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ABC offered a busy Television Critics Association press tour day on Thursday, starting with Kiefer Sutherland’s TV return in Designated Survivor and ending with a rare third-season press tour return panel for Black-ish.
The day included the Speechless team talking about interweaving a character with special needs without being an “issue show,” the creator of Notorious protesting his show was about the intersection of law and media and not unethical collusion, and a great comedy showrunner panel.
My favorite quotes, though, include talk about American and British accents, the importance of the Black-ish title and when we’re next going to see Diane and Charlie’s Black-ish rivalry.
*** Once upon a time, Kiefer Sutherland played a character who interacted with a lot of different U.S. presidents and now he’s playing a character who, after a terrorist attack, becomes president himself. So how would Sutherland’s Designated Survivor character, HUD Secretary Tom Kirkman, react if he met Jack Bauer and vice versa? “Good looking guy. I really should lose the glasses,” Sutherland cracked. ” I think Jack Bauer as a character had incredible conviction and had a real moral compass for that circumstance as well, so I would have to believe that he would trust him.”
I’d note that Jack Bauer was also a character driven by duty and he worked to serve a lot of dreadful presidents, at least until their behavior forced Jack to turn on them, so Jack Bauer would almost certainly be devoted to help Tom Kirkman, at least in the beginning.
*** Minnie Driver gets to remain British in ABC’s winning comedy Speechless and it’s a great choice. It turns out that it was, indeed, a choice the production made. “We tried it both ways. We tried reading it American and British,” Driver explained. “The funny thing is, you know, you have a particular rhythm in your own accent, but the real truth is you can get away with a lot more when you speak with a British accent. That is really the truth. You can say very rude things and make them sound charming. And you can offend people, and they will smile at you and only subsequently realize how offensive you were. So I think we still don’t know how to how we will justify it, but we will justify it in a really funny and creative way, I know. But I do think, in this you know, looking at this picture here of all of us, this ragtag group of individuals, it’s one of her differentials. And I think it’s good. I think seeing English people get angry is always funny.”
*** Hayley Atwell is going the other way, playing American on the legal drama Conviction and trying to figure out the accent.
“I think vocally I’m still kind of finding my feet with it.” Atwell admitted. “There’s certainly some English bits in there that need to be ironed out for sure. But that was part of the challenge of that. I feel that there are elements of her humor, which is quite English, that I have to rein in a little bit. She’s quite dry. She loves the undercut and the witty line and the throwaway.”
She continued, “All I’ve got to do is be kind of consistent with the vocal choices that I make with her. I feel if I’m behind it, am I making it plausible and doing it with conviction.”
*** There’s no way of predicting what long-canceled shows are going to get queries at a network executive session. Joan of Arcadia, for example, popped up in questions at CBS panels well after its run concluded in 2005. So perhaps Channing Dungey wasn’t shocked that her first ABC executive session as entertainment president allowed her to wax nostalgic about Body of Proof. That Dana Delaney drama hasn’t been seen since 2013, but it drew reasonable audiences in a couple tough time slots with limited promotion, assets that surely would have had value.
“We have oft lamented the cancellation of Body of Proof,” Dungey admitted. “I’m not gonna lie. That was a good show for us, and it was sad to see it go.”
Dungey also reflected on the departure of more recent shows, including Nashville, which she said brought her “a little bit of heartbreak,” but came down to conversations with Lionsgate and ABC Studios and also Castle, where the disconnect between the early release of several stars and then the subsequent cancelation came down to, again, a disconnect between studio and network.
*** Black-ish is my favorite network TV show and the kids of Black-ish are a major part of that and ABC’s panel for the Emmy nominated hit offered several moments to showcase that young cast, particularly with 16-year-old Yara Shahidi talked about what the show, and a title that was sometimes maligned in the early-going, have meant to her.
“I joined the show at 13, so when I officially became a teenager, and it really helped me form my sense of identity in a way because it literally and figuratively gave me a community,” she said. “I’m half-Iranian and half-black and multicultural, and so many times there isn’t a word for me other than multicultural or mixed race. And that doesn’t, I guess, fully represent who I think I am, and I think ‘black-ish‘ kind of literally describes who I feel like I am and gave me this community of people who recognized that we are in a time in which so many cultures are amalgamating, and at the same time, we have respect for our own heritage.”
To the same question, star Anthony Anderson replied, “Kenya [Barris] and I sat down three and a half, four years ago now and looked at the landscape of television and saw what was missing for us. And I’m proud to be up here on this stage with all these foot soldiers up here. This is for us by us. We get to tell our stories every week that resonate with an audience globally. And we couldn’t ask for anything more than that. So that’s what drives me and gets me up out of the bed every morning.”
*** Those were serious and emotional answers from the Black-ish panel, but I just wanted to ask about origin of the inexplicably fierce rivalry that popped up last season between Marsai Martin’s Diane and Deon Cole’s Charlie.
“Honestly, a lot of stuff that happens in writers’ rooms, you just kind of go, like, ‘Oh, that would be funny if she just doesn’t like him, and he senses it, and that’s what it is,'” executive producer Jonathan Groff explained, simply. “And, then, you go, like, ‘Well, could we get a little story out of that?’ So, when he babysat accidentally last year, we got into it more. And it’s one of those things, we don’t really have a super-plan for it, but we like it, and we kind of know that it’s a place to go to. And sometimes the less we really dive in and don’t explore too much or worry about what really happens, like, then it can yield something just funny.”
Groff said that the rivalry will at least be mentioned in this new season’s Halloween episode.
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