WATCH: We could talk for hours about ‘This Is Us’

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Before the screening of the season two finale of “This Is Us” at South by Southwest on Monday at the Paramount Theatre, three of the NBC hit’s TV family walked the red carpet. It’s no spoiler to reveal: They love the show as much as fans.

Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack Pearson on NBC’s “This Is Us,” on the red carpet at the Paramount Theatre during SXSW March 12. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Milo Ventimiglia, who plays beloved TV dad Jack Pearson, was up first. He talked about portraying such a special father and whether fans would need a lot of tissues as they watched the already teased “flash forward” of Jack as an older man (no spoilers! The finale airs Tuesday night on NBC).

Next, Mandy Moore revealed a little of what she’d like to see happen in season three and shared her thoughts on the arc that her character, Rebecca Pearson, went through with son Kevin (played as an adult by Justin Hartley). Check it out:

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And finally, Hartley got a little more serious, as he recounted some of the thinking behind the “rock bottom” path his character took and how important it was to handle with sensitivity. Much like the show, he mixed in a lighter note with a special message to Austin fans. Watch:

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Watch a young Matthew McConaughey in the world’s smallest jean shorts (you’re welcome)

We were thinking that Austin icon Matthew McConaughey has had a weird few months.

He was pretty good in “Gold,” but nobody saw it.

Then in February, he said it was time for the country to “embrace, shake hands and be constructive” with President Donald Trump, which — based on the president’s current approval rating of 34 percent — many Americans are not doing. (You’ll notice we haven’t called him “Austin spirit animal” lately. That office might be up for grabs.)

Austin actor Matthew McConaughey in more recent times.

He’s in Ohio right now shooting the period crime film “White Boy Rick” (with Lorain County and Cleveland playing the role of  Detroit), and we’ll see him Aug. 4 in the movie version of “The Dark Tower,” playing evil sorcerer Walter Padik.

But today, we thought we’d take you back to the” alright alright alright” days of 1992, when our man played murder victim  and Pasadena, Texas resident Larry Dickens on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.”  The glory starts at around the four-minute mark. Enjoy.

 

‘Dear White People’ delivers some blunt conversations

“Dear White People,” the new Netflix TV series created by Justin Simien, premiered Monday at South by Southwest to thunderous applause. The screening featured episodes 1 and 2, and it became quickly clear that Simien is looking at the same events through different perspectives.

Episode 1 is told from the perspective of Samantha White, played by Logan Browning, who has a radio show titled “Dear White People.” She’s upset that the fictional, mostly-white Ivy League school that she attends is allowing a blackface party, and she goes on the air to explain that dressing up like her for Halloween isn’t cool.

If you think this is a one-note kind of message, well, it isn’t. Samantha is very complicated, navigating various identities. She acts one way with her best friends, quite another with the campus black caucus and even more differently with her boyfriend.

The same can be said for Episode 2, which is told from the perspective of Lionel, played by DeRon Horton. He’s an aspiring journalist, works for the school newspaper and is also roommates with campus hunk Troy (Brandon P. Bell). But he’s trying to find himself, because he’s actually gay but in the closet.

After the screening, which brought lots of laughter, Simien and the cast discussed the series, which will have 10 episodes, and Simien stressed that he wanted to tell the story with multiple protagonists. He cited Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and the films of Robert Altman as being major influences.

So, this will be an ensemble series. Simien says he also is aware that people might binge-watch the series since it will be on Netflix, so he says he took that into mind when he adapted his 2014 movie of the same name for a TV series.

The trailer for the series, however, has drawn online criticism, which has focused on what some white folks think is a condescending attitude reflected in the title. But that’s part of the point of the series. Samantha White is trying to make white people feel uncomfortable when they’re categorized in such ways. And the series makes it clear that black people feel that way for much of their lives.

Whether you agree with that premise or not, such discussions and realizations about race in America are long overdue, and “Dear White People” might help jumpstart the process. SXSW is to be commended for giving the series a spotlight in Austin.

“Dear White People” is scheduled to stream on Netflix later this year.

 

Ed Sheeran will guest star on ‘Game of Thrones’ next season

Yeah, you read that right. And you can think Maisie Williams for it.

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 08: Ed Sheeran performs on NBC’s “Today” at Rockefeller Plaza on March 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

“Game of Thrones” showrunners reportedly made the announcement at a South by Southwest panel Sunday. According to showrunner David Benioff, the show’s executives made the call as a special surprise to Williams, who is a big fan of the singer.

“For years, we tried to get Ed Sheeran on the show to surprise Maisie, and this year we finally did it,” Benioff said during the panel, according to Variety. Variety reportedly reached out to HBO for further details, and a spokesperson confirmed Sheeran would be on the show but simply said, “He has a role. No more details.”

RELATED: Is Sophie Turner’s hair color a ‘Game of Thrones’ spoiler?

Noah Hawley talks about making ‘Fargo,’ ‘Legion’ for TV

 

Noah Hawley, left, and Philipp Meyer.

Austin’s Noah Hawley talked about making two of the most interesting series on TV in recent years, “Fargo” and “Legion,” during a Saturday appearance at South by Southwest. The interviewer: Pulitzer Prize finalist and Austin resident Philipp Meyer, whose “The Son” will be premiering on AMC this spring as a series starring Pierce Brosnan.

Hawley, who’s not only a show runner but also an acclaimed novelist, said that making “Fargo” for TV was like making a 10-hour movie. And he noted that the Coen brothers, on whose movie his series was based, aren’t exactly talkative about their creative process, so he had to analyze it for himself. What did he discover? That they let the camera do a lot of the talking.

Hawley said he thinks the key to the success of “Fargo” was the focus on creating “a feeling and a sensibility” that reflected the original movie.

With “Legion,” which is currently showing on FX, Hawley has a different challenge. He’s in comic-book territory, and he’s dealing with one of the most powerful mutants ever, played by Dan Stevens. So he says he has tried to keep the audience guessing for the first few episodes, that he’s trying to establish “a state of mind” once again.

But since “Legion” is on a commercial network, he says, he has to take into consideration the fact that his narrative will be interrupted for commercials. “You have to approach it a bit different” when that’s the case, he said.

” ‘Legion’ isn’t clear to anyone yet, but we’re moving in that direction,” he said. “We’re creating a world.”

Much of the session on Saturday focused on process, on how Hawley communicates with various directors to keep the episodes consistent in tone. “You do what’s called a tone meeting,” he said. “You go over the script page by page, and the meeting can be three to four hours long.”

He said he thinks the key to success for “Legion” and other series is to engage the viewer, to disrupt expectations, to make them put down a cellphone and actually focus on what’s on TV.

“We’re not going to all you what it means, and if we do that, the viewer’s imagination is engaged,” he said. “If you don’t give what’s expected, there’s tension that makes the audience engage.”

 

‘American Gods’ on Starz promises a wild ride

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The first episode of the highly anticipated series “American Gods” premiered at South by Southwest on Saturday, and it’s shockingly good.

Airing nationally on Starz April 30, the series stars Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday and Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon. It’s based on Neil Gaiman’s 2001 best-selling novel of the same name.

As for the shocking parts, you can take your pick. But most people will probably talk about a sex scene featuring Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). If you have kids in the house, you might want to send them to bed early before tuning in.

The SXSW crowd, however, was pumped for the premiere, and lots of people didn’t even make it inside for the screening.

For those who are unfamiliar with Gaiman’s novel, you need to know that it explores the history and influences of immigrants to America, but in a very bloody way. The cast is multi-ethnic and racially diverse, much like the cast of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

The series will explore the varied influences on American cultures, as well as how modern America has let go of some of its old gods to celebrate the new ones. Those two factions of gods are warring in the series.

Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday get the most airtime in the jam-packed first episode. Shadow is getting out of prison a few days early because his wife has been killed in a car accident, and all he wants to do is get home for the funeral.

On a flight home, Shadow meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job that sounds suspicious. As they make their way to Shadow’s hometown, all of sorts of characters are introduced.

After the screening, the cast and crew appeared on stage to talk about how the role of women in the series is going to be expanded beyond their roles in the novel.

Emily Browning, for instance, plays Laura, Shadow’s dead wife, who apparently comes back from the dead and acts as “a slightly awful guardian angel for her husband,” as Browning put it.

And if the first episode is any indication, Bilquis will play a major role as a love goddess who can be quite scary.

Betty Gilpin stars as Audrey, the best friend of Laura, and she delivers a scene-stealing performance at Laura’s funeral.

Also outstanding are Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney and Bruce Langley as a dangerous character called Technical Boy.

But this series will clearly belong to the buff and charismatic Whittle as Shadow and the always-entertaining and foul-mouthed McShane as Wednesday.

Saturday’s screening is the only one slotted for the festival, but if Starz will give permission, this episode would draw a huge crowd at any repeat screenings, building buzz for what will be a breakout hit on TV this spring.

Melanie Lynskey talks bad auditions and how a sitcom helped her stay indie during SXSW chat

Melanie Lynskey interviewed by director Megan Griffiths during SXSW. Photo by Matt Shiverdecker.

I was a senior in high school when Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” rolled into my local art house theater in 1994. My friends and I were thrilled by the story of one of the most infamous murder cases in New Zealand’s history. We saw it over and over again and I knew that we’d be seeing a lot more of the lead actresses in the film – Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.

Earlier today, Seattle-based director Megan Griffiths (who recently directed Lynskey in a film called “Sadie”) sat down with Lynskey at SXSW for a revealing chat sponsored by SAG-AFTRA. She discussed everything from her first acting role (in a play at age 6) to the way she’s been able to manage an eclectic career in independent cinema while getting paid from a big television gig.

Here are a few great moments from their conversation.

Life was weird after “Heavenly Creatures”: “I stayed in New Zealand. I had two more years of high school, so it was very strange. I literally was living my dream and had the most incredible experience. I’d been telling everyone that I wanted to be an actor and they said, “you have to choose a different job. That’s not a real job.” And then I went off and did it. It was sort of a weird thing of coming back and everyone was like ‘that was fun, good for you’ and now get on with life as though it didn’t happen.”

She’s pretty confident about picking the right roles: “I learned that I operate very much from instinct. It has to come from somewhere that’s very truthful inside of me…”

She’s had some horrifying auditions: “One time, they were making a movie about Janis Joplin. It was years ago and I read the script and I just was like…’Janis Joplin is a step too far.’ I just knew instinctively that it was not for me. I was reading the signs…I can’t do it. But I got talked into it. And later I heard that Rachel Griffiths, an amazing actress had gotten a movie because someone had seen the videotape of her audition for Janis Joplin and she was so great and she had gotten a movie from it. And I was like ‘those tapes are out there.’ It scared me so badly. That the casting director was just like showing the tapes to people.”

Acting on a network sitcom allowed her to keep the rest of her career choices pretty indie: “‘Two and a Half Men’ was like a whole other thing. I did it because it was pilot season and there was a guest-starring role in a sitcom and I was like ‘what’s a sitcom like? That’s interesting. I want to try that.’ And then I became a regular for a couple of years and then after that I got to come and go from the show, which I am so grateful for. I don’t know how people make a living doing independent films. I had this job. I wasn’t getting rich from it…but…I could pay my bills. And I was able to build an interesting independent film career because I had this secret job…that a lot of people didn’t even know I was on…I’m so grateful to the creators of that show.”

The best director she’s ever worked with: “My favorite director I think is probably Steven Soderbergh [Lynskey appeared in his 2009 film “The Informant!”]. He was so great. He wanted it to be so loose and so free. There was a real sense of fun and adventure and just trying stuff that I got addicted to very quickly on that set.”

Melanie Lynskey’s most recent projects include a short film by indie rocker St. Vincent in the female horror anthology “XX” (available now on VOD) and Macon Blair’s Sundance award-winning thriller “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore” (streaming now on Netflix).

‘The Son’ starts shooting in Austin this month, with new star — Pierce Brosnan

 

FILE - 23 OCTOBER 2012: Tonight the twenty-third film in the James Brown series ‘Skyfall’ starring Daniel Craig as 007 will make its red carpet Royal World Premiere at Royal Albert Hall in London, England. Irish actor Pierce Brosnan appearing as British secret service agent James Bond, late 1990s. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)

Austin writer Philipp Meyer’s “The Son” is scheduled to start shooting this month in the Austin area, and Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond, will be replacing Sam Neill as Eli, the patriarch of an oil and ranching family.

The new casting was first reported by Deadline.com, which said Neill dropped out of the project for personal reasons.

theson__140604221005The AMC series is based on the book by Meyer and written by Meyer and fellow Michener Center for Writers grads Lee Shipman and Brain McGreevy.

“The Son,” a 2013 Texas epic about the McCullough family, has been hailed as some of the best fiction to come out of the state in recent years.

It deals with Eli McCullough, who was kidnapped by Comanches as a child and goes on to found an empire. It also follows the fortunes of his children and their heirs.

Besides starring as Bond, Brosnan is also known for the 1980s NBC series “Remington Steele.”

SXSW: The makings of the TV series “Lucha Underground” and first live show in Austin

"Lucha Underground"
“Lucha Underground”

By Liliana Valenzuela

¡Ahora Sí!

 Date/time: Tuesday, March 15, panel at 2 p.m. at Four Seasons and evening show at Austin Music Hall, 8-11 p.m.

The panelists: 2 p.m. panel with Brandon Stroud, Pro Wrestling Editor, Dorian Roldán Executive Producer, Eric Van Wagenen, Executive Producer and Showrunner, Joseph Chaisson Executive Producer, Rey Mysterio Jr.

4:30 p.m. press conference with Eric Van Wagenen, Executive Producer and Showrunner, Ivelisse Velez, Wrestler, Vampiro, Commentator and Wrestler, Rey Mysterio Jr., Wrestler, Catrina, Wrestler, and Johnny Mundo, Wrestler.

Evening show at Austin Music Hall with those and other wrestlers.

261391_767737783356948_5217395180776485919_nThe gist: The creators and performers of “Lucha Underground,” a TV series that mashes the world of wrestling with that of telenovelas (Spanish soap operas) now in its second season, discussed some of the successes and challenges they have encountered during the filming of the first season. And in the evening, for the first time ever, the characters of this show took it outside their usual venue in Boyle Heights, L.A. on the road and presented it at the Austin Music Hall. Lucha Underground is an El Rey Network production, Austin Filmmaker Robert Rodríguez’s network. Rodríguez was not in attendance at the panel or press conference.

The takeaway: About 50 Lucha Underground fans waited since 12 p.m. noon outside the Austin Music Hall for the 8 p.m. show to get a glimpse of their Lucha Underground superheroes, wrestlers who fight, conspire and sometimes cry in this show.

The producers wanted to “create something a bit different from the wrestling world, something that would bring the Comic Con and the Sci-Fi crowds,” said Eric Van Wagenen, executive producer and showrunner. And added “one of the challenges is to get more eyeballs on the product.”

For the wrestlers, being in a TV series has meant having a bit more downtime, different from being on the road almost 360 days a year, said long-time wrestler that goes by Vampiro. “We can recover physically and the level of stress goes way down,” he said. Plus, “it builds anticipation for the audience,” from one season to the next.

They producers commented on how this is more of an indie project, with indie filmmaking values.

“The creators, the writers, everyone is one the same page, there’s no ego,” said Vampiro. He especially likes the camaraderie on the set, he said.

The show has some fantasy, supernatural elements embodied by Catrina, the lady dressed in black. “I’m allowed to do over-the-top things, play with her, test the waters, including the lick of death,” said the enigmatic Catrina.

The storyline in the telenovela-like format has allowed some of the actors to learn to “dial it down” when they’re on the set, said Johnny Mundo. “People go to hear music, see movies, TV, to feel something,” said Mundo, “at the heart of it is the emotion.”

For all the wrestlers it was exciting to be performing outside of “The Temple” for the first time, the location in Boyle Heights, L.A. where there are the “sweat, blood and tears of so many people…it has magic,” said Vampiro. This was a dry run for them, he said, so they might do more live events around the country from time to time.

Rey Mysterio, Jr., who comes from a Mexican wrestling dynasty, thought his wrestling days were over. He said he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family when the opportunity of this show came along. It’s all about “enjoying yourself and making the fans happy,” he said. “It’s been a good environment.”

The show naturally integrates the Mexican and the American culture of L.A. without too much effort, said Wagenen. “This show is a love letter to L.A. and the integration of Mexican culture,” he said.

Aside from El Rey Network, Lucha Underground is available on iTunes, where it went to the top 10 shows on its first week and is #1 in the sports category, said Wagenen. They’re also looking at international deals, he said.

And, judging from the enthusiasm of the mixed and raucous crowd ranging from Mexican-Americans dressed in the luchador garb to Anglo families with small children, Austin is ready for more Lucha live.

Hashtag: #luchaunderground

View more photos from the event at Austin360.

 

Five things from Ellen Page and Ian Daniel’s SXSW panel on their Viceland show “Gaycation”

In a chat moderated by NPR journalist Laura Sydell, Ellen Page and Ian Daniel discussed their Viceland TV show “Gaycation,” a travel show in which they examine LGBTQ communities in countries such as Japan, Brazil and Jamaica. Here are a few highlights from that discussion:

  1. Page and Daniel met eight years ago at an “eco village” outside of Portland, Ore. and became fast friends. “It was like true love,” she said. They have been best pals since.
  2. The show was Page’s idea, which she pitched to Spike Jonez when the latter was putting together the Viceland network. They were into it. Page, who came out two years ago, was very into the idea of simply more LGBTQ representation on TV. “I know how much it meant to me to find ‘But I’m a Cheerleader’ on TV and hearing Natasha Lyonne’s character say that line about not understanding what the big deal was about french kissing boys and thinking “me Neither!” adding that she understood that she was a very privileged person: “I have money, I live in Los Angles and can kiss my girlfriend on the street.”
  3. There were some tense situations.. Discussing homosexuality with a Rasta, for example. Daniel noted there was always discussion of when their own gayness should come up in  the conversation. “We needed access to the Nyabinghi ceremony, ” he said, so they didn’t discuss it right away but Daniel felt there was perhaps a little bit of understanding when they parted. On the other hand, there was an ex-cop in Brazil who admitted to killing gay people. Daniel said they were both nervous, but it was the ex-cop who seemed to feel the most uncomfortable when the two told him they were gay. Page said the guy refused to look them in the eye after that.
  4. The most striking moment in the first episode comes when the “rent-a-friend” the two encounter in Japan ( you can rent companions and/or spare relatives if you need some seat fillers at a wedding or need a pal to hang with) decided they wanted the two in the room when he came out to his mother, which he told them out of the blue the day before the event took place. Daniel: “we did discuss the ethics of it and we decided that he or his mother could always tell us to leave or not sign the release. We had no idea how the mother would respond and we ended up getting this raw and intimate moment between these people.”
  5. When asked if she worries that coming out is preventing her from getting certain roles, Page said she just doesn’t worry about it. “Being in the closet hurt my career way more than coming out,” Page said. Or as Sydell out it, “Being yourself is the best creative juice.”