Interviews with creator and actors from “Hightown”

TV Interview!

Starz' "Hightown" creator Rebecca Cutter, and actors Atkins Estimond & Dohn Norwood

Interview with creator Rebecca Cutter, and actors Atkins Estimond & Dohn Norwood in “Hightown” on Starz by Suzanne 1/18/24

This is an action-packed drama with exciting characters. The new season starts January 26th. It was great to speak with the creator, Rebecca Cutter, and two of the actors who play such interesting people.  I didn’t have a lot of time with them, but it was fun.



MORE INFO: Official site   Trailer

"Hightown" key art“Hightown” – Season 3 – Debuting Friday, January 26

Fishery Service Agent Jackie Quiñones is off the wagon and off the force in the final season of “Hightown,” but that doesn’t stop her from careening into the dark underbelly of picture-perfect Cape Cod to save a missing woman and a murdered sex worker. Meanwhile, her former colleagues Ray Abruzzo and Alan Saintille are focused on taking down drug syndicates, but despite their best efforts, the drugs keep flowing. This attracts Shane Frawley, a gangster from Boston looking to cut himself in on the Cape’s drug trade – and making an enemy of Osito while he’s at it. Alliances are made and old loyalties are questioned in this beautiful but corrupt place where nothing is as it seems.

Monica Raymund (“Chicago Fire,” “The Good Wife”), James Badge Dale (“24,” The Departed), Riley Voelkel (“Roswell, New Mexico,” “The Originals”), Amaury Nolasco (“Prison Break,” “Deception”), Atkins Estimond (“The Resident,” “Lodge 49”) and Dohn Norwood (“Mindhunter,” “The Sinner”) return in their previous roles. Imani Lewis (Eighth Grade, “First Kill”) Mark Boone Junior (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Paradise City”) and Mike Pnniewski (“Madam Secretary”) return in recurring roles while Ana Nogueira (“The Vampire Diaries”), Taja V. Simpson (“The Oval”), Michael Drayer (“Mr. Robot,” “Sneaky Pete”), Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave, “Deadwood”), and Jeanine Serralles (Inside Llewyn Davis, The Woman in the Window) all guest star.

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Dohn Norwood, Monica Raymund and Dohn Norwood in "Hightown" on Starz


Interview with Jeff Astrof

TV Interview!


Creator Jeff Astrof and star Gus Birney of "Shining Vale" on Starz

Interview with EP Jeff Astrof of “Shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 10/10/23

It was really fun to speak with Jeff. again.  He wears a lot of hats as no only Co-Creator of the show, but also Writer, Showrunner and Executive Producer. He’s very passionate about the show, and who can blame him? It’s a great series, with an amazing mixture of comedy, drama and humor. It also has a wonderful cast: Courtney Cox, Greg Kinnear, Mira Sorvino, Merrin Dungey, Judith Light, Sherilyn Fenn, Allison Tolman, Gus Birney and Dylan Gage. I love it because it’s horror, but it’s not gross like so many horror movies or shows are.

If you missed the first season, you can stream it now on the Starz site, Amazon or ROKU. It’s definitely worth watching, and Jeff is justifiably proud of all of their efforts. You don’t want to miss season two, which premieres “October 13 at midnight ET on the Starz app, all Starz streaming and on-demand platforms and on Lionsgate+ streaming platform in the U.K. and Ireland; on linear at 9 p.m. ET/PT in the U.S. and Canada. New episodes will drop weekly on Fridays at midnight” (from Deadline).


MORE INFO: Official Site Trailer

"Shining Vale" on Starz key art

Executive Producer; Co-Creator; Showrunner; Writer, Ep. 201, 208
Jeff Astrof is a writer/producer who has worked in television way longer than he ever
thought possible. Jeff came to prominence as one of the original writers of “Friends,”
where he co-wrote several notable episodes, including “The One After the Super Bowl”
which was seen by over 51 million viewers. Additionally, his background work on the
show as “hot guy at party”, “guy late for plane” and “disappointed hockey fan” remain
examples of overacting to this day. Jeff also wrote on all five seasons of “The New
Adventures of Old Christine,” where Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her first post-Seinfeld
Emmy, and he was co-creator of the critically-acclaimed “Trial & Error,” starring John
Lithgow and Kristin Chenoweth. “Shining Vale” reunites Jeff with fellow “Friends” alum
Courteney Cox. As EP/Showrunner of the show, Jeff has mandated that he is not
allowed to act in it.

About “Shining Vale”

Season one of “Shining Vale” introduced Pat and Terry Phelps, a dysfunctional family that tried to run from their problems by moving their kids into a Victorian mansion in small-town Connecticut. The only problem? It may be haunted. Once settled in, Pat encountered Rosemary, a demon who possessed her body and turned her life upside down. When the family steps in to “save” Pat, they commit her to a psychiatric hospital where she sees an old photo of a nurse who looks just like her demon Rosemary.

Season two kicks off four months later, when Pat’s insurance runs out and she is released from the psychiatric hospital early. Pat returns home, determined to pick up the pieces of her broken family, but she quickly finds out her children don’t need her, Terry doesn’t remember her and to make matters worse, Pat’s new neighbor Ruth looks exactly like Rosemary. Meanwhile, the house starts to reveal the shocking secrets of its dark past. Every mother feels like they live in an insane asylum, but Pat may be right!

“Shining Vale” Online

Twitter: @ShiningVale | @STARZ

Instagram: @ShiningValeSTARZ  | @STARZ

Facebook: @ShiningValeSTARZ | @STARZ

Join the conversation with #ShiningVale and #STARZ

“Shining Vale” season two is set to premiere on Friday, October 13th, at midnight ET on the STARZ app, all STARZ streaming and on-demand platforms and on LIONSGATE+ streaming platform in the U.K. and Ireland. On linear, it will debut on STARZ on Friday, October 13th, at 9PM ET/PT in the U.S. and Canada. New episodes will be available to stream weekly on Fridays at midnight on the STARZ app, all STARZ streaming and on-demand platforms and will air weekly on the STARZ linear platform.

Our Interview with Jeff for Season One of “Shining Vale.”

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"Shining Vale" on Starz key art


Interview with actors from “Heels”

TV Interview!


Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig in "Heels" on Starz

Interview with Stephen Amell, Alexander Ludwig and Mary McCormack of “Heels” on Starz by Suzanne 6/21/23

This was a fun press day for the great family wrestling drama. First, there was a roundtable with Amell and Ludwig (and other members of the press). There’s a transcript below for that.  Then I had a short, one-on-one video interview with Mary McCormack. I really love the actors in this show. They’re not only incredibly talented, and in great shape, but they couldn’t have been nicer.  Check out the show because it’s worth watching.

Mary McCormack “Willie Day”


Stephen Amell “Jack Spade” and Alexander Ludwig “Ace Spade”

Question:   Both your characters go on quite emotional journeys this season, so can you sort of maybe tease where they’re at, relationship-wise, as brothers, what that’s like this season for the two of you?

Stephen:   Okay, I think, I was gonna say this in a previous interview, and then I we ran out of time, but, for Jack, I think it’s become a little bit less about worrying about Ace or worrying about Staci or worrying about Thomas or the DWL. He’s more focusing on handling his own business and taking accountability for his actions and the way that he’s behaved since his father killed himself, which has been, I think, well intentioned, but misguided, and has hurt people. So, this is very much about him, just not trying to wave a magic wand and make everything better with everyone all at once, but just taking accountability for his actions, specifically with Ace and Staci, and just saying, “Look, this, this is me; this is what happened. Here I am, hat in hand. I’m sorry. What do I do?” which is a fun thing to play, humility. You know, who knew?

Alexander:   Ace is trying to pick up the pieces, you know, he’s still a complete mess after what happened. There’s a huge rift between the brothers. This show has been so much about, it’s not just a wrestling show. It’s about family, and it’s about identity, and Ace is trying to find his identity in the ring and outside of the ring. What I love about this season so much is not only do the women lead the charge, and you get to see that on a whole other front, which is, I think, really exciting with this backdrop, but you get to see the inklings of what this could be with Jack and Ace. You know, how big this actually could be, and a road has finally caved to the kind of national sensation or promotion this actually could be, which it is exactly.

Question:   Alexander, you kind of spoke on it a little bit, but Ace really goes through a real revelation this season. Can you talk about how his view and aspect on the situations pertaining to the DWL and the FWD change and lead him towards a different path, I think, one of clarity this season?

Alexander:   Yeah, that’s a really well said. Thanks for the question. I think that, you know, again, this show has also been about mental health, and that’s becoming a big conversation in sports in general. And Ace is dealing with his own version of that. He’s been traumatized for years, and I think that his outlook needs to change on his life and on himself, because he feels abandoned by his father. And this is the first time you see Ace fully step into a role that he never, ever wanted to step into, both as a as a performer, but also as a human being, a role that he never thought that he could step into. I think towards the end of this season, you really start to see him, perhaps, become more of the man he was always destined to become. To me, what’s always been excited about this show is where it could go. In success, I think, I always had the feeling as an actor, that Ace and Jack have, you know, as these small town wrestling promotion guys, like, this could build out to something really beautiful, and that’s the hope for both of them.

Suzanne:   I enjoyed the screeners I saw…  I thought the show’s even better this season than last season. Everything’s all very exciting. Since you two are the stars of the show (if there’s such a thing as stars in an ensemble show), do you have any input into the writing of your characters or the show as it’s going on? Do they let you do that?

Stephen:   I’d say that Mike O’Malley and Michael Waldron are both very, very collaborative, collaborative people. That being said, you know, Mike will come to me for some general questions about like, you know, what would be a cool idea, but it’s very much the macro of it all, the micro, all the details. Boy, when we get a script, and we sit down for a table read, what gets said at that table read or what ends up on television are pretty much the exact same thing.

Alexander:   Which is quite rare. I’ve been lucky. I’ve only got to work with really collaborative people in general, and Mike is certainly one of those people, but there isn’t much that you would change. They, of course, they talk to you about your characters, but it’s like, it’s also beautifully on the page. I’m just like, this just seems the way it should be. Of course, when scenes come up, things happen, and you go, “I want to say this instead of that,” or whatever, of course. You know, that’s a day by day basis. But we have an incredible team with us on this show, and I’m grateful for it.

Question:   It’s obvious that this is a labor of love from every cast member in this show. What does it mean, each of you personally, to be back for a second season?

Stephen:   Second season is the toughest season to get. Well, I guess, like actually getting something off the ground and getting to shoot it in the first place, probably, technically is more challenging, but bridging that gap from a first to a second season. You know, I don’t know, it just it seems to always be where the show takes off, where you you have some time under your belt to see what works. You also have the real benefit of audience interaction and seeing what pops for people and what doesn’t. So, you know, I’ve been very fortunate. This is the second time I’ve gotten a second season, and I hope that very shortly [for] the second time that I get a third.

Alexander:   Yeah, I mean, it’s very humbling. When I first read this script, and I think I speak for Stephen as well, like, there’s not a lot of shows like this, and there’s not a lot of shows that are made like this, and that’s what drew us to it. We’re like, “When will we ever get a chance to do something like this and tell this kind of a story,” for hopefully, you know, six years plus. And it’s so far and few between. You know, back in the day, this would have been the kind of movie that would have made me want to be an actor, and now it’s TV shows, right? And I just, I love everything about this. I love that it’s flawed characters. I love that it’s a world I’m not super familiar with and that I’ve fallen in love with simultaneously.

Question:   I was wondering how Ace and Jack feel about Crystal this season, and how her actions in the finale move the story forward?

Stephen:   Well, I mean, for Jack, we’re dealing with the immediate aftermath of this. And it’s like, is it a big sea-change? Or have we just, you know, do we just call an audible and we’re gonna put everything back to where it was the next day? I think what we discover for Jack, is that while you appreciate what Crystal did, he may not see it as the big sea-change that audience members or fans or she might have seen it as. So, that’s a point of contention in the early part of the season.

Alexander:   I think, for Ace, it was the nail in his in his coffin of what used to be. So, for him, he’s just constantly taking punches, and he’s and he’s throwing them wildly, but kind of not really focusing on on what the next step should be. And I think that the second season, you see Ace kind of come to terms with who he’s always been destined to become.

Question:   So, you mentioned that they’re flawed characters, and this is for both of you, but you made me think, what has your character taught you about yourself since you’ve been on this journey?

Alexander:   I have to say, you know, I’ve gone through my own demons, and I think that’s probably why I loved Ace so much is that I wouldn’t say I’ve learned a lot from him, but I would say that I’ve had to go on my own journey that he’s had to go on before him. So, actually, I would say, Ace can probably learn a lot from me. So that, to me, was something I loved about that character, was that I’ve dealt with my own versions of substance abuse and whatnot. And, you know, when you go to rehab, for example, you’re doing three years of therapy in fifty days, right? And you get really, really into why there are certain things that are driving you to become the human being you’re becoming. So, it wasn’t that I’m learning from Ace, it’s that I’m understanding Ace, and that’s why I loved him, is that I understood that underneath these child like temper tantrums that he throws and these irrational outbursts, there is a child crying for help. And the saddest thing about it is that only he can save himself from it. There’s nobody else who can do it for him. He’s looking for all this external validation, when in actuality, the only thing that is ever going to save him is himself and coming to terms with himself and his father’s suicide. So, to me, I thought Ace was such a beautiful character, because you love to love him, and you love to hate him.


Question:   What about you, Stephen?

Stephen:   It’s really, really simple. Pride comes before the fall. I’m dealing with this situation in my own life personally, right now, where a good friend of mine that I trust a lot is saying to me, “You have to take the emotion out of it.” Like, that’s impossible. He’s like, “No, it’s not. You have to take the emotion out of it, because the goal should be the outcome.” And that’s something that, you know, Jack is put in this position right now, where throughout the course of this season, he has to eat shit, multiple times. Not get shit on, like, Alexander, but each shit. And it’s like, well, listen, you have to eat it one way or the other. So, do you want to do with a smile on your face, or do you want to kick and scream the entire way? And that’s just been because he lets his emotions get in the way, and he’s prideful. So, I’m trying to learn that lesson to just not be that way personally, and I’m learning a lot watching how how things mess up for Jack. Yeah, it’s proven to be the right way to go about things.

Question:   For Stephen, so, I know we’ve kind of talked about Jack and Ace’s dynamic, but I want to talk about Jack and Staci’s relationship, because at the end of season one, it’s very strained, as Jack continues to put the DWL over his family. What can we expect throughout season two? Will we get to see Jack put the real work into that relationship and winning her back, or will that sort of fall on the back-burner and happen off scene?

Stephen:   No, we come to a resolution with Jack and Staci in the early part of the season. Then, I think their relationship gets into a great place, which I was very happy about, because I think that the the troubled marriage or, you know, the conceit of like the nagging spouse, be the husband or the wife, it’s not tired – well, it’s a little tired, I think, personally. So, I thought it’d be fun, and I think Mike thought it’d be fun too, to examine, like, a relationship where, look, these guys love each other, but life isn’t perfect, but here’s what they’re gonna do. And this is the important thing, is they’re going to show up one another, and they’re going to be honest with one another about everything, about the big things, the little things, not just the Kleenex and trying to destroy Ace’s life, but like, you know, were you on time for work today? Or were you five minutes late? You could say you’re on time, but no, you say you’re five minutes late, honestly, about everything. And, in that sense, too, I’ve been learning from Jack, because that’s an important thing, being honest, just even about little things, especially about the little things.

Suzanne:   I know that you guys were both really fit before you did this show, but did you have to add on extra workouts in order to play people who are basically running around in their underwear quite often?

Alexander:   It wasn’t as much of an aesthetic thing, just like looking good and tight as opposed to literally being able to withstand what’s asked of us physically. So like, when we weren’t filming, we were literally in the gym with our stunt team, training specific ways to be able to withstand what we had to do. And I’m talking like, you know, it’s nothing compared to what these actual guys do in real life, but it is really, really tough on your body, and it’s something that Stephen and I can’t fake. It’s like, we have to do it. So, when you see somebody doing a backflip off the top turnbuckle that’s something I have to be able to do. Or you see Stephen doing a suplex it’s something he has to be able to do, and they don’t want us to get injured. So, that’s the most important thing.

Stephen:   Yeah, like, there’s no way around it. It’s not like taking a flat back bump gets easier in the same way that like if you start weight training a bunch, the pads of your hands, like you’re gonna get all these blisters. The blisters don’t go away, they callus. And when you learning how to bump in the ring and stuff like that, it doesn’t get easier. You just get used to it. It’s like a cold plunge; it doesn’t get easier. You just get used to it. And I wouldn’t say that we added anything, but what we did and what the production did, which was very, very helpful, is we just said, “Listen, if we’re going to be playing wrestlers on TV, then we need to look like wrestlers on TV, and in order to do that, we need to be in wrestler shape and have wrestler bodies, which come in many shapes and forms and sizes.” But they did a great job of building us a gymnasium, building us a program, and then enforcing it and making it part of our schedules, so that it’s not our responsibility to find the motivation on a Thursday when we’re not working to get to the gym at 10 o’clock. No, it’s on the schedule. We have to go. We’re contractually obligated. But we just go.

Transcribed by Jamie of SciFiVision


"Heels" season 2 premieres on Starz July 28!

Santa Monica, Calif. – June 29, 2023 – STARZ released today the trailer and key art for season two of the critically-acclaimed drama Heels,” which returns to the ring for season two on Friday, July 28 at midnight (ET) on the STARZ app. Starring Stephen Amell (“Arrow”) and Alexander Ludwig(“Vikings”), the small-town sports drama series based on a wrestling league in rural Georgia will also debut via linear tv on STARZ at 10:00 PM ET/PT in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, July 28, 2023.
Heels” is aptly named after the wrestling term for a villain or antagonist. Most stories center around heroes vs. villains, but in wrestling, it’s faces vs. heels. Season two brings fans back to the family-owned wrestling organization, Duffy Wrestling League (DWL), where brothers and rivals, Jack (Amell) and Ace Spade (Ludwig), continue to fightover their late father’s legacy and their individual versions of success, while also working to find their own identity as a “face” or a “heel.” The show invokes feelings of nostalgia akin to  “Friday Night Lights,” while covering topics like the effects of trauma on communities, finding personal identity, and women taking the lead in every facet. It is centered around a small-town community where everyone knows each other and everyone in town follows the saga of the Heels and Faces in the DWL.    
Season two also stars Alison Luff (“New Amsterdam”) as Staci Spade, Mary McCormack (“Deep Impact,” “The L Word”) as Willie Day, Kelli Berglund (“The Goldbergs,” “The Animal Kingdom”) as Crystal Tyler, Allen Maldonado (House Party, “The Wonder Years,” “The Last O.G.”) as Rooster Robbins, Chris Bauer (“Gaslit,” “Survivor’s Remorse,” “True Blood”) as Wild Bill Hancock, Trey Tucker (“The Outpost”) as Bobby Pin, Robby Ramos (“Chicago P.D.”) as Diego Cottonmouth,Alice Barrett Mitchell (“The Thing About Pam,” “Billions”) as Carol Spade, Roxton Garcia(“Reminensce”) as Thomas Spade, David James Elliott (Trumbo, “JAG”) as Tom Spade, Joel Murray(“Mad Men,” “Shameless”) as Eddie Earl, CM Punk(“Mayans,” “AEW Dynamite”) as Ricky Rabies, AJ Mendez (“Women of Wrestling,” “WWE”) as Elle Dorado, Josh Segarra (Scream VI, “Arrow,” “The Other Two”) as Brooks Rizzo, and Emmy Raver-Lampman as Jen Lussier.
Heels” showrunner and executive producer Mike O’Malley (“Survivor’s Remorse,” “Shameless”) also portrays Charlie Gully on the series. Michael Waldron (“Loki,” Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, “Rick and Morty”) is the show creator.Christopher Donnelly (By Sidney Lumet), Pete Segal (Get Smart, 50 First Dates, Tommy Boy,“Shameless”), Patrick Walmsley (JT LeRoy), and Julie Yorn (Hell or High WaterWhite Boy Rick) also serve as executive producers on the series. “Heels” is produced through O’Malley Ink and LBI Entertainment in association with Lionsgate Television for STARZ. 
Follow “HEELS” on Social
Twitter: @HeelsSTARZ
Instagram: @HeelsSTARZ
Facebook: @HeelsSTARZ
Join the conversation with #HeelsSTARZ

About “Heels” Season Two
Heels” is a drama that follows Jack (Stephen Amell) and Ace Spade (Alexander Ludwig), two brothers and rivals who war over their late father’s wrestling promotion, vying for national attention in small-town Georgia. In the ring, one is a villain, or “heel,”; the other a hero, or “face.” Season two begins after a spectacular showing at the South Georgia State Fair, the Duffy Wrestling League’s popularity is suddenly on the upswing. Hoping to seize the opportunity, Jack and his cohorts prepare for a possible business deal with a new streaming service that may propel them onto a national stage. But the past and its tragedies threaten to upset everything when Ace leaves Duffy and the Dome in his rearview, and rival promotion Florida Wrestling Dystopia’s vengeful frontman Gully comes calling.”
About STARZ 
STARZ (, a Lionsgate company, is a leading global media streaming platform committed to delivering premium content that amplifies narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences. STARZ is home to the highly rated and first-of-its-kind STARZ app that offers the ability to stream or download STARZ premium content, as well as the flagship domestic STARZ® service, including STARZ ENCORE, 17 premium pay TV channels, and the associated on-demand and online services. In 2018, STARZ launched its international premium streaming platform STARZPLAY, now LIONSGATE+, to provide subscribers access to bold, curated storytelling. LIONSGATE+, coupled with the STARZPLAY ARABIA joint venture in MENA and Lionsgate Play in South and Southeast Asia, has a footprint that extends across the globe. STARZ and LIONSGATE+ are available across digital OTT platforms and multichannel video distributors, including cable operators, satellite television providers, and telecommunications companies around the world. In February 2021, STARZ launched #TakeTheLead, a multi-faceted and innovative inclusion initiative expanding its existing efforts to improve representation on screen, behind the camera and throughout the company. 
About Lionsgate 
Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) encompasses world-class motion picture and television studio operations aligned with the STARZ premium global subscription platform to bring a unique and varied portfolio of entertainment to consumers around the world. The Company’s film, television, subscription and location-based entertainment businesses are backed by an 18,000-title library and a valuable collection of iconic film and television franchises. A digital age company driven by its entrepreneurial culture and commitment to innovation, the Lionsgate brand is synonymous with bold, original, relatable entertainment for audiences worldwide.

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Mary McCormack stars as Willie Day in "Heels" on Starz


Interview with Jeff Astrof

TV Interview!

Jeff Astrof, executive producer of "Shining Vale" on Starz; photo credit Leon Bennett and GettyIMages

Interview with Jeff Astrof of “Shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 2/7/22

It was really fun to talk to Jeff. I love talking to the writers, directors, showrunners, etc. because they are usually more knowledgable about the show and how it came into being. Actors are fun to chat with, but they generally only know about their character. This was part of a press junket for the show, so there were other reporters here asking questions. I’ve put mine first. He loves to talk, so I was only able to ask one question in the show time we had. When I left the chat, though, I said, “Thank you for not killing Roxy!”

Suzanne: Since it’s a horror as well as a comedy, usually in horror movies and shows people die. We’ve seen a lot of people who are already dead in the first five episodes we watched. Will we be seeing other people die?

Jeff: Yes, I guess I could say this. It was actually built into the script early on that one of the main characters dies…they revisited that and said, “We want to revisit it now that you’ve done it…Now that we’ve come to really kind of know and love this character, do we think there’s a different way?” I said, “No, absolutely not.”…I mean, that’s a good point; we’re dealing with potential ghosts and people, but the stakes have got to be higher…you know, I don’t love gore and horror. This person dies in a very tragic and symbolic way. It’s interesting, because on my last show, Trial and Error, in the first season I killed somebody, and they were shocked, and it happened kind of in a comic way in the distance, but this is like, I guess it’s an ironic way. It’s an homage to a horror movie, the way they die. It’s also like, one of the great things Sharon and I set to do in a certain way when writing it, I wanted to know how would I react if I were in a haunted house? Because usually people just do some really stupid things in the haunted houses, [and] that’s the fun; that’s the comedy of it. You know, we’re watching a show now. It’s like, “We’re going to sleep in the attic.” It’s like, “No, don’t. You know not to sleep in the attic under these weird carvings. No, don’t do that; something bad is going to happen.” So, it’s like how do we get these characters to do that? And a part of that was also casting the house and finding that house, which was just miraculous. Like you want a house that Terry could be like, “What a great deal,” and if you look at it from a slightly different angle, it’s like, “Don’t live there. Why are you living in that house?” So, that’s the balance we did. But yes, the short answer is somebody does die. It’s funny, the second season I don’t – oh, we’ll probably have someone die, maybe. I don’t know. It can’t be gratuitous. Everything has to go with with the story, but a couple of characters meet untimely fates.

Suzanne: And that’s a real house right? Somebody actually lives in the one that used in the pilot?

Jeff: Yes. So, Jeff Shane, our [incredible] set designer, rebuilt that house, like inch by inch and then more on the lot when it got picked up. I remember when we shot there, we thought there’s no way you’re going to be able to – first of all, we shot in South Pasadena for Connecticut; it was during COVID. So, everything was closed. You only had a certain number of days to shoot in Pasadena, or else I would have said, “Let’s buy the house,” but you can only shoot six days a quarter, so it would be very long season. It [would be] five years a season. And we found this house on MLS; somebody found the house on MLS, and they were selling it, and it was very obvious why it was still on the market. The woman also was a hoarder…And our producer at the time was somebody who was able to see dead people – not the reason she got the job, but happened to be, so she walked in the house and was like, “No way!” I’m like, “Okay.” We created it on a lot on three stages at Warner Brothers and then also added in different rooms. We have the hallways, you’ll notice the wallpaper from the Overlook Hotel, the kitchen from Rosemary’s Baby. There’s the wallpaper from The Yellow Wallpaper. We are very, very liberal with our references.

Question: Jeff, this is quite a balancing act for you. You’re mixing comedy and mixing horror and also real world ailments that people have. How do you maintain that balance, and so it doesn’t lean too far in either direction?

Jeff: That was the big challenge of it. It’s very funny, because, I usually have my counterpart, Sharon, on here to say that she was looking for somebody creepy and funny, and there was nobody creepier and funnier than I was. When we came out with the show, that was not a good look, that pull quote, for me…I wanted to work with Sharon, because I love her work, and I wanted to stay with something that was genre bending. I heard that she had said she wanted to do this. Aaron Kaplan, the producer, pitched it as The Shining as a comedy. I was like, “Well, yes.” Then, it was female driven…I read the quote about women being more than twice as likely as men to be possessed and depressed and the symptoms being the same. I was like, “I am all in on this.” It’s so funny, because during this interview process, we’re hearing like our versions of what the other person was like on the phone. She said, “I had this idea years ago, and no one was excited about it, except for you.” I was like, “Oh, wow.”…She said, “How can you do comedy and horror? They play different paces, they play different, like, frames, you know, how the shot is framed. Usually, the actor has to play a certain way, and it’s scored differently.” I just know that after you go to a horror movie, after you scream, the audience laughs, and I was like, “Okay, so, it’s the same continuum.” I’ve been telling jokes for so long, and I was like, this is a new way to get a reaction.

I was given two writers for the first season. One was a horror writer, and one was a comedy writer. The horror writer saw the pilot and said, “This is my first comedy,” and the comedy writer saw the pilot and said, “This is my first drama.” So I was like, “Okay, something for nobody here.” And that’s been the thing. My first pitch to Sharon was that we write a comedy and we shoot like a horror. In order for it to have legs, and this is my horror writer, her name is Jill [unintelligible] said, “The challenging thing about horror is like, in a season two of a horror, if it’s a house horror, it’s like, ‘just fucking move.’ ” You know, I mean? So, the challenge is, you have to have that in your mind, that the audience is not going to say, “Just move.”

So, from the beginning, it was like, “Is this playing in Pat’s head, or not?” That is consistent. That’s one of the rules, like with Rosemary is that we only see Rosemary from Pat’s point of view, and she has to be in a certain state of mind. I think at this day and age, I look at what I like, and when I watch, and I don’t know that I’m watching any comedy right now. It’s just like I wanted to create something that I would watch and something that was engaging, and in order for it to be a good comedy, you have to have stakes, and the stakes of this are either a woman’s soul or her mental health, and for the family – I came from a broken home, myself, or divorced house, and it’s like there’s a lot of trauma there, and I like writing about trauma. And, again, with higher stakes can come bigger laughs. I think once we cast it, I think that we were able to do that.

Question: I’m enjoying it so far.

Jeff: Great. Thank you so much.

Question: …STARZ, which has this wonderful, wonderful program has a lot of shows that I really, really love. Did you know outright this [was] not a traditional network kind of show when you were helming it, that maybe it was going to go to a great pay channel like Starz?

Jeff: So, we actually developed it – yes, we knew it wasn’t. I work for Warner Brothers, and the lights are kept on at Warner Brothers, really, by the multi cameras that have been there as long as I have been, and that was a model that, really for most of my career, Warner Brothers was afraid of leaving, and obviously, things change.

My last show I developed actually, [was] right on the cusp. It was a procedural comedy called Trial and Error, and it should have gone to Netflix. Back then they were like, “No, I mean, the place that ships DVDs in the mail? No.”

So, this one, I knew, and with Sharon also. Like, one of the things that comes with Sharon, is she has a pedigree that is like – she doesn’t do network stuff. I mean, not that she hasn’t tried and, obviously, there’s money in network and stuff, but like, this is like, I knew the subject matter. We pitched this to network and ABC, but we knew this was going to be streaming and that we wanted to really blow it out. This is my first thing for streaming. The biggest thing was writing without act breaks, actually like constructing a story. That’s why I put it in the title cards, which is just really a cheat, because that’s where the commercials would go. So, that’s just a little inside baseball, don’t tell anybody, because that’s what I’m used to writing, the three act and four act structure…Basically the show is like a three act show, but yes, it had to be a high end show.

We originally developed it for Showtime, and then Showtime thought it was being developed for Sharon, and they said, “Well, we wanted the vehicle for Sharon,” and we’re like, “Well, this is not Sharon.” So, Aaron Kaplan said, “All right, well, we’re taking it back; someone has to love this,” and Starz swooped right in and from the very first second. They were just like, “This is this is how we want to brand our network for comedy.”

Then, once we cast the cast, also, it just became such a pedigree. So, I would say, real kudos for Starz…Their notes have always been very, very smart, but very, very limited too, and they just want to let us run with it. We knew that from the beginning Shannon and I were going to create something here that there’s no model for, so sometimes a network will look at that as an excuse to try to foist a paradigm onto it, but this was just like, we hope that people copy this and then use us as a [model]…So, God bless stars for giving us all this rope to play with.

Question: As far as casting, how did how did Greg, Courtney, and Mira come on board?

Jeff: So, that was an incredible story, because everybody thought that I’d written the part of Pat for Sharon, and that was never any of our intentions. I just had Pat in mind, and we were going to cast that. Then, after we came out with it, and it got picked up, we were talking about casting it and were going around some usual suspects, some not so usual suspects. The person Pat was written [as was] initially like 40 something years old, and that was just the prototype we had in our mind.

Then, Courtney calls me. I get a 213 call. Only my sister and spammers are 213. Who’s going to [call from] 213? It’s like, “Hey, Jeff. It’s Courtney. Listen, I read the script Shining Veil, and you wrote it for me. I want to do it.” I’m like, “Who is this?” She says, “Courtney.” It’s like, “Courtney who?” She said, “Courtney Cox.” I said, “Courtney, I haven’t spoken to you – Last time I [spoke] to you, cell phones hadn’t even been invented yet.” She’s like, “Sorry, I got your number. I read the script. I’m doing all this press; we’re doing a Friends reunion. I was thinking about you. I got the script. It was written for me; I have to do it.” And I was like, “Okay, I know you’ve done Scream,” and one of the reasons her name didn’t come up initially was because she had done Scream, and we wanted to have our own kind of like niche, and we thought like, “Okay, if Courtney does it, we’ve seen her do horror.” Obviously, they’re still shooting these things, the Screams, and she’s very successful at that. And she said, “No, this is something I’ve never done before, and it’s just really in my voice. It’s like you wrote it for me, and I have to do it.”

So, I went back to Sharon and Aaron and the other producers like, “Courtney wants to do the show. I guess Courtney is doing the show.”

And we were a little bit nervous too, because our director, Dearbhla Walsha, she had just come off Fargo. She’s like, “I don’t want to do Scream,” and now we have the star of Scream. I hadn’t seen Courtney really do drama, but oh my god, like and then I met Courtney with her daughter and I was like, “Okay, I know how to write this.” She’s just so warm and so deep and so hard working, and she’s like, “I have this part; trust me,” and she did.

Then, as soon as we cast Courtney, you know, it’s always that one piece of the puzzle. Then, once we cast Courtney, like we’re like, “Okay, we know the age range. We’re going mid 50s, somewhere, early to mid 50s.” Then, Greg’s name came up, and we called him, and he’s like, “I love Courtney, and I love this part.”

And Greg is so funny, because Greg, even up until a half hour ago, Greg always loves it and is concerned about how to repeat it. He’s like, “Listen, season two -” I’m like, “Greg, are you really pitching us season two? Like, do the press.” He’s so into it, and we had a long talk with Greg about it, and Greg loved it, and he’s like, “I really want to work with Courtney, and I think we’d be a good couple.” And sure enough, their chemistry was great.

Then, originally, we wrote this out; we have Greg and Courtney, and the part of Rosemary has one line in the pilot. Now, I always had big plans for Rosemary. As you see, it evolves, but everyone was like, “She’s basically a little more than the cartoony ghost, like the eyes moving in the picture.” But then Mira got a hold of it and was like, “I really want to do this; I really want to be involved.” Then, it’s like, “Well, if Mira wants to be involved – ” Mira’s like, “Whatever it takes.” It’s like, “You know, you’re not number one on the call sheet.” She’s like, “I really need to do this.”

Mira and I talked for a while…Mira’s dad has the distinction of being one of two people my dad told not to quit the business and move to Hollywood on the second one. They were good friends growing up, Paul Sorvino and my dad. We just talked about the character and Mira was – again, I don’t know where and how much Mira’s character’s revealed in what you’ve seen, but Mira also had a lot to prove, and she thought this was a great vehicle for her, and she brought so much to it. Then, we were like, “Oh my god, I have a an Oscar winner, Emmy nominee, Oscar nominee, like, just get out of the way.” And that’s what happened.

It was one advantage of the fact that I’ve been doing this for thirty years that they had a trust of me, and Sharon, of course, and it was really, really nice. I mean, it’s like, at any given time, I’ll get a call from movie actors talking about the show and what they want to do. Certainly Greg [has] a lot of ideas, and they’re terrific, and it’s so nice to see other people seeing it, because we had no idea. Like we just did this, and the only people I saw who’ve seen it have been people who are friends and family and, certainly, when we saw the chemistry that they had and the challenge in season two, which we’re starting to conjure up, is getting Mira in scenes with the rest of the family too, since right now she can only be seen by Pat.

Question: Oh very cool. And, I mean, Judith Light too.

Jeff: Oh my god, Judith Light, I love Judith Light. Once we had Judith also, and then, it’s very fun, because we cast Judith, and then we saw Judith and were like, “Oh my god, she looks exactly like Ganyor, so, it’s like, “Let’s run with that storyline.”

Then, the two of them together were [fantastic]. I love the kids. I love all of our cast. There’s not a single person where I’m just like, “Oh, how are we gonna write that?”

It’s a shame that we have to kill one of them, but I will tell you this, “Not Roxy.” When I talked about that, anybody can die in the show except Roxy. It has gotten such pushback. Like it’s one of the things that people do who are possessed is they cause harm to animals, and that was a red line. Starz is like, “You do whatever you want. Do not mess with that dog.” That’s the only red line there is.

Here is the audio version of it.

Interview Transcribed by Jamie of


Jeff Astrof, executive producer; and actress Mira Sorvino of "Shining Vale" on StarzTrailer


Season 1 8 Episodes 2022

“Shining Vale” is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed – turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former “wild child” who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (a.k.a. lady porn). Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family from the “crazy” of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real. Cox plays the lead role of Patricia “Pat” Phelps, with Kinnear playing her ever-optimistic husband, Terry Phelps, whose patience and self-control will be tested like never before. Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her. Dungey plays Kam, Pat’s oldest friend and book editor. Gus Birney and Dylan Gage also star as Pat and Terry’s teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake.

Jeff Astrof is a producer and writer, known for Trial & Error (2017), In-Laws (2002) and The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006). He has been married to Shawni Modrell since May 28, 2000. They have two children.

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Jeff Astrof, executive producer; and actor Parvesh Cheena of "Shining Vale" on Starz

Interview with Judith Light

TV Interview!

Judith Light as Joan in "Shining Vale" on Starz

Interview with Judith Light of “shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 2/7/22

It was lovely to speak to such an amazing actress. I first saw her on “Who’s the Boss?” back in the 80’s. I’ve seen her in so many other great shows, such as “Transparent,” “Law and Order,” “Ugly Betty,” “Dietland,” “Dallas” and so much more. She’s great in this, like usual You may not even recognize her.  The first few questions are from me, and the others were from other journalists in this roundtable press junket we did.

Suzanne: Hi. When you’re playing your character, is there anyone in particular that you modeled her after?

Judith: No, no. What an interesting question. No, I think that what happened was that they created her as they saw her. Now, maybe the writers had somebody in mind. Maybe they knew somebody that had had some of these issues, but no. It was just like, there it was, right on the page.

Suzanne: Thank you.

Judith: Yeah, you bet.

Suzanne: I know you got your TV start on One Life to Live. If one of the four remaining daytime soaps were to offer you a really good role, around your schedule, whether it was recurring, or guest starring or long term, would you consider it?

Judith: You know, years ago I used to say I wouldn’t do this, and I’m never going to do that. I’m not going to be in a soap opera, and I’m not going to be in a sitcom, and I’m never going to marry an actor, and I’m never going to move to California. You know, I’m not terribly trustworthy. So, I would only answer that to say to you, I will allow myself to stay open to everything and to see how things evolve and what comes to me. I don’t look at something and say, “I’ll never do that.” It’s just it’s not a way to be as a human being, and it’s not a way to live. Who knows what could happen? I have no idea. So, good questions.

Question: …Tell us a little bit about her. She’s kind of a character, but has a part of her life that we won’t get into, but kind of had a dark period in her life, I guess the best way to put it?

Judith: Yeah, yeah. I love that you’re being deferential to not giving away a lot of the information, which I know they appreciate, and so do I. We’re talking about mental illness. I mean, you’re talking about a woman who, as an adult, a lot of her adult life is she’s dealing with mental illness, and the fact that this show is able to talk about that in such a way within the body and the context of comedy and horror and drama and paranormal is just quite incredible, I think. I just think it’s extraordinary. So, that’s one of the things that we’re dealing with is women and mental illness.

Question: Congratulations on being a part of such an interesting show. How long did you have to keep the secret that you were cast in this series?

Judith: Not for very long. I mean, it really happened quite, quite quickly. I mean, I read the script, and then they sent me the pilot to look at, and I was like, “Oh, I’m in.” So, it wasn’t really a very long time. They send it to me, and then we talked about it, and we shot it.

Question: And to follow up on that, was there a personal highlight for you? Because often things that are funny are not always off camera hilarious, the most fun thing ever, and then, vice versa. You’ll find that in dramas, the second they say cut, everyone is laughing their heads off and having a blast. So, is there a highlight?

Judith: The highlight was really getting to work with Courtney and with Greg and with Gus Birney. And to be in a show, like you say, I mean, that’s written and conceived by Jeff Astrof and Sharon Horgan and such a team of women writers, I mean, literally, this is a question for you and everybody who’s watching the show. “How do you write a show that’s a comedy and a drama and a horror show and paranormal?” I don’t even know how you can think about that. You said congratulations on being a part of this show. I am beside myself. I think people are just – I can’t even say think. I know people are going to be absolutely enchanted by this.

Question: You’ve done a lot of darker roles lately. Is there something about these characters that really makes you want to embody them? Or is it just things that come across your desk, and you’re like, “Okay, that’s an interesting role. I’d love to pursue that.”

Judith: I go for the role. I go for what it says about women and their stories. We’re storytellers, you know, just like you all. You’re the storytellers. You tell our stories, and that’s why talking to you is so interesting; it’s so vital. I look at a character. I look at the story. I look at what it’s saying. I see that women are writing for women about women’s issues, women and their artistry, women and their menopause, women and aging, women and their sexuality, women and their mental illness. So, that’s compelling to me. And to do it within, like I just said before, within the context of a show that’s funny and dramatic and tender and fragile and poignant and scary is just – You’re smiling. It’s true. It’s like it’s it’s a joy. It’s a real joy.

Question: As far as dialogue, do you get a chance to play with the words a little bit? Or do you have to stay verbatim to the script?

Judith: No, there’s no law. I mean, if there’s something that I want to talk to the producers about, they’re incredibly open, but when you see a show like this, and the way this is written, I wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole. I mean, I wouldn’t even think to be able to do that. If I have questions, I’ll ask them, but not with something like this. They’re open and flexible, which is also a dream. It’s really great.

Question: Just a quick follow up, there is a scene where you have a moment with one of your grandchildren, and that was a really serious scene, and I really appreciated that scene. You both brought it, and it was so great to see you flexing those muscles.

Judith: Oh, thank you, thank you so much. That was all as all on the page. That’s all on the page. And you know, you can try something as as an actor, and you can throw it out. They might have said to me, “Don’t go there. Go to the funny, or go to the scary. Don’t do that. Don’t make it that deep or that real,” but they didn’t say that. So, that’s what I was saying. And in responding to your other question, which is, I wouldn’t ask them to change anything or rewrite anything. But if you work the way that I do is you just throw out a lot of stuff, and I say to somebody, “Look, this is the smorgasbord; you choose what you want.” And if they want something else, then they tell you. But thank you for noticing. That is a very powerful scene.

Question: So, when somebody looks at your IMDB or your credits, in general, you’ve been working nonstop, and it’s a variety of genres and projects. There’re not a lot of people who do dramatic stuff like you, yet we’re also on Family Guy. So, you’ve also been prolific as a humanitarian, and charitable work as well and standing up for women’s causes, in a wonderful way. Are there a lot of hobbies for you, or does it really all your free time goes back into the craft?

Judith: I wouldn’t say hobbies, but there are things in life that I do that I spend time on that feed my work, a lot of reading, a lot of investigation of psychology. Also, now, I’m starting to produce, and I have a bunch of projects in development. So, those are the things that I’m drawn to doing. I am curious about a lot of different things, and curiosity is the link to me to creativity. If you’re curious about something, you move into a direction of being creative in relation to it. Also, I love working in teams. So, I love being able to be around other people who are also curious and creative, and that’s where a lot of the energy goes. My husband and I are creating a lot of work together. So, that’s also exciting for me.

Question: So, it sounds like stay tuned to keep checking the IMDB to see how much you’re working.

Judith: There you go. There you go. That’s right.

Question: It’s such an honor, I must say to speak with you, and I’ve been a longtime fan of yours. Do you have any favorite projects of yours that truly hold a dear place in your heart? I mean, we recently saw you on American Crime Story. That was a beautiful arc, and there’re so many roles that stand out, of course, over the years, but are there certain roles that still hold a special place for you?

Judith: Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you. Thank you for saying that. Well, I love American Crime. I love working with Ryan. I mean, talk about a visionary. He’s an incredible person. I would have to say, I did a play years ago, where I took over – I hadn’t been on stage for twenty-two years, and then I took over for a brilliant actor named Kathleen Chalfant in a play called Wit. It was about a woman who was dying of fourth stage ovarian cancer, and that one I hold very close still. I was terrified to do it. I had to shave my head. I had to be naked on stage. There were a lot of things that I had to confront, personally, that were very transformational for me as far as my life was concerned. It wasn’t about my career anymore. It was really about my life and the things that I needed to not be afraid of and to take a chance to take a risk. I did it for almost a year. I did it in New York for about six months. Then, I did it on tour in Boston and San Francisco and Washington, DC, and Florida. Every one of the experiences around that was life changing and affirming for me, and that one I hold I hold very close, very dear. Also, the other things that I’ve done on stage, like Other Desert Cities, just that brilliant, brilliant play by Jon Robin Baitz. I just walked into that family, and that was very, very special to me, getting to work with Joe Mantello and Robbie and then Richard Greenberg, on The Assembled Parties. Those are two other plays that I did. Most of the work that I’ve done stays with me. Not the character; I let go of the character, but the holiness, I guess, is what I would say. And I mean that in a holistic way, that those characters have meant a great deal to me, particularly when you do a long run, like we did with Lombardi. Those things, they stay. They’re embedded, and I really treasure them greatly. I really do.

Question: So, it just seems like the producing side is kind of tapping into a new area for you. How has that been to kind of take a project from an idea and put it together?

Judith: It’s been interesting. It’s more I’m learning from several different producers that I’m working with in the development of these projects. I’m at a place called Brillstein Creative Partners, and I’m working with some really brilliant, extraordinary women producers that I’m learning a lot from, like Amy Powell and Dakota DeBellis. There are people that are on these projects that I’m working on that I’m watching and learning from and seeing how to put something together. Right now we’re in the stages of looking at reading material, finding the writers. Who’s going to be the best team for this? And it takes a long time, and it takes a lot of discipline and diligence and a lot of hard work to put it together. I’m learning, and I’m watching, and I’m seeing that these are people that really know what they’re doing and really know what they’re talking about. So, I’m really in the learning stage. So, I’ll keep you posted. I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Here is the audio version of it.

Interview Transcribed by Jamie of



Judith Light as Joan in "Shining Vale" on StarzSHINING VALE

Season 1 8 Episodes 2022

“Shining Vale” is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed – turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former “wild child” who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (a.k.a. lady porn). Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family from the “crazy” of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real. Cox plays the lead role of Patricia “Pat” Phelps, with Kinnear playing her ever-optimistic husband, Terry Phelps, whose patience and self-control will be tested like never before. Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her. Dungey plays Kam, Pat’s oldest friend and book editor. Gus Birney and Dylan Gage also star as Pat and Terry’s teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake.

Multiple Tony and Emmy award-winning actress JUDITH LIGHT is known for her extensive body of television, film, and onstage work, for which she recently received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Opposite Bette Midler, Ben Platt, and Gwyneth Paltrow, she currently stars in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series The Politician. Most recently, Light starred in Transparent, Amazon Prime’s Golden Globe-winning series, created by Jill Soloway, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination and multiple Emmy and Critics’ Choice nominations. In 2018, her role in Ryan Murphy’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, garnered her an Emmy and Critics Choice nomination. More here

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Judith Light as Joan in "Shining Vale" on Starz

Interview with Merrin Dungey

TV Interview!

Merrin Dungey attends the premiere of her new Starz series Shining Vale on Monday (February 28) at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 28: Merrin Dungey attends the premiere of STARZ “Shining Vale” at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 28, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)

Interview with Merrin Dungey of “Shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 2/7/22

I was delighted to speak with Merrin Dungey because she’s been in so many wonderful series, such as “Alias,” “Once Upon a Time,” “The Resident,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “Hollywood Heights,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Big Little Lies” and much more. I don’t know why she’s not starring in her own series by now. She has a fairly small role in this show (at least in the first season), but she’s great in it. I hope they give her more to do in the second season. It was wonderful to speak to her!

The first few questions were mine, and the rest are from the other reporters that were in our virtual room during this press junket. I put one of theirs in sooner so you could see that I was replying, in part, to what she had said when she was answering the other questions.

Suzanne: Hi! So, besides being Pat’s friend and editor, what else can you tell us about your character?

Our favorite photo of Merrin DungeyMerrin: Well, it’s not simply just that I’m her friend and her editor. I’m sort of the engine that keeps the story going, because without what I need from her, that’s what leads her to make the decisions that she makes along the way, and I feel that my character is her moral center and her life raft, like the one outside of everything else that’s happening that she clings to. She is like, this is the person that can help me move things forward. I feel like she’s also a little desperate to please. Where there is a sister like relationship that we have, I feel that it’s a long standing relationship. I was there for the beginning. I probably was the one who discovered her and brought her along and got the first book success, hence why I’ve been on this horse and stuck by her so long through her rehabs, through her ins and outs, and having children and all the whatnot, but my patience runs thin, and I have bosses to answer to at this point as well. So, there is a point at which the rubber meets the road, and I feel that without me, you don’t have the show. You don’t have that engine to keep her chasing what she’s chasing to finish the book.

Question: When you had the pleasure of auditioning for the show, did you actually read any of your character’s lines, or were the sides just totally random stuff in there and they were gauging your connectivity to it all that way?

Merrin: No, it’s all written. I mean, I believe that I added some stuff at the end. This is the thing I miss the most about in person auditions, because I’m great in a room, because I like people, and I like to have fun. I honestly, truly believe that some of my success and things have happened – I mean, like, at the end of the day, when you are auditioning for something for a series that could go for six years, you want to know, “Do I like this person? Do I want to spend time with this person?” That’s part of the game. But I believe I sent some stuff about what I was wearing in my audition. They have you do like the, “Hi, I’m Merrin Dungey, and I live in Los Angeles, and I am willing to -” you know, whatever you say, all the things, like “I’m five, nine,” or whatever your height is, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I made some stupid joke about my pants. Like, I was not wearing [pants]…and I think that that helps. Although I’m fully dressed today. I have high heels on; I do the whole thing.

Suzanne: You look very nice today, by the way. So, it’s been sixteen years since “Alias” went off the air, and I know that both of your characters died, but nobody really dies in those type of shows. Do you think that we’ll ever see a reunion series or movie, and would you do it?

Merrin: Yes. Hopefully. And yes. And yes. Look, Jennifer got us all back together for the most part, for a 20th anniversary. Yeah, it was super, super fun to see everyone and just connect and hang out, but I think that we are all game for that. And I would hope that – I feel that Bad Francie lives. She lives somewhere on, you know, life support somewhere or she’s T-2; she’s a robot. So, it would be great. I would love it very much. I would be wholly disappointed if they did do it, and I did not get to reprise any sort of – I don’t care even if it’s a flashback, but not a flashback to Good Francie, because, who cares?

Question: Merrin, I’ve been watching your acting for, it’s like twenty-ish years now. You’ve played every profession on the planet. And this one, we see you playing Pat’s oldest friend and book editor, but not the first time you’ve worked in the publishing industry on screen. One of my favorite shows ever, You’re the Worst, you were working at a publishing industry.

Merrin: I thought I was a PR agent in that. I was at a publishing agency, but as a PR agent for him, getting him all those interviews.

Question: Related to all that, I’m curious how much work goes into seeking the professions and learning the ins and outs before you’re appearing as that on screen?

Merrin: That’s a great question. Thank you very much. I think I don’t necessarily dive into [it] so heavily, unless it’s like detective work, because that’s so much more foreign to what I know. To play a publishing editor or book editor or even a CEO, there just is sort of like, what’s the gravitas? What is the nature of [how you are] presenting, as opposed to what is it you actually do? Because unless you really see me doing what it is that I have to do, like when I do detective stuff, it’s just kind of, there’s usually a different objective for my character. So, I don’t have to worry so much about what it is that I do as a therapist or any of those sorts of things.

Question: I love this world for you, and it’s such a beautiful relationship that the two of you share, that Pat shares with Kam. What does Kam particularly see in her? I mean, obviously, you mentioned that she probably discovered her, but is there something special that you feel like she initially saw in her, and what continues to have her stand by her side?

Merrin: You know, we all have that friend, don’t we? It’s just kind of like a little bit of a like sister relationship, the one that you kind of need to take care of and put under your wing, and she’s constantly effing up, and I have to [be] like, “Okay, how can we – ” I mean, I certainly have had those people in my life, and I think that that’s what Cam sees in her. There’s talent amongst the ruins, and she wants the best for her. She loves her. She also wants to get paid. You know what I’m saying? Sadly, [there’s] a financial component ultimately here, and there does come a point at which [it’s] like, my neck’s on the line. So, it is a two fold relationship.

Question: They do say “never mix business with pleasure.”

Question: So, she has some great dialogue. Talk about that and how it really plays into kind of like, what I love about her, that snarky side of her and all these great lines that she has.

Merrin: Well, thank you. We get to play. That’s the great thing about the show is that there is room to play, and Courtney’s always game. She’s such a great sparring partner as you can well imagine. She’s so witty and sharp and funny, and Jeff Astrof comes in with the zingers at all times. We played a lot with – you know, anytime you open the scene or you end the scene, there’s a lot of room to sort of have fun and improv and do some stuff. So, from that comes some of the zingers and the stuff…And the late night shoots. You get tired, and then you start saying stuff, and it just happens, and it’s fun.

Question: You do take on so wonderfully these dramatic roles. Is there something about this character or maybe about drama series in general that really draws you to that genre?

Merrin: Well, this is a horror comedy. So, it’s not really a drama, and this is my first time doing that. Although I guess American Horror Stories is sort of like a horror comedy. Look, I go where the goods are. I go where there’s some great fun and good people. I feel like, in my later years in particular, I have been able to work with some [outstanding] – Listen, my entire career I’ve worked with some great people: Aaron Sorkin, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon. I’ve been very, very lucky. It’s ridiculous, you know, Bryan Cranston. I mean, it’s crazy. So, I just feel like I fell out of the lucky tree, and I hit every branch on the way down. So, to continue that streak with Greg Kinnear and Mira Sorvino and Courtney Cox, again, it’s like, “Are you kidding?” This is a dream come true. It’s crazy.

Question: You do it so wonderfully.

Merrin: Thank you. Did I answer your question? Because I feel like maybe didn’t answer your question, but, yes, I’m happy to work with great people. I don’t care what they’re doing. I did an online thing with Con Man, I think was an online series with Nathan Fillion, because it was like, “Nathan Fillon, sure, yeah. Alan Tudyk, yep.”

Question: So, you checked a few boxes. You’re in the Star Trek arena, live action and animation, and horror, you’ve done Lucifer, of course. Now, you’re doing this, although you’re not in the horror aspect per se, at least not yet, but what’s it like to kind of play in those playgrounds and to visit those kind of worlds?

Merrin: Awesome. I mean, it’s such a gift. It’s complicated when you do something like a Picard, because doing that is much like doing an ER in an OR kind of thing, because, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what I’m talking about. You know what I’m saying? Like, I’m not in space. I’m not with the Romulans. I don’t understand what we’re talking about. So, it took me a long time to sort of pull in what I know about what I know and being a television interviewer, and then how does that work? What points am I trying to hit? We had so much rehearsal for that, because it was six big pages with him, with Sir Patrick Stewart, and we had a blast. It was the longest, hardest day of my life, except for when I did the fight with Jennifer, but in terms of concentration and what it is and having to do, you know, I’m like spinning a sphere or something. You’re dealing with things that are CGI that don’t exist. That is complicated. At least when I was doing Once Upon a Time, even though there was CGI in that, it’s still more grounded in terms of what you’re saying. I think that’s the hardest part. It’s harder to play in those playgrounds, because they’re fantastical, so you are trying to pull in what you know about the real world and attribute it to something that doesn’t exist. But for other people, this is really real, and I’m very proud of myself, particularly for Picard, because people are mad at me…I was like, “Good. I did what I was supposed to.” I had no idea what I was talking about! [laughs]

Here is the audio version of it.

Interview Transcribed by Jamie of



Part of the "Shining Vale" poster with Merrin Dungey and Courtney Cox.


Season 1 8 Episodes 2022

“Shining Vale” is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed – turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former “wild child” who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (a.k.a. lady porn). Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family from the “crazy” of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real. Cox plays the lead role of Patricia “Pat” Phelps, with Kinnear playing her ever-optimistic husband, Terry Phelps, whose patience and self-control will be tested like never before. Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her. Dungey plays Kam, Pat’s oldest friend and book editor. Gus Birney and Dylan Gage also star as Pat and Terry’s teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake.

In addition to “Shining Vale”, Merrin Dungey will be seen in a recurring role on the up- coming season of “Lucifer”. Fresh from her strong turn as CJ Emerson on ABC’s limited series “The Fix”, Dungey returned to the critically lauded Emmy winning HBO series “Big Little Lies” as Detective Quinlan, appearing on screen with Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and the legendary Meryl Streep; all nominated for a SAG Award for Best Ensemble. She co-starred as CEO Claire Thorpe on Fox’s “The Resident”, and on a number of ABC hits including “Once Upon A Time” and “Conviction”. Guest star roles range from the groundbreaking turn as Francie Calfo/Alison Doren in the critically acclaimed award-winning “Alias”, and as a Queen of Darkness, Ursula, in “Once Upon A Time”. Other guest appearances include hit shows including “Seinfeld”, “Friends”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Episodes”, “The West Wing” and “Shameless”. Recurring roles include “Chasing Life”, “Brooklyn 99”, “Malcolm in the Middle”, “Revenge” and over 35 episodes of “The King of Queens”. Dungey is an accomplished stand-up comedian, and has performed in Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival, as well as on “Premium Blend” on Comedy Central. She has appeared on the big screen opposite Pierce Brosnan in Some Kind of Beautiful and the Warner Bros comedy CHiPs opposite Dax Shepard. She is a UCLA Theater School Graduate and the youngest recipient of the UCLA Annual Acting Award, as well as the Natalie Wood Prize

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Merrin Dungey as Kam in "Shining Vale" on Starz, seen here with Courtney Cox (Pat).

Interview with Gus Birney and Dylan Gage

TV Interview!

Dylan Gage (Jake) and Gus Birney (Gaynor) of "Shining Vale" on Starz

Interview with Dylan Gage (Jake) and Gus Birney (Gaynor) of “Shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 2/7/22

This was from a great press day where we interviewed many of the cast members for this new show. I really love this show, so it was cool to be talking about it with the cast. These two young people are just a small part of the awesome cast. It stars Courtney Cox and Greg Kinnear as the parents. Judith Light is their grandmother. Mira Sorvino is a ghost in their new house. Merrin Dungey plays the mom’s best friend agent. It has so many great stars like Sherilynn Fenn, Rob Morrow and more. Check it out Sunday, March 6! My questions are here at the top, and then the rest of the questions from our roundtable group are listed below that.

Suzanne: So, can you each tell us about the audition process that you went through to get the show?

Gus: Well, I auditioned, I think, like, two summers ago, and it was still COVID. I sent in a tape, and I think I didn’t hear back for like two weeks. Then, I did a read with Courtney over Zoom. It’s so interesting, auditioning over Zoom, because you can’t really get a sense of people. But [what] I remember about this Zoom audition was I really, really still felt connected to her through this Zoom weird format that we’re using now. I remember leaving that and being like, “Oh, that was interesting.” I actually felt like I was just having a moment with someone. Then, I found out not that long after that, that I got it, and it was the the best feeling in the world. So, yeah.

Suzanne: Great. Thank you. And Dylan?

Dylan: Yeah, I so I did my audition. I sent it in, and I got a callback, as you do, and the callback was virtual, and I did it in my grandmother’s office, and the internet wasn’t great. It was over Zoom, and it was hard to hear. So, a lot of the times I misheard what they were saying, and I thought I was doing terribly. I thought I was blowing it so hard, but no. It turns out that they liked me. So, I’m glad.

Suzanne: That’s a great story. Thank you.

Suzanne: I saw the first five episodes, and I enjoyed them a lot. Is there anything unusual that you can tell us that happens to your character in the last three episodes after that, anything non-spoilery?

Gus: I’m trying to think of a way not to spoil things. I guess I would say that each character kind of goes through an emotional shift, and I think you start to see it by the fifth episode, but at least for Gaynor, I think it kind of is cemented more in understanding her mom a little better and starting to make make bigger shifts in the person she wants to be. So, yeah.

Dylan: Yeah, I’m very excited for the last three episodes. I don’t want to say anything to spoil it character-wise, but I definitely think some of the best of the comedy and some of the best of the horror and drama parts of it are caked into those last three episodes, and [it] just sort of crescendos very well and I think end on a very good note.

Suzanne: Oh, great. Thanks so much. I look forward to seeing the rest of them.

Suzanne: I might have missed something there. Where was the house? Is there an actual house that you filmed in, or was it just one they built for the show?

Gus: There was an actual house, and that house was in, was it Pasadena, Dylan? I don’t remember where.

Dylan: I’m not good at geography in my own state [unintellible] a state that I don’t live in, but yeah, for the pilot we actually had a real house. It was a real house, and all of the stuff inside it, all the wallpaper, all like the weird scratches and stuff, that was all there. They didn’t add anything to the house for the pilot. Everything’s there, but then, for every episode after that, they recreated the house like one to one very, very well. We filmed it on like lots and stuff and not like on location.

Suzanne: Does the real house have a particular name or anything? Is it one they use for stuff like this? Do you know?

Gus: It was some woman’s house. She lived there by herself, and I think she might have been a hoarder or something, because they had to clean the house out completely.

Dylan: Yeah, I think that’s just someone house. I don’t think anything else has been filmed there. I think they found a gem just for the series.

Suzanne: Looks like it. Thank you.

Question: Playing brother and sister, how do you develop a relationship as actors, maybe you haven’t even met before? And we can start with Gus first, and then over to Dylan. How do you kind of create that?

Gus: I know immediately when I met Dylan, I mean, I’d watched him in PEN15, so I was a fan; I’m not gonna lie. I little starstruck, but I think that the more we hung out on set, and the more we developed, I don’t know, just an off camera relationship, the easier it became. And it was nice, because we were the two kind of younger people on the show. So, we really only had each other to rely on in that way. It bonded us. Also, I think we’re both a little dorky. So, it was good. I’m sorry, Dylan; it’s true.

Dylan: Wow, just dragging me under. Yeah, I feel like just because we’re both sort of young, there wasn’t a whole lot of people to relate to, other than just me and Gus. So, we sort of like became conjoined at the hip. Yeah, [it] just sort of blossomed naturally into where we’re very easily able to play a realistic brother sister relationship in the show.

Question: Dylan, we were just hearing about PEN15, big fan of that, and we’re kind of conditioned to not like you from watching PEN15, and I think you redeem yourself here. Gus, great on screen as well. So, my question is for both of you, how important is it for likability to be part of your role?

Gus: Wow, Dylan, you want to do it?

Dylan: Sure. I feel like I could play a character – I feel like likability does not really affect – I think that Jake is very likable, just in the fact that he’s just sort of goofy and a little bit dorky. He’s just in his own world doing his own stuff. He’s very uncontroversial, because he doesn’t really put himself out there that much. But I feel like a character’s likability does not really affect too much of what I care about the character, because it only matters how the character thinks of themselves.

Gus: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, the audience is gonna have their opinion. So, it’s like, it’s the viewer who’s gonna like you or not, and you can’t really control that. And look, Gaynor can come off very, I guess at times unlikable, as sixteen-year-olds do, and you have to let that be and know that that’s part of it. I don’t think that should be something you’re worried about, because people are unlikable sometimes. And I hope as the show goes on, you see that she’s much more layered and complicated than at first glance.

Question: Gus, you’ve been brilliant on Dickinson, and, of course, Dylan, amazing on PEN15, but these are kind of darker roles, I think for both of you, where both of you sort of have some sort of struggle that you’re dealing with. There’s sort of a lot of angst as well for you, Gus, and a little bit more mentally, as far as for Dylan. How did you all shake off a long day of being these characters?

Gus: I mean, I know there were actually pieces of Gaynor that I really liked and pieces that I wish that I had. You know, she’s just kind of a spitfire and very confident and outgoing and strong. I guess I would leave, and I’d be like, “Wow, I wish that I had a little bit more of that in me.” So, it would actually be I would shake off the day and be like, “I should take that with me moving forward.” But I always left really happy.

Dylan: Yeah, and I mean, I feel like I’m close enough to Jake, as a personality. I feel like the only thing really that differentiates us and is a little bit difficult at times, it’s just sort of the fact that he’s very just sort of apathetic towards the outside world and is very [tuned] out. It was kind of hard a little bit sometimes to just like, be so in my own stuff, like on set, and then have to be back into it. So, I kind of had to keep doing that. But after the first few days, I got into the groove of it. I really started doing pretty [well].

Question: How hard is it balancing the horror and the comedy? I know, Dylan, you have the horror credit with Creepshow and Fear Street, so you know that part, but mixing in the comedy? What’s that like? We can start with Gus first.

Gus: I mean, it’s fun, because, actually, they merge them so well. So, you get a good sense of both sometimes; like, if it’s all horror, you don’t get real people behind it, and then, if it’s all comedy, sometimes it can be a little cheesy. I think that there’s this great mesh of all of these different genres in there, and at the end of the day, they’ve written very real, full people and characters that I think anyone can kind of find themselves in. If not one, then you’ll find one in someone else. But yeah, it was very fulfilling.

Question: I’m finding more and more when there’re two people who are going to be acting a lot on screen, that as part of the casting process, they put them on [what] I think they call a chemistry date or a chemistry test or something like that. Did they as part of casting or once you were cast put the two of you together, or did you spend time together going [for] coffee or anything like that to see that you vibe well?

Dylan: I feel like during like the rehearsals and stuff, whenever they like had the outline of like – We were doing basically blocking and stuff, or they just had like tape outlines for how like the furniture would be set up, and we’re doing it in a warehouse and stuff, or something similar, and that’s when we kind of like, I at least when I first knew where we were like, “Okay, this is a cool person, and I think I can jive with them well.” Yeah.

Gus: Yeah, we hung out a little outside of the set too. We would like do an “escape the room,” so, yeah.

Dylan: We did do an “escape the room,” and also, we ate at a Cheesecake Factory.

Question: For both of you, what do you think it is about Shining Veil that’s gonna make it such a fast fan favorite series?

Gus: I really think we’ve created like our own unique genre that hasn’t really been seen and isn’t like anything on TV. I think it’ll intrigue people to keep coming back, and truly, every episode gets better, gets scarier, gets funnier, and gets more complex. So, yeah, I think I think once you start you really can’t stop.

Question: It’s very bingeable.

Dylan: Once you pop, you can’t stop. Yeah, I feel like this show definitely has something special. It shifts. Ever since I first read the script. I was like, “This show’s it.” It’s very good. I feel like it’s very easy to get into, whether you like horror, whether you like comedy; it has something for everyone and such great actors, such great directors, such great writers. I feel like it’s definitely going to be a hit. Absolutely.

Question: Talk about playing in that house. What that’s like? We can start with Dylan first. I looks pretty creepy.

Dylan: Yeah, we only filmed the pilot with the actual house, and everything else was on [the] Warner Brothers lot, like on sets and stuff, but they recreated it scarily well, on the Warner Brothers lot. Like it was like one to one. It was very well done, but just seeing that house in person was kind of jaw dropping. They kept showing us pictures and stuff before we actually did it, but that house is a character.

Gus: Yeah, you get chills walking in there. It’s pretty special.

Question: So, one thing I wasn’t sure about with the show is how long it was filmed over the course of – maybe Gus can take this one, because I keep throwing it at Dylan. You know. that likability question, it just buried him.

Gus: Well, so, we did the pilot a year ago last February, and then we did the the rest of the episodes from June to September, so it was like two and a half months. So, it was pretty fast, and it was all in LA. Yeah, it felt very fast. It was great.

Question: Agree with that Dylan?

Dylan: Mm hmm.

Question: Dylan, your character has OCD, ADHD and some other issues. What kind of research did you do into preparing to portray him?

Dylan: I feel like I definitely have friends that have OCD, ADHD, people that are on the spectrum, and I definitely have a lot of experience with with those friends and stuff. And also I feel like playing Jake, it’s less about those things and more just about he’s just a quirky kid who is really just sort of in his own world doing his own stuff, really likes electronics, video games, but those are the things I could really touch on and really dive deep into, and the rest of it just comes naturally of just not making eye contact, kind of like being hunched over and all sorts of stuff like that.

Here is the audio version of it.

Interview Transcribed by Jamie of



Gus Birney, Dylan Gage and Courtney Cox in "Shining Vale" on Starz


Season 1 8 Episodes 2022

“Shining Vale” is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed – turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former “wild child” who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (a.k.a. lady porn). Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family from the “crazy” of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real. Cox plays the lead role of Patricia “Pat” Phelps, with Kinnear playing her ever-optimistic husband, Terry Phelps, whose patience and self-control will be tested like never before. Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her. Dungey plays Kam, Pat’s oldest friend and book editor. Gus Birney and Dylan Gage also star as Pat and Terry’s teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake.

Dylan Gage captured audience’s attention as ‘Gabe’ on the hit Hulu series PEN15. Prior to his standout role, Gage gueststarred on such highprofile shows as This Is Us (NBC), StrangerThings (Netflix), Creepshow (Shudder), and Bobcat Goldthwait’s
Misfits & Monsters (truTV). On the big screen, Gage can be seen in Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy, Eli Roth’s The House With A Clock In Its Walls, the independent feature Mercy Black, and the upcoming Netflix feature Fear Street 2.

Gus Birney has appeared as ‘Jane Humphrey’ in both seasons of the Apple TV series “Dickinson” opposite Hailee Steinfeld. Previously, she appeared as a series regular on Spike TV’s “The Mist” and in guest-star roles on “Bull”, “Jessica Jones”, “Instinct”, “Law and Order: SVU”, and “Chicago Med”. Her film credits include Here & Now, The Man in the Woods and Untitled Woody Allen Film. She also starred in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo at the Williamstown Theater Festival opposite Marisa Tomei, and in Connected at 59E59. Birney is a singer/songwriter and has played at the Bitter End, Arlene’s Grocery and The Listening Room. She also models, including for Kanye West in New York Fashion Week

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Dylan Gage (Jake) and Gus Birney (Gaynor) of "Shining Vale" on Starz
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 28: (L-R) Dylan Gage, Gus Birney, attend the Premiere of STARZ “Shining Vale” at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 28, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

Interview with Mira Sorvino

TV Interview!

Mira Sorvino stars as Rosemary in "The Shining Vale" on Starz

Interview with Mira Sorvino of “Shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 2/7/22

This is a great show! I fell in love with it when I saw the first episode months ago. Now I’ve seen 6 of the episodes (there are a total of 7).  It’s a creepy horror show and a funny comedy as well. The actors in it are perfect. Mira Sorvino is the right combination of weird and sexy as Rosemary, one of the house’s inhabitants. I was very happy to speak to her about it, even if it was only a brief interview. The other questions are from other journalists.

Suzanne: Can you tell us what the most fun thing was about filming the show and also the most challenging aspect of playing the character?

Mira: Well, those two both came to play in you know – So, Jeff being the amazing, wonderful, generous showrunner that he is, when I told him, “Oh, I would love it if she could dance,” because in those old 50s movies that she’s in love with, they always had these dance numbers,” and all of a sudden he wrote me and Courtney and Greg like a little dance bit at the beginning of one of the later episodes. I was overjoyed and terrified, because I had hung up my pointe shoes at fourteen, although I’d taken like eight years of classes and as an adult actually still studied, still studied ballet, still studied some jazz, did like salsa and ballroom stuff for some of the other movies I’ve done, like Summer of Sam. So, I got to do this scene that, it’s very brief, but it’s like an homage to Fred Astaire and the coat rack or Gene Kelly and the mop, the boom. And I couldn’t have had more fun, and I couldn’t have been more nervous. I worked on it for a week with the choreographer, trying to appear, trying to show up like a real dancer. Liz Friedman was the director, and she used to direct videos and dance, and she knows all about dance. So, I was like, “Oh, my God,” but I ended up being really happy with it and proud of it and had the time in my life. So, it was both as much fun as one could have on a day of work and as nervous I could be on a set, because I’m not a professional dancer. Like acting is kind of under my feet now; like I know what I’m doing, even if certain scenes will be more challenging than others emotionally, or I’ll have more work to do on a certain aspect of preparation. I’m not a professional dancer, so getting to dance in a professional scene was a joy, but it was also a terror, but I loved it. I was so grateful. So grateful.

Suzanne: I look forward to seeing it. Thanks. When people recognize you, and they tell you how much they like you, what is the movie or show that you’re most recognized for? Is it Romy and Michele, or something else?

Mira: Absolutely. People say, “I’m the Mary.” You know, they do stuff like that, like when they meet me. Yeah, that’s the one.

Suzanne: That’s definitely the one. All right. Well, thanks a lot.

Mira: Thank you.

Question: Hi, it’s great to talk to you; been a big fan of yours for many years, more than I should admit, but I gotta ask you, what’s it kind of like – and I’m going to be delicate about this – to kind of play a character that’s a little retro?

Mira Sorvino and Courtney Cox from "Shining Vale" on StarzMira: You don’t have to be delicate about it. I mean, she’s from the 50s. The historical person of Rosemary, who lived in the house seventy years ago, lived in the 50s with her family, and she was a very miserable person with dreams of grandeur and dreams of a different life that she couldn’t achieve. Then, her, you know, ectoplasmic manifestation in the present, is trying to cozy up to Pat Phelps, Courtney Cox’s character; [it has] still got all the trappings of that era. She talks like a character from a movie or TV series from the time. And the crazy part is, I don’t even know whether real people talk that way, but all the evidence that we have, like when I watched Leave It to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet, or The Donna Reed Show, everyone’s talking in that patois. Then, you’ve got these fantastic, more crime thrillers, which I watched for inspiration, and I think that’s how she sees herself. She wants to see herself as this sort of silver screen, like, you know, power woman. She’s a little bit silly, so she doesn’t quite – it’s not as powerful as she hopes, but she’s trying to be what she wasn’t in life. So, in her real life, she was disempowered and hopeful and then squashed. Her new manifestation is all like verve and “Let’s do it baby!” you know, “Let’s drink!” And I loved it. I loved having that anachronistic vibe, so that it was a clear contrast with the current day people and that still, though, her message was modern, even though she was doing it in archaic way. It’s like, “Are you happy with your life? Is this all you really expected to get out of life? Are you letting other people’s expectations rule what you can be? Why don’t you take charge of your own life; be everything that you want to be? Experience life the way you want it. It’s time for you,” is sort of what she’s saying, even though she’s saying it, like, “Let’s go to Paris and throw a fantastic party.” So, I just love being her. It’s really fun.

Question: Earlier today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jeff, and he was talking about how no matter how big the stars were, they wanted to be in the show and were willing to demonstrate, “Hey, I don’t care where I am on the [call sheet], I want to be on the show.” How did you first find out about it?

Mira: I think my agents found out about it, and I read the script and had a talk with Jeff, and he sent me later scenes from it, because, obviously, in the first episode, I’m kind of a discovery towards the end. But he sent me some of the tiki bar scenes where you really see her at work, trying to enlist Pat to come over and be her sister and adventure[r]. And I was really intrigued. Then, I got to do a zoom meet with Courtney, who I’d met before, but like, you know, artistically about the project. It seemed like a wonderful fit and was going to be fantastic. So, I was so excited about it, and it has proven to be one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, honestly.

Question: It’s such a pleasure to speak with you; I’ve been a longtime fan, and I have to say, Romy and Michele is one of my absolute favorite movies. I’m sure you basically hear that every day at this point of your life.

Mira: I’m very grateful that people love it so much.

Question: With this particular role of Rosemary, did it take stepping into the costume for you to really embody her, or did you just find her based on the wonderful words on the page?

Mira: It was a combo. It was like, once I first started working on her, I actually had an old 50s dress that I ended up wearing into one of the fittings, because it was giving me vibes of her, and I offered to bleach my hair completely platinum so that I could be more ghosty and 50s-ish, and that helped. Then, I just started watching The Donna Reed Show and Ozzie and Harriet and then all these 50s noire movies, because I felt like historical Rosemary was like a normal person who was somewhat repressed, maybe a little high-strung, definitely sort of held down by her husband. He was very abusive and neglectful and controlled her within an inch of her life. The ghost rosemary, the spirit Rosemary, is everything Rosemary hoped to be in life but couldn’t really be. So, now, she’s fabulous. Now, she’s got these tremendous costumes. Now, she’s got these lofty [unintelligible], and she’s hosting. She’s hosting people in her own bar. “Come on in. Let me pour you a drink, darling.” She’s just living that life that she wished that she could live, given the parameters of the narrow vision of what a great life looked like to her at the time. So, yeah, it was sort of working on the two characters, because at certain points in the show, you see her as Rosemary, like the real Rosemary, and most of the time, you’re seeing the spirit Rosemary, but sometimes real Rosemary comes through in spirit Rosemary. Like, there’s a moment – because I think you’ve seen the bathroom scene, right? So, at the mirror, real Rosemary comes through there. So, it’s like spirit Rosemary’s in the bath, and then real Rosemary tries to break through. And real Rosemary is in a lot of pain. So, it’s a very interesting, fun challenge to play this multilayered, not even just person, you know, spirit.

Mira Sorvino from "Shining Vale" on StarzQuestion: What’s it like to balance all of that, including the horror and the comedy elements in there too?

Mira: Well, I find that if you make a character sort of odd enough or quirky enough, if the writing is funny, just delivering it in character will make it funny. So, you know, because she is somewhat anachronistic and has so much excitement for things that other [people] would not consider exciting, or doesn’t know that smoking is bad for you, or just all these things that just set her apart, like the comedy sort of took care of itself in a way. The horror was also largely delivered by the way scenes start or end or whether there’re jump-scares. It’s only as her sort of progressive and her sort of darker nature starts growing, that’s when I had to really be part of the scare in an active way, because I had to be – you had to believe me capable of harm, which I had to sort of dig into the the darker trauma of the past Rosemary’s life to bring that gravitas to highfalutin modernism…I don’t know, it’s like inside the workings of a weird mind right now.

Question: With a character like Rosemary, there’s a lot of work; there’s a lot of craft to it. Are you able to turn off thirty seconds after they yell “cut”? Or is it the kind of thing where you spend days as that character, and you can’t snap out of it?

Mira: I can snap out of it now. I mean, the kinds of things you don’t snap out of so easily are really, really depressing things like when I played Norma Jean and Marilyn. And then the last thing we shot the day before Christmas Eve was her dying in the ambulance, because in that show, she dies in the ambulance. Then, [I] flew back to New York and had jetlag; it took me two weeks to surface. I was really depressed and sad and dark. When I did The Grey Zone, an incredible movie that no one has seen about a successful rebellion at Auschwitz, perpetrated by the Sonderkommando, and the women who were just like slave labor in the munitions factories. That’s such a dark movie, and the fate of all those people was so devastating. That hung with me for weeks and weeks, and I had nightmares. But when you’re doing something that’s a little bit lighter and more sort of deftly switches from the dark to light back again, psychologically, it’s pretty easy to bounce out of it. Like, I would have fun rehearsing my stuff, but then, I have four children, so don’t really have the luxury of staying in character. I don’t. Like I have a very real life that awaits me the second I even look at my phone and have a million texts from this child and that one and that school and this one, you know, it’s just a lot going on. But I think it’s also experience, the fact that I’ve been doing this for so long makes it easy for me to jump in and jump out of it.

Question: Thank you. And as you’ve heard earlier, Romy and Michele in this household, also a staple. So, thank you for that.

Mira: Thank you.

Question: This is such a beautiful role for you, and you are a part of social media. Are you a looking forward to that instant fan feedback finally to something people are going to get to see you in lately? And also, what do you think it is about the series that’s really going to make it a fast fan favorite?

Mira: Well, I can just say that everybody that we’ve spoken today [unintelligible] has said how much they love it, and that’s really rare. It’s really rare for every journalist you talk to to have unbridled, genuine enthusiasm when they’re talking about something. It didn’t feel like a work day. “Okay, today, we’re talking this actor about this project.” It’s like, “Wow, I really enjoyed this; this was so much fun. I can’t wait to see the rest of it.” Like everybody’s talking like that. So, I do have high hopes that actually the general public will feel the same way. And, you know, when we act, we don’t do it to act in our bathroom; we do it to connect with people. So, I’m really looking forward to having the fans like it. I’m looking forward to them enjoying it, that it means something, since you’re not in front of a live audience. If you were a theater actor, you would know right away from just the breath in the room, whether people were attached to it or not, and certainly by the end by the amount of applause or standing ovations or whatever. Our only way is if people really like the film, and then we get to hear from [unintelligible] the show, and we get to hear from them over over the ether. And that will be fun; I’m looking forward to it.

Here is the audio version of it.

Interview Transcribed by Jamie of



poster for "Shining Vale"SHINING VALE

Season 1 8 Episodes 2022

“Shining Vale” is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed – turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former “wild child” who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (a.k.a. lady porn). Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family from the “crazy” of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real. Cox plays the lead role of Patricia “Pat” Phelps, with Kinnear playing her ever-optimistic husband, Terry Phelps, whose patience and self-control will be tested like never before. Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her. Dungey plays Kam, Pat’s oldest friend and book editor. Gus Birney and Dylan Gage also star as Pat and Terry’s teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake.

Mira Sorvino (Rosemary) was most recently seen in Ryan Murphy’s Emmy nominated limited series “Hollywood”, (Netflix) as the Lana Turner-inspired star Jeanne Crandall. Other recent credits include the 20 th Century feature Stuber and director Mary Harron’s thriller The Expecting.

Sorvino won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Award, National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle for her performance in Mighty Aphrodite. She received additional Golden Globe nominations for her performances in the miniseries “Human Trafficking” and for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in HBO’s Norma Jean And Marilyn (also earning her an Emmy Award nomination). In 2016, she was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the Milano International Film Festival for her work in Mothers And Daughters opposite Sharon Stone and Susan Sarandon.

Other notable film performances include Spike Lee’s Summer Of Sam, Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic, Nancy Savoca’s Union Square, Antoine Fuqua’s Replacement Killers, Robert Redford’s Quiz Show, the comedy cult classic Romy And Michelle’s High School Reunion, Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls, Triumph Of Love and Terry George’s Reservation Road.

Other television credits include “Badland”, a memorable 4-episode turn on Modern Family, “Startup”, and the limited series Intruders opposite Millie Bobby Brown for BBC America. She produced Griffin Dunne’s comedy Famous which was an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, and associate produced Rob Weiss’ Amongst Friends and the documentary Freedom To Broadcast Hate.

Proofread and Edited by Brenda

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Mira Sorvino as Rosemary in "Shining Vale"