Interview with actor Steve Howey, Ginger Gonzaga, Omar Miller, Mike O’Gorman, Erica Hernandez, Annabella Didion, Lucas Jay, and producer/creator Matt Nix of “True Lies” on CBS by Suzanne 1/31/23
This is a fun new spy show that reminds me of some older shows like “Castle,” “Remington Steele” and “I Spy.” I think anyone who likes fun, adventure and romance should enjoy it. The CBS panel was a lot of fun, too. I asked the question towards the end about which show this one reminds them of, so they had some interesting answers.
CBS 2023 WINTER PRESS DAY
Matt Nix, Executive Producer
Virtual via Zoom January 31, 2023
© 2023 CBS. All rights reserved.
TRACEY RAAB: Good morning. I’m Tracey Raab with the CBS Communications Group, and on behalf of our team and studio counterparts, we would like to thank you all for joining our winter press junket.
We are pleased to host two panels today. First up is our action packed new series “True Lies,” which premieres on March 1st after the new season of “Survivor.” Our second panel is “The Neighborhood,” which recently filmed their 100th episode and got a renewal for Season 6. Finally, we will conclude our sessions with an extended sneak peek of Season 44 of “Survivor” that is not to be missed.
This morning, you should have received information about our April 4th “FBI” global crossover event, the castaways’ announcement for the upcoming season of “Survivor,” and the announcement from Grammy winner Questlove that he is curating the Hip Hop 50 tribute performance at the Grammys this Sunday, February 5th. The performance is part of the Paramount global initiative to honor the 50th anniversary of hip hop in partnership with Mass Appeal. The all star lineup will be announced in the coming days. Kindly check your inboxes for additional content, and if you need any more information, please reach out and we’ll make sure we get it to you.
Thank you again, and here is “True Lies.”
SIENNA SANDERS: Good morning, everyone. I am Sienna Sanders from the CBS network publicity team, along with my network counterpart, Erin Freilich, and our 20th Television Studios counterpart, Ryan Aguirre. I would like to welcome you all to our panel for our exciting and fun new series “True Lies.” You will all be receiving the “True Lies” key art and the two minute extended trailer that you just saw shortly. So look out for that in your inboxes.
Please welcome our cast that is joining us here today. We have Steve Howey, Ginger Gonzaga, Omar Miller, Mike O’Gorman, Erica Hernandez, Annabella Didion, and Lucas Jaye. We also have our executive producer and showrunner, Matt Nix.
If you would like to ask a question, please use the “raise hand” function on Zoom, and I will call on you. Make sure to unmute your microphone when you are called on. But before we begin taking questions, Matt Nix would like to share some opening remarks.
MATT NIX: Hey. So, yeah, when McG first approached me about doing “True Lies” as a TV series, to be honest, I was sort of intimidated. “True Lies” was obviously one of the most iconic films of the 1990s. It was the first film that cost over $100 million, which would be like $160 million today. And of course, it’s a film by the great James Cameron.
So it kind of seemed like a tough act to follow, but at the same time, I found that I couldn’t get the prospect out of my mind. I kept imagining myself coming out of the movie theater in 1994, mind completely blown, and there I was with an opportunity to be a part of that. And how do you turn that down? You can’t.
And it was really that spirit that guided me through the process of making a pilot and this season of television, remembering what it was to see “True Lies” in 1994. It was exciting. It was funny. It was romantic. It was a giant action film, but it was also a character piece about a father trying to do his best. It didn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time, it had real heart. And I wanted to do something that had that same spirit.
CBS understood what I was going for right away and encouraged me in that direction. Our executive producers, Josh Levy, Rae Sanchini, James Cameron, McG, Mary Viola, and Corey Marsh, were great partners in holding onto that vision.
And as we brought together the team, it began to feel more and more possible. Finding the great Steve Howey and Ginger Gonzaga for our Harry and Helen was the first step. They’re both accomplished comedians and great dramatic actors. They have amazing chemistry. They’re reminiscent of Arnold and Jamie Lee, but they have their own take on the characters and a magic that is totally theirs. Their kids, Dana and Jake, played by Annabella Didion and Lucas Jaye, felt like a real family. And we had a great time building out the world of Omega Sector with Omar Benson Miller, Mike O’Gorman, and Erica Hernandez on the team. They have their own family dynamic and rounded out our spy world in a really fun way.
We had some amazing guest stars over the course of the season, including Beverly D’Angelo, Matt Lillard, the great Tom Arnold, and many others. Our pilot director, Anthony Hemingway, did a great job of capturing the scope and tone of “True Lies,” which I have to say was a real feat because the budget was a little bit over 5 percent of the budget of the film.
But the thing that was reinforced again and again as we went through the season was that the essence of “True Lies” isn’t spectacle. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love spectacle, and we were able to do some big stunts and effects that I’m really proud of. We did the biggest car flip I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot of car flips. We blew up a lot of buildings, and, yes, we dangled Helen from a helicopter.
But the thing that really matters to me, and I think to all of us, about “True Lies” is the spirit of the thing. It’s a show about family, about a group of people that really care about each other and are working through real issues. It’s a show about decent people who are trying to make a difference in the world. “True Lies” invites the audience to laugh and have some fun and remember that whatever insanity might be going on in the world, we are all human beings trying to do our best. That’s what I remember most from coming out of that theater in 1994, and that’s the spirit of what we’ve tried to do with this show. So I hope you enjoy.
SIENNA SANDERS: Thank you, Matt.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Sienna. Hi, everyone. Thanks for doing this.
Steve, my question is for you. I know you suffered an injury toward the end of filming. Number one, how are you doing with that right now? And, number two, by that point
(Steve Howey shows bandaged finger.)
QUESTION: And, number two, by that point in time, did you expect you were going to come through this unscathed? Or how did you feel about it before this happened?
STEVE HOWEY: Great question. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This was really, really hard and, at the same time, a lot of fun. But there was a time on I think it was Episode Ginger, help me out. What was it? Episode 5 or 6. I had 103 temperature.
GINGER GONZAGA: Oh, yeah.
STEVE HOWEY: She lost her voice. She was mouthing the words. I hurt my back. I pulled my left quadriceps. So that was happening. And then on Matt’s episode, Episode 12, is when I had this stunt that I had to throw Luther against the wall, and I threw his stunt double against the wall, and it snapped my finger back. So it went that way, and then I had to pop it back.
So, yeah, it hurt, but it was kind of fun, too, at the same time, because it was like, oh, we’re actually really doing something. But doing your own stunts, careful what you wish for, because it just might happen.
STEVE HOWEY: It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. I did it, and I’m really hoping for next season to really use my stunt double a lot. Because
GINGER GONZAGA: I would like to point out that, when he had 103 fever, it also just so happened to be the episode where he needed to pick me up multiple times
STEVE HOWEY: Over and over again.
GINGER GONZAGA: in a scene. Over and over. You just had to deadlift my body.
STEVE HOWEY: Yeah. You’re light as a feather, though.
OMAR MILLER: Stiff as a board. Light as a feather. Stiff as a board.
QUESTION: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for doing this. This question is for Steve and Ginger. Obviously, like we said in the intro to this, and Matt has already touched on it, this is such an iconic film. So what was some of the connective tissue that you wanted to kind of bring from Jamie Lee and Arnold’s performance? And then, also, what did you want to do that makes this dynamic in this show feel completely different than the one that we see in that film?
STEVE HOWEY: Well, I said that I would never out of respect for the man, never do the impersonation. I’ve never done it, not once, and I never will. Because it’s an iconic actor, an iconic man. And it’s an iconic film, like Matt said.
And it was daunting, but after meeting Ginger and realizing that she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met literally she it was always a good day working with her because I knew I was going to laugh. And we just wanted to do something on our own. You know? We couldn’t mirror the movie. We didn’t want to do it exactly. We wanted to bring our own flair. And I think we did. I don’t know. Like, I think we had we had a lot of fun. Again, it was hard, but this cast, I adore so much. Actually, I hate them. No, that’s not true.
STEVE HOWEY: No. We all, like, supported each other, and we were doing something that was really exciting, but we wanted to make it our own. And hopefully we did that. Hopefully we did that. Ginger?
GINGER GONZAGA: Yeah. And thank you. Yeah, I was in a lucky position where I had never seen the film, and so even before the pilot, I committed to not watching it, because I know Jamie has an iconic performance. The last thing I want to do is an impression of Jamie Lee Curtis. I love her so much. I have so much respect for her. And I want to be able to I didn’t want to feel like I didn’t want to absorb any of it.
And so I was lucky in that, when I auditioned for this, I got to literally just take the script for what it is and be like, “Okay, here’s Helen,” like I would have done at any audition. How can I make this pop? How can I make this a character I want to play? How can I make this super funny? And so I was just I got to organically just make it based off of, like, a script that was brand new to me.
And, you know, since the chemistry session that I had with Steve, this project has always been insanely, like, joyous and really funny and fun. Like, I think about our chemistry test, and, I mean, all of us, Matt and Anthony, like, we were just giggling and laughing. That’s how most of our scenes ended, and that’s how most of the days went on this job.
So, yeah, I’m lucky that I just got to keep it separate. I know the DNA is in the writing, and then I just kind of put my Ginger version onto this Helen in a way that kind of like, by default I didn’t have to do the job of separating myself from Jamie because I kept myself clean of it, basically, is how that worked.
And, yeah, I mean, the DNA of the show is in the film, and there’s so many winks at it. And I think just because of the year it is now it’s 2023 it already has that freshness to it. It’s the perfect amount of time between when the film happened and when we remade this, because it’s not so close that you’re like, “Oh, I remember the other one.” It’s that perfect amount of time where the society has evolved. Everyone’s evolved. The actors are going to be different. And so we’re lucky in that way. It really makes it just kind of easy to be this fresh, new thing. Yeah.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for being here today. I enjoyed the three episodes. It reminded me of certain shows I’ve seen in the past that I really enjoyed. If you guys could choose one show in the past that you think this show is similar to or that it reminds you of, what would you choose? Any of you.
GINGER GONZAGA: Oh, “Handmaid’s Tale.”
SIENNA SANDERS: Erica or Mike, would you like to answer?
MIKE O’GORMAN: I was going to say “Cagney & Lacey.”
ERICA HERNANDEZ: I’m comfortable letting Mike take that answer. He’s been trying to educate me on TV. So it’s probably better for him to answer that.
STEVE HOWEY: You know, we talked about this before, and I was mentioning shows like “Moonlighting.”
MIKE O’GORMAN: “Remington Steele,” you brought up.
STEVE HOWEY: “Remington Steele,” these man and woman
GINGER GONZAGA: “DuckTales.”
STEVE HOWEY: “DuckTales” of course. Scrooge McDuck.
But, yeah, I mean, and again, you know, this action/drama/comedy, you know, the elements that we were doing, this is all from the cast of what we talked about, we all dreamt about doing something like this. So while we were doing it, it was like, “Oh, my God. We’re doing it. This is amazing.” But it’s so much work. I don’t even know how to say it.
STEVE HOWEY: It was so much. But, again, like Ginger was saying, we had this chemistry, and we were supporting each other, and it was fun. And we had laughs and tears and all of the and broken bones and all the above.
MATT NIX: Yeah. Just to add onto that, I think the definitely some of those like “Moonlighting” is a great example of a show that, you know, definitely was playing real romance and fun, and there was a case, and it didn’t take itself too seriously. At the same time, though, one of the challenges for us was like, name the action comedies on television. You know what I mean? They’re just not I mean, you could find a few action shows with comedy elements. You know what I mean? But in terms of, like, true action comedy, it’s mainly a movie genre. And, you know, as Steve keeps hinting at, we did discover there’s kind of a reason people haven’t done it, actually.
MATT NIX: Because, you know, you really have to one of the challenges was, you know, like, you got to have a real case. You know what I mean? You got to do all the things that a regular spy show would do, and then you’ve got to do all the things that kind of a family drama would do. You know, you’ve got to play all those emotional beats. And then you’ve also got to do a bunch of comedy things. You know? So finding a way to do all of those things without having the comedy undermine the action or without having the heart of the family story overwhelming the other elements, it’s a balance.
And so, you know, we definitely had tonal touchstones, you know? And a lot of them were pretty retro. You know what I mean? A lot of them were older shows, when, you know, basically I don’t know. We’ve been through a period where there’s a lot of television out there that’s sort of like vegetables TV, and this is more like dessert TV. Like, that’s kind of how we roll. Hopefully, it’s maybe a more balanced meal than that. But it is true there’s not a lot of action comedy on television. So, you know, we had touchstones, but we didn’t really have models.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: There we go. We love TV shows about strong kick ass female characters. Ginger, how did you prepare for some of Helen’s fight scenes?
GINGER GONZAGA: Oh, I just fight people on the street in my life.
GINGER GONZAGA: I’m very scrappy. Haven’t learned
MATT NIX: You did, though, in the pilot. You fought someone in the pilot on the street.
GINGER GONZAGA: Oh, I did. But, listen, if you want a fascinating tale, this cast is insanely close, and on the very last night of the pilot, we did go out in New Orleans. And I was assaulted by a woman, literally taken by my hair and thrown onto the ground. And it wasn’t until I saw Steve Howey’s legs marching over my body to stop said woman that I knew that I was going to be okay. So I was unfortunately a damsel in distress in real life in that situation. I think we, like, somehow recreated the movie with Steve literally having to come and save me.
But, yeah, this show is super physical. I like to say that I’m stupidly brave, so I kind of just assume I can do things when that’s not always the case. I’ve learned how to do everything that way, riding horses, skiing. I just end up someone throws me down a black diamond, and I’m like, “Oh, I figured it out.” But, you know, I had done gymnastics in my life, and so I tried to incorporate a little bit of that.
I’m grateful that I like, I had no idea how much I would need Pilates for this job. You physically have to be strong. Like, I literally need the muscle that comes from that in order to do some of the work. And in my free time, you know, I was taking some boxing classes. I would take I took a parkour class, and the other students were like 14 years old. So it was just me and little 14 year old boys, and I was weirdly, like, trying to show off by dismounting on gymnastics bars and stuff, trying to, like, look cool to my 14 year old friends.
But for this show I mean, Howey is already I say he Howey’s already a fighter, so he had this skill set, you know? And you can he learns fight choreography like a Lady Gaga dancer, you know? Like these people that learn dance choreography so quickly. So, you know, that’s not something I had. But being knowing that you have to stay physically strong is so important for this. So it was mostly about really, like, maintaining muscle and being ready for whatever I had to do, like truly physically able to accomplish it.
And I love that. I love kind of being, like, my healthiest ever for this job and staying really strong and not being, like, waify and knowing, oh, I need I really need to be powerful and strong for this. That’s how the job gets done.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m a big fan of Helen already.
GINGER GONZAGA: Thanks.
SIENNA SANDERS: Thank you, Ginger.
We have a question that came in for Omar. Omar, your character, Gib, was played by the incredible Tom Arnold in the film. He also guest stars in the movie. Did he give you any advice for taking on the role of Gib?
OMAR MILLER: No, but he was great. He was really well above expected. And, man, we had a great time. We, you know, had the Gib squared moment, and we spent a lot of time on the episode together. I think one thing about the show is that the interaction of all of the characters is pretty consistent, and he’s one of our favorite guest stars. And, you know, I think that his the biggest advice that he’s given me was just to have fun with it, because that’s what he did. And I can remember being a teenager and coming out of the movie theater, just like Matt was saying, with my mind blown. I was like, “Wow, this is wild.” It was, you know, a very special time as far as action movies goes if you grew up in that period.
And he was just a really solid he was a really solid actor. Man, he would turn it on. You even saw in the trailer, one of the things in the trailer was an improv of his. He was completely prepared, and he was constantly professional and ready to go. He was game for whatever. Really good time with him.
QUESTION: This is for Steve and Ginger. There’s a lot of talk about compartmentalizing, something that’s important for all of us, compartmentalizing. But if you can each give an example in your life of when compartmentalizing is important or difficult.
GINGER GONZAGA: Well, for example, Steve is toxic.
GINGER GONZAGA: So when I go to work, I put that in a box. You know? And I might pretend, “Oh, this guy’s nice. He’s fun to work with. He’s so funny.” And then I go home, and then I fall apart, and I remember the horror of my experience. (Laughter.) No. I don’t know.
Compartmentalizing. Jeez. Well, there is the whole work home life balance actually on our show. And so I think that’s where I compartmentalize the most. I have to like at work it’s a bizarre thing to be an actor. I look at this panel right now, and I look at Annabella and Lucas, and, like, I’m still my mind is still tricked. Like, I think they’re my children. You know? So I’m protective of them on set and all these things. And then I go home and I take away that imaginary and I put everything away. I don’t know. That’s my answer.
QUESTION: Let me ask Steve that same thing. Because, I mean, like you’ve had twins, and it’s got to be hard to be a dad at one point and be a movie actor hitting people in the other. What’s the hard part about difficult part about compartmentalizing?
STEVE HOWEY: Well, I think you have to compartmentalize, especially if you have a family. My kids were in LA. I was in Atlanta. We were in Atlanta for five months. So that was that was tough. But, you know, Daddy had to be an action star. So that was the priority.
And, actually, I saw the pilot with my son, with my 13 year old, last night, and the one thing he said many things. He was very complimentary, but he said, “You’re a good dad on the show.”
STEVE HOWEY: And I said, “Oh, wow. Thanks.”
And he goes, “Yeah, you know, it’s probably because of us that you’re so natural at being a good dad.”
And I was like, “You’re right. Absolutely right.”
And I think, to go back, what Matt was saying is that, you know, there’s not a lot of shows like ours that have the comedy, that have the action, that have the drama. And that in itself we had to compartmentalize, because, you know, finding a moment of sincerity and then still try to hit the joke in the same time period, and then have a stunt sequence, not easy. Not easy work, but it was lot of fun.
QUESTION: Cool. Thanks.
STEVE HOWEY: Yeah. Thanks, Mike.
SIENNA SANDERS: We’re going to take a question for Annabella and Lucas. Ginger and Steve play your loving parents on the show. Did Steve and Ginger teach you anything on or off screen while you were making the show? Annabella, do you want to go first?
ANNABELLA DIDION: I’ll go first. Yeah. It’s mind blowing. It really is mind blowing. I feel like Ginger plays my mom, and then off screen, when I’m moving, she’s like, “Come stay at my house.” You know? And it’s a lot of industry things as well as acting, and with Steve too. I mean, he’s been doing this so long that just the way the technical things that I haven’t really had to or, you know, had the opportunity to work on previously. It’s really great to watch them work.
And they I mean, at times, they really don’t even have to say anything. It’s just like watching them is enough. And Steve with the comedy and Ginger with the comedy. And I also had the opportunity to be behind the camera and observe some directors. And so watching on the screen of everything that they’re doing and how it plays, it’s really, really special. So, yes, I have learned quite a bit. Very grateful, as you guys know.
SIENNA SANDERS: Lucas?
LUCAS JAYE: Yeah. Working with Steve, it was you know, off screen, he would give me a lot of acting advice. And, you know, I can any time, like, I’m around Ginger, I could just kind of like I can feel the mom energy just kind of, like, radiating, you know, off of her. And, you know, you just kind of like she kind of lifts the mood.
And, you know, like Annabella said with, you know, the comedy and the improv with the two of them, I just got to say it is legitimately so hard to, like, stay in character while they’re improv’ing. They’re so funny. And, honestly, I feel like I wasted a lot of takes by laughing from their improv.
LUCAS JAYE: So, sorry, but it’s so funny.
GINGER GONZAGA: I second that.
QUESTION: This is for Steve. What kind of a mental leap was it to go from “Shameless” to this? Was it difficult? And especially when you’re the lead of the show. I mean, that’s a huge responsibility.
STEVE HOWEY: Yeah. It was a leap. I told Ginger, I said, the great thing about us, and Harry and Helen, is that we get to exchange the responsibility of being the straight man, straight woman, straight actor. It’s like, so you have the person who’s going to set up the joke for the other actor, and her and I went back and forth with that, and I thought that was really special.
But, you know, Omar, he brought it up to me at the pilot, and he goes, “You ready? You ready to be number one?”
And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah. What do you mean?”
And he goes, “All right. You’ll see.”
And so, you know, Omar has been doing this for 20 plus years, and he was a really great support system about how to be number one and to the responsibility. I just wanted to take care of the cast, and I was like, you know and lucky enough, they casted amazing actors and amazing people. And I think the latter first.
We all hang out afterwards. Omar brought me dinner one time. He knew I had a tough day, brought me some food. I go out with Mike. We’ve hung out with Ginger. And then, yeah, we laugh and we play, and then we work really, really hard. But it really helped that we had this synergy among us, because those difficult days of working all day, beating our bodies up, and then coming to work the next day, it was a lot easier because of the support amongst us.
STEVE HOWEY: Yeah. Thank you.
SIENNA SANDERS: Great. And we’re actually near the end of our panel, so thank you all for joining us today. Before we hop off, Steve and Ginger are going to share some closing remarks with everyone.
STEVE HOWEY: Ladies first.
GINGER GONZAGA: Oh, gosh.
GINGER GONZAGA: Well, I just wanted to say we didn’t get to hear from Mike and Erica, so I just want to sing their praises and say that we’re really lucky to have them. I mean, they both have such strong comedy backgrounds, and I hope you really enjoy their dynamic on the show.
And we are I always feel like it sounds so fake when you’re like, “The cast really loves each other, and they get along, and it’s the best,” because I think that’s what, you know, the networks want you to say, but we are we got so lucky with this show, with everyone kind of having the same true north, that we wanted everyone to shine. We knew how multitalented everyone was. Even, you know, we had Annabella shadowing directors. Like, I know how much talent and how much intelligence is involved in this whole show and this whole cast. And we everyone was very protective of each other, and we really wanted everyone to shine.
So in doing that, we for as hard as our days were, really squeezing in seven day episodes and such, you know, I’ve never been on a show where I end up, like, crying three times a week from laughter. Sometimes I’d just be looking at Annabella in a scene, or we’d have a guest star do something ridiculous. Or, you know, I went very rogue on this show, and they let me, and I get to do things, and I’m just giggling that they let me get away with an improv.
So I hope that our joy and that the fun that we had translates to audiences and viewers for this show, because we’re just so blessed with so much talent, and we really did there was just so much fun. So I hope people watch this show and it’s not only necessarily like a break, but I just hope it’s I hope it’s fun and exciting for them.
And I’m grateful to the press. I’m sad we don’t get to see you today. This is so weird. I’m talking to a black void looking at my friends. But, yeah, thanks for your time. And, yeah, that’s all I have.
STEVE HOWEY: Ditto.
GINGER GONZAGA: That’s cheating.
SIENNA SANDERS: All right. Well, thank you, everybody. Enjoy the next panel.
MORE INFO: Trailer
TRUE LIES, inspired by James Cameron’s hit action-comedy film of the same name, follows Harry (Steve Howey), a first-class international spy for U.S. intelligence agency Omega Sector, and his wife, Helen (Ginger Gonzaga), a language professor bored with her daily routine, who makes the shocking discovery that her seemingly ordinary husband is leading an extraordinary double life. With the secret out, Omega recruits Helen, who impresses everyone with her formidable skills (thanks to Tae Bo and yoga), and she joins Harry and his team of top-notch operatives, embarking on covert missions around the globe and an exhilarating life of danger and adventure … all while keeping their adventures a secret from their three teenage children. The renewed bond between them adds much-needed sizzle to the Taskers’ emotionally distant marriage and upends the top-secret world of Omega Sector. But, as Harry says, if you’re going to save the world, you might as well do it for the ones you love.
|Series premiere Wednesday, March 1 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available on the CBS app and streaming on Paramount+
Wednesdays (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT)
Drama (Filmed in HD)
|Matt Nix, James Cameron, Rae Sanchini, McG, Mary Viola, Corey Marsh, Josh Levy and Anthony Hemingway
CBS Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBSTweet
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
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