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David Simon interview “SHOW ME A HERO” on HBO

Oscar Isaac in "Show Me a Hero."

Oscar Isaac in “Show Me a Hero.”

David Simon is the creator of The Wire, which is often cited as the greatest television drama of all time. I wouldn’t argue with that label. His latest project is SHOW ME A HERO, a 6-hour miniseries on HBO, starring Oscar Isaac, Alfred Molina, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder and many others, directed by Paul Haggis (“Crash”) and based on the book of the same name by Lisa Belkin. It is Executive Produced by Nina K. Noble, Gail Mutrux and William F. Zorzi.

Logline: In an America generations removed from the greatest civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the young mayor of a mid-sized American city is faced with a federal court order that says he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

Q: When did you become aware of Lisa Belkin’s book? What initially struck you about it, and when did you see the potential for adapting it for the screen? Read more

Interview with Michael Patrick King on the return of “The Comeback” on HBO

Michael Patrick King and Lisa Kudrow

Michael Patrick King on set of “The Comeback” with Lisa Kudrow.

 CREATOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER MICHAEL PATRICK KING (“Sex And The City”) DISCUSSES THE RETURN OF THE HBO COMEDY SERIES THE COMEBACK

“B level” TV star Valerie Cherish was a pioneer of reality television. Now, it’s ten years later – there’s more TV than ever and the onetime sitcom star wants back in.

Q: How did the revival of THE COMEBACK come about?
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Guillermo Del Toro and Carlton Cuse Interview (The Strain)

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Guillermo Del Toro (right) and a friend

Q                                 The first episode in particular is absolutely riveting and I loved it, but can you tell me how you first got involved in this and what drew you to it?

Carlton Cuse                 I had read the first Strain novel as a fan of both Guillermo’s work, and also independently I knew Chuck Hogan, and so I was very curious to see what this collaboration would look like.  And I was just intrigued by the subject matter.  I had read the first novel when it came out in 2009 and really enjoyed it, and then basically about two years ago my agent called me up and said that there was some interest in doing The Strain as a television series and would I be interested in it. Read more

TV Drama Showrunners Panel (video)

Vince Gilligan and Matthew Weiner, TV showrunners Breaking Bad and Mad Men

Here is a fantastic roundtable interview via The Hollywood Reporter with some of the most influential TV creators out there.

  • Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom
  • Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective
  • Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad
  • Ann Biderman, Ray Donovan
  • Matthew Weiner, Mad Men
  • Carlton Cuse, Bates Motel

They cover a lot of topics, from casting movie stars to the anxiety and thrill of the writing process to dealing with social media and much more. Read more

Noah Hawley interview creator/showrunner of Fargo TV series

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Noah Hawley is an experienced TV writer and producer (Bones) who has created multiple series in the past (The Unusuals, My Generation), but it wasn’t until this year’s Fargo that he created one that received a full season order. Fargo seems to belong to a trendy category of branded TV series that includes shows like Bates Motel and Hannibal, in that it is inspired by a famous film but not a straight adaptation. Fargo the TV series uses similar themes, settings, and dramatic situations as the Coen Brothers film of the same name, but it weaves an entirely new story and world.

Note: The interview below with Hawley contains several SPOILERS for the show up to and including episode #8.

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Orange is the New Black, Bates Motel and Masters of Sex creators talk TV writing and producing at HRTS Hitmakers Luncheon

Ashford, Cuse, Kohan (Panel)

I felt like Don Draper strolling into the iconic, tres-swanky Beverly Hilton to attend the HRTS (Hollywood Radio and Television Society) “Hitmakers Luncheon.” When I was politely informed that I was not on the list for the pre-lunch VIP reception, I felt like Dan Calvisi again. (You always have to try to sneak into the VIP section, people, it keeps them on their toes.) But the event began soon enough, and after a delicious lunch, I enjoyed listening to the panel of three of the most successful American TV producers working today, as they discussed their craft and business.

The panel consisted of Michelle Ashford ( creator and Executive Producer of “Masters of Sex” on Showtime), Carlton Cuse (co-creator, showrunner and E.P. of “Bates Motel” on A&E) and Jenji Kohan (creator and E.P. of “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix). Their past writing credits include John Adams, Boomtown, Lost, Nash Bridges, Weeds and Gilmore Girls. Read more

Interview with Billy Bob Thornton “Fargo” TV series

FARGO - Pictured: Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo. CR: Chris Large/FX

FX’s new drama, Fargo, is created by Noah Hawley, inspired by the film written and directed by the Coen Brothers (also Executive Producers on the show). I sat in on a group interview with co-star Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the mysterious, charismatic and vicious drifter, Lorne Malvo, on the show. I did not get a chance to ask him a direct question, so here is the full transcript with questions from a group of reporters from various outlets.

Reporter                     Was there anything that you added to your character, “Lorne Malvo,” that wasn’t already scripted?

Billy Bob                     A weird haircut, which was actually a mistake. I got a bad haircut and we had planned on dyeing my hair and a dark beard and all that kind of thing, but I didn’t plan on having bangs. But then, instead of fixing it, it wouldn’t do, right, so I didn’t fix it because I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought, hang on a second here, this is like 1967 L.A. rock. I could be the bass player of the Buffalo Springfield. This is good. Or, Ken Burns, the dark side of Ken Burns. And bangs are normally associated with innocence and I thought that juxtaposition was pretty great, so that was added. Read more

Graham Yost, showrunner of Justified

Credit: Reddit

Graham Yost [cr: Reddit]

This is the third time I’ve had the pleasure to interview Graham Yost, show runner, Executive Producer and Writer of Justified, the fantastic drama on the FX network that, in my opinion, gets way too little recognition from the industry and the media, despite having a huge fan base. You can watch my video interviews with Mr. Yost here and here. The season finale of Justified airs in the U.S. tonight at 10:00 P.M. on FX. Read more

Chozen speaks and Bobby Moynihan makes me Head Writer of SNL!

CHOZEN - Pictured: Chozen group image. CR. FX

I first met Bobby Moynihan at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City in our “Improv 101” course. He was a bit younger than me, but it was clear that he had more experience with this improv stuff. He was definitely a standout. The class was a lot of fun and I would recommend UCB to anyone looking to learn the key principles of comedy from talented comedy pros, especially their sketch writing courses, which I’ve also taken and enjoyed.

I’ll always remember that first class because we had to perform our ‘graduation’ show on the UCB stage two days after September 11, 2001 when the city was still peppered in Missing Persons flyers and the smoke from the World Trade Center remains was still in the air. I showed up to the theater that day having come from volunteering on the docks helping to stock the boats that were supplying the recovery crews down at Ground Zero. I remember our teacher Jamie Denbo telling us how Amy Poehler had said 9/11 was like “the day the aliens landed.”

It was not a great time for comedy. Read more

Jimmy Smits Interview (Sons of Anarchy, NYPD Blue, Dexter)

 

You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor with such an impressive television resume as Jimmy Smits. L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, Dexter and, now, for the past two seasons, FX’s hit drama Sons of Anarchy, created by showrunner Kurt Sutter. (I’m also still mourning the loss of Smits’ unfortunately canceled drama Cane from 2007.) Read more

Interview with Elmore Leonard and Graham Yost, Master Screenwriters (2010)

Justified on FX official poster one-sheet

“Justified” created by Graham Yost and Elmore Leonard

Raylan has his dark side… But the guy is a hero. I thought, ‘Man, it would be fun to do a show which has a true-blue hero.’

Justified is based on the Elmore Leonard short story “Fire in the Hole” (read it here) which provides the story for the pilot episode, in which U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens returns to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, to track his old coal-mining buddy Boyd Crowder, an ex-con now leading a Neo-Nazi terrorist group, after Boyd blows up a black church with an RPG. Raylan meets Boyd at the home of Boyd’s sister-in-law Ava Crowder; [SPOILERS AHEAD] firearms are brandished and Boyd comes out on the wrong end of Raylan’s six-shooter. Boyd dies at the end of the Leonard story, but not in the Justified pilot. Which means veteran actor Walton Goggins will continue to appear (fun link: Walton Goggins’ blog from India in 2009).

Graham Yost is the series creator/Executive Producer of Justified and a veteran writer/director in film and television with an impressive list of credits that includes Band of Brothers, Boomtown, Raines and The Pacific and the feature films Speed, Broken Arrow and Mission to Mars. He won an Emmy for his work on the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.

Elmore Leonard is an Executive Producer of Justified and the legendary novelist and short story writer whose works have spawned several feature films, including Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Stick, Mr. Majestyk and 3:10 to Yuma. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana but has lived in Michigan since 1934. He is also well-known for his “10 Rules of Writing.” Read more

Interview with Diane Kruger of “The Bridge” new TV series on FX

Diane Kruger talks about her new series The Bridge, which is based on the Danish/Swedish television series of the same name. (Be aware that there are SPOILERS BELOW in regards to Diane Kruger’s character and some general information about the series.)

Both shows launch with the same brilliant high concept — a body is found cleaved in half, one half placed on one side of the border and one on the other — this forces police from opposite sides to team up to solve the murder. In the original, it was the border between Denmark and Sweden. In the new American series, it is the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, and Diane Kruger’s counterpart is played by Oscar-nominee Demián Bichir. Read more

Cast and Creator of Justified discuss the show’s writing

Natalie Zea, Timothy Olyphant and Graham Yost

Justified Season 4 is off to a great start. They’ve introduced several new characters, and our favorite Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens has a baby on the way, a dad in jail and lots of new trouble from the same ol’ Crowder clan. Read more

Sitcom writing with the creators and cast of “The League”

The League on FX is now in its fourth season and I recently attended the premiere in Hollywood at the Arclight Cinemas and interviewed the talent on the red carpet. As always, I tried to ask each person about what they look for in a screenplay. Here’s three videos and I will have more coming soon.

Creators and Executive Producers of the comedy series The League Jeff and Jackie Schaffer (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) discuss their writing process:

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Miles and Jack in the modern "buddy comedy" Sideways

Rex Pickett interview (Sideways, Vertical)

Rex Pickett, author of the novel Sideways

Author Rex Pickett. Photo: rexpickett.com

I met Rex Pickett, the author of the novel Sideways that inspired the beloved film, at a showing of Sideways: the Play, which is currently playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, CA.

We spoke over a glass of Pinot (yes, the wine comes with your ticket, which is already surprisingly affordable for live theater), and he was very gracious with his time, even though he was no doubt answering the same questions about the movie that he’s fielded dozens of times. Most of all, he came across as an uncensored, uncompromising artist with no fear of burning any bridges — he shoots from the hip because he has to — that’s just his personality and he doesn’t compromise.

I knew I had to get him on my blog. Read more

HORROR: Interview with LOVELY MOLLY screenwriter Jamie Nash

Jamie Nash is a working screenwriter who lives in Maryland and primarily writes genre films — horror, supernatural, fantasy, etc. He has a strong working relationship with Eduardo Sánchez, co-director of The Blair Witch Project — they have collaborated on a number of projects — the films Altered, Seventh Moon and Exists, and the comedy web series ParaAbnormal.

Jamie and Ed’s latest film is Lovely Molly, an intense horror thriller about the possession of a young woman told via a mix of standard narrative and “found” footage. The film is currently in theaters in a limited release, after playing the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and South by Southwest film festival. There is a wider release planned for the UK and it will go to VOD and DVD in August. Read more

COMEDY: Chris Parnell on screenwriting (Archer, SNL, Suburgatory, Lazy Sunday 2, Anchorman)


Poop mouth

Chris Parnell is a veteran comedic actor who honed his skills in The Groundlings and on Saturday Night Live, before moving to films like Anchorman and Hot Rod. Lately, he’s appeared in 21 Jump Street, The Five-Year Engagement and he’s a regular cast member on the sitcoms Suburgatory and Archer. Those two shows had already finished for the season when Parnell popped up on the season finale of Saturday Night Live (Kristen Wiig’s final episode) in the sequel to one of the great viral videos of all time, Lazy Sunday 2. Read more

Actor Elijah Wood tells Dan Calvisi what he looks for in a script

I’m more interested in being a part of an entire piece that I think is brilliant, even if it’s a small part to play.

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Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser on what he looks for in a script

After emerging from my sub-basement cryo-chamber as my alter-ego Telematic Dan, I covered the red carpet premiere of Mad Men Season 4 in Hollywood, CA at the Mann Chinese Theater 6 (in the same complex as the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre).

For a round-up of the night, go here.

One moment that stuck out was when I asked actor Vincent Kartheiser (who plays advertising accounts man Peter Campbell on Mad Men) about what he looks for in a screenplay… his first response was…

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