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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‘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.

 

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

By Philip Jankowski

Sophie Turner’s blond hair might be a “Game of Thrones” spoiler revealing the fate of the elder Stark sister.

At least, that’s what Maisie Williams, who plays the younger Stark sister, Arya, would have you believe.

“Her hair is still blond, so she’s dead,” Williams said during Sunday’s South by Southwest Conference panel with “Thrones” showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff.

Williams and Turner moderated the panel introduced as the “Holy Grail” of Game of Thrones panels. Williams’ theory came about while Benioff and Weiss griped about how the Stark sisters have a tendency to dye their hair between seasons.

Shooting for season seven has wrapped up, and the show’s penultimate season is set to premiere July 18.

But it was the beginnings of the show that concerned Turner and Williams as they asked questions of Benioff and Weiss.

Before they moderated the “Game of Thrones” panel at South by Southwest on Sunday, actresses Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner were at Rebel’s Saloon on Fifth Street to tape an episode of “Carpool Karaoke.”. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Arya was the hardest character to cast, the show creators said. Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage were the only two actors picked before casting began. And Mark Addy was the only actor to impress so well on the first take that he became a shoo-in for Robert Baratheon.

Toughest character to kill? Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo.

Speaking of, Momoa is rumored to reprise his role in the upcoming season. The speculation is fueled by Momoa’s Instagram photo of a much talked about bar outing with Benioff and Weiss.

But what hasn’t been publicized about their visit to the Belfast bar is a slap game Benioff had with Momoa that led to Benioff being taken to the hospital. After repeated slaps to the hand, Benioff said his hand swelled up and looked like a catcher’s mitt. “The doctors said ‘Your friend squished your hand.’ That was the medical term they used,” Benioff said.

“I thought, he’s big, but I think I’m quicker,” he said. “I’m not.”

And apparently the showrunners are practically George Clooney when it comes to pranks on set.

They once told Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) at one point that HBO thought he looked too much like a character out of Harry Potter for the gritty show. Their solution was to write a scene in which Snow’s hair is completely burned away and his upper lip permanently mangled.

“It was great acting by him pretending he wasn’t disappointed,” Weiss said.

‘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.