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Men love Mistresses; And one of them, Jes Macallan, says dudes can learn a few things

- August 29th, 2014

Jes Macallan one

Sometimes watching Mistresses is like being in high school and sneaking into the girls’ bathroom. If you’re a male, that is.

“Oh my God, I love that metaphor!” said Jes Macallan, who plays Joss Carver in Mistresses.

“It’s like those men who got sucked into watching Sex and the City because of their wives, but then never could admit that they really couldn’t turn away. Because this is the secret other side, these are the reasons why we go on dates with you, or sleep with you, and it’s why we’re all crazy, or not, you know what I mean?”

Um, yup.

Mistresses, which airs its second-season finale Monday, Sept. 1 on ABC and CTV, focuses on the lives and loves and ups and downs of four female friends. Besides Macallan’s Joss, there’s her sister Savi, played by Alyssa Milano, Karen, played by Yunjin Kim, and April, played by Rochelle Aytes.

It seems that at least once per episode, Joss, Savi, Karen and April get together for a “girl chat” session that is terrifying to men, because they’re left to think, “Oh my God, is this really the kind of stuff that women talk about?”

As a counterpoint to that, I remember an episode of the old animated sitcom King of the Hill, when Hank made a new friend. Hank happily explained to his wife Peggy that he and his new pal were having such a great time “not talkin’ about stuff.”

“It’s that whole ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ concept,” Macallan said. “We’re wired differently. And I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, whatever, it’s just the genetic makeup of how we communicate.

“In Mistresses we are those women in the demographic who have a glass of wine and tell each other everything and are super emotional and want to express. We over-think everything. And men, you guys are so frickin’ rational, you jerks.”

Well, I don’t know if “rational” necessarily is the right term. Maybe more like, “emotionally constipated.”

“I think this all goes back to hunter-gatherer, in that there’s necessity and practicality and that comes first (for men), because it has to,” Macallan said. “If we were all running around flying by the ass of our emotions, and whatever feelings come up and whatever thoughts happen, it would be chaos.

“But also, I think men need women to kind of soften that, and make sure that everybody feels loved and nurtured. If we combine it, we both have what it takes to meet all our needs.”

In a perfect world, sure. But Mistresses mines the cracks in that system for both drama and comedy.

For example, with Macallan’s character Joss now engaged, there were some funny scenes a couple of weeks ago when Joss met her fiance’s massive family for the first time. Of course, they instantly all were playing charades. What is it about big families and charades?

“Oh my God, seriously!” Macallan said. “And to people who aren’t from big families, what is it about charades that are so horrifying? My family (in real life) is so the charade people. I am the oldest of seven, so that’s why I frickin’ played charades over and over, because my family is gi-normous. But yeah, the size of family is equally proportionate to the inevitability of playing charades.

“Joss is kind of freaked out by the whole scene. She starts to realize, ‘Wow, Savi and I never had this growing up.’ For better and for worse. And I can totally relate to that. I come from very strong parents, but a very broken background as far as marriages and kids. We’re like The Brady Bunch on crack. But my Canadian husband, his parents were married for 30 years, they had this perfect little family.

“So I get it, I’ve been there, when you’ve been dating somebody and you go into something so unfamiliar for the first time, it’s like, ‘Whoaaaaaa.’ ”

In the season finale of Mistresses, Joss’ engagement party is front and centre. If you’re a male, charades or no charades, the whole extravaganza will be like sneaking into the girls’ bathroom in high school.

“That’s exactly what it’s like!” Jes Macallan agreed excitedly.

Meet you in there.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

SPOILER ALERT: Finale details, as True Blood has been spilled for the last time

- August 24th, 2014

true-blood-season-7-teaser-trailer

The series finale of True Blood turned into a sequel of sorts.

So consider this a SPOILER ALERT if you don’t want to know what happened in the finale, which aired Sunday night on HBO and HBO Canada. But if you saw it, you understand that the episode would have fit snugly within the Kill Bill collection of movies. Call it, Kill Bill: Volume III.

The main drama in the finale turned out to be a battle of love, and wills, between Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin).

Bill was dying from “hepatitis V,” and had refused the cure, thinking he was doing Sookie a favour by finally getting out of her life in a permanent way. The twist, though, was that he asked Sookie to kill him with her “fairy light,” which would have put him out of his misery and also turned her into a normal girl, which is what she claimed she always wanted.

Ultimately, yes, Sookie killed Bill, with a little help from Bill himself. But they did it the old-fashioned way, with a stake. Sookie came to the conclusion that being a fairy is what she was meant to be, and she actually didn’t want to give it up.

Now, had it been up to me, True Blood would have ended with Sookie walking away from the cemetery.

But there was a flash-forward “happy ending” tacked on, with Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) getting rich off “New Blood,” and everyone gathered for a happy thanksgiving three years down the line, including the previously departed Sam (Sam Trammell). Sookie was pregnant with the baby of a mystery guy, but I suppose he was meant to be just the random “normal dude” that Bill Compton never could be.

In other developments, after an entire season building up Mr. Gus (Will Yun Lee) and his evil henchmen, they all were eliminated with relative ease within minutes of the start of the finale. That whole plot line was kind of ridiculous. And by the way, now that I think of it, why were Eric and Pam so keen on stealing Mr. Gus’ idea about “New Blood?” Why do vampires need to make money? Can’t they just take whatever they need, including vast sums of cash? Oh well, side point, not to ruin the mood.

Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) got married. They’re living in Bill’s house, which he left to Andy (Chris Bauer), on the condition that he rent it to Jessica and Hoyt at a decidedly below-market rate. And also in the flash-forward, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Brigette (Ashley Hinshaw) had a mess of kids, but overall it seemed pretty manipulative to add Brigette to the mix with just a few episodes remaining in the series, merely as a closure device for Jason.

Regardless, after seven seasons, True Blood is gone. In the end, even though it broke her heart in the short term, Sookie had to “kill Bill” to be happy in the long term.

There will be no more sequels. Blood has been spilled. TV is a little less red.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

In Brie we trust; in life and in new animated Netflix series BoJack Horseman, Alison Brie knows our secrets

- August 22nd, 2014

Diane (left, voiced by Alison Brie) and Bojack (right, voiced by Will Arnett)

Sometimes people just tell you things, no matter how animated you are.

And therein lies the one trait Alison Brie has in common with her character in the new animated series BoJack Horseman, which is available Friday, Aug. 22 on Netflix. Brie’s character Diane Nguyen (above left) is a ghost writer, hired to pen the memoirs of lead character BoJack (above right), voiced by Will Arnett.

“If there’s any resemblance, it’s that there’s something about Diane that even when BoJack is avoiding any writing of the book, she sort of gets BoJack to open up,” Brie said. “And that I can relate to, because people always are telling me their secrets. They confide in me. I seem very trustworthy.”

Brie paused just long enough to make it funny, before adding, “I seem.”

You’ll recognize Brie’s face primarily for her roles as Annie Edison on Community (cast pic below with Brie at far right) and Trudy Campbell on Mad Men. But she has done voice work as well, including the recent Lego Movie, in which she co-starred with Arnett, coincidentally.

BoJack Horseman centres around BoJack, who literally is a horse. The series exists in a universe where animals talk and interact with humans. For example, all the employees at Penguin Publishing are, well, penguins.

Anyway, BoJack was the star of a corny 1990s family sitcom called Horsin’ Around. Presently, trying to plot a comeback, BoJack has been contracted to write his autobiography, but he isn’t exactly a nose-to-the-trough kind of horse. That’s where Diane enters the fray.

“Diane quickly assimilates to that group (which includes BoJack’s roommate Todd Chavez, voiced by Aaron Paul, and his agent Princess Carolyn, voiced by Amy Sedaris),” Brie said. “And because Diane dates Mr. Peanut Butter (a canine rival of  BoJack’s, voiced by Paul F. Tompkins), and Mr. Peanut Butter seems to always make himself a part of BoJack’s life – to BoJack’s chagrin – that makes Diane part of the family as well.”

What I want to know is, what is a serious girl like Diane doing with an upbeat airhead such as Mr. Peanut Butter?

“Well, you know, it is an interesting question,” Brie said. “I have to just assume that Diane wants to take a break from herself. Diane is a very serious person and she has such a dry sense of humour. She always needs to be the smartest person in the room, and I think with Mr. Peanut Butter, that’s very easy.”

Diane may be Brie’s primary character in BoJack Horseman, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear Brie popping up in other places as well.

“Every time I come in there’s a different thing, ‘Oh, yeah, also today, you’re going to be reading cow waitress,’ ” Brie said with a laugh. “That’s one of my favourites, one of my proudest roles.”

Brie said BoJack Horseman came along at the right time, with the upcoming final seven episodes of Mad Men already having been shot, and with Community in between seasons. Community, which has more lives than a cat, recently was picked up for a sixth season by Yahoo! Screen. You know, Community may end up being the longest-running show in TV history before it’s done.

“I would believe it,” Brie said. “Except now it’s on the internet, does that count? I guess it does, since we’re here right now talking about a show on Netflix.

“This did fit in very nicely. And they’ve been wonderful about working around our schedules, which is why we’ve been able to draw such an incredible cast. It’s a smaller time commitment, and it’s a little more flexible.”

Speaking of time flexibility, does Brie think Diane ever is going to get BoJack’s book written? And if so, will Diane get her name on it?

“I doubt it – she’s a ghost writer, after all,” Brie said. “But in any case, I don’t think she wants her name on this book.”

People may confide in Alison Brie, but BoJack Horseman is not a secret she has to keep.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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Liar, liar, lab’s on fire; Could Marley Shelton of The Lottery be preparing for politics?

- August 17th, 2014

Marley Shelton, episodic one, The Lottery

Marley Shelton’s character lamented in a recent episode of The Lottery that she actually had to go on national TV and lie.

Um … clearly Dr. Alison Lennon, played by Shelton, has never heard of politics. Isn’t it more newsworthy when someone isn’t lying on national TV?

But we’ll cut Alison some slack, because she’s a scientist and a medical researcher, not a politician, and she understandably doesn’t want to give people false hope. The Lottery – which airs Sundays on Lifetime – is set in 2025, and the human race has not produced a baby since 2019, when only six of them were born.

“For me it’s so tangible, because (in real life) I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and they’re still in that phase where they’re very dependent on their mother and we are really tight,” Shelton said. “Having that incredibly intense bond is so instinctual. The drive to populate and keep the human race going forward, it’s just so in us. It’s in our DNA.

“To be in a society that’s stripped of that, and with the implications of that, there is so much hopelessness and despair. More than anything, there’s the moral ambiguity. What are you living for if there’s no future?”

Well, if that were the case, some of us would be partying like it’s 2099. But Dr. Alison Lennon is not like that, thankfully for humankind. In the early episodes of The Lottery, Alison had a major breakthrough by somehow finding a way to fertilize 100 human eggs. But she immediately was booted from her own research by government operatives with questionable motives.

As the story progressed, circumstances brought Alison back to the job, but with conditions and side deals at play. Hence her reassuring but fake performance on national TV, encouraging healthy women to register for the lottery that will determine the birth mothers for the fertilized eggs. As she spoke, Alison had no real idea why the fertilization of those 100 eggs was successful, and she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to repeat the process. When she said a cure was close, she didn’t know for sure.

“What’s interesting about Allison is that she was adopted, she was an orphan,” Shelton said. “This drive to solve this particular issue comes from basically being abandoned at conception. It really is in her to devote her entire life to solving the fertility crisis, trying to right the wrong, maybe on a subconscious level.

“She has intimacy issues. We saw even in the first episode, when she was trying to collect sperm (by having sex with a stranger who allegedly had decent prospects for fertilization), that was like a laboratory experiment for her, really clinical. It was not about sex or even about wanting to impregnate herself. It was about figuring out how to solve this crisis.

“And then after the breakthrough, she had that mother-bear instinct, like, ‘Give me my embryos back!’ ”

The Lottery films in Montreal, and Shelton said there were some funny moments due to the challenges of depicting an essentially childless world.

“We were shooting a scene where the President (played by Yul Vazquez) is giving a press conference in a park,” Shelton recalled. “Then while I was giving my speech to the press, a school bus drove by behind us, and we had to cut, because it was a real school bus filled with children.

“It’s tricky when you start to think about what would be gone, the subtle things.”

Subtle or not-so-subtle, The Lottery certainly deals with heavy issues. Shelton took a lighter view, though, when asked what her frame of mind would be if she personally were living in a world that stopped having children.

“Let’s see, I would be an actor, presumably,” Shelton said with a laugh. “So I’d probably be too worried about getting my next job to worry about a world crisis.”

Either way, don’t be surprised if we see Marley Shelton running for elected office someday. After all, through her character in The Lottery, she already knows how to lie convincingly on national TV. That’s pretty much half the battle right there.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Go beneath the Sheen; Masters of Sex star urges fans to peek under the covers, literally and figuratively

- August 10th, 2014

Michael Sheen as Dr

Masters of Sex and Mad Men have more in common than merely an era.

Both series are filled with rich scenes in which the subtext is so thick, you could slice it with scissors. And I’m talking more about the early seasons of Mad Men, which were set in the early 1960s. Masters of Sex – which airs Sunday nights across Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central, and on channel-of-origin Showtime in the United States – is inching up to 1960 in its current second season.

Masters of Sex tells the story of real-life sex researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, respectively. Partly due to the era, partly due to the deftness of the actors, partly due to the subject matter, and partly due to the blurred lines between professionalism and personal feelings that existed between the main characters, just about every scene in Masters of Sex is saying way more than it actually says.

“Sometimes we have to be directed to play less subtext, because we’re so aware of what’s going on underneath,” Sheen said. “We have to be careful that we don’t do too much of that. We have to remember to bring it out on the surface.

“By this point we know these characters pretty well.”

At first glance, Sheen’s Bill Masters is a big ball of repressed tension. He is so emotionally shut off to his poor wife Libby (Caitlyn FitzGerald) that if it were any other era where divorce wasn’t such a stigma, I think she would have left him a long time ago. Bill responds to Virginia, with whom he is having an affair in addition to their stop-and-go professional relationship, with a complex combination of desire and guilt, attraction and condescension. He really is one of the most complicated characters on TV today.

“It depends on what you can see,” Sheen observed. “I can’t really take any responsibility for what people are able to see. You bring your own humanity to what you watch. You see as much as you’re aware of in yourself.

“Some people, I think, see the vulnerability (in Bill). Things don’t have to be on the surface for you to be aware of them. One of the things I’m most interested in about this character is how vulnerable he is. The most defensive, guarded, prickly people are the ones who, on the whole, I find are guarding their vulnerability so much, because they’ve been so hurt in some way, or they’re so scared. They’re the most frightened people.

“I think, I hope, that audiences are a bit more sophisticated than just accepting what they’re presented with on the surface.”

On the one hand, Bill Masters craves respectability, and he wants the admiration of his peers. But while many people in that era would take a conservative, safe path to those goals, Bill also wants to be renowned. He is obsessed with his controversial sex study, largely because he feels the work is groundbreaking, which he hopes will get him the respect he craves through an alternate and more impressive door. He wants to be both respected and famous. And for Bill Masters specifically, the puzzle of what is driving him is what Masters of Sex is all about.

“We’ve heard him say a number of times he wants to win a Nobel Prize, so there obviously is ambition that’s driving him,” Sheen said. “And this is an area of research that was open to someone who was pioneering and leading and wanting to make a name for himself.

“Even though (the sex study) is obviously risky, it isn’t like he wants to be on the margins. He wants to be an establishment figure, he wants to be mainstream, but he knows that he has to take a risk. And on a personal level – certainly the character I’m playing, I don’t know about the real man – he’s driven by all kinds of unconscious things as well.

“There are no easy answers to those questions. Hopefully it will take six, seven seasons to answer them.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv