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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Tamala Jones (‘Castle’)

When “Castle” first premiered on ABC in March 2009, there was a running joke amongst TV critics about whether or not it would prove to be yet another addition to Nathan Fillion’s growing list of one-and-done series, but now that we’re into the sixth season of novelist Richard Castle’s crimesolving collaboration with the NYPD, it’s hard to believe anyone ever thought it wouldn’t last. Recently, Bullz-Eye was presented with the opportunity to chat with Tamala Jones, better known to viewers as medical examiner Lanie Parish, so we naturally took advantage of it, asking about her experiences on the series, finding out how she got into acting in the first place, and, yes, even getting a few teases about what we can expect to see in upcoming episodes.

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Bullz-Eye: I’m glad we were finally able to make this happen, since you got called to the set early on the day we were originally supposed to talk.

Tamala Jones: Yes! It’s been crazy! But it’s for a good reason: that Lanie-centric episode that everybody’s been asking for, that happened last week.

BE: That is a good reason to be busy.

TJ: Yeah! [Laughs.]

BE: I guess the big question, then, is what took so long.

TJ: What took so long…um… [Starts to laugh.] I don’t know. You know, I honestly… Andrew (W. Marlowe) is like a mad scientist, and there’s a method to his madness. He’s been talking about doing the Lanie-centric episode, and I think what he was trying to do – which I really appreciate – was to find something beyond just the Esposito and Lanie relationship that also kind of included it, too. And he executed that very well.

BE: So it lived up to the long wait, then?

TJ: Yes! [Laughs.] It definitely did!

BE: Well, now that you’ve started out by teasing everyone with what’s on the horizon, let’s jump back to the beginning: how did you find your way onto “Castle” in the first place? Was it a standard audition, or did they reach out to you specifically?

TJ: It was a standard audition. We actually… My team actually reached out to the casting lady, Donna Rosenstein. It was right after the writer’s strike, there was nothing going on, and if you weren’t already previously on a show, you were out looking for one. And she was casting for “Castle,” and I was, like, “Just ask her if I can come in,” because the role was not written for an African-American actress. And she checked, and they said, “Yes, we’ll see her.” It was literally three lines – Lanie was a guest star, possibly recurring – and as soon as I walked out of there, 15 minutes later they were, like, “You got it!” I was screaming, jumping up and down. You’d’ve thought I’d won the lottery. [Laughs.]

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So we shot the pilot in New York, and once the pilot got picked up…well, of course, I was out testing for other pilots, and once we heard it got picked up, we let ABC know, “Well, she’s got a test today. Is she still going to be recurring? Because we have to let them know.” And they were, like, “Tell her not to go in for the test. We’re going to make her a series regular here.” And I was just… [Shrieks.] “Really? Well, that was the easiest series-regular job I’ve ever gotten!” [Laughs.] So there’s where the story begins!

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The Light from the TV Shows: Failed Pilots with All-Star Casts

As the new TV season rolls out, let’s take a look back at a few series that never actually made it on the air. Not that there aren’t plenty such series every single year, but sometimes you look back and wonder, “How could a show with all of these talented people not get on the schedule?” Not that we have an answer to that question, you understand, but at least we can all be mystified and annoyed together.

Next! (2001)

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Fred Armisen, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, Nick Swardson
What you missed out on: After Bob Odenkirk and David Cross decided to put a bullet in their HBO sketch comedy series, “Mr. Show” (that’s right, it was their decision, not the network’s), the guys attempted to go their separate ways, with Odenkirk setting up shop at Fox with a pilot for a new sketch comedy series. If you think the above names are impressive, consider that several other “Mr. Show” alumni were in tow as well, including Jerry Minor, Jay Johnston, and Jill Talley, with Patton Oswalt also participating in some capacity or other. And, yes, if you’re wondering, Cross made an appearance in the pilot, too. So what happened? Apparently, Fox basically flipped a coin to decide which new sketch comedy series they’d add to their lineup, and “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” won the toss. Oh, what might’ve been…

North Hollywood (2001)

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, and Judge Reinhold as himself
What you missed out on: Judd Apatow has never been ashamed to admit that the only reason that this pilot ever came into existence is that Fox refused to let him cast Jason Segel as his lead in the short-lived but highly-regarded “Undeclared,” but you can’t say he didn’t do his best to surround Segel with top-notch talent. Segel, Amy Poehler, and Kevin Hart played roommates, with Segel a struggling actor, Hart a struggling actor/comedian, and Poehler serving as Judge Reinhold’s personal assistant. There’s a more detailed look at the pilot here, but the long and the short of it is that, although Apatow admits that he really didn’t know if there was a decent series to be had in “North Hollywood,” he thinks the pilot’s pretty decent, but its tone didn’t match the sitcoms filling ABC’s lineup at the time, so they took a pass on it.

Saddle Rash (2002)


Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Sarah Silverman, Todd Barry, Mitch Hedberg
What you missed out on: Created by Loren Bouchard, best known to animation fans as one of the creative forces behind “Home Movies,” “Saddle Rash” seemed to have all the elements necessary for a successful Adult Swim series, so why didn’t it make it beyond the pilot stage? Was it that westerns weren’t exactly in vogue at the time? Was there some sort of stigma attached to the project because they brought in country artists to continued voice work (including Waylon Jennings as a very special guest in the pilot)? Whatever the case, the pilot got aired – no doubt mostly because Adult Swim has a tendency to air just about every pilot it orders, whether it actually ends up going to series or not – but that was the end of the trail for the series.

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