Tuesday September 3, 2019

I watched Free Meek on Amazon. Definitely worth your time, especially if you’re not completely familiar with his story.

I also watched the Travis Scott doc on Netflix. Definitely not worth your time.

I’m also done with On Becoming A God In Central Florida.

A new season of Mayans MC premieres tonight.

HBO wraps up another season of Hard Knocks.

Some folks from The Brady Bunch show up as judges tonight on Chopped.

Netflix is implementing a new release pattern for its 10-episode hip-hop competition series Rhythm + Flow. Picked up straight-to-series in November, the show — hosted by Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris — will air over three weeks. The first batch of four episodes will launch Wednesdays, Oct. 9, and feature the audition process. Week two, launching Oct. 16, will consist of episodes five through seven and cover cyphers, rap battles and music videos. The series will conclude Wednesday, Oct. 23, with episodes eight through 10 and cover samples, collaborations and the finale. Rhythm + Flow is the streaming giant's first music competition series and features industry legends in a multiple-city (covering L.A., New York, Atlanta and Chicago) search for undiscovered artists. John Legend, Ty Stiklorius and Mike Jackson's Get Lifted, Gaspin and his Gaspin Media, Jesse Collins and his Jesse Collins Entertainment exec produce alongside Nikki Boella, Jeff Pollack, Cardi B., Chance the Rapper and Harris.”

Remembering Valerie Harper.

“Certain comics may be coming to Louis C.K.‘s defense after he admitted to sexually harassing women, but Anthony Jeselnik isn’t one of them. In a new episode of The Daily Beast’s The Last Laugh podcast, Jeselnik insists that he ‘certainly [doesn’t] feel bad’ for C.K., as ‘he did this” to himself.’ Jeselnik went on to say that he’s ‘surprised’ by ‘the tack that he has taken with his comeback, ‘particularly C.K.’s jokes about the Parkland shooting survivors. ‘I think it’s funny to watch this guy who was the comedy god for 10 years have to eat all this shit,’ said the Good Talk host. When asked about Louis C.K.’s attempted comeback, Jeselnik didn’t mince words. ‘People keep asking the question, should he be allowed to perform? And I think that’s the wrong question,’ the comic told The Last Laugh host Matt Wilstein. ‘This is show business and it’s not fair, just or even remotely reasonable. The question is, should you buy a ticket? And that’s up to the audience member.’ He added that platforms like Netflix may not be ‘completely against’ releasing a C.K. special, particularly if it’s ‘a platform to come and apologize. I don’t know if I would watch it, but I’ve read every single article about it. I’m just fascinated,’ continued Jeselnik. ‘It’s like watching somebody fall down.’ The Comedy Central host insisted that he doesn’t really have ‘a take’ on the Louis C.K. situation, but added, ‘I certainly don’t feel bad for him. I don’t think anything happened to him. I think that he did this. And if he can fight his way back, I’m interested in watching someone drag themselves through barbed wire.’”

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Per Deadline, “[t]he final scene has been shot and the cast has exited the set of USA Network’s Suits.

“The legal drama wrapped production Thursday after nine seasons of triumphs, defeats, and romantic liaisons.

“As the actors left their made-for-TV law firm the last time, some of the cast members shared tributes on social media. Gabriel Macht, who stars as Harvey Specter, thanked his wife Jacinda Barrett for remaining by his side, despite years of sacrifice.

“‘Nine years ago I started the Suits journey,’ Macht wrote. ‘It all began with the most important person in my life by my side. This life that has offered us so much… some easy, many challenging, countless miles apart and hours, days, and months separating us and our loved ones not to mention years of sacrifice on so many levels. I count my blessings you sticking with me through to the bitter sweet end of this era.’

“He went on to express gratitude to the show’s crew, his co-stars and fans.

“‘As I have thanked my wonderful crew, my talented ensemble, and the fantastic fans that keep coming back for more…I am most grateful for Jacinda Barrett,’ he added.

“Sarah Rafferty, who plays Donna Paulsen, posted photos throughout the week. In one picture, she shared an embrace with Rick Hoffman, who co-stars as Louis Litt.

“‘And that’s a series wrap on my brother Rick E. Hoffman. No words for this one,’ she captioned the photo.

“Gina Torres, who left the series and now stars on Suits spinoff, Pearson, also got nostalgic. She posted a picture of the cast, including Meghan Markle — now the Duchess of Sussex — and described them all as ‘family.’

“‘When I left this beautiful family the first time, I was not on social media,’ she wrote. ‘My thoughts were my own. My salute to the most delicious cast and crew, was wonderfully private, including hugs I can still feel. Today I say goodbye for the second and last time to all that made this show so very extraordinary. You know who you are. You will forever have my deepest love and respect.’

Suits launched in 2011, with a storyline centering on hotshot lawyer Harvey Specter. He took a gamble by hiring Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a brilliant, but not exactly legitimate attorney as an associate at his Manhattan law firm. Along with Jessica Pearson and Louis Litt, they built a wildly successful firm.

“The final season centers on an evolved firm, Zane Specter Litt Wheeler Williams, which is facing uncertainty and change yet again after Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) took the fall with the Bar Association to save Harvey. After his sacrifice, Samantha Wheeler (Katherine Heigl) is left reeling from the loss of her mentor, and while trying to console her, Harvey realizes that he doesn’t want to lose the most important person to him — Donna.”

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From The Hollywood Reporter: “On one level, the Safe Room episode of Succession was one of the HBO drama's funniest to date, from Roman's (Kieran Culkin) withering exposure to the family's theme park business to Connor's (Alan Ruck) deliriously non-specific eulogy to Tom's (Matthew Macfadyen) frustrated confrontation with Greg (Nicholas Braun) to Holly Hunter's perfectly prickly introduction to the cast.

“That is not the level that Jeremy Strong's Kendall finds himself on. In an extended personal nadir since last summer's finale, Kendall kept drifting to a skyscraper rooftop in existential crisis and ended the episode with an utterly heartbreaking conversation with Shiv (Sarah Snook), one in which he seemed, perhaps for the first time, to have a clear vision of his future.

“Strong spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about Kendall's deepening despair, a low point that didn't make the cut in the third episode and what it feels like to rarely be part of the show's hilarious side. He also weighs in on fans rooting for Kendall's awfulness and what he's rooting for himself:

That last conversation with Shiv is almost unimaginably sad. What was your first reaction to reading that scene and, I have to ask, am I a chump for thinking that Kendall's sincere in it?

I hope not. I mean, I was sincere. I think that is all sincerely felt, and just so poignantly and expertly drawn by [creator and showrunner] Jesse Armstrong, in terms of this inchoate, lost, desolate, deadened person trying to articulate where he's at. I was very moved by it when I read it. 

It was a relief for Kendall, a moment of connection for Kendall that he has not had this season. It was something, a bit like water in the desert for me, because of where we find him when this season starts. Part of what happened at the end of season one, is a total and complete inward collapse of a person, it's like the engine fell out. And all of the drive that had been animating him, his whole life force in a sense was extinguished by this catastrophic event, and really spectacular disaster and failure on his part. But the cost on him is really enormous, on Kendall. And part of that cost is this extreme estrangement from other people. He can't tell anyone what he's done, ever. And that isolates him and makes him very alone.

And he has to live with the anguish of it. When I re-read Crime and Punishment before we started this season, Dostoevsky uses the phrase "monstrous pain" to talk about what Raskolnikov is carrying with him, and that was something that I really thought was important to try and embody. So it was hard to find that place in yourself, hard to live out that place. But that scene with Shiv at the end of [episode] four, that "monstrous pain" is a part of that whole episode for me, it's why I keep going up to the roof, it's why I find myself sort of on that precipice and I'm sure having thoughts of suicide.

In the hunting episode in Hungary, there was a scene where I was off in the woods alone hunting and I unload serially, all of these bullets into a boar. And in one of the takes, I found myself putting the rifle in my mouth, and just sat there with it in my mouth for a very long time. And it obviously didn't make it into the cut of the episode, but I think that's because they wanted to build to where four builds to. 

This season, what have been the challenges of playing the shades of melancholy that Kendall has been going through? I imagine at some point you have to be a little bit nervous yourself that that's all going to come through on camera, that you're going to be able to convey the different gradations that you're trying to play.

Some other kind of actor might answer that differently and have more technical facility in terms of rendering those shades. My belief is, if you actually inhabit a place of brokenness and grief and then just let that live, without in any way trying to control or prescribe or present what that might look like, that's been my goal, to live in and inhabit whatever given circumstances are, emotionally as best I can, and hope that the way that is emanating and coming through me, or even existing in me in an embodied way, will be felt by the audience, if it's real for me.

But in terms of the gradations, I don't know. Hopefully it's not all the same color gray because I think as we're doing it, I'm having quite a real and personal experience. You have to figure out what are the things that would break me? What are the things without which, or if I was to lose them, or if I were to cross this line or that line in some irrevocable way, would just shatter me? And so those are the kinds of creative puzzles that you're struggling with as the actor.

That's all very highfalutin, but really the writing just brings it out of you. I think of the writing as a set of magnets that just magnetizes out of you, the emotions and gradations that it requires. It just summons those things out of you, so you just need to be a vessel for that. So I guess that I'm not very aware of what's showing up on camera, and I don't want to be. I trust that if it's coming from the unconscious in me, then that's right. If I ever become too self-aware, then I feel further from the truth of it.

Does your process require that you dig in and stick with these gradations of gloominess? Or do you have to force yourself to have moments of silliness between shots, just to kind of shake this off?

No, I find that I need to dig in and entrench myself and then stay in. I would also say gloominess is a symptom of something, but what Kendall is experiencing is closer to a despair that is as close as you can be to wanting to die. It is a hell that he's in, and it is despair. The interesting thing about despair is it, as the absence of all hope, it's very inactive. That was a challenging as an actor to try and play, because the truism is that you always need something active to do as an actor.

So this was an experiment for me to try and kind of be in a dead man's float for as long as I possibly could, in the arc of the season, until something comes along that might reanimate me. But it really did feel like The Revenant, in a sense of just a person who's essentially dead, who at a certain point in a later episode, something will galvanize him that makes him want to live again. But in those early episodes and in four I think we're still dealing with a level of despair that is the absence of life in him. Whoever that guy was that we met rapping in the backseat of the car in the very first episode, he's not there anymore. That was tremendously sad for me.

And you don't want to stay in that place, it's a bit like holding a rubber ball that is your spirit and positivity underwater for months at a time. But I think that's what I tried to do, and attempted to do, to try and make this as fully felt and embodied as I could. But those days where you're on the ledge on the 75-story building, I don't know how to personally work where you can kind of come in and out of that. You need to really, really go stand on that ledge and find reasons why you might do that.

If last season was like climbing this mountain of his life's ambitions, this season has been like starting at the bottom of this deep crater, where he has just cratered out and then trying to get out of that. But for a long time the writing doesn't give me any rungs in the ladder, to climb out of the crater.

What's such a unique thing about this show is that you can have Kendall being on the 75th floor contemplating suicide in this nihilistic, existential crisis and then at the same time, you have Tom and Greg in a panic room throwing stuff at each other, totally wacky hijinks. How aware were you at this point in shooting that you were almost in a different show from half of the cast?

I felt in a different show for a majority of the time, and there's been certain islands within that. For example, last year when I went to New Mexico when Kendall got high again, where I felt like I could join in the camaraderie, even in this really fucked up way. But those days on set I remember feeling much more buoyant, because it brought out this other side of Kendall that he'd kept under control. But in general I feel pretty isolated from that aspect of the show. As an objective outsider, it's a real testament to Jesse that he can straddle these different sensibilities. I come from the theater and so of course I think about Chekhov, who had these extreme pathos and extreme levity side by side, and Jesse's able to do that with hilarity and absurdity and then also have such gravity.

But I've always felt that in a sense Brian [Cox] and I are sometimes in a different show totally where we are both engaged in this life and death struggle in a very serious way, and then the hijinks are just happening around it. We are all in the same piece, and that is so exciting and somehow it works. There's something very ineffable about that. I don't know if Jesse knew if it would work; if he could put all these things together in the same container.

It's funny because when I describe the show to people, I call it a “very dark comedy, but with these tragic veins running through it." Do you come at it as almost the exact opposite?

Yeah, totally. I see it as a drama with these dark comic, satirical veins going through it, but at its core and the ballast of it is this dramatic throughline. The very first conversation I had with [exec producer] Adam McKay and Jesse about it, was about the Danish film The Celebration, which is also darkly comic but very much a drama about trauma and family trauma. And of course we talked about the Godfather films, because who doesn't? But I do think there is an element of that in this that I have been not very aware of, but certainly informed by. But I do see it as sort of a heavyweight drama.

This episode is also the first appearance from Holly Hunter, and this is obviously a cast that doesn't lack for powerhouses, but what is the different energy that someone like her brings when she comes on the set for the first time?

It's interesting because Holly is such a formidable force as an actor, and is someone that we've all known for a long time. When I heard that she'd been cast, you always wonder if that might upset the apple cart in terms of the center of gravity, having such a revered, known person come into a show where Brian is obviously well-known, but in a way, we've become this family for audiences, so all that by way of saying, god was I happy that Holly Hunter came and did this role on our show. She really is a force of nature, and I think she elevated and deepened the environment, she brought a singularity of focus to the environment, she just raises the bar.

So it was exciting to have that caliber of an actor come into the show in a supporting role, and give that role and this world even more weight. I had a lot of fun with Holly, I think we both approach the work in a very similar way, and we both put ourselves on human airplane mode, shutting out everything else. I really appreciate that in her, and she really has a level of mastery, as Brian Cox does, that is just exciting to be around and to be in the ring with.

I don't know how much attention you pay to such things, but two episodes ago, with the gutting of Vaulter, there was a lot of, "Yay, Kendall got his mojo back." Whereas I viewed it as kind of a rock bottom moment for him. How do you respond to people rooting for Kendall to get his awfulness back?

That's interesting. One thing is that I'm not at all aware of the [conversation]. I block all that out, which is probably wise for me to do, and just stay inside of it. I agree with you in that I think it really is a rock bottom. Where when I first talked to Jesse about this season, where he said his idea was seeing Kendall as this defeated, submissive, subservient and subjugated lackey to my father. I immediately thought of The Manchurian Candidate and trying to create this almost somnambulistic, just dead-eyed soldier who's been weaponized, who's been made to cross further and further his own moral and ethical lines.

I thought about this line from Richard III, where he says he's "so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin." And that was something that I thought about as we were doing that, so it felt awful. It felt awful to do, it feels slightly awful that people are rooting for awfulness, but maybe it sounds like they're rooting for Kendall to get his mojo back, which is not so awful.

I know that I was rooting for him. He's got the wind knocked out of him in such a bad way, and while these people are not just the most sterling, spotless people, I think they are very fallible, but I do think they are trying to be some version of their best selves. I know Kendall is trying to do that, what that version looks like is different from what most peoples versions looks like. But he is trying to do that, so I hope that's something to root for.”

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One more Succession interview (from Vulture): “While the Roy family sets to work destroying one another on Succession, there’s always a force lingering in the background, peering over her glasses in disappointment, playing both sides of every boardroom spat. That’s right: In all things Succession, there is Gerri, Waystar Royco’s general counsel.

“Played with poisonous efficiency by J. Smith-Cameron, Gerri survives the chaos primarily by staying out of it. In the show’s second season, however, Gerri can’t resist getting drawn into the Waystar Royco power struggles, as she’s temporarily placed in charge of the company (a position she accepts with a sense of trepidation), and also gets caught up in a sexually charged, mentorlike relationship with Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), the family’s most chaotic son. Gerri pushes Roman to get a job at a Waystar theme park and clean up his act, and in the fourth episode, after Roman gets into a fight with his girlfriend over the fact that they don’t have sex, Gerri and Roman end up stumbling into phone sex together. Which, in the world of Succession, means that he jacks off while she berates him for being ‘a revolting little worm’ and a ‘little slime puppy.’

“Smith-Cameron, a TV and theater actor who’s worked with Culkin a lot in the past (including in her husband Kenneth Lonergan’s film Margaret as well as onstage), was as surprised as everyone else by Gerri and Roman’s phone sex, though she also admits it makes a certain sense. Vulture caught up with her — over the phone, of course — to discuss what’s going through Gerri’s mind during that scene, how she imagines Gerri’s backstory, and why she’s managed to survive at Waystar for so long:

At the end of this episode, Gerri and Roman have very charged, very unexpected phone sex. How did you initially react to that scene?
Well, I was totally shocked. In episode one, I remember [director] Mark Mylod saying, “Lean into Roman, a little foreshadowing.” I was like, “What foreshadowing?” And he went, “Oh, has no one told you about that?” Then he said, “Yeah, there’s gonna be something.” Kieran and I have known each other a long time. We have a good rapport on set. Gerri and Roman also have, somehow, a good rapport because [she] can just tell him to shut up all the time, you know? He maybe respects that or enjoys that in some roundabout way. But it’s still very, very weird!

I was rewatching the first season and I was surprised by how much it’s foreshadowed. Early on, Gerri has a line about how Roman “knows how to flirt” with her.
I can’t speak for Kieran, but I think there’s something in Roman’s makeup that admires the way Gerri has power even in the midst of dealing with Logan. She keeps her boat afloat and that’s not lost on him. He finds that appealing.

What do you think she gets out of it? It feels like a way for her to exert authority amid the chaos.
Intellectually, it’s that, but I don’t know. I was watching episode three last night, where they’re in Hungary and they’d been to that horrible night of “boar on the floor” and they’re all hung-over. Gerri comes to get [Roman] because he’s late for breakfast, and there’s an undeniable fondness or intimacy there. It was on the page, but it also just was true. It just happened in the room. I don’t think, at that point, Gerri would ever guess where it was going. I think she is fond of him and would like to think of him as a protégé or something. She thinks, Oh, he’s not stupid. And he’s very charismatic. He’s just a restless spoiled brat. If the right person could fashion that, he’d be really an amazing person.

But that’s a distant thought, because I don’t think she has very high hopes for the Roys. I feel like Gerri is like, Oh brother, about all three of the sons, all the time. But some kind of rapport is there. I don’t think she knows what to make of it. Every time we went to shoot one of those scenes, I’d be like, “What is this?” It finally occurred to me that Gerri doesn’t know either. She’s just playing it moment to moment, like, What? Okay. What?

A lot of Gerri’s scenes involve her observing these Roy power struggles, then reacting to whatever’s happening. What is it like to film that?
It’s really fun. She’s in the center of the company, but not being born a Roy, there’s some layer of privilege she can’t access. But there’s some sanity that she can always access because she’s not caught up in that above-the-law feeling. So she does bide her time. She does carefully choose her words.

It’s not that Gerri is morally superior at all, by the way. She’s a way for the audience to see someone who’s not just flexing their incredible power of being born into this. I sometimes wonder, Why in the world would anyone choose to work there?, but I imagine people get addicted. It’s like an extreme sport. Will I get dunked by this wave or will I come out on top?

At the beginning of this season, Gerri is ostensibly put in charge of the company, even as Logan insists that she won’t be his successor. Should we be worried for her, considering how unstable the company is? 
Last year, my first scene I shot was when Roman asked me to do that job. Logan had his stroke and he went to the hospital and I’m like, “No thanks.” He’s like, “What?” You later find out that Gerri knows how much debt they’re in, so I think she never had the fantasy about running the business. She does not want to inherit it at a moment when whoever has it is bound to fail because it’s going to be in really treacherous waters. This season, she’s not in the chosen [group]. She’s not quite in sync with it all. She’s staying alive in the game, but it’s not really quite exactly going her way.

You talked about working with Kieran in the past. Between you, him, and Jeannie Berlin, who plays ATN boss Cyd Peach, there’s a whole Margaret reunion happening this second season.
That’s right! It’s a joy. Jeannie and I had more to say to each other than what made the cut, but I don’t want to give it away because it could be used still.

Kieran’s been in a number of my husband’s plays as well as Margaret. I’ve gotten to know him over a long the time. I feel like it did really inform the Gerri-Roman thing, our history. It makes for this shorthand you have with someone. A lot of the things that turned out to be true of Gerri, which weren’t written in stone to begin with, they evolved as a combination of the writers and me and the mood on set. It’s our past, but it’s also the way my character evolved into a niche in sync with his character. It’s like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, like they’re like partners in crime.”

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Per EW, “‘Yes it’s true I am leaving Saturday Night Live.’

Leslie Jones publicly addressed her departure from NBC’s long-running sketch comedy series in a heartfelt message shared on Twitter, accompanied by her own spin on the DMX Challenge.

“The comedienne gave thanks to SNL‘s executive producer Lorne Michaels, the writers and crew, her fellow cast mates (including her Ghostbusters costar Kate McKinnon and ‘porcelain-skinned Ken doll’ Colin Jost), and her fans.

“To Michaels, she wrote, ‘You’ve changed my life in so many ways! Thank you for being my mentor and confidant and for always having my back. You not only have my loyalty but you have my heart too! You have shown me skills I never imagined I had. I leave a better performer because of you.’

“Meanwhile, the video, set to DMX’s What They Really Want, runs down some of Jones’ most iconic characters after five seasons on SNL.

1/5
Yes it’s true I am leaving Saturday Night Live. I cannot thank NBC, the producers, writers, and amazing crew enough for making SNL my second home these last five years. Lorne Michaels, you’ve changed my life in so many ways! Thank you for being my mentor and confidant and for

“‘I will miss holding it down with Kenan [Thompson] everyday, I will miss Cecily [Strong]’s impression of me making me laugh at myself often, I will miss Kate’s loving hugs and talks when I needed,’ Jones continued. ‘And of course Colin, you porcelain-skinned Ken doll. I will miss all my cast mates!! Especially being at the table reads with them!! Everyone needs to know Leslie Jones couldn’t have done any of the things I did without these people.’

“News of Jones’ leave from the show came a week ago, a month before the start of season 45.

“Jones, who recently voiced a main role in The Angry Birds Movie 2, had nabbed her own Netflix stand-up comedy special to air in 2020, as well as a hosting gig on the upcoming Supermarket Sweep reboot. She’s also filming a role in theComing to America sequelComing 2 America.

“Speaking to her fans on Twitter, Jones teased, ‘I know you will be as excited as I am when you see some of the amazing projects and adventures that I have coming up very soon!’

2/5
always having my back. You not only have my loyalty but you have my heart too! You have shown me skills I never imagined I had. I leave a better performer because of you. To the incredible cast members: I will miss working, creating and laughing with you.

3/5
I will miss holding it down with Kenan everyday, I will miss Cecily’s impression of me making me laugh at myself often, I will miss Kate’s loving hugs and talks when I needed. And of course Colin, you porcelain-skinned Ken doll. I will miss all my cast mates!!

4/5
Especially being at the table reads with them!! Everyone needs to know Leslie Jones couldn’t have done any of the things I did without these people.
One last thing – to the fans – you are the BEST!! Thank you for all the love and support through my SNL years

5/5
and I know you will be as excited as I am when you see some of the amazing projects and adventures that I have coming up very soon! Love you all!! #iamnotdeadjustgraduating
- Leslie”