2009: A Year’s Worth of Interviews – The Top 100 Quotes

Some people think that the life of a work-at-home entertainment writer is one of the most lax jobs out there, since the perception is generally is that all you do is sit around and watch DVDs, occasionally venture out of the house to see movies or concerts, and then sit in front of the computer and write about them. Okay, it’s a fair cop. But when you throw interviews into the mix, there’s a bit more work involved. First, you’ve got to get the interview (they aren’t always handed to you on a silver platter), then you’ve got to do the research to make sure that you can ask some halfway knowledgeable questions, and after you conduct the interview, let’s not forget that you’ve got to transcribe it, too. In other words, yes, there really is work involved…and when I went back and discovered that I’d done well over 130 interviews during the course of 2009, I suddenly realized why I’m so tired all the time.

For your reading enjoyment, I’ve pulled together a list of 100 of my favorite quotes from the various interviews I conducted for Premium Hollywood, Bullz-Eye, Popdose, and The Virginian-Pilot this year, along with the links to the original pieces where available. As you can see, I had some extremely interesting conversations in 2009. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that I’m able to chat with just as many fascinating individuals in 2010…

1. Pamela Adlon: “In the first season (of ‘Californication’), when we had the threesome with the nipple clamps, I was, like, ‘I don’t get this, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it.’ And then, all of a sudden, there’s a crane with a camera hanging over our heads, and you’re, like, ‘Okayyyyyyy. But how are you gonna sell this? How are you gonna make it work?’ And they ended up shooting it brilliantly, cutting it together, and it just all ended up working without me having to compromise my own personal morals.”

2. Jonathan Ames: “After my first novel, my mother said to me, ‘Why don’t you make your writing more funny? You’re so funny in person.’ Because my first novel was rather dark. And I don’t know, but something about what she said was true. ‘Yes, why don’t I?’ Maybe I was afraid to be funny in the writing. But since then, seven books later, almost everything I’ve done has a comedic edge to it.”

3. Ed Asner: “I loved journalism until the day my journalism teacher, a man I revered, came by my desk and said, ‘Are you planning on going into journalism?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘You can’t make a living.’”

4. Sean Astin: “When somebody brings up a movie (of mine) that I haven’t heard about in a long time, I feel like a 70-year-old pitcher at a bar somewhere, and somebody walks in and says, ‘Oh, my God, I was in St. Louis and I saw you. You pitched a shutout.’ It’s real. I really did do that, because someone today remembers it.”

5. Darryl Bell: “The legend of ‘Homeboys in Outer Space’ has become much more incendiary than the actual show. It’s funny how I usually challenge most people who talk about how much they disliked ‘Homeboys’ to name me five episodes. Most of them can’t, because they just bought into the ‘oh, it’s awful, just the title. Oh, it’s terrible.’ What’s interesting is that I had a great conversation with Chi McBride, who was doing ‘The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,’ which, if you want to talk about in terms of the imagery of what was wrong, that show was much more infamous than ‘Homeboys.’ Yet it’s not remembered in the same way because the title didn’t grab you in the same way. I remember Chi pulled me aside and he was, like, ‘Look, everyone who is criticizing what you’re doing would take your job from you in two seconds. All of them. So all I can tell you is that this is one blip on both of our careers, and we are moving on.’”

6. Adam Campbell: “For some reason, people always pick on the British sensibility, and we always come across as stupid, but remember: we used to run this country!”

7. Nestor Carbonell: “Let me make this perfectly clear: I do not wear make-up, and I do not wear eye-liner. This is something I’ve had to deal with my whole life. I remember I was in college in Boston, I had a commercial agent, and they sent me out for some print commercial stuff. And they called me into the office and said, ‘Look, we called you in to talk to you because we just want you to know that…well, we don’t think you need to wear eyeliner.’ And I’m, like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, it’s okay, you don’t have to wear it for print ads.’ ‘No, I’m not wearing eyeliner!’ And I kept dabbing my eyes and saying, ‘Look! No eyeliner! I’m not wearing any!’”

8. Elaine Cassidy: “The last two days of shooting (‘Harper’s Island’) was probably the most hardcore, the coldest anyone has ever been. It was like your head was freezing, and my motivation for most scenes was, ‘The minute this scene is over, I’m heading straight over to that heater to get warm.’”

9. Chris Cornell: “I started as a drummer, so I sort of took on singing duties by default. I had sung backgrounds and some lead vocals from behind the drums in different bands that I’d been in, and I’d gotten great responses for the songs I would sing. I really started pursuing the possibility of being a lead singer based on the fact that I was working a full-time restaurant job and then playing gigs at night, hauling drums around. One day, it just dawned on me that, ‘Hey, I could be in a band and be the singer, and it would be a lot easier!’”

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TCA Tour: “Fringe”

Fox’s “Fringe” premiered last season to a ridiculous amount of buzz, thanks to the combination of J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, a trio whose various credits (many of them shared) – “Alias,” “Lost,” “Mission: Impossible III,” “Transformers,” and the then-still-forthcoming “Star Trek” – were more than sufficient to get the sci-fi fanboys into a tizzy. Things may have started off a bit rocky, mostly due to a slight uncertainty about exactly what the hell was going on, but by the close of the season finale, when we found ourselves barely getting over that guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy before we found ourselves looking at a still-standing World Trade Center, we were already ready for Season 2 to begin.

“As we went along, I think we got a better handle on the balance of our characters and the plots and making sure that our plots were character-centric,” admitted executive producer Jeff Pinkner. “I think that we learned how to write for these actors, these characters over time, and I think we learned this in ‘Alias’ and ‘Lost.’ The shows that are really about the characters, the characters and the actors playing them start to meld a little bit more, and I think we’ve gotten better at that.”

Orci noted that one of the series’ biggest issue from the very beginning was figuring out the percentage of standalone episodes versus a larger serialization. “We’ve all read the research that says a regular viewer watches three episodes in a year, etcetera, etcetera, so you try to modulate,” he explained. “In the first season, we actually had to sort of plan around resetting the series once or twice and doing it around three- or four-week-long breaks. And that kind of exercise makes us, in Season Two, a little more flexible, a little bit more able to read the green. And I think, you know, the fact that we are closer than we were from New York is also helpful. We can all be up there a little bit more; we can communicate better with each other. I think we’re just a tighter ship this year.”

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Fringe 1.2

This won’t be a formal blog, mostly because I wasn’t able to watch the episode when it originally aired, but given the discussion that evolved from my initial preview of the pilot, I thought I’d at least offer up a few brief comments about Episode #2.

* First off, I didn’t mention it in my original write-up about the series, but I really dig the way they set the location: with huge letters that look like they’re part of the scenery. It’s one of those accepted parts of a series that you wouldn’t think they could do anything particularly unique with, but damned if they didn’t.

* Like the pilot, the opening sequence is nice and harrowing, making it the perfect way to get you caught up in the episode right off the bat, and the decision to provide it with limited commercial interruptions – timed down to the second – was certainly appreciated as well. Also, the method of offering flashbacks to the pilot was a nice, unobtrusive way to giving first-timers just enough info to walk into this episode without feeling lost.

* The character of Dr. Walter Bishop continues to be fascinatingly eccentric, with his memories ebbing and flowing like the tide, but the reality is that John Noble’s performance in the role is enthralling to watch. His quiet, innocent delivery makes even the strangest lines work, and his sudden explosion of anger at one point is downright shocking.

* Thankfully, they have indeed attempted to downplay the Pacey-isms being delivered by Joshua Jackson. There are still a couple of moments where he throws out snappy lines which feel inappropriate, but the character of Peter is startling to feel more like a real guy caught up in a weird situation. (I can only presume that his aptitude at police work comes from years of watching procedurals on TV.)

* Okay, maybe Anna Torv is a little glum in her delivery, but I don’t really have a problem with her performance. I had to laugh when my wife made a comment about how she needed to get her roots done, but she accepted my argument (or pretended to, at least) that a real government agent wouldn’t be all that concerned about maintaining a glamorous look, anyway.

* Obviously, things don’t really kick into high gear until the last 15 minutes of the episode, but between the unfolding of the man-baby plot, Walter remembering where he parked his car, the tie-in to the case to Walter’s research, and Olivia trying to work out how much of her work over the past year was tainted by her traitorous partner, I remained thoroughly interested from beginning to end.

* All hail the cow!

  

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Greetings to the New Show: “Fringe”

There’s a tendency among viewers to see the name “J.J. Abrams” and instantly consider it to be a mark of quality television. This is called “The ‘Lost’ Effect,” so named because Abrams is so intrinsically linked to “Lost” that those of us who are fans of the series – and, yes, I consider myself to be one – will tend to shrug off his failures because, hey, the guy was still responsible for “Lost,” so we’ve gotta at least give his stuff a shot, right? Now, in the interest of fairness, we should acknowledge that there are other individuals who subscribe to “The ‘Alias’ Effect” and “The ‘Felicity’ Effect”…though, oddly, you don’t hear much about “The ‘What About Brian’ Effect.” But I digress. My point here, really, is this: when it comes to the latest series to have Abrams’ name listed a producer, Fox’s “Fringe,” let’s all just try to keep things in perspective, view the show on its own merits, and try not to love it or hate it solely because he’s a part of it.

As it happens, “Fringe” has the advantage of featuring a couple of other names which give it added credibility, particularly amongst sci-fi fans: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Fox has really been pushing the fact that the duo wrote the script for “Transformers,” but for some reason, they don’t mention that they were called upon by Zack Snyder to assist with the script for “Watchmen.” Funny, that. Probably more important than either of those credits, however, is their longstanding working relationship with Abrams, having done time with him on “Alias” as both writers and executive producers and writing the screenplays for both “Mission: Impossible III” and the new “Star Trek” film. The collaboration has worked out well in the past, so there’s every reason to be hopeful that…

Dammit! See what I mean? I almost fell into being optimistic about “Fringe” just because Abrams is involved. Granted, he was only a third of that particular equation, but even so, I don’t want to do that. Not again. I did it with “Six Degrees,” and 13 episodes later, I was left a bitter shell of a TV critic. I can’t handle that kind of heartbreak a second time…particularly not when “Fringe” reminds me so much of still another show that was canceled too soon: “Threshold.”

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