A Gift for Good
Actress Katie Cassidy’s H.E.L.P initiative
December 13, 2010
Gossip Girl’s Katie Cassidy designed a pendant for the charity H.E.L.P. with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the children of Malawi. The piece—which features a drawing by Cassidy that was inspired by a trip to the country—comes in solid gold ($1,595) and gold-plated ($145) versions.
Actor Sean Wing moves
November 04, 2010
Viewers who seek The Whole Truth, ABC’s new legal drama from Jerry Bruckheimer, might find themselves objecting at times over the exploits of Chad Griffin, the slick and unscrupulous character played by Sean Wing. Griffin was raised not just with a silver spoon in his mouth but the entire place setting; he came from money and got to where he is the old-fashioned way—family connections.
Fortunately Wing’s specialty is diving into unfamiliar creative territory—as long as it moves him. And it’s a dandy thing he’s good at it because Wing’s upbringing is about as opposite from Griffin’s as the prosecution is from the defense. “I knew a lot of those guys. They were out partying while I was paying my dues,” says Wing during a break from shooting. “In a sense, Griffin is a little difficult to relate to, but he has a lot of room for growth. As an actor you have to take from your surroundings.” In Wing’s case, that’s a vast reservoir. Feature films? He recently appeared opposite Kristen Bell and Betty White in the comedy You Again. Theater? He spent three months in the Broadway production of the Green Day musical American Idiot. Indies? He has two in the can: Fuzz Track City and Red & Blue Marbles. Music? His first big break came in the boy band Fource, and he still writes songs.
None of this should be a surprise: Wing was born to be a performer—literally. His mom went into labor with him while she worked as a dance instructor at Circus Circus Las Vegas. “She’s my No. 1 fan,” he says. “But now she has input into everything I did or should have done in a scene. I’m self-critical enough, so sometimes I avoid her calls.”
Alexander the Great
Jamie Alexander is reaching great heights thanks to her supernatural talent.
October 29, 2010
“I just have this natural ability to play someone that’s superhuman,” says actress Jaimie Alexander, whose own obvious genetic gifts landed her stints as a chromosomally superior teen on the ABC Family series Kyle XY and as Asgardian goddess Sif in the superhero film Thor, due next spring. “That seems to be my career so far.”
Alexander’s warrior womanhood began when she persuaded her Texas high school board to start a female wrestling team. “My pin move was the half nelson because I was so tall,” she says. The experience built the drive and discipline necessary to pursue acting, and eventually she took Hollywood to the mat.
“I had no problem training with five boys in Thor—I was just one of the guys,” says Alexander on tackling six days a week of “crazy stuff you’d see in Ironman competitions.” But she was thrilled director Kenneth Branagh insisted she retain her womanly curves. “In Hollywood you don’t really hear that there is such a thing as too skinny, but the Marvel guys aren’t into the whole stick-figure thing, and I’m not either.”
In more down-to-earth roles, she’s a pharmaceutical rep vying with Anne Hathaway for Viagra salesman Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs, out this month. “I’m the ‘other’ girl, but it was a fun part,” she says. With all due respect to Ms. Hathaway, if the battle for the boy comes to blows, our money is on Ms. Alexander.
Robin Quivers prepares for the ING New York City Marathon with a cause in mind.
October 21, 2010
Robin Quivers, perhaps best known as co-host of The Howard Stern Show, decided that this was the year she would tackle a marathon—all 26.2 miles of it. She also decided that her ING New York City Marathon trek on November 7 should further more than just her overall health. Under the aegis of her 15 Foundation, her participation will benefit Family Cook Productions and The Sylvia Center. Quivers chatted with us about her training, marathon tips and the beauty of giving back.
What inspired you to run the marathon?
ROBIN QUIVERS: I’ve been in the habit of giving myself physical challenges for years, even when I just worked out in the gym. I would put myself on a really strict exercise and eating plan for a period of time just to find out what would happen. Then I experienced some health issues that prevented me from working out at all. Those were sad years. All during that time my only goal was to be able to walk without pain again. Since I’ve experienced this miraculous recovery, I just wanted to see how much this body could do.
What have you learned from this experience?
I really want to stress that I’ve never been a runner, so to take this on in any way is amazing to me. At first I couldn’t get beyond three miles. I’ve learned that I don’t get runner’s high and I’ve given up on the idea that I’m going to tap into some hidden reservoir of athletic talent. But most importantly, I’ve learned that even when it doesn’t feel good I can still achieve what I set out to accomplish.
15 Foundation: What made you want to give back?
I knew there were a lot of people who have figured out successful solutions to some of the problems we face today. I wanted to do what I could to bring awareness to those people and organizations and to help raise money for them if I could. The cofounder of 15, Brendan Murphy, and I decided to focus on children and education because we feel it’s the key to truly transforming lives. In the process of investigating what’s happening in the various communities in which we’ve worked, we’ve discovered some really amazing and dedicated people. But there’s nothing more rewarding than meeting the young people who’ve been touched by the programs we’ve supported.
It sounds like this is all very close to your heart.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the helping hand extended to me by many people when I was growing up, so giving back comes naturally. I’ve always volunteered. I was a Big Sister and I’ve served on the board of charities and raised money for causes I supported. The 15 Foundation was a reaction to what I saw going on in the media and in politics. We only hear about what’s not working, and I had become very cynical. One day I woke up and realized it’s not just the job of politicians and the media to make the country what I want it to be. It’s my job, too. My ambitions for 15 are lofty. One day I would like it to be a self-sufficient organization dedicated to the education and betterment of children around the world. I’d like it to be a resource for people with great ideas and an emblem of what can be done when you set your mind to it.
Family Cook Productions and The Sylvia Center are perfect picks for the marathon to benefit.
I transformed my own life by changing my diet. As a result, I gained a new awareness and respect for food. I’m also aware of just how much the way we eat and how we learn about food has changed in my lifetime—and the results haven’t all been good. I wanted my run to be about raising awareness about the importance of nutrition and exercise, and I found that both these organizations were founded to address those issues.
Is there one essential marathon-training tip you hold to?
Preparation is everything. That means wearing the right clothing, having the right shoes, being well-hydrated, eating right and carrying the right kind of fuel with you on the run. Oh, and music helps too.
Have you and Howard ever gone on a run together?
It happened one day sort of by accident. We both run in the park but we usually don’t start at the same time. I’ve seen him out there either finishing or just starting, but on this particular day he was alone and I had another mile and a half to go so he joined me until I was done. It was fun, but I’m not a fast runner and I don’t want to slow anyone down.
Big Laughs for The Big C
Writer Darlene Hunt brings Showtime’s quirkiest new hit to life.
October 11, 2010
LAURA LINNEY IN THE BIG C
It’s quite possible that most TV writers would think twice about signing on with a show about cancer—much less a comedy about cancer. Luckily for Showtime, Darlene Hunt—creator and writer of the network's newest hit, The Big C—isn’t your typical writer.
“A producer met with me one day and said she thought it was time for a cancer comedy,” says Hunt, whose show features Laura Linney in her first starring television role. “It really spoke to my sensibilities because I’m very much a laughter-through-tears kind of writer. I [once] tried to pitch a comedy about a family that was reunited in the waiting room of a hospital, but it just made everyone really squeamish. I thought it was hilarious.”
The Big C, which premiered in August, tells the story of Cathy Jamison, a middle-aged mom and wife who finds herself diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. Hunt was initially concerned that Linney, who plays Cathy and is also an executive producer on the show, wouldn’t sign on since she had shown reluctance in the past to doing a television series.
“I think the subject matter was close to her heart,” Hunt explains. “She was really passionate about bringing on a couple of actors: John Benjamin Hickey [playing Cathy’s homeless brother] and Oliver Platt [playing Cathy’s husband]. She’s really invested in making this a great series.”
Hunt, who has written for Will & Grace and 2008’s 90210, and has also guest starred on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, says her idea for The Big C was initially inspired by the birth of her first child. “I had a moment in my house where I remember crying looking at her,” she says of her daughter. “I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life, and I knew I couldn’t be because—hopefully—I would die first. So I realized that was my way in to [Cathy]. I knew it would be about a woman suddenly confronted with her mortality.”
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the show is that Cathy keeps her cancer diagnosis to herself, hiding it from her husband and teenage son (played by Gabriel Basso) as she tackles life with a new-found urgency to try what she thinks she's missed. She tells only two people: her doctor, who she regularly meets with to discuss her prognosis and how she’s dealing with it, and her kooky older neighbor Marlene.
“When I started doing research into cancer and survivors, I realized it’s fairly common for people to keep it secret,” Hunt says. “I even sat down with a cancer survivor, and when he was first diagnosed, he didn’t want to tell people right away because he was overcome with shame and embarrassment. Cathy wants [the cancer] to be hers for a while. She’s going to own it and enjoy it in her own way.”
The cast is brilliant, but a standout performance comes from Gabourey Sidibe—or “Gabby” as Hunt says she likes to be called—who portrays Andrea, an opinionated student who Cathy befriends at the high school where she teaches her summer classes.
“We were casting out of New York and she just walked in the room to audition,” says Hunt, who works on the show with a team of five other writers. “We kind of knew about Precious at that point. It was at some festivals, but it hadn’t quite been released yet. She told me later that it was only her second audition ever.”
The Big C just got picked up for a second season, with this season’s finale airing November 15. Hunt says her goal is to make the viewers laugh and cry during each episode, and from what we’ve seen so far, she’s definitely doing her job.
The Big C airs Monday nights at 10:30 PM EST on Showtime.
Betsy Russell, star of the new Saw 3D, talks horror, spirituality and what comes next.
October 06, 2010
On October 29, Betsy Russell reprises the role of Jill Tuck, the Jigsaw’s ex-wife, in the last feature of the Saw 3D. Here, she discusses the film (shot in 3-D!), her hiatus from acting, and her other passions:
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: I know the newest Saw is coming out soon; what can you tell me about it?
BETSY RUSSELL: It’s coming out October 29, it’s in 3-D and it’s going to be, hopefully, fabulous! I’m excited to see it—I haven’t yet. We’ve got 11 traps, and we’ve shot it in actual 3-D, which hasn’t been done before. We just got the Guinness World Record for the most successful horror franchise in history, which is pretty exciting. So we’re all just excited to see it.
Along with its being in 3-D, how does this installment set itself apart?
Well, this is the very last movie. So it ties up a lot of loose ends and brings a lot of the former cast members back together—Dr. Gordon is back from the first movie—so a lot of fans are very excited about that. As I said before, there are a lot more traps. We shot some exterior scenes this time, which hasn’t been done much at all. Bigger crowds. So it’s going to be different, that’s for sure!
What would you say is the main message behind all of the movies? They’re really not just horror films…
It’s a thriller, and the message behind my ex-husband, the Jigsaw, is one of appreciation. People that aren’t making the right choices with their lives, he gives them an opportunity to…redeem themselves. It really does make you think, and that’s just something that really resonated with the audience and with the fans. It is like a puzzle. There are a lot of clues each time—it goes backwards, in flashbacks, and leaves clues for the future movies—up until this one—and it really is like a thriller. So it’s definitely more than just a gore-fest. [It requires] a lot of preparation and a lot of thinking. Those writers and producers, I don’t know how they do it, but they’ve done an amazing job.
You’ve taken some hiatuses from acting. What made you leave and come back?
I think it was actually before that, when I had my kids. I had my first son in 1993. Actually, I did want to take time off—I was having my babies and I wanted to stay home with them. Also, there were a lot of stalkers at the time. I had just been held up in my apartment at gunpoint. Right after that, Rebecca Schaeffer, who was an actress I was compared to a lot, got murdered by a stalker. It was just a scary time for a lot of actors and actresses, and I really was scared, and wanted to be home with my kids. So I just kind of used that time to raise my boys and be a stay-at-home mom. But I’m ecstatic to be working, and very grateful to be back. The Saw franchise is a dream come true. It is almost a nightmare at times because it’s so scary, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s been a wild ride. I’m really happy to be working again, for sure.
And you also completed a program at the University of Santa Monica.
Yes, it’s a Master’s program in Spiritual Psychology. I completed that in 2009, and then I went back for another year to assist in the classroom. I just got done with the graduate weekend, so I am very involved, and it is something I am very passionate about. It’s all about healing issues from the past and learning skills to really be in touch with our divinity and our inner counselor. It’s really about getting to know yourself and just healing all of our hurt. It’s pretty amazing. It’s really life-changing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Right now I’m doing great, I’m very happy. I don’t know what 10 years will bring, but I’m hoping that the next year will bring me more work and more bliss and continued health and happiness for my kids, my family, my friends. Actually, for the world: peace and love. And more horror movies, right? It’s such a dichotomy, isn’t it? People say: You do these horror movies, but then you’re all about the spiritual stuff—how does that work?
Not Just Another Makeover Show
The CW’s latest offering promises to be different.
August 30, 2010
If you’re a fan of MTV’s hit show The City, you’ll recognize her as Olivia Palermo’s latest nemesis. But British beauty Louise Roe is more than just Elle’s new belle.
In her makeover show Plain Jane—the finale airs September 1 at 9 PM on The CW—she’s a fairy godmother, taking average-looking women and helping them score their very own prince charming. Each episode follows the physical and emotional transformation as Roe primps and preps her pupil, helping her build up the courage to tell that one special guy how she feels about him.
And for anyone else who’s afraid to bite the bullet, Roe’s best advice is simple: buy the dude a drink. “I think guys find it quite refreshing when a girl is like, What do you want to drink?” she says. “It just doesn’t happen that much, and nine times out of 10 you’d be surprised [to find] that the guy is quite interested.”
The London-born, LA-based Roe is in New York at least once a month to film The City. Something of an Elle magazine alumnus (she started her career as an intern in the UK office), she now works for Elle.com, a position she was thrown into on the morning of the Badgely Mishka Fall 2010 fashion show when Palermo infamously overslept and missed her interview with the designers.
“I think you get the best interviews when you’re running off adrenaline anyway,” Roe says, insisting that she had no idea she was going to step in and save the day. “I’ve interviewed them both before when they launched perfume back in London, so I was in familiar territory to a degree. And like I said, when you wing things, sometimes they come off the best.”
All the Right Moves
Actress Sharni Vinson dances her way to stardom.
August 06, 2010
Sharni Vinson is making moves these days—and not just on the dance floor. A former Australian soap star with a recurring role on Home and Away, this Sydney native, 27, scores her first feature-film role in director Jon Chu’s Step Up 3D, the third installment of the dance-film phenomenon. Vinson plays Natalie, who is recruited by New York City street dancers to compete in a hip-hop showdown and falls in love with her teammate, Luke (Rick Malambri), along the way. We caught up with the girl from Down Under who is steadily rising to the top.
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: Do you have a dance background that enabled you to relate to your character?
SHARNI VINSON: My family is generations of dancers. My grandma was very young when she won a scholarship to England to be in a ballet company. My mother was in musical theater her whole life, and so I was one of those babies brought up behind stage and loved it from a very young age.
Step Up 3D is your first feature film after a successful career on Australian television. Do you see yourself pursuing more roles on the big screen?
I just shot Blue Crush 2 in South Africa. That was an amazing experience because I was very uncertain after I wrapped up Step Up how I was ever going to top that experience. To be given the Blue Crush 2 opportunity was just insane because the ocean is such a huge part of my life. I’ve lived on it for 26 years and surfing is a big thing, so it was amazing to be able to shoot an action movie like that.
Now that you’ve picked up surfing, will you continue when you’re back in your new hometown of LA?
I really think I will. The Roxy people were very, very friendly to me during the shooting—they sponsored the movie—and I think with all the wetsuits and the stuff I’ve been given, I have no choice. My body is accustomed to dancing, but surfing was brand-new and my body has almost taken on a whole different shape from the training. I don’t think anything gets you in as good a shape as surfing.
What else do you like to do in your free time when you’re in town?
I’m a very, very quiet person. There’s nothing that makes me happier than just hanging out at home. I love hiking by the Hollywood sign. I love seeing nature and the view and being amongst the trees. I think it’s pretty cool to just sit in the park, or go to the beach or [on] a bit of a shopping trip with friends. Pretty low-key stuff.
Keeping the Faith
Director Burr Steers discusses his newest film, Charlie St. Cloud.
August 01, 2010
The recently released Charlie St. Cloud deals with brotherly love, the consequences of tragedies and the strength it takes to cope with them. Here, director Burr Steers discusses working with the star, Zac Efron, for a second time, the nuances of faith and what he took away from the film.
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: What made you decide to direct this movie?
BURR STEERS: It was Zac [Efron], actually. He had me read it. He was interested and was really into the brothers’ relationship. There were things I related to, like the idea that when somebody close to you dies, you carry them with you. That concept of loyalty to those who pass away and how you express that.
The movie is based on the novel The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood. What do you think is the main message of the book, and how is it different from the main message of the movie?
Well, it’s interesting. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I think the book’s main point was about faith. I think it’s religious. For me it was less of that literal faith and more about what faith was for the characters: not a religious faith, necessarily, but a path of life. He [Efron’s character] lives in this small town, and everything is going his way, his future seems carved in gold. And one night he sits in a car and his brother’s killed, and he loses it. He thinks that everything’s broken, and the movie is about him regaining that belief.
You were an actor before you started directing. What caused the switch?
It wasn’t a conscious thing. It’s all sort of the same thing for me. I had written my first screenplay, Igby Goes Down, and it was really about protecting it and making sure it was done the way [I had intended]. I sort of started as a screenwriter, and it’s from that that I got studio gigs. But as a director I’m an actor’s director. I’m a collaborator. I’m very conscious of creating an environment that’s conducive to actors working the way I would want to myself. Even when I’m reading, a lot of my directing and writing is about figuring out how this thing works. And what point of view is really on the page. It is really all part of the same thing for me.
Back to Charlie St. Cloud. How was it working with Kim Basinger?
It was great. It was wonderful. She was so great with the younger actors, and she was wonderfully unguarded in the scenes. She’s visceral and emotional—there’s no defense. She puts herself out there. It was a really good example for the younger actors to see how someone like that works, and she would bring it in every scene.
You seem very happy with the way things went.
I’m very happy that we were able to find an honest way of doing this kind of a movie. It could have been just very sentimental and superficial and mushy. And we made it real.
From High Roller to Holy Roller
Swanky New York club owner Danny A. Abeckaser tackles indie cinema.
June 23, 2010
Jesse Eisenberg, Ari Graynor, Danny A. Abeckaser, Q-Tip and Justin Bartha in Holy Rollers
An official selection of the Sundance 2010 Film Festival, Holy Rollers debuts in Los Angeles May 21 at The Landmark. Inspired by actual events that occurred in the late ’90s, the film follows a Hasidic youth’s descent into the world of drug smuggling. Danny A. Abeckaser discusses his first major on- and off-screen roles as a drug dealer and a producer.
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: What is Holy Rollers about in a nutshell?
DANNY A. ABECKASER: It’s a coming-of-age story. A Hasidic kid from a community in Brooklyn gets caught up in smuggling. The whole movie’s told through his eyes, and it’s basically his struggle with his family and his religion and his community.
How did you come up with the story idea for the film?
It all started five years ago when I watched this documentary series on the Discovery Channel about Interpol’s fight on drugs, and one of the segments was about Hasidic kids smuggling drugs to this Israeli drug dealer. I thought it was fascinating, a great way to tell a story about the Jewish community and have a story line behind it.
You play the Israeli drug dealer, Jackie Solomon. Why did you choose to play that character and how did you prepare for it?
I’ve acted in small parts, but felt that because this was going to be my first big role where I was going to actually have to deliver, [I] wanted to play a character I could relate to. I was born in Israel and I’ve been around Israelis my whole life. I felt some kind of connection that I could pull this off, so I really concentrated on the research, picking up mannerisms and watching films and documentaries. I gained 20 pounds for the role. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it was the most fulfilling and rewarding.
Is Jackie a villain?
Not really, because he doesn’t portray any violence in the movie. He really draws this kid in with his warmth and kindness, and is really nice to him. He calls his mom on Shabbat in front of him and shows him that he’s just like him. The Judaism comes into play the whole time and [the film] really pushes on that.
What do you do outside of acting? You've been in New York for a while now?
Most of my life. I’ve been in the nightlife business for a while. I own a club called Avenue.
If you had to leave New York, where would you go?
If I had to choose, I would move to LA. I have a lot of friends in LA and it just feels right.
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.