Carrie Fisher and Her Mother Debbie Reynolds Die One Day Apart

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2016 has been a year marked with much loss in the celebrity world, and this past week the passing of the beloved stars Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds has only added to the grief.

Carrie Fisher was born in the spotlight to her famous parents entertainer Eddie Fisher and legendary actress Debbie Reynolds. Carrie debuted in the movie Shampoo in 1975 when she was 18 years old opposite Warren Beatty. But her defining role was playing the iconic heroine Princess Leia in the sci-fi series Star Wars. Her character was feisty, wise, and bold enough to stand up to Darth Vader. Fisher reprised the role of Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the age of 59. She also appeared in more than 90 film and tv productions including Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally…, and The Blues Brothers.

Fisher was also an acclaimed author, writing screenplays and eight books including the semi-autobiographical comedic novel Postcards from the Edge about an actress who is a recovering addict. It was later turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep. And just recently, she released the memoire entitled The Princess Diarist in which she revealed she had an affair with her Star Wars costar Harrison Ford when she was 19 years old.

Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60 due to a heart attack just days after falling critically ill while traveling on an airplane. She left behind her mother, the talented Debbie Reynolds, who in turn posted, “I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carrie’s Mother.”

But in a sudden turn of events, Carrie’s brother, Todd Fisher, describes how his mom said, “I want to be with Carrie.” He told the AP, “And then she was gone. She’s now with Carrie, and we’re all heartbroken.” Sadly, Debbie died at the age of 84 just one day after losing her daughter. The cause of death has been described as a severe stroke, but many argue she died from a broken heart. Indeed, Reynolds was at her daughter’s home in Beverly Hills helping to plan Carrie’s funeral when she suffered the stroke.

Debbie Reynolds is most remembered for the iconic role of Kathy Selden in the celebrated musical film Singin’ in the Rain. In one of the popular scenes, a 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds, alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, performs the exuberant song-and-dance number Good Morning which can be seen in the clip below. Other films the multi-talented Reynolds starred in include How the West Was Won, Tammy and the Bachelor, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

The mother and daughter were known to be very devoted to one another through all the ups and downs in their relationship. Carrie had a brutally honest demeanor and spoke openly about her personal struggles over the years. Whether it be her challenges with bipolar disorder, drug addictions, or the strained relationship with her mother, Carrie felt compelled to share these stories with the world. Even in the end, the mother and daughter’s homes shared the same driveway, and they spoke with each other every day.

The upcoming HBO documentary Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher chronicles the unbreakable bond between the two stars over the past 60 years. The HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins told Variety that it’s a “love story about a mother and daughter” which “Carrie wanted to make…for Debbie, and Debbie wanted to make it for Carrie.” The premiere for the documentary will only be set after careful consideration due to the circumstances.

But here are some quotes by Carrie about her mother to give a glimpse of their rapport:

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That’s my word for it. She would go through these amazingly difficult things, and the message was clear: Doing the impossible is possible. It’s just not fun,” she once told the New York Times during an interview.

During a 2015 SAG Awards speech Carrie said of her mom, “She has been more than a mother to me. Not much, but definitely more. She’s been an unsolicited stylist, interior decorator, and marriage counselor.”

And earlier this year, Carrie told NPR, “She annoys me sometimes when she’s mad at the nurses, but she’s an extraordinary woman. Extraordinary. There’s very few women from her generation who worked like that, who just kept going all her life, and raised children, and had horrible relationships, and lost all her money, and got it back again. I mean, she’s had an amazing life, and she’s someone to admire.”

Rest in peace, Carrie and Debbie.

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Underrated Holiday Movies

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Have you been enjoying a few of your favorite holiday movies this season, but are in the mood for more? Not sure what to choose next? Here are a few underrated holiday films to consider during this festive time of the year.

Jingle All the Way 

Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t bench press his way out of the fact that he’s forgotten to buy his son’s favorite action figure, Turbo Man, for Christmas. So, on Christmas eve the Terminator goes on an epic crusade to procure the toy of the year. Along the way, he encounters a determined enemy in Myron Larabee, played by Sinbad, who’s gradually going postal; a lecherous womanizer in the smarmy and duplicitous Ted Maltin played by a deliciously disgusting Phil Hartman; as well as a host of concerned parents, bumbling police officers, and obnoxious store clerks. The insanity of Christmas shopping is in full effect when Ah-nold goes Christmas shopping–just check out the Santa brawl!

Home Alone 2

It may seem blasphemous to rate Home Alone 2 as worthy Christmas faire given its predecessor’s monumental reputation, and the fact that the plot is pretty much exactly the same as the first incarnation. But, the sequel to the Home Alone mega-hit has its own charm and peculiar appeal. Once again we find poor defenseless Kevin battling the Wet Bandits and it seems the rest of New York City, but this time he’s holed up in a posh NYC Plaza hotel room, and he’s macking out like a boss! Haven’t we all dreamed of eating ice cream sundaes and chocolate cake while watching cheese-ball gangster films on a stolen credit card? If not, well, this film is not for you! Favorite exchange is when Kevin’s mom asks the woman at the front desk, “What kind of idiots do you have working here?” to which the proud attendant replies, “The finest in New York.”

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, has been adapted for the stage and screen with so many different interpretations it’s hard to keep track of its theatrical oeuvre. Indeed, the sad tale of a life wasted on miserly greed and enduring compunction has struck such a chord in human consciousness that the story and phraseology has become part of the very fabric of our collective existence. And there have been many wonderful adaptations along the way, including Alastair Sim’s strange and frightening turn as the old miser; the musical Scrooge in 1970 with a frail and pathetic Albert Finney; George C. Scott cutting a cantankerous and menacing Bah-Humbug; and of course Bill Murray’s unhinged but lovable take on the classic which seems to play every December. But it is Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol which captures the poignant and terrifying essence of a lonely and abandoned boy who found laconic refuge from his suffering in the pursuit of personal wealth. The musical numbers are lively and wonderful, and young Magoo’s “All Alone in the World” just might bring a lonely tear to your eye.


There are so few Christmas horror films out there that Christmas horror can hardly be considered a genre, or even a sub genre. But regardless, Krampus does Christmas horror, and does it right. The film revolves around a little boy, Max, who has lost faith in Christmas and unwittingly unleashes the ancient evil of the Krampus on his extended family. What follows is a breakneck battle with Krampus and his demonic elves and malevolent toys. The film itself is unique in that it is funny, heartwarming, and truly horrifying! If you’re in the mood for a different kind of Christmas movie this holiday season, and you can brave the Christmas nightmares, Krampus is a joyful and wildly imaginative romp through hell!

Trading Places

In some circles, Trading Places is not considered a holiday movie. But check out Dan Ackroyd as the beleaguered Louis Winthorpe the Third drunk out of his gourd and brandishing a pistol while wearing a Santa Claus outfit; it’s Christmas time in the city! Trading Places follows Louis (a perfect snob and unapologetic one percenter) and Billy Ray Valentine played by Eddie Murphy (a grifter with a heart for the streets, and a mind for business). Both Ackroyd and Murphy give spot-on performances in this farcical tale of class warfare and holiday insanity. And Jamie Lee Curtis gives a breath of fresh air to the hooker with a heart-of-gold cliche. Yes, Trading Places is a bit dated with its 80s jokes and over-the-top situations, but it’s nonetheless hilarious and heartfelt.

What are your favorite underrated holiday films?

Riz Ahmed’s Determination to Land His ‘Rogue’ Role

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Riz Ahmed plays the volatile Rebel pilot Bodhi Rook in the huge box-office hit Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In this BBC Radio clip, he admits to being relieved when he found out he landed a part in the film. After all, he thought he’d burned all his bridges with the director. Ahmed explains it this way:

“I started spamming [Director Gareth Edwards] really aggressively….He sent me the kind of script to record the audition, and he made the mistake of giving me his email address. And I’m like a bit psycho-obsessive with my work. I love it, but I go down a black hole. It stops even being about getting a result. It’s like, ‘Oh, what if I did it like this?’ So, over the next three days I sent him like fourteen different versions of the scene. I just kept spamming him.”

Right off the bat, Ahmed emailed two approaches to the material. But when he awoke the following day and realized Edwards had not yet replied, Ahmed says:

“So instead of thinking, ‘He must be busy,’ I thought, ‘Let me just send him more.’ I just kept doing that every few hours….I kept doing like different accents and different costumes.”

Continuing, he says Edwards eventually emailed him back, writing, “Thank you for sending me all the auditions. Please stop sending me all these auditions. I’ll let you know.” A few weeks later, Ahmed was offered the role! Ahmed now jokes, “It’s amazing that I’m not in prison with a restraining order to be honest.”

Ahmed’s career is certainly on the upswing these days. He also starred in HBO’s critically lauded crime drama The Night Of playing accused murderer Nasir Khan opposite John Turturro. Indeed, both Ahmed and Turturro have received Golden Globe nominations for best actor in a miniseries or television film for their performances. Ahmed is stunned by the popularity of the eight-episode series, describing the process of getting it made “a rollercoaster.”

Riz Ahmed was born in Wembley to Pakistani parents who moved to the UK in the 1970s. His breakout role was in Nightcrawler as Rick, a jittery sidekick of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, the thief Lou Bloom. When first invited to audition, Ahmed was told he was not fit for the role, but was still permitted to audition. One of 75 actors to try for the part, Ahmed managed to stand out. Within the first minute of his audition tape, the director Dan Gilroy grew confident in Ahmed’s capabilities. Ahmed also recently played Aaron Kalloor, CEO of a social media enterprise, in Jason Bourne.

Additionally, Ahmed is a rapper known as Riz MC–half of the hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys along with Himanshu Suri. Riz MC is featured on The Hamilton Mixtape performing in the song Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) with K’naan, Snow Tha Product, and Residente. This means two of Ahmed’s projects are simultaneously rated number-one: The Hamilton Mixtape nabbed the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart, and Rogue One ranked number one on the movie box-office chart.

It’s most likely unwise to “spam” a director you’d like to work with, or even a casting director or a producer. But it’s clear Ahmed’s single-minded focus and determination has yielded significant results in relation to his career goals. Riz has made a habit of trusting his talent and instincts with both acting and music–and it’s certainly paid off.

Remembering Zsa Zsa Gabor, Actress and Socialite

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“Dahling, just be yourself!” –Zsa Zsa Gabor

The glamorous Hungarian-born actress Zsa Zsa Gabor died today at the age of 99 from heart failure. She was surrounded by family and friends.

In her youth Zsa Zsa attended private schools, and was ushered into stardom taking classes in acting, dancing, and music. She was crowned Miss Hungary in 1936, and then moved to America just before the start of World War II with her sisters Eva and Magda in pursuit of careers in acting. The three of them became famous for their film careers and garnered public intrigue with their love lives. Indeed, they were often hot topics in society magazines. Merv Griffin once described their charm and popularity by saying, “All these years later, it’s hard to describe the phenomenon of the three glamorous Gabor girls….They burst onto the society pages and into the gossip columns so suddenly, and with such force, it was as if they’d been dropped out of the sky.” Zsa Zsa lived the Hollywood lifestyle, and flaunted her diamonds and fur coats. Because she was famous for being famous, she has been described as the original Kim Kardashian. Watch this Hollywood Backstage clip, and you might see why.

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Gabor’s film career peaked during the 1950s with memorable roles in films like Moulin Rouge, Lovely to Look At, Lili, Orson Welles’s classic Touch of Evil, and the camp-favorite Queen of Outer Space. She also appeared in over 60 TV movies. Most of her roles were in American productions, but she also appeared in French, Italian, and German films. Zsa Zsa’s career extended into the 1990s as she appeared on talk shows, game shows, comedy specials, and more.

But it’s hard to talk about Zsa Zsa without mentioning the fact that she had nine husbands including hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, actor George Sanders, and the toy designer who helped create Barbie, Jack Ryan.

Her famous divorces inspired her to make many quotable one-liners. Here are a few examples:

“A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.”

“Getting divorced just because you don’t love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.”

“Husbands are like fires–they go out when unattended.”

“You never really know a man until you have divorced him.”

“We were both in love with him. I fell out of love with him, but he didn’t.”

“A girl must marry for love, and keep on marrying until she finds it.”

“I don’t take gifts from perfect strangers–but then, nobody is perfect.”

“I’m a great housekeeper. I get divorced. I keep the house.”

“A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never her age.”

With her thick Hungarian accent, Zsa Zsa frequently and famously referred to people as “dahling” (darling)–she once said because she can’t remember their names.

In response to the news of her passing, Piers Morgan tweeted, “RIP Zsa Zsa Gabor. 99 years old, 9 husbands, Miss Hungary & Hollywood star. What a life!” Larry King tweeted. “There will only be one Zsa Zsa Gabor. And, I liked her a lot. Rest in Peace, my dear.”

Gabor is survived by her last husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt.

Awkward Auditions

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The uplifting musical love story La La Land pulled in seven Golden Globe nominations earlier this week. The film is up for consideration for best picture, best director, and best actor and actress awards for its stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The story follows the journey of two aspiring performers in Los Angeles. At one point, Stone’s character auditions for a small film role before a casting director who takes a phone call in the middle of her read.

During an interview, Gosling revealed that this scenario actually once happened to him during an audition. “Yeah, where I had to cry and this lady took a call in the middle of it. And then just told me to go on, ‘Pick up where I left off.’ That was part of what was great about making this film was [writer-director Damien Chazelle] encouraged us to bring our experiences to these characters,” Gosling recalled. Stone likewise relayed her own set of audition stories to Chazelle. Taking notes, he soon found a way to weave these experiences into the movie that’s being described as an “ode to those who dream of making it big.”

If there’s one thing for sure, when actors enter the audition room, it’s that they have to be ready for just about anything. Among the many actors who have shared their unexpected and awkward audition-room tales is Broadway’s Tracie Thoms. Here she describes something that just seemed to take over her as she auditioned before Quentin Tarantino for Death Proof.

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And Color Purple star Heather Headley recounts the time casting seemed to pay her no notice as she sang her heart out with stunning brilliance.

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Another singing audition came from CBS’ Two Broke Girls actress Beth Behrs. She recalls a bit of an embarrassing audition in which she sang with a mismatched style before casting. In return, she received feedback that opened her eyes as far as which kind of roles to pursue in her career.

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And lastly, the next time you hear the Aflac duck in a commercial, you might think of Will & Grace actor Sean Hayes who did not land the role of the silly duck.

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Have you ever had an absurd or awkward incident along these lines while auditioning? Please share!




Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant on the Entertainment Industry

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Is entertaining large audiences or winning awards in little-known films more important for an actor?

“Do you think acting is a kind of goal in itself, and almost a quasi-religious experience, and it’s like therapy and you’re trying to please your fellow actors? Or do you think it’s just a tool for entertaining people?” Hugh Grant recently posed this question to Colin Farrell. The two actors spoke at length during a one-on-one interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors and towards the end, Grant asked this “penetrating question.”

Farrell responded, “I think all of the above. I think it can be quite often a different thing for the actor than it is for the audience. But I think if there’s an experiential symbiosis between what the actor is experiencing in their own lives and internally, and what the audience is experiencing in purveying the work that the actor presents, I think that’s a state of grace.”

Grant, who is famous for his roles in romantic comedies, box-office hits like Notting Hill, and is regarded as an international heartthrob, agreed with Farrell’s assessment. But, he then presented this line of questioning in more practical terms; that is, delving into how an actor is likely to make decisions throughout his or her career. Grant asked: “If you had two scripts on your desk, and one was almost certain to be a big smash hit because people would really be entertained by it. But the part is kind of 8 out of 10. Then you have one where you know no one’s going to see this outside the San Sebastian Film Festival, but the part is 10 out of 10. Which do you choose?”

Irish actor, Colin Farrell’s career reflects a wide range of roles. He portrays the powerful magician Percival Graves in the box-office smash Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But just before that, he starred in the science-fiction drama The Lobster, which garnered a small overall audience but which has received several nominations and awards.

So when considering which kind of scripts he gravitates to, Farrell revealed that although he has a “really healthy appreciation for the nature of commerce of the film business,” and he loves doing action films, he tends to favor the the “smaller, more intimate stuff.” He likes roles in lower-budget films, “because the characters don’t have to find such a big audience, the characters have a greater sense of specificity to them and maybe a greater internal struggle that can find avenues of emotion or intellectual exploration that the hundred million, hundred-fifty million films don’t afford.”

On the other hand, Hugh Grant expressed concern that actors can take things too seriously. He said, “I sometimes think we are in slight danger of disappearing up our own a**es–actors–and really we should be there to entertain people. We shouldn’t forget that. It’s an entertainment business.”

How about you? When you dream of your optimal career as an actor, which category of scripts and roles do you yearn for more? How important is the quality of the work in comparison the the size of the audience a project garners?

The Healing Power of Acting

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Sometimes the process of acting goes beyond being more than an exploration, passion, or career goal. And it, in fact, has the power to transform its participants’ lives in a healing manner.

Take Michael Shannon, for example. Shannon is known for his versatility on screen in films like Revolutionary Road which earned him an Oscar nomination, Take Shelter, 99 Homes for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and Nocturnal Animals. In this Off Camera interview, Shannon describes his difficult childhood. His parents divorced early on, and he describes his high school years as “a disaster”–and he eventually dropped out of school.

Painting a picture of his high school social difficulties, he says, “I was in a different city with a bunch of kids I didn’t know at a very large school. So my freshman and sophomore year I couldn’t make friends to save my life.” On top of it, his father with whom he was living at the time, was going through his own hard times, which ultimately lead Michael Shannon to move. In turn, he immersed himself in community theater.

Indeed, the more he performed, the more he realized acting “might be more than just something I’m doing to kill time and ease the pain.” Instead, the theater allowed him to change how he and others perceived him. Shannon revealed:

“I guess I had a lot of inappropriate behavior, or I didn’t really fit into like normal societal situations. I struggled with those, but the great thing about the acting is that I could go on stage and act insane, where in real life if I acted that way, I’d get chastised and punished or told to shut up. But when you do that on stage, people applaud  and say, ‘Wow, you’re a genius.’ So it was a pretty easy bridge to cross.”

Sally Field is another example of an actor who found acting to be a healing force. In an emotional interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors, Field opened up about a deep depression she experienced in her late teen years. She told Hailee Steinfeld, “It took me a long time to get to anybody to really learn a craft, and that wasn’t until I was in my second television series, and unfortunately it was something called ‘The Flying Nun.’ I was suffering so badly, I was so depressed and I was 19 and I didn’t want to be playing something called the Flying Nun. I did not want to be dressed as a nun all day long.”

But fortunately she found a support that helped her emerge from the depression. For Field, that support was The Actor’s Studio. Field admitted:

“[The Actor’s Studio] really began to form who I was not only as an actor, but helped me be who I became as a person. Because it gave me tools…so that I never lose my own voice…acting tools, that I can go into myself and if I can call on those pieces of myself as an actor, then I can call on them as a human, and I couldn’t do that before.”

To hear Field’s entire comments on the topic, you can view the interview on Variety’s Actors on Actors which debuts on PBS SoCal on January 3rd.

Do you attribute acting with being a healing force in your life as well? Please share.

Jennifer Aniston Stands Up to Years of Tabloid Abuse

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It’s hard to stand in a market line and stop yourself from reading startling headlines like “FBI Captures Bat Child!” and “Dolphin Grows Human Arms!” And then in the midst of it all are the hysterical titles about the tabloid-favorite Jennifer Aniston. For two decades, publications have been grabbing our collective attention with headlines like: “Angelina Jolie Beats Jennifer Aniston Down the Aisle,” “I Can’t Stop Loving Brad,” “How Angelina Tortures Jen,” “Jennifer Aniston Strapped For Cash,” “Jen Gets Revenge,” “Jen Jilted by Her Fiance,” “Jen Confronts Fiance’s Secret Girlfriend,” “My Life Without Justin,” “Yes, I’m Pregnant–with Twins!” “Pregnant and Alone,” “Jen’s Baby Dream Shattered”–and on and on it goes.

Well, a “fed up” Aniston insists this steady stream of false reports is “getting old.” So, she penned an essay in The Huffington Post writing, “I don’t like to give energy to the business of lies, but I wanted to participate in a larger conversation that has already begun and needs to continue.” In turn, she calls out the multitude of authors who claim to write “under the guise of ‘journalism,’ the ‘First Amendment,’ and ‘celebrity news.'”

“For the record” she states that rumors of her being pregnant are untrue, and she’s had enough of all the speculation about her relationships as well as all the “sports-like scrutiny and body shaming” she’s endured. Also, the Friends star hopes to raise readers’ awareness of the negative ways such stories can shape our ideas about ourselves. She insists:

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”

More recently, the Office Christmas Party actress shared in a Marie Claire interview the reason why she authored the op-ed. She answered, “My marital status has been shamed; my divorce status was shamed; my lack of a mate had been shamed; my nipples have been shamed.”  With all the quality relationships she’s enjoyed over the years, the popular roles she’s performed, the awards she’s won, all the most-beautiful lists she’s graced, and being a top-earning actress for 15 years, she continuously sees a pathetic portrait of herself being painted in the press. She said, “It’s like, ‘Why are we only looking at women through this particular lens of picking us apart? Why are we listening to it?’ I just thought: I have worked too hard in this life and this career to be whittled down to a sad, childless human.”

So when asked to come up with her own celebrity headline, Aniston replied,“How’s this? ‘When I’m pregnant and married, I will let you know,” and adding, “And by the way, stop stealing my thunder! Let me have the fun of telling that story.”



‘America’s Mom’ Florence Henderson Passes On

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Florence Henderson, famous for playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, died of heart failure on Thanksgiving night at the age of 82. In the 1970’s sitcom, Florence as Mrs. Brady would warmly give wise and sensible advice to her TV children, thus earning her the title of “America’s Mom.” The Brady Bunch played for five seasons, and continued for decades with reruns in America as well as 122 countries around the globe. Henderson’s portrayal of a widow with three daughters who marries a widower with three sons, represented the first blended family in television history. The Brady husband and wife also represented the first couple to sleep in the same bed before TV audiences.

Henderson was born on Valentine’s Day, the youngest of ten children, in Indiana. But unlike her iconic role as Carol Brady, her own mother left the family when Florence was just ten years old. Indeed, Florence grew up in poverty with her father working as a tobacco sharecropper. During an interview on CNN, Henderson once revealed that to play Mrs. Brady, she created the kind of mother she wished she’d had.

Henderson started acting at the age of 17, and debuted on Broadway the following year. She went on to perform in Broadway hits like Fanny and The Girl Who Came to Supper before landing the role of NBC’s first Today girl in 1959 broadcasting the weather, fashion topics, and the lighter aspects of the news. In 1962, Henderson was the first woman to guesthost The Tonight Show before Johnny Carson took the lead.

Just last year, Matt Lauer interviewed Henderson who revealed that she felt younger than she did at the age of 30. The star beamed as she said, “I try to get up every day and say, ‘Wow, it’s a great day, and I’m alive. I have four healthy children, five healthy grandchildren, I have granddogs. I have friends. I am so blessed to be able to still do what I love–I work all the time, and I’m just grateful!”

Upon hearing the sad news of Henderson’s passing, Maureen McCormick who played the role of Marcia Brady tweeted, “Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my <3 forever. Love & hugs to her family. I’ll miss u dearly.”

“Weird Al” Yankovic, who worked with Henderson on the music video Amish Paradise, tweeted, “So terribly sad to hear of the passing of the great Florence Henderson. It was a true honor to have known and worked with her.”

In fact, Florence Henderson’s impressive resume was quite long and varied. Besides starring in Broadway hits and being ranked among the top one hundred Greatest TV Icons according to Entertainment Weekly, Henderson has worked as a talk show host, a cooking show host, she authored the book Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond, and worked as a certified hypnotherapist. Additionally, Henderson was a commercial spokeswoman for brands like Oldsmobile, Wesson oil, and Polident. And at the age of 76, she even competed on Dancing with the Stars!

Her later film works include The Grandmothers Murder Club  about “Four older women who kill people–but they deserve it!” Henderson said. And she appeared in the parody Fifty Shades of Black with Marlon Wayans.

The advice she often gave to kids was: “Keep a cool head and keep a warm heart. And always remember those who helped you on the way up.”

Rest in peace, Florence Henderson.

Benedict Cumberbatch on Character Development

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“Yes, I do build up a backstory in my head even if it’s just for me.” –-Benedict Cumberbatch

Marvel’s Doctor Strange actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s resume includes a long, impressive list of awards and nominations for his film, television and theater work. In part, he can boast appearing in four films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Atonement, War Horse, The Imitation Game, and 12 Years a Slave–the last of which won the category. On a recent webchat on The Guardian, Cumberbatch answered fans’ questions about a variety of topics. After sharing what his favorite flavor of coffee is, and which books he’s currently reading, the Sherlock star was asked if he takes the time and effort to create a backstory for his characters. Cumberbatch responded with an admittedly “verbose” answer. But here is his reply regarding processes to build up backstories and specific skills for his prolific characters.

“Yes, I do build up a backstory in my head even if it’s just for me,” he said. “As far as preparation goes, it’s important to understand the who, what, where, why of the character before you meet him.” Cumberbatch continued:

“That helps the character employ those tactics for whatever action they’re trying to perform, which can necessitate a limit of choice as well as a discovery of new things to be learned as an actor to portray the character with. For example, a character I played in a Martin Crimp play called ‘The City’ at the Royal Court [theater], was describing an incident where he was humiliated in his new job to his wife, and I began to [characterize] the voices in his story when Katie Mitchell [director] pointed out that it was unlikely he would have the confidence to do that as opposed to me, because I could. Those differentiations are vital, but often (and this really ain’t no humblebrag) I’m chasing the tailcoats of my character’s abilities, whether it’s their intelligence or professional excellence, or even their ability to sing/play piano/ride a horse/paint some of the great works of modern art! All these things require a heavy tutoring in new skill sets, one of the many privileges of our job, i.e., getting to learn new stuff and continuing with a form of further education, I suppose. And the results, while varied, sometimes work, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, and I often feel like a horrible fraudster. I think the worst is when I played violin as Sherlock–a skill that takes years of childhood and adolescent practice time….But just to finish, vocal and physical differences, prep of any sort, work on a backstory, learning a skill, all has to be given time and when it isn’t you run into [generalizing], and I’m fully aware I’ve done that on occasion, and so aim to create enough space around my work so there is enough space between roles and I have enough time to [honor] the tasks each present me with.”

When it came to developing Doctor Stephen Strange, the English actor delved deeply into the character using the source material as well as relying on president of  Marvel Studios and “superfan” Kevin Feige and the film’s director Scott Derrickson’s encyclopedic knowledge of the character and story. He also referred back to his experiences as a teenager when he taught English in a Tibetan monastery which got him in touch with “the power of the mind to change your reality.”

Here is a clip of Cumberbatch and Derrickson as well as actor Mads Mikkelsen talking about how they prepared to capture the mystical world of Doctor Strange.

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