IR Print Interview: Jim Parsons For “Young Sheldon” [WBTV Studio Day – TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]

Imparting knowledge and passing on the possibilities in an interesting exercise when the character you play on a major international TV show is that of Sheldon Cooper, played with finesse and specific approach by Emmy winner Jim Parsons. Visiting the set of “Young Sheldon” as part of the Warner Brother TV Day at Warner Brothers Studios during the TCA Winter Tour 2018, Jim sat down to talk about the evolution of the character, his perceptions and the living on of Sheldon’s legacy.

Your understanding of Sheldon has evolved over the years including unforseen aspects of compassion. Can you talk about that?

Jim Parsons: Well, what’s interesting to me is — and again, why I’m not a writer is because I don’t see things like this. But what they touched on, how we’re seeing, of course, [in this show] is how Sheldon evolves into who we know him to be on the adult older show. And I made a joke with [the younger actor], “Eventually you’ll get to be more irritating,” I said today to him. But it’s really kind of the truth about it. It’s like we’re going to see the slings and arrows – I’m sorry – of life and just growing turn him into even more of the person I’m playing. I don’t know. It’s interesting.

And yet there is more a transformation as the older Sheldon has become engaged…

JP: I do agree with that. I think that it’s one of the journeys they’ve really worked to take him on. We’ve had several different episodes, it feels like, where Amy is coaching him in the ways of being empathetic — we’re working on an episode right now, not to give anything away, where he realizes that she doesn’t do certain things that she wants to do because she knows how he’ll react to it. And he doesn’t like it. And so he begins — it’s another example — he starts trying to work on not complaining about what she wants. It lasts for a couple of pages (laughing) I’ll be honest, as an actor, I really thank God for it because it’s one of the fences that they straddle so well as writers is keeping everything true enough to keep the audience there, but moving it along enough to keep everybody working on it interested, I think including themselves. It’s a major gift and the longer we’ve gone on our show, the more evident that’s become.

Now the overarching journey, especially with your — Sheldon’s relationship with his mother in “Young Sheldon” — I mean, obviously that affects how you relate in present time

JP: Well, I feel like, if I’m being honest, the writers keep doing the thinking about it. So not to sound like…

But you inhabit him.

JP: Without a doubt. But so much of the inhabiting process for me is just saying the words out loud in rehearsal. And once you’ve done that, how IT makes you feel to say it, how it affects the person that you’re saying it to…that kind of instructs it along. And I also will say, I’ve tried to be — I don’t overthink this, but I have always tried to be very conscious of — it’s kind of what they teach you in acting 101 — don’t judge your character or whatever. I try to leave myself enough at the whims of him to be able to do kind of a 180 from one script to the next if it’s just not that happening in that week or whatever the mood is that Sheldon’s in. I don’t know. At the same time, I guess, I’m not thinking about it too much.

So they’ve talked about writing the end of the show. Can you see going several more seasons?

JP: I think anything is possible. But that’s the thing. I just think anything in thisv– it’s getting into really odd territory as far as less and less examples [of places] to go. “Well, they did this. And there’s this other show did this.” It’s really getting into a very individual state of how does everybody feel and whatever. And that includes the writers, who we’ve not had some major discussions with. There hasn’t been a cast and producer discussion about the future of our show or whatever. I will tell you that, for whatever reason, they’ve all been enjoyable seasons. But as far as camaraderie goes, the frivolity on the set, and just the jovial atmosphere has never been at a more pitch degree than it is this season. And I don’t know if that’s because they’re always like, “I think the end is near”. Or just because it’s uncertain now where we’ve gone through so many seasons, we’ve been lucky enough to just know certainly what’s going on.” But I don’t know. I think it’s related to some sort of appreciation of each other that you were able — kind of like family — to just kind of take it for granted that they’re going to be there next week. They’re going to be there. And now the weeks are might be getting short. You just don’t know. So because of that, I could see making things go further. It’s really hard to say. And there’s so many people making their own decisions and all.

How has your appreciation for TV evolved?

JP: Well, you know what’s funny is the day and age we are in I feel is, in a good way, overwhelming. I think we’re in a wonderful time in the entertainment industry in general as far as everything goes. But it’s still so in flux, and changing, and moving, and growing. Just the sheer amount of options is just– it’ll be really interesting to see because you can’t help to feel like everything is still evolving.

How much time do you spend on doing the voice-over for the show?

JP: Very little. I can do anywhere from three to seven episodes in a 45-minute period. I mean, even on a heavy episode. What I enjoy about this process [is that] it’s different version of using timing and a different version of putting a pause here or whatever there that will make it funnier, hopefully, or just change it. And when it’s not timed to visual, it’s just less of that.

Can you talk about imparting appreciation to Ian? So he knows sort of what to expect in terms of the impact of Sheldon as a character. You’ve said that you’ve sort of guided him. But how do you maintain that sort of mentorship?

JP: Well, if it’s happening at all, it’s happening as organically as it can, and it’s happening a lot through his mother. Lee Armitage, his mother, and I, we are usually texting and incontact with each other a bit, like quite frequently and not for a pointed purpose. We just enjoy talking. But as you do with relationships, the specific questions get snuck in, not snuck in, but they just come up. Like, “Have you ever been to one of these events before?” And so it just happens very organically like that. There’s no real preparing for anybody for some of the more, oh God, recognizable type aspects of this and the celebrity of it or whatever, just the being noticed. Any preparation, especially with young people, and really, for adults, too, has to happen before. And, in these kids’ cases, they really do have a remarkable set of parents. They’re all different. They’re all unique.

Does that allow the kids to be naturalistic, do you think, in their acting? Or does it have to be nuanced?

JP: I don’t know if that’s a direct relation, but I do, now that you say that, I have to think that, yes, none of them have a kind of like – I don’t know – squeaky little cutesy thing that they came in doing. They all just kind of, as the adult actors do, read the material, say it, and see where it goes.

But as creator Chuck Lorre has, you found the way to make somebody like Sheldon so likable despite some of his characteristics. There’s an art to that.

JP: Well, I think, though, that it’s partly, too, a point of view that a lot of actors come in with to varying degrees and is, in their own special way, seeing what is redeemable about my character? Because coming into it with over-obvious assumption, of course, that my character doesn’t want to do harm. Of course, my character wants other people to like him or her in one way or another. And when you kind of approach it through that, I think that’s really the way around in how things are, if not softened, the audience can be able to identify in like, “I’m a good person, and I say nasty things sometimes!” (laughing). I don’t know.

By Tim Wassberg

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IR Exclusive Print Interview: Peter Giraldi Of Blue Ribbon Content [WBTV Studio Day – TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]

The aspect of the diversifying element of digital and conventional is a continuing discussion that permeates both the marketing but also the creative and production ends of new material. Peter Giraldi, who serves as Executive VP, both of Blue Ribbon Content, Warner Brothers’ digital platform, as well as Alternative Programming at Warner Animation, has a unique perspective in both looking at the tastes of millennials and older but also to the new consumers presently consuming digital entertainment. Giraldi spoke with Inside Reel at the WBTV Studio Day at the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California about evolution, creative decision making and instinct.

We spoke before about animation and how animation feels. Can you talk about the different ideas and styles of how that fits into the bigger idea of what Blue Ribbon versus Warner Animation proper which has evolved from its shorts beginnings.

Peter Giraldi: That’s right. I split my time between Blue Ribbon and Warner Bros. animation, so a lot of what I do is still in the animated world, and I took that with me. Both Sam Register and I took that with us when we started Blue Ribbon. It is important. The thing is that animation is very expensive when it’s done well, and it’s all super long production time. So part of the thing that we’re doing is trying to figure out new methodologies, new partners to kind of condense that. Not the quality, but the — maybe it’s paperless animation, maybe it’s digital, maybe we’re doing more stuff in Harmony or a program like that, so we can condense that a little bit.

Does itcome down to the timeframe of it? Where you got 5 minutes first in terms of lenth, 10 minutes. You’ve got everything from Samurai Jack back to Teen Titans Go!.

PG: Yes, for sure. And I’m comfortable in the short form in between 7 and 11 minutes. I do a lot of stuff for Adult Swim, and those are quarter-hour formats. It’s more about, first of all, what the story is. Secondly, what that vision is, the art direction or the creative direction of whatever it is, and how you get that across, with the budget and the runtime. Is it very stylized, is there a lot of held frames, is there a lot of motion graphic trickery? Or is it full-on just drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing. There’s two different ways. We did a show called Ginger Snaps — it was on ABC digital– actually Ashley Simpson does the voice for that, but it’s a young writer named Sono Patel. And for that we used — we were very smart – we used an animation facility in New Zealand because it worked for us. We missed no turnaround time. Because by the time we got in in the morning, all the shots were ready for us to look at [from the day before], and that really condensed the budget for us. So, because of my experience in animation, I can look into it a little bit and understand the pre-pro and how to work it out for the budget.

How active are you guys in development? In going after, taking those meetings, finding those new voices…

PG: Very active. A lot of times, it’s like, how do we take what they’re doing and — maybe it doesn’t need anything from us. We just give them our support and let them keep doing what they’re doing. Sometimes, they want to learn more and elevate a little bit, so we bring some more “traditional” talent into the party. Or sometimes they actually say, “You know what, I’m done. Can I mess around with the Hair Bears or Snagglepuss?” Sometimes what helps attract talent as well, isnot us pushing…it’s people coming to us and saying, “I’ve been a Huckleberry Hound fan my whole life.” It’s like, “Well, come on over.” And to be open to able to try new things with it…within reason.

I was able to see Killing Joke finally, but I saw it Joke on my tablet. Nothing else beyond that. Can you talk about that, and talk about people consuming that way, especially animation, not just live action.

PG: I think, for animation specifically, it’s fantastic because it’s backlit — and I’m talking pure technical now — it’s a backlit medium. [So the tablet is] fantastic for animation. It’s perfect. That’s the way we create it, half the time, either on a lightbox, or a [Cintiq or something like that. It’s great, the range of color, the range of effects, the range of — and even in the pre-production of how it’s actually created — it’s great. Digital has done great things for animation. What has not done great is people thinking they don’t have to draw anymore. There’s no getting away from drawing. It takes a lot of drawings to make a lot of good animations.

We don’t want 2D to go away.

PG: That’s not where my tastes lie in CG. I’m a 2D guy. In a 3D world.

By Tim Wassberg

Dramatic Outlays & Multi-Faceted Appeal: The 2018 NBC Cable TCA Winter Press Tour

Moving into the cable structure of NBC/Universal with dramatic outlays from SyFy to USA to E! The approach is multi-faceted appealing to demographics and textures of stories that continue to diversify.

Krypton (SyFy) This anticipated series follows the angle of Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather and the challenges he must face on their home planet. Creator David Goyer explains the approach: “We do roughly have a 7-8 year plan. Everyone know Krypton blows up. But this is an untold story. As you saw from the promo there is time travel involved. It is advantageous being its own thing with its own story. Not that much is know about Kryptonian society. We play and subvert into the expectations of what Superman’s grandfather would be like.” Cameron Cuffe, who plays Seg-El talks about the challenges of the role and his approach: “I am a fan. I have always loved Superman. He has always been there. I know what that symbol means and that keeps you grounded. These roles and these symbols mean something very real. The legacy seems very far away from him when the show begins.” Goyer continues on working in story elements that are unknown but also how it relates to today: “I can say that even when [Christopher] Nolan and I were working on “Batman Begins”, [we figured out] when there is a blind spot [it can be good]. Science fiction can act as an allegory for today. We’ve got 10 hours over the stories of the first season. It may not be hard to write Superman but it is hard to cast. It is an ineffable quality. Even if it is his grandfather, it is hard to cast Superman.” In terms of finding accessibility for the audience, the creators found the point of view through another DC mainstay character: Adam Strange. Geoff Johns, CCO and President of DC Entertainment, explains that engagement: “We wanted Adam Strange to be from Michigan, He doesn’t honor the same things Superman does. One of the great things about Adam Strange is that when he travels by Zeta Beam to the other planets he becomes this hero…an unlikely hero to shoulder a burden.” But as to the essence of Seg-El as a character: “He will at least try to make the right decision. He is meant to be better than us. But he is not perfect.

Unsolved: The Murders Of Tupac & Notorious B.I.G. (USA) Doing dramatic interpretations of current events, especially ones as intrinsic as the murder of these two rap stars and the investigations thereof creates an interesting dichotomy. Exec producer Anthony Heminway, who directed “Red Tails” on the Tuskagee Airmen for Lucasfilm as well as episodes of American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson”, speaks on the approach to the story: “This is a way to really lay into the friendship [of Biggie and Tupac]. Even seeing the detectives point of view intersecting at the same point with different goals. The show really gives us this human study of what we are seeing today in our culture. It was about who [these men] could they have been today.” Marcc Rose, who plays Tupac Shakur, speaks of keying into his character: “It is just the layers of who he was. I am used to seeing the artist but behind the scenes [it is about] why he said certain things. He was filled with passion. His brother was on set [for this] and very helpful. To just be around him and also to meet Tupac’s mom before she passed [was invaluable].” Wavyy Jonez, who plays Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G., talks about his perception and engagement with the character: “This killing of Biggy and Tupac was a tragedy. But going back [if is about] what could have disconnected these two. But to go back and research and look at the friendship. Everything Biggy talks about is so yum. Coming from a single parent home and become so massive and then to lose your life.” Hemingway continues, discussing the impact of the music but the essential family stories at the core: “The music was the fun part of it. It was the soundtrack of my childhood. [But it was also] about having the opportunity of today and now. We really touch on a family story: a mother dealing with loss and watching her explore the voice and pain as well as triumph and courage.

Citizen Rose With recent take down of Harvey Weinstein and his fall from grace no one has been more crucial and outspoken than Rose McGowan having spearheaded the movement. With her new reality show on E!, the camera will explore her everyday life which continues to develop every day. Sitting in front of the press at TCA, McGowan speaks: “I scare because I care. My father said I was born with my fist up. It is not important to be seen as anything. I don’t respect those who don’t respect. My platform is really raising consciousness by 10%. The narrative that has been run by me for 20 years has been erroneous.I think it is a time of reckoning and a reset button.” As to her decision to do a show with E!: “I really like the people at E.I feel comfortable working there because I know what I’m doing.” McGowan also speaks to the current state of women in the directors chair in the entertainment industry: “You have 96% directors in the DGA [that are male]. Fix that. 3 years ago when I was preparing for this show. I realized that I could not speak on camera without a script. I have trained the past 3 years to exist just as me. It is sometimes not pretty. It is raw and it is my truth. This is my form of volunteer work. [But] the terms are different this time. I was waiting so long for this guys. I don’t have a lot of trust. I am down with calling this “reality”…this is mine. It is not an accident that I am sitting here. I fought for this.” Speaking to her continuing activism. McGowan continues: “It is about freeing your mind. I wanted to be like Gertrude Stein and have a discussion with the world. “Rose Army” I trademarked 3 years ago in all forms. What it can do is eventually exert force. I know a lot of things so people think I make pronouncements.” She also speaks of dispelling myths but also the continued struggle: “I never signed an NDA. That is a mistake the press made. We have [also] found out a lot of them can be broken. [That said] I am having to sell my house to pay off legal bills to fight the monster.

WWE RAW 25th Anniversary Wrestling is and continues to be a major draw despite any other sports criticism of it. The mix of persona and physicality is undeniable. Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Office of World Wrestling Entertainment, explains the power that this kind of sport provides: “We are more socially engaging than “Game Of Thrones.” This being the 25th Anniversary edition, the essence is on the moments of history that stand out. The Miz, one of the biggest draws of RAW, speaks on his memory: “Everytime I come out into the arena with 20,000 people saying “You Suck”. There is no better feeling in knowing with an audience that you have them.” McMahon believes in the progressive nature of the sport finally coming full circle: “In terms of real, one of my most memorable raw moments was a couple weeks ago, when I came out and surprise all the women in the ring when I was able to announce the All Women Royal Rumble match.” Retired WWE wrestler Sean Michael concludes the thought and infers the texture of his experience: “The most important thing here is the relationships. I am the only guy to be able to look at this in the rear view mirror. Taking a lot of it in and even though it is the silly WWE wrestling business, we are thankful to have it.

By Tim Wassberg

IR Print Interview: Michael Rauch (Showrunner) For “Instinct” [CBS – CBS TCA Winter Press Tour]

Having spent many years exploring the nooks, crevices and beauty of The Hamptons on “Royal Pains”, showrunner Michael Rauch heads towards the city and network with his follow up series “Instinct” on CBS starring Alan Cumming. After completely a panel for his new series with his actors at the CBS TCA Winter Press Day, Rauch spoke with The Inside Reel about tone, the building process and the allure of New York City.

Can you talk about the perspective of “Instinct” as a series?

Michael Rauch: [It is all things] combined, both nature and nurture, [and for the lead character] it formed a very specific type of way of looking at the world. What we talk about in the pilot is abnormal behaviors and, for him, he felt abnormal as a child and gradually as he got older realized that who gets to define what’s normal and what’s abnormal? That maybe being abnormal is actually normal and that’s not a stigma. That’s a big part of his way of looking at the world and, hopefully, for people who watch the show, the same thing which is that just because society defines you in a certain way doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It’s much less than, say, Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock where you really feel like that guy could be on meds — we don’t go into it that much although, I’d love to have the success of that show.

You described “Instinct” as a little show, but you’re a procedural on CBS.

MR: I’ll tell you, from my own personal viewpoint, the shows I’ve done have always been underdogs. They’ve always been smaller shows. So, we are on CBS. I know the beauty, the power, and the pressure of that. At the same time, we’re a mid-season show, we’re not called S.W.A.T. or S.E.A.L. team. As much as people love Alan, I don’t think he has the recognition that say a David Borealis –- who is amazing –- does, or Shemar Moore. These are guys who bring a giant audience. We’re also a little show because we have a gay male lead which I think is very non-mainstream. So I think that there are a lot of things, not against the show, but [some that] don’t necessarily make it easy to promote. It’s a light, hopefully, funny procedural. But that’s the type of thing that on CBS there isn’t a lot of. I think that in terms of the shows that are easy to kind of put forward [are done] just by a title — again, like a S.W.A.T. We don’t have that. We don’t have people driving hummers and mowing down people. So all the things that feel traditionally like CBS procedural meat and potatoes, this has a lot of more peculiar things going for it. That’s part of why we’re mid-season, and more of a character show. I think always the odds are against a show like that.

What was CBS’ reaction to having a show with a male gay lead?

MR: Incredibly supportive. I think it’s a big reason why they bought the pitch. My whole thing from the beginning, and I talked about it with Alan before we both signed on was, even though this is a gay male lead, the show is not about that. That’s number five or six about what makes this guy who he is. And this isn’t a show about gay marriage. It’s not a show about being a gay detective. We really don’t deal with the obstacles much in season one. If we’re lucky enough to have longevity, we’ll get into it and we want to be authentic to it, but it’s more just a piece, an element of the show as opposed to this is what the show is about.

Can you discuss themes of ambition too because with “Royal Pains”, the doctor there wanted to balance the lives that he had as well. Could you talk about that and the aspect of ambition within Alan’s character, but how that’s sort of reflective of “Royal Pains”?

MR: Absolutely. I think ambition is such an interesting thing because we all have our own independent ambition, we have a societal ambition and sometimes they get out of whack. So one of the conflicts for Alan’s character, for Dillon, is that he went into the CIA to please his father. Little did he know that he had his father’s genius for being an operative. It was a surprise to him and a surprise to his father, and it is the thing that drives him. At the same time, Dillon met his husband, fell in love, and his partner basically said, “If you want to live that life, I can’t be with you. Because I don’t want to be with someone who I’m going to wonder, “Are they coming home or not every day.” And so, Dillon said, “Great. I’ll quit.” And then little did he know that he misses that ambition. He needs that. He needs to fight evil. He needs to make the world a better place. So he’s in the situation where the thing he needs most is in direct conflict with the person he needs most. So it’s an ambition to be a successful partner in a relationship versus an ambition to what drives him and satisfying that. Yeah.

Could you talk about the tonal aspect? With “Royal Pains”, you guys were able to do a little bit of slapstick and then it got real dark.

MR: I love “Royal Pains” and when we first started that show, we started as a much darker show. It was very important to me and to us for it to be a show that made you feel better. I think that was a big part of its success. And I think that there’s so much great television out there that is dark, and anti-hero, and apocalyptic. I feel like there’s not a lot of TV out there that you can go along for a ride – either watch with your kids or just feel good about the world when you dine. “Royal Pains” was something that we really tried to do that with. Even though we had dark stories sometimes, we tried to balance it with humor and with character, with a humanity, and characters that you cared about. And it’s very similar in this which is we have darkness, hopefully not too much darkness. We have snakes. We obviously have murders. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never killed anyone before on a show…it’s really weird.

Even on “Royal Pains”?

MR: People died, but no one was murdered on “Royal Pains”, but people died. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility to do that kind of show. There’s a scene in the pilot which I think they showed in one of the promos where Alan and Boyan is standing over a dead body. A guy had been stabbed 52 times and you see all the stab wounds, but they haven’t bagged her yet. To me that scene works and yet it was a challenge. I felt a lot of pressure, we felt a lot of pressure making it because these two people are in front of each other – over a corpse. So, if it doesn’t work then the show doesn’t work, but I think the scene worked. I think that scene, in a way, is a microcosm of what we’re trying to in the show which is balance, crime, and stakes with being able to have fun at the same time.

Did you have to workshop Dillon as a character in order to get it right? 

MR: Marc Webb directed the pilot and he’s a terrific director. And Marc and I, and Alan and Bojana had a six-hour rehearsal one day in Marc’s apartment. And that just got everything to click.

What about your table read?

MR: For the network, for the network president, everyone there – everyone is nervous and terrified. No one is moving back and forth. No one is creating any dialogue together. And all of a sudden everyone is saying the words out loud.

Was there a turnkey moment in the pilot? Or during the reading?

MR: I wanted to basically jump out a window after that table read because it was horrible. Because I hadn’t worked with any of the actors. They’re nervous, everyone is doing it in their accents. Alan is playing an American. Bojana is playing an American. They all have accents. The only one with an accent too hard to use is Naveen. So, it was just like Frankenstein’s monster and horrendous. Then we had a cast dinner afterward and I was thinking about how quickly my career would end after we shot the pilot. Then we started rehearsals. Once we were able to really talk about the characters together, Alan ran upon their rhythm.

The locations you guys had in The Hamptons when you shot “Royal Pains” were just amazing. But in New York City, you have to have those individual, very identifiable things. Can you talk about New York City as a character, and how that integrates into the elements of story?

MR: That’s a really good question, because we actually hired the same location person – his name’s Mike Fucci – who did Royal Pains. He has done the pilot and the series so far, the first season, for “Instinct”. He understands, as he did in “Royal Pains”, that, even though things look very similar, from episode to episode, they also have to be different. I was born in Manhattan. I’ve grown up in New York my whole life. We’ve shot on every borough, and we will continue to, so that we don’t just see the Sex and the City New York. We see the Bronx. We’ve shot in the Bronx a couple of times. We see Brooklyn, or stages of Brooklyn. We’ve shot in Queens, Staten Island.

Is there any locations that you can talk about that you really enjoyed on this one?

MR: My favorite location, we just did the finale there. We were in Long Island City on the East River, facing the Manhattan skyline, on the other side of Roosevelt Island. And just being able to have the background — I mean, my favorite building in Manhattan is the Chrysler Building. So, having the Chrysler Building, and the UN, and the Empire State Building as a backdrop…you can’t replicate that anywhere in the world. It’s the most iconic thing. But, honestly, being anywhere in New York, you feel the texture and the energy of the city. And, although our tone is slightly elevated –- we’re not going to show graffiti, we’re not going to show some of the filth that’s there –- but, at the same time, we really want to let New York be a character in the show.

By Tim Wassberg

Enlightened Perspectives: The 2018 CBS & CW TCA Winter Press Tour

Heading into CBS & CW Days for the 2018 TCA Winter Press Tour, each of the series has their own strengths straddling different elements of genre and tone from a sense of perception and perspective allowing for both enhanced conversation as well as the necessity of questions.

Instinct In what is described as a “light procedural”, this fusion of drama and sardonic humor follows a serial killer with an openly gay lead in the form of Alan Cumming as Dr. Dylan Reinhart. Speaking of the character, Cumming says: “It is a co-founding character. He is a fuddy duddy professor. He drives a motorbike. He is a little on the spectrum. There is a lot going on. In terms of the marriage in the show, I was also very conscious. [I think] when we see gay characters on American television, their gayness is the prime thing.” He continues that on this show, this is the 6th or 7th most interesting thing as a state of normalcy. In terms of the costumes informing the performance, Cumming states: “Contemporary costume designers don’t get the credit they deserve. The clothes [Reinhart] wears are not really my taste or my type. But I love dressing. It helps me get into that character.” As far as physical action in a character, he continues: “In the show I sometimes do open up a can of whoop ass. What’s funny about stunt people is that they are inflated versions of you. My punching stunt double looks like my body type except that he is 30 years younger than me.” Finally, in speaking about the motivation of the character: “He is trying to make his father happy. His father was a big CIA guy.

Living Biblically This show involving the search for relevance by a film critic forming a “God Squad” combines story and comedy in an interesting way. Johnny Galecki, known widely as “Leonard” on “The Big Bang Theory” is an exec producer on the show and says making the show was close to his heart. Describing its inception and bringing it to the screen, Galecki states: “One of the biggest hurdles is to have the conversation. We don’t often talk about it. 25% [of all Bibles] are bought in the US but I don’t see anybody at a Starbucks reading one.” Galecki continues talking about the balance of their approach: “The best way to approach a conversation people are uncomfortable with is with comedy. When I started my production company, it was #1 at the top of the list to do a series about religion. My mother spent many years in the convent before she met my father.. There were a lot of elements of Catholicism [in my upbringing] but it turned into a more hippie version.” As far as challenges in this type of subject matter, he continues: “The biggest danger we want to avoid is to have a specific agenda based on our personal beliefs. I think it is very timely. But I wouldn’t presume to think that any television show could answer [these types of] personal questions but that is OK to have questions.

Black Lightning The essence of a black superhero inclusive of Black Panther comes to the small screen within this new series that approaches the conflicts in a more localized basis. Showrunner Salim Akil explains the initial structure, saying: “When I started this, Jefferson is already a community based superhero. It allowed me to talk about things that were personal to me. We have a predominantly African American writing staff but the BS is that we have people who have lived this life.” Moving along in this idea of making a black urban superhero, Akil continues: “The great thing is that Warner Brothers allowed us to create our own world. We wanted people to know this family before we branched out. We are dealing with a world as real as we can do it. You have a superhero with a girl in cornrows. It is that 10 year cycle thing. We hot now. Black people…we have gone in and out of movies. I don’t know if we have turned that corner but we have damn sure straightened out the curve.” Another aspect is the balance of finding ways to both explore character function and reaction. Akil explains: “There are different ways to get your message out there where you don’t have to ask. When Cress [Williams (as Black Lightning)] started saying the words, he was the better part of me. I could see a reflection of what I hoped to be…the way he carried him. That is what got it for me. I also wanted Jefferson [Pierce] (Black Lightning’s civilian alter ego) to have a lady in his life early on in the show. There was a moment where he would kiss this woman…and I fought for that. Literally when I saw him kiss the woman, I was like…that can’t happen. It just can’t. When I saw it I was almost embarrassed that I made his character do that, But he is a man in the framework of the show. And Cress brought that.

By Tim Wassberg

Content Diversity & Character Importance: The 2018 Showtime TCA Winter Press Tour

Diversity of content and of character has always been of paramount importance with the Showtime structure which is definitively reflected in their highlights for their Winter TCA presentations.

Our Cartoon President This animated romp from Stephen Colbert balances from his main gig on “The Late Show” but he speaks to the inherent challenges of both endeavors. The first has to do with the constantly changing aspects of the Trump administration: “Many a day [at The Late Show] at 5:15…no shit…we have to throw out 10 minutes of monologue.” But that said he says the approach for the animation is an interesting one: “[It is] the relationships you imagine they have animated. I think Michael Wolff [in his book] stole all 10 of our episodes…and we just guessed. We treat this series like a documentary crew came into The White House.” The irony of the current political climate shows how fluid the changes can be. Colbert explains: “In a pinch, tomorrow’s show could have a cold open on how Trump is a very stable genius.” (laughing) But he is quick to point out that Trump’s behavior shouldn’t be considered normal: “I don’t think we are complimenting him by making a cartoon out of him. I don’t think there is anything normal about his behavior. While we are doing comedy, we remind [the audience] that this is the kind of behavior you don’t want in The White House.” Despite this, Colbert realizes the comic potential: “The great benefit comedically is how uncontrolled his communication with the world is. However I love my country more than I love a good joke. He does it so often that you always have fresh material. I don’t want to hang out with him but he is the President of the United States. I go out to ‘The Late Show’ audience every night and we have this shared catharsis to laugh at. It is not jokes about what he did. It is character comedy.” Colbert also speaks to the difference in tone with his former home: “The Colbert Report”: “It is totally different vibe. ‘The Late Show’ is easier than the old gig. This guy is very different. We give our opinion on what they have heard today. But it is important that I don’t break news to my audience. It is about sharing the audience’s experiences back to them with my ideas. I am their buddy. My job is to talk about the policy the audience is already worried about.

Billions This show continues to be a Machiavellian mediation on the notion of power but also the ambition and overuse of its influence. Brian Koppelman, co-creator of the show with David Levien with whom he also wrote “Ocean’s 13” & Rounders speaks on the elements of power and control: “It is about privlidge, It is about people that don’t have to. It is simply [dictated by] the societal region. [The other aspect] is about kings who want even more. We have long been fascinated about ambition which sometimes stands in for true character.” Damian Lewis, who plays eccentric billionaire Bobby Axelrod, speaks to the characters’ focal point: “A dramatic device that is being used here is about [the accumulation] of desire and want. We enjoy watching the desperation and ambiguity in these lives. In terms of these guys [in perspective of] the real world, they do good things and they do bad things. I think trajectory of any kind for an actor is interesting. People go down in this show but they come back up pretty quick. I think that buoyancy is why it is so fun to watch.

The Chi The aspect of ambition from humble beginnings resonates in Lena Waite’s tale of Chicago’s urban neighborhoods but for her it is about maintaining authenticity: “Our big thing is that I want to make [sure] people can trust us. We are making sure the actors get the lingo and the swag [right]. [Whether it is] rollerskating, block parties…there are very complex [aspects] about the city…very layered. I started with the characters first and I named them with people from my life so you always have people that you care about.” Common, who exec produces the show and is also a Chicago native, talks about the texture of hope but also reality: “Joy is finding a bright place even when it is tough. Our city is unique but it resembles other inner cities in America. As Lena says, Chicago’s roots come from the South. Our history is thick. [And] the fact that Lena wrote this is valuable. She doesn’t have to talk about anybody about what is like to be a black person. The dynamic and depth of those things has to be told by us. We have to show people of color as colorful. I like it because it is fresh. We are not fitting into any stereotype. When we talk about black life, we just part of this pie too. And part of that is having relationships with other nationalities.” Waite adds to this point describes the intricacies of the details and the relationships between the characters: “My whole house looked like ‘True Detective’ when I was figuring it out. That way I had a road map to where I wanted to go.

Patrick Melrose The essence of addiction and excess plays into the texture of this character within a privileged world but also the effect of mental illness. Made popular by a series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn, Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the title character in a 5-part limited series. Cumberbatch, speaking via satellite from Atlanta, comments on the texture of the character: “Relevance is always won by the universal truth in a story. If told, any story that is as mammoth in its spokes as this, goes beyond beyond analysis of class critique. We need to reminded about the damage that can be done to innocence.” Cumberbatch then speaks on the different layers within the character: “Paranoid schizophrenia rears its head and this is when [Patrick] is in the throws of drug addiction. These voices don’t just emulate from inside of him. Patrick is someone who has a great deal of tenderness but is a damaged human being. It is very different to play a character whose chaos is manifested all the time. The real goal is achieving truth but not to heighten yet still keep true to character. I’d always go home at the end of the day thinking ‘Did I do enough or too much.’ But then the very definition of externalizing emotions is role playing them inside a hotel on your own.

By Tim Wassberg

IR Exclusive Print Interview: Michael C. Hall For “Dexter” [CBS/CW/Showtime TCA Party]

THE INSIDE REEL’s Tim Wassberg caught up with Michael C. Hall, the star of Showtime’s seminal series “Dexter” at CBS’s TCA Party in Beverly Hills to talk about the intention of the sixth season and the incumbent element of spirituality brought forth from the new character of Professor Gellar (played by Edward James Olmos) as America’s favorite serial killer continues to brave the battle between humanity and homicide.

TIM WASSBERG: Michael…I just saw you in the indie “East 5th Bliss” which premiered at the Newport Beach International Film Festival. Can you talk about balancing the approach of the sweetness and genuine quality of your character in that kind of an independent with that of the darkness of Dexter?

MICHAEL C. HALL: I think there has to be with Dexter some sense that there is some sweetness somewhere. In “East 5th Bliss” there is an openness involved and vulnerability that Dexter doesn’t have and certainly doesn’t cultivate.

TW: And that was a conscious decision on your part?

MCH: That was just responding to the character as it existed on paper and what I felt was appropriate.

TW: Could you talk how spirituality shows a resonance but also a renaissance in Dexter as a character going into the 6th season?

MCH:  I think that the question that Dexter finds himself asking at the beginning of the 6th season is really about his son. We know that Dexter doesn’t want to pass on his dark passenger. His son is only growing older and only learning more and having more and more of an appetite. Dexter is like: “What do I want to pass on to this kid?” and that leads him to think about what kind of school he wants him to go to. It’s a Catholic school and that cracks open a door to Dexter’s awareness that those issues, while not important to him, might be to his son. At the same time, as Dexter tends to do, he attracts relationships and scenarios and cases that feed into that appetite.

 TW: Do those cracks of emotion make him an even darker character? Or more human?

 MCH: Both. (pause) I think the more human Dexter becomes, if he does in fact continue to kill, the darker he becomes, because the spectrum between the dark and light broadens, and that is sort of a tougher thing to consider in a way.

 TW: Continuing on that, perceiving an evolution of then versus now in terms of the Jeff Lindsay novels. how much did you take in relevance to Dexter as a character then and how it has expanded with the relationship with his children versus the mythology that continues to unspool within the show.

MCH: I think as far as mythology, as the show goes, it has its own mythology. Beyond the first book I haven’t read [any more] honestly because I think it would confuse me. It would be like some sort of parallel universe.

TW: But what about the initial burn in terms of the character?

MCH: I think from the pilot episode we see that Dexter has an affinity for children and a protective impulse in regards to them that is unique and initially incongruous..and it has stayed alive. It is the saving grace (chuckling) that Harrison [his son] has.

Season 6 of DEXTER premiere on Showtime October 2nd, 2011 at 9pm.

Check out the Season 6 Promo Trailer that played at TCA Summer Press Tour & Comic Con.