Wednesday, December 31, 2014

John O'Dowd talks with Lynnpd re: Second Printing of The Barbara Payton Bio

Originally published on

OdowdbookcoverI have been privileged to know John O'Dowd, the author of a definitive biography of the tragic life of actress, Barbara Payton for many years. We first became associated when John asked me to help him build a website for the book he was in the process of writing: "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, The Barbara Payton Story."

The purpose of having a web site about Barbara was to publicize the book and, after several months of collaboration, prior to the books printing, the site was launched in 2004. During that time John and I became good friends and even though he lived half a state away from me, he even travelled to my house to deliver his collection of Barbara Payton photographs that he wanted me to scan for the website. He told me that he just didn't feel safe sending them in the mail and it was also a good opportunity for us to meet.

When the book was close to being published, John asked me to design the book cover, which I was honored to do and the book was finally released in 2007. Then, recently in 2013, I designed another website for John to feature all of his writings which can be seen at

John's book has received very favorable press and is very aptly described on 

The heartbreaking saga of the wild and free-spirited actress, who hit Hollywood in the late 1940s. Equipped with little more than a suitcase full of dreams, a ravenous hunger for fame, and a devastating beauty, all her dreams were destroyed by a disastrous private life that led her straight through the gates of Hell. Gutsy, vulnerable, and doomed Barbara Payton blazed across the motion picture stratosphere in record-time, only to collapse in a catastrophic free-fall from which she would never recover.

A second volume on Barbara's life and career, BARBARA PAYTON: A LIFE IN PICTURES, is now in progress. It will contain over 250 rare and previously unpublished photos of Barbara, along with commentary by John O'Dowd, Barbara's son, John Lee Payton and family member Jan Redfield.

Recently, I wrote to John asking him if he would be interested in answering a few questions about his book for Classic Movie Favorites, now that the book will soon have it's second printing. Below are his answers to some of my questions where he talks about the writing and reprinting of the book and the sad ending of this beautiful star.

When did you first learn about the actress, Barbara Payton?
I first became aware of Barbara when I saw her in a Saturday afternoon TV showing of her film "Bride of the Gorilla" when I was about eight years old. At first glance, I was absolutely awestruck by her beauty. Truthfully, she never totally left my consciousness after that. When I was in my late teens, I started learning about what happened to Barbara during her life, and I remember being very mesmerized by her story. I guess you can say that it both shocked and captivated me. When I decided in my 30's to pursue a career in writing, Barbara's life story was the one I wanted to tell first.
Originally published on

Can you tell our viewers what made you write about Barbara Payton in the first place?
As I said, it was Barbara's immense beauty that first drew me to her, but in time, it was definitely the unfulfilled promise she showed as an actress that really hooked me. She had so much talent and potential, and yet she threw away every opportunity that was ever handed to her. I found that to be unbelievably sad, and I wanted to try to find out why she was so steadfastly self-destructive.
Was it difficult to get the book published and how long did it take?
Yes, it was extremely difficult to find a publisher for Barbara's book. For several years, I contacted dozens of publishers, and they all said the same thing: that Barbara was "a total unknown", and that people wouldn't be interested in her story. For some reason, I kept all the rejection letters I got, and I still have them. Some of them are quite funny. One very condescending book editor who did write back to me (many didn't), said something along the lines of, "If Barbara Payton is known today at all, it's because of her various exploits in the beds, bars and streets of Hollywood, and not for her so-called acting career. I am sorry, but I cannot stand behind what she did with her life, and I have no interest in representing your project." I was angry when I first read that letter, but now I find it an absolute hoot. I must admit that the self righteous, tight-asses of the world have always amused me. Obviously, I don't think the way they do!
Now that there is to be a second printing, what’s new that you might be including. When will it be published and will it be the same publisher?
Yes, the book is once again being published and distributed by BearManor Media. There will be no new information in the book. Some cosmetic changes have been made, and a few of the photos have been cropped, or resized. I could not make any changes to the book's original content as that would require that a new ISBN number be issued to the book, and my publisher would rather not do that. There were some misplaced commas in the book's first printing that I fixed, and a few other things. I'm not certain if the original book was proofread or edited by anyone other than me, and as all writers will tell you, we ALL need our work reviewed and edited by a pair of eyes that are separate from ours.
Will you be participating in any book signings or talks about the second printing?
I doubt it, as I am totally unfamiliar with how to set these things in motion. I am always open to doing phone and print interviews, though.
Many maligned Barbara during her life and after her death, can you describe what you think about that? Was it all deserved?
No, I don't believe that all the criticism Barbara received during her life was deserved. Many times, she was simply doing what many other people in Hollywood were doing in that era: carrying on with whomever they wanted, and living very carelessly at times. Barbara, though, was her own worst enemy, by far. While other Hollywood stars knew where to draw the line in their personal lives (in terms of the excesses they indulged in), Barbara was woefully unaware or unconcerned about that. She lived her life fearlessly, recklessly and outrageously. I personally think she had a lot of guts. Too much courage, perhaps, and absolutely no internal restraints or foresight.
What about Barbara’s son first not wanting participate and then, changing his mind. How did that happen?
Barbara's son, John Lee Payton, is now 67 years old, and over the course of his life, he has read many hurtful things about his mother that has both saddened and angered him. At first, John thought that I was just another person who wanted to denigrate Barbara in print, and it took a long time (at least several months) for him to get to know me and my true intent in wanting to document Barbara's story. His aunt, Jan Redfield (Barbara's sister-in-law; Jan was married to Barbara's younger brother, Frank) was very instrumental in getting John Lee to change his mind about participating in the project. I met Jan first, and from the start, she seemed to know what I wanted to try to accomplish with the book. Jan always believed me when I told her that I wanted my work to reveal Barbara's humanity and many positive traits, and to restore some of her dignity, too, if I could. She finally convinced John that I was committed to doing that, and once he saw what my vision was for the project, he got behind it 100%. Everything good about Barbara that was revealed in the book, is due to Jan Redfield and John Lee Payton.
What was your favorite Barbara Payton film?
Since "Bride of the Gorilla" was the first film I saw of hers, I have to admit that it holds a special place in my heart. That said, however, her crime film with James Cagney, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye", probably shows Barbara at her absolute best. She was excellent in that picture. She really held her own in her scenes with Cagney, and she was sexy and gorgeous. I wish she could have made many more films of that very same caliber.
Talk a bit about Barbara's relationship with Franchot Tone and the ill-fated fight with Tom Neal.
Barbara met Franchot Tone first, at a Hollywood nightclub. He was said to be immediately captivated by both her beauty and her rather rowdy nature, while she was impressed, I think, by his lofty professional stature and immense wealth. Tom Neal, a B-movie actor in Hollywood, was a somewhat rough character who hadn't experienced the career success that Tone had, but he was extremely macho and a rebel, and Barbara was always attracted to that type of guy. Both men appealed to two different sides of Barbara's persona, and after a while, I'm sure she didn't even know WHO was right for her. Her indecision and her highly fickle nature eventually caused their so-called "lover's triangle" to explode, leaving Franchot Tone near death, and Barbara's and Tom Neal's careers irreparably ruined.
Now that the book has been out for a few years, are you still glad you wrote it? What has been the reaction about it? Good?
I am both grateful and proud that I wrote the book. I know I did the best damned job I could on it (I worked on it for close to ten years), and I'm at peace with both my efforts, and the way it turned out. I feel very fortunate that a lot of people have gotten what I tried to do for Barbara; i.e., to bring some understanding to her life and to who she was. When I hear that someone truly has gotten that, I just feel very grateful. It's what I have always wanted for the book.
Feel free to add any more information that needs to be mentioned.
I believe that Barbara's life story would make a powerful and riveting film, and I am hoping that more progress in this area will be made in the new year. Her story, if depicted accurately and responsibly, has the ability to both shake people up, and to be healing, too, I think. I am hoping it will happen one day, soon.
Purchase John's book in it's original paperback edition and the Kindle version along with some of Barbara Payton's films by clicking on the links below:

John's Book in paperback

John's Book Kindle Edition 

See the section on my Classic Movie Favorites site about Franchot Tone by clicking on the banner below:



Sunday, November 9, 2014

True Blood Panel at Comikaze 2014

First published on The Vault -

On November 1, 2014 in Los Angeles was the second day of Stan Lee's Comikaze 2014 convention. 

We arrived early in the morning to get acclimated and immediately sought out Kristin and Tara who were in the Artist Alley signing autographs for the fans. We spent a time with Tara and Kristen and Kristin gave us each special guest passes to the afternoon event. We then, walked over to the mainstage area to see what that was like and to our surprise, there were no chairs for the attendees to sit on. While Comickaze is very like Comic Con as it relates to the exhibition hall, it is not like it in its panels.

The True Blood panel was to start at 2pm and right before that was the Game of Thrones panel at 1pm. Since we had time, we decided to go over to the WEEV booth to check in there. We stayed there for a while and learned more about the app and then went back to the autograph area. When we arrived, EJ Scott was there visiting with Kristin and Tara and we all hung out a bit longer.

At 1pm we went over to the Hot Topic main stage to see the Game of Thrones panel and try to get as close to the stage as we could before the 2pm True Blood panel. Attending the Game of Thrones panel was Alfie Allen, (Theon Greyjoy), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) and Esmé Bianco (Ros).


The True Blood panel was sponsored by Stephen Moyer's app, WEEV and the questions asked of the panel didn't come from the audience, as it did in other panels, but from those who had asked on Weev.

The panelists were Stephen Moyer, Kristin Bauer van Straten and Tara Buck. Before the WEEV questions started, the moderator asked what each were are doing now that True Blood has ended. Stephen discussed his recent trip to Morocco to film "Killing Jesus," Kristin discussed her upcoming work and her return to "Once Upon A Time" as Maleficent and Tara revealed she has been filming in Vancouver. The questions then came from via WEEV and the first question asked how they feel now that True Blood has ended. Once again, a WEEVer asked if there would be a True Blood musical or movie and the final question was "what was your favorite season of True Blood?"


Check out the 100's of photos we have in The Vault's  Comikaze 2014 Photo Gallery.

PLEASE NOTE: I filmed the panel, but the conditions for doing so were less than optimum. We got pretty close to the stage, but the audience had to stand, so keeping the video camera steady while holding up my arm over the heads in front of me while also standing, was pretty tough.  Also, the panel took place in a section of the Exhibition hall (not in a separate room), so the sound quality was also not so great. However, even with the shaky camera and poor sound quality, we figured you'd want to see the panel, so it's presented below:

After the panel ended, Stephen, Kristin, Tara and the panel moderator posed for a selfie with the crowd in the background:



Photo credit: Stephen Moyer

Monday, September 22, 2014

Attending WEEV Launch at Comic Con 2014

This article was first published on The Vault

weevLast July, I went to the launch of Stephen Moyer's new APP, "WEEV" at the Wired Cafe during Comic Con 2014.

It was an invitation only event held at the Wired Cafe at the Omni Hotel in San Diego, CA. I was happy to be permitted to attend with my friend Lydia.
WEEV is Stephen's new app which is descrubed as social video that talks back.
Ask a question, make a statement, or start an idea. People can respond in short videos that are stitched together to build the conversation. Stephen came up with the idea because he needed a fun way to ask his son questions online since he lives in England and Steve is here in LA most of the time. That was when the concept was born and now it's a full fledged application and great fun to use with your friends and family.

I arrived at the hotel at about 3pm even though Steve was not expected to arrive until about 4pm, because I had heard that it might be crowded. My friend, Lydia and I waited talking to friends and I noticed Kristin Bauer van Straten sitting out on the patio talking (see photo below). When she was about to leave she was kind enough to come up to me and say hello. We talked about the upcoming end of the season and she said she was sad about it. She had gotten to the event much earlier than I did, so she was on her way out and we said "goodbye."

Other celebrities were there and participated by recording a WEEV. I saw Ben Kingsley and from Game of Thrones Isaac Hempstead Wright who plays "Brandon Stark."

Finally, after waiting for about an hour and a half, Stephen arrived. As soon as he walked in, he was immediately consumed with photo obligations and interviews. I was glad to be there to take lots of photos while he was being photographed, (see below).

See all the photos from this event in the Photogallery

Once he had shot his photos, he came over to say hello and we took this pic. It was a very hot and humid day in San Diego to wait in order to see and learn about the APP, but it was so worth it.



I had downloaded the APP last summer when it was still in BETA. Stephen had told me about it then when I visited the True Blood set. WEEV a mind-blowingly simple video app that lets people ask questions to the world and have them answered in short videos seamlessly stitched together.

Lots have downloaded and posted on the app, and below are just a few screen shots of the True Blood cast members who have already posted a WEEV:

You can learn more about the app by going to their website or the Facebook page.
Or, instead why not download it at Itunes below:
Download the app by going to Itunes:

It's currently only available for APPLE devices, but I hear that an Android version should be out very soon, so be on the look out.

Hangin' out with Michael McMillian at Comic Con book signing

On Saturday, July 26, while the rest of the cast were signing autographs in the Warner Brothers booth in the Exhibition Hall at Comic Con 2014, Michael McMillian was seen at Chronicle Books (Booth #1506) signing his book, "Steve Newlin's Field Guide to Vampires."

Michael was very friendly and gracious to the fans who stopped by to say hello and to purchase the book. He signed each book with a personal note and was also willing to pose for a photo with anyone who asked.

I stopped by to see just what was going on in his area and to say "Hi!" and shot this short video below.

Purchase Michael's Book "Steve Newlin's Field Guide to Vampires" - True Blood: A Field Guide to Vampires: (And Other Creatures of Satan)

Walking the Red Carpet at True Blood’s Season 7 Premiere

First published on The Vault - on June 21, 2014.

On June 17, 2014 my assistant and I had the privilege of attending the True Blood Season 7 premiere as representatives for The Vault on the red carpet. It was beyond exciting to know that we would be amongst all my favorite True Blood people.

Working on The Vault website since 2009 (Co-Owner, Shadaliza opened the site in 2008) and when it opened in 2010 has certainly been a wild if not, amazing ride. While it's been a lot of work, it's also provided many wonderful experiences by giving me with the opportunity to meet the most interesting people.

I've interviewed many of the cast and crew, have visited the set, attended Comic Con several times and just been all around LA learning more and more about the show and what makes it so special. It's been a wild ride, and I don't think I'll soon forget my experiences. However, being given access to the red carpet this week will certainly remain a highlight of all my True Blood experiences.

I've been on red carpets before such as the 2010 Scream Awards and 2011 Scream Awards, attended previous True Blood premieres and have attended many charity events close to the hearts of the True Blood cast, so I knew pretty much what to expect, but I have to say this True Blood event was a particularly wild red carpet.

The space for the red carpet is usually a vertical line that the stars walk down, but with it's zigzag format, this was a crush of photographers, TV and print journalists all vying for the best positions in order to get the attention of the stars. First on the zigzag carpet were the photographers, then the stars made a U-turn for the TV journalists and then turned again to finally get to the print journalists. We, of course were with the print people at the end of the line, just before the theater entrance. I was proud to see that The Vault was the only True Blood fan website in attendance.

The overwhelming theme of the night for me was that when the True Blood cast talk about being a "family," they really mean it.

I asked each cast member about what they will miss the most when True Blood ends, and almost all of them answered the question with one answer, "the sense of family and the people!" Since the show has been on the air for 6 seasons, and the cast have been together for even longer, that's not too surprising, but I do know that True Blood has been an amazing experience for all concerned. The cast and crew have all become extremely close and bonded as if they were in a family. Also, many of the cast were unknowns before they got recognized on True Blood and it's provided them with wonderful opportunities. So, while they will miss their fellow comrades on True Blood, I'm sure they're all looking forward to the new experiences available to them now that they have True Blood listed on their resume.

The one drawback to our position on the red carpet was that we were last in the line. While we could see everyone easily from our vantage point and and they could see us, it was difficult, with the time constraints, for everyone to be able to stop by and chat. However, happily, most chose to recognize us by stopping by.

Red Carpet zigzag set up

I spoke to the following people during the night: Nathan Barr, music composer, Chris Bauer, (Andy Bellefleur) Tanya Wright, (Kenya Jones) Kristin Bauer van Straten, (Pam Swynford DeBeaufort) Amelia Rose Blaire, (Willa Burrell) Lauren Bowles, (Holly Cleary) Nelsan Ellis, (Lafayette Reynolds) Adina Porter, (Lettie Mae Thornton) Carrie Preston, (Arlene Fowler) Jurnee Smollet-Bell, (Niole Wright) Deborah Ann Woll, (Jessica Hamby) Karolina Wydra, (Violet) Tara Buck, (Ginger) Gregg Fienberg, (Executive Producer) Patricia Bethune, (Jane Bodehouse) Todd Lowe, (Terry Bellefleur) Michael McMillian, (Rev. Steve Newlin) Dale Raoul, (Maxine Fortenberry) Greg Daniel (Rev. Daniel) Riley Smith, (Kieth) Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton) and Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte). Also, I spoke with EJ Scott, Abri van Straten, Patrick Fischler and Chris Pierce.

What did I learn? Well, not many spoilers, for sure, as you would expect, but I did learn the following:
  • Nathan Barr, (True Blood's Original Music Composer) told us about his new project for a True Blood Musical that may be heading to Broadway. He mentioned that Stephen Moyer had helped him with some of the songs, but I later learned from Stephen that he will not play Bill Compton.
  • Michael McMillian, (Rev. Steve Newlin) mentioned that he might have an announcement at Comic Con in July about what he'll be doing.
  • Nelsan Ellis, (Lafayette) said that Lafayette will have a new love in Season 7, but also some sadness. And he discussed his new film, "Get on Up." Nelsan plays Bobby Byrd in the film and said that Chadwick Boseman was amazing.
  • Adina Porter (Lettie Mae Thornton) said that Lettie Mae and the Reverend were still together in Season 7 and I learned later that Lettie Mae might have a new obsession this season, but I won't speak about that further as it will give away too much.
  • When asked about her favorite scene in Season 7, Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby) said that her favorite scene was in a car with someone she couldn't tell me about; hmmm, could that be an old flame perhaps?
  • Ashley Hinshaw (Bridgette) is new to True Blood this year and she couldn't talk too much about her character, Bridgette except to say that she's from out of town.
  • Amelia Rose Blaire (Willa Burrell) says her character Willa will get more control over her life and that she has grown up with Willa. Having interviewed Amelia last summer, I could see what she meant; Amelia definitely has more confidence speaking to the press, that's for sure.
  • Karolina Wydra (Violet) says that Jason and Violet are together in Season 7, but she says that a lot of things will be going down.
  • Chris Bauer (Andy Bellefleur) said that Season 7 is "sort of a 'callback' season which is about us trying to figure out how to be happy."
  • Dale Raoul (Maxine Fortenberry) said that "a lot of people are going to die this year."
  • Bailey Noble. (Adillyn) says that her character, Adillyn will grow up a bit this year.
  • Jurnee Smollett Bell (Nicole) says her character gets kidnapped in the first episode.
  • Kristin Bauer van Straten(Pam) says the first episode that Stephen directed is great and that its an amazing season. She also talked about how sad she is with the show's end.
For those who didn't make it our way, we have photos of them and all the cast who attended in the photo gallery (more than 200) to share with you. Many of these photos are more candid in nature than the ones you see on the image sites and quite honestly, I like that better. Being at the end of the press line, most of our photos were taken as the cast had finished their interviews and were gathering outside the theater preparing to go inside.
Many more photos can be seen by going to the Vault Photo Gallery.
Once everyone went into the theater, they started to tear down the red carpet and we began to pack up. Two ladies from HBO came over and were so nice to extend an invitation to us to attend the True Blood After Party being held at the Roosevelt Hotel across the streeet. We were thrilled, of course and met up with more people at the party. The cast were very relaxed and enjoyed themselves.

I got to speak to Tanya Wright at that time and we took a photo together which she promised to send to me. We took funny photos and hung out with all the stars. Out of respect for the party atmosphere and the cast privacy I didn't get any photos at the party other than the ones we took earlier in the afternoon.

On a closing note, I want to thank both Mara and Kelley and all their staff at HBO for extending such a wonderful invitation providing us a wonderful night to remember. I also want to give a special thanks to some people who stopped by to speak with me, but who's video interviews were lost when, for some reason my camera stopped saving the videos I recorded.

First, Nelsan Ellis whom I've been dying to interview forever who I got to speak with about his new film about James Brown and about the lovely Lafayette.

To Adina Porter who I have interviewed and who has always been gracious who will also be saying goodbye to her other show "The Newsroom" this season.

Tara Buck spoke to me for a long time on video and said that she was really excited for her character and for the fans to see the new season. I hear that she has her own "arc" this year, so I'm looking forward to seeing that because Tara has always been a super nice person to me and I wish her the best.

And, finally to Stephen Moyer who defied all his handlers when he was being urged to go into the Theater because the show was already 45 minutes late, but said, "NO, I have to talk to this lady."  We spoke briefly about his participation in Soccer Aid a couple of weeks ago and he told me how much he enjoyed his week training and getting ready for the game in which he only played for about 5 minutes.
video To see the videos I did get, go to this post where I have all the videos in one place.
 You will find there videos with:
  • Nathan Barr
  • Amelia Rose Blaire and Karolina Wydra
  • Bailey Noble, Jurnee Smollett Bell, Kristin Bauer van Straten and briefly, Carrie Preston
  • Deborah Ann Woll, Janina, Lauren Bowles, Ashley Hinshaw
  • Dale Raoul and Patricia Bethune
  • Michael McMillian
  • Chris Bauer
  • Gregg Fienberg

Interview with Gregg Daniels, True Blood's Reverend

This interview was first published on The Vault on July 17, 2014.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of the man who plays True Blood's Reverend, the actor Gregg Daniel.

I met Gregg at True Blood's Season 7 Premiere's Red Carpet and I found him to be very personable and easy to talk to, just like you'd expect from a Reverend and a true professional. Gregg has lots of acting experience, comes from a religious background and, before he got his role on True Blood, had already worked with his co-star and wife on the series, Adina Porter, (Lettie Mae).


Before you read the interview, why not watch this exclusive glimpse of Gregg Daniel's audition for True Blood which is the video he sent in and won him the part. Through this rare audition tape, fans around the world can see how this extraordinary actor landed this remarkable role.


In the interview below we learn about Gregg's acting history, his audition for True Blood, working with the cast and Adina Porter and, finally what's next for him now that filming has ended.

Tell us a bit about your acting background and history?
I was born & raised in New York City (Brooklyn to be specific) which is where I received my initial training. I attended NYU’s School of the Arts and loved every challenging, sometimes frustrating minute of it (after all, I was young & wanted to be a great actor quick). At the time, the School of the Arts was located in the East Village, a pretty wild, exciting and amazingly creative place to be. We were only a walk away from some significant theatre companies. The New York Shakespeare Festival with legendary Producer, Joe Papp was only a few blocks away as well as a number of “cutting edge” theatre companies including La Mama, The Wooster Group, the Ontological-Hysterical, Mabou Mines, etc. The area was a tremendous breeding ground for young talented actors, directors, writers, etc. You could not ask for a better place to be as a young artist.
What made you decide to be an actor?
I think it was love of language which initially led me to acting. We had a volume of Shakespeare’s plays around our house. At a very young age, I was curious about the book’s contents which led me to pick it up and begin to look through the pages. I certainly couldn’t understand everything on the page but there was a kind of magic that happened when I spoke the words. Later on, when I heard a trained speaker perform classical text, I was enthralled. There was beauty, grace and power behind those lines. So it was the words of Shakespeare who led me in to performing, not a bad start if you ask me.
What was your audition for True Blood like? What do you think you did that got you the part of the Reverend?
I was on the East Coast performing in a play when my agents contacted me about auditioning for the role. I was sent several scenes & asked to put myself on tape and send it into the Producers. I was familiar with the show, as an actress I had worked with in theatre many years before was working on True Blood. The actress was Adina Porter whom I felt was doing exceptional work as the character Lettie Mae. Little did I know I was auditioning to be her character’s “romantic interest” and would later marry her on the show. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get the role as Producers seeing an actor on tape is just not the same as being in a room with him or her. About a week later, my agents called to say they were offering me the role.

I wanted to play the Reverend as very real and grounded. I was determined to avoid the stereotypical fire & brimstone Southern Black minister which is often what actors fall into when approaching the role of a Minister. I wanted a character that not only appealed to the emotions of his congregants but to their hearts and minds as well. So I kept the character grounded and simple. Reverend Daniels is an ordinary man having to minister to individuals under extraordinary circumstances.
Did you base your character on anybody you know and are you yourself religious?
I did grow up in a religious house, in fact my father was the caretaker of our church. I literally spent all day Sunday and part of the week in the Church watching him maintain it, prepare for services and of course attending Sunday School and Church Services. I was often picked to read a passage from the Bible at the pulpit at Sunday Services. So, I was very comfortable being in front of a group of churchgoers “delivering the word.”

Who have you worked with in True Blood that you have learned from the most?
Honestly, I’ve learned something from every single person on our set. From the various departments (Sound, Set, Lighting, Photography, Directing, etc) to working with each actor, I’ve taken some lessons away. Everyone on our set takes a tremendous amount of pride in what they do. It’s humbling to see so many dedicated individuals bringing their “A” game to every script we shoot and to making you look good.
What has it been like working with Adina Porter?
As I mentioned earlier, I had a pre existing relationship with Adina from our days of doing theatre in NYC together. So there was a familiarity there already. However, the level of trust we’ve developed in working with one another has made my job unpredictable.

I know I can be absolutely spontaneous working in a scene with Adina and not only will she take in what I’m doing but she’ll come back with something which makes my initial impulse even better. She “listens” like no other actor I’ve ever worked with before and is totally fearless in putting it out there for the camera.
What is there about you that you would like the fans to know?
I’d like our fans to know as a result of their enthusiasm and fierce loyalty to the show, it pushes me to work even harder on any scene I’m in. They deserve the best as they’ve made the show so popular.
What’s next once True Blood ends for you?
It’s a coincidence when I began this interview talking about Shakespeare as a source of inspiration for me. Just before we wrapped True Blood for the season, I began rehearsing a production of Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET which I’m currently performing in as Lord Montague. We’re working outside in the beautiful Japanese Gardens on the grounds of the Veterans Administration building in Brentwood, CA. It’s a blast to be performing nightly under the stars to an entirely new audience. Right after that production closes, I’ll be directing a production of a controversial 60’s play for the celebrated Anteaus Theatre Company in North Hollywood. The play involves a 10 year loving relationship between a “Negro” woman and a Caucasian man in 1918 when such liasions were illegal. Of course by then, I hope to be cast in a television show which will be as much fun to work on as True Blood.

Q&A Nathan Barr and FX Composers

First published on The Vault:

Last June, a friend and I attended “An Evening with FX Composers” sponsored by The Society of Composers and Lyricists at The Linwood Dunn Theater in Los Angeles where True Blood's Nathan Barr was one of three composers featured at the event.

The three featured composers were:
The event was set up to first, provide individual sessions with each composer where the host asked them questions and then clips from their shows were shown. After the individual session, all three were questioned together by the host.

As many True Blood fans know, after establishing himself as an in-demand composer for horror films, Nathan segued into episodic dramatic television. The three shows he's worked on bear no stylistic resemblance to one another: “Hemlock Grove” taps his horror thriller roots; “The Americans” is set in the ‘80s; and “True Blood” is as much a collection of love stories as it is about vampires. When Nathan Barr was interviewed during the event, he discussed his collaboration with "The Who's," Pete Townsend for his new show, "The Americans."

The April 30 episode of “The Americans” featured a collaboration between Barr and Pete Townshend, "It Must Be Done," the first song the Who guitarist has ever written for television. Barr discussed the track, getting back into film and composing on cello. Working with a music legend can be a daunting task. When that legend is The Who guitarist Pete Townshend, it can be downright intimidating. For composer Nathan Barr, neither was the case.
“The original demos I did for (“The Americans”) before I got the job were influenced by those great scores from the ‘70s and ‘80s – ‘Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ by David Shire, prepared piano stuff in things like Lalo Schifrin’s score for ‘Dirty Harry’,” Barr says. “That was exciting music for me to explore. The bass and prepared piano stuff in those movies is a real jumping off point for me in ‘The Americans.’”

“The thing I really admired about him is for someone of his stature one wouldn’t be surprised if there was a big ego there, and there is no ego there,” Barr said. “He is just lovely and humble and so easy to work with.”
Listen to the song below:

Following the interviews, the questions were opened up to the audience. I asked Nathan what it was like transitioning between the very different TV shows and I was surprised to hear him reply that it's not that different. He said that True Blood and The Americans scores are really very similar using strings, etc., but certainly the melody and tone are completely different.

Listen to the theme song for "The Americans below:

Listen to music Nathan wrote for "Hemlock Grove:"  
Also, in the audience was Lisabeth Scott, a long time fellow collaborator providing her voice to many of his projects, specifically on True Blood
An example is the gorgeous contemporary folk tune, "Take Me Home," which features her haunting vocals, along with Nathan's rich cello and guitar work.  

Then, of course any True Blood fan will recognize Nathan's signature sound in the music he wrote for True Blood:  

I went up to Nathan with my friend Els after the event and spoke to him. I asked him how he felt about the ending of True Blood and he replied that "it is sad, but it is time." I'm so glad Nathan has such a good future ahead of him with these new projects and we wish him well. We really weren't permitted to take any photos at the event, but we were allowed to take photos with the composers after the event. Below is a photo I took of Els with Nathan: 

The other two composers who were featured at this event who's credentials certainly make them worthy mention here:  

James Levine has also written for two completely different TV shows, Glee and American Horror Story.  He is a pianist who is known for playing gospel piano in churches which he exclaimed was odd for someone of Jewish heritage.

See a sample from American Horror Story below:


Jeff Russo started out as a rock guitarist and is a founding member, lead guitarist and co-songwriter of two-time GRAMMY® nominated, multi-platinum selling rock band, TONIC.

Jeff managed to learn his new composing trade by observation. His sound track for the new TV show "Fargo" is very understated, and as he says, the silences seem to give the music more impact.


Note: Some quotes above regarding Nathan's collaboration with Pete Townsend were taken from an interview Nathan did with The Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Seeing The Great Denis O'Hare's "An Iliad"

I went to the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA on Wednesday night and sat in the front row to see "THE GREAT DENIS O'HARE," in his one man extravaganza, "An Iliad." Yes, that's what I think of him, I think that he is a great actor. Ever since I first saw him in True Blood, I have been a fan, but now I think even more of him after seeing his mesmerizing adaptation of Homer's epic poem, "An Illiad" directed by Lisa Peterson.

The Broad Stage program says of the show:
Homer’s epic poem roars back to life in a contemporary new telling. Obie Award-winner, Lisa Peterson directs Tony Award-winner Denis O’Hare in this stunning show that captures the grief and glory of the battle for Troy. An Iliad races through time to become breathtakingly relevant. The New York Times calls it, “Spellbinding... smartly conceived and impressively executed.”
Now, I'm not much of an epic poem fan, but when you see Denis O'Hare on stage, giving everything he's got to such a production, you just have to be in awe of his amazing talent. He made the epic poem inspirational and extremely interesting.

Like most of our readers, I was first introduced to this amazing actor when he was cast in Season 3 of True Blood in the role as the King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington. As I watched him throughout the season, I thought he had really "absorbed himself into the part," but also seemed to be having alot of fun acting such a campy role. As I remember it now, I think my very favorite scene of Denis as Russell Edgington has to be the one when he tore out the backbone of the TV newscaster. However, it wasn't that shocking act that made the scene special for me, it was the lecture he gave the public after that made it resonate.

Watch it at this address:

Although this scene from True Blood has a lot of passion, you can tell that it didn't take anywhere near the energy that the 1 hr., 40 min. production of "An Iliad" takes to do. He certainly doesn't need to go to the gym while performing his part of "The Poet" in this show because you can see that it takes a lot of energy to do it.

Perhaps because of his experience in TV and in “True Blood,” when telling the Illiad story on stage, Denis seemed to relish the battle passages, bringing alive the murderous chaos of battle and the bloodlust it unleashes, similar to his tirade as Russell Edgington in the scene above.

That's not to say that it's apparent he is using all of his strength, instead it looks just the opposite. He parades all over the stage, climbing on tables and chairs telling the tale and making you follow his every move. He owns it, that's what I mean and that's a very difficult thing to do. And he brings the play into our world, as said in a NYTimes Review, trying to explain why the exhausted Greeks didn’t abandon the battle, weary after nine years of fruitless fighting, he compares their attitude to the frustration you feel in a supermarket line: “You’ve been there 20 minutes, and the other line is moving faster,” he says. “Do you switch lines now? No, goddamn it, I’ve been here for 20 minutes, I’m gonna wait in this line. Look — I’m not leaving ’cause otherwise I’ve wasted my time.”

Read an excerpt from LA Weekly which describes the event perfectly:
Picking up from Robert Fagles' authoritative translation, this version channels the urgency of the original into a forceful reminder of the power of theater stripped to its essentials. Performing on a barren stage cluttered with backstage detritus (designed by Rachel Hauck) and lit by a single bulb (lighting design by Scott Zielinski), O'Hare assumes the guise of a weary bard, compelled to repeat his narrative as long as humanity has need of it - in other words, forever. After invoking the muses, via music beautifully wrought by accompanying bassist Brian Ellingsen, O'Hare launches into his tale, seasoning it liberally with sly anachronisms. He pauses and breaks and backtracks, his voice rising and falling, his words swooping from nervous jangle to indolent lilt and back again, charting a narrative by turns savage and tender, escalating finally into an explosive, rapid-fire recitation of each major conflict in human history. This is poetry as it was meant to be experienced, primal and raw, thrilling and transcendent.
Oh, and Denis is not totally alone on stage, the subtle, dramatic music of Mark Bennett is primarily played live by the bassist Brian Ellingsen, coaxing an amazing variety of sounds from his instrument and adding a lot to the mood of the play.

Another nice treat for having gone to the show was meeting up with Kristin Bauer van Straten and her hubby, Abri van Straten and also, Sam Trammell and Missy Yaeger. It was nice to say hello to them and snag a quick photo of each outside as they were on the red carpet.

The play continued through February 2, 2014 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

Denis O'Hare photo source: