Magazine article Variety

Talking Shop with TV's Biggest Stars

Magazine article Variety

Talking Shop with TV's Biggest Stars

Article excerpt

Jennifer Lopez has performed on stage and screen, and served in capacities that range from actor and producer to singer and reality-show judge. But she finds TV to be the medium most reflective of the world.

"I think with television, because it's in our living room, it's OK to show exactly what's happening in societyT says Lopez, who returned to TV with NBC's "Shades of Blue" this year. "Where movies are an idealized, 60-foot version of people... TV has always been at the forefront of pushing the envelope on what's going on in the world. This is what people are really saying in their living rooms; this is what we're thinking."

That reflection of reality explains the diversity we see in the casts who inhabit our TV screens, Lopez says. "People want to see exactly who they are."

Lopez did more than just pay that idea lip service: As executive producer on "Shades of Blue," she made sure the cast of the cop drama looked like the cops you'd find in a New York City precinct.

In a year when #OscarsSoWhite overshadowed the actual Academy Awards, and the "Black Lives Matter" movement dominated headlines, television has made tremendous strides to reflect not just diversity but inclusivity. Of course there's still work to be done, but to be sure, there's little chance of #EmmysSoWhite.

Last year's Emmy Awards made history for having the first black winner for best drama actress, Viola Davis for "How to Get Away With Murder," and for awarding statuettes to two other actresses of color: Uzo Aduba (supporting actress in a drama for "Orange Is the New Black") and Regina King (supporting actress in a limited series/movie for "American Crime"). With Reg E. Cathey winning guest actor in a drama series for his turn on "House of Cards," that made it a total of four African-American acting winners.

The boom in TV production across broadcast, cable, and streaming has brought unprecedented opportunities for all people to tell their stories. Women have long praised the roles television offers as being meatier than those they find in film - so much so that there's no longer a stigma attached to work for the smaller screen.

As Variety held its fourth "Actors on Actors" studio in March, more than two dozen TV stars met up to celebrate the successes they've found working in the medium. Some already knew each other - Kirsten Dunst ("Fargo") and Rami Malek ("Mr. Robot") attended high school together (Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks) - while others, such as Aaron Paul ("The Path") and Tom Hiddleston ("The Night Manager"), were mutual fans meeting for the first time.

While the film industry relies on familiar stars to sell its product, television is willing to take a risk with new faces. Emilia Clarke had never appeared in an American series when she debuted on "Game of Thrones," and Thomas Middleditch was a virtual unknown when he was plucked to head the ensemble of "Silicon Valley"

The small screen has also become a place where Oscar nominees like John Travolta ("The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story") and Felicity Huffman ("American Crime") can drop in to tell a rich saga in just 10 episodes, or a world-famous pop star like Lady Gaga ("American Horror Story: Hotel") can test the acting waters - and walk away a Golden Globe winner.

Television also has long been known as a place for reinvention. Rob Lowe went from teen heartthrob to Hollywood punch line to one of the industry's most versatile actors, thanks to his work on shows like "The West Wing," "Parks and Recreation," and this season's "The Grinder." Courtney B. Vance ("The People v. O.J. Simpson"), a Tony Award winner who has been working in the industry for years, found himself earning the best reviews of his career and a new cadre of admirers for his stunning turn as Johnnie Cochran in the acclaimed limited series.

It's clear audiences are hungry for the inclusiveness they see on their TV screens. And TV isn't slowing down, as even more platforms emerge and Peak TV inches ever closer to the 500-series mark. …

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