12:00pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
TCA Winter Press Tour Day 9 Quotes: Young Einstein, Matthew Perry's Accent and 'Beaches'
Friday the 13th marked the first day of cable panels under the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) umbrella presenting at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.
The panel-crammed day started at 8 a.m. and continued until well after 6:30 p.m. with literally dozens of panels covering everything from a biopic of Nelson Mandela, the second installment of Planet Earth, a TV version of the film Snatch and a biopic of Albert Einstein.
Highlights from the day include a Yahoo Serious reference, the initial problems with Matthew Perry's Teddy Kennedy accent and more:
*** Epic nature documentaries like BBC America's Planet Earth II fascinate me not just for what ends up on the screen, but for the process of extremes required to acquire the footage. This made me ask executive producers what math is necessary to determine if the effort and cost are worth the minute or five minutes of potential screen time.
"That’s part of the job, actually, it’s kind of like an actuary," admitted exec producer Mike Gunton. "You are kind of doing a cost-benefit analysis all the time because these things are obviously extremely heavy on the resources. Liz [producer Elizabeth White] will tell you in a second about the trip she did to Zavodovski Island, which took a year to plan, but you have to make a sort of ... you weigh out the cost it’s going to have and what you hope to get back. But I think the point for us is the easy stuff has all been done. It’s only the hard stuff that’s left to do. And having the ambition to go for these difficult things and to go for the really extreme stories is, I think, what drives us, and that’s why I hope, when you watch the series, you’ll be seeing new things because we have the resources and we have the ambition to go for those tricky things. And sometimes it fails. You have to have the ability to know that you can fail. Otherwise, you won’t try to do these things, but it is nerve-wracking."
*** Crackle's take on the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch uses a malevolent Cuban club owner as its main villain. That character is played, naturally, by Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick.
"You look at Snatch, the original film, you have a lot of characters that are much larger than life and of all nationalities, and I want to take that and infuse our show with that. So, yeah, realism certainly wasn’t the top of my agenda," confessed series creator Alex De Rakoff. "What we do in the show, I think what is really interesting, is we take all these irreverent, interesting kind of diverse and dynamic characters, and there’s a lot of hustles and a lot of scams, a lot of action and a lot of energy, but you get to know them and you get to see them in relationships and with each other and what it’s like to be young and figure shit out as you go, and I feel that’s something that separates the show from other stuff that’s on television right now."
Has Westwick gotten a lot of offers for roles asking him to play Cuban?
"Well, since [President Barack] Obama started freeing up the sanctions and everything, they’re flowing in," the actor joked. "So there you go. No, I don’t. This is my first one, but I’m open to it. It’s like stamps in the passport."
I'll just leave that there.
*** Because I'm an idiot, I braved a slow satellite lag to ask the stars of NatGeo's Albert Einstein biopic Genius if they looked to Yahoo Serious' Young Einstein for pointers.
"I remember that from my childhood," musician-actor Johnny Flynn acknowledged. "I had to quickly try and forget as much of that as possible. But if you type in 'young Einstein' on Google, if you’re looking, you know, trying to find pictures of him, to look at poses and body language and stuff, that’s the only thing that comes up is the guy with the crazy hair, so it was very unhelpful."
To be fair (to me), my dumb question led into a more serious question about how frequently Einstein has been played for exaggerated comedy and the challenges of playing the legendary physicist as occasionally funny, but not caricatured.
"I wanted to think outside of him being a scientist, because that’s a given," said Geoffrey Rush, who plays the not-so-young Einstein. "That’s what he devoted his life to across a very big epoch. And, as I’m reading it, I’m thinking, I can hear Groucho Marx delivering these lines, and I can see Harpo visualizing some of these lines. There’s a kind of deep-rooted Yiddish spirit or level of wit that he was obviously very good at because when you see some of the footage of when he first went to America or Britain and he got off the boat, within seconds he’d have a group of newfound friends or reporters cackling pretty seriously. So, his optimism and sparkle is very present in his humanitarian outlook, and he seemed to work a lot off of comic presence."
*** Harriet Tubman is coming to WGN America's Underground, and if the second-season trailers are accurate, she's going to be a perfect badass to fit into the show's badass ensemble of characters, which isn't necessarily what one's first impression might be of the Underground Railroad icon.
New cast addition Aisha Hinds recalled her first reaction to getting this opportunity.
"I wept," the actress remembered. "Playing Harriet Tubman is both a great honor and a tremendous call to duty. It’s something that truly broke me open. I notice that every time someone asks me that question, that my impulse is always to say that I wept. And I notice that there was a difference, for me, between weeping and crying. And I think that, for me, crying comes from a place of anguish, and weeping means that something inside of me broke. And so something inside of me broke wide open to receive everything that this experience would afford me. And I think that the power of Harriet’s spirit is one that I was immediately open to welcoming me to guide me through this journey, because I was wholly afraid."
*** "I sounded like Foghorn Leghorn," said Matthew Perry of his initial accent for Teddy Kennedy in Reelz' The Kennedys — After Camelot, blaming a bad dialect quote for initially steering him in the direction of broadness.
"Almost daily, every single scene, I got the same note, because this kind of acting is different than what I’m used to. I’m used to doing sitcoms. I’m used to doing plays, so the acting is a little bigger. What we’re all shooting for here is sort of minimalist acting," Perry said. "So I would come to the set, and the way it would work is we would run the scene once, and then we would rehearse it. And both Katie [Holmes] and Jon [Cassar], at the end of every single one of those rehearsals, turned to me and said, 'Just be a little smaller. Just act a little smaller.' So by day, like, 40, I was tired of hearing this note, and insisted that I would not hear this note today. So I woke up in the morning and decided I was going to go in and do nothing, literally make no choices. Don’t even move, so that they can tell me to bring it up a little bit. So I went in that morning, I did absolutely nothing, and Jon came up to me and said, 'A little smaller.'"
*** After AMC's Breaking Bad ended, Bryan Cranston could have walked away from television forever. Instead, in just the past year, he has done an HBO movie (All the Way), an Amazon drama that started as a CBS pilot (Sneaky Pete) and an animated series for Crackle (SuperMansion), while also appearing in movies released seemingly every few weeks.
"I don’t have to work another day in my life," said the actor on the panel for SuperMansion. "So why? Why would you work? Well, the only reason I would want to work is because I love storytelling. I love to do it because it moves me. I dream about it. I get up in the morning, and I write ideas and just little interesting oddities of situations that I may put in a script sometime, and I’ll put it in a file. I don’t know. But I just love storytelling. So I’m not money-motivated at all, really. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate money because, when I was a boy, I didn’t have any money."
The questioner suggested network executives would be glad to hear he's not interested in money.
"No, no. See, I have agents and a lawyer who really love money," Cranston added.
*** It would have been so easy for Allison Anders, the director of Lifetime's upcoming Beaches remake, to dismiss or minimize Garry Marshall's original movie as sentimental tripe or worse. Instead, the Gas Food Lodging helmer admitted she hadn't seen Beaches before signing on to do the remake, but was all praise.
"[W]hen this came around, I saw Garry Marshall’s Beaches for the first time, and I was blown away, because I was like, 'Oh, my God. This is like phenomenal, raw art now, compared to what women get to do on the screen presently,' because it was completely female-driven, as of course ours is," Anders said. "The men had sort of supporting roles, and the friendship was so messy. I was shocked watching it. I tell you, even all these years later, I was like, 'Oh, my God. She didn’t do that, did she?' And, 'They’re saying what to each other?' I was just in. I was daunted by the task as well. I think that we were all daunted because of our admiration for it. But we were willing to go for it and honor it. And, by the way, the last shot for me, I just copied Garry Marshall, because I was like, 'How do I do it any better than that?'"
Check back tomorrow for lots more cable, including HBO.