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The first PBS day of the Television Critics Association’s press tour got a dose of adrenaline from the documentary about Hamilton, but Friday’s second day was driven by several specials about the upcoming election, documentaries about contemporary race relations and gun violence and some Shakespeare history. Even the panel for the second season of the drama Mercy Street included talk of war, slavery and medical misadventures.
A dark and sometimes darkly funny selection of Day 3 highlight quotes include:
*** Discussing the muck and mud of the exterior sets for The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses, Tom Sturridge gave an unexpected answer regarding acting in adverse conditions. “[One] of my favorite things in the world is to act when I’m swimming, because when you — it sounds ridiculous, but like when you’re in the middle of the ocean, like, and you’ve got to say something to somebody, basically all you’re trying to do is not drown,” he said, somewhat confusing co-star Sophie Okonedo. “And that’s 90 percent of the entire performance is literally you trying to stay alive. And, you know, that is what’s incredibly rare, I think, with the way we normally do Shakespeare, is because it’s on a stage like this, you are kind of safe most of the time, and so you’re worrying a lot about things that actually human beings don’t worry about, which is how to say lines well; whereas, with this, we were in rivers and having people run at us with swords or horses or being in these, you know, incredibly tangible, palpable environments. It meant our reactions, I feel, were kind of more honest and easier to generate.”
*** Josh Radnor celebrated his birthday at the TCA press tour with questions about the second season of PBS’ Mercy Street. Asked about things he learned from the historical experts regarding Civil War medicine, he considered. “I asked a medical expert last year, just because there were so many close-ups of my hands — this is gross, by the way, what I’m about to say,” he warned us. “And I said,’“What’s the nail situation like? Would I cut my nails?’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. You leave them long to scoop.'” The reporters responded with discomfort and Radnor continued, “I told you! I warned you. So I did, but then, all of the fake blood would start, it started to be disgusting. So don’t pay too much attention to the close-ups.”
You’ve been warned. Mercy Street returns to PBS next January.
*** I asked Howard Dean how his presidential campaign could be torpedoed by his notorious post-Iowa scream, while Donald Trump has delivered one moment after another that could have become notorious, but instead has failed to hurt his run for the White House at all. Dean replied, “First, my position on the ‘scream’ speech is that it had nothing to do with the failure of the campaign. The failure of the campaign is I was the frontrunner and I came in third in Iowa. Doesn’t work so well. The ‘scream’ speech may have made it harder to recover and try to come back in New Hampshire. That’s possible.” He continued: “Why is Trump getting away with what he’s getting away with? I think it’s mainly because people are really angry. There’s a lot I think this campaign is about globalization. I think there’s a direct tie in with Brexit, with Marine Le Pen in France, with all this craziness that’s you’ve got a comedian who got elected president of Guatemala. So I mean, you know, globalization has been really incredible, and it’s wonderful for the young people who are incredibly computer literate, digital natives. There’s a whole lot of people who are older who have been left behind, and they’re not used to being left behind, and they’re very angry about it. So their attitude is, ‘I don’t care what this guy says.'”
Dean is the subject of one of 16 episodes in the election season series The Contenders, airing this fall on PBS.
*** This year, one of PBS’ themes was courageous women willing to open up about unspeakable tragedy. The first PBS day included Tamir Rice’s mother Samaria, while Friday featured the Independent Lens documentary Newtown, including Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan was killed in the horrible shooting massacre. “I’ve been talking about Dylan for three and a half years now, and I imagine I’ll be talking about him for the rest of my life, because he is a significant part of my life, as is my surviving son, Jake,” Hockley said, explaining why talking about this publicly has been important. “There is an element of therapy that comes through this, in trying to explain to others what happened and talking about it, but also in the hopes that it can help someone else through their grief or potentially understanding it from a different perspective, that this I believe this is a very meaningful film on so many levels, so it was just a true honor to be a part of it, and I hope that so many people get to see it and experience it and have their own response to it.”
*** PBS closed with drinks and a performance by virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, who played several pieces on a $10 million Stradivarius, an instrument he set aside very casually offstage while taking questions. “When people say, ‘How can you carry around something that valuable? Doesn’t it make you crazy or nervous?’ It’s like the only thing I can compare it to is if you ever carried a baby around, it’s about as valuable as that,” Bell said. “And a baby, you also, probably at first, you’re a little worried about dropping it. But after a while, you get pretty used to it. And it’s just part of my life, carrying around the violin all the time — but I’m very careful with it.”
HBO arrives on Saturday …
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