TCA Summer Press Tour Day 6 Quotes: Cable Diversity and 'Ash vs Evil Dead' Easter Eggs

Plus, Starz's 'Pussy Valley' and Jurnee Smollett-Bell on roles she doesn't want to play.
Courtesy of Starz Entertainment

Monday (August 1) was the final cable day of the summer Television Critics Association press tour and we got panels from the likes of Starz, the Discovery family, Ovation and TV One.

Probably the highest-profile panel was Starz' tease of American Gods, with showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green tantalizing reporters without showing more footage and the trailer that premiered at Comic-Con two weeks ago. Our full coverage of that panel is here.

We also had Lee Majors and Bruce Campbell sitting side by side and adjacent to Lucy Lawless as Starz got ready for the second season of Ash vs Dead.

For me, though, the best panel of the day brought together writers and executives and stars from shows like Underground, Survivor's Remorse and Dusk Till Dawn for a provocative conversation introduced by Robert Rodriguez. It was simply called a "special diversity panel," but thanks to guests like Anthony Hemingway, Tichina Arnold and Carlos Cota, it was illuminating and inspiring.

That diversity panel could have filled all of day six's highlight quotes. Instead, I limited it to the top three:

*** I've always been an advocate for diversity of all kinds across the programming landscape, but this press tour has made it more and more clear that "diversity" is an inexact or inadequate description. "Inclusivity" feels closer. Another good option comes from D'Angela Proctor, SVP programming for TV One, via Ava Duvernay.

"She said that 'belonging' is a better word than 'diversity,'" Proctor said. "And I do think that today people want to be at the table and not just be at the table. They want to order from the menu. They want to be able to enjoy the meal."

*** Jurnee Smollett-Bell has been giving great performances dating back to Eve's Bayou and then Friday Night Lights and she's one of many potential breakouts from the cast of WGN America's thrilling Underground, but she talked about the struggle of finding parts that were worth the effort. "I could have a resume that’s 50 pages long if I would take every role that’s offered to me where I’m playing the girlfriend," Smollett-Bell said. "And the unfortunate thing is that’s not exciting. That’s very boring to be on set and just have to be in makeup for hours and stuff like that. You know, it’s not very stimulating for me as an actor. To do something like Underground, where it’s actually the opposite — you’re in makeup because they’re putting scars on your arm, or you’re not really wearing mascara and 5 million pounds of foundation. It’s not about how you look. It’s actually about what you’re emoting and what you’re experiencing."

*** Learn and remember the name Victoria Mahoney, Hollywood. Writer-director of the feature Yelling to the Sky, Mahoney helmed this season's excellent fifth episode of Survivor's Remorse and is part of the dream team of minority female directors assembled by Ava DuVernay on Queen Sugar. She's also a fierce advocate as what the industry calls a "4-percent hire." As she put it, "So often, today, not 30 years ago, not 100 years ago, right now when people decide to hire of color, they usually hire male. When they decide to hire women, they hire white."

"So there’s a line in the sand, and what my job is now is that I have to move that line in the sand, and I have to walk in, and I have to sort of confront people who are very comfortable in old, old ways of thinking," Mahoney said "It’s exhausting. It’s boring. But, as I often say, like, we’re built for it. Everyone up on this panel is built for it for different reasons. And the answer to your question is that I’m starving for something else. That’s why I left my town and packed my shit and moved here and said, 'Fine, I’m not going to complain anymore. I’m going to be a part of the solution.'"

*** Ovation's Versailles, which has already premiered across the pond, comes from the Tudors/Borgias vein of historical dramas bent on proving that the past was edgy and raunchy, not conservative and gentile. Just check out what Alexander Vlahos had to say about playing brother-to-the-king Philippe, " I describe him as quadrophenic, but so complex, so it was probably the most it is and still is the most challenging physically, mentally, emotionally draining part I’ve ever played, because of that bipolar/quadrophenic personality traits that he has. In one scene he is arguing with his brother. He will walk around the corridor. He’ll kiss and make love to his boyfriend. He will leave the bedroom, go to his wife’s room, kiss her on the forehead and wish her good luck, and then get into his warrior outfit and go charge into battle, come out of battle and then put a women’s dress on."

*** The first season of Starz' Ash vs Evil Dead did a pretty good job of bringing the crazed, gory spirit of the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell collaborations to the small screen. The TV series' creative team boasted about a second season featuring more blood, Lee Majors as Ash's dad and our hero experimenting with angel dust. Campbell also teased, "This year has two fat ass Easter eggs. It does. Both of them, you’ll go 'Holy crap.' You’ll go 'Holy crap' with the first one. And the second one, you’ll go, 'I didn’t think there was a bigger holy crap, and there’s a bigger holy crap.' Anybody who’s a fan, this season is a 'Hey lady.' There’s a couple 'Hey lady' moments."

*** And, finally, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht on how journalists will be able to get away with writing the name of the network's new pilot Pussy Valley, should it go to series: "It’s a story about cats." [It's actually about a Mississippi strip club and hails from Katori Hall.]

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