Tony Danza Takes Ego Bruising, Keeps Going
Whatever else, Tony Danza certainly deserves credit for allowing the good, the bad and the unflattering to show on his Friday (10/1)-debuting A&E reality series, "Teach." The former "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss?" star had the cameras with him for his full semester of teaching English at an urban Philadelphia high school — and it wasn't pretty. Viewers will see 10th-graders complaining that he talks too much, asking impertinent questions, worrying that he's incompetent and saying they didn't have a clue who he was. They will see Danza crying.
How did he deal with this ego bruising? "I never thought about anything except trying to be a good teacher," he tells us. "I very rarely even considered the show. I don't mean to denigrate it, dismiss it or discount it. I thought the show would only be good if I was good teacher or a real car wreck.
"By the way, I felt a tremendous responsibility to these kids, to the other teachers and to the school. It was overwhelming. Hence the crying. I became the crybaby of all time," he goes on. "The kids call me crybaby. You start to care so much, it breaks your heart every minute."
He's learned, "When you're a performer, you think of yourself all the time — how's my hair, my body, my face? When you become a teacher, you have no time to think about yourself."
As Danza explains on the show, he hopes to shine a light on the demands and difficulties facing teachers in these days of electronics-toting teens. He earned a teaching degree before becoming a TV star and, at 59, wanted to do something meaningful.
Divorced in 2007, the father of four children (the eldest born in 1971, the youngest in '93) says his family "was a little bit, like, befuddled" by his plan. "But they know me. I've always admired teachers. Even on 'Who's the Boss?' — Tony Micelli became a teacher at the end."
This week, Danza will be doing promo chores in New York and Philadelphia, and says, "I just might pop down to the school and say 'Hi' to everybody. I'm missing it very badly right now."
He's also missing acting. "I'm shopping agents," he reveals.
As for the future of "Teach," there are seven installments ready to air and more in the can, according to Danza. "The hope is that the show goes well and we get to go all the way through commencement."
THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE: Indie film hottie Richard de Klerk ("Cole"), whose new "Repeaters" thriller has been widely compared to "Groundhog Day," tells us that the G-word "did come up on the set, and it has to. You can't argue with Bill Murray and an amazing film. But I think enough time has passed that we can take another look at the premise."
Certainly, "Repeaters" takes the idea of characters caught in a day that repeats over and over — and takes it in an entirely different direction from the 1993 rom-com. In "Repeaters," there are two young men (Dustin Milligan and de Klerk) and a young woman (Amanda Crew) in drug rehab. And, as de Klerk says, "it gets into the whole moral compass of a person."
With all the normal laws of time and society suspended, will a person act honorably, embrace immorality or completely flip out? Suffice it to say, de Klerk, who is also a producer on the feature, had a lot to work with as an actor.
The film drew raves at the recent Toronto Film Festival. "It was unbelievable. I was so grateful," he says. Now, "We're patiently awaiting word from our sales agents. We don't rush into something that might not be the perfect fit."
De Klerk's next project is a documentary close to his heart, "Miles4Justice" that has to do with the organization that stages sailing events to draw attention to human rights issues.
WOMEN THINGS: They're casting for Siobhan, the leader of the Irish coven to be featured in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn." A big, voluptuous vampire, she could be a Caucasian plus-sized model. Oscar winner Bill Condon is directing the feature for June 2011 release. The writer and director, whose credits include "Dreamgirls" and "Chicago," has already made it clear that despite his musical background, Edward Cullen and clan will not be breaking into song.
Casting is also going hot and heavy for the supporting cast of the Judd Apatow-produced HBO series pilot starring industry "it girl" Lena Dunham. Dunham plays the character Hannah, in addition to writing, directing and co-executive producing. Hannah's pals in the yet-untitled show will include Marni, described as a sexy Jewish girl who is snarky, hates "fake people" and has an aptitude for law and politics; and Jessa, the beautiful Northern California-bred aficionado of poetry, foreign films and Eastern religion books.
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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