DAILY ROUNDUPS

Casting
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion With Talent Agent Tiauna Jackson

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion With Talent Agent Tiauna Jackson

Talent and literary agent Tiauna Jackson discusses the benefits of achieving diversity at every level of the entertainment industry, using content creation to advance your career, and the formidable task of breaking into the business!

Tiauna Jackson is a Talent and Literary Agent for The Jackson Agency. Headquartered in Century City, California, she built her agency from the ground up within the entertainment industry’s most competitive market, Los Angeles. Anchored on Avenue of the Stars in Century City, Jackson decided to start her own agency after finding barriers to entry not only for herself, but for artists and writers of color, LGBTQ+ identifying, and senior citizens. She made history by becoming the first Writers Guild of America (WGA) franchise in Atlanta, Georgia, and is believed to be the first Black woman with 100 percent ownership of a WGA-franchised agency in Los Angeles. With Jackson’s agency dedicated to the underestimated, underrepresented and underserved, she applies a “root for the underdog” mentality to fostering the careers of emerging artists. Jackson looks forward to providing representation that matters to the exceptionally talented artists of the world. Additionally, she was featured in the New York Times, Medium, Oz Magazine, and Arizona Informant for her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion while facing adversity through resilience.

The Jackson Agency

 

 

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

A Peek into the Cast of ‘The Father’

A Peek into the Cast of ‘The Father’

Screen legend Anthony Hopkins is back in the Oscar race thanks to his upcoming performance in Florian Zeller’s The Father. Zeller adapted the script from his 2014 play of the same name and made his feature film debut with this onscreen iteration of his previous work. The film follows 80-year-old Anthony (Hopkins), who begins to suffer from dementia. Meanwhile, his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) strives to find the proper care for her ailing father, while coping with the grief that comes from watching a loved one slip further and further away. Keep reading for a peek at the lead cast members and why they were well chosen for a film that’s already generating Oscar buzz.

Anthony Hopkins 

With 82 years of life and a storied career under his belt, Hopkins is no stranger to critical acclaim. He has garnered Oscar nods for his performances in Netflix’s bio-drama The Two Popes, Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, Oliver Stone’s Nixon, and Columbia Pictures’ romance drama The Remains of the Day. But we want to talk about the role that won him the Academy Award for Best Actor: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. A serial killer with a palate for human flesh may seem far from an aging father struggling with dementia, but there are some strong correlations between the two roles. In The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter is locked in a maximum security prison, and Anthony feels trapped within the prison of his failing mind in The Father. Plus, who can forget how Lecter got rid of the man in the cell next to his? Anthony also has a knack for alleviating himself of unwanted company — the beginning of The Father reveals that his cantankerous treatment of a former caregiver convinced her to quit. Finally, in the same way, you never quite know Lecter’s next move in The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony’s condition makes him unpredictable and mercurial in nature. Hopkin’s new role of a father losing his ability to reason and who is often overwhelmed by his feelings may at its surface appear far different from the one Roger Ebert described as a “dispassionate, brilliant machine, superb at logic, deficient in emotions.” But based on the long-standing list of his critically acclaimed performances, we’re excited to see how the masterful thespian incorporates Lecter’s shared qualities into his portrayal of Anthony in The Father.

Olivia Colman 

Colman is also in the Oscar-winners club, thanks to her performance as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite. And while the frail, mentally unstable monarch shares the same moniker as Colman’s character in The Father, she is far from the caring daughter the actor plays in Zeller’s upcoming film. Perhaps another role that put Colman on the map better speaks to her ability to play a character with “a loving vulnerability that warms you,” as Variety describes her performance in The Father. We’re talking about her run as Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller in BBC America’s Broadchurch. Though Ellie is in law enforcement — and quite good at her job — Colman brilliantly plays the character’s other role as a caring wife and mother who perseveres and stays strong through heartbreaking family dynamics. She holds some striking similarities to the character of Anne, which requires an actor to convey the pain of watching a loved one go through dementia while supporting them through it. It’s a complex, meaty role, and one that could very well put Colman in the Oscar race, as well. 

Both Hopkins and Jodie Foster took home statuettes from the 1992 Academy Awards for their respective performances in The Silence of the Lambs, which certainly contributed to the film’s own win for Best Picture. It remains to be seen if Hopkins, Colman, and The Father do the same at the upcoming Oscars, but while waiting for the film’s release in select theaters on December 18, you can anticipate their performances. And keep an eye out for a strong supporting cast that includes names like Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots, and Mark Gatiss. 

 Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

5 Tips to Managing a Great Zoom Callback

5 Tips to Managing a Great Zoom Callback

Pandemic or no pandemic, virtual callbacks are quickly becoming the norm. While this may be exciting for those who don’t want to leave the comfort of their home, it comes with its own set of challenges. Chances are you may not have access to a studio and are planning to do the callback from your living room. Here are some tips to help keep things professional during a zoom callback.

1. Cover the Logistics. Read and reread any material sent to you. It’s easy to get complacent when you don’t have to go anywhere for a callback, but it is extra important to stay on top of things. Remember, casting directors now have the added hassle of organizing online callbacks. Check and double check zoom links. Have them up ahead of time. Make sure you’re reviewing and prepping sides like normal. Remember casting directors may be in different time zones, so double check that you have all the information correct. Think ahead to how you will be filming yourself: Laptop? Cell phone? Make sure you have a sturdy and reliable way to mount your device for a good angle.

2. Control the Environment. Distractions abound in your own home. Try to troubleshoot possible interruptions. Secure pets, alert family or roommates to stay clear, and make sure all devices (not just your own) are silenced. Has anyone ordered something that may arrive during the callback time? Scheduled maintenance? Try to clear the decks as much as possible. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, do your best to dampen the sound with rugs or blankets, and try to find a quiet space to film. If you have washing machines, a loud AC, or any appliance that might make a lot of noise, try to neutralize it ahead of time. It’s a lot of preparation, but it’s worth it to make sure the only thing they are focusing on is you.

3. Treat it Like a Self-Tape. Just because it’s not a self-tape, don’t skimp on presentation. Make sure you have a solid backdrop, good lighting, makeup, the works. You want your visual to be just as strong as the initial audition. Try to keep home details out of frame to eliminate distraction. Don’t forget to pay attention to eye lines and framing!

4. Plan Ahead. It can be difficult to get in the professional mindset in your living room. Do what you need to do to “tune in.” Listen to music, do a physical and vocal warmup, all the things you might do before going to a regular callback. Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that they might be running behind. If possible, have a backup plan for any technical difficulties. Put effort into giving yourself the space to have a full professional experience. You need room to focus on the work.

5. Don’t Forget Your Personality! You might not be in the room, but they still want to know who they might be working with. Do what you need to do to be relaxed and friendly, and greet them with the same warmth you would in person.

 

While virtual callbacks may require an adjustment, there’s no reason you can’t have fun with it. You have the home court advantage. You get to arrange and craft your own professional environment to suit you. Own your space, breathe, and have fun!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

Get to Know the Casting Director: Victoria Thomas

Get to Know the Casting Director: Victoria Thomas

For this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we’re featuring someone who was nominated for her casting work on both Insecure and Watchmen, the latter of which won her an Emmy within the limited series casting category at this year’s Creative Arts Emmys. But the impressive resume of Victoria Thomas is not limited to the medium of TV. She’s also cast critically-acclaimed films such as Hidden Figures, Fences, and Straight Outta Compton. From Con Air to The Last Samurai to Lords of Dogtown, Thomas’ credits run deep, undefined by genre. She recently cast Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and has the Ana de Armas-starring bio drama Blonde on her list of numerous projects in the works. With everything she’s done and is doing, the iconic casting director took time to speak with Casting Networks and talk about everything from her Emmy nominations to casting the late, great Chadwick Boseman in his breakout role. Keep reading for a window into the casting director behind the credits. 


Let’s start at the beginning. When was the moment you knew that casting was for you?

I guess the first thing I cast was back when I was a student at UCLA’s film school, and I helped my classmates cast their thesis film. I had an old Screen World reference book, and I remember I came up with a list of actors pretty quickly for them. It was exciting and felt like something I was good at. Since I had been in the directing program, I hadn’t thought about casting as a career. It was just something I was doing to help out my fellow classmates, but I think that was the first inkling I had. I guess I kind of took to it like a duck to water. And that thesis film was called Repo Man, which became a feature film over the course of a year. They kept me on as a casting director, which I was shocked at. So that was the first film I cast.


Wow! That’s a phenomenal way to start, with an Emilio Estevez-starring film that started as a student thesis project. Speaking of films, I always love to ask casting directors a question that “flips the script.” If someone made a film about your life, which actor would you cast to play the role of Victoria Thomas? 

In an aspirational way, I would love to have Regina King play me because she’s just so fantastic. In an action film, it would’ve been the great Diana Rigg, based on her work in The Avengers series. For a comedy, it would’ve been Thelma Ritter.


I love that selection of some serious screen legends. Now, let’s talk about your Emmy noms this year, starting with Insecure. Any fun casting stories you can share?

You know, I don’t really have any specific ones. We’re just always having fun casting it because the lines are so funny, as are the actors coming in. From the day-players on up, they just make us laugh. I mean, the whole thing’s fun. There are great people on that show, and everybody’s just very, very cool.


It’s always great to hear when people are having fun behind the camera on a comedy series, as well as in front of it. As for dramas, congrats on your win for Watchmen! What can you tell us about casting that series?

Well, it was an adventure. It’s always fun to cast something that Damon Lindelof has done because it’s always different and bold. From The Leftovers to Watchmen, I just feel really privileged to get to work for him. And Watchmen just has great writing and great situations with all its characters. It was great to read those scenes with the actors in the room, and we got to cast all different types of people for the series.  


Before we go any further, I would be remiss not to ask about casting Chadwick Boseman in his breakout role as Jackie Robinson in 42. What can you tell us about that experience?

We knew he was our guy very early on. There were other people that were talked about who would’ve maybe made a little more sense in terms of the fame they had compared to Chad at that time, but we weren’t pressured to cast someone who was a bigger name. We were all in on him, and I’m just really happy I was able to be there for the beginnings of his beginnings. He was always just himself and never tried to be anything different. And who he was on the inside is reflected on screen; his integrity shines through. It’s really hard to accept that he’s no longer with us. He was just a fantastic person.


Thank you for sharing that beautiful tribute to an incredible actor. It certainly sounds like a memorable moment in your career. Considering your incredible body of work, can you mention a few other casting milestones along the way? 

Repo Man, True Stories, and Sid and Nancy were the first three films I cast, and it was pretty great to have them at the beginning of my career, right out of the gate. They were films that I worked on with friends, and they were pretty pivotal movies for me. I also made lifelong new friends on those projects, as well. Other especially memorable ones include Everybody Hates Chris. I loved doing that one because it was one of my first forays into television. Working with Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer on Enemy of the State was memorable. And you know, working with Quentin [Tarantino] is always kind of monumental because he’s one of a kind. I think Django Unchained and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are career highs for me, as well. I’ve been fortunate. 

When asked what the casting director was watching, herself, J.J. Abrams’ recent series Lovecraft Country made her watchlist. But older titles like The Andy Griffith Show, the Fred MacMurray-starring My Three Sons, and the Roy Thinnes-starring The Invaders were also in the mix. Thomas reinforced the idea that older projects still have value and offer lessons to be learned, noting Ron Howard’s turn as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show. Actors looking for a performance to study might consider taking in the ability he displayed at a young age. “He was just really fantastic as a kid actor,” Thomas affirmed. “Who he is naturally came off [on screen] — it’s really amazing.” The casting director’s watchlist demonstrates that her appreciation for on-screen talent is not confined to a certain genre or time period, which is also true of her long-standing, storied career. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

A Peek Into the Cast of ‘Rebecca’

A Peek Into the Cast of ‘Rebecca’

The first trailer for the latest adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel recently dropped, and it’s got us wanting more. Ben Wheatley directs the Netflix film that centers on a newlywed couple. Lily James plays the freshly minted Mrs. de Winter, who after a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo finds herself on the English coast at the family estate of her new husband. Armie Hammer portrays said spouse, Maxim de Winter, whose late wife Rebecca threatens the happiness of his new bride. That is, the current Mrs. de Winter feels the haunting shadow of her predecessor, reinforced by the estate’s foreboding housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas). Wheatley describes the film primarily as a love story, although it’s also part thriller, part drama, part mystery, and part ghost story. Keep reading for a peek into the cast members who will bring this adaption of Rebecca to life and for reasons why their respective bodies of work make them the perfect choices for the upcoming period film. 

Armie Hammer

Laurence Olivier garnered a nomination for best actor in a leading role for his performance as Maxim de Winter in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Oscar-winning adaptation of Rebecca, so the pressure’s on for Hammer’s take on the classic character. He’s seemingly the right actor for the job, though, with a number of period credits to his name, such as Anthony Maras’ 2018 historical drama Hotel Mumbai and the Felicity Jones-starring biographical drama On the Basis of Sex. Hammer is also no stranger to the thriller genre, having appeared opposite Amy Adams in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. And amongst other romance drama credits, his performance as Oliver in Luca Guadagnino’s critically acclaimed Call Me by Your Name surely evidences his ability within that genre. 

Lily James

Like Hammer, James is following in some big footsteps — Joan Fontaine played Mrs. de Winter in Hitchcock’s version of Rebecca, and she also received an Oscar nomination for her performance. James seems up for the challenge, though, with a slew of credits that speak to her ability with projects featuring strong love stories. Take her breakout role as the titular character in Disney’s 2015 live-action adaptation of Cinderella for example. Or Downton Abbey fans may recognize her as Lady Rose MacClare. Another period project on James’ resume is Netflix’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which, not surprisingly, included a romantic plotline for her character. And we’d be remiss to not mention amongst James’ romance credits her roles as young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Ellie in last year’s Himesh Patel-starring Yesterday. As for a project that speaks to her work within more intense drama features, look no further than her performance opposite Ansel Elgort in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver.

Kristin Scott Thomas

Judith Anderson played Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock’s Rebecca and also got an Oscar nod for her performance. We’re eager to see Scott Thomas’ take on the character, especially with her status as a fellow Oscar-nominated actor. The thespian received the nod for her well-known performance opposite Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. Her long-standing body of work includes a number of other period dramas, such as Darkest Hour, Suite Française, and Bel Ami. Scott Thomas’ work in Alain Corneau’s Love Crime speaks to her prowess within the mystery genre, and her performance as Sarah Davies in Mission: Impossible demonstrates that she’s no stranger to thrillers.

Based on the impressive acting résumés of Hammer, James, and Scott Thomas, it is safe to say that the upcoming feature in which they’ll star is one to anticipate. It is currently slated for an October 21 release on Netflix, and you can keep an eye out for other name actors when it does. Tom Goodman-Hill, Keeley Hawes, Sam Riley, and Ann Dowd are all a part of the talented cast of this most recent adaptation of Rebecca. Hitchcock’s version garnered an impressive 11 Oscar nominations and even took home the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. It remains to be seen how Wheatley’s take on the classic novel will fare with critics, but in the meantime, you can look forward to the star-studded performances it will include.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

Acting Up – Episode #42:  Jurnee Smollett

Acting Up – Episode #42: Jurnee Smollett

Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.

 

The Snapshot: Jurnee Smollett plays a woman battling racism and other monsters in 1950s America in the dark new HBO series, Lovecraft Country. (Series premiered August 16th.)

The Performer:  Jurnee Smollett

The Series:  Lovecraft Country

 

The Performance: 

Lovecraft Country is a series that defies any singular definition because it’s a mixed-genre piece that fuses drama, sci-fi and horror with more than a smidge of socially relevant commentary. 

It’s filled with monsters, yes, but it is really the monstruous behavior of a certain segment of White America that fuels the “Lovecraftian” stories from deceased author H.P. Lovecraft. From this, Letitia “Leti” Lewis (played by Jurnee Smollett) is born into a twisted world that shows the plight facing black people in 1950s Jim Crow America as they encounter white supremacists whenever they stray off the beaten path – and in many cases, even when they stay on it.

When we first meet Leti, she’s crooning with a bravado at a moment in time where she’s unafraid of letting her spirit shine in plain view. But, as we soon learn, demons lurk in the shadows as Leti will soon find out when she tags along on a road trip with Atticus (Jonathan Majors) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to search for Atticus’ missing father.

Without spoiling things, it’s safe to say Leti goes full badass when she does everything from evade a gun-toting troop of good ol’ boys in a car chase – to outsmarting racist police whose more murderous instincts get derailed in the darkness at the hands of an otherworldly creature.

Truth be told, these “fictitious” stories have one too many parallels with the modern-day world. 

As an actress, Smollett proves herself to be a vibrant and relentless force of nature, who excels at embodying the fearless Leti, more than once coming face-to-face with things not of this world. 

Her ability to kick this role’s ass – and the people she encounters while playing it – is especially evident in episode three, when Leti’s optimism in buying a ramshackle Victorian mansion for her and her sister is quickly replaced by the haunted horrors that occupy this house with a history. 

But does Leti back down? No, no, no. She’s undaunted in fighting the forces that wish her dead – and that’s before she spearheads the eviction process for the ghosts living within her four walls. Through it all, Smollett gives a surefire performance as a bold and brave woman fighting the demonic forces of humanity – when she’s not hellbent on defeating forces from hell.

A full day’s work for an actor, for sure.

 

The Career:

Whether or not you’re familiar with the work of the 33-year-old Smollett, know this to start: the actress got her SAG card at age 3 not long after doing a campaign for diapers at 10 months old. 

Soon after that, Smollett landed her first recurring role on the ABC sitcom Full House at age 4. The part had been written for a young white girl according to this piece in The Hollywood Reporter, but she won it. It wouldn’t be the first time that her talents became undeniable.

Having grown up in a family of child actors (one of which is Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor accused of staging his own hate crime early last year), Jurnee has accumulated an assortment of memorable roles over a career that has also led her to turn down a slew of more cliched roles.

After Full House, Smollett starred on a family sitcom that with her five other siblings called On Our Own (1994) that lasted just a season. Then, at age 10, she played opposite Samuel L. Jackson in Eve’s Bayou (1997) before going on to star in The Great Debaters (2007) with Denzel Washington, amongst other roles. 

That when Smollett’s current streak of success began – in the form of some of the more popular roles you may remember her from. For instance, she played Jess in Friday Night Lights (2009-2011) and a vampire rights activist in HBO’s True Blood (2013-2014) – before landing in Underground (2016-2017), the popular slave-uprising drama that ran on WGN. It’s also the stop where she first met eventual Lovecraft Country showrunner, Misha Green.

As a testament to what can happen when you do good work and form a connection with a show creator (even though their relationship was reportedly rocky at first according to the THR piece), Smollett eventually went on to win the role of Leti Lewis after “literally losing sleep for months” while waiting for the offer. Oddly, after shooting the Lovecraft pilot, Smollett managed to squeeze in the role of superhero Black Canary in the Suicide Squad spinoff, Birds of Prey (2020).

As for what’s next, Smollett (a life-long social justice activist who’s been to a protest or two of late) is destined to keep her star rising in Hollywood, whether or not Lovecraft Country gets renewed. It will be a pleasure to see the heights to which this highly gifted actress will soar.

________________________________________

Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

Create a Warm-up Routine: Where to Start and Why You Need One

Create a Warm-up Routine: Where to Start and Why You Need One

When was the last time you utilized a proper warm-up routine? While some actors are militant about it, for others, it is a relic of 101 classes. But while it may seem basic, a warm-up routine is a classic, indispensable tool that grows with your craft.

Actors are constantly called upon to reach deep, genuine emotional levels on little notice, under chaotic circumstances, in front of a green screen, in an audition room, without even the support of a scene partner. The only way to give yourself a shot at achieving this consistently is to make sure that you are physically, vocally and emotionally warmed up. If you’re feeling lost or want to reset, here are some easy things to include in your warm-up practice:

 

  • A full body stretch. Nothing beats a full physical warm-up. Creating a routine that works for you will take time, but a good way to start is making sure you’re hitting all the major muscle groups. The roll-down is a classic for a reason. Try rolling down your spine, piece by piece, until you’re hanging over from your hips like a rag doll. Do some stretches and gentle shakeouts down there before slowly rolling back up. From there, I like to start with head rolls and neck stretches and work my way down the body—shoulders and arms, lats and obliques, hips and legs. Make sure to include some good joint warm-ups and back stretches. Yoga is a great place to draw from; cat-cow poses, for example, are an excellent way to warm up the spine. The more time and space you have, the more in depth you can get. At the end of your physical warm-up, try to include some more dynamic movements that get energy and blood flowing.
  • A vocal warm-up. Even if you’re not going to be singing, it is important to warm up your voice and articulators. Start with some basic lip trills. Make sure to include exercises that work out your range (sirens, for example), your breath, and your facial articulators. Do several exercises for each before moving on to tongue twisters or other text-based exercises. It’s good to have several standards in your back pocket to draw from.
  • A repertoire of what-ifs. For those times when you have to connect with material and reach emotional places quickly, it’s important to know your triggers. You want to be careful here. Using real-life experiences to re-traumatize yourself is not a great idea, neither for your mental health, nor for the sustainability of your career. But knowing what inspires you emotionally is helpful. Knowing what kind of emotionally charged imaginary circumstances you connect with can help you build bridges to new material quickly. Also consider having a tool kit of sensory stimulation on hand—music to play in your car or in the audition waiting room (I always have earbuds handy), pictures on your phone, or even swatches of textured material. If you’re looking to warm up emotionally without knowing what material you might have to connect with, try incorporating a playlist into your physical warm-up—something that makes you feel emotionally open and inspired.

 

The good thing about establishing a proper warm-up routine is that you will build muscle memory. Keep up with your warm-up routine even during dry spells when you’re not actively involved in a production. Obviously there will be circumstances in which you won’t have the time or space to do a full warm-up. But if you are in the habit, you’ll be able to create shortcuts for yourself, plan ahead, and reach the desired mindset more quickly. A good warm-up is a leg up, technically, artistically and emotionally. It only makes sense to give yourself that advantage.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

Performance Review: ‘The Nest’

Performance Review: ‘The Nest’

Fans of Sean Durkin’s feature film debut Martha Marcy May Marlene may be eager to see his latest, which recently swept up at the Deauville American Film Festival, taking home a number of accolades that included the grand prize. The period piece takes place in the ‘80s and centers on the O’Hara family, led by parents Rory (Jude Law) and Allison (Carrie Coon). Rory, a UK native, convinces the family to move from their home in suburban America to England for a commodities broker job opportunity that he’s received from his former firm. But as Allison and their children attempt to adapt to their new life, the family begins to unravel, just as Rory’s plans for a lucrative fresh start suffer the same fate. Keep reading to find out how Law and Coon delivered in their roles, richly written by Durkin.


Jude Law 

Law brings some serious star power to the indie film. Rom-com fans may know him for his heartwarming turn as single dad Graham in Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday or as the titular womanizer in Charles Shyer’s Alfie. Other blockbuster titles to his name include the Warner Bros. feature Sherlock Holmes, opposite Robert Downey Jr., and Paramount’s recent action-packed drama The Rhythm Section, opposite Blake Lively. And while his characters in those films all have a certain depth to them, Durkin’s script offers Law an incredibly complex role. Rory starts the film as the consummate family man who drives the children to school and gets in a backyard soccer game with his son before dinner. But cracks in his picture-perfect image soon emerge, most notably once he moves the family to England for the opportunity to work at his old firm. At the welcome-back work party, we discover he solicited the return to his previous employer rather than being sought after for it as he’d suggested to Allison, who’d been reticent to uproot their family for the career move. 

It’s the first of Rory’s many lies that are exposed as the film unfolds. Law gives a strong portrayal of a man who presents himself to be confident and successful, believing that the next big deal will bring the wealth and status that he pretends to already possess. The actor infuses in Rory a certain mercurial quality that bubbles underneath his often-jovial exterior. His character is essentially a salesman in every area of his life, whether he’s trying to sell business acquaintances or family members on the lucrative life he thinks is just around the corner. Law smartly delivers many of Rory’s lines in a manner bordering on manic, especially as the film reaches its climax. This volatile embodiment of the character is summed up during a well-played fight scene with Allison. “I take risks — sometimes I’m up and sometimes I’m down,” Rory explains. “That’s who I am, Allison.” During the same exchange, he calls his wife stupid, an occurrence that happens many times throughout the film. And while Law is working with a character who’s often unlikable in both his interpersonal relationships and choices, another actor might have inspired more sympathy for a man trying desperately to keep things together as they continue to fall apart. Overall, though, the actor utilizes the depth of Durkin’s script to deliver a well-rounded performance.


Carrie Coon

You may know Coon from series such as The Leftovers, Fargo, and The Sinner. Or perhaps you’re familiar with her work due to her role as Margo Dunne in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, the actor’s impressive feature film debut. Regardless, it’s safe to say that Coon is no stranger to the genre of drama, and she brings a precise blend of intensity and vulnerability to her role in The Nest. IndieWire calls it “one of her most riveting performances to date,” and we couldn’t agree more. Coon’s Allison is an indomitable spirit who serves as the heartbeat of the film. The actor walks a fine line with the role, presenting Allison at the top of the film as a no-nonsense businesswoman who works as an equestrian trainer. When the move forces her to leave the position, Coon maintains the strength of her character as Allison attempts to help her children through the process of being uprooted and then replanted in their unwanted new home. The actor deftly allows the deeply-caring side of Allison to break through her tough exterior when she’s interacting with her daughter and son. The same goes for scenes with her beloved horse, the only familiar piece of home that made it to their new life in England.

Coon delivers a masterful performance that is grounded and gritty, with the latter quality especially put on display during exchanges with Rory. As you see the house of cards her husband built begin to fall around her, Allison’s unyielding will is revealed. She begins to rebel against his deceit, most notably at a climactic moment in the film when she reveals his fabrications at a business dinner. Coon expertly plays the moment before this “mic-drop” moment for Allison. You see her wrestle with the decision and come to realize as the viewer that she’s reached her breaking point. Then, with bated breath, you get to watch as the actor unleashes, albeit in a very staid manner. It is Allison’s self-possession that makes the abandonment Coon displays in a soon-following dance sequence that much more effective. The scene is a work of art thanks to the actor’s commitment, and it reflects the overall incredible work Coon delivers in The Nest.

Besides Law and Coon, there are also strong performances given by actors in secondary roles. Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell give solid, respective portrayals of Samantha and Benjamin, the O’Hara children caught in their parent’s dysfunction. And Michael Culkin gives a memorable turn as the slimy head of Rory’s firm. You can catch all these performances and more when The Nest releases in select theaters September 18. 


Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

Path to the Emmy Awards: Ramy Youssef

Path to the Emmy Awards: Ramy Youssef

For this installment of Path to the Emmy Awards, we’re featuring Ramy Youssef, star and creator of the Hulu comedy series Ramy. The semi-autobiographical series follows the lead titular character, played by Youssef, as he explores questions of identity and faith while navigating life as an Arab Muslim millennial in New Jersey. After winning Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy TV Series at the Golden Globes earlier this year, Youssef is now up for Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the upcoming Emmy Awards. The first-time nominee also received a nod in the directing category for his work on this season’s fourth episode, “Miakhalifa.mov.” Let’s take a look at the multi-hyphenate behind Ramy and his path to the Emmy Awards. 

Youssef was born in Queens to parents who both emigrated from Egypt, another similarity to his character Ramy Hassan, who also is Egyptian-American. The actor made an important distinction between himself and the role, though, in an interview with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. “I like to think that the fictional Ramy is maybe [me] if I didn’t find comedy and filmmaking,” Youssef clarified. “So many of the feelings resonate with me from the character of Ramy, but I really try to put him without a passion and kind of without a purpose that is as clear as the one I have in real life. So that’s a big separation, and it kind of puts him in more trouble and makes him more stuck.”

As for Youssef’s own purpose, it veered from a more traditional career path. He did a brief stint at Rutgers University, pursuing a degree in political science with the idea that he’d one day practice law. But Youssef left the university at 20 to go after his comedy dreams. Booking a role on the Nickelodeon sitcom See Dad Run got him to L.A., according to an interview with NPR. He then landed the role of Samar Swailem on Mr. Robot opposite fellow Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek. Next came a small role in the Joaquin Phoenix-starring Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and then his own stand-up special entitled Feelings on HBO.

Youssef’s deeply personal standup comedy has been a source to draw from for Ramy. The cast of his self-reflective series even features some real people from Youssef’s life, such as the character of Steve, played by his longtime friend Steve Way. During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Youssef further discussed the distinction between art and life. “It’s emotionally true; the events are different,” the Ramy star and creator said about the show. “I really wanted to make something where it showed someone struggling with faith in an honest way.”

You’ll have to wait until this year’s Emmy Awards to find out if Youssef’s journey to them will result in a win for the first-time nominee. His path there wasn’t always understood by Youssef’s parents, according to his interview with Colbert. “My mom was like, ‘That’s amazing you’re an actor,’” Youssef recalled. “‘You’re going to meet so many actors, and then maybe one day you can become a lawyer for actors.’”  Youssef told the late-night host that it was his first appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which was also his network television debut, that changed her mind. 

 

And during a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he noted another recognition milestone. “Someone sent me an interview where they were asking Brad Pitt what he was really liking on TV, and he said he loved our show,” Youssef noted. “That was cool because that’s the kind of thing you can send to your mom. Because there’s a lot of stuff that happens and it’s dope, but it’s not on like, mom awareness level.” All in all, from his early goal of becoming a lawyer to an A-list actor complimenting the show he created and stars in, Youssef has had quite the path to the Emmy Awards.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!

Acting Up – Episode #41:  Hannah Waddingham

Acting Up – Episode #41: Hannah Waddingham

Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.

 

The Snapshot: Hannah Waddingham plays the owner of a struggling London soccer team who hires a small-time American college football coach with a big heart in the comedy series, Ted Lasso. (Streaming on Apple TV+ as of August 14th.)

The Performer:  Hannah Waddingham

The Series:  Ted Lasso

 

The Performance: 

If there’s anything our world needs right now, it’s Ted Lasso – both the new series and the refreshingly optimistic titular character played by Jason Sudeikis (based on a character he drew up for NBC Sports’ coverage of the English Premier League in 2013-2014.)

It’s an upbeat new series about a glass half-full type guy that Sudeikis described as “Mr. Rogers meets John Wooden.” Turns out Lasso has been lassoed from a small-time college football program by one Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), the de facto owner of the Premiere League team AFC Richmond. Much to the chagrin of, say, the whole of Britain.

Only thing is – much like the owner in the legendary film, Major League, this powerful female owner isn’t so keen on the idea of winning games. She’s more concerned with exacting revenge on her cheating ex and former co-owner who plunged their marriage into a tabloid swamp. 

But there’s more than meets the eye with Rebecca – and the delivery of this layered character is a testament to Waddingham’s range of abilities. With a hard exterior and soft core, Rebecca’s tough armor shows signs of cracking in early episodes in rather comical fashion as she bonds unpredictably with Lasso and the team’s star player’s girlfriend, Keely (Juno Temple).

An amusing example of this is when Lasso first drops in with fresh-baked biscuits despite Rebecca’s resistance to what Ted calls “Biscuits with the Boss.” Rebecca indulges the coach and immediately becomes smitten – with the biscuits. Despite her disdain for these meet-ups, she needs this pastry – bad – so much so that she tells a team official to find out where he buys them. 

That’s the soft side of Rebecca – who wants to dislike Ted so badly but just can’t. His kind soul just has a way of winning us over as does Waddingham as Rebecca, who becomes more sympathetic as the episodes go by – especially once her ex shows up back on the scene.

Waddingham also shows off her harder edge early in the pilot when Rebecca lets the current coach go, but not before listing the reasons why he’s been fired – at his request:

Coach: Fired, what the fuck for?

Rebecca:  I suppose I could go for any number of reasons really. Your casual misogyny for one. I know it’s a big word, ask one of your daughters what it means… Or perhaps it’s your performance, having led this team to yet another remarkably average season. Or maybe it’s because you insist on wearing those tiny shorts that force me to see one of your testicles.

The series writer/creators (which includes Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence, former EP of Scrubs) seem to know they’ve got a gifted actress on their hands in Waddingham and have made her character’s evolution central to Ted Lasso. Consequently, it’s a pleasure to see where Waddingham takes Rebecca as she chisels her icy exterior into something with a warm creamy center.

Much like the biscuits.

 

The Career: 

If you look at Waddingham and immediately want to confess your sins, it’s because of the role she played in HBO’s Game of Thrones as Septa Unella, the Shame Nun who tortured the diabolical Cersei Lannister before leading her on the most legendary walk of shame ever.

Despite that chilly role, Waddingham’s wide-ranging talents have been on display in a slew of features, TV shows and theater performances, where acclaim has followed her at many stops.

For instance, the London-born actress has walked tall across the West End musical theater scene at various junctures over the past two decades – garnering three Olivier nominations for roles in Kiss Me Kate (as Kate), A Little Night Music and Monty Python’s Spamalot, where she found her grail as The Lady of The Lake.

More recently, Waddingham can be seen streaming in seasons’ one and two of the popular Netflix series, Sex Education (2019-2020), where she plays Sofia Marchetti, one of Jackson’s (Kedar Williams) two mothers. Not to be outdone is her villainous character, Jax-Ur, on SyFy’s Krypton (2018-2019). Then there’s film, where notable roles over the years have included How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008), Les Misérables (2012) and Winter Ridge (2018).

Finally, if you love Ted Lasso like I do and want to see more of Waddingham in the future, fans of the Apple TV+ series were just given something to cheer for:  a second season. 

Meaning: it doesn’t matter how much that soccer team loses – for us, it’ll be a win. 

________________________________________

 

Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for breaking industry news and exclusive offers!