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Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

Movie Preview: “The Masked Saint”

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Ridgerock Entertainment Group and P23 Entertainment Inc. have announced January 8, 2016 as  theatrical release date for The Masked Saint The family-friendly action film is being distributed via Freestyle Releasing and is the first film produced under Ridgerock Entertainment Group’s newly formed Ridgerock Faith division.

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Starring Brett Granstaff (Vice) as Christopher ‘The Saint’ Samuels, a former professional wrestler who retires from the ring to settle down as a small town pastor. When Samuels witnesses rampant problems in the community, he decides to moonlight as a masked vigilante fighting injustice. While facing crises at home and at the church, Samuels must evade the police and somehow reconcile his secret, violent identity with his calling as a pastor. Inspired by the real life of Pastor Chris Whaley, the film is based on his book of the same name. 

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Winner for Best Picture at the 2015 International Christian Film Festival, The Masked Saint is written by Scott Crowell and Brett Granstaff, directed by Warren P. Sonoda, produced by Cliff McDowell, co-produced by David Anselmo and executive produced by Gary Granstaff and Joe Sisto. The movie also stars Lara Jean Chorostecki (Hannibal), Oscar and Emmy nominee Diahann Carroll (Grey’s Anatomy, White Collar), Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show), James Preston Rogers (Pixels) and the late WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper in his last confirmed theatrical release. 

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Where “Hope” goes: From well-received film to DVD (out today)…to TV series?

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Where Hope Grows  hits the  DVD market today. The film, which is also available on digital HD, debuted in theaters last May when I recommended it.

Synopsis (from the film’s website): Calvin Campbell is a former professional baseball player sent to an early retirement due to his panic attacks at the plate. Even though he had all the talent for the big leagues, he struggles with the curveballs life has thrown him. Today, he mindlessly sleepwalks through his days and the challenge of raising his teenager daughter. His life is in a slow downward spiral when it is suddenly awakened and invigorated by the most unlikely person – Produce, a young-man with Down syndrome who works at the local grocery store.

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Calvin slowly loses the chip on his shoulder as he begins to experience the world through Produce’s eyes. Faith, work, purpose and most importantly family, blossom into Calvin’s life as their friendship develops. The unlikely pair becomes intertwined giving Calvin’s life new meaning and purpose, but unfortunately leads to tragedy due to single decision echoed from Calvin’s past. Cast: Kristoffer Polaha, David DeSanctis, Billy Zabka, Brooke Burns, McKaley Miller, Alan Powell, Danica McKellar, Kerr Smith and Mitchell Grant. Written and Directed by: Chris Dowling

A conversation with WHG writer/director Chris Dowling and co-star Kris Polaha. Shortly after the film’s theatrical release, I had the opportunity to speak with David DeSanctis about his role as Produce, the young man living with Down Syndrome at the heart of the film. Now, as the movie moves into the DVD phase of its life, I spoke with writer/director Chris Dowling and Kris Polaha (Ringer) who played Calvin, the former pro baseball player given a new perspective on life by his relationship with Produce. We talked about the film, its meaning…and its potential as a TV series.

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JWK: I guess my first question is was there a lot of problem with name confusion on the set when someone called out the name Chris/Kris?

CHRIS DOWLING: Even more confusing than that is we look very similar.

KRIS POLAHA: (laughs) It was the reason I got cast, I think.

CD: You’re a decent actor too. It’s funny though. Since we’ve been doing publicity and screenings, I will go down and do the Q&A sessions and talk about being a writer/director…and talk about working with Kris and then, without fail, I would (find) people waiting to take pictures with me because they think I’m him…In fact I was with (cast member) Brooke Burns’ family — I met her father for the first time — and the first thing he says is “You really look like Kris Polaha!”

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JWK: Congratulations, by the way, on a very good film. So, what was the genesis of Where Hope grows? Where did the idea come from?

CD: The story is really a story that I had written a long time ago — actually like ten years ago. It was about a broken man who gets introduced to childlike faith as an adult and in his brokenness and how that slowly changes him…It took a long time. We had some startups and stops and, then ultimately,  we had some investors that got on board and really kind of caught the vision and were really into it.

Obviously, we had to have a person representing that childlike faith. We wanted it to be an individual who has Down syndrome (in the role of Produce) (but) not just a person who had Down syndrome. He had to be a natural actor…So, it came together in a pretty magical way.Kris is an old friend of mine. I say “old friend” because we hadn’t talked in a while (laughs) after he denied my Facebook request to be friends.

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KP: (laughs) It was just an oversight.

CD: Anyway, I knew he could kill the character of Calvin. So, I was pitching these guys about him and it worked out.

JWK: What attracted you to the role?

KP: It was Chris Dowling’s script. It was such a beautiful story. That’s what was so great about it.

I feel like with entertainment, at a certain point, there’s already so many stories out there about scaring the pants off somebody or dinosaurs or star battles. We’ve already seen so many of those franchises established but there are so few treatments about the human heart and what it means to be somebody who has faith. And, also, so few treatments of people with disabilities…I read it and I was like “This is amazing! I would love to do this!

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One of the other answers that I’ve been giving people is that I actually wrote a story (with a similar theme). My half brother was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. So, I had written a story about two brothers and (Where Hope Grows) just really reminded me of my script. I was never able to do anything with mine. I couldn’t get financing for it and I was never going to get it off the ground. When I read (Chris’ script) I was like “Well, here’s the story!” God was opening up the door for me to tell the story I want to tell in a way that I wouldn’t be able to tell it.

JWK: I gave the film a good review as did the general show business site Variety. It’s critic wrote that the film avoids the temptation to veer toward “mawkish excess,” which, of course, is what films like this are often accused of. Was that intentional — not crossing that line between genuinely touching that heart and coming off as preachy?

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CD: Absolutely!…A lot of the faith-based films we have out there are kind of made to preach to the choir. A lot of Christian writers will write (about) the world in the way they wish it was instead of the way it really is…I wanted to do a film that I thought would appeal to people that have faith, people that are dipping their toe in faith (and) people that are not even open to the idea of faith yet. Ultimately, they can still see an inspirational story and go “You know, what? I like that. There’s something to that. Maybe there is something there.” It’s more of a conversation starter. We didn’t want to be preachy. We definitely didn’t want to have all the answers. The human condition is we don’t have all the answers.  We’re kind of in this thing together, trying to figure it out. So, I just wanted it be an introduction…and (to suggest) that a life can be changed by childlike faith.

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KP: There is something extraordinary about people who have a disability like that to reach (into themselves) on a daily level that becomes supernatural. It opens the door for a bigger conversation. I thank all the pieces help tell this really cool story. It isn’t just a flat-out, smack-you-in-the-face story about Christianity. We’re talking about the human condition and what it means. There is this hole and everybody’s trying to fill it with some kind of thing. Some people fill it with drugs. Some people fill it with yoga. Some people fill it with different kinds of religion.  It opens up the door for a lot of great conversation.

JWK: How would you describe the faith journey of your character Calvin?

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KP: He’s pretty much an alcoholic. Chris and I, we talked about it, and I said “You know, I kind of think we have a character where, as soon as his daughter turns 18, he’s going to drink himself to death.” There was this idea that he had tons of potential and huge promise in college playing baseball. He went to the Major Leagues and he failed out. He froze and ever since he’s been living in sort of the shadow of who he could have been. Someone wrote a review about it where he said “It’s not so much the drinking that you see. It’s the self loathing.” (That’s) sort of at the heart of this guy. He really doesn’t like himself. When he sees Produce (David DeSanctis), who life has handed this really unfair card with Down syndrome, he sees how joyful he is.

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When you see this movie with different audiences, it’s amazing…(People with) Down syndrome love to see people like them on screen — and actually have responsibility in the movie…(It) gives them hope. They’re like “That was me up there!” I’m psyched to see that…Chris Dowling did such a great job directing it and writing the story. It just touches people. It’s one of those refreshing movies that I would urge every single one of your (readers) to watch at home — which is really the platform we’re counting on because it was a limited release. We were only out in (a few hundred) theaters but it still performed so beautifully…We stayed in theaters for four weeks.

JWK: So, as I mentioned, the film was received more warmly by critics than many films of this genre often are. What was the reaction you experienced among audience members?

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CD: It’s really cool because (among) test audiences which were largely secular…we scored extremely high. We knew right then and there that we had something that was going to (appeal) to more than just the faith crowd or the special needs crowd. And, as it continued to play, we were probably at 20 to 30 screenings beforehand and…people were really moved by it…You see it even on our Facebook page…where there are almost 500,000 likes. People are liking it and they’re telling their friends about it. It’s really cool and it’s something I’m really proud of.

The reviews I really wanted to see were Variety and Hollywood Reporter. Both of those were extremely positive which is awesome.  In fact, they both said some pretty amazing things about the film and we got a lot of other good reviews. And we got some harsh ones — like the New York Times which said “Where Hope Grows has the potential to be a decent inspirational film until God shows up.” That’s the first line in their review. You know what, I get it.

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JWK: There’s definitely a portion of the media that seems to have a negative reaction to almost anything that portrays faith in a positive way.

What was it like working with David DeSanctis?

KP: You know, the whole thing about acting is they ability to listen and respond…With so many professional actors, they’re so aware of the camera and what angle makes them look the prettiest or the most handsome — (but) with David it was just so pure. He was just there in the moment. He was present which forced me to just be there in the moment and be present and listen to him and respond to him…It just goes to show you that you either have it or you don’t. Working with him was such a treat. He brought such a purity to the whole experience.

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CD: David had never acted before. This is his first professional gig. To come in and have so many pivotal scenes be on your shoulders with Polaha, there’s a lot you’re asking of somebody — and now you’re asking (it) of somebody that has Down syndrome. In my mind, I was like “Is he going to be able to pull this off?” I think we all kind of felt like that. Not only did he pull it off, he crushed it! It’s pretty phenomenal.

JWK: I know what you mean. He wasn’t just reading the lines. He really got and conveyed the emotion driving the lines.

CD: Right.

JWK: The film really works and the chemistry between David and Kris on screen is amazing. Have you ever thought of adapting the concept into an ongoing TV series?

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CD: We have.

JWK: Any chance that will happen?

CD: I would love it. Kris and I have talked about something like that but it’s just such a hard thing to pull off. Yes, if there is anyone remotely interested pulling that off, I’m 100% into it. It would be awesome.

Note: For the record, I think the timing is spot on for such a show. I would certainly give it a look.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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“Alone Yet Not Alone” producer on the success of his Oscar-nominated yet not Oscar nominated film

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

 Alone Not Yet Alone is currently available on DVD.

Synopsis (from the film’s website): Seeking religious freedom in America, a devout Christian family from Germany settles in the peaceful Pennsylvania colony – only to find themselves caught in the crossfire of the French & Indian War. Following a merciless raid on their settlement, daughters Barbara and Regina are abducted, separated, then raised by their Delaware captors in the harsh Ohio wilderness. Now, only their devotion to each other and faith in the Lord can lead them through their darkest hours and back to freedom in this inspirational, true story.  (You can read my review here.)

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The Motion Picture Academy be darned, Alone Yet Not Alone continues to find an audience. The faith-themed historical film that defied expectations during its limited release in the fall of 2013 (when it topped the box office chart in terms if per-screen average) and later by copping an unexpected Oscar nomination for its title song. The film’s notoriety continued when said Oscar nomination was controversially rescinded. And, now that the film is out on DVD, it has taken the #1 slot for independent films sold at Walmart and was last month’s top-selling movie at ChristianCinema.com.

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 IMHO: Like the Donald Trump campaign, the film’s success (with pretty much zero industry support) stands out as an indication that people are simply fed up with political correctness. The movie is good, the song, is great (listen below) — and, to paraphrase Time Magazine’s Trump cover, Hollywood just can’t deal with it. (BTW, while I’m endorsing the film, I’m not endorsing Donald Trump.  I just totally get his appeal.)

I recently had the opportunity to talk with James Leininger who executive produced the film based on a book by his daughter Tracy Leininger Craven. She in turn based her story on a true story from the Leininger family. Before taking on the film, James Leininger made his fortune by founding Kinetic Concepts (KCI), a medical device company that focuses on wound care and selling specialized hospital beds.  

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JWK: What was it like working with your daughter to adapt her book into a screenplay?

JAMES LEININGER: It was great. When Tracy originally heard the story when she was nine years old from my mom, she decided right then to write the book. Years later, she told me her plans. So, we went and spent some time in Pennsylvania going to all the historical sites and doing the research. It was all there. It’s amazing. So, working with Tracy and has been a delight. She was great to work with and a lot of fun.

JWK: And it must have been even more fun in that you were also discovering your family’s history.

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JL: Yes. Actually, that’s another thing that Tracy found that I didn’t realize. There were a group of Leiningers that came to Pennsylvania in the 1750’s and then there was another group of Leiningers that came to Northwest Ohio in the 1830’s. I thought they were not related and that we were from the the Northwest Ohio group. So, Tracy, tracked it back and (found that) both Barbara and Regina’s father and our ancestors are from (the same) little town. So, clearly they were related. Tracy’s research shows that Barbara and Regina’s father was a brother to our direct descendant. So, were our cousins eleven generations removed. 

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JWK: And Barbara and Regina at the two sisters at the center of the film.

JL: Exactly. They’re the two that were captured and taken away into Ohio at the very start of the French and Indian War.

JWK: The theme song for Alone Yet Not Alone was nominated for an Oscar but, then, that nomination was rescinded. Your film seemed to run afoul of the politically-correct sensibilities of Hollywood.  Why do you think that was?

JL: I think there was a very easy explanation for that. It was nominated for Best Original Song and then the Hollywood Reporter did an ongoing daily poll. Anybody that wanted to could (weigh in on what) their favorite movie was or Best Actor or Best Original Soundtrack. After three weeks, Alone Yet No Alone was in first place with 82% of the vote. So, that meant the other four big studio films — including Disney’s film (Frozen) that ultimately won — were getting an average of four-and-a-half percent apiece. So, we were killing them and they decided — for whatever reason — that we weren’t going to get it. So, they just rescinded the nomination.

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JWK: I gave the film a very positive review but, beyond the song, the movie itself seemed to annoy Hollywood? Why do you think that is?

JL: Faith-based films aren’t high on their hit parade, if you will. I think the Oscar is their club. The studios sponsor it and promote it. So, obviously, they’re gonna do whatever they want with the nominations in their club. Actually getting the nomination, I think, is huge because that was done by independent songwriters who were members of the Guild in Hollywood. The professionals judged Alone Yet Not Alone — that Joni Tada Eareckson sang — as one of the best. Then the Hollywood Reporter — I mean this is Hollywood insiders, this isn’t the Midwest or the Deep South or something — their voters, 82%, chose Alone Yet Not Alone. So, I don’t think there’s any controversy that it was the best song. They just decided it wasn’t going to win. The studios hired a private detective. You wouldn’t believe all (they did). We did nothing. We didn’t know it was going to get nominated. We didn’t spend a nickle on promoting or advertising.  You know, the big studios are spending millions.

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JWK: As I recall, the pretext for the rescinding was that Bruce Broughton, who wrote the music for the song and was also an Oscar music branch committee member, had emailed Academy members asking them to be aware of the song during the nomination process. It’s my understanding that he didn’t even suggest that they vote for it — just that they be aware of its existence.

JL: Exactly. I mean Bruce Broughton is a phenomenal composer. He had been nominated for Academy Awards previously and had gotten all kinds of Emmys and different awards. He was on the Board, yes. A true Hollywood insider but the big studios decide what happens.

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JWK: Like you say, considering the millions the studios spend on pushing their own films, it seems a pretty flimsy reason for taking the action they did.  

JL: All the big studios spend millions promoting not just Best Song but Best Actor and Best Film and all that. 

JWK: Getting back to the film itself, what is it that you hope people take away from it?

JL: The message is that God will never leave you and will never forsake you.  Those little girls…(are) taken from Eastern Pennsylvania all the way into Ohio with no hope of getting home on their own. All they had was their faith in God. Miraculously, both of the girls made it back to safety and back to their family. It was almost impossible…It was God’s Hand as far as I’m concerned.

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JWK: I think there were some people who took offense at the idea of white women being kidnapped by Native Americans and struggling to get home to their own way of life. But, watching the film, I think the movie was fairly nuanced in that, for the most part, tribe members were portrayed fairly positively and sympathetically and that their point of view regarding their conflict with the Europeans was very understandable. I think the film just portrayed an unfortunate situation that developed without judgement. 

JL: We tried very, very hard to tell both sides of the story. The Native Americans had been defrauded of their land and they wanted their land back. They had a valid complaint. Unfortunately for the Leininger family, they had bought the land from the land developer. They bought it from the Penn family. They had paid Delaware for it again and then they paid the Shawnees for it. They paid for it three times. They thought they were okay but, when the war broke out, they were in the westernmost settlement which was across the Susquehanna River…That was where they (the Shawnees) attacked. It was the first battle and the French and Indian War in Pennsylvania. There had never been any trouble with the Indians in 70 to 80 years prior to that. So, they were hoping there wouldn’t be any trouble but, unfortunately, they were wrong.

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JWK: Have you received any reaction from people who have seen the film?

JL: Oh, absolutely! Extremely enthusiastic! It’s been Number 1 in Walmart among the independent films and Number 1 (at) ChristianCinema.com for the whole month of July. So, it’s being very well received. Just about every Christian leader that has seen the film has gone on their website or whatever media they have and promoted the film.

We were very blessed that it is a true story — the most accurate historical film ever produced of that pre-Revolutionary War period. It gives people hope. You know, they were desperate. They had nothing to rely on except God and He didn’t leave them and He didn’t forsake them. It’s an amazing true story.

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JWK: Are you working on another film?

JL: We have another faith-based picture called To Have and to Hold. We hope to have that out in February of next year.

JWK: What’s that about?

JL: It’s a story about Jamestown  written in 1907 for the 300th anniversary of Jamestown. It was an immediate bestseller by Mary Johnston. It remained a New York Times bestseller for many years then one of the first silent movies was made of the book then one of the first talking movies was made of it. In the thirties it just kind of got lost but in 2007 the story was reedited and republished. That’s when we heard about the story for the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. The story is based in Jamestown — a lot of true events there — although the story is historical fiction.

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JWK: So, after making your fortune developing medical devices to help those dealing with physical suffering, you’re now in the movie business where, I guess, the hope is to help people emotionally and spiritually.

JL: That’s our prayer.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Kelli Williams talks about starring in UP TV’s first scripted series (updated)

posted by John W. Kennedy

(Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Ties That Bind airs Wednesdays @ 9:oo PM (ET) on UP TV.

UPdate: Newly-released Nielsen ratings show that last week’s premiere of Ties That Bind  scored over one million viewers and was particularly strong among the 18-34 demographic sought by advertisers.

Pioneer Woman. TV Viewer know Kelli Williams from her roles as Lindsey Dole on ABC’s The Practice, Dr. Gillian Forster on the Fox’s Lie to Me and Jackie Clark on Lifetime’s Army Wives. Now, the actress is swinging for the fences again, playing Washington State mother/police detective Allison McLean in UP TV’s Ties That Bind. While her previous shows aired on networks that were well-established in the scripted series business long before they debuted, this is UP’s first entry into original series production. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the actress about the special challenge and opportunity of helping to build a new network brand.

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JWK: What drew you to this particular show?

KELLI WILLIAMS: I felt like Allison’s character was really interesting. I mean the idea of the hybrid show I had never quite seen before — unless my memory is not serving me well. The idea (is) that you have this procedural side of the show — which is (Allison’s) work — and then this serialized side of the show with (her) ongoing relationship with (her) husband and kids, (her) niece and nephew (and her) brother. That really was interesting to me…Over the years of watching TV shows, I (always) wished we could go home with the cops from Law & Order or whatever and see how the job affects their world and vice versa. This show has the potential to do that.

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JWK: You’ve done procedural shows in the past, such as The Practice and Lie to Me. Army Wives was sort of an ongoing family drama. Do you have a preference between the two genres?

KW: They’re so different I think you sort of use different muscles for each one. For procedural shows, there’s a lot of exposition. You’re dealing with the story of the week. If it’s a medical shows, there are all those words you can barely pronounce. Sometimes it’s harder to memorize that stuff and to connect to it…On the family drama side, it’s all about feeling and emotion and life stuff.

JWK: On Ties That Bind, you actually do both. Is it difficult to flex all those muscles in one episode?

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KW: There were days (on the set of Ties That Bind) when I would typically do all of the procedural stuff — all of the cop stuff — for those locations. Then we’d switch over to the family side. It was always kind of a funny move. I had to kind of have a reset because it was like I’m going into a different mode of thinking and being. I always think it’s good to play those transitions. It’s just something that I want to explore more of if we get more seasons.

JWK: In real life, you’re a mother of three children.

KW: Yeah.

JWK: Has that helped prepare you to play Allison?

KW: I think that it has helped me, basically, with everything in my life. Real life, raising kids and trying to raise them to be good people takes a lot of work. It’s all about (appearing) effortless, yet there’s so much effort. You do it the best you can. I’m sure it’s informed my work as an actor getting jobs and also as an actor doing the job. You just can’t take (the chaos at work) quite as seriously because there’s so much other chaos at home.

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JWK: Ties That Bind touches on something a lot of women — and men too — have to deal with. The cop-mother balancing act may be dramatic but  the struggle of balancing work life and home life is something a lot of people can relate to.

KW: I think that’s true. (In) a lot of families both parents work. They try to balance work and family life and it’s not always what it used to be with one parent being home. I think that that in itself is a new challenge. You (and your spouse) are trying be true partners in work and life. This is what Allison (deals with). They both have careers (Allison’s husband is a construction contractor). They both want the best for their children. So, they have to figure it out together.

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JWK: You first got noticed by the public on The Practice which was a big hit for you on ABC. How is doing a show for ABC different than doing a show for UP?

KW: The Practice — I don’t know if this is going to sound right — was a very grown-up show. The fact that it was part of the machine of David E. Kelley Productions (meant) it was a BIG production. We had eight days for every episode, we had a pretty nice budget, all that stuff. It was the biggest show I had done to (that) date. It put me on the map.

Certainly, the legal aspect of it was difficult only because I didn’t know anything about being a lawyer. I was constantly looking stuff up, asking our advisers. David Kelley was very much about the words being exactly as he wrote them. You didn’t change anything. So, I kind of grew up in that world. You dot every i, cross every t. It was fine because his words were (great). There was a certain flow to them — especially with his closing arguments. They were very beautiful (and) easy to memorize because he wrote them so well.

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So, (with Ties That Bind), we’re this little show for this little network that’s finding its way and branding itself. It’s a very exciting time because we’re here (at the start of) a new network. We have a fraction of the budget (but) we have such a talented creator and showrunner in Sheryl (J. Anderson).  She really wants to work together and have a collaborative process — so, if things don’t quite sound right coming out of my mouth, she’s up for changes. I don’t change the integrity of what she’s getting at but just little words here and there. I have a lot of creative freedom with this job.

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And, I also feel very grown up with it. I am the mother of teenagers whereas in The Practice was I was the newbie young lawyer. I felt like a kid — and I guess I was. It was 20 years ago.  So, it’s very different. I think a lot of my history of working as an actor and my experience has brought to Ties That Bind in a way that I can serve it well. I’ve been doing this longer than a lot of our crew members have been alive.

(My experiences on both shows have been) so positive. They’re just so different.

JWK: Ties That Bind is UP’s first original scripted TV series. That sort of makes you sort of a pioneer at the network.

KW: Yeah, it’s really fun to be the first one for them. They’ve been so open to all of us. (Original Programming Chief) Barbara Fisher and everybody at UP have been really, really supportive. They want to make the best show they can make. I think the fact that they even let us go to make the show has been remarkable. I feel like this show has a lot of potential.

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JWK: This being UP TV, you do have the scene where the family prays together over dinner — which is something you don’t see on network television too often these days. But the show doesn’t hit you over the head with religion.

KW: No, it’s not a religious show. It’s a family show. Someone of any faith can identify with it. You don’t feel like you have to worry about (watching with) your kids and whether it’s appropriate or not. We’re gonna show real-life stuff…(but with) integrity and sort of a moral ethic.

JWK: However imperfectly sometimes, the characters are trying to do the right thing.

KW: Yeah.

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JWK: And, when it comes to the crime drama side, I like that it’s not the serial killer of the week kind of thing that we see played out on so many shows these days. It’s a bit more humane in tone.

KW: Yes, it’s definitely more human-based. Of course, we are the busiest (small) police force in the world. We have a crazy amount of crime. I ask real cops (on-set) “Does it entertain you how often we catch a case?” I’m always (reaching for) my weapon when the truth is that rarely happens in real life.

JWK: It’s like Murder, She Wrote where the small town of Cabot Cove probably had the highest per capita murder rate in the world.

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KW: Exactly.

JWK: Changing the subject a bit, I understand that you’ve had your SAG card since you were a year old and doing diaper commercials.

KW: That’s so funny! My mom moved out here (to LA) in the sixties to become an actress. She was hired to do a commercial. There was something where the baby they hired was super huffy (and they couldn’t use her). (My mom) was like “I have a baby. She could be the baby I’m putting a diaper on.” That was 1970 but then I didn’t join the union really until 1988. I was 18.

JWK: Was your original SAG card still good at that point?

KW: Yeah. When I went to join the union I thought I had to get two jobs. I forget how the process is, the Catch-22. (I got one job) and they said “Now, you’re eligible. You did a commercial in 1970…Raggedy Ann Diapers, thank you very much.

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JWK: You’re husband’s a writer.

KW: Yes. His name is Ajay Sahgal. He started out as a novelist. He’s a screenwriter. He’s been a journalist. He’s now a comedy writer. He’s done all of it.

JWK: Any chance he’ll be writing any episodes of Ties That Bind?

KW: That would be really fun.

JWK: Where are you from?

KW: I was raised in LA. My mom had the dream of being an actress. I just grew up around it.

JWK: What’s your relationship with your mother like today?

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KW: My mom is so wonderfully supportive of my career and work. She’s great. She gets it all — from auditions to jobs, the whole thing. It’s really nice to be able to have that.

JWK: Do you sometimes bounce lines off her?

KW: Oh, yeah! Sometimes she helps me with auditions on tape. She’ll be my scene partner. Growing up, I was a scene partner for a lot of her auditions. That was sort of my acting school. I never went to a traditional acting school.

JWK: Getting back to your family on Ties That Bind, at the core of the premise is your character’s relationship with her inmate brother (Luke Perry in a recurring role). Where would you like to see that relationship go as the series continues?

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KW: I certainly want (them) to work on it, that’s for sure. I think he and Allison have a lot to work on together. I look forward to delving into the story of their past — how they got to their places in the world (and) what happened there. Certainly, my (character’s) ongoing relationship with his kids and wanting to raise them (herself) — which he’s not happy about; There’s a lot of interesting conflict to play…but, beyond that, I’d like to see them work on their relationship and get along more. We’ll see. I have no I idea what Sheryl has in store. I’m sure things are percolating.

JWK: Talking about getting along, would you describe the Ties That Bind set as a happy one?

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KW: Oh, yeah! It’s a lovely set! We cram a lot into our days. We get a lot of page counts done and everybody is there to get the job done and make a good show.

JWK: You say you had eight days to shoot an episode of The Practice. How many day to you get to do an episode of this show?

KW: We do them in blocks. We do two shows at a time. Each show gets six days. One block is five-and-a-half per show which is really, really fast. So, we’re crossing our fingers for a little bit more time.

JWK: I’m guessing that you sort of split the shooting by doing the cop stuff in one five-and-a-half day  block and the family stuff in the second block.

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KW: Yeah. Just based on locations, it’s easier for us to get all of that stuff done at the same time. We’ll be at the precinct and we’ll do all of our interrogations and all of our bullpen stuff done in the first couple of days (at) the precinct. Then we’ll go on location and do all the location stuff. You’re having to cross reference from one episode to another while shooting which is a whole new thing for me…You’ll be in a different episode and then you’ll jump to a different storyline and different characters. That can be a bit confusing.

JWK: Any other projects coming up that you’d like to mention?

KW: I’m taking a little time off then I’m going to do another episode of NCIS?

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JWK: Do you have a recurring role on that show?

KW: This will be my second episode so I guess (my character) officially becomes recurring. I went and did one last season. It was fun to work with Mark Harmon. I’m happy to go back. I get to work in Los Angeles which is great. I haven’t worked in Los Angeles since I did Lie to Me five years ago. So, it’ll be nice to do.

JWK: I’m told that Jason Priestley, who like Luke Perry is another 90210 alumnus, will be guesting on the show.

KW: He plays someone from my past. I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to reveal but there will be some tension with him — which is hard since he’s such a nice guy.

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JWK: Speaking of 90210, Ties That Bind, with its teen characters, I think has a sort of young appeal similar to Fox, particularly in its 90210 days, or the CW currently. So, in that sense, it really is expanding UP’s audience. It’s easy to see why both parents and their teenage kids would find something appealing in the show.

KW: That’s true. Moms can have their old crushes on Jason Priestley and Luke Perry.

JWK: While Ties That Bind is UP’s first scripted show, I could easily see it on a more established network.

KW: I think that’s a nice compliment — that we can live anywhere. I mean we’re happy to be on UP but, if we can make a show that looks like a more established  network show, then we’re headed in the right direction.

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We’re really having some really fantastic guest come on (like) Jason, Luke Perry (and) C. Thomas Howell. And, our (regular) cast (is) top-notch. They’re just all such good actors.  Everyone just raises the bar of the show. We’re here to make the best thing we can make.

Note: You can read my review of Ties That Bind here.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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