“New Technologies for Media: Producing for the Digital Era” will include a panel discussion featuring digital production teams from several […]April 5, 2017
SMPTE-Pittsburgh’s New Technologies for Media: Producing for the Digital Era
“New Technologies for Media: Producing for the Digital Era” will include a panel discussion featuring digital production teams from several area shows, including student-produced programs. Panelists will make a presentation about how their productions are created and distributed, followed by a moderated Q&A session. This should be something a little different than our usual technical presentations, so please feel free to spread the word and invite others who may be interested.
The event will be held at the Point park University Center for Media Innovation in downtown Pittsburgh from 6:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M. The event is free and, as usual, open to both SMPTE members and all interested guests. A light dinner will be served, sponsored by PMI (Production Masters, Inc.).More Info & Tickets
MICHAEL ELKIN | Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 9:00 p.m. Pittsburgh native Jonathan Adams’ early attraction to acting was not so much […]POSTED ON: March 23, 2017
‘Last Man Standing’ actor Jonathan Adams has Pittsburgh roots
MICHAEL ELKIN | Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Pittsburgh native Jonathan Adams’ early attraction to acting was not so much a matter of following his heart as heeding his hormones.
“What are you going to do? She was adorable. It’s not too complicated: I was 16,” laughs the now-49-year-old actor of pursuing the girl of his teen dreams at Wilkinsburg High School as his cute classmate went for an audition at the drama club and he followed right behind her.
He not only got the girl — he got a part.
Although the romance eventually broke up, his date with destiny and acting did not. Casting aside any self-doubts he might have had, Adams dove right in. “I was actually in a play (at school) before I ever saw one,” he says. “I enjoyed so much being able to play someone else; I’ve always looked for that fantastic thing in life. And I found the stage alluring for that reason.”
That was just stage one of a multi-faceted acting career that, more than 30 years later, has Adams addicted to the fun he has each week as one of the stars of “Last Man Standing,” ABC’s Friday-night comedy hit toplined by Tim Allen as Mike Baxter, a “man’s man” who won’t man up to absurdities in his conservative viewpoints when challenged by the liberals around him. Think of him as a better- educated Archie Bunker with a fancier-looking couch.
A recurring “LMS” character for two seasons, Adams has been a regular the past three, portraying Chuck Larabee, the thoughtful frenemy/foil willing to deflate Mike’s conservative ideology when it borders on idiocy. The two are battling brothers under the skin even as the outer layers differ.
Indeed, the “race card” is played for aces in this often witty comedy, with Adams getting a special close-up on this Friday’s episode, in which he reveals a secret that might upend the Baxter family about to have a “Bad Heir Day.”
Adams gets a chuckle playing Chuck. “In a way, I’m playing myself — a bit of a smart aleck without trying to hurt people,” Adams says. “Chuck is someone who likes to point out when people are just plain stupid. He has a true sense of self.”
As does Adams: “I’ve lived a very blessed life; Chuck and I have a sense of destiny.”
With all his successes — including four years at the end of the last millennium starring with the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival; numerous TV episodes, including playing one of the prime characters in “American Dreams” (2002-2005); and much voice work for video games/films making sound use of his resonant and gorgeously deep voice — there have been some disconnects that Adams regrets. One was having to drop out of Carnegie Mellon University due to financial constraints. Just couldn’t make the tuition, he recalls.
“For six months afterward I sat in my mom’s house,” down and out “in my pajamas and unshaven,” he recalls.
But talent, he learned, does eventually out, and his talents got him out of his mother’s house as he cleaned up his act. “I started working throughout Pittsburgh, started getting jobs,” he says of being cast by the Pittsburgh Public Theater, Three-Rivers Shakespeare Festival and City Theater.
And he never lost contact with the friends he had made at CMU during his 18 months there. But, Adams reasons, he made the grade his own way. “In a way, I feel pretty good about not finishing school,” notes Adams, concluding that the real experience he got on stage — especially in Oregon, where he had “a blast” portraying Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and discovering “the brilliant language I got to play as Petruchio in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’” — actually earned him a degree. “Even if it was from the School of Hard Knocks,” he chuckles.
But if there is a bone that sort of sticks in his craw it may be the experience he had working on the TV series “Bones” in 2006 on Fox. “I was on it for the first season when I found out I wouldn’t be coming back,” he recalls. “That was the very first time such a thing happened to me. I said, ‘Nobody fires me!’”
But they did “and it was pretty jarring,” he remembers.
He healed quickly enough from the “Bones” break to be featured in multiple series, relying on his ability “to pull myself up from the bootstraps, which comes from my being odd and different.”
Odd and different? He laughs. “I’ve always been different,” he says. “And it hurts to be weird.”
Weird in what way? “I collected comic books,” such as those by J.R.R Tolkien, and The Hobbit, a trilogy published in 1989 as an adaptation of the Tolkien classic by Chuck Dixon, when it wasn’t cool to do so.”
This “Last Man Standing” actor also stands out in a major way when it comes to his profession, a field possibly more known for its wedded blitz than harmony. Adams is happily married, has been for 23 years, “a wonderful achievement,” says the husband of Monica Farrell of Beltzhoover and dad of their two daughters.
Wherever he goes, proclaims Adams, so goes a little bit of Pittsburgh to accompany him. And he decidedly has a taste of the old neighborhood even when not living there now. How else to explain the exuberance and joy when one of his favorite dining spots is brought up? “The Original Hot Dog Shop? Of course I miss it!” he exclaims of the Oakland icon. “Tell me, did you ever have their breakfast?”
Michael Elkin is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review and an award-winning arts writer and playwright as well as author of the novel, “I, 95.”
More than a dozen films screen through April 9 By Al Hoff The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: Faces of […]POSTED ON: March 23, 2017
The 11th annual Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: Faces of Identity opens in Pittsburgh
More than a dozen films screen through April 9
By Al Hoff
The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: Faces of Identity runs Thu., March 23, through April 9, with more than a dozen feature films and documentaries. Unless noted, films screen at McConomy Auditorium, on the CMU campus, and are $10 ($5 students/seniors). A complete schedule, including guest speakers and specials events, is at www.cmu.edu/faces. Some recent films screening this week:
I, DANIEL BLAKE. The Kafka-like bureaucracy of the welfare state complicates life for two well-intended but struggling working-class folk in Ken Loach’s new film (penned by his frequent collaborator Paul Lafferty). Recovering from a heart attack, carpenter Daniel (Dave Johns) is caught between medical disability and employment. Partly to stay busy, he takes a young single mother (Hayley Squires) under his wing. The film is heartbreaking, heartwarming and infuriating, though not without humor. There’s no pat solution here, but Daniel has one Pyrrhic victory worth a cheer. 7 p.m. Thu., March 23. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors), and include an opening-night reception.
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL. The family-run Abacus Federal Savings in New York City, which catered to Chinatown’s immigrant community, was the only U.S. bank to face charges of mortgage fraud in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Steve James’ documentary follows the Sung family — Thomas Sung, who founded the bank, his wife, and their four daughters, some of whom work at the bank — over the course of the five-year ordeal and trial. It’s a remarkable case study, not least in how tiny Abacus’ alleged fraud was compared to the giants of Wall Street. And at the film’s heart is one steadfast immigrant who, having achieved the American dream, sought to help others secure theirs. Director James attends a Q&A. 7 p.m. Sat., March 25
MARIE CURIE: THE COURAGE OF KNOWLEDGE. Marie Noelle’s bio-drama looks at some of the remarkable life of Marie Skłodowska Curie, the Polish-born, Paris-based scientist who made significant discoveries in radioactive materials and its uses. Noelle’s film dabbles in the scientific, but its chief focus is in depicting the complete being of Curie, portrayed here by the steady but somewhat ethereal Karolina Gruszka. Curie was a scientist, research collaborator, mother (and single mother), lover and pioneer in a time and a field that did not welcome women. It is the sort of film that manages to incorporate languid baths and a duel (!) alongside obtuse conversations with Einstein and an overt feminist message. In French, with subtitles. 3 p.m. Sun., March 26
DON’T CALL ME SON. In Anna Muylaert’s Brazilian drama, a teenage boy named Pierre (Naomi Nero) is already struggling with who he is; locked in the bathroom, he photographs himself wearing women’s clothing. Then his identity gets truly upended, when it’s discovered he was abducted as a baby, and that now he must live with his biological family. The film is relatively restrained while exploring such melodramatic topics, allowing the various tensions and anxieties to play out in low-key, seemingly mundane scenes, such as meal times within the various families. In Portuguese, in subtitles. 7 p.m. Wed., March 29
Also screening this week: Anthropocene (7 p.m. Fri., March 24, CMOA Theater, Carnegie Museum of Art, Oakland); Afterimage (3:30 p.m. Sat., March 25) and Old Stone (7 p.m. Thu., March 30).
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ABC’s filmed-in-Pittsburgh comedy “Downward Dog” finally has an air date. The show will sneak […]POSTED ON: March 16, 2017
Pittsburgh-filmed ‘Downward Dog’ gets its premiere date
ABC’s filmed-in-Pittsburgh comedy “Downward Dog” finally has an air date.
The show will sneak preview at 9:30 p.m. May 17 after the season finale of “Modern Family” and move into its regular time slot, 8 p.m. Tuesday, on May 23, the day before the end of the 2016-17 TV season.
At one point ABC executives had thought of pairing “Downward Dog” with “Bachelorette” and airing episodes back-to-back. That’s no longer the plan, which bodes better for the show’s odds of success, although a summer run is still not ideal for any show.
“Downward Dog” stars Allison Tolman (“Fargo”) as Nan, a single Pittsburgh woman with a dog, Martin (Ned), whose narcissistic thoughts are heard by viewers (but not by Nan). That high concept for the show — a talking dog!?! — makes it a comedy outlier.
Created by Pittsburghers Michael Killen and Samm Hodges, who also voices Martin, “Downward Dog” filmed its pilot in Pittsburgh in December 2015 and returned to shoot the balance of its episodes in fall 2016.
Held on the second Tuesday of every month, this series highlights regional, independently-made short films and videos. This month will […]March 14, 2017
The Film Kitchen
Held on the second Tuesday of every month, this series highlights regional, independently-made short films and videos. This month will feature two Pittsburgh premieres, Julie Sokolow’s The John Show and Danny Yourd’s The Wizard, Oz plus films by Chris Preksta and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer. Co-sponsored by Mellinger’s Beer, Spak Brothers Pizza, and 92.1 WPTS.
Reception at 7:00 P.M. Films at 8:00 P.M. All seats $5.00.More Info & Tickets
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August Wilson’s Hill District is near at hand for Pittsburghers, but the movie adaptation […]POSTED ON: March 12, 2017
Mykelti Williamson reflects on Pittsburgh filming as ‘Fences’ arrives on Blu-ray, DVD
August Wilson’s Hill District is near at hand for Pittsburghers, but the movie adaptation of “Fences” brought just a taste of life on the Hill in the 1950s to millions of moviegoers.
Now anyone can bring “Fences” into his or her home.
The movie directed by and starring Denzel Washington and co-starring Viola Davis has been available in Digital HD since Feb. 24 and now arrives in Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand Tuesday from Paramount Home Media Distribution.
A bonus featurette on the Blu-ray disc is “August Wilson’s Hill District,” and another visits Ms. Davis on set, where she discusses her preparation to portray Rose Maxson — a role that has brought her a Tony Award as best actress in a play and an Oscar as best supporting actress.
The late Pittsburgh playwright Mr. Wilson received an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay in transferring his Pulitzer Prize-winning play for the big screen. The bulk of “Fences” was filmed last spring in and around an Anaheim Street house on the Hill.
“Fences,” set in the 1950s, tells the story of former Negro League ballplayer Troy Maxson (Oscar nominee Mr. Washington), whose dashed dreams have a chilling effect on those around him. Mykelti Williamson was among the cast members who made the leap with Mr. Washington and Ms. Davis from stage to screen. He played Gabriel, Troy’s brother who was wounded in World War II and has a metal plate in his head.
The film shoot was Mr. Williamson’s first extended stay in Pittsburgh, and he made the most of it. “It was a great time of year to be there, the people were amazing, the food was good — Pittsburgh exceeded my expectations. I expected to have a good time, but nothing like I actually did. It was great,” he said.
The actor who played Bubba in the Oscar-winning film “Forrest Gump” was speaking by phone recently when he discussed his experience filming in Pittsburgh.
Q: What was it like filming in the Hill District and having people in the homes all around you?
A: We were welcomed with open arms. One of the most intelligent things that Denzel did was to insist upon this being shot in Pittsburgh, in the Hill District. No one can authenticate the spirit of the people in the Hill District, the way they keep their yards — I don’t care who the landscapers are. Just the character and the personality with the way people decorate their front porches, it’s all right there. So why try to fake that? You go to the community and it’s there.
The beauty of being in the community was coming home from work, you could smell the food cooking, and in the morning you could smell them cooking breakfast and brewing coffee — you could smell the neighborhood and hear people moving around in their houses and it was just great. That actually elevated our experience and made it extremely authentic. That goes to the intelligence of Denzel Washington.
Q: What is Denzel Washington like as a director?
A: The way that Denzel inspired and led us as a director is by his intelligence, and he’s amazing himself. There’s no actor in the world better than Denzel. So he inspires you because he’s so good at what he does, you want to bring your best work no matter what the challenge is. And Mr. Wilson’s language is challenging, because you can do so many things with it.
Q: When did you know you would be playing Gabriel again, this time on screen?
A: When we were on Broadway, there were plans to flush the material out to see how we could take it to the screen. We knew August had a screenplay, and we knew Denzel was interested in a cinematic application of “Fences.” One day at Denzel’s house, after we had finished the play, he said he had not seen one script that was on par, certainly not better, than “Fences.” So we knew at that time, sitting at Denzel’s house, that it was something that he intended to pursue, no matter what it took.
Q: Is there a kind of “Fences” family now, including Stephen McKinley Henderson and Russell Hornsby, who went from Broadway to filming together?
A: Bonding on stage brought us together in a way that no one can ever separate us. Seeing an actor work super hard, struggle with the material to try to flush it out — everybody does the same thing. When you are working in the woodshop like that with your peers really close to each other, and then to have another opportunity to so-called bring the band back together again, it’s amazing.
Q: What do you think of the film now being on DVD and Blu-ray, so it can be seen in homes and in schools?
A: We are privileged to be the first ones to take August Wilson in a visual form, in a motion picture, to the world. We are so privileged to be in this position. Knowing people will have the DVD or the Blu-ray in their homes, in their own libraries, is just amazing. And in schools, where kids are studying August Wilson, they can put it on and let August Wilson do the talking.
The “Fences” Blu-ray Combo Pack ($39.99) includes more than 30 minutes of bonus content, including interviews with Mr. Washington and Ms. Davis and other members of the cast and crew, and a feature about bringing “Fences” from stage to screen and another titled “August Wilson’s Hill District.” The combo pack includes access to a Digital HD copy of the film. The single-disc DVD ($29.99) includes the film in standard definition.
Sharon Eberson: [email protected] Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
REGE BEHE “Daddy writes Belle.” That’s what Stephen Chbosky’s daughter, Maccie, tells her friends at preschool. And that’s why Chbosky, […]POSTED ON: March 11, 2017
Pittsburgh native Chbosky puts his spin on ‘Beauty and the Beast’
“Daddy writes Belle.”
That’s what Stephen Chbosky’s daughter, Maccie, tells her friends at preschool. And that’s why Chbosky, the author of the novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and director of the film of the same name, agreed to write the script for “Beauty and the Beast,” the new live-action Disney movie that premieres March 17.
Even though he was being paid by the studio, Chbosky was actually writing for an audience of one.
“When I got the job (Maccie) had just turned 2 and I had been watching Disney princess movies with her probably for six straight months,” says Chbosky, a 1988 graduate of Upper St. Clair High School who now lives in Los Angeles. “It wasn’t a matter of it being hard or easy. I just wanted to write a fairytale for my daughter.”
Directed by Bill Condon and featuring Emma Watson (who starred in the film version of “Perks …”), Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Josh Gad, the movie revisits the oft-told tale of Belle and Beast. Billed as a remake of the 1991 animated version (also by Disney), Chbosky says his instructions were “somewhat unspoken.”
“We all knew that the 1991 film written by Linda Woolverton was the perfect animated movie,” says Chbosky, who shares the screenwriting credit with Evan Spiliotopoulos. “The goal was to keep everything those filmmakers had created that would work in the real world, and then update and surprise the audience with new characters and relationships.”
Chbosky says the character Gaston in the animated version is “a fantastic villain.” He was charged with making him “a living, breathing villain in real life” through Evans, a Welsh actor best known in the U.S. for his roles in the “Fast & Furious” and “Hobbit” movies.
Chbosky would not divulge anything else about the character, saying “You’ll see what I did.” But on March 1, Condon confirmed to Attitude magazine that Gaston’s sidekick LeFou, portrayed by Josh Gad, will be Disney’s first openly gay character.
Working with Condon, whose previous movies include “God and Monsters” and “Dreamgirls,” was one of the appeals of the project.
“Writing for Bill Condon was an honor for me,” Chbosky says. “I learned so much from it. But also Evan Spiliotopoulos, who worked on it before me, brought this wonderful magical world, this big scope, to the movie. It was my job to take that and apply, say, a lot of character work and relationships so that suddenly you find yourself really caring about Lumiere’s relationship with Plumette.”
“Beauty and the Beast” reunites Chbosky with Watson. But her attachment to another proposed version of “Beauty and the Beast” at Warner Brothers almost prevented Chbosky from accepting the job.
“I wasn’t going to do it if it was going to compete with Emma’s project because I would never go against my friend,” Chbosky says. “She told me that particular project was not moving forward and not to worry about it.”
When Watson was hired for the Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast,” Chbosky felt as if fate intervened.
“It was like a reunion for us,” he says. “I love Emma very much. She’s a dear friend, like my little sister. I love to write for her.”
One more magical thing happened to Chbosky as he wrote the script.
He suggested a new song might be in order after a scene where the Beast fights the wolves. Enter Tim Rice, the lyricist famous for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” and countless other stage and film music. Rice collaborated with composer Alan Mencken for a new song, “For Evermore.”
For a lifelong Broadway enthusiast, even a tangential connection with the lyricist was sublime.
“You outline what you think the sequence is about,” Chbosky says, “and then to see the great Tim Rice turn that into lyrics is one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had. I’ve never met the man, but for one brief shining moment I felt like I was his silent partner.”
Chbosky’s next project is directing a movie based on another young adult book, “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. The movie stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay (“Room”) as a young boy born with a facial deformity who is trying to fit in at a new school and make everyone understand he’s just another ordinary kid. It’s due out Nov. 17.
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
In “The John Show,” Julie Sokolow sympathetically profiles local character John Riegert, the subject of an group art show last […]POSTED ON: March 8, 2017
The March edition of the Film Kitchen screening series has a “mental health” theme
In “The John Show,” Julie Sokolow sympathetically profiles local character John Riegert, the subject of an group art show last year
While the hour-long program, curated by Matthew R. Day, includes four strong shorts by local artists, that theme feels tenuously related to its most elaborately produced film, Chris Preksta’s “Echo Torch.” Preksta, a writer and director best known for web comedy series Pittsburgh Dad and science-fiction web serial The Mercury Men, offers an involving — and dialogueless — 20-minute 2016 thriller about an inventor whose new machine lets him see ghosts. What he’s after isn’t clear until the final few minutes, but “Echo Torch” boasts top-notch production values, including the cinematography, by John Pope, and the acting, with James FitzGerald as the inventor.
Of the other three shorts, Kristen Lauth Shaeffer’s “Mercury in Tuna” is a sly, darkly comic 2010 drama about the effects of our fear-mongering culture; Dana Dancho plays a young woman who goes too far in her efforts to overcome her anxiety. Danny Yourd’s “The Wizard, Oz” profiles Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, a charming California-based neopagan wizard (complete with pointed hat) whose story includes finding the love of his life; cryptozoological adventures with unicorns and mermaids; and an unwitting association with a serial killer. (Whether you consider this film mental-health-related is your call.) And in “The John Show,” Julie Sokolow sympathetically profiles local character John Riegert, whose suicide attempt and lifelong battle with depression were subtexts of the notable 2016 art exhibit at Pittsburgh’s SPACE gallery that consisted of portraits of him by 250 different artists. 8 p.m. Tue., March 14 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. $5. www.pfpca.org
MICHAEL ELKIN | Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 9:00 p.m. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but he likes it. But then, Billy […]POSTED ON: March 7, 2017
Pittsburgh culture instilled Billy Gardell with a strong work ethic
MICHAEL ELKIN | Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but he likes it.
But then, Billy Gardell has good reason to. “I used to listen to Elvis’ music all the time,” says the 47-year-old actor of his childhood days in Swissvale. “My dad loved him. … I’ve always loved Elvis’ music.”
And, apparently, so do millions of viewers tuning into Gardell’s latest TV show: CMT’s “Sun Records.” The eight-episode limited series about Memphis during the early days of the civil rights movement and the birth of rock and roll, premiered Feb, 23. So far, it’s been getting strong ratings for the network. it airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays.
With its marvelous sepia-soaked sense of the ’50s and avid attention to detail, the series portrays record-label founder Sam Phillips (Chad Michael Murray) and the million dollar quartet who hoisted his fledgling record company onto the national musical map: Johnny Cash (Kevin Fonteyne), Jerry Lee Lewis (Christian Lees), Carl Perkins (Dustin Ingram) and Presley (Drake Milligan), with Gardell playing a major role as Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager.
After the hit comedy “Mike & Molly,” Gardell now shows off his dramatic chops in a role that fills out the fabled flim-flam man as a three-dimensional, demon/surrogate dad to perhaps the hippest rocker of all time.
Gardell moved out of Pittsburgh with his mom to Winter Park, Fla., at age 10 when his parents divorced. But he has never been separated for long from his hometown, whose blue-collar background has shaded many of the actor’s characters over the years — including the Dutch-born Parker he plays on “Sun Records.”
Gardell brings a dash of humor and dramatic flair to a character he claims is a cross between Walter White, the meth-mad schoolteacher of “Breaking Bad,” and cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. “He’s got a twinkle in his eye,” says Gardell of Parker.
Coming from Pittsburgh, “you don’t take yourself so seriously,” Gardell says. But he continues, “There is such a sense of civic pride that I have always felt from being there.”
The Pittsburgh culture, he says, helped instill “traits of loyalty and a strong work ethic. Even when the city was at a low point, there was always that almost psychotic sense of pride people have in Pittsburgh. We never run out of it.
“I learned everything I needed to know about challenging myself, rolling my sleeves up and trying my best on Harrison Avenue,” he laughs about his old Swissvale digs.
Gardell’s career started when a friend challenged him to try out on open-mic night at Bonkerz, a comedy club in Orlando, where Gardell was working a number of odd jobs in 1987.
“I was 9 when I told my grandmother that I’d like to be a comedian one day,” he says with affection about a woman who helped shape his life. “I asked her if she thought I could do it. And she said to me, ‘Yes, if you work hard.’ ”
He soon became the hardest-working man in the comedy business. “And I was so proud when my grandmother got a chance to come see me perform,” he says.
Indeed, even today, he says, “I feel her presence. My grandmother and grandfather were the most wonderful people.”
If he is trying to resolve a dilemma, Gardell always recalls his grandmother’s sage advice: “She would say, ‘The only way around is going through.’ There was something very Pittsburgh about that.”
And his grandfather had a touch of Pittsburgh wit, too, he says. “If I left too many lights on in the rooms, he’d say, ‘We playing a night game in here?’ They had the most wonderful marriage.”
Gardell himself is on an extended honeymoon of sorts. For the past 17 years, “I’ve been married to the most wonderful woman,” he says of wife Patty.
Perhaps Gardell’s longest-running honeymoon may be the one he shares with the city of Pittsburgh, where he still returns for Steelers games and hangs out with three of his childhood friends. “And I enjoy calling in to DVE,” doing some comedy, offering insights, he says of Pittsburgh FM radio station WDVE, the broadcast home of the Steelers. He says it keeps his sense of humor based in the real, if not exactly mean, streets of the city.
Michael Elkin is a Tribune-Review contributing writer and an award-winning arts writer and playwright as well as author of the novel “I, 95.”
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette PASADENA, Calif. — North Belle Vernon native Gino Anthony Pesi has been acting in […]POSTED ON: March 5, 2017
TV preview: Mon Valley native stars in ‘Shades of Blue’
PASADENA, Calif. — North Belle Vernon native Gino Anthony Pesi has been acting in Hollywood for 15 years, but tonight’s second-season premiere of NBC’s “Shades of Blue” (10 p.m., WPXI) marks his first time as a series regular on a prime-time show.
Not that he hasn’t kept busy since graduating from Charleroi High School in 1999. His credits at IMDB.com reveal a slew of guest star and recurring roles, including on “The Vampire Diaries” and TNT’s “Dallas” reboot. His film credits include “42” and “Battle: Los Angeles.”
Mr. Pesi made an impression on producers and “Shades of Blue” star Jennifer Lopez in the show’s first season when he was introduced as assistant district attorney James Nava, a love interest for Ms. Lopez’s compromised cop, Harlee Santos.
“He’s a fantastic actor,” Ms. Lopez said. “He came in the room [to audition for] another role and we thought he screamed for Nava, which we weren’t even auditioning for at the time.”
That switch in roles came as a surprise to Mr. Pesi.
“I didn’t see myself as a leading man or love interest of anyone,” he said during a January interview at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “I was surprised and wondered, ‘What are they expecting, and am I going live up to that expectation?’”
Sports or acting?
Mr. Pesi said he’s wanted to act or play sports professionally since age 6. In his senior year of high school he quit baseball to do the school play, Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” He spent three years at Point Park University studying performing arts before leaving school prior to graduation to move to Los Angeles.
It took about seven years working in the industry before his sole income was from acting, he said. “That’s pretty good, actually. I had a dream I’d move out here and start working in three months and that happens for some people, and then you have people who have been doing this for 20 years and then get their big break.”
He said he broke down in tears of happiness when he got his first movie role. Moving up to a series regular in season two of “Shades of Blue” fostered a different reaction.
“I finally felt like I could exhale,” he said. “The way I describe this industry is it’s like going the distance with a heavyweight boxer and getting the living [expletive] beat out of you and then at the end they offer you a massage and you’re just supposed to say, ‘Thank you.’ But I’m glad I didn’t have success when I was in the early 20s or maybe even mid-20s because you don’t know if you’d handle it the same way.”
When he’s not working, Mr. Pesi tries to come home to Western Pennsylvania, although he’s not a fan of air travel (he’s driven across the country 10 times). He likes to visit The Pretzel Shop on East Carson Street and drives up from the Mon Valley to go to the East Liberty Whole Foods. If it’s baseball season, he tries to take in a Pirates game at PNC Park, and he keeps up with other Pittsburgh sports teams — with one exception.
“Growing up I was a die-hard Steelers fan, but I haven’t watched a game in two years,” he said. “Remember when they hired Michael Vick? It got to a point where I was like, since when have we been that kind of franchise? … I don’t want to root for an organization if they’re gonna continue to put these types of individuals on the field.
“Do people deserve second chances? Sure, but I think I knew too much about the details of what he did and maybe I’m just too big of a dog lover. To be honest with you, after a while I didn’t miss watching the games.”
Season two of ‘Blue’
In season two of “Shades of Blue,” Mr. Pesi’s character might find his halo a bit sullied.
“Nava represents for Harlee that life that she could have if she could get out of the mess that she’s in and that she’s kind of created for herself,” Ms Lopez said. “He’s the dream, and he keeps coming back to help her. Instead of him kind of rescuing her, she somehow sucks him into her world unintentionally. He just gets caught up in the mess of what happens this season in a really bad way.”
That may not sit well with Mr. Pesi’s “biggest fan” — his mother, Regina Abel of Belle Vernon.
“She’s so proud of me it’s embarrassing sometimes,” he said. “I think she likes this role. It’s nice to see her son playing somebody who’s not a killer or the bad guy.
“It’s harder for me because I have to do less in this. Essentially, I have to just be. That is more challenging than when I’m caught up in a role where I can immerse myself in a totally conflicted character that’s full of intensity. … This is a more challenging role for me to play but for her, I’m sure she likes it.”
TV writer Rob Owen: [email protected] or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.