan as a metaphor is all about testing people. You’ve explored many characters in “Tron: Legacy”, “Masters Of Sex”, but it is all about the mask…
MS: It’s the idea of tempting in the garden. It goes back to god demons…the idea that the devil comes and goes, but do you want to know more? Do you want to just accept the way things are…or do you want to find out a little bit more? I can help you do the questions, but be curious. A lot of the qualities that we think of as being positive qualities, un-progressive qualities, used to be kind of contained within the idea of the devil and the saint in…and it was because a saint is a Christian construct based on Pan, which has much more to do with appetite and nature as well as its healing qualities…
An expression of culture.
MS: Exactly. So I love that quality of that character. In fact in the first scene Diane [Christine Baranski] has with Roland this season…she learns something from him. Whether he does it on purpose or not, we don’t know but he offers something, a bit of a bit of wisdom, She picks up on that and that becomes a major power of what happens in the season. He is this character who seems like he’s part of the enemy but actually he’s the key to maybe understanding and moving things along.
So with him is what you see what you get or does he have the symbolic side as well?
MS: He’s both total surface in that what you see is what you get, he’s totally that. But he’s also totally a mystery in darkness and you’ll never know. I like the idea that you sort of feel like, “Oh he’s just old service”. And then you realize “Oh no he’s not old service”. It’s very hard to know,
Did embodying the character come together quickly?
MS: It all happened very quickly. I found myself walking into the courtroom for my first scene on the show, having to play this huge, larger than life character. Normally I would, certainly for the characters I played based on real people, spend a massive amount of time doing research. I wasn’t able to do that here. It was like, “Here you go.” And I remember walking through those doors that first day having to kind of essentially take over the whole thing. I was terrified. I’m a confident character usually. You know as an actor you’re always worried you’re going to be found out. I’ve always pretended that I know. For the entire first week on this show, I was genuinely convinced I was going to be fired, that someone was going to stop me and go, “You know what? That’s a good effort, I admire your chutzpah for what you’re trying to do, but ultimately this is a professional job and people have to watch this. It’s just not going to work. Sorry.” Really. Funny enough, at the end of the first week, I had a message from the Kings’ assistant saying, “Uh, Robert would you like to have…uh a word with you.” And I was like “This is it, This is where I get fired.” I was absolutely convinced that was going to be packing my bags and going. That was terrifying.
By Tim Wassberg
Balancing from the CBS and CBS All Access TCA Day, Showtime, CW and, by extension, POP all possess a degree of creative landscape on the cultural plain. Each has its own texture with a sense of identity, yet never stepping too far out of line thereby alienating viewers. Among all networks, it is this texture of focus that undeniably balances the shows
Black Monday [Showtime] Returning to the network that made “House Of Lies”, Don Cheadle takes on the 80s with aplomb with an undeniable texture of Wall Street from the other side. Cheadle explains: “Moe would probably be Marty’s unhinged id. He doesn’t have a governor’s switch in the same way [as that character]. [With this show] it is trying to make a magic trick work on top of a roller coaster. It is the clothes and the hair and the excess of the 80s. [And] Moe has no ballast. There is no family that is tethering him. He is more a live wire in that way. It is constantly finding ‘him’ and seeing who ‘he’ is.” Jordan Cahan, one of the showrunners who also worked on the Christian Slater FOX show “Breaking In” explains: “This show has a secret code…words that we find abhorrent now. So we had to be very careful who we allowed to say those words. The tricky thing for us…just because it is cable…do we go to a certain place?” Cheadle continues reminiscing about what 1987 was like for him: “There were more yeses than there were nos. [In] 1987 I had just got out of school. I was living in North Hollywood. I was running around trying to get work. [A group of us] we would bum rush these auditions together. I never really started think I was good. It took many years until I believed that I could calm down [with that pursuit].” In translating that energy into the times that Moe lives in: “One of the things that we were cognizant about was having this sort of rag tag group of traders who are the Bad News Bears…the misfits.”
City On A Hill [Showtime] This throwback element to 1990s Boston involving a corrupt but determined FBI agent, Jackie, played with grizzle by Kevin Bacon, harks back to his previous work like “Mystic River” and “Sleepers”. Bacon discusses the connection: “I wasn’t really comparing the two. But with ‘City On A Hill’, it immediately had Jackie’s voice…that is the one I heard. It is just this world of 90s cops and robbers. [For me] there was nothing on television that quite felt like this.” In terms of wanting to commit to this show after doing “The Following” at Fox: “When you go into this situation with time involved…it is interesting here because the characters [are going] home. They are outside of [their] world. [In the pilot] we have a scene where the D.A. Ward (played by Aldis Hodge) and I are sitting in a window. Usually when the weather is that bad, you call it. [And when] your face gets that cold, you start to slur your words. Unfortunately the mustache (laughing) doesn’t keep it warm. That was the last scene of the pilot so I wasn’t sure if I needed the mustache [anymore].” (smiling) But in terms of what Bacon wants in terms of a challenge: “I want something new to explore. With ‘The Following”, it was all about that internalized type of character who has secrets. Jackie [by comparison] just doesn’t shut up. It is this kind of verbosity he has,”
Desus & Mero [Showtime] This new late night show optimizing the podcast and VICE phenom of Desus Nice & The Kid Mero just keys into its own sort of energy which can only be experienced live on the show, considering how quickly the panel progressed. Desus relays that he and Mero “actually met in high school in summer school…because they had air conditioning.” Mero explain the possibilities of how they approach what they do: “No one is really going on Twitter and reading policy [on politics]. We want to show people in their natural element. The vernacular we bring to it pushes with hip hop. This is authentic. It is not factory made.”
Jane The Virgin [CW] The trajectory of this show has allowed Gina Rodriguez to transform while still maintaining a grounded nature within the story. Speaking for the final season, just days before her new movie “Miss Bala” opens, the mood is somber as the show’s production is coming to an end. Jennie Snyder Urman, the show runner and writer, speaks to the show’s evolution: “We would work really hard each year on a different part of the love triangle. A writer once told me that a telenovela is a pornography of emotion. We go through all the feels in the last season unfortunately. [But] we have shown that we will go to unexpected places.” Rodriguez balances this thought saying: “I have been blessed enough to do work in the space that Jennie has created. [And] I have been able to see where I can use my creativity. There is so much I have learned on ‘Jane’.” Urban does tease the next iteration of Jane with a new play on the story: “The spin off is a conceit since it is novels that Jane will write in the future.”
In The Dark Using the essence of the blind to propel a story is an exercise in identity, especially when the teen in question is rebellious. Like certain CW shows before, this drama/comedy approaches the subject with humor but it needed to be based in fact. Lori Bernson, who consulted on “In The Dark” actually walked onto the stage with her guide dog to practically show the perceptions that the dogs have which is key to the story. Bernson lost her sight at a young age but defers on the difference of being born blind: “The difference is losing your mannerisms after you lose vision. It is so conditioned in you to do those things. Often times you don’t have as much contact. People say that I am looking right at them. The greatest thing though is when somebody moves and they don’t tell me. The difference of not seeing ever is that you don’t know anything different.” Perry Mattfield, who stars as the blind Murphy, explains that “Murphy’s blindness is not the only aspect I deferred from Murphy. Obviously I did realize how much responsibility there was for this role. I went to Lori’s house and I was watching her to do her thing. When she is watching TV, she will still look down to the remote first.”
Roswell, New Mexico [CW] This reboot examines the textures of the lost nights and alien interactions for a whole new generation. The key is mixing up the performances but also the story archs in a meaningful way. Jeanine Mason, who won Season 5 of “So You Think You Can Dance” takes on the role of Liz Ortecho. She explains her approach: “I am a performer. We all are. I grew up admiring the showman. [But] existing as a Latin X lead on a network television show is a rarity. That is what I love about being in 2018…tbe able to play woman who is ignited….who is a fighter” Julie Prec, who serves as one of the show runners talks about filming the show in the desert near Santa Fe: “The elements in general are so unpredictable. We sometimes can’t get the lights higher than 10 feet because of the wind.”
Flack [Pop] This new series from the cable label that brought viewers “Schitt’s Creek” examines the publicity side of the business. Anna Paquin plays Robyn who runs a PR crisis management firm who has trouble maintaining sanity in her personal life. Paquin explains: “Was it complicated? The only major rewrites happen around location.” But in a more production based tone as she developed this with her husband Stephen Moyer as well: “Speaking for myself, we are not really looking for a specific genre or medium but [instead what] connects and is smart. The big lesson is that you really need to believe in what you are doing because you will be doing it for a really long time.” Moyer jumps in on finding the right material: “[When it was] first brought it to us, it was set in England. You read so much stuff and the [good ones] are rare.” In terms of her acting which also includes Sophie Okonedo, Paquin explains her work: “I use the word ‘coven’ a lot. I mean that in the best possible way. [For me] there was a sisterhood [on set] that was inclusive and protective.”
By Tim Wassberg
IR Exclusive Print Interview: Andrew Rannells For “Black Sunday” [Showtime TCA Winter Press Tour 2019]
Andrew Rannells has run the gamut of interesting roles. From his breakout with Josh Gad on Broadway with the irreverent “Book Of Mormon” through his multi-faceted journey on “Girls” for HBO to the recent groundbreaking TV show: “The New Normal”, the challenge from him is to keep moving the dial. After conducting a panel with his fellow actors at the Showtime TCA Press Day for the new series: “Black Monday”, he spoke exclusively with The Inside Reel about character building, the journey and the importance of location.
When you look back at that period, is it the fashion that strikes you, the attitude, the drive?
Andrew Rannells: It’s a bit of everything, I mean the the humanity of the character that I’m playing is pretty easy to tap into. Like having like [me] move to New York at a young age…feeling like I was very much from the outside of where I wanted to be. But yes the second you throw on suspenders, that does a lot of work for you. I remember saying “I just want to look like Michael J. Fox”.
Could you talk about sort of the mentality, the mindset that this character has to be in.
AR: It reminded me a lot of what I got to do in “Book Of Mormon”…the character I played was a little boy…this young missionary who had a lot of knowledge but not practical experience. And that’s exactly who Blair is. He has this algorithm, he’s done all this homework and he’s never put it in practice. So he very idealistically thinks that he can come and take NYC by storm. And then another character really teaches him very quickly that “That’s not the way this works!”
But within the character it is also about playing the white noise…those beats between the lines…
AR: The tone’s a funny balance of finding exactly what it is we are doing. My scenes with Casey Wilson were very different to my scenes with Don and very different from my scenes with Gina. It was funny to have such a wide playing field, particularly later in the season because Regina [Hall] and I as characters become closer, in a very specific way. It was fun to have all of that exist at the same show.
“Black Monday” is set in New York. But it was filmed in LA. But then you shot “Girls” actually in NY. Can you talk about the sort of identity of New York in this from your perspective?
AR: Well, “Girls” was very much — we got to use the city. I hate when people say this, but it’s true. But you use the city as a character. And it was so important to the look and the feel of that show. We shot all over the city. And it really was a huge part of it. This is sort of the backdrop of our story. There’s an energy that I think just naturally kind of comes in from the idea that we are in New York. There’s a pace to it. It’s incredible to me what they did visually [in “Black Monday”] because I thought that it would film in New York. I was like — exciting to live at home (laughing). So I was a little disappointed but – what was it going to look like? Is it going to look right? Are we going to use back lots? Like, how are we going to be doing this? But then, when they came up with this stock footage thing, it’s really pretty crazy because I know where those moments are. And you can’t always tell. It’s pretty seamless, particularly in the pilot when they show my apartment. It’s like they blended it in so perfectly
Can you talk about building the character because Blair, like a reverse Clark-Kent in the sort of awkwardness narrative… it sounds like you had input on these aspects…
AR: I mean, the thing that I wanted — I wanted them to start off with “The Secret Of My Success”, and then sort of end up [somewhere else]. And that’s such an outside-in process. But I knew speaking with hair and makeup that there were just going to be subtle things that started to happen.
Like the colors in the wardrobe…
AR: The colors. Like, the glasses change. The hairstyle changes. My hair – because we shot over several months – it like, gets longer. And it gets like — it’s just sort of like finding who Blair thinks he is in that world and what he should look like, and what he was trying to emulate. And it’s those guys…like Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”….Blair wouldn’t want to look like that. So it was fun to get to play with that stuff. Generally, for me, wardrobe is very informative. It’s a huge part of building the character. So the fact that we got to like pace it out — I mean, it’s so silly. But like, what’s his hair doing? (laughing) Like, that weirdly became a big part of it to sort of track what his mental state is and where he is.
This era was a world of perception, a world of masks…how many layers do you have to put within Blair? Could you talk about – not so much the details — but that sort of structure.
AR: It’s so much about labels, and the Rolex, and the cars, and the what kind of suit [you’re wearing]. All of that was a thing. And I think it was just to show it’s all very different. I guess we didn’t really do that with the actresses as much, but certainly on Wall Street at that time, that was a way to show you’re successful, right? So I think as Blair proceeds to becoming more successful, he has to do those things. He has to get better clothes. He has to get a better hairstyle. So it was in a lot of ways that I think Blair goes through sort of maybe the most changes personally and physically through the course of the season. So it was fun to get to do that.
By Tim Wassberg