The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Lacey Chabert (“Scarecrow”)

Lacey Chabert got her start in acting before she was out of single digits, but her big break came just after crossing into double-digit territory, when she was cast as Claudia Salinger in FOX’s “Party of Five,” giving her a full-time gig for six seasons. Since the show’s cancellation in 2000, Chabert has continued to work regularly, sometimes as a voice actor – you may remember her as Eliza from “The Wild Thornberrys,” but she’s still in the studio on a regular basis for other series, most recently on The Hub’s “Transformers: Rescue Bots” – but definitely still in front of the camera on a regular basis, too. Chabert can be seen in the latest SyFy original movie, “Scarecrow,” which premieres tonight, and she chatted with Bullz-Eye about her experiences working on the film, reminisced about some of her other past projects, and explained how she’s belatedly found her way onto social media…but only on her terms.

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Bullz-Eye: So how did you enjoy doing “Scarecrow”? I’ve only seen the trailer so far, but it looks like it would’ve been fun to do…or, at least, I hope it was!

Lacey Chabert: It was a lot of fun! I’ve never done a horror film where I was… Well, I was in “Black Christmas,” but I got killed kind of early on in that film. [Laughs.] My character didn’t even know that the killer was there! But this was something where I’m actually running from the killer…you know, the predator, the scary monster. So we’re running from him for basically the entire film, so that was a whole new challenge, something that I’d never done before, and…it was fun. It’s a fun Halloween movie!

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Stephen Frears (“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”)

Director Stephen Frears has done so much notable work for the cinema that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s more than capable of dipping his toe into the world of television on occasion as well. His latest effort behind the camera, “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” falls somewhere between the two mediums: the HBO Films production is making its TV debut on – where else? – HBO this Saturday, but it was actually screened in Cannes back in August, along with its small-screen brethren, “Behind the Candelabra.”

During this summer’s TCA press tour, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Frears and discuss his work on “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” including how he came to join the project and what he knew about Ali’s Supreme Court struggles prior to signing on, but he was also kind of enough to chat about a number of his other films. Although the conversation occasionally drifted in unanticipated directions, the sidebar excursions proved just as enjoyable and entertaining as anything that I’d gone in actually planning to bring up.

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Bullz-Eye: What was your familiarity with the Muhammad Ali story going into this project?

Stephen Frears: Well, it was both a lot and nothing. In other words… I remember Ali fighting (Sonny) Liston, so that’s how old I am. [Laughs.] I don’t remember the Olympics. But then I remember the trouble in America, of course. And then he sort of disappeared, and I couldn’t tell you what happened until he fought in Zaire and he became a sort of comedian. He became very, very funny. So this bit was like a sort of black hole.

BE: How did you come aboard as director?

SF: I ran into Shawn (Slovo) at a party. I said, “What are you doing?” She said, “I’m writing something very, very interesting.” [Shrugs, then laughs.] So I snooped around and found that it was very interesting. Simple as that.

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BE: Had you known her prior to that?

SF: I knew her to gossip to her, to say “hello” and talk to her at that party. [Laughs.] But now I know her much better.

BE: Was the script more or less filmed as written, or did you have to do some tweaking to make it work?

SF: I think there was a certain amount. I like to have the writer on set, because in a sense you’re writing all the time, but that’s just to make scenes clearer, things you learn as you go along. It must at some point have sorted itself out enough for us to say, “Right, let’s make this.” I can’t recall, there might’ve been a couple of drafts that we went through before we made it. And then we were writing the whole time on set, just to make things clearer.

BE: It’s interesting that the film focuses on a key moment in Ali’s career, yet it does so without ever portraying Ali. His presence is simply via archival footage. Was that always the plan?

SF: Yes, that was always planned, and the truth is that it was a great relief. The idea of casting Ali didn’t bear thinking about, so I was really pleased by that. But the interesting thing about archival footage is that people never quite say what you want them to say. [Laughs.] They don’t say what you’d like. But eventually we started finding a way how to deal with it. So it was very, very interesting.

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Breaking Bad 5.16 – “Felina”

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“My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to the AMC viewers now. There are… there are going to be some things, things that you’ll come to learn about me in the next five seasons. I just want you to know that, no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart. Goodbye.”

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what Walt said in the opening moments of the first episode of “Breaking Bad,” but as I sat down to write this, my review of the last episode of “Breaking Bad,” the paraphrasing seemed like as apropos a way to kick things off as any.

I’ll be honest: as much as I wanted to just let the events of the series finale wash over me and accept whatever Vince Gilligan wanted to give me, it was impossible to walk into the proceedings without feeling like a kid at Christmas, giggling and wondering, “What am I gonna get?” We knew the big-ass gun in Walt’s trunk and the ricin he’d retrieved from his house were both going to come into play, but we didn’t know how. Well, not really, anyway. The two big theories I kept hearing about the ricin were that he was going to slip it into Lydia’s tea or drink it himself, but I’d also heard convincing dismissals of both theories, so I really didn’t have any clue how things would play out. Besides, I’ve said more times than I can count that this is a series that never fails to zig when you think it’s going to zag, so there’s just no point in trying to guess. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get really, really excited about the prospect of finding out.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Saying Goodbye to the Best ‘Bad’ Ever

I don’t know if you know this about me, but…I kinda like “Breaking Bad.” I realize this is probably the first you’re hearing of it, because I’m usually pretty closed-mouthed about it, rarely hyping the series to anyone and almost never mentioning that I watch it, but, yeah, I guess it’s a pretty all-right show, y’know?

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All right, enough pretending: obviously, I think “Breaking Bad” is basically the best show in the history of television, which is what I tell anyone who asks me what I think of it. You may disagree with my position, and that would be your right, but no series has ever captured my attention and proven so fascinating to me in quite the same fashion as this one, and when it ends its run on Sunday evening, I’ll be glad that it went out on the terms established by its creator, Vince Gilligan, but it’s going to leave a hole in my TV viewing habits that I’m going to have a very hard time filling.

With the show wrapping up, I decided it’d be fun to offer up a retrospective of all of the folks affiliated with “Breaking Bad” that I’ve talked to over the course of its run. If you’ve followed my coverage of the series over the years, you probably won’t be surprised to see just how many conversations I’ve had since Bullz-Eye first started spotlighting the show in 2009, but they’ve been a uniformly wonderful bunch, all of whom regularly made a point of expressing their gratitude for the coverage and praise that we gave the show. In turn, I’ve always tried to thank them for the gift they’ve given us.

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Goodbye, “Breaking Bad.” Thanks for the meth, but most of all, thanks for the memories. You’ve given me plenty of great ones over the course of these five seasons, and they won’t soon be forgotten…especially not now that I’ve got all of ‘em in one place! Mind you, when I say that, I’m actually speaking of these interviews, but it could also be said of the upcoming complete-series set – seen above – which, in addition to all of the episodes, includes a ridiculous amount of bonus stuff, both on the discs (most notably “No Half Measures,” a two-hour documentary about the making of the final eight episodes) and off (a Los Pollos Hermanos apron!), that no self-respecting fan should be expected to live without.

But enough of my yakkin’. On with the interviews!

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Breaking Bad 5.15 – “Granite State”

After hearing about Saul’s “guy” for quite some time without ever getting the slightest hint about the identity of this individual that could, for a price, make you disappear, it seemed reasonable to presume that we might never actually catch a glimpse of him. Surprisingly, however, we were finally introduced to him this week, and the casting couldn’t have been any better: ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Robert Forster. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but, dammit, he might well go down in history as my favorite Breaking Bad guest star of all time. Blame it on my love of Jackie Brown and a youthful obsession with Alligator if you wish, but for my money, you just don’t get much cooler than Robert Forster.

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As it turns out, Saul’s also taking advantage of his “guy,” and with good reason, given that he’s arguably the only one in the mix with a higher profile than Walter White at the moment. Soon, he’ll be living in Nebraska and – fingers crossed! – maybe even managing a Cinnabon. First, though, he’s got to escape from the clutches of his temporary bunkmate. Despite seeing him hop into the van and drive away at the end of last week’s episode, Walt’s departure from ABQ has yet to take place, due to the fact that, as implied a moment ago, he’s a pretty hot commodity that just about every law enforcement agency in America wants to get a piece of. Not that that’s stopped him from spending his time in the basement of the vacuum-repair place figuring out how to extract his revenge on Todd’s uncle and his neo-Nazi pals.

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