‘Tucson’ Producers Groan Fox Breathing Down Their Necks
With Fox pinning its hopes for a resurgence in live-action comedy on its March 14-premiering "Sons of Tucson," network brass were hovering around when the show was in its nascent stages. In fact, "That's a heavy understatement," says Justin Berfield, the former "Malcolm in the Middle" brother who's an executive producer on the new series. Adds Director and Executive Producer Todd Holland, "You have never had so much participation, shall we say. I mean, it really started to be like, 'Please love us less.'"
"Tucson" marks a reunion for Berfield and Holland, who won two of his three Emmys for his work on "Malcolm." ("The Larry Sanders Show" accounts for the third.)
All that attention from the top caused a good bit of frustration, it would seem. "It's like a parent that doesn't give you clear instructions and you don't know how to please them," Holland complains. "So it's always like a weird thing trying to figure out: What do they want? What are they saying? Even if we did understand the instructions, would we agree enough to do it that way, or would we have to push back?"
Before the dust settled, recasting was done on two of the young characters and the pilot had to be re-shot. Now all that difficulty is behind them and shooting has wrapped on Season 1 of the comedy, starring Tyler Labine ("Reaper") as a slacker being paid by three boys (Matthew Levy, Frank Dolce and Benjamin Stockham) to pose as their father.
Berfield and his partner Jason Felts had tried to interest the illustrious Holland in directing other projects of theirs in the past, to no avail. Now Berfield, a wizened old guy of 23 (kidding!), says, "I think it's good it didn't work out in the beginning. It was a learning process for us. I was young, just starting out as a producer, seeing different material — striking out a few times, I think it helps you grow."
THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE: Up-and-coming actor Nate Parker says he's thankful for the steps our country has made toward equality, but there's still a lot to be done. He hopes people will be inspired to make a change after watching his movie "Blood Done Sign My Name," which premieres tomorrow (2/19). In the film, he portrays Dr. Ben Chavis, who became an instrumental part of the civil rights movement.
"We're in the age of Obama. A lot of people call it post-racism and that couldn't be further from the truth," says Parker, who is also in George Lucas' forthcoming film about WWII's famed Tuskegee Airmen, "Red Tails," along with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard. In Parker's view, "There's more of a need for a civil rights movement now than there was four years ago. Back then, we knew what we were facing. Now it's an invisible racism. Half of our brothers and sisters are dropping out of school. It's an epidemic. What are we doing to respond to the crisis in our community? Films like 'Blood Done Sign My Name' have to make us look at injustice differently."
While it was an honor to play such a respected man, Parker admits it proved to be challenging as well. "It's always interesting portraying a person who is still alive. You owe them the respect to put the time and effort into the role. I wanted to make sure I did him justice," says Parker. "I got a chance to talk with him. He's still very active in the community. He's an incredible man," he adds. "Dr. Chavis is someone who saw a need in this community as a student and then stepped in and helped fight the injustices in his community. He was 22, but he didn't let that deter him from making a change. Young people should take note with that now."
AND GOOD LUCK ON THAT: That "Rockford Files" series remake that NBC announced last summer — from executive producers David Shore ("House") and Steve Carell — is now moving forward, with a pilot being cast. They're looking for actors to fill the familiar roles of Rocky, "Angel," Dennis ... and Jim Rockford. It'll take a mighty tall talent to follow in the footsteps of the matchless James Garner without stumbling in that role. And no, critics, you can't have Nathan Fillion. "Castle's" future looks too bright to be conjecturing about his availability.
FACE FACTS: You just never know what's going to land you a job in show business. Casting forces on the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy "Pretend Wife" have been talking to candidates to play a woman who's had a lot of plastic surgery — hoping to fill the role with the real thing.
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster
To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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