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 Kelly Lynch (“Magic City”)

I can’t vouch for anyone else’s experience with the phenomenon of “going viral,” but in mine, when you collaborate with someone and the resulting effort ends up being viewed by literally millions of people, it creates somewhat of a bond between you, mostly because…well, it’s just weird, y’know? Or maybe it’s just weird for me because more people know about a story Kelly Lynch told me in our Random Roles conversation for the AV Club – you know, the one about how Bill Murray or one of his brothers will call Lynch’s husband, Mitch Glazer, whenever “Road House” is on, just so they can say, “Your wife’s having sex with Patrick Swayze right now” – than have ever read any other interview I’ve ever done in my entire career.

Either way, I’ve kept in touch with Ms. Lynch ever since that phone interview, getting to meet her and Mr. Glazer in person a few months later and earlier this month I was even invited to ask her and Danny Huston a few questions when they made an appearance on Huffington Post Live. After we wrapped up that brief virtual encounter (they were in the studio, I did my bit via Google+ Hangouts), I sent her a hopeful Tweet, saying, “Maybe we can still do a proper interview to talk about Season 2 of ‘Magic City.'” The next thing you know, we were back on the phone with each other, talking about where we’ll see her character, Meg Bannock, headed this season, how she handles work-related discussions with her husband, and how awesome it is to see Sherilyn Fenn turn up on the series.

KellyLynch1

Bullz-Eye: How are you?

Kelly Lynch: I’m good! Well, I’m surviving. Mitch had a big party up at our house last night for his post-production group, who are some of the best post people I’ve ever been involved with. I mean, from sound to the music to the CG…they’re just amazing. A lot of them have never done TV, don’t want to do TV, and won’t do TV, but they’ve been Glazed, as we say. [Laughs.] He’s a beloved guy, and they just fell in love with the show and fell in love with Mitch. So we had a food truck and a bar with  mojitos and margaritas and stuff. We still have a pitcher of margaritas in my fridge that’s calling my name. I keep going, “No!” So I’m surviving, but needless to say, I had a few more margaritas last night, and I may yet have a few more today. But it was really fun, and it was really great to be able to say “thanks” to all those guys and gals. Half of the show is putting it all together.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Magic City is a Must-Buy

I really don’t have much of a clue who reads what around here—I mean, I’m just sayin’, but…we do have a comments section, you know—but if you happened to have caught my column from April 25, then you already know a little bit about how I felt about Starz’s “Magic City” when it first hit the airwaves. At the time I wrote about it, however, I’d only seen the first three episodes, so I couldn’t really offer much in the way on incisive commentary. Indeed, to save you from clicking on the above link, the bullet points of my brief discussion of the series were…

1. It looks great.

2. The second episode rehashed too much of the pilot, but the third episode was much better.

3. As far as the cast goes, Danny Huston makes a great bad-ass, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is in fine form as well, and although Alex Rocco’s storyline was a bit schmaltzy for my tastes, he’s still Alex Rocco, which means his scenes are worth seeing simply because he’s in them.

All things considered, it’s probably best that I hadn’t yet seen the fourth episode when I wrote about the series, since not only did it prove to be the most disappointing installment of the entire season, but it left such a bad taste in my mouth—I believe the precise phrase I used to describe the series at the time was “infuriatingly inconsistent”—that, if I’m to be honest, I could’ve flipped a coin to decide my thoughts on whether it was going to get better or worse in the coming weeks. Pretty much all of the good will it had built up in the preceding three weeks had been shot all to hell in the span of a single hour.

Thank God it got better. In fact, it got so much better that, now that Magic City: The Complete First Season has been released on DVD and Blu-ray, I have absolutely no hesitation about recommending it as a must-buy. I really can’t speak to what happened behind the scenes to turn the series around in such a dramatic fashion, but it was one of the most impressive TV turnarounds I’ve ever seen.

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Hidden Netflix Gems: Drugstore Cowboy

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Drugstore Cowboy” (1989)

“Drugstore Cowboy” became director Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough film following its release in 1989. The film was critically acclaimed, ending up on both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s lists of the top ten films of the year. Today, its rating stands at 100 percent on the Tomatometer. Of course, aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes can be inaccurate for older films, but in this instance the site takes 27 reviews into account. Van Sant went on to receive Academy Award nominations for Best Director for his work on “Good Will Hunting” (1997) and “Milk” (2008).

But back to “Drugstore Cowboy.” The film stars Matt Dillon as Bob Hughes, the leader of a gang of drug addicts travelling the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970s and doing just about anything to get a fix (generally of pharmaceutical opiates, for reasons that will become clear in a moment). Bob’s crew is made up of his wife, Dianne, who’s played by Kelly Lynch, his partner Rick (James Le Gros), and Rick’s new girlfriend, Nadine, who’s played by a 19 year-old Heather Graham. The cast also includes James Remar as Gentry, a police officer whose relationship with Bob is somewhat reminiscent of Ricky and Julian’s interactions with Park Supervisor Jim Lahey in “Trailer Park Boys” (which you know about if you’ve been keeping up with my “Hidden Netflix Gems“). And I can’t not mention that one of the film’s best scenes comes from a cameo by prominent author (and junkie) William S. Burroughs as Tom, a man who’s “shot a million dollars in his arm.” Oh, and who just so happens to be a priest.

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