Category Archives: Television


(Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/12; via Pam Green; Photo: Denée Benton, left, and Louisa Jacobson during filming of the coming HBO historical drama “The Gilded Age.” Benton is one of many celebrated stage actors in the cast.Credit…Alison Rosa/HBO.)

New and returning TV series like “The Gilded Age” and “The Good Fight” have been a lifeline for celebrated theater actors during the pandemic. Will TV, or theater, ever look the same?

Back in March, the actress Kelli O’Hara arrived on Rhode Island’s Gold Coast. A company of theater heroes, with enough combined Tonys to crowd a mansion’s mantels, met her there. “It was almost like Broadway said, ‘We’re shutting down,’” O’Hara recalled during a recent telephone interview. “So 20 of us got together and said, ‘Let’s go do a play in a seaside town.’”

But O’Hara — and colleagues like Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, Debra Monk and Cynthia Nixon — hadn’t come to Newport to for a summer stock job. Or even for the clam cakes. They were on location for “The Gilded Age,” a robber baron costume drama from Julian Fellowes that will premiere on HBO in 2022.

With Broadway theaters closed since last April, “The Gilded Age” joins current series like “The Good Fight,” “Younger” and “Billions” and upcoming ones like “The Bite” and a “Gossip Girl” reboot in providing a glitzy refuge for theater stars during the shutdown. Broadway performers have always appeared here and there on scripted series. (No 2000s Playbill bio was complete without a “Law & Order” credit.) But this past year, television work — which is typically better paid than theater and more luxurious in its perks — was pretty much the only show in town.

“People are just really excited to be working and to have human contact and to be on set and telling a story again,” Allison Estrin, the casting director of “Billions,” said. “Every actor I’ve talked to has just expressed nothing but gratitude and excitement for being able to work right now.”

And because every stage actor was suddenly available, television has never seemed so theatrical. (You could cast a credible Sondheim revival with actors on “The Good Fight” alone.) Will television ever look the same? Will Broadway?

A year or so ago, casting directors would have had to compete with — or maneuver around — Broadway commitments. “It was always a scheduling nightmare to work around people’s curtain times,” Robert King, a creator of “The Good Wife” and “The Bite” said.

“Sorry to say it, but it worked for us,” he added about the shutdown, “because we could schedule more freely.”

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(Richard Brody’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 12/11; Photo: The New Yorker.)

The project that Orson Welles planned to film, in 1939, before turning his attention to “Citizen Kane” was a mystery called “Smiler with a Knife,” about a fascist plot to take over the United States. For his co-star, Welles wanted a young actress named Lucille Ball, but the studio turned her down. A decade and a half later, Welles was severely struggling to sustain a career; forty-one years old, he was famous as an actor but his directing career had been thwarted by producers’ unwanted recuts of his films and by poor box-office results. Ball had become a TV star and mogul, both starring in and producing (with her then husband, Desi Arnaz) “I Love Lucy,” which was on the air from 1951 to 1957 and made her both famous and very, very rich. When Welles’s Hollywood career was nearly nonexistent, he turned to television, and Ball and Arnaz, who by that time had the power and the money, turned a share of both over to Welles for his effort to establish himself there.

Only one episode of the resulting project was ever filmed, the pilot, titled “The Fountain of Youth” (it’s streaming on YouTube), and it’s as artistically original for television as “Citizen Kane” was for the movies, and—at least in part—for a very similar reason. The pulp-fiction plot, based on a short story by John Collier and set in New York in the nineteen-twenties, concerns a middle-aged scientist named Humphrey Baxter (Dan Tobin) who falls in love with a twenty-three-year-old burlesque dancer, Caroline Coates (Joi Lansing). When he leaves town for three years of study in Vienna, she leaves him for a muscular tennis star, Alan Brody (Rick Jason). When Humphrey returns to New York and finds himself dumped, he relies on the product of his research—a vial of an anti-aging potion, the titular fountain—to get his revenge. The story is both pleasantly seamy and inconsequential, as pat and flimsy as a mad-science soap opera. Its psychological dimensions are infinitesimal; its social context is nonexistent. But what Welles makes of the story is—or, rather, should have been—a template for what the art of television could have become.

Welles, the storyteller, is our narrator—he’s onscreen frequently, in closeups, throughout the twenty-seven-minute show, his presence punctuating the action and pushing it ahead. That action—also filmed largely in closeups of the actors—is conjured more from cinematic magic than from staged performance. Many scenes in “The Fountain of Youth” are sketched through the rapid montage of still photos; the sets are minimal and bare, a suggestion of places rather than a depiction of them, with special effects—morphing and gliding photographic backdrops, conspicuously unrealistic rear-screen projections, that lend a phantasmagorical mood to the tale’s lurid and macabre twists.

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(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/16; Photo:“Ionesco Suite,” directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota at the Espace Cardin in Paris. Credit…Jean-Louis Fernandez; via Pam Green.)

Audience members seemed to be asking one another, “Are we really doing this?” But the over-the-top physicality of “Ionesco Suite” was worth it.

After three months of coronavirus-related restrictions, the anxiety doesn’t go away readily. Setting foot inside a Paris theater for the first time in late June, I worried that it was too soon. The audience sat on three sides of the Espace Cardin’s smaller stage — with appropriate gaps — and many people looked at one another furtively, as if to ask: Are we really doing this?

Yet about midway through “Ionesco Suite,” a medley of absurdist scenes by the French playwright Eugène Ionesco, something gave. Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota’s production, first seen in 2005 and much revived since, piles on a series of eerily over-the-top characters, and on this occasion, the seven actors contorted their faces as if their lives depended on it. From feet away, their physical freedom was so tangible that I found myself laughing and wanting to cry; a weight was lifted that no amount of at-home live streams could have made lighter.

French artists are relatively lucky. Performers around the world are at the mercy of infection levels and public policy, and the spread of Covid-19 has been curbed enough in France, for now, that all theaters were allowed to reopen from June 22. Additionally, government funding for the arts means that playing to smaller audiences isn’t a ruinous proposition, even though viewers must leave an empty seat between themselves and other groups.

Still, only a small number of venues have opened their doors. Nearly all summer productions and festivals had been canceled because of the lack of rehearsal time and uncertainty, so many producers have elected to wait until next season.

The Espace Cardin, administered by the Théâtre de la Ville, was first. “Ionesco Suite” was part of “The Wake,” a 48-hour event that comprised performances, concerts and readings at all hours in and around the building. There is no telling who, exactly, emerged from lockdown with a pressing need to listen to Dante’s “Divine Comedy” at 3 a.m., but perhaps that was the point: At last, we could do something unnecessary.

Outside this celebration, small-scale productions are understandably getting the bulk of programmers’ attention. Through the end of July, the Théâtre de la Ville is putting on family-friendly plays with tiny casts at two venues, the Espace Cardin and Les Abbesses, while the Théâtre de Belleville opted to present one-person shows.

Under normal circumstances, all would very likely be overshadowed by more extravagant projects. Theater for young audiences, especially, tends to get short shrift. “Venavi or Why My Sister Isn’t Well,” a penetrating play about grief at Les Abbesses, was first performed in 2011 and has toured extensively since, yet it isn’t nearly as well known as it should be.

Its author, Rodrigue Norman, was born in Togo, and the plot is based on the belief there that twins are sacred beings, feared and celebrated as demigods. The only actor onstage (the highly likable Alexandre Prince) plays Akouété, who dies as a child, leaving his twin sister Akouélé behind.

A soliloquy from beyond the grave sounds grim on paper, but “Venavi,” directed by Olivier Letellier, delicately explores the need for closure after such a loss in terms that the many children in attendance could understand. Since Akouété’s parents don’t acknowledge his death, his sister’s growth is stunted as she waits desperately for him to return from “the woods,” where she is told he has gone.

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By Tania Fisher

So how does the son of a mailman, from a small town near Pittsburgh, end up directing more live network television than anyone else in the history of the medium–and being one of the most versatile and experienced directors in the television industry today?

Actor/Writer Tania Fisher sits down with Don Roy King to find out exactly how it all happened.

Mr. King is about to embark on his 14th season as director of Saturday Night Live (“SNL”), and he couldn’t be happier.  He’s experienced network assignments that have taken him to 20 countries and 38 states and has a lengthy resume that incorporates productions for nine networks that include directing morning shows, documentaries, telethons, sporting events, concerts, and musicals.

But when he talks about “SNL,” he can’t help but grin.

With 10 Emmy’s (and 28 nominations) and 5 Directors Guild Awards, it’s an understatement to say that Mr. King is a vastly experienced producer, director, writer, and composer.

In addition, Mr. King is the creative director for Broadway Worldwide, a venture that brings theatrical events to theaters and international television. The company has produced four major productions, all directed by Mr. King.

For those who have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. King in real life; he is small in stature, but big on work ethics and generous with his advice for those entering the industry.  In fact, it was his father who taught him to use his small frame to his advantage; sitting his eight-year-old son down one day, he explained, “You’re probably going to be short.  I’m short.  Your mom’s short, but you don’t know how lucky you are.  Why?  For some reason people in general expect less from short people, and when you play ball, the coach will put the tall kids in first, and the teacher won’t call on you first to answer questions. But when they find out you can run as fast and throw as hard as the others–and when the teachers find out you can answer the questions, everyone will be doubly impressed.”  Mr. King says he has never been bothered by his size ever since.

Growing up in the tiny little town of Pitcairn, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, he was always an active athlete, as well as doing lots of acting, and directing his fellow classmates in small plays. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, with a degree in Broadcasting, and he has been honored with an Alumni Fellowship, in 2001, and a Distinguished Alumni Award, in 2017.

He was blessed to have loving and supportive parents, which is evident in his self-worth and attitudes about growing up.  Case in point:  I asked him (what I thought was going to be a lighten-the-mood, insert-of-humor type of question), “What did you want to be when you were growing up?”  Expecting the standard response of fireman or doctor or astronaut, I was pleasantly surprised with his response:

I felt I was going to be somebody important; like playing center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates or President of the USA.  I just knew I wanted to be someone important and do something valuable.  I was the all-American kid.  As I was growing up, there was always the thought that I’d go to West Point.  Dad was in the Army Reserves all his life, and he kind of encouraged that aspect, and I really felt I was headed to West Point right through high school.”  Mr. King finished top in the state and entry seemed certain, until a medical exam found something wrong with his back, and they couldn’t take him: “In retrospect I’m glad they didn’t.”

Mr. King explains that he went to Penn State and studied Theater and Broadcasting, but he really didn’t have the guts to move to NYC and become an actor.  “Penn is where I discovered I had a talent for TV directing, and I thought I’d get in the back door that way; to get to my dream of being an actor.”  Mr. King became a director at a local station, then at a bigger station, and then another bigger station in Pennsylvania.

Interest in his theatrical affinity began when he was in the eighth grade.  He was in The Curtain Call Club, run by Miss Boden, and Mr. King fondly recalls, “This club was her whole world, and she devoted her life to these little productions.”  Miss Boden took the young Mr. King under her wing and every Easter vacation she would take a few of the students to New York to see shows.  Mr. King convinced his parents it was worth going, and they somehow scraped together the money to send him to New York to see The Miracle Worker and The Sound of Music.  As it turns out, Miss Boden had written to Mary Martin, and they went backstage to meet her.  “I was this little eighth grade boy who subsequently developed a crush on New York City.  I flew home thinking:  I can’t wait to get back here. I’ll do anything I can to get back here!  There’s such an electricity, and wonderful artists and productions, which changed lives every night.”  But Mr. King confides that as deep as the dream was, he still didn’t have the guts to try it as an actor in New York.

In fact, he explains that the reason he became a Broadcasting major was because he didn’t have the guts to tell his parents he wanted to be an Acting major!  “They had allowed me to go to New York.  Dad was a mailman; they couldn’t afford that weekend trip to NYC and yet they found a way.”  Mr. King proudly tells me that his parents always showed interest and went to everything he did–whether that be football or theater, “I’d be at a junior track meet at the away team, and Dad would rush his mail route to see my 50-yard dash.  They were so supportive.  Mom was strict, and we had chores to do and were encouraged to get good grades and all of that, but they were just so supportive. I was blessed.”

After college, Mr. King kept his focus on New York City.  He maintains he used his TV career to get back here as soon as he could.  He worked at a bigger station in San Jose, and then went back to an even bigger station in Pittsburgh, finally getting an option to direct at Channel 5 in New York:  “Maybe I got here too fast but it worked here.  Getting to NYC was a dream come true.”

What led him to become the Director for Saturday Night Live?

Mr. King explains that by this time he’d had thirty-seven years of experience as a TV director behind him, although he still enjoyed work on morning shows: “But they were more about what to wear, or a cooking segment, and there were moments when I felt like I’d sold out on my dream; that this wasn’t really show business.”  Then, out of nowhere, he received a call from a man he’d worked with way back when.  His friend had gone on to be the Associate Director of “SNL” and the woman who had been directing the show for ten years was moving on, and so his friend asked him if he was interested.  His immediate response was: “There is no show I’d rather direct!  I’d always had great respect for what seemed like a difficult production to do, especially because it’s live.  But once I got involved, I was even more shocked.”

Even though Mr. King had directed every type of program, he admits that he’d never directed sketch actors, and he couldn’t believe they’d take a chance on someone who hadn’t done that type of thing before.  But he met with them, and sure enough, they were looking for someone who had done comedy and had sketch comedy experience.  Then on Labor Day, in 2006, while he was standing in line at Disney World with his daughter, he received a call telling him that Lorne Michaels wanted to meet with him and could he be back in NYC in two days?  “So my daughter and I flew back and I met Lorne.  I sat there for about an hour just listening to him talk about how he didn’t want to start over again with a new director, but that he had no choice.  As I recall, I’m pretty sure the only words I uttered throughout that entire meeting were at the start, when I said nice to meet you.”  But a telephone call the next day clarified everything for Mr. King, when he was told they’d take a chance on him and give him six shows to see how he handled it.  “It was an incredibly steep mountain to climb.  I started to question myself.  I was comfortable, successful, why take this risk?  I hadn’t had butterflies in my stomach for a long time; why take this risk?”

The answer soon became evident. “What I realized is that regret is a wasted emotion.  I thought to myself; if I don’t do this, if I don’t try it, I’ll regret it.  I can always come back, and if I fail, I fail, and you don’t know until you try.”  Three weeks after that meeting he was directing his first “SNL” show.  Indeed a steep mountain to climb!  “I found myself saying I don’t know how to do this, how do I set this up? Which camera where?  I really struggled.”  But Mr. King insists he is glad he took that challenge, claiming he’d never had more fun climbing a mountain, or received more reward or exhilaration from doing what he’s always dreamed:  “The show is designed to make people laugh and clap and think.  I play a small role in that and I’m proud and thrilled to be a part of that–working with brilliant people and telling stories that offer healing and hold people accountable.  I’ve never had a job that is as rewarding and important and as close to that dream I had as an eighth grade boy.”

Mr. King was fifty-eight years old when he finally made that childhood dream a reality.

He laments that there is a panic in college kids nowadays to make a definite decision about their careers: “The fact is you don’t have to decide today what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.  Your passions can change; you can find a whole new set of challenges much later down the track.  I was so glad I took that risk late in my career or I wouldn’t have what I have now, which is pure satisfaction of a professional life worth living.”

And though it’s true that many young people starting out in this industry think it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and contacts, Mr. King advises, “It’s not a race; there is no reward for getting that first big job early–if you get it before you’re ready you might not be prepared and fail.  You know, even if you can’t be working in your desired field and you work at Pinkberry, you’re still developing other skills that will make you ready–work ethics, dealing with people.  It’s all valuable experience.”

What about living and working in New York City and all those awards?

“I love the magic of the city, the electricity, the sense that on this tiny little island so much art is being created and so much money is changing hands and news is being created, and at the same time you can stay home and do nothing if you want, just like everywhere else.  I still have as much excitement about being a part of this place as I did as a kid.”

During the time that Mr. King was directing The Mike Douglas Show, there was a lot of traveling involved, and they would occasionally do a week in LA.  “Mike wanted to move to LA, but I didn’t want to go, and I was offered a new show:  America Alive, in NYC.  So I thought I’d rather live in NYC than go to LA, and it’s a brand-new show that I’ll get to create from scratch.”  Mr. King thought this would be a perfect opportunity to stay where he wanted to stay.  The program was similar to a midday version of Good Morning America, with the same concept; a group of reporters and correspondents.  “That show lasted only eight months!  It flopped, and I was out of work for the first time in my life.  I thought, O.K., this is a sign from God, my TV career has skidded to a halt–it’s time for me to follow my dreams and go back to acting.”  Mr. King was only 27 or 28 years old, and he immediately enrolled in acting classes.  He recalls that he jumped in with his usual fervor and passion, but what was great was that he was no longer a desperate actor saying please pick me.  “I was a professional director who had an Emmy, and I was comfortable and wasn’t desperate in auditions, which I’m sure worked to my advantage.”  Around that time Mr. King was receiving offers to direct independent projects on the side, but then he was given Good Morning America: “The acting dream died again.  At that point I’d had the sense of now what and how to pay the rent?  I’d had this comfortable lifestyle.  It was unsettling.”

When Mr. King directed The Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia he was only twenty-five and, as he describes it, “way too young to be directing it–we had all the big names:  Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Bob Hope–I didn’t appreciate the fact that I was getting to work with them and see them off camera.”  Mr. King won an Emmy, in 1977, for the show with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire appearing together for the first time and talking about the industry.  “I became a jerk the very next day.  Everyone treated me differently, and I treated people differently; I was just full of myself,” he recalls.  Not long after that, Mr. King was asked to serve on one of the Blue Ribbon Panels for the Emmys, and he says it’s then that he realized how hard it is to make a judgment:  “You watch a great show, but how do you know if it was well directed?  I realized it’s such a subjective decision, and it’s a flawed system.”

He has since appreciated the degree to which his profession is a collaborate effort:  “The statues I’ve gotten since . . . if it weren’t for Lorne Michaels making “SNL” the best it can be and hiring brilliant set designers and writers, and all the best people in their fields, then my directing would have no chance of being pointed out for my directing awards, so I’m much more humble about receiving them.  It’s the good fortune of working with brilliant people.”

Is there another skill set you possess that hasn’t been explored that you’d like to explore?

“I don’t think I’m going to be the center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates!  But I grew up thinking I could do anything.  But still, I’m seventy-one, and I may not get a chance to live out all my fantasies.”  Mr. King has recently done public speaking, mainly at colleges, where he talks about the industry.  “But I still have the acting bug!”  Mr. King also consults on movies, like 2010’s Morning Glory (with Harrison Ford), where he ensured that the TV scene was depicted accurately.  He played the role of Merv, the Director, in that same film.  Mr. King also played himself in 2018’s A Star Is Born.

What were some of your favorite TV shows growing up?

Mr. King remembers that he grew up with many kids who were TV fanatics who went to see tapings of live TV shows and even had souvenirs from TV shows.  He claims he was not one of those kids.  He reminisces that he and his brothers watched the TV show Superman with George Reeves.  “Here’s the thing,” he tells me, “We had a black-and-white TV, and I wasn’t allowed to read comics.  So when Mom made us Superman costumes for Halloween, we wore black shorts,  white T-shirts, and some kind of grey cape things.  Then, when I went to see the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, I was shocked and thought they had changed the colors of the costume!  All that time I’d had no idea it was in color!”

Any general advice for those entering the industry?

“There’s an overriding cliché maxim that lots of kids hear, and that’s just get your foot in the door.  Some think it’s a good idea to find a place you’d like to work and get in at an entry-level position, like becoming a receptionist at “SNL” or writing cue cards for The Tonight Show–then people get to know who you are and see that you’ve got a great work ethic and you can move up through the operation.  But I say be wary of that.  Every network I’ve worked at is filled with young, talented, frustrated kids who get stuck in those entry-level jobs.  So this doesn’t always work.  They will hire the people with experience.”  Mr. King cites the example that networks are not going to let, say, a receptionist, have a go at something else because in that position they are not really being exposed to the other position that they want to eventually do.  “So my advice is go where you can get the kind of work you want to do; go to a small station or production company, doing that position. You’ll get the experience and learn what you need to and be able to keep moving up to bigger and better positions.”

Mr. King adamantly expresses that while it’s valuable to be bubbling with passion and new ideas and, as with many young people starting out, wanting to be the smart kid on the block, what should always come first is work ethic:  “It’s so much more important that you show up on time and you do the best you can and you don’t complain–people are always more likely to hire this type of person.”

And what does Mr. King like to watch on his own TV set? 

Baseball and football, of course. Go Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers!

Copyright © 2019 by Tania Fisher.  All rights reserved. 

Photo credits: AARP.  All rights reserved.


(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/15; via Pam Green.)

Georgia Engel, whose distinctive voice and pinpoint comic timing made her a memorable part of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” on which she played Georgette Franklin, girlfriend and eventually wife of the buffoonish TV newsman Ted Baxter, died on Friday in Princeton, N.J. She was 70.

John Quilty, her friend and executor, said the cause was undetermined because Ms. Engel, who was a Christian Scientist, did not consult doctors.

Ms. Engel was twice nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on “Mary Tyler Moore,” which she joined in 1972, during the show’s third season.

“It was only going to be one episode,” she told The Toronto Star in 2007, “and I was just supposed to have a few lines in a party scene, but they kept giving me more and more to do.”


She had a high-pitched, innocent voice that, as one writer put it, “sounds like an angel has just sniffed some helium,” and she used it expertly to contrast with the blustery Baxter (played by Ted Knight) and the usually levelheaded Mary Richards, Ms. Moore’s character.

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FILE PHOTO: A combination photo showing the 2017 Kennedy Center Honorees: Actress, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade (L to R), singer-songwriter and actress Gloria Estefan, hip-hop artist LL COOL J, television writer and producer Norman Lear and musician and record producer Lionel Richie. REUTERS/Staff/File Photos

(Ruhl’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/25; via Pam Green.)

On Tuesday night CBS will air the Kennedy Center Honors, and President Trump will not be on the screen, because he declined to attend the eventwhen it was held on Dec. 3 in Washington. What does it mean that Mr. Trump didn’t have the nerve, for a single night, to be in a room with artists who have criticized him?

The president’s team claimed that he did not attend so that the artists could celebrate in peace rather than having a political distraction. But the president votes, as we all do, with his feet.

Though the arts have never been neutral politically, the honoring of artists is a bipartisan ritual. The Kennedy Center was a place where the left and the right could agree that the arts occupy a central place in our culture, worthy of our attention and respect. Artists chosen for the Kennedy Center awards generally have fans on the left and the right and everywhere in between. The checkbooks of art patrons are not marked with their party affiliations.

I came of age in the culture wars of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan planned to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, and, instead, ended up whittling down its budget by a small percentage. Still, in 1984, before putting medals on Arthur Miller and Lena Horne among other luminaries, he reflected on the way Americans had developed “a culture that was as fertile as this new land” and had continued to innovate in arts and entertainment.

“And today our nation has crowned her greatness with grace, and we gather this evening to honor five artists who have helped her to do so,” he said.

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(Ryan’s article appeared in Variety, 4/7; via Pam Green.)

TV viewers and moviegoers don’t see character introductions in scripts, but they’re enormously important. These short descriptions — usually just a line or two of text — provide a template for an actor attempting to create a portrait of a vibrant, unique, multidimensional human being.

This story first appeared in the April 05, 2016 issue of Variety. Subscribe today.See more.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway. Perusing scripts in his job as a film producer, Ross Putnam often found something else — especially when it came to female characters.

The descriptions contained little other than words like “leggy,” “erotic” and “alluring.” And, of course, there’s the ubiquitous “beautiful.”

Frustrated by the inherent sexism he found, Putnam created the Twitter feed @FemScriptIntros to share those character introductions with a wider audience. Spend some time reading his feed, and it’s hard not to wonder why actresses don’t quit the business en masse.



He dashes around the lush green Cornish countryside. The audi­ence cannot  get enough of watching him. His smoldering good looks have created a sensation on the internet – he has his own Facebook page and his own articles in the press. Who is this magnificent one? They call him Seamus. He is the 14 year old Irish draft horse gelding star who plays the unnamed main horse of the hero, Ross Poldark, played by Irish actor Aidan Turner, in the BBC/PBS hit TV series, Poldark. The BBC first aired a Poldark TV series in 1975, with Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark. Mr. Ellis now plays Reverend Halse in the 2015 series. Both TV series’ are based on the widely read Poldark novels set in 18th century Cornwall, written by Winston Graham. The first one was published in 1945, but the written works did not achieve their greater popularity until the TV series based on them appeared in 1975.

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(c) 2015 by Patricia N. Saffran.  All rights reserved.

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(Saffran’s article appeared in Horse Directory Magazine, 5/3.)

It is night (or close to it), or is there a storm, in the first scene of the made for television adaption of the novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The horses are clomping along. Fortunately, the cameramen did not run into them, but then again, horses have night vision — it is part of what protects them from predators in the wild, so they know to avoid the cameramen. This is a candle/fireplace lit production, which explains why we see the profile of a distinguished black Spanish movie horse (from The Devil’s Horsemen, Wychwood Stud, Buckinghamshire, UK, Gerard Naprous, Horse master) but we cannot see much else.

The party is en route to Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor, played by the charm­ing Jonathan Pryce, to ask for his resignation. Once inside, the emis­saries are rebuked indirectly by Thomas Cromwell, portrayed by the  phenomenal, enigmatic Mark Rylance, who whispers advice in the cunning Wolsey’s ear. A great team. Then there are many changes of scenes — mostly all indoors without transition scenes of horses and riders going to the locations. After his wife and daughters die, Thomas visits his cranky, previously sadistic father (Thomas had to run away from home at an early age to escape his father or possibly from a stint in jail.) In this scene, Thomas’s father is still a work­ing blacksmith. Thomas walks to where his father is shoeing.

Where is Thomas’s horse in this scene? Young Thomas grew up around horses. It would have been more lively if Thomas rode into the stable yard, then his father would have asked him about what was probably an expensive horse, now that Thomas has moved up in the world — a way to counteract his father and a lost opportunity to reveal status in a class preoccupied society. While abroad, Cromwell fought for the French army in Italy in 1503, and then he was employed by Italians, who taught him about finance. Thomas also sold donkeys while in Italy.

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(Stacey Wilson Hunt’s and  Lacey Rose’s article first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine; via the Drudge Report.)

Six hit show creators, from 'House of Cards' to 'Good Wife,' gather for a heated, candid talk that reveals the state of opinion on Hollywood's touchiest subjects.

Just because the television business has made notable inroads in the realm of diversity this year doesn't mean the subject is any more comfortable to discuss. So when Lee Daniels, co-creator of Fox's Empire, recently questioned a table full of drama writer-producers about the racial makeup of their writers rooms, the group grew tense. But doing so ultimately led to an important discussion about the industry's shortcomings — as well as the challenges of collaboration, their frustration with critics and the day that Beau Willimon, showrunner of Netflix's House of Cards, danced shirtless on set with Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot. Daniels, 55, and Willimon, 37, were joined April 28 in Hollywood for a frank conversation about the pressures and rewards of running TV's hottest dramas by Damon Lindelof, 42 (HBO's The Leftovers), Alex Gansa, 54 (Showtime's Homeland), Michelle King, 53 (CBS' The Good Wife), and Sarah Treem, 34 (Showtime's The Affair).