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White Collar Articles – Hanging with the Cast at Comic Con 2010 November 14, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Comic Con, Entertainment, Jeff Eastin, Jeff King, Marsha Thomason, Matt Bomer, Prime time TV, Sharif Atkins, Tim Dekay, TV production, Uncategorized, USA Network, White Collar.
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Photo by C.A. Taylor

Tim Dekay at San Diego Comic Con 2010

My articles on White Collar from the press conference I attended in July 2010 at the San Diego Comic Con have been up for quite some time at Suite 101.com.  I apologize for not getting the notice for WordPress people up sooner.  I’ve just been incredibly busy.

As always, there is more information than one can ever use, so I thought I’d put a few tidbits from Sharif Atkins and Marsha Thomason up here.  Also, the photos here are from my private collection — ones I took on the red carpet. Unfortunately, my photos of the lovely Marsha Thomason did not come out well.

Those on the official Suite101.com site are publicity releases through the kindness of USA Network.

Matt Bomer at San Diego Comic Con 2010

On the question of if the cast gets any input into the scripts…

Sharif: The cast does it really well.  We all get a chance to talk to Tim and Matt.  They do it really well.  We get a lot of rewrites.  We get like about eight—so sometimes what’s happening is they rewrite a scene and the scene itself is okay, but then it doesn’t quite link up with two scenes that you’ve done a couple of days before.  So they’re so on it that they are able to say, we’ve said this twice already. For us to say it a third time is absolutely ridiculous and it’s going to get very redundant.  So they’re really good at making sure that the logic of the show stay intact.

Matt Bomer and Tim Dekay at San Diego Comic Con

Marsha:  Again, I’m really learning about Diana’s backstory as we go.  No, I don’t. Jeff gave me a heads up before we shot episode 2… she’s the daughter of a diplomat, she grew up in hotels, her parents – this is something I didn’t say – but her parents aren’t thrilled about her working for the FBI.  That was not supposed to be her path.

To learn more, check out my articles at Suite 101.com:

White Collar: At the Core It’s About the Relationship of Two Men

White Collar: Neal and Peter’s Other Partners

White Collar: It’s Not Just Neal & Peter, There’s a FBI Team, Too

White Collar: Conman May Be Old School But the Showrunner Tweets

Whit Collar Cast at San Diego Comic Con

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What Jensen Ackles Revealed About Directing at San Diego Comic Con October 15, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Bob Singer, Comic Con, Entertainment, Jensen Ackles, San Diego Comic Con 2010, Sera Gamble, Supernatural.
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photo courtesy of The CW/Jack Rowand

At the press round table at San Diego Comic Con 2010, Jensen Ackles was asked about his directorial debut on Supernatural‘s fourth episode of the sixth season, an opportunity he had been preparing himself for since season one.  You may read about his answers in my article on Suite 101.com which you can access here:

It’s Good to be Captain: Jensen Ackles Helms Supernatural Tonight

photo courtesy of 2010 Warner Bros Entertainment/Greg Gayne

I also had the opportunity to ask executive producer and sixth season showrunner Sera Gamble for her thoughts on how pleased the writers were with the episode Jensen turned in and her comments are also in the article.

And then in an exclusive, I asked my friend Bob Singer to give me his thoughts on Jensen directing, since Bob has directed many of Suernatural’s episodes and is still an executive producer on the show.  And he was kind enough to provide me with a statement as well.

photo courtesy of The CW/Jack Rowand

However, as always, there is information that one can not fit into an article, space-wise, so for you readers here, I offer the following quote that I didn’t have room for.  When asked about Dean Wincester’s feelings over which of two lives he wants to live, Jensen said: “Well, from what I know so far, you know, it’s a reluctancy[sic], there’s definitely an inner battle between wanting to stay out of the game and wanting to live a life and wanting to be there for this woman and child that he’s now become a family to. There’s also that undeniable urge of being a hunter.  That’s what he does. That’s what he’s known. So that kind of battle of wanting to protect his family,  and keep them as far away from it as possible, but in doing that, he’s getting deeper and deeper back into it.”

Supernatural airs on CW Network on Fridays at 9pm ET/PT. 

Read more at Suite101: It’s Good to be Captain: Jensen Ackles Helms Supernatural Tonight http://www.suite101.com/content/its-good-to-be-captain-jensen-ackles-helms-supernatural-tonight-a297358#ixzz15VhpGIn4

Men of a Certain Age: PaleyFest2010 Salutes a Unique Show April 12, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Andre Braugher, Blogroll, Entertainment, Men of a Certain Age, Mike Royce, Paley Fest, Scott Bakula, TV production, Uncategorized.
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Photo courtesy of Paley Center press release

On March 12, 2010, I attended my third and last for this year PaleyFest2010 tribute. But it was for a unique show on the air, so it was quite worth it. Men of a Certain Age is not the kind of show I would normally tune in for, but it speaks truth not only for mature men, but women as well.

I wrote up an article about it, which you can find here: http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/men-of-a-certain-age-reaches-beyond-sex–age

Due to space limitations for the article set by the website, I couldn’t write up all the fascinating bits on the panel.  So here are some deleted tidbits:

Andre Braugher was asked about his underwear scenes.  Not only did he say that he would do anything in a script as long as it was right for the show, but he described Owen as a ‘tighty whities’ kind of guy.

Asked about why they liked working in TV, Andre said that it was all about the writing.  But he also added that every show he’d worked on had struggled to find an audience (Homicide, Gideon’s Crossing and Thief.)  It was nice to finally have a show he didn’t have to beg people to watch.

Scott admitted that the lure was that this show was on cable and had a totally different feel to it.  And he loved TV because it was so immediate.

The party store apparently was Ray Romano’s idea.  Mike Royce described it as “both a funny place and a sad place” and as a great metaphor.  “Everyone’s coming in to celebrate something and he is going through all this stuff in his life.”

Mike Royce said that they actually went to a Norm’s in Sherman Oaks to shoot for the pilot but they have now built a Norm’s set in their shooting stage.  I actually drove by the Norm’s by accident the other day… and I have to admit, I would have never noticed it but for this show.

For other deleted tidbits, check out my CAT Scratchings blog at:  http://dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/

For the actual article I wrote, check it out here at Suite101: “Men of a Certain Age Reaches Beyond Sex & Age: PaleyFest2010 Salutes Ray Romano’s New Series” at

http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/men-of-a-certain-age-reaches-beyond-sex–age#ixzz0kg3Ygxph

FlashForward Tribute at PaleyFest2010 is Interesting, but Not As Much Fun As NCIS Panel April 9, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Brannon Braga, Courtney B. Vance, Dominick Monaghan, Entertainment, FlashForward, Jack Davenport, John Cho, Paley Fest, Uncategorized.
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Joseph Fiennes, photo courtesy of C.A. Taylor

On March 11, 2010, I went to my second PaleyFest2010 tribute at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles for the year. The theater is quite fancy inside with a functioning bar in the center of the lobby.  Still, I liked it better when they were using the DGA theater in past years.

The show being honored was FlashForward, which I have to admit I’m not a big fan of, not like I am for NCIS, but I did enjoy the PaleyFest tribute.  Of the actors present, I was most taken with John Cho, Jack Davenport, Courtney Vance and Dominick Monaghan, because they made the panel discussion fun for the audience.

I wrote up an article on the event, which you can link to here: http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/flashforward-fills-in-blanks-for-paleyfest2010

And just like a TV episode gets cut for time, articles get caught in space limitations. So I thought I’d share here a couple of the paragraphs I was forced to cut, since they do contain interesting information.

Gabrielle Union remarked that since they hadn’t told her the wedding flash-forward was really a funeral, she played it with big smiles that in retrospect look ridiculous.

When the moderator started to talk about the chemistry of the cast and when the producers realized they were gelling, Monaghan held hands with Davenport. After Borsicky gave a serious answer, the moderator asked if they grabbed asses right away, to which she answered it was a love affair between Courtney and Jack.

A couple more deleted paragraphs can be found in my writeup on CAT Scratchings on blogspot.com.

Attending NCIS Panel at PaleyFest 2010 Was Great Fun March 30, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Brian Dietzen, Chas. Floyd Johnson, Cote de Pablo, David McCallum, Entertainment, Mark Horowitz, Michael Weatherly, NCIS, Paley Fest, Sean Murray, TV production, Uncategorized.
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photo courtesy of C.A. Taylor

David McCallum told the PaleyFest2010 audience at the March 1, 2010 tribute to NCIS that he is grateful that he is still working at his age — that many of the actors he started with some 40 odd years ago were not so lucky.  This is one of the many little tidbits I didn’t have space to include in my article on the fun-filled event.  To read what I did have space to include, please check it out here:  http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/paleyfest2010-investigates-the-appeal-of-ncis.

I really enjoyed the evening and it is obvious that the cast are very fond of each other.

Lia Johnson: From Sulu’s Love to Raimi’s “Hell”ish Waitress August 20, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Christina Moses, Drag Me to Hell, Entertainment, George Takei, I'm Through with White Girls, John Lim, Lia Johnson, Star Trek, Star Trek: New Voyages, Star Trek: Phase II, Uncategorized, World Enough and Time episode.
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Lia Johnson photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Lia Johnson photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Growing up with her twin sister Phyllis, Lia Johnson feels it was inevitable that the two girls would become actresses because that’s how they played together as kids.  “We always loved to put on costumes and play characters — make up stuff and storylines,” Lia revealed when I talked to her after the premiere of “World Enough and Time” — the fourth fan-produced online Star Trek New Voyages episode (visit www.startreknewvoyages.com to view the episodes of what is now called Star Trek: Phase II).  “So by the time I got to high school, I was perfectly primed for a life in the theater.”  Thus, like most passionate young actresses, Lia did many plays in high school and college.  It was in her third year in college in New York that she realized she wanted to make her living as a full time actress.  “So for the next year and after that, I really pursued it on a professional level.  I got my first gig on a soap opera in New York right out of college and then moved here to Los Angeles and started working in television.”

Star Trek New Voyages episode “World Enough and Time”

It was through her friend Jacob Pinger, who was the original Director of Photography for “World Enough and Time” (aka WEAT), that she heard that director Marc Scott Zicree was casting for the Internet episode.  Falling in love with the script, Lia auditioned for the role of the mother of Lt. Sulu’s child.

Lia Johnson as Dr. Chandris - photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Lia Johnson as Dr. Chandris - photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Written by Michael Reaves and Marc Scott Zicree, WEAT is based on a pitch Reaves sold to Paramount thirty years ago when Paramount was considering mounting a second series based on the original Trek characters, to be called Star Trek: Phase II.  In it, Sulu and newly-arrived crewmember Dr. Lisa Chandris are sent by shuttlecraft to investigate an anomaly happening to a Romulan ship.  Losing the shuttlecraft as the Romulan ship breaks up, Sulu and Chandris call for emergency beam out, but a freak gravity disruption occurs which causes them to live out thirty years on a planet while only 30 seconds pass on the Enterprise.  When the Enterprise’s transporter retrieves its landing party less than a minute later, Sulu materializes aged thirty years and not with his fellow crewmember Chandris but with his daughter Alana, alive only through the sacrifice of her mother, the aforementioned Lisa Chandris.  After Paramount scrapped the idea of a second series in favor of movies, this story languished for decades until Zicree discovered the live-action, one-hour episodes Star Trek New Voyages (aka STNV) was making for the Internet.

Although many writers would give Sulu an Asian daughter like himself, Zicree and Reaves decided that that didn’t have to be the case for the partner and child of Star Trek’s iconic navigator.  That bold decision opened up their casting possibilities in ways that Lia finds consistent with the spirit of original Trek.  “There were so many seminal things that they [Original Star Trek] did so effortlessly and I think that casting in not the usual casting way was one of the things they did without thinking,” she explains, recognizing that for the late 60s this move was remarkable and refreshing.  “The stories didn’t change except that they were more fun to look at.  We got to see our world as we know it as Americans.  All of our lives intersect with so many different people, so many different cultures.”

In that same spirit of diversity, Zicree hired an Afro-American actress to play Alana.  This mandated that in casting her mother Lisa, he had to find a credible match.  He found what he was looking for in Lia Johnson, but then a mere four weeks before principal photography was to begin, the actress hired to play Alana dropped out of the project.

Having to go back to the drawing board for Alana, Zicree was faced with the problem of finding another suitable African-American actress or the prospect of having to replace Lia as well – something he didn’t want to do — just to maintain credibility in genetics.

This dilemma was solved when Zicree found the incredible Christina Moses to play Alana, for as Lia points out, like herself, Christina is of mixed heritage.  “We’re both of European and African-American background, so there’s so many ways our kids or parents could go.  I think it was a great choice because I think that in some ways in the future, that’s exactly where all of us are looking, everyone completely mixed and everybody recognizes all different elements that make one person up.”

Lia attributes this in part to Marc Zicree having a strong sense of what the episode needed in terms of emotional depth and being willing to pursue a different emotional angle than normally done.  “It goes down in the history as one of my favorite auditions where I came in and read and by the end, we were all in tears,” she enthuses.  “The script was great, but it was also because it was coming to life in front of us and it was so touching and beautiful.   I got to read opposite John Lim, who plays opposite me.   He plays young Sulu, who I have all my scenes with.”  So right off the bat from the very first audition, it was exciting for her because she got to hang out with the co-star she’d be working with and thus, she was able to gauge the energy he would bring to the role.

“It was also very exciting because I was reconnecting with the show, and watching a bunch of episodes from the early seasons.  John has such a wonderful quality that is really reminiscent of George Takei.”

Having the story come to life in front of her as she auditioned made the day especially memorable, because as Lia explains, “So much, as an actor, you walk into an audition, you create for yourself a whole fantasy of this world that you’re going to go play in.  Your job is to stay in your fantasy because that’s how others begin to see it as you work through the scene.”  But here Lia didn’t have to do this, because the fantasy world she was moving in already had its reality and a long history to draw from.

In fact, it’s hard for any kid growing up in the US not to be aware of Star Trek.  However, although Lia admits to loving Star Trek growing up, she also confesses she didn’t give it the detailed attention that the more avid fans who created STNV did.  After meeting them, she describes herself growing up as a ‘deep appreciator.’  “Now that I’ve been exposed to how really deeply aware people who call themselves fans are of the Star Trek universe, I couldn’t call myself a fan as a kid growing up.”

Yet, she does consider herself a fan now.  “As I’ve gotten to know more and more about the series,” she explains, “I’ve been blown away at how groundbreaking it was.  For the times and even for today.”

The fun of playing against John Lim isn’t the only thing Lia recalls about her audition. “I also remember that it was real hot.  It was the middle of the summer and it was hot.  We were all boiling.  So all the fans were going and you had to turn the fans off to start shooting the audition.  It was like somewhere between tears and sweat going down our faces.   It was a little brutal in that department, but it was good.  I love that kind of drama – the unruly nature — you never know quite what you are going to get.  But it’s always a good time.  It’s always an adventure.”

When asked about how she prepared for her role, Lia explains that the real preparation comes before the audition where she is showing the producers, director, and writers what she can bring to the role.  “You start to get an idea of what you would do if you got the role and it continues once you get it,” she elaborates.  “These are the pieces I think that worked, that they liked.  And what else can I add.   That sort of thing.”  To do that, she asked a friend who was a Star Trek buff  to give her a list of pivotal episodes from each season and then she visited her local video store, watching as many as she had time for.

“There are a number of ones I really enjoyed,” she admits, adding that “Trouble with Tribbles” was her favorite.  “I’m forgetting the name of the one where Kirk kisses Uhura for the first time.  And gosh, I’m forgetting the name of the episode but it’s where they go to the Greek world and the god Zeus is there and he takes over the mind of one of the women on the ship.  I spent about a week and a half watching… it was a lot of fun.  Each season has about ten seminal episodes, so that’s about thirty hours of TV right there.  And then you get hooked and want to watch more.  Even ones that aren’t on your list.”

What Lia didn’t watch in her preparation stages – on purpose – was the earlier episodes of STNV.  “I just wanted to go in and do my work… Marc had tasked me to do my work, to bring what I bring to a character.  And since I was not playing a character that they had previously seen, I knew that she could be an independent, she could be anything, she could be whatever it was I created of her.  And I knew that if I didn’t see Star Trek New Voyages, I wouldn’t be putting blinders on my role as an actor in the role of Lisa Chandris.  Dr. Lisa Chandris.”

Though she didn’t see the episodes, she still did her homework on the project.  “I did read all about the episodes.  And I fantasized a lot about them.  I put on them about what I think they are, who they are and how they behave so I did get a chance to do that.”  And once she was on set, she had all her co-stars on set with her.  “As I worked with them, we all hung out as we waited to shoot whatever scene came next. You just soak up a person’s energy and you get a feel for where the guys all fit.  But I didn’t watch the New Voyages before I did the show.”

One of the most important aspects that Lia noticed about the original Star Trek series was that each character was allowed to have his/her own quirkiness, his/her own special qualities.  In that way, Star Trek was somewhat “a show out of its time,” she says, because it wasn’t too precious about its characters and hence, gave actors unique characters to play.  “Within that authenticity, the characters really shone.”

It was important to Lia to bring that quality to Dr. Lisa Chandris.  “One of the great things about Michael and Marc’s script is that it’s so clear on the page that there is so much room for her to be that quirky, unvarnished doctor who doesn’t have it all together.  A lot of the people I know in my life who have decided to go the more corporate or medical route – especially the doctors, man, they are so – like they’ll really get down and focus.  They’ll spend weeks in front of the book and computer but when they play, they play so hard.”

She also loves that the script gave her room to flirt with young Sulu.  “I just love that Lisa Chandris is totally picking up on young Sulu, like she’s trying it on, ‘you’re hot and we’re alone on this spaceship together, oh no, this is tragic’ and it’s all tongue-in-cheek.”

That flirtation was one of the aspects she prepared for Lisa, when she was working out her character’s backstory.  Because we see Chandris mostly through the eyes of Sulu and Alana, with only a few, but pivotal scenes where we meet the young Lisa ourselves, Lia had to think about the trajectory of where Chandris ended up and where she might be coming from that would make her the kind of person Sulu and Alana describe at the end of her life.  “I molded her on aspects of myself and aspects of other characters I’ve seen in films and theater that I’m passionate about.  My grandmother is a huge survivor and she has a pretty incredible spirit… I can easily go, I know such a woman, I’ve got this.”

Another quality she deliberately gave Chandris is that Lisa never loses her sense of the adventure, the fun of being out there exploring even though their world seems to be coming apart at the seams and their predicament seems dire.  Lia believes that spirit is what later translates into a survivor.  “When the two of them get left on a lonely planet for many, many moons,” she explains, “that’s the kind of thing that can break a lot of spirits.  She has the kind of spirit that is indomitable.  That’s the kind of survivor spirit that people can find the silver lining in every cloud.  So I wanted to bring that to her character.”

Lia says that when she started working backwards from what she knew Chandris to be in Sulu and Alana’s eyes, she knew the woman was a survivor.  “I knew she had a very powerful spirit that created stories and fun and a full life for just three people on a planet.  To me that translated into a woman who had already lived a full life and she had done a lot of things that she was excited about and yet still had that vulnerable, open curiosity.  She’s still eager for more, she’s still looking, she’s still curious about the world.  So that is where I wanted to come from and it fit so perfectly with the script that Marc and Michael wrote.  I just loved how her curiosity drives each scene.”

This became very apparent for Lia from the first scene we see Chandris in.  “They get her into the pod to fly to the unknown ship, and she’s dealing with all these gravity waves, and she totally has gravity sickness, and she totally lied to get into the Starfleet group so she could be part of this because she wants adventure and she’s curious.  She wants to see things.  She’ll bear with the bad things to satisfy her curiosity.  That was great to me.  I love characters like that.”

From there, creating the character was for Lia like discovering a map of an individual.  “I had the lines on the page that Marc and Michael had started with and then I had all the valuable information you can pull from reading the entire script.  All of that information is so valuable, like when older Sulu is talking about how he lost this woman and how she, even when looking at this dead sea and the moons, was positive.  The stories that she shares with them, it built such a clear vision for me – a map if you will – this is a woman who had already lived a lot of life that she had to share.  Not only did she share the stories that she already had, but she could make up new ones from all the pieces that she had started with.”

In other words, Dr. Lisa Chandris in Lia Johnson’s eyes was a woman with a strong fantasy life.  “She was a woman with an imagination and a curiosity about the world and an individuality and a strength of spirit.  And then you find out she’s the reason that Alana is still alive, because she saved her.  She risked her own life to save her and that is all part of the character.  So when you start stirring that cauldron of information up about a character, it just helps to support everything that happens about the character.  When you are standing there working with the language at the top of the show, when you are in the film, all that’s within you, all that’s in your eyes, all that’s a part of you as you are deciding that this young guy is pretty hot, and that oh goodie, you’re trapped alone for some time together.”  Pausing, she laughs, saying that “poor Johnny” had to play along with her flirtation.

Though her influence is felt throughout the script, Dr. Lisa Chandris was only in a few scenes.  Still, due to the needs of scheduling, the script, and the sets, Lia got to film in both locations: Port Henry for the Romulan ship stuff and Los Angeles for the transporter and docking bay.

Like the rest of us, Lia was duly impressed with the quality and accuracy of the ’60s sets recreations.  In Port Henry, there were full sets of the Bridge (the whole 360), Sickbay, conference room, shuttlecraft, transporter and Captain’s/crew quarters (dressed whichever way was needed).  So it was like you actually walked onto the U.S.S. Enterprise.  In some respects, Port Henry’s Enterprise was more real (or functional) than Paramount’s original Enterprise, because advances in computer technologies allowed the displayed graphics in Port Henry to be controlled by real computers.

“The man is a perfectionist,” Lia says of James Cawley, who is the executive producer of STNV and also plays Captain Kirk.  “And what’s so much fun about it is that he’s so passionate about all the elements.  Even the costumes we were making – the spacesuits that John and I wore.  James had photographs, even of different angles.  He had even gotten some very specific patterns and then, of course, he was connected to this amazing costumer who … one of her side jobs in life, if not her fulltime job, is now making these exact replicas of costumes of Star Trek and other Sci Fi story characters.  Yes, James is just a real perfectionist on the set and the costumes were reflecting that.”

Nevertheless, the experience was more infectious than just the authenticity of the sets, according to Lia.  “Everyone on set was so excited about being there.  All the fun about putting on ears when Jeff who plays Spock is walking around in his ears.  Yeah, it was a real independent feel so it was different than being on a television set, because so much of that is like an institution.  But in Port Henry there wasn’t a lot of support around it, just the bare bones, nitty-gritty artistic part of it.  That was really fun.  It was a laugh.  There were definitely some difficult days, but it all came together and it was a good time.”

On the other hand, filming in LA was a lot more controlled and a lot more like Lia was used to seeing in professional productions.  “One felt more like a bunch of independent filmmakers making something of a film and the one in Los Angeles felt more like we were on a sound stage, we had a lot of the support that usually goes along with a full-fledged production.  Like dressing rooms.  The schedules — there actually was a schedule and people were passionate about keeping to that schedule. Yeah, it was more succinct in that respect.  It felt interesting but I can’t say it was better than the other part because there was definitely a feeling of bonding and pulling all together that happened in Port Henry.”

In the end, the differences proved to be neglible because in the end product, as Lia says, “I can’t tell the difference between what was shot where.”

“The majority of my scenes, if not all of my scenes, occurred where a lot of special effects were planned for those shots,” Lia says, confirming that she worked heavily with green screens and computer graphics.  “So thank god I had done so much fantasizing beforehand, because everything we did was totally in our minds.”  Her part of the mission when they shuttled over the Romulan ship was to activate their computer and download their information, so that Sulu could read the coordinates and free the Enterprise.

The Romulan computer interface console that we see Chandris activate after the CGI special effects are put in looks awesome, but what the actress got to see was just a flat box.  “I had to imagine a whole console with buttons and what where.  Imagine turning things on and clicking them,” she said, “finding information within the computer.  Those are all things that I create in my mind and then the special effects guys come in and do this amazing job creating a whole new panel.  So the panel looked totally different to me when I saw the film than it was in my mind when I was playing.  It was kind of fun seeing my hands making all these movements and pushing buttons, but I actually had been thinking in other ways.”

Lia Johnson acting to green screen

Lia Johnson acting to green screen

One of the most amazing things about watching John and Lia perform was that, unlike in Port Henry with all its fine sets, here in LA, they were doing this green screen work with nothing in front of them.  In Port Henry, the sets are more or less permanent, because they are being used for all the episodes.  But in LA, the sets were built in warehouse space, only for the two days of principal photography, after which they were torn down.  Hence, only what would be shown onscreen was built.  This, nevertheless, brought its own challenges.

It’s one thing to imagine pushing buttons on a console which will be later CGI’d in, but to have both actors pushing buttons on the same level of a horizontal surface requires them to actually touch something at the same height.  Hence, the crew jury-rigged a solution.  They turned a C-stand (the tripod pole that lights, flags, and silks are clamped onto) on its side and propped it on apple boxes to reach a height where the actors could comfortably place their hands on the simulated surface.  It was magnificent to watch Chandris and Sulu’s fingers dance along the C-stand as if it were a real console, knowing that in post, they can airbrush the placeholder out and put in their CGI console.

That’s the fun part Lia claims.   “You get to make up anything you want.  It really is up to the imagination where their fingers touch, which buttons you touch and how they control the ship.  I thought it was so much fun.  It was completely in line with what I used to play with my sister as a kid.”

Once the problem of getting their fingers to look like they are tapping on the same surface was solved, a new wrinkle appeared.  In the scene, Sulu and Chandris are maneuvering the shuttlecraft through gravity waves which are buffeting the shuttlecraft around like a buoy in a roiling ocean.  Inside the shuttle, Sulu and Chandris are being jolted and knocked around by the impacts.  John and Lia had to simulate this by tossing themselves around, even though they were just sitting in chairs in front of a green screen with an overturned C-stand masquerading as their console.  Hence, in the first take, they weren’t moving in unison since seated side by side, they couldn’t turn and ascertain how the other one was moving.

To synchronize their movements, the director started choreographing go left, go right, go forward.  Still, it would also look laughable if one went way over and the other just a little bit, so I asked how difficult that was to play.  “Certainly by the end we did get it.  By then we were aware of how much, where, when and why.  That is one of the things we did not rehearse – the physical aspects of how much tremor was there going to be and at what point was the ship going to be breaking up underneath us and the gravity waves, what specific movements would indicate all the elements of movement that would indicate we were on a ship that was coming apart.”

After all, most of that was going to be created by the graphics group in post.  “You go in as an actor open to rehearsing and just figure it out,” Lia explained.  “John and I got in there and we tried different things.  Some things would work out and some things wouldn’t and we’d scrap that.  So it was just about listening to your director and being willing to take direction and also listening to your partner.   You can feel somebody’s body, you can feel his energy next to you.  John and I were clinging to each other on this Romulan ship so it was really easy to figure out where each other’s bodies were and so we were taking cues from each other.”

Although Lia’s character didn’t any scenes with George Takei’s Sulu, the actors spent a lot of time on set hanging out.  “I really wanted that because that is more about whom my character became and it was going to inform more about who she is when she’s onscreen.  So I really enjoyed talking with him because essentially he’s the man who ultimately I spend the rest of my life with.”

Lia admitted that it was a real treat to get to hang out with George Takei.  “Almost every time I saw him, he was very much in character, in terms of just the visuals of him.  And he wanted to connect with me, too, to see who ‘this woman was that I fell for so long ago, that I’ve grown with, and come to call home. And who is ultimately the reason our child and I are alive.’”

Lia went on to explain that there is a lot that actors want to get from each other in terms of energy and connection, especially knowing there will be a connection between your characters.  “It was really great because I got to watch him do the scene where he is missing me and first time, he’s seen my face since he lost me, looking at a picture of me on the console in the sickbay and then he does this scene where he talks about our life together and you can really see the loss and depth of feeling on his face.  That was beautiful, because, I don’t know, I can fantasize all I want about a character, but it is also wonderful to see it right in front of you … to see that depth of loss on his face and in his soul.”  It helped her realize that Lisa was not just attracted to Sulu on the superficial (“he’s a cute guy”) level, but deeper and “on a spirit, and soul level.   I see him connecting with that feeling of loss… it stimulates something in me that strikes up that chord … that yearning for something … you want someone equally… the love that generates that feeling.”

Beyond it being great for Lia to connect with George on set as characters, was the fact that as a man, George is an amazing individual.  “He’s got some awesome stories, stories about his life and stories about his career, about his life as an artist, so we had a lot of good times.  It was a pretty cool treat for me to spend a lot of time with him and chat about all kinds of stuff.  Share all kinds of stories.”

When asked what George Takei taught her as a veteran actor to take away to her own career, Lia mentioned how impressed she was when he came out of the closet and was so nonchalant about it.  “It seems to me that so many celebrities come out with information that changes how you think of them, or perhaps not change, but evolve what you think of that person when they have something to sell, or something to push, or some need to regenerate their star.  Rarely do they ever come out with the kind of controversial information which because they don’t have anything to push, could in theory change or damage, if you will, their previous – the way fans previously thought of them.  Certainly as I got to know him as a man, it seems to me that that was a decision for himself and his truth.  And his pride in his truth.  So what he taught me was about grace in the face of your truth.  He just so gracefully came out and was himself and it was for no other reason than he needed to be graceful about the truth.…    He’s so elegant in his honesty.  So that is what he taught me. I want to be like that.

“And,” Lia continues, “for someone as masculine and strong and yet emotional as George Takei, and for him to be gay, is a statement.  And he’s Sci Fi and he’s a bad-ass – I think we can call George a bad-ass from time to time, and that he’s also gay is absolutely in some ways antithetical to the idea of what it is to be gay.  So I think it stretches the stereotype and forces people to recognize that people they love and respect and idolize even are gay.  And I think it helps people get a better understanding of each other.”

Being that Alana touched the audience’s hearts and brought many to shed tears, I wondered if Lia thought Lisa Chandris would be happy with the way her daughter turned out.  Lia’s answer was a resounding yes.  “I know what Lisa would dream of as a daughter, what her pride and joy would be in Alana.  Christina played Alana beautifully.  Alana was absolutely in keeping with that.   She was beautiful on a spirit level.  I mean, she’s got Sulu as a dad so she’s gonna be good-looking no matter what on the outside.  But on the inside, she’s got that genuine spirit of curiosity about the world shining out of her.  And strength… in a sense of what’s right and continuance.   In the end, she’s a chip off the old block in the sense that she sacrifices herself for love of her father and her family – these people she has come to know in a few short minutes if you will.  So yeah, I think Alana certainly did Lisa proud, as a daughter.”

WEAT Premiere

Post production on the episode took another year due to all the special effects (approx.  700).  When it was complete, a premiere that Lia described as splashy and fantastic was held in a theater in Los Angeles.  “There was an amazing response.  The house was packed.  There was the press there.  A lot of excited fans.  Crew people.  Actors.  A number of the actors came from all over the country to be part of it.  And James Cawley and Marc Scott Zicree held court.  We did a huge Q&A at the end, where people got to ask questions and give their responses.  People really, really loved it.  The whole time they felt it was in keeping with the history and the vision of the original series.  So it was really great to have all those kudos from the very folks we are making it for.  That was cool.”

I’m Through with White Girls

Lia Johnson headshot courtesy of Lia Johnson

Lia Johnson headshot courtesy of Lia Johnson

Since WEAT, Lia has been a very busy actress.  First up was an independent film called “I’m Through with White Girls, the Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks” which she produced as well as performed as the lead actress.  “I play opposite Anthony Montgomery who many people will know as Ensign Mayweather from Star Trek Enterprise.  And it’s about a man named Jay Brooks who is the only black guy in his indie rock circle and he has a habit of losing any woman that he gets close to with a dear john letter and then when a friend of his is getting married, he wonders why he’s never found the right woman.  So he thinks if he dates the perfect black woman, he’ll find her.”  To do this, he goes on a mission to find the perfect woman which his friends designate “Operation Brown Sugar,” but ultimately he finds he must deal with his commitment issues to win the woman that he falls in love with.

Lia plays the woman that he falls for and says the reason he strikes out initially with black women is that he’s not the stereotypical black guy.  “He doesn’t like hip hop, he likes comic books and sci-fi, he likes rock, so when he strikes out in the system, he’s pretty ready to give up and then he meets me who is interracial – I’m mixed – and I have a lot of eclectic interests like him, but he has to deal with his commitment issues to win my heart.”

They took the film out on the festival circuit, where it’s been winning a number of awards.  “Four best feature audience awards for best feature at a couple of different festivals.   Probably the most prestigious is that we represented the US at the Pan-African Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France and we won the audience award for best feature, which was fantastic… really phenomenal.”

For those like me who know little about this film festival, Lia explained, “The Pan African Cannes Film festival represents the Pan-African Diaspora around the world and it goes concurrently with the Cannes Film Festival.  And they pretty much pull films from around the world for that year and screen them for audiences.  So everyone comes and they all vote on juries and on whose film they liked the best.  There are countries as far as Australia – the African population in Australia.  Nigeria has a humungous film business and they make tons of films every year and they’re really into it.  All of the countries of Africa, Europe – the African Diaspora has spread pretty far and wide.”

It’s no small achievement or honor to represent the United States in a film festival that screens maybe 40 films from around the world.  “For us to represent the US in such a prestigious French Pan African Film Festival is huge because so many good films come out of the US every year.  Just to be selected as the US representative was amazing to begin with and then to win the audience award in a foreign country where they are reading subtitles of your film is truly phenomenal.”

But not only did she tour the film in places like London and Amsterdam, she’s also taken it to US film festivals (such as the American Black Film Festival) and winning awards for it at home as well.  “It was really exciting for me to see audiences really respond to the film.  It’s really funny and it’s really about being through with the idea of what is white and what is black – kind of the deeper meaning when you see the film.  And Anthony Montgomery just does an amazing job.”  She adds with a laugh, “It’s so easy to fall in love with him.”

With her experience as a producer of this independent film, she, more than others, can appreciate what people were going through behind the scenes on New Voyages.  Asked about that, she reflected, “It’s difficult to compare, because in Los Angeles, there are three of the best film schools in the world.  So many people come to LA to make films.  There’s a huge amount of people, a huge workforce that wants to be in films and need credits and who are willing to work for very little money or deferred pay or even for the love of it.  So I had a lot of help.  We finished each day with a minimum of 30 people on set and our largest day we had 150.  I co-produced it with my sister Phyllis.  But I think there was a lot more help than a lot of the folks in New Voyages had.  The help was definitely eager and passionate and that was the same but there are more technicians in Los Angeles that you can get at a drop of a hat, whereas in Port Henry, if we didn’t have it, we had to create it.  It was a bit more of an inventive group, because you had to invent what you needed on the spot.  So it seemed a little more haphazard in Port Henry than in Los Angeles.  But definitely the spirit of independence is the same – the drive to make something you are really passionate about.  And I think the accolades are the same. When people see it, they say wow, this is great, you did something really cool.  That energy is also the same.”

Alive pilot

To show that she was not abandoning television for film, Lia’s next project was a pilot presentation for SyFy Channel called Alive, which was written by Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens from Star Trek Enterprise.   “It’s something like 28 Days Later, but episodic for television.  It’s so exciting and I play one of the lead roles… it’s like, for lack of a better word, zombies inhabit the earth and the few people left are fighting for their lives… about 100 people, who are hunkered down in Northern Oregon and try to fight the zombies who are wreaking havoc on the earth.”

Drag Me to Hell

Her most recent coup is a role in director Sam Riami’s new horror film, Drag Me to Hell, where she plays the Waitress near the end of the movie who gives the lead character a hard time for sitting in her section and only ordering coffee.  Still, Lia admits to being “a totally scaredy-cat when it comes to watching horror movies.  I have an over-active imagination and so the images REALLY get to me. I watched the first Evil Dead on VHS, on my tiny 14-inch television, in the middle of the day, with the lights on… and I was STILL completely freaked out.  That being said, Sam’s movies have such a great balance of humor and emotionally disturbing qualities that I have really learned from his work, what people find fun about the horror genre. I was very excited to work with him.”

This major step up from the indie films the talented actress had been previously doing came about because Sam Riami saw and liked her previous work in her award-winning independent.

“I got the role in Drag Me to Hell because I produced and starred in an indie feature film called I’m Through With White Girls, The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks, now playing on Showtime.  Sam liked my work in the film and had his producer call me for an audition.  It was a role that didn’t require tons of preparation, but I took her to heart and had a great time making up a fun backstory for her.  It ended up really coming in handy when Sam wanted Alison and me to improvise with our characters.”

Since most of the people reading this on the Internet won’t be familiar with the production process, I asked Lia to give us a flavor of what it was like.

“I was only on set for one day,” she told me, “but my character’s scene was with the main character of the film.  The day started with several hours of rehearsal between me and Alison Lohman and the other characters in the scene.  Sam loves to rehearse and improvise, and at the same time that we’re working his crew is taking cues regarding what each shot will look like.

“Afterwards, the crew got into lighting the set, and Alison and I were off to the hair, make-up and wardrobe trailers. Once we started shooting, everyone in the same scene still played their parts, even if they weren’t on-camera.  It’s super helpful to have the other actor in the scene with you when you’re the one on-camera.”

The obvious next question to ask would be about working with Sam Raimi as a director.  “Sam loves to rehearse for all the spontaneous things that happen when you’re living your way through a scene.  He spent a lot of time with each of us actors.  He was very clear that he wasn’t precious about the writing, the script was just a starting point.”

In fact, how Sam Riami works with his actors is the most valuable insight Lia has taken away from doing this film.  “Sam was extremely accessible and I remember being surprised that he spent so much rehearsal time with my scene, finding nuances and encouraging fun things that came out of improvisation.  Ultimately I realized when I saw the final film, that it’s really the work he does with his supporting cast that buttresses his main story so well.”

With Drag Me to Hell being a studio film with a real PR budget that was non-existent for a fan-run Internet episode, the premiere had to be quite a different experience.

“The premiere for Drag Me to Hell was different from the Star Trek New Voyages in that it was just really Bigger,” Lia agreed.  “The similarities were that many of the cast and crew were there.  People that you make connections with while shooting, and then you all go your separate ways, working on other jobs, and then suddenly you all reconvene to see this final product that you all had a hand in creating.  That’s always so much fun to me. It’s a big reunion!

“The difference was the crazy red carpet with all the paparazzi, the film was screened for the premiere at the famous historic Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. That was a bit of a dream come true for me as that theatre has so much history, and the screen is SOOOOOOOO BIG!!! I usually take way more pleasure in the PROCESS of performance than I do watching the final product, but it WAS a rush to see myself on such a huge, famed screen.  That was super cool.”

And as we wait for Lia Johnson to go to even bigger projects, let’s check out the trailer for I’m Through with White Girls on turnsoul.com website – for her and because she tells us “Anthony Montgomery did an amazing job – very different character from Ensign Mayweather.  It’s a wonderful character for him.”

For more info on Drag Me to Hell, check out http://www.dragmetohell.net for official word.

For more info on “World Enough and Time” episode of STNV, check out http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/episodes.html

or read my article published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, which is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Thrilling-Wonder-Stories-Winston-Engle/dp/0979671817/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238704595&sr=8-1) and Barnes & Noble online (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Thrilling-Wonder-Stories-Volume-2/Winston-E-Engle/e/9780979671814/?itm=1)

Christina Moses Touched Our Hearts with Love and Pain As Sulu’s Daughter May 1, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Christina Moses, Entertainment, George Takei, Internet Films, Star Trek, Star Trek: New Voyages, Star Trek: Phase II, Uncategorized, World Enough and Time episode.
3 comments
Alana and Sulu photo courtesy of Marc Scott Zicree

Alana and Sulu photo courtesy of Marc Scott Zicree

Alana on transporter photo courtesy of Marc Scott Zicree

Alana on transporter photo courtesy of Marc Scott Zicree

Christina Moses headshot courtesy of Christina Moses

Christina Moses headshot courtesy of Christina Moses

As we wait for the release of the new Star Trek movie from Paramount, featuring new young actors playing our beloved characters, it is a good time to celebrate the 40 some years that fans have kept the dream of the Star Trek Universe alive through their fanzines, fan clubs, and now Internet-based, live-action, filmed episodes.  So much so that Paramount Studios has been able to cash in on the hunger for new Star Trek stories for decades and is now bringing out a new take on the Original Star Trek series which started everything.  (And I’m calling it a new take because obviously I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but to my way of thinking, it was pretty obvious in that first episode of Original Star Trek back in the late ‘60s that Spock and Kirk did not know each other before they met as seasoned adults on the Enterprise — any movie that says they did is a new take on the subject matter.)

I am convinced that part of the reason that Paramount and the new kids on the block have decided they could re-imagine the series that has been with us for so long is because they saw that millions of fans around the world were willing to watch other actors (or fans) play their favorite characters in new, fan-written and fan-produced episodes presented on the Internet – the most successful venture being Star Trek: New Voyages or as it is now called, Star Trek: Phase II (http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/).

Probably the most widely-acclaimed and nominated-for-Hugo-and-Nebula-awards episode of Star Trek: New Voyages has been “World Enough and Time” in which George Takei reprises his iconic role of Sulu.  It has been described as the “City on the Edge of Forever” for Sulu.  Just as Kirk had to decide between the love of his life and the universe as it should be in “City…” so does Sulu have to decide in WEAT between the daughter he has raised from birth to young adulthood or his Enterprise ship and crewmates, due to a freak accident which causes him to live 30 years on a planet in 30 seconds aboard ship.

It is a heart-wrenching dilemma that is made even more heartbreaking by the incredibly touching and vulnerable performance of Christina Moses as Sulu’s daughter, Alana – an innocent beauty whose entire universe was her parents and the stories her father told her about his life aboard the Enterprise.  At the premiere, sobs were heard in the audience for the decisions and sacrifices both Sulu and Alana make.  In fact, a few grown men who swore they never cry over movies admitted to tears and sobs over this one.

Because the role of Alana is so pivotal to the episode, director Marc Scott Zicree looked for an already experienced actress to play her, rather than one of the less experienced fan-bred actors who were responsible for the project’s existence.   With both parents accomplished actors, Christina grew up in the business.  Her father, Tom Moses, has taught acting in Long Beach, CA in addition to being a writer, director, and actor.

Yet, despite growing up in the business, Christina claims to have had no early-on interest in following in her parents’ footsteps.  “My father used to take me around to auditions when I was really young and I really didn’t like it,” she admits.  In fact, she attributes her childhood shyness as a reason why she wasn’t interested in Hollywood.  “Any desire that I have had or would have had would definitely be supported,” Christina explains about the parental attitude surrounding her youthful choices.  “I mean if there was something I wanted to do at a young age it would have been okay to do.  Some really important people were very interested in me and supposedly, I’m one of the best cold readers in town, but again, I don’t know.  I just wasn’t interested.  It wasn’t until Junior High where I discovered theater in school that I fell in love with it.”

Asked why her interest was piqued then, she indicates that she came to view acting “as just another art form, like painting.”  To her, it was just another way to express herself, another way to explore her inner being and life in general.  “And so I started doing it throughout junior high and in high school and when I went to Santa Cruz College, I did it there.”

But since acting wasn’t yet something she wanted to do professionally, she stopped performing when she first moved to New York.  Nevertheless, the call of the theater was too strong for her to resist so she ended up doing a lot of stage work in New York.  Through friends involved in film noir and film festivals, she ended up doing little independent shorts in New York and San Francisco.  Hence, WEAT represented her first foray into episodic or longer formats.  “This is the first, well, it’s not a feature but it’s the longest film that I’ve ever done.  You know, professionally, up to that point.”

As for Star Trek itself, Christina admits to not being a Star Trek fan before discovering this role.  “I remember it being on as a kid,” she says, “because my dad was a fan, is a fan.  It was on in the background and I went to see some of the movies with him, but no, I really didn’t understand the Star Trek phenomenon until I got on set and started asking people what is it – why is it that it has such a huge following.”

Asked what insight she gained, Moses explains, “First of all, I learned that it is just… it’s like a home for a lot of people. The things he [Roddenberry] was doing… the topics that he was exploring at the time were very controversial and revolutionary.  I mean I remember seeing an episode where Kirk – Captain Kirk — he gets in trouble for something and he’s brought before the court and on the panel there was a woman, there’s an Indian male, there’s a black male, there’s a white male, and for the sixties, that’s a huge payoff for people of color and a female to be people in power.”

“Beautiful,” is how Christina describes what Roddenberry did, looking at Star Trek from a political and holistic humanitarian point of view, especially considering the number of people exposed to his vision.  For the era, she thinks that “the open representation of society is awesome so I can see how people can find a place for themselves there.”  What strikes her is not just that Star Trek was “revolutionary with technology back then” but the incredible “imagination” it had of what the future could be like.  “It was,” she ventures, “a huge game of pretend and people could really explore and play in it in a way that they couldn’t in this society.  I understand the camaraderie.  And it holds up today, very much so, in the same way that it did back then.”

Since Christina admits to viewing everything from a political context, the fact that Star Trek broke down barriers is one of its most important and enduring attributes to her.  “If that’s where they are coming from,” she says of Star Trek fans, “in that way I’m a fan, too.  Definitely.”

One would think that the politically-minded Christina would have been a lot more aware of Star Trek’s history of breaking down barriers while growing up than she reveals.  After all, she is a child of a white woman and a black man — one who was/is a long-time fan of the show which featured the first ‘interracial kiss’ at a time when that was just not done.  Yet, when I mentioned that to her, Christina’s first reaction was, “Between who?”  Upon being told between Uhura and Kirk, she quipped, “They should get a statue just for that alone.”

Obviously, even though her parents were doing something that was in itself revolutionary for the time period, young Christina didn’t gain any special awareness from her dad of the impact Nichelle’s Uhura had on the image of black women or any of the other politics that touched original Star Trek fans.  “Both of my parents aren’t very political,” she explains.  “That is more me.  I mean if they are, it’s more environmentally – more living and embracing the roles that I was seeing more politically.

“The marriage for my mother was more that marrying a black man was so beautiful,” she elaborates.  “I mean, she was also in love with him, but because it was also more proof of breaking down race barriers.  She would tell this to me now, that that was how she thought back then, but it wasn’t a political standpoint.  For her, it’s more about love and humanity.  I just interpret everything theoretically and politically because that’s the way I view the world.”

So if this Star Trek project wasn’t a chance to work on a long-loved or long-admired show, how did she become involved?  “Through the grapevine, actually,” she admits.  “A friend of a friend, who’s friends with Marc and Elaine, put the word out that one of the actors had dropped out and they were looking.  I took a chance as I needed a job.  I emailed and they called me in and I auditioned and got the part, two days later.  Or a day later.  That’s how.”

Asked what attracted her to the role, Moses answers that “…the concept is awesome — what’s 30 seconds to one person is 30 years to another.  I like the idea of playing with manipulating time and space and perception.  So conceptually, that is really cool.  I would love for it to be a feature movie and see what happens on the planet Taliban and that’s cool.”

Nobody can deny that Alana is a very meaty role, but Christina especially liked the idea that Alana was “available” to everything that occurred around her and “grateful” for her experiences.  “I think Alana was a reflection of everyone around her,” Christina Moses elaborates on how she saw the character.  “She’s provided them a mirror for them to really see themselves – to see the parts of themselves that they let go of or didn’t tap into – what they desire.”

In what way, I wanted to know.  “In terms of anything,” Christina explained.  “Love — unconditional and so available.  Being able to look at everything with so much wonder and appreciation.  I think that’s what she reflected back to them.  It’s just about them and their needs and being who they are.  Spock got to see himself in just the questions Alana was asking him. Which was for her, too.  How can she exist, being so different?  And the fact that by giving up your future for the good of other people.  Life is much bigger than you.  He got to be reminded of who he was in Alana, all the goodness he could bring.  All of them – does that make any sense?”

It is also undeniable that Alana’s ethereal and innocent beauty is part of the audience’s attraction and bonding to her.  This had to be a challenge for any actress to bring across.  “How I approached it was… uhm… well… I just read the script a million times, over and over.  I would just pieced together what her life was like by what George was saying – my father as the life-giver and I just pretended to live there in my head.”

Moses also credits Kirk and Spock with helping with her characterization as she would imagine going through and living what they were saying to her, like putting together a puzzle.  “And then she just came out.”

But Christina denies that she deliberately imagined an innocent Alana. “I can’t say, as me, ‘Be childlike or be innocent and sweet.’  Because if you are trying to be acting, rather than trying your best to just live it, it doesn’t work.  Acting is pretending.”

It works “because we’re all kids or we can be,” she says.  “We know how to use our imaginations to play like we did when we were kids.”

Yet, it couldn’t have been easy to portray a character so constrained as Alana stuck in a stasis chamber, unable to touch, especially when the very stasis chamber was all special effects added later.

“I just winged it,” Moses says of that particular challenge.  “Yeah, that was part of the frustration of what she’s going through.  There was that lingering, ‘Okay, I’m really not here.  There’s a possibility that I may be on this planet alone, forever,’ which was part of her circumstances.  Circumstances that she couldn’t exist outside of the stasis chamber and that whenever they came up to her, she couldn’t touch anything for real.  She wasn’t real quote unquote in this world.  So yeah, that was part of it.”

Still, it had to be difficult to not have the physical freedom to do or touch things on this set that she might normally want to layer in.  For example, one of my favorite scenes is where she and Kirk are walking down a corridor and Alana twirls and dances because she is just so happy to be moving through the magical place of her father’s stories.  In fact, I believe that Alana’s pure delight and innocent wonder in this scene brings out the best in Cawley’s performance as Kirk.

“I would try to imagine what it would look like,” Christina says of that particular sequence, where she had to remain conscious that she couldn’t grab Kirk or touch the walls.  “And not being very scifi-ish, I’d be like, what are they talking about?  I just imagined the colors and not being substantial, whatever that would look like.”

In fact, Christina used this same approach to prepare for the intensely emotional scenes  Alana had.  “If you believe in anything, it’s real to you.  So, that’s it, really.  Pretending.  Over and over again.  Putting myself in her circumstance of my mother, my father, the planet…  I could understand her wanting a normal life.  If he had not told me all those stories, I wouldn’t have known anything about the world and the Enterprise.  I may be a human being and have a general feeling of longing, I don’t know.  You don’t know what you’re missing.  So, I just believed in it.  I believed in it, wholeheartedly.  If you saw your dad die – or not die – if you knew you couldn’t be with your father anymore… whatever was important to you… you would probably be exceedingly sad.  So as a human being, you know what it’s like to imagine or go through certain horrific circumstances.”

Unlike method actors who recall events in their lives to guide their performances, Christina doesn’t use her personal life to fuel her roles.  “I don’t picture my father up there,” she asserts.  “I didn’t picture anyone… I don’t have a loved one who has … I don’t use my personal life.  But I’m a human being.  I know what it would be like to lose someone.  I know what it’s like to be hurt.  So being a human being, I just imagined these circumstances over and over again until they become really really real for me.”

In other words, she just became Alana.  “As much as I could,” Christina reasons.  “I feel like there’s so much more room to grow.  I mean, I look back on it now and think, oh god, give me the role now.  Because I was so new and anxious over being new, but there’s always room to grow.  Always.  I don’t think there’s an endpoint.  At all.  Because one thing you complete opens the stage for new challenge, new growth.  You’re always growing, hopefully.”

This is something she continues to explore under the guidance of her acting teacher, Harry Mastrogeorge.  “That’s all we do, we just work on our imaginations … there’s no method to it.  There’s no [actor] tricks.  There’s no technique even, really it’s just practice.  You know, like if I had to practice the violin every day, I have to practice working my imagination, it’s that kind of brick. ”

In other words, it’s just about using heart and imagination, not worrying about how one looks on camera.  “My focus isn’t on how I look on camera, my focus isn’t how to indicate something or whether I’m wearing the right colors to make my eyes pop, it’s not about that.  It’s more about pretending and being truthful as much as is possible.”

“It’s surprising that when you want a trick, want to co-op – okay, if I know I want to act for the director and I know he wants something from me, and it’s just naturally not there at the moment, if I think of my mom being like abducted or something, I’ll cry for you, right then and there.  Sure, but to me that is cheating in a way, because it’s not the story, it’s not about me.  Like I’m not playing Christina who’s playing this person.  I’m a human being who’s playing… I’m now Alana.  I’m going to try to let go of Christina as much as possible.  Which I think is lifelong work.  It takes a lot of work.  When I see Meryl Streep, even if it’s in interviews, she plays… she doesn’t use her personal life, she uses her imagination when she plays.  And we can see with Cate Blanchett, we can see with Judi Dench, they are not the same – they are definitely not the same.  And you can see with Julie Roberts or Denzel Washington, who are great, they’re fun, they make you cry, they make you laugh, they’re highly believable, but you see them.”

“Awesome” is how Christine sums up being able to work with veteran actor, George Takei.  “He’s one of the humblest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and he just radiates so much positivity and creativity.  He really loves what he does, which makes it easy for us to surround him, and want to work with him, whether behind the scenes or in front of the camera.  He’s so professional, honestly, in attitude – he’s like a beginner — and humble.”

Asked what Takei gave her to take with her as a young actor for the future, Moses replies “Technique.  Just how he works.”  That is partially because she considers herself a stage actress first and foremost.  “I’m used to having to be bigger and more expressive,” she explains.  “So I really had to take a lot of that out for film.  So I’d just watch him, watch how he did things.  He knows how to handle himself on film. I have no idea how to handle myself on film.  I just do the things.  Once as we kept shooting, I said to myself, I’m going to watch him and learn how to handle myself.”  Hence, she credits the veteran actor with teaching her “how to be in front of the camera and maintain the life in the character and story.”

Although Christina did not experience the same ‘pinch me to see if I’m awake’ incredulity working with iconic characters and actors that longtime ST fans in the cast and crew did, she says she understands how they feel.  “To be an Asian captain back then and now, it just goes along with everything that I said before, that you really have to appreciate who he is and who he was and what he means to Star Trek.  To those people who are fans of an actor, that’s huge.”

The impact of Star Trek on the people around her wasn’t lost on her, especially for those who maybe weren’t the most popular kids in their school.  “School’s hard.  High School especially is horrible.  Or can be.  Maybe your whole life isn’t so good.  You want to fit in.  And it just speaks to humanity and everyone – it taps into a little bit of everybody.   You’ve got this show where none of this matters whether you’re cool or not cool, whether you’re white or you’re black, whether you’re rich or poor – that’s not even, not even an issue at all.  That’s huge.”  And Spock became the embodiment of all that for “people who are labeled geeks, who are not cool, who are not sexy, who are not whatever….”

Christina’s greatest challenge was totally unforeseen: she became very ill.  And considering how sick she was during filming, the performance she turned in was astonishing.  “I had this huge fever.  Chills every single day.  I felt horrible.  That was the biggest challenge.  To stay present on the story and not on how I was feeling.  I haven’t been that sick in a long time.”  In between takes, Christina could be seen huddled in a borrowed winter jacket.  Moses would do her scene and then return to the area cordoned off as a dressing room to rest.

In fact, Christina was so sick that she can’t remember much about shooting and is even surprised she made it through the 20 hours of filming on the last day.  “I was just so sick that that’s what I remember.  I didn’t really hang out much, behind the scenes because I just really wanted to stay in the story.  I had to go lie down a lot and when I was gone, I’d just be imagining the story as much as possible.  So I don’t even know a lot about what had happened.  I remember laughing a lot.  And people laughing as things went wrong, but what they are, I can’t recall.”

In fact, she was so tired and sick, she was almost unaware that she almost caught on fire when they were setting off explosive charges in the stasis chamber during her climatic scene.  “I was really worn when we were practicing with the explosives at the end of the film.  I don’t remember it too much.  We were almost finished.  Those were my last scenes.  And they had to take the fire extinguisher and put it out.  That was just cool.”

Moses loved working on the project.  “People were so passionate about what was a pure passion project.  People were so kind.  They opened up their homes.  They brought food.  They made food.  They ordered food.  Everyone pitched in.  Construction you know.  Sets… people gave their time.  People came from Australia.  People drove and flew from California.  That’s amazing.”

Working on this project also opened her eyes to how unique the whole Star Trek World is.  “That other people were willing to go out of their way to help the vision.  Some stayed only a few days.  Some stayed for the duration.  It [the location] wasn’t soundproof and we had to stop a lot.  There’s a lot… we had to deal with.  But we were all happy to work.  And to be a part of something almost bigger than ourselves.”

Although Christina doesn’t have any particular favorite scenes that she shot, she says the people she worked with were the best part of the project.  “They really shot some amazing things… scenes.  That’s just pure passion and respect for everyone.  I’m just really inspired when people just step up and do the work that needs to be done.  And they collaborate.”

Since then, Christina has done some Internet commercials, an independent SAG horror film written and produced by Gordon Greene and directed by Sasha Crane, the nephew of Anna and Lee Strausberg, the Elevate Film Festival for Sound and Music, and a radio play (“Magic Time”) written and directed by Marc Scott and Elaine Zicree.

The horror film was shot in and around a castle sitting on a 5,000 acre ranch in Antelope Valley, CA.  “And I don’t die.  Oh, I shouldn’t say that,” she instantly corrects.  With a smile, she adds, “I may die.”

“I had a blast,” Christina says, even though she never thought she’d do a slasher horror film.  “There is substance and heart in this film, but it is also a fun, thrilling slasher.  It’s a movie within a movie.  A group of actors have been cast in this film which tells the true story of what became an urban legend… very bad things happen to us as we are trying to recreate the true life events.

“This being a thriller, I had to scream my head off a lot!  And run around a lot!  Most of our scenes were shot outside.  It was extremely dark, scary and freezing with winds I have never witnessed before, growing up in Los Angeles.  Plus, my character was constricted to wearing a small dress, as all good thrillers require.

“Though we shot in April, we were smack dab in the middle of a desert with no mountains for protection against the wind, but, at the same time, it was incredible.  So quiet and beautiful with nothing to scatter away the stars at night.  The view in the daytime was endless, serene and absolutely gorgeous.”

Christina did all her own stunts.  “Okay, that sounded a lot cooler than was meant!  Mainly I had to run and fall, but they did have to teach me how to fall/faint and look real.  I definitely accrued some bruises, but so worth it.”

What was most challenging on this project was allowing herself to be afraid and adjusting to the cold and hours.  “We shot from sundown to sunup so you can imagine the chill and tiredness.  The cast and crew were amazing!  So talented and fun.  We had a great time, downing monster after monster, Emergen C’s to stay awake, eating home cooked meals from the director’s family and friends who catered, dancing in our trailers, watching films… horror was among them, one of the “saw’s” I believe.”

For the film festival in which participants get 48 hours to make a film from start to finish, Christina worked behind the scenes.  “I helped to produce a documentary and seven music videos for the festival.  We focus on works that uplift… that elevate consciousness in some shape or form by choosing issues that are socially and globally relevant and important.”

Five short films, five documentaries, five music videos and five commercials were produced in this time frame with professional directors and actors.

“Everything is cast and crewed under the kick-off.  And the director is pulled from the hat for the project.”  From that moment, they have 48 hours to complete the project.  Details can be found at elevatefilmfestival.com.  “We premiered at the Kodak Theater and it is the first time the Kodak Theater ever had a film festival there.  And it was huge.  We got over 3,000 people.”

As a result, Moses has another passion besides acting: producing documentaries.  Especially on subjects like kids getting involved in war.  She’d like to uncover “…what causes our kids to pick up arms in the streets and form gangs.  I mean, war can be… it’s not just your physical war…”

Christina Moses played Colleen in Magic Time, a radio play based on Marc Scott Zicree’s best-seller book of the same name, in which a cataclysmic event happens and all things technological or mechanical stop working and magic returns.

This is actually a subject that deserves its own article and I’ve written about this project elsewhere.  If you want to learn of my participation in this project, check out http://dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/2008/12/magic-time-gives-crystal-another-first.html and its two preceding entries.

Finally, as an addendum, Christina Moses had her first pre-premiere screening of her first horror film on January 30, 2009 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood for industry professionals.

A Ninth Reposting from “Fireside Chats from Hollywood” blog at TVGuide.com January 16, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Entertainment.
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It kills me that TVGuide.com eliminated their Community section without regard to what we posted there.  With the help of a friend, I’ve recovered some of mine that was posted in my Fireside Chats from Hollywood blog:

Presenting the 18th Annual PGA Awards
If you are thinking golf, stop right now!

For we are not discussing awards for golf here, although I think the golf tournament is televised, whereas the Producers Guild of America awards are not. And often when I mention doing something through the PGA, many minds go straight to their golf game.

As part of the television and motion picture awards season, Saturday night at the Century Plaza Hotel, the Producers Guild of America held their annual awards banquet to honor the producers who bring us the television shows and motion pictures that we watch.

Through televised shows like the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, we know of the valuable contributions made by writers, actors, and directors to our best series and motion pictures, but none of those projects could be made without the contributions of the producers who put the projects together, see that they are budgeted, hire the crews, and keep the wheels of the juggernaut moving forward. The job is so big that there is usually more than one producer involved in bringing a production to life. So it falls to the producers to honor their own.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t familiar faces on stage. Presenters included from the movie world: Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and Jake Gyllenhaal. Presenters from the TV world included: Marg Helgenberger, Patrick Dempsey, Calista Flockhart, Hugh Laurie, Salma Hayek, and Tyra Banks. And even the music industry was represented by Melissa Etheridge.

For the most part, award shows are all the same. Presenters read the nominees, then the winner. The winner gets up and gives a heartfelt thank you speech. Rarely does something take you completely by surprise.

Saturday night had one of those events. Ken Ehrlich was being given the Visionary Award. A man with a longtime love affair with music and musicians, he brought many non-traditional innovations to the productions of events like the Emmys, Grammys, Blockbuster Awards, and the MTV Movie Awards. He created the award-winning PBS Soundstage series which was the forerunner of shows like Unplugged. More than that, he has created dozens of single artist specials, showcasing artists like Elton John, Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, Faith Hill, The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.

He is known for teaming artists of divergent musical styles to sing successful duets together, when no one else would even imagine pairing them. So much so that when artists from different musical genres come together to perform once-in-a-lifetime duets, they are said to be doing “Ken Ehrlich duets.”

Melissa Etheridge was the presenter for this award and she shared her affection for Ken Ehrlich by telling us that when she was a newcomer straight off the bus from Kansas, she auditioned for Fame. Through several callbacks, it came down to her and… Janet Jackson. Of course they went for Janet, but Ken Ehrlich took the time to tell her not to give up because she was good.

Melissa wouldn’t give Ken his award right away because she said someone wanted to show gratitude to him. Bonnie Raitt took the stage and sang a song. She was wonderful. When she was done, Melissa told Ken to stay in his seat and out came Paul Simon to sing “The Boxer.” When he was done, she told Ken to still stay in his seat, and Stevie Wonder was led out onto the stage. When Stevie started on “Superstition”, the audience rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation, and seconds later, everyone was rocking to his heavy beat. Men in tuxedos and women in long gowns, swaying and grooving and singing to the beat like they were hippies at a rock concert. It was great fun. There was even a woman holding up a cell phone to record it, and the beat got to her, and she put it away, and just rocked.

Definitely the highlight of our evening, and all because these singers were grateful for what Ken Ehrlich’s love and relentless championship of music has done for them.

Another interesting award was the Stanley Kramer award which is given to recognize achievements that illuminate provocative social issues. This year’s award went to producers Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, & Scott Burns for their documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. In today’s harsh reality, it takes courage to spend much of your own personal capital on a theatrical release of a documentary starring a former Vice President and presidential contender talking about a global threat which might bring no financial return or public approval. After the producers accepted the award, they introduced Al Gore, who commented on how skeptical he was when they approached him to turn his slide show on global warming, which he had been traveling with on speaking engagements, into a movie. He was skeptical that people would go see a film about global warming with a ‘recovering politician as a sideshow.’ He was very proud that it stood up very well ‘without his presence.’

Jerry Bruckheimer was honored for his achievements in television. He is said to be well on his way to becoming the most successful producer in television history, an honor he already has for film.

“Little Miss Sunshine” took the producing award in motion pictures, while “Cars” took it in the newly added animated motion picture category. “Grey’s Anatomy” took the producing award in drama TV and “The Office” in comedy TV. “Elizabeth I” from HBO took longform television and “Real Time with Bill Maher” took the honors for Variety Television.

Perhaps the most unusual win of a category was for the producers of “60 Minutes” who won for Non-Fiction television. Not an unusual outcome for such a prestigious, excellent show, but the other nominees were all what’s erroneously called reality TV: American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Amazing Race 9 and Project Runway. Somehow, it seems like they shouldn’t be sharing the same category.

The Milestone Award was given to President and CEO of NBC Universal Studios, Ron Meyer and the Vanguard Award for new media and technology went to Will Wright, who created the game Sim City.

This year’s achievement award in motion pictures went to the husband and wife longtime producing partnership of Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher who gave us such movies as “Working Girl,” “Gladiator,” “Stuart Little,” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

And now the producers of winners and nominees look forward to the other awards events of the season to see which actors, directors, and writers of their beloved projects will also be recognized.

An Eighth Reposting from “Fireside Chats from Hollywood” blog at TVGuide.com January 16, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Entertainment, Star Wars.
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It kills me that TVGuide.com eliminated their Community section without regard to what we posted there.  With the help of a friend, I’ve recovered some of mine that was posted in my Fireside Chats from Hollywood blog:

George Lucas Admits He Prefers TV
This astonishing admission came at a tribute to him put on by the Museum of Television and Radio as part of their annual William S. Paley Television Festival, which is in full swing for the first two weeks of March in Los Angeles.

PaleyFest is one of my favorite times of the year and I try to go to as many events as time and work commitments will allow. The museum was founded in New York in 1975 by William S. Paley, the man behind CBS who took a group of local stations and created a network empire, which allowed them to collectively pay for better talent and programming than individual stations could afford. Starting in radio, Paley was one of major pioneers in the brand new television medium. With his love of entertainment and advertising, he wished to see the best of radio and television preserved and celebrated. If you go to the Museum in New York or Los Angeles, you can watch episodes of shows from the early years of TV all the way to today.

So in conjunction with that mission of preservation and celebration, the museum has, for the last 24 years, been hosting a two-week celebration of the best and most innovative series of the current year as well as a peek back into yesterday. They bring together in a theater the cast and creative teams of these selected series with the audience who watches their shows. It’s always an interesting mix of fans, many from the entertainment industry itself and the rest from the general public. In previous years, I’ve gotten to meet and hear the creative teams and casts of Boston Legal, Desperate Housewives, Lost, Supernatural, Star Trek, MacGyver, New York Undercover, The Practice, and too many more to name. And I was able to be there when a show I worked on, Joan of Arcadia, was honored.

In addition, they set aside an evening or two to honor the individuals who have made lasting contributions to entertainment. In previous years, people like William Shatner, Garry Shandling, and Carol Burnett sat on that hot seat. This year was a special treat to be honoring George Lucas, who came dressed casually in black jacket, plaid shirt, and jeans.

First, your appetite is whetted by an excerpt in the same or similar genre, taken from the museum’s archives. Tonight’s offering was from Saturday Night Live: a spoof of the 20-year anniversary of the original Star Wars screen tests/auditions. Anyone who has seen this segment on SNL knows how hilarious it is. You have Kevin Spacey pretending to be Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo, Walter Matthau auditioning for Obi Wan and Jack Lemmon auditioning for Chewbacca. You have Darrell Hammond pretending to be Richard Dreyfus screen-testing for C3P0, Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds for Darth Vader, and Ana Gasteyer as Barbra Streisand for Leia. My favorite line was Walken’s Lemmon as Chewbacca, “You had me come all the way from Beverly Hills to play a f’king space ape?”

The Museum’s president, Pat Mitchell, introduced George Lucas to a standing ovation. Then came what shouldn’t have been the biggest surprise of the night to me, but was: she said that since they were the Museum of Television and Radio, they were going to discuss The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. This made a lot of sense, but it isn’t what I think of when I think of George Lucas.

The next part of the program is usually screening an episode. However, in this case, we watched excerpts from 11 of the 44 episodes of this Emmy-award winning series (12 Emmys in total). Lucas described his series as “fanciful encounters with historical figures”, where the hero, Indy, “could not be a key player” for that would affect history. He could become friends with the historical figures and have conversations, but ultimately he had to be the proverbial “fly on the wall” when the significant events happened. Still, Lucas took pride in making the historical encounters as accurate as possible.

Through the eyes of Indy, we got to know such notables as TH Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, Woodrow Wilson, Prince Faisal, George Gershwin, and Lenin. It reminded me of the brilliant 1977 TV series, Meeting of Minds, done by the late Steve Allen and his wife Jayne Meadows, except that instead of sitting around the table talking, we’re taken to exotic locations with lots of special effects. My favorite excerpt was the one on the Mexican revolution. Indy tries to explain to a peasant who has had his chickens taken by the army for food that the army is there to help him, to free him, to make his life better. But all the peasant can see is that the soldiers stole his chickens, as every army before them have done. The more Indy tries to defend the army he’s traveling with, the less the peasant buys it, saying, “They all steal your chickens. Only the name of the man who steals your chickens changes.”

Because Lucas chose to represent two time periods in young Indiana’s life — 10 years old and the 16-20 years — he felt it filled in the blanks for film Indy’s background. He is planning to put the series out on DVD with two episodes combined together for 90-minute specials which will have added documentary commentaries about the real historical people portrayed in the episodes. To this end, he admits that he is spending more money on enhancing the original 16mm film than he did on producing the series.

He talked extensively about the writing and the producing of the series, but for space restraints here, I’ll save that for my more industry-related blog, CAT Scratchings, which you can access at http://www.dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/ if you wish. The post should be up shortly.

“It’s never how good you are,” Lucas reminded us, “it’s how good you are under circumstances. There are always circumstances.” Because he shot on locations throughout the world, those circumstances included shooting through earthquakes, around a car blowing up, and under the protection of the Turkish army. They had a boat capsize in a river with alligators and had to deal with the frightful moments of having their star, Sean Patrick Flannery, surrounded by alligators. They also could hear the near-by bombing of the Gulf War. But perseverance is the key to everything.

And now for the answer you’ve been waiting for… why George Lucas said he likes doing TV more than films. There’s enormous stress in doing movies… only 10% break even and only 1% of them make money, he said. “You are staking everything on it – three years of your life. Whereas in television, if one show doesn’t work, you go on to the next one – it’s a week later.”

Of course, he also acknowledged that he loves doing TV under the conditions he has: which is no interference. That is something most of us would point out only comes to a man of his stature.

On the horizon is bringing Star Wars to TV. He is working on an animated series on the Clone Wars, the viability of which he tested in five-minute segments on the Cartoon Network. He said the best thing about doing episodic animation is that he doesn’t need to do the Skywalker story – there were many other things going on during the Clone Wars. For example, he has one episode that only has storm troopers in it.

Lucas also has a live action series planned, but it is still a few years away. He was vague on the details, saying that a show would split into four stories – one for each character, but he doesn’t know yet which characters that would be.

It was a great evening which ended in fans rushing the stage to get their programs autographed. The DGA theater is not really set up for that, so people were crushing each other in the small space between stage and first seats, but George was gracious enough to sign as many items as he could reach. At events where the whole cast and creative team are present, fans often get a moment to talk to their favorites, but with only George there, the best he could do was sign as many programs as he could. This, of course, is not part of the event, so it is an added treat when the guest is willing to do it.

My next PaleyFest adventure will be the Heroes panel on March 10th. I wish I could do all of them, but my work commitments won’t allow it this year. I’m hoping that this write-up will inspire others to share their experiences with the other series panels because they are all worthwhile shows and I watch many of them.

A Seventh Reposting from “Fireside Chats from Hollywood” blog at TVGuide.com January 16, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Entertainment, Heroes.
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It kills me that TVGuide.com eliminated their Community section without regard to what we posted there.  With the help of a friend, I’ve recovered some of mine that was posted in my Fireside Chats from Hollywood blog:

HEROES: The Fluke of the Wrong Guy Walking In Can Change Everything
This startling revelation was made by Tim Kring, Creator and Executive Producer, at the Paley Festival tribute to his NBC hit show Heroes last Saturday night, March 10, 2007. It was a packed, sold-out house at the DGA, with something I’ve never seen before at one of these events: a standby line. The shows being honored usually acquire a block of seats so that their crew and creative staff not on stage can huddle together and share in the festivities. For some reason (maybe late filming or weekend exhaustion), a number of these seats were unoccupied by the time the panel started. Hence, a group of lucky standbys were able to get primo seats in the front for what turned out to be a fun and laughter-filled event.

“The fluke of the wrong guy walking in” was Tim’s response to Sendhil Ramamurthy describing his audition for Mohinder Suresh. Sendhil explained that as soon as he saw the character was supposed to be 55-60, he thought he was wrong for the role. Tim nodded at this, interjecting that that character later became his father. Sendhil said he thought they were bringing him in for a giggle, but he went anyway.

At that point, Tim picked up the conversation and elaborated, “That’s what happens sometimes. Fascinating casting comes in and changes the whole dynamic of the role.” He immediately saw the potential for the father-son story, the search for his father’s killer, and the whole mythology that now surrounds that story. Sendhil’s audition sparked in Tim the idea to explore the relationship between the son and the dead father and added a hitherto unforeseen storyline that may have never seen the light of day if Sendhil had not braved that ‘giggle’.

Sendhil was not the only one who had had that ‘wrong for the role’ feeling. Leonard Roberts admitted that the description written for Hawkins was: big, big, big. But he really got into the emotion of the character and felt for his situation with his kid. That he was all wrong for the role was accentuated when he walked into the holding area and all the others were physically big guys. Still, he just did his interpretation and obviously Tim liked it better than what he had originally imagined.

Greg Grunberg did them one better – he lobbied for the wrong role. He had done a pilot for NBC, which didn’t work out. The role of Matt Parkman didn’t exist at the time, but the script captivated him. “I’d known director David Semel from before and called him up and told him I’d be the perfect Peter.” Semel told him that not only wasn’t he the perfect Peter, but he couldn’t be more wrong for the role. Tim jumped in at this point and explained that neither of them knew he was writing this other role, which turned out to be perfect for Greg. When Tim said this, Greg turned to him and joked, “You were thinking of Matt Dillon and said, why not go better-looking?”

Ali Larter said the original description fit her perfectly: an Internet surfer with a heart. Except the role changed on her. In the pilot, there was just one complicated woman, Niki, not two characters and she loved the idea of playing a different kind of woman than she had up until then. How different it became was a surprise to her. When asked how hard it was to play two characters, Ali said she felt she could really put herself out there because the writers protect her. “It’s freeing to know that if it doesn’t work, it won’t end up on the air.”

When they wanted somebody for Hiro who could speak fluent Japanese, was humorous, and who had experience in American TV, Masi Oka thought this was such a minor niche that if not this role, what role would there be for him? So he did his audition in Japanese, saying anything he could think of.

To add to the milieu of unexpected casting, Milo Ventimiglia then claimed he was the last person they had seen and teased that they had run out of options by the time they came to him. Tim explained that both Milo and Adrian Pasdar auditioned late in the process because the brother dynamic was extremely important. To which Milo added that he had been tied up at another studio at the time, so by the time he became free, he was the last actor to be seen. “Nobody else to go to,” he teased.

Many creators/executive producers talk about being open-minded in terms of casting and open to what actors bring to the roles, but here is actual proof that Tim Kring lives this way. That when he talks of character interaction being an organic process, of how the chemistry between characters has to be fluid, and the wisdom of going with what the actors give you even if it plays differently than you originally were looking for, you know he speaks with sincerity. That he really is open to seeing things differently when opportunities for better choices arise.

There’s a more traditional way to unexpected series regular status and that’s the route Jack Coleman found himself on: he just did a great job with his guest role. When Jack said there was less pressure and less procedure in his audition because he was only up for a guest role, Tim made sure that everyone understood that the results were a testament to Jack. Tim elaborated that this sometimes happens when “you have an actor who shows up really big on screen and gives you possibilities to write for.” To which Jack humbly replied he was grateful that the writers started writing for him.

As you can see from this one small discussion point, there were far more actors than you usually have on stage for a panel discussion. One of the things I like about the Paley Festival is that you usually get a mixture of actors and creative team. You usually get to hear from the guys who are rarely in the limelight but who are the most responsible for what you see on the show. But with eleven actors and Tim fielding questions, it was understandably impossible to hear from anyone else. And I missed that.

So that this doesn’t get to be too unwieldy, I’ll mention only one more cool question and save the rest for CAT Scratchings, which is a blog of some of my adventures in the Industry when I have time to write them (http://dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/). Tim was asked if he was familiar with comic books and if he had modeled his characters’ powers after those found in comic books.

Tim’s answer was enlightening. He said that he came at the powers from the character’s needs. In other words, he thought of the character first, then stumbled around until he found a power that suited that character. An example of how he backed into the powers choice is Niki. For her, he wanted a character of a single mom, stretched very thin, who was trying to be in two places at the same time… from this beginning, he got the doppelganger idea. On the other hand, Hiro is trapped in a life not of his own desire. Not only trapped, but confined in a small space – his cubicle. Hence, Tim thought a neat power for Hiro would be to transport himself out of that. Thus, each character’s power comes from what the character needs or wants.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of chuckles and the panel segment flew by very fast. I think some people were able to get autographs and pictures afterwards, but a couple of the writers on the show are old acquaintances and I stopped to chat with them. Hence, the above photo is just a quick flash from where I was to remind myself I was there.

For those of you who are wondering what episode they showed before the panel, it was episode 9 — “Homecoming” with a teaser scene from episode 19. Five new episodes start airing April 23rd.

And now I have a question for those of you who are far more familiar with the series than I am. Someone asked a question about a college drinking game, which the panelists said was started by their prop guys. Something about how often Peter moves his hair behind his ear, how often Hiro pushes up his glasses, and how often Suresh says ‘my father’s research’. Can anybody tell me what that’s all about?