The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Pam Grier (TV One’s ‘Unsung Hollywood’)

Fans of TV One’s documentary program Unsung, which shines the spotlight on performers whose mainstream profiles aren’t as substantial as they perhaps out to be, will be pleased to learn that the network is branching out with the series, expanding its coverage beyond the world of music and into the field of acting. Tonight marks the premiere episode of Unsung Hollywood, which kicks off with a look at the life and career of Pam Grier, and Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Grier and discuss the episode and how it came about while also chatting a bit about her career…but without giving away too much about the program, of course.

Pam Grier as Kit Photo: Max Vadukal/Showtime Photo ID: LW3_21D-05

Bullz-Eye: How did you find your way to Unsung Hollywood? Did they pitch you on the idea?

Pam Grier: I had turned them down several times, because I wasn’t interested, but then I saw one of their episodes. My mom was so enthralled by one of the shows they had done on musicians – they did an excellent job – and she said, “I didn’t know that!” And, of course, no one knows what inspired the music and the tenacity of people to get their music played and all that except for the musicians. So we talked, and they said what they were going to do, and I said, “Okay, but you know it’s very difficult to get photographs.” Because as I learned from doing my book (Foxy: My Life in Three Acts), you have to have the rights if someone owns the photographs, and if someone else is in it, you have to get the rights from those people.

I said, “I don’t know if I can do that, because you’re going to get maybe five pictures, because a lot of people do not want to participate.” So I said, “I don’t want to marginalize it, but I can only give you so much, and I don’t know when I can do it.” But they kind of gave me an outline, and I said, “Oh, I think we can do this…so I just have to find the time!” And I did. And I think they did an excellent job.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Titus Welliver (‘Bosch’)

There are so many things that you might know Titus Welliver from that we simply don’t have the time or space to list them all – although you can hit up his IMDb listing if you really want the full monty – but, for example, even just limiting it to shows that are currently on the air that’s he’s popped up in, you’ve got NCIS, Supernatural, Sons of Anarchy, Suits, The Good Wife, CSI: Criminal Scene Investigation, Grimm, White Collar, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. At the moment, though, Welliver has high hopes that he’ll have a full-time gig on his hands in the near future…but that’s going to be up to audiences to decide.

If you’re a fan of author Michael Connelly, then you’ll most likely recognize the name “Hieronymus Bosch” as belonging to someone other than a Dutch painter: he’s a character in more than a few of Connelly’s novels – you may know him better as Harry – and now he’s making the jump to the small screen…or, more specifically, to Amazon…with Welliver playing the part in a new pilot. If it proves successful amongst viewers, then Bosch will go to series, and if not…well, let’s not even consider that possibility, because I’ve seen the pilot, and it’s pretty damned good.

In fact, it’s so good that you really ought to go watch it right now, which you can do by clicking right here. After you’re done, though, be sure to come back, because I had a chance to talk with Welliver about working on the project in some detail, and before we wrapped up, we also had a bit of time to chat about his experiences on one of his earlier TV projects as well. (Hint: he worked with David Milch on the series.)

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Bullz-Eye: I’m sure you’ve gone on record elsewhere about the origins of how you came aboard the project in the first place, but as I haven’t heard them, how did you end up in the mix to play Harry Bosch?

Titus Welliver: Well, I read the script and…it was sort of a funny situation, because I was trying to meet with the producers and Michael Connelly, because I read the script and I went crazy for it and just felt like I so desperately wanted to play this character. But I was shooting Transformers 4, and a lot of different locations and a very long shoot, and sometimes it was a little bit like being in the military – in, like, special operations – where, literally, I’d get a call saying, “We need you here, now!” [Laughs.] So there were, like, three attempted meetings, and I was really getting nervous about it because, y’know, at a certain point they kind of go, “Well, as much as we’d really like to meet with you, we’ve gotta get going!”

So when I did finally get to sit down and meet with Michael Connelly and Erik Overmyer and Jim McKay and Henrik Bastin and Pieter Jan Brugge and the whole clan, it was one of those things where I walked into the room and sat down, and within five minutes… I already knew that I wanted to play the character and I loved the script, but just the energy – for lack of a better word – coming from this group, I thought, “I have to do this. My God, I really have to do it!” And that’s not always the case, y’know? Sometimes you can love material but there’s personality conflicts or whatever, you just have a gut feeling about something. But I knew from the second I got in there, “I want to work with these people.” So in that way, it was great. And I feel very blessed that I’ve been given the opportunity.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Alan Spencer (‘Bullet in the Face’)

I’ve said before – if not in this column, then certainly elsewhere on the ‘net – how a great deal of my long-term tastes were established during my teen years in the ’80s, and one of the shows that was must-see TV for 16-year-old me was the ABC sitcom Sledge Hammer!, created by Alan Spencer. As a result, my eyebrows shot skyward when I first learned about the IFC series Bullet in the Face, since the press release prominently featured Spencer’s previous credits. Too bad the network’s programming and promotional departments weren’t quite as enthused as I was: the show’s six-episode season was noticed by precious few, resulting in a quick departure from the airwaves.

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Thank goodness for Shout Factory, then, a company who knows a future cult classic when they see one: they released Bullet in the Face on DVD a few weeks back – sorry, I was at the TCA tour at the time, or I would’ve been able to promote it more heavily right as it hit the shelves – and were kind enough to set me up with an interview with the aforementioned Mr. Spencer.

After discussing his most recent endeavor in considerable detail, you will be unsurprised to learn that I took a bit of time to geek out as well, enjoying the opportunity to learn more about his friendships with Marty Feldman, Andy Kaufman, and Anthony Perkins, and to find out if we’re likely to ever see Sledge Hammer! return.

Bullz-Eye: How did Bullet in the Face originally come about? It seems to owe at least a spiritual debt to Sledge Hammer!, but from what I can tell, it appears that the project existed in some form – if only as a vague concept – before you ever came aboard.

Alan Spencer: Well, first of all, there’s nothing spiritual about Sledge Hammer! [Laughs.] Basically, the IFC network… An executive I knew at the IFC network said they had a concept in development that wasn’t working. It was called Dieter Horn in Night Port, and if you Google it or use any search engine, I think you can see information about it. They had made a two-minute trailer – kind of a sizzle reel, as people are wont to do – and a Canadian production company was behind it. The trailer shows a spoof of ‘80s tropes about a German cop called Dieter Horn, who was apparently a bad guy who became a cop, and it’s heavily rooted in the ‘80s. It’s never explained why it was German, by the way. I couldn’t figure that out. But it’s a spoof of a Miami Vice sort of city, and it was…  A lot of people are doing ‘80s parodies – MacGruber, and there’s a miniseries now (The Spoils of Babylon) – and it was an ‘80s spoof, and…that didn’t interest me. And I guess they developed scripts for it and it didn’t work, so it was a piece of… The term is “broken development.”

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Since I’m one of the few people that had done and sustained a successful half-hour action comedy, they came to me and asked if I’d be willing to supervise the writers and retool this. It was basically… I was given, like, carte blanche for whatever I could come up with to fix this. So, anyway, I took the one kernel, one idea from it, and threw everything else out. And the only kernel from it was the German, formerly a bad guy, turning into a cop. So that was it. I threw everything out, re-titled it, and came up with all new characters, an all new milieu, and the kind of a graphic-novel city I set it in.

I also threw out the ‘80s baby with the ‘80s bathwater, because a lot of people can’t reference the ‘80s. I lived through the ‘80s already, and that didn’t interest me to go through it again. I don’t have that hair anymore, I don’t wear the pastels, I wear socks… [Laughs.] So I didn’t want to deal with that at all. I wanted something new and fresh. Also, since I had some creative freedom, I really wanted to go for it, so they were kind of thrilled when I decided to write it myself. I just said, “Let me write it,” as opposed to going through the machinations that we would’ve to find some writers. So they were surprised and happy, but I think that was their agenda all along, to have me write it myself.

So I indulged myself. I didn’t imagine this getting made, so I wrote something very, very extreme, and going further than the restraints that I was used to working on in network television. And then, lo and behold, I was surprised. I got a call from the network saying, “We’re not going to make a pilot for this.” I said, “Oh, all right.” They said, “We’re going to go straight to series!” So it was a six-episode order with the contingency that I write them all. I knew something was up before I got that call, because on Facebook all of a sudden I was being getting friended by IFC executives. [Laughs.] That was kind of the hint that something was in the works. That’s how social media works now, right? If social media was existing during World War II, and if all my Japanese friends were unfriending me, I think I would’ve anticipated Pearl Harbor. That’s sort of how it works.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Chatting with Lara Pulver about ‘Fleming,’ ‘Da Vinci’s Demons,’ and more

Lara Pulver made her first TV appearance in 2009, but she’s quickly racked up a list of credits that’d impress just about any TV viewer, including roles on Robin Hood, True Blood, MI-5, Sherlock, Skins, and Da Vinci’s Demons. In addition to popping up briefly in the current run of Sherlock and returning to Da Vinci’s Demons for its upcoming sophomore season, Pulver can also be found in BBC America’s new limited-series event, Fleming, playing Ann Charteris, the woman who – 62-year-old spoiler alert! – eventually went on to be Mrs. Ian Fleming. Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to chat with Pulver at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, and we asked her about all of the aforementioned small-screen roles while also touching on her film work with Idris Elba, Michael Sheen, and Tom Cruise.

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Bullz-Eye: So how much did you know about Ian Fleming’s life before you signed on to this project?

Lara Pulver: As a Brit, I knew his novels, I knew he was behind the Bond franchise, but I knew nothing about the man.

BE: How surprised were you to learn about him?

LP: I found him fascinating. Like, from a psychoanalytic point of view. His relationship with his mom, the depressive arrogance, his ego when it came to women, his failure as a man when it came to finding an occupation, finding his niche in life… And yet he never really lived long enough to find out the true success of what we now celebrate as 50 years of Bond as a franchise. So I found it fascinating.

BE: Were you a Bond fan going in?

LP: It’s definitely in British arts and culture history. It’s on TV at Christmas. There’s always a Bond movie. And it’s quite fascinating how they’ve been able to reinvent to make it so current 50 years on.

BE: Were you familiar enough with the franchise to recognize the bits and pieces of it that turned up in his real life?

LP: Yeah, and it’s also so interesting, having done Fleming, to see a Bond movie now. That’s even more interesting.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Bruce Boxleitner

Bruce Boxleitner has been making a living as an actor since the early ’70s, but there are many who consider the ’80s as the era when he really hit his stride, thanks to him having starred as the title character in “TRON” and following up that success with four seasons as Lee Stetson on CBS’s “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” Then, of course, there’s his work during the ’90s as John Sheridan on “Babylon 5,” and…well, basically, what we’re saying is that Bruce Boxleitner’s fanbase is multi-generational.

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Currently, Boxleitner is a regular on the Hallmark Channel original series “Cedar Cove,” but he also continues to keep busy on other projects, including a new holiday film called “Silver Bells,” which makes its small-screen debut on UP TV on Dec. 1. Bullz-Eye had a chance to talk to Boxleitner about both of these projects, along with several other items from his back catalog, but there were actually two conversations: one in person, one on the phone. The first one took place during this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, and the second…well, I’ll explain about that one when we get to it.

For now, though, here’s our chat from the TCA tour…

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