Hollywood Insiders Brace for James Comey Testimony

The magnitude of Thursday's testimony isn't lost on the industry as PMK-BNC's co-chairman and CEO Cindi Berger tells THR: "This is government's version of the Super Bowl!"
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James Comey

On Wednesday afternoon, ousted FBI director James Comey had his name on the top of the Twitter trending chart just hours before he's set to take center stage Thursday during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But in Hollywood, his name has been on the tip of many tongues for days now as insiders confirm, cancel or rejigger schedules so they can commit undivided attention to the live event, scheduled to start at 7 a.m. PT. The hearing will be aired live, blanketing across broadcast and cable networks, many of which have announced blocks of coverage starting after 6 a.m. and continuing through midday.

Rick Rosen, head of television at WME, tells The Hollywood Reporter that he canceled a doctor's appointment and pushed up business calls to the East Coast and Europe to "very early" in order to watch the testimony. Meanwhile, Paradigm's head of TV Debbee Klein admits that she didn't reschedule anything but will still be watching. "I am curious to know what will be said," she teases.

She's not alone. Comey is expected to to be queried on how President Donald Trump sought his loyalty in his first few months in the White House as well as the investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump's relationship with Russia. It will be Comey's first appearance since Trump dismissed him on May 9 and will come less than a day after he revealed his full opening statements to the press.

The early morning start won't interfere with many staff meetings on the West Coast, but could disrupt many East Coast meetings and/or lunches. THR reached out to more than a dozen companies — among them studios, agencies, PR firms and production companies — and found that many insiders will just be pausing regularly scheduled business activities to watch the action live. 

"Glued to this!" says veteran manager-producer Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, founder and CEO of the Gotham Group and a longtime Democratic fundraiser. 

"House of Cards seeks discord for the sake of drama. The hope is Washington could look for consensus for the sake of all. But, of course, we'll have our popcorn ready," say showrunners Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson of watching the hearing.

George Takei tweeted that he was serving drinks during the early morning event. He even joked about Comey's previously released statement, saying: "I called up Donald to chat, but he pretended not to remember that thing we had."

At ICM Partners in Century City, the hearing will be broadcast on all televisions in common areas, a move that is expected at other agencies in town as well as studios, THR is told. Same for PMK-BNC's offices, according to co-chairman and CEO Cindi Berger.

"Every executive has a TV in their office and there are TVs in common areas," Berger reports. "I'm certain everyone will be riveted!"

She concludes that no matter what happens — and what business does or doesn't get done at offices around the country — the ratings will be huge. 

"This is government's version of the Super Bowl!" Berger quips. Coincidentally enough, that's exactly how a bar in Houston, Texas, is referring to Comey's testimony. Watering hole Axelrad is opening early Thursday, just like many bars and restaurants across the country in preparation for the hours-long event.

Tom Bergin's Public House in Los Angeles will also open early to screen the hearing. The bar claims it is "apolitical," but quipped, "that doesn't mean we can't turn on the TV when we wouldn't normally be open and drink all the Stoli Vodka that we can fit in a pint glass."

CBS News has a full roundup for where to drink and watch the hearing. 

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