Netflix has renewed The Umbrella Academy for a 2nd season.
Preach Tracy Morgan, preach. Also, get a new stylist.
Season 2 of Morgan’s The Last O.G. premiers tonight on TBS.
Kevin Hart’s new stand up special is now streaming on Netflix.
MTV’s Siesta Key wraps up another season tonight.
The season 3 finale of This Is Us airs tonight on NBC.
The 8th season of Married At First Sight wraps up this evening.
“Westbrook Studios, the production company co-founded by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, and Apollo World Touring on Tuesday unveiled a new initiative that will bring together A-list celebrities and the Formula 1 racing circuit. The initiative will see celebrities do pre-filmed stunts and challenges, as well as live performances set around Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends.”
YouTube’s Step Up: High Water garnered big numbers for its Season 2 premiere. The first episode of the second season has drawn 11.5 million views in the first 7 days since its launch.
“The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t sitting this Emmy season out after all. Although the Hulu drama won’t return for Season 3 until June — making the series itself ineligible for Emmy contention this year — a few leftover episodes from Season 2 will still be up for consideration. Because the final three episodes of Season 2 fell outside the eligibility window, those episodes are instead in contention for 2019 Emmys. Hulu has now revealed who will be submitted for those episodes: In the outstanding directing for a drama series category, Daina Reid (episode 211, Holly) and Mike Barker (episode 213, The Word) will be in contention.”
“Piece by piece, the clearances for The Kelly Clarkson Show have come in. Today, NBCUniversal said the syndicated talk show set to launch in the fall is set for 99% of the country. The hourlong talker has been sold to 200-plus stations, including the top 165 markets, ahead of its September 9 kickoff, said Tracie Wilson, EVP Creative Affairs at NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution. Clarkson has been a hitmaker since winning the first season of American Idol. She’s a three-time Grammy winner who has racked up 11 top 10 singles and three No. 1s since her 2002 debut. All eight of her studio albums have reached the Top 3 in the U.S., including three chart-toppers. Her most recent album, 2017’s Meaning of Life, peaked at No. 2. The singer just wrapped a 27-city tour. The Kelly Clarkson Show will be produced before a live audience on the Universal Studios Lot in Los Angeles. It is produced and distributed by NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution with Alex Duda serving as executive producer and showrunner.”
If Keith Richards somehow outlives Mick Jagger, so help me.
Bristol Palin announced she's leaving Teen Mom OG, and somehow, people care.
“Bianna Golodryga, who joined CBS This Morning as a co-anchor less than six months ago, is leaving the morning program, two sources familiar with the matter told HuffPost. Golodryga has been moved off the program by the new president of CBS News, Susan Zirinsky. Zirinsky felt that the show had too many anchors (it currently has four: Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, John Dickerson and Golodryga), according to the sources, who requested anonymity to freely discuss network business. The talent change at CBS This Morning is the first Zirinsky has made since becoming president on March 1.”
“Deborah Norville is used to having her looks scrutinized as a television personality, but one comment from a concerned viewer proved to be a life-saver. The Inside Edition host revealed that she will undergo surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid nodule that a sharp-eyed viewer brought to her attention. ‘We live in a world of see something, say something, and I'm really glad we do,’ she said in a video announcement posted on the show's official YouTube account Monday. Norville continued: ‘When you work on television, viewers comment on everything. Your hair, your makeup, the dress you’re wearing. And a long time ago an 'Inside Edition' viewer reached out to say she’d seen something on my neck. It was a lump.’ Norville said doctors initially deemed the thyroid nodule benign, but the lump eventually grew cancerous, requiring medical treatment.”
Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Amazon's thriller Hanna, based on the 2011 film of the same name, centers on a teenage girl (Esme Creed-Miles) raised to be an assassin by her father and chased by a shadowy spy organization. For fans of the AMC/Netflix series The Killing, it also marks the first time that stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman have worked together since the latter's 2014 finale.
“The Emmy-nominated The Killing garnered a passionate fanbase who were particularly taken by Enos' thoughtful and reserved Sarah Linden and her streetwise partner, Stephen Holder (Kinnaman). Since then the pair have both pursued other high-profile projects, including Enos' turn leading the ABC P.I. dramedy The Catch and Kinnaman's leading role in the first season of Netflix's high-concept sci-fi series Altered Carbon.
“Though Hanna is a far cry from the very real-world horrors of The Killing, that difference was key to what drew both actors to the new show. The pair talked with The Hollywood Reporter about reuniting and the ease of ‘playing with each other”":
How did you both come to be working on Hanna?
MIREILLE ENOS [Writer/exec producer] David Farr approached me with the first couple of episodes of the scripts, and I happened to be shooting in England so I was able to meet with him. His writing was really beautiful, so it looked like I was going to be signing on. They started looking for their Erik, and he didn't tell me that Joel was on the top of his list, so when he let me know that I was so excited.
JOEL KINNAMAN Well, she was actually texting me and asking me to come up with a list of 40-plus European actors, so I was compiling this list of actors that I like, and then I got I the call that they were actually interested in me, so I was checking in with Mireille and saying, "I'm going to cross Mads Mikkelsen off the list then …" [Laughs]
Will fans of The Killing will be surprised by the antagonistic relationship that your characters share in Hanna?
KINNAMAN There was a danger of reuniting and playing into the fantasy of redoing The Killing, which we definitely didn't want to do, as it wouldn't be fair to The Killing and the project at hand. So this is more for people who like to see me and Mireille playing together, but just in a completely different shape.
ENOS Because we're enemies, we don't meet up that much, but in episode four we have this play that we get to do, and it's just filled with a lot of scenes of our history together and trying to suss each other out, and that was just great.
What drew you to the roles?
KINNAMAN It's a combination of things. I usually start selfishly with the character, and if it's something that I'm intrigued to play, and then it's the story and the whole. I love this character; I found it really interesting to play a man who had lived this totally selfish and destructive life, and then does this one act of selflessness, and it puts his life on this trajectory to find some kind of redemption. Then there was the story — I really enjoyed the way it weaved these three genres together. It feels like it's a coming-of-age story woven together with a political sci-fi thriller, and it's all mixed up in this odd family drama. That was really interesting and I could imagine that people who don't usually watch stuff together could come together and enjoy it together. I feel like it's going to draw people from different areas.
ENOS You know, I actually had this experience in episode six where I'd been in my little spy world, sneaking around with hidden messages, and then in episode two we meet this family, this English suburban family. When they would shoot, there was all this improvising and lots of mess, so our two storylines converge, and I was suddenly dropped into this room where people were on the floor eating peanut butter and I was like, "What's this world? It's so cool that I'm here!"
Do you feel like Hanna is a relevant story in 2019?
KINNAMAN I thought it was very cool, you know, she's such a great character. Someone that's so physically capable of defending themselves, but completely defenseless in every other aspect of life. We follow this young person into the world and discover that a lot of what she's been told about the world isn't true, but that a lot of the threats are real. It's fascinating.
ENOS Something that I think might potentially be a really powerful message for teenagers that watch this is that Erik tries to arm Hanna with tools that will help keep her safe. I think that Hanna goes through a lot of experiences that make her feel powerless, but ultimately she does have these tools. I think that those teenage years are an experience of powerlessness, and to watch this story where someone can reach for those tools will hopefully make them feel okay. There are these things I can reach for, I can speak my truth whatever it is, and make them feel like they're in control of their experience.
What was it like working together again?
KINNAMAN On the last day of shooting The Killing, we were standing on set with [showrunner] Veena Sud and [director] Jonathan Demme. We were all hugging it out and we said, "In 10 years, we'll come together again and do something completely different." We didn't make it 10 years, but it's been five years and we did this! I think it really fits the criteria that we were looking for in that it was something very different and dynamic between the characters so that it wouldn't get confused.
And when we got to the meat of our scenes — like halfway through the show, we have a mini-play between our characters — I was just struck by how, even though I was playing this completely different character and Mireille was just completely different, we still had the same enjoyment of playing with each other. It felt like we almost immediately found this flow, I think both from knowing each other so well and playing with each other so much, so it's just easy.
ENOS Shooting The Killing, there was a real sense of being each other's allies through that process. Everyone was great, the directors were wonderful, everyone was collaborating beautifully. But we knew that we had each other's backs no matter what. If there was a question about anything, we would go to each other first. We just made a really safe space. That's special when you find that kind of ease and trust, and so it was great to drop back into that in this totally different context, just knowing that it's super exciting working with someone that you do your best work with because you're so curious about what they're doing.
KINNAMAN It was good because the characters, even though they're antagonistic, they've got a lot of history, so it came in handy that me and Mireille, we have a lot of history together.
Do you keep in touch with any of your other Killing co-stars?
ENOS Definitely Veena. I actually shot a film with her last year, her directorial debut called The Lie. She's just a wonderful director, so for me it's Veena and Joel.”
Per Vulture, “[m]uch like Serial, HBO’s The Case Against Adnan Syed ended without a real conclusion. Syed is still in jail for the murder of Hae Min Lee after the Maryland Court of Appeals denied him a new trial on March 8, 2019, just two days before the four-part documentary debuted. Still, the final episode, “Time Is the Killer,” contained multiple revelations and allegations that point toward Syed’s innocence and, like the podcast, raise even more questions about how the case was handled.
“There’s a new story by Jay Wilds, the prosecution’s star witness, that changes his testimony yet again and accuses the police of fabricating his story; information about Lee’s autopsy that changes the timeline of her death; the lack of Syed’s DNA at the crime scene (that part was already spoiled days before this episode’s airing — more on that later); and some thin but intriguing evidence pointing to two other potential killers that could, at the least, be grounds for reasonable doubt.
“And that’s only part of it. Even though it’s not a spoiler that Syed is currently in prison with no tangible route to freedom in sight, the episode also reveals the background legal maneuvers that kept him there and how he had the option to agree to a plea deal, all while not knowing that his mother was battling a life-threatening illness.
“To help you make sense of all the twists and turns in the finale of The Case Against Adnan Syed, we’ve compiled the biggest takeaways from the episode. Naturally, spoilers abound:
Syed’s mother has Leukemia
Footage from 2017 shows Shamim Syed revealing to family friend and attorney Rabia Chaudry, Adnan’s most prominent advocate, that she has leukemia. Doctors had just caught it at stage one of the disease, and she insists that nobody tell Adnan. The next scene shows her traveling to visit Adnan in prison, while he, in a voice-over, compares getting a new trial to getting “approved for chemotherapy” for a terminal illness. He says he knows five people who’ve gotten new trials only to be convicted again, and he wonders at what point he’ll be like a cancer patient and just accept that it’s all over.
Syed turned down a plea deal
There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of Syed’s lawyers going over their appeals and battles against Thiru Vignarajah, a former prosecutor who somehow was still able to try the case as a private citizen while running for Baltimore City state’s attorney. Over the years, the state of Maryland informally floated potential ways for Syed to get out of prison, then finally settled on an offer in 2018: If Syed pleaded guilty, he’d serve an additional four years behind bars and then be released.
Syed’s lawyer, C. Justin Brown, speculated that the extra four years would mean Syed is freed after the attorney general goes through another election, as well as the fact that Lee’s family is still pushing for Syed to remain in jail forever. Syed pondered it, weighing the pros and cons of guaranteed freedom versus admitting to a crime he swears he didn’t commit and that he lied to everyone, including his family and Serial host Sarah Koenig.
The epilogue of the episode says that Syed declined the deal in November 2018, before his mother told him about her cancer. Following the episode, Chaudry tweeted, “The State offered Adnan a plea. But he refused to plead guilty. He couldn’t lie and say he committed a crime he didn’t. Does he regret not taking the plea now that Court of Appeals ruled against him? No. He told me to tell everyone he doesn’t regret it.”
Jay Wilds has a new story, again
Jay Wilds has changed his story about what happened the day of Lee’s murder multiple times at this point, from his first taped confessions to his trial testimony to a post-Serial interview with the Intercept. Director Amy Berg repeatedly tried to get Wilds to appear in the documentary to no avail, but he finally gave a new statement to her in January 2019.
This time, Wilds says that Syed showed him Lee’s body when they were at Wilds’s house, not in the Best Buy parking lot as he testified in the trial — that part was made up by the detectives. Wilds’s new story is that Syed, knowing Wilds was “the criminal element of Woodlawn,” asked him to procure ten pounds of marijuana and, after Wilds got it, used the drugs as blackmail to force Wilds to help dispose of Lee’s corpse. It’s unclear whether any law enforcement officials were made aware of this new story for the documentary, but it further muddies the credibility of the state’s star witness.
Lee’s body was buried much later than alleged
The prosecution’s timeline of the murder says that Lee’s body was buried in Leakin Park around 7:30 p.m., five hours after Syed strangled her to death. In the episode, private investigators hired by the defense speak with a forensic pathologist and former medical examiner who goes over the autopsy photos and report and comes up with a new timeline — Lee’s body wasn’t buried until between 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.
In one autopsy photo, which is shown onscreen, Lee’s body shows evidence of lividity, the postmortem pooling of blood inside a corpse, surrounding a double-diamond-shaped mark on her shoulder. The pathologist says the only way that mark would have appeared is if Lee’s corpse was lying face down on an object with that specific shape for at least 8 to 12 hours. No object like that was found at the crime scene. If true, that means there’s no way Lee was killed in the afternoon and buried in the park so soon, refuting Wilds’s testimony and the prosecution’s case, further raising questions of where Lee was killed and where her body was kept before ending up in the woods.
There were also no bruises, marks, broken fingernails, or signs of any struggle on the body, leading the pathologist to conclude that the murder did not happen in the close quarters of Lee’s car, as the prosecution alleged. All of this together doesn’t prove Syed’s innocence, but it casts doubt on the alleged version of how the crime played out from start to finish.
There’s plenty of mysterious physical evidence (or a lack thereof)
The big reveal of the final episode got scooped by the Baltimore Sun last Thursday when the paper, after filing a public records act, revealed that Syed’s DNA was not found under Lee’s fingernails, on her body, or on other pieces of evidence collected at the crime scene. During Syed’s trial, neither the prosecution nor the defense requested that this be tested, likely because both sides feared that it would either exonerate or incriminate him. After Serial, the prosecution still declined to test it — Vignarajah allegedly said it was the defense’s responsibility to make the testing happen, so it wasn’t until the new defense team got it done in 2018 that anyone learned the results. This alone doesn’t exonerate Syed, but does show that the prosecution didn’t have any physical evidence tying him to the murder.
What the test did show was that there was DNA of an unidentified female on two wires that were found near Lee’s body. This DNA profile was not matched to any of the investigators or anyone whose DNA is in law enforcement databases. There was also a fingerprint, maybe two, on the rearview mirror of Lee’s car that also didn’t belong to Syed or the police, but was also never matched to anyone.
Syed’s lawyer Susan Simpson told the Crime Writers On podcast that the Baltimore Sun only learned about the DNA test recently, filing its public information request for it last Tuesday and getting the information in time to publish its article on Thursday. She says it’s a suspiciously quick amount of time for the attorney general’s office to respond to such a request — usually, it would take a month or two, suggesting that the state wanted this information out there before the episode aired to diminish the documentary’s overall impact on public opinion about the case.
Don and Mr. S should be considered suspects
There’s been much speculation about Don Clinedinst, Lee’s older boyfriend and co-worker at LensCrafters, and Alonzo Sellers, the man who discovered Lee’s body in Leakin Park and was known as “Mr. S” in Serial because he hadn’t been publicly named when the podcast aired.
First, Clinedinst was cleared by police because he had an alibi — working a shift at LensCrafters. The defense investigators point out that his alibi is thin because it comes from the manager of the store, who happens to be Clinedinst’s mother, and a digital time card, which either one of them allegedly could have manipulated after the fact. Another employee at the store recounts how Clinedinst, when telling his co-workers about Lee’s disappearance, had scratch marks and bandages on his forearms. Clinedinst said those injuries happened when he was doing work on his car, and detectives never questioned him in person about the case until three weeks after Lee went missing, so the speculation is that the wounds were healed or concealed by then.
As for Sellers, the suspicion surrounding him has centered on his previous conviction of indecent exposure and the oddness of the claim that he just happened to need to urinate in the spot where he found Lee’s body. It was very far into the woods from the road, and crime scene photos show that Lee’s body was barely visible in the leaf-strewn area, even up close. The new theories linking him to the murder are that the diamond-shaped mark left on Lee’s body might have come from her body being pressed down on equipment used in concrete construction work, which Sellers had previously done for a living. Also, he lived within five minutes’ walking distance of Woodlawn High School, so there’s a chance he might have seen her before. It’s all very thin, but once again, it could have been used as reasonable doubt at Syed’s trial.
According to the documentary, neither man’s DNA or prints were compared to what was found at the scene or in the car. Of course, no male DNA was found at the scene, and if either man was involved, how does Wilds fit into that narrative, especially given that other people claim he told them about the murder soon after it happened?
Lee’s car was likely moved well after her death
In an earlier episode of the documentary, Syed’s investigators go over the discovery of Lee’s car in a Baltimore lot. Wilds’s story is that he and Syed abandoned the car there where nobody would look for it, but residents say there’s no way a car would’ve lasted there for over six weeks without being towed or vandalized.
The other revelation is about the grass underneath the car, as it’s seen in police photos. A scientist attempted to grow and simulate the decaying of that same type of grass as it would have happened under the car in that time frame, but couldn’t make any conclusions based on that. However, he does point out that there are blades of grass on the car’s wheels and that — given the precipitation, freezing, and thawing that happened between the murder and the discovery — it’s likely that the car was only there for a week at the most. If true, it leads to the questions of who drove it there and why Wilds would lie about that.”
From The Cut: “[o]ne of the first things you learn about interviewing is to save the difficult questions for the end, but Natasha Lyonne and I started our afternoon together at a planetarium, so What is the meaning of life? came up sooner than I expected. Reclining in the dark at the Lower Eastside Girls Club — secret home to ‘the best planetarium on Avenue D’ — as our intergalactic narrator reassured us that we humans were not insignificant, just small, the byproducts of (possibly) endless explosions and reignitions that had eventually lead to the very knowledge of the vastness of the universe that may now be overwhelming us, Lyonne and I had already covered: astrology (‘I don’t talk about zodiac stuff because I’m not a tween’); quantum physics (‘not only do I understand it, but I’ve written so many books about it that are not yet published; I’m going to self-publish them all and explain it to everybody’); and apocalypses, climate-related or otherwise. (Their lack of preparation for doomsday is the main thing she and her boyfriend, Fred Armisen, fight about; she thinks they need a better plan.) I’d intended the turn to existentialism as a sort of joke, but to Lyonne, questions of life and its meaning aren’t abstract or hypothetical, things she’s been able to put off thinking about, so she approached the subject in earnest. Or her version of earnest, which frames the topics that most inspire platitudes with fuhgeddaboudit frankness and energetic gestures toward their overarching absurdity.
“‘The meaning of life is [blank],’ she sang. ‘Have you ever read Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning? It’s a hot book, right? I think it really sums it up. You have to find something beyond self. If it’s all about self-propulsion, it’s going to feel really dirty at some point. On a smaller scale, we find the things we’re good at and have a natural interest in and see the ways in which we can help illuminate the human condition through those tools. Some people can do it with a greater scope and poetry — scientists and philosophers and doctors. That does not seem to be in my wheelhouse. We’ve essentially cracked polio, but certainly I wasn’t going to be a participating member in that solution. I might be able to help distract the scientists cracking it a little bit, or the person in the iron lung who needed a little bit of relief to fight another day.’
“Lyonne, who turns 40 in April, is the co-creator and star of the recent hit Netflix series Russian Doll and the rare actress whose perspective on finding a purpose comes from actually having to find one. Her career in ‘show biz,’ as she calls it, began when she appeared on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse as Opal at age 6, and she divides it into two phases. Her reason for doing this will be obvious to most people who’ve heard of her, particularly if you were around for the cackling rubber-necking that characterized New York City gossip blogs in the early and mid-2000s: After a series of plum teen roles, including the exasperated voice of reason in the cult classic Slums of Beverly Hills and Jessica in American Pie, Lyonne slowly but publicly began to ‘drop out.’ She developed a heroin addiction and in 2005 ended up in the hospital with problems that included a collapsed lung and hepatitis C. In 2012, she had to undergo open-heart surgery due to related complications, and afterward she told Entertainment Weekly she’d figured she was done with acting for good. That sense was mostly pragmatic: She didn’t think she could get work again. ‘Nobody was eager for my return,’ she said. ‘Let’s not mistake this for a Robert Downey Jr. scenario — nobody actually gave a fuck.’ She had to be willing to take on ‘a couple lines here and there,’ mostly to pay rent, and people close to her — especially Chloë Sevigny, Lyonne’s friend of 20 years — had to vouch for her ability to show up for longer projects.
“What solidified her return, in 2013, was her role as womanizing inmate Nicky Nichols on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, which both allowed her to mine her past for material — Nichols is addicted to heroin, and after it’s revealed she also had to have open-heart surgery, Lyonne bares her real scar — and move beyond it in her work. The role enabled her to fully explore ‘a particular version’ of herself, the one that attracts and is attracted to the ‘sort of male, ’70s typology, that kind of genderless sort of person’ that, particularly when it’s a woman, often ends up an ‘ancillary player.’ Her success as a beloved part of the ensemble comes from the serious consideration she brought to the role; when Nichols was shipped to maximum security for trying to sell heroin and not seen for the rest of season three, Lyonne told critics she was ‘excited’ to see such a realistic development for the character. ‘It makes sense that a self-destructive person would end up where she did,’ she said, before outlining the possible ways Nichols might respond to the experience. But she’s not at all resentful of spending so much time in that role, and I believe her when she says so. ‘I’ve never done anything for seven years,’ she told me, referring to her time on the show. ‘I’ve never been in a romantic relationship for seven years, let alone one project, so it’s nice to have something with closure that’s healthy in a life. As sad as I am, it’s also kind of a nice, life-affirming event that something can go on for so long and end so positively.’
“I met Lyonne two days after the wrap party for OITNB — her hair unwashed since then — which will air its final season later this year, and about a month following the debut of Russian Doll. Here, too, Lyonne worked from life, but the relationship between her and her character, Nadia Vulvokov — a wise-cracking nihilist whose slyly impenetrable defense mechanisms begin to falter when, on the night of her 36th birthday party, she is hit and killed by a taxi while crossing the street to catch her lost cat — is more intuitive. Instead of moving on to the afterlife, Nadia reappears looking in the bathroom mirror at her party, consigned by a ripple in the space-time continuum — and/or, the show suggests, unresolved issues from her childhood — to relive her death over and over again, through scenarios that range from the ludicrous (pratfalls) to the genuinely harrowing.
“Nadia is a version of the typical Lyonne character, particularly at first, but as she softens over the course of the show, the confusion and pain of her Groundhog Day non-existence wearing on her, Lyonne’s performance improves: it’s as if she begins by going through the motions of schticky irony in order to make an argument in favor of real emotion. The disorienting and increasingly upsetting cycle of death and rebirth mimics the highs and lows of addiction, while implying the constant near-deaths an addict experiences, and the translation from literal addict to figurative one allows for a more dynamic understanding of what it means to bottom out but survive. ‘I was like, you know what?’ she said. ‘I’ll just write it for myself, because I don’t know if you guys are really grasping why I’m interested in these characters, what it means when you’re [saying], “It’s like Peter Falk or Columbo.” What does that actually mean? Peter Falk is nobody’s second banana; this guy is a real motherfucker. He can really do some shit and make you feel some things.’
“The show’s fans are calling for a second season, but Lyonne has a lot going on: her recent forays into directing — in addition to Russian Doll, she directed an episode of the final season of OITNB and a short, Fellini/Fosse-inspired film for Kenzo, Cabiria, Charity, Chastity — have revealed ‘the language that I’m interested in as a filmmaker,’ and she’s excited to make a feature. Plus her new production company with Maya Rudolph, Animal Pictures, signed a first-look deal with Amazon at the end of last year.
“Appropriately, our schedule for the day, devised by Lyonne, seemed peripatetic, but ultimately revealed itself to have a grand thematic cohesion. Our first stop, the Lower Eastside Girls Club, hosts a variety of programs for young women in the community, and in addition to the planetarium, we stopped by a couple of classes, where students asked for photos (‘You want a picture? Oh, good. I thought [my visit] meant nothing.’) and taught Lyonne how to record other users’ Instagram Stories and save them on her phone (her request). The way the organization approaches the future from a rapidly changing location that can’t help but insinuate the past influenced Lyonne while she wrote Russian Doll, which features several of her real-life friends and frequent collaborators as characters — including Sevigny as Nadia’s mother — and is set in Alphabet City, around Tompkins Square Park.
“‘There’s something about this place existing in this building in this location, which was so much the world of that show,’ she told me. ‘You’d never suspect that there’s a direct pathway to space — there’s kind of a quantum narrative about the haunting of buildings and the haunting of people within a certain geography.’ The show’s uncanny, time-warped vision of downtown New York is at once contemporary — complete with drunk bros — and nostalgic; it comes across like the past’s somewhat realistic fantasy of the future.
“The past, the future, and alternative histories and futures existing simultaneously in the chaos of the physical present: this may be why she talks so fast, interrupting and editing herself, and why her quotes work best as paragraphs. As we got in a car to go to Film Forum, where Lyonne got much of her education in movies, we saw an ad for Russian Doll. After ten years of being a ‘child actor,’ she left home and at 16 enrolled at NYU’s Tisch as a film and philosophy major, which lasted ‘a few days.’ ‘At the time it was a very big deal to be in a Woody Allen movie, and I’d been in one, and I felt like, good, this is the summation of ten years of work from the ages of 6 to 16; as an actor I’m done with this first chapter and now I’m going to become a director.’ That sense of linear progression was soon proven idealistic. Lyonne describes her ‘grandiose thinking’ as a teenager in a tone of self-effacement, but she was right to think of herself as on a different level than her peers, who, I’m assuming, had neither the determination of the “ragamuffin” autodidact nor people like Alan Arkin and Kevin Corrigan to tell them what to watch next. (Lyonne remembers binging Cassavetes on Corrigan’s recommendation while shooting Slums of Beverly Hills — she sat in the back of the New Beverly Cinema drinking a 40 from a paper bag.) In an introduction to film studies class, ‘they were watching Apocalypse Now and I was like, I know you all don’t think I’m going to give you 60 grand to watch Apocalypse Now and break it down with a bunch of teenagers.’ She bought an apartment and continued her self-directed curriculum instead.
“Last year Lyonne appeared in a Film Forum New York Luminaries video talking about her longtime appreciation for the storied cinema, but she hadn’t tried to milk her status as a VIP for a tour of the projection room until now. Upstairs, she asked awestruck questions of the projectionist and gleefully identified the scenes in a collage above someone’s desk. When we passed a row of metal canisters containing archival prints, she wondered if Scorsese’s house was lined with them — he founded a film-restoration foundation in 1990 — and then began to pile on jokes from there. ‘Can you imagine walking with your movie into a film festival or something? Can I lift this one? Can you take a picture of me with this movie? This is me pretending to be Buñuel. It’s heavy. This is why women didn’t use to make movies. That’s why Schwarzenegger’s a great filmmaker.’ Before we met, she’d been at home watching Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties.
“Throughout the afternoon, our conversation reflected a mutual understanding about her ‘past’; both she and what was deemed her ‘comebac’” were covered in the press extensively, under headlines that slowly transitioned from ‘As Taxpayers, We Ask That the City Please Do Something About Natasha Lyonne’ to ‘Natasha Lyonne, the original queen of the career capsize, comes up for air’ to ‘Natasha Lyonne: “I was definitely as good as dead”’ to those that now reference her ‘personal journey.’ (The structure of Russian Doll might also represent the online news cycle.) At our last stop for the day — the Basquiat show at the Brant Foundation — I wondered if it was odd or uncomfortable that some of the worst moments of her life are common knowledge, and she said she figured it ‘makes my job a lot easier, to try to live truthfully and not have to be a chameleon when I’m speaking with you. I can just focus on being one person, the person I actually am.’ Earlier, I’d asked her if she regretted dropping out of school, and she could only be equivocal. ‘I would’ve gotten to all this sooner, and I would’ve felt more confident and written better emails,’ she said. ‘At the same time, I guess those are the same years I spent developing something to say. Having such a specific experience enabled me to have a specific point of view, even though it was a nightmare getting through so much of it. But I think of that often; if you had sort of made a deal with me then and told me, “This is what you’re going to have to go through”… ‘ She cut herself off and began to talk optimistically about aging. When we passed Anthology Film Archives in the car, she posed a fantasy future in which she becomes a ‘Stan Brakhage filmmaker’ who makes ‘movies to nap to, that I am making from my heart and soul for me, sir.’
“Lyonne knows someone who used to date Basquiat — ‘That’s me bragging transitively’ — and she ran into a few friends at the gallery, as well as a fan in the street. ‘I’m like an unfamous famous person,’ she said after the woman walked by. ‘I might as well be that fire hydrant or something. I’m just a part of the East village — a fixture. Like, ‘Ah, yeah, that makes sense!’ but nobody cares.’ Showing an artist like Basquiat in a sterile, wait-listedInstagram paradise might represent the devolution of the East Village and Lower East Side into a playground for corporate interests appropriating alternative history. But to Lyonne — whose leopard-print pants, double-breasted leather blazer, black nail polish, and accumulation of jewelry were also at home in the place–time continuum — the artist, along with Film Forum and the Lower Eastside Girls Club, exist in ‘the best New York.’ ‘You’re going to be so exhausted if all day you’re like, “This is offending me aesthetically,” meaning college students or whatever. It’s a little bit healthier to be like, “Look — the old neighborhood” and see the version of it you want to see.’
“Such ease is hard-won, and Lyonne’s ability to take what’s good and joke about the rest is at the heart of Russian Doll. Though she’s eager to spend some time away from her own life as part of her new production company, her multidimensional perspective on the self offers something richer than the standard experience-followed-by-lesson format of autobiographical fare: She can joke about herself without letting herself become a joke, and this skill — transforming self-consciousness into self-awareness — is something many people can (or should) understand. Slums of Beverly Hills begins with a scene in which Lyonne’s character tries on a bra at a lingerie store, looking directly at the camera, an implied mirror, transfixed and a little scared of what she sees. The same image recurs more than 20 years later as Nadia looks at herself in the mirror at her birthday party, as if to ask the same questions: Who is this person, and how did she get here?”
Per TheWrap, “William Zabka is the (billed) star of YouTube series Cobra Kai and the same guy who played Johnny Lawrence back in The Karate Kid days. But when did you become so grown-up and formal, bro? What happened to ‘Billy’?
“We had to know — turns out this writer (and probably much of America) had the order all wrong. Kind of.
“‘When I did Karate Kid, I was “Billy Zabka.” I’ve been “Billy” my whole life. And then we had to do my name for the credit, and I thought, “Well, am I always gonna be a Billy? No, one day I’ll probably grow into a William,”’ he told me, a ‘Tony’ who considered growing into an ‘Anthony,’ professionally. ‘William sounds more mature, and it’s my birth name, so we went with “William Zabka.” So it’s always been William Zabka first and most people would address me that way.’
“So what the hell are we thinking of?
“‘When How I Met Your Mother’came along, which was a super-popular show, Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) called me “Billy Zabka.” On that show I was referred to as “Billy Zabka, Billy Zabka, Billy Zabka,” and then people got more comfortable calling me “Billy” and now “Billy” is out there and you see “William” and people think I’m trying to throw “William” in front of “Billy,”’ he continued. ‘It’s a big car wreck, dude.’
“‘I probably should have just stayed with “Billy” the whole time, it would have been very easy,’ Billy/William Zabka said. ‘But one thing I do like about the difference is that if I’m somewhere in public and somebody calls out to ‘William’ and I’m like with my family, I know that they most likely don’t know me personally.’
“‘This is a great thing to put in print,’ he joked, ‘but “Billy” will get my head turned.’
“Well, we (internet) printed it. Have at Billy Zabka, general public.
Cobra Kai returns for its 2nd season April 24 on YouTube Premium. Sorry to have wasted your time with that William/Billy nonsense.