Ricardo Chavira – Welcome to the Family (TV)

October 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the new comedy series “Welcome to the Family,” actor Ricardo Chavira (“Desperate Housewives”) plays Miguel Hernandez, a Latino father who finds out his very intelligent son (Joey Haro) has gotten his girlfriend Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck) pregnant and no longer plans to enroll at Stanford University. With the impending birth of a child, the Hernandez and Yoder families are forced to bond, despite their cultural differences and the fact that Miguel and Molly’s father Dan (Mike O’Malley) do not get along.

“Welcome to the Family” airs Thursday nights on NBC.

Fox News Latino recently reported that over 20 shows this fall will have at least one Latino as part of its cast. Do you feel like we’re seeing a change in the TV landscape when it comes to Latinos on TV?

Oh, a very minute change. [Latinos] know what our demographic is and how large our demographic is. We know the growth pattern of our demographic and where it’s going – nowhere but up. Any corporation, I don’t care if it is television or whatever, if they have any sense about themselves, they’re going to try and tap into that demographic. We still have a long road to go. If we’re going to represent [the Latino] demographic properly there needs to be a lot more than the number that you just mentioned. But I think we’re getting there. I think they’re dragging their feet about it, but I’d rather have them drag their feet and still be moving forward than doing nothing. But the Latino aspect of our show is just the texture. This script is the best writing I’ve ever seen for a Latino family since I’ve been in Hollywood auditioning for material.

Do you tend to just look at the number of Latinos working in the industry or are you also concerned with the way those 20 shows are going to represent the Latinos they’ve hired? Does it matter if they’ve included a Latino in their cast as just a filler character?

I don’t want that. I want there to be a wonderful storyline for every Latino character. That’s not always going to happen though. I mean, a part for a Latino in the industry is a good thing period. I wish we could stay away from stereotypes, but you can’t avoid them. They’re always going to be there. Like with my character on this show, for instance, there are some stereotypical situations he is a part of. But the stereotype does not completely define the character. It’s my job as an actor and our job as a show to be able to find a way to make it three-dimensional. My character has the tattoos and he was in prison. That’s an aspect of my back story for my character. My character also owns a small business and he’s raising a son that has graduated high school valedictorian and is showing the promise of possibly going to Stanford. It’s showing a multifaceted aspect of the male in a Latino family.

Can you explain to me the sort of the culture clashes we’re going to see as the season goes on? I mean, we have this Caucasian family and this Latino family. Can you give me an example of how they’re going to get lost in translation?

Well, let’s not use that [term] “culture clash” necessarily. The fact that this family is Latino is one texture to the overall show. I think you could take the Latino out and make them Asian or black or even another Anglo family and that would just be a texture. What we’re really dealing with is the universal differences in family – like how people differ in their parenting skills, the way they show love and affection, the way that they talk and relate to family and the acceptance of outsiders into the inner circle of a family. These things are universal. But the Latino thing, we’re going to see it. There’s this white family having to deal with this crazy Puerto Rican wife who wants to enjoy cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and they just want to order it in.

Is your friend and former “Desperate Housewives” cast member Eva Longoria going to be making any guest appearances?

Eva actually is. She is in our second or third episode I believe. I made a call and I convinced her that she owed me and she need to come and do my show and she jumped at the chance. She’s a big supporter of mine. She has been for a long time. I didn’t realize how special of a relationship and a friendship I have there. I need to take better care of it. She is precious not just to me but to our entire Latino community. Whatever she’s trying to do, she’s trying to do it from the best place in her heart. Rita Moreno [will also be a guest star]. Right now, with regards to the Latino cameos, that’s it. But boy I would love Jimmy Smits in there or Alfonso Arau or Darius Lando or anybody. I’d love to see them come in and play around. I also want some new Latino faces coming in. I got a good friend of mine, Hugo Medina, who graduated in my grad program. He’s Mexicano. I’d love to have him come over and do [the show] because I think he could add something special, too.

Jim O’Heir – Parks and Recreation (TV)

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

“Dammit, Jerry!” is a phrase you’re likely to hear at least once every episode or two as employees of the Pawnee Parks Department vent their frustration on poor Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heir). Heading into its sixth season on August 27, the Amy Poehler-led NBC show “Parks and Recreation” has been able to stay alive – despite ratings woes – due to critical acclaim, devoted fans, and the best ensemble comedy cast on television. Part of that cast is O’Heir, who plays the aforementioned Jerry, the punching bag of the office. I recently spoke with Jim to talk about what it’s like to be the character everyone loves to beat up on and what his favorite Jerry moments have been in the first five seasons.

It’s been kind of clear that in earlier seasons of “Parks and Recreation” there was this bit of uncertainty where you didn’t know if the show would be on the air for another season. Now we’re sitting here on the brink of the Season 6 premiere and you’re the only show that is familiar in this revamped NBC Thursday night lineup. What do you think has been the biggest factor in the its staying power?

Two things, in my mind: One is, critically, we’ve been really well received. The buzz is really good. But of course, that doesn’t equal ratings. But I think what NBC has realized is that we might not have the Nielsen ratings, but our numbers are pretty big when you include all the young people that are not watching it at home on their televisions with their Nielsen box. They’re watching it on Netflix, Hulu, on their iPads, their cell phones. I really believe they realize we have a much bigger audience than we are given credit for. I think with critics we’ve been adored, and I take no credit for that. That is absolutely because of writers. We have the most awesome writers. Mike Schur is our leader and between him leading the writing and Amy (Poehler) leading the rest of us, it’s really perfect. And I’m really grateful and appreciative that the network…they basically cleaned house last season. We could have easily been one of those they just were like, “Well, we’ve done what we can. You’re not going to do huge numbers. We’re gonna restart clean.” I couldn’t be more appreciative that they’ve kept us on air. I’d like to think it’s because of the quality of the show, the reviews, and young folks.

Kind of piggy backing off that and the young people, it seems like this has been a show that the internet age has really embraced, be it on Twitter or Tumblr or anything like that. Do you think that factors in? How do you feel when you see stuff on Tumblr that’s almost completely dedicated to your character, for example? 

I’m constantly blown away by that. I’m amazed by it, I love it. Someone said, “Do you have a Wikipedia page?” and I said “I don’t know. What’s that about?” Well, it says that I do, and somebody has gone through the trouble of finding out facts about me that I forgot. I was reading about certain plays that I’ve done that I forgot that I did. I’m amazed by it. The dedication of the fans…after every episode there’s new Tumblr pages, new Instagram pages, it’s incredible. The kids are brilliant. I don’t know how they do it but I love it and I’m amazed by it.

Going back to the uncertainty factor, I had read an interview with Mike Schur (creator of “Parks and Recreation”) a while back that said that he had grown to like the uncertainty because it brought about really good ideas. What about as a cast member? Is it difficult having that bit of uncertainty?

Well, yes, for two reasons. One, an actor wants to work. When you’re on a show that you’re a regular on, it’s lovely. The toughest part is that at some point, “Parks” will go away. All shows go away. They have their run then they’re dead. It’s not just going to be a show ending for us. We’re six seasons in and everybody still has so much fun together. We laugh all day long. It’s gonna be a loss. It’s gonna be a personal and emotional loss that’s gonna be tough to deal with. I personally would love if they said, “Oh, just so you know, you’ve got another two seasons guaranteed.” But we’ve never had that. We never know what’s happening. So Mike’s theory is always just to keep writing, even if it’s writing yourself into a corner. If we get more episodes, we’ll figure it out and we’ll make it work. So for them, I know they have fun with that. As an actor, I would love the security of a “Modern Family” or one of those shows where you know, “Oh, we have another four or five seasons. We know we’re safe.” Even this season, all the critics and everybody were saying, “The only one that’s for sure is ‘Parks and Rec,’” which is fun to read. It would give me a little peace of mind. Then I’d be like, “Well, that means nothing.” We’re ratings challenged according to Nielsen. I don’t think that truly we are. I think young people are watching us on all the other devices, but networks do what networks do. It’s all about money and dollars and ads. When I started hearing who they were canceling this year I was like, “Oh my god!” So, to get the pickup was huge. Huge! There are still no guarantees. We’re up against “The Big Bang Theory” this year, which is the No. 1 comedy on television. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I think NBC realizes the challenge we’re up against and hopefully they’ll give us some breathing room. So, to answer your question: it’s great [the writers] like it like that, but I want security. I want to know we’re coming back.

Going back to the first couple seasons of the show, did you ever envision yourself becoming such an integral part of the cast and such a beloved character?

You know, as an actor you dream that would happen. I auditioned for Ron Swanson and they always had Nick Offerman in mind because nobody else could do what he was doing with it and he’s Nick Offerman and he’s brilliant. When I first started, my agent said to me, “I don’t know, you might want to think about it. You could become just a background [character].” But in my brain, these are the guys who created “The Office.” And look what happened to Stanley and Phyllis and Kevin. These are characters that have become beloved. And to me, it was a no-brainer. I had hoped for it, but never knew it would happen. At any point they could have said, “Nah, this isn’t happening.” They literally didn’t know what to do with me. They liked me, they wanted to cast me, but they had no plans for me when the show first started. They just said, “Put him at a desk. We think he’s funny. Let’s see what happens.” So the hope was always there. Was there security in it? None, beause I did not become a regular until Season 3.

I think I had heard that it wasn’t until the Season 2 episode “Practice Date” where everyone in the office was trying to dig up dirt on each other and you have that line about not knowing you’re adopted, which is one of the funniest things ever in the show…

(Laughs) That was a game changer for me because that’s when they realized that’s who Jerry was and [writer] Dan Goor deserves all the credit in the world because that was his baby. That’s when they realized, “OK, Jerry is the punching bag of the office.” That was such an awesome thing to happen for me really early on.

Obviously, like you said, your character is the punching bag of the office. Has that always been an easy role for you to embrace?

Yeah, I’m fine with it. You know, some people are like, “You have to put up with so much.” I’m an actor. It’s who I’m playing. When they yell cut, we’re all equal and buddies and pals and there’s no weirdness at all. Some people ask, “Are you worried that you’re caught in that trap when the show’s over?” I can’t control what’s going to happen later. Time will only tell. I’ve done a bunch of other stuff so hopefully that will be out there. I did have something happen recently where I was up for something and the director called the writer and the guy said, “Oh, Jerry from ‘Parks?’ I don’t see him doing this role.” Well, he said, “I’m sending you some links to some other stuff he’s done.” And then the guy was like, “Oh god, he’s perfect.” So if people think of me just as Jerry, it could be a little tough. But if they realize I’m an actor playing a role, I love it. I love Jerry. Maybe a little too nice at the office for my taste, but he’s a great guy. He really is a sweet guy.

Do you think it’s important for the writers to implement these moments of small victories for Jerry – basically showing that he seems to be the most content person alive so scenes don’t ever veer into being mean spirited?

Absolutely. Without it, Jerry would not still be there because you cannot have a character where everything is just horrible even when he goes home. No. 1: if all the other characters are too mean, you’re gonna hate them. But as it turns out, Jerry has, by far, the best life out of all of them. He doesn’t care about what they do at work. He goes home to a family that just adores everything about him. They literally love everything about him. Mike (Schur) has always said that if it was just Jerry getting beat up, beat up, beat up, then goes home and gets beat up, beat up, beat up, it would be too much. It would just be too much. And the other thing is even though I am a punching bag, no doubt…there’s an episode where they were going to do some cuts when Adam Scott and Rob Lowe’s characters joined the show, and Amy’s character Leslie says, “Oh no, we can’t do it without Jerry Gergich.” And so they have his back when it counts. Every office needs one, and Jerry is the one.

Last season there was an episode called “Jerry’s Retirement” where Jerry formally retires from his job at the parks department. When you heard about that episode or read the script, was there ever a concern that they were getting rid of your character or lessening his impact on the show?

Hell yes. We get the script the night before the table read and I open it up and it says “Jerry’s Retirement.” Like, holy crap! Wouldn’t somebody call me and tell me I was leaving?! It was funny because as soon as they handed me that script, within 10 minutes, there were two emails. One from Mike Schur and one from Morgan Sackett, our producer both going, “Don’t worry! Jerry’s fine! Jerry’s not going anywhere!” The reason they even addressed it was for the past four years, we’ve been mentioning how Jerry would have two years until he retires. So they were like, “We have got to address this. It’s just something we have to do.” But I will take joy knowing Jerry isn’t going anywhere. Though I will say, technically, the network had till the end of June to pick up your contract for the full season. And I kept saying, “Man, until I get that pick up…”

Do you have any personal favorite moments of Jerry’s, be it someone ragging on him or Jerry having moments of redemption or anything like that?

I love when Jerry is with everybody. I love when we do group scenes; love when we’re all out together like when we did the hunting episode. I love all of that. Of course I love the episode where I got mugged, even though I wasn’t really mugged. I had fallen trying to get a burrito. I like to do physical stuff. I got to lie in that creek. It was awesome. I caught myself on fire. They let me do that myself. It was awesome. They always have stunt people and I’m like, “No. It will not look real if someone else is doing it, you know?” So I love when Jerry gets to do any of that crazy stuff. I love when Chris Pratt’s character Andy – cause he’s, you know, just half a marble away from being an idiot – will call him the wrong name. I love anything where Andy is mocking Jerry.

I think my personal favorite was what I mentioned with the digging dirt game and also in the “Telethon” episode, you’re playing this beautiful piano piece and Leslie interrupts and says, “Enough of that racket.”

Jerry is so freakin’ talented. I paint. I play the piano. Wait till you see what I’m doing in the Halloween episode we’re shooting. Jerry is so incredibly talented and no one gives a crap. In that one, I even do magic and she’s like, “Oh, that’s terrible.”

Just judging from interviews of people talking about the show and watching behind the scenes videos and gag reels, it seems like “Parks and Rec” is an amazing place to work. What is that environment like for you being around the cast and crew?

We shoot a single camera show so depending on where you are, sometimes you don’t have to be there. You’ll have days off, or it’s not like a multi-camera show where you rehearse Monday through Thursday and you tape on Friday. When I get the schedule on the Friday before the following the week, if I have days off, I would rather be there, than not be there. It’s because it’s the most joyous place because not only do we get along so well even after all these years, but the crew is incredible. They’re my dear friends. Many have been to my home. It’s nothing but laughter, ball-busting, a couple of pranks, and yet, good quality work.

I asked this question to (fellow cast member) Retta so I’ll ask you as well. Is there a particular actor on the cast that really makes you break the most?

I would say definitely Chris Pratt. He’s crazy and funny and really smart. Of course his character Andy isn’t, but Chris is smart with his comedy. When Amy breaks, I break, because Amy’s laughter is incredibly infectious. I would say as far as making me break, it would be Chris Pratt.

That’s kinda what I figured. Lastly, I’ve seen that you’ve done a couple sketches for “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” so I was wondering how that came about and what that experience has been like?

To be honest, I don’t know how it came about other than they knew of me. The first time I ever did it they were doing a sketch about Abercrombie and Fitch, who were not allowing or wanting fat people to wear their clothes. So they probably were thinking, “Who are big actors out there?” So we did that and we had so much fun that the next week I did another one. Then the next week I did another one. And then I was a guest on his show and sat on the couch last Friday. So I don’t really know how I got on their radar, but we’ve been having a blast. It’s been a lot of fun.

Wilmer Valderrama – Awake (TV)

March 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Best known for the eight seasons he played the flirtatious foreign exchange student Fez “That 70s Show,” Venezuelan American actor Wilmer Valderrama returns to the small screen in what might be the most accessible series he’s starred in since the blast-from-the-past comedy that ended six years ago.

In the TV drama “Awake,” Valderrama, 32, plays Detective Efrem Vega, partner to Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) who is involved in a car accident that leaves him caught between parallel realities. In one of those worlds, Vega is assigned to keep an eye on Britten who is finds himself in an extremely bizarre mental predicament.

During an interview with me, Valderrama, who also has a few films on his resume including “From Prada to Nada” and “Larry Crowne,” talked about what makes a show like “Awake” different and fresh, and why he doesn’t think he could handle working as a police detective in real life.

“Awake” airs on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on NBC.

What do you think it is about “Awake” that makes it one of the most original shows on TV right now?

I think the writers have done an incredible job to find a unique way of narrating [Britten’s] journey. It’s what makes it fun and different and fresh. It’s very refreshing to see the way we are telling this story. It has so much more heart than any regular [police] procedural. Audiences are so much more invested in the cases and [Britten’s] personal journey. As awesome and cool and thrilling as “Awake” is, there is also this great fundamental heart, soul and spirit to the show that is very easy to relate to.

During my interview a couple of weeks ago with actor Jason Isaacs, he told me he felt “Awake” was not a high-concept show and that audiences shouldn’t have a problem following the narrative. Do you agree?

Well, the writers and producers have done an incredible job in staying with a formula that is easy to follow. I don’t think “high-concept” is a bad phrase. I describe it as something outside of the box – something original. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this show. I wasn’t going to be doing something that I’ve been doing on TV for the last decade and a half.

What kind of police detective do you think you’d be in real life?

A really good-looking one, I can tell you that. (Laughs)

(Laughs) But could you solve a crime?

To be honest, as a detective I wouldn’t know what to do. (Laughs) Detectives are their own breed of human being. I give them the same of love and respect I give the men and women of the Armed Forces who go on these journeys to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. These are very powerful individuals. I mean, we are all powerful in our own unique way and play to our strengths, but my hat goes off to them for how they look at life and the thankless job they take on.

Jason Isaacs – Awake

March 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the new TV drama “Awake,” actor Jason Isaacs (the “Harry Potter” franchise) plays Michael Britten, a police detective who finds himself caught between two parallel universes after being involved in a terrible car accident. In one world, Britten wakes up to learn his wife died in the accident and his son survived. In the other, it’s his son who has died and his wife who has survived. Britten must decide which world is real and which world is only a figment of his imagination.

During an interview with me, Isaacs talked about what kind of stories he likes creating as an actor, and why he doesn’t think “Awake” is as confusing as people are making it out to be.

With the amount of reality TV there is today, not much these days on the small screen is very thought-provoking. Do you think “Awake” is going to fill a void in the overall TV landscape?

God knows. Luckily, the stuff I love and enjoy doing is creating stories in interesting ways so you recognize the humanity of them. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past six months from dawn to midnight every day. I’m learning about other stuff like how [the show] collects an audience, what network it’s on, what its lead-in [show] is and what its demographic is, but it’s completely out of my control. Hopefully it is successful because I’m working with really talented people who are doing good work.

Do you think audiences are ready to open their minds and think about something with a little more complexity?

There’s been an odd thing that has happened in the making of [“Awake”]. First of all, the creator of the show (Kyle Killen) was nervous about whether or not they had to make it clearer which world we’re in. Is it too complicated? I have two daughters. One of them was five years old when I was making the pilot. She was explaining the story to her friend in the park and I shot it on my iPhone. I came back and showed [executive producer] Howard [Gordon] and Kyle that my five year old could explain the story in two sentences. I told them, “I don’t know who is going to be watching out there that you’re worried about, but you’re wrong.” The story is incredibly simple.

“Awake” is not only a thought-provoking drama, but it is also a police procedural. Are the police storylines going to take a backseat to the things Britten is experiencing in his mind?

In some weeks it’s very procedural. In other weeks it’s incredibly domestic. In some weeks it goes absolutely wacko. Some crazy stuff happens in [Britten’s] mind that manifests itself in his world. It’s like we’re making an indie movie every week. This season will have 13 episodes. It’s like you’re giving 13 different writers the same brief and seeing what each of them comes up with. I want people to be able to watch an episode without having to watch the others. The studio wanted to give some closure to every narrative every week so people wouldn’t think just because they missed last week’s episode they can’t tune in.

So, you’re not worried about audiences tuning out if the narrative ends up being too much for them?

American audiences are very sophisticated. They made “The West Wing” one of the most popular TV shows in the country for almost a decade. They made the issues of global politics interesting through character. Again, this is a really simple concept. Which of these worlds are real and what would you do if you didn’t know which world was real? Will [audiences] get it? Yeah, I think so. There’s no way we’d make any story too complicated. Is it unlike anything else on TV? Yes. Hopefully it’s original enough to have people come on board. I’m not interested in getting an audience for the sake of getting an audience. I want to make something really good and engaging that’s fun to watch and talk about. If people find it and like it, great; if they don’t, that will be a shame.

Kyle Killen & Howard Gordon – Awake

March 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

TV can be a cutthroat business. No one knows that as well as TV show creator Kyle Killen. When his show “Lone Star” premiered on Fox in 2010, it was critically acclaimed and talked about as one of the best pilots of the season. But the viewers didn’t tune in for the first episode, and it was pulled after just two episodes had aired. Taking what he learned from the experience in stride, Killen is bringing programming back to network TV with his new show “Awake,” a high-concept show about a cop who lives in alternate realities after a car accident, one in which his wife dies and one in which his son dies. The catch? He doesn’t know which is real and which is a dream. Along for the ride is producer/showrunner Howard Gordon, who among other things, was a showrunner for “24” and most recently co-created the Showtime hit “Homeland.”

“Awake” airs on NBC every Thursday at 9 p.m.

Since the Super Bowl you’ve had a strong advertising campaign. What do you think of the ads and how do you feel there is a challenge in getting across such a complex plot and nailing the tone of the show in a 30-second ad?

Howard Gordon: Kyle and I went to a NBC marketing and promotions meeting last week and saw their campaign and were kind of blown away by its intelligence and by its commitment. The network is clearly very committed to it and they are spending money on it. Some of the promos, two in particular kind of blew us away. One really does sell the procedural aspect and the duality and the other really sells the emotional anchor. They are airing them across a lot of platforms. I think remarkably, legibly people can understand what they are going to tune into and they have been getting a lot of positive response. So we are psyched about NBC’s approach to this.

A lot of people have been connecting the show in some ways to the film “Inception.” Kyle, how do you as the creator of the show feel about that comparison? Is it welcomed or not?

Kyle Killen: I mean I thought “Inception” was an incredible movie. I don’t know how much we have directly in common with it other than there is certainly that idea of your waking life and your dream life and the dreams feeling incredibly real, sometime so real that you can’t quite tell which is which. I think beyond that it is not necessarily an “Inception”-like experience on a weekly basis. We are simply playing different notes. But anytime someone associates your work with something that is iconic, I have no problem with whatsoever.

When you guys found out that you weren’t on the fall schedule and you would premiere mid-season at the earliest, did you use that time to tinker with things or do rewrites or reshoots or did you save that for your production hiatus?

KK: You know, there is really no difference when [a show] starts. I mean we are finished and finishing alongside shows that were fall series. You start work at essentially the same time. There was a little bit more lead time, which we were incredibly grateful for. It has been a complicated show to figure out on a week to week basis and make work in a satisfying way, so any and all extra time was incredibly welcome. I think having the opportunity of being a mid-season show, we get a launch that isn’t cluttered with the launch of everything else. It doesn’t feel like a demolition derby of new shows. I think it sets up well for a show like this.

How did your experience as working on “Lone Star” change your approach to working on network TV?

I mean it does and it doesn’t. I think anybody who tries something and has it not work would be stupid not to look at what occurred and what lessons you could take away from that. I think one of the big takeaways is that “Awake” is that it offers some standalone elements in comparison to a completely serialized show. With “Lone Star,” the effort was always to try a cable style show on network. The risk in that is if you don’t get a network-sized audience in Week 1 you are going to be battling uphill from then on. You are not just saying, “Please join us for Week 2. Please join us for Week 3.” You’re also saying, “Please go back and catch up on Week 1 and Week 2 so you’ll have some idea of what’s happening.” I think trying to lower the barrier to entry for subsequent episodes so that a show could gain momentum rather than just bleed it from the top is something that felt like it was going to be smart to bake into future network television ideas.