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How ‘La Brea’ Created a Giant Sinkhole in the Middle of L.A. for NBC’s New Drama

Ahead of the Tuesday night premiere of NBC’s latest drama, “La Brea,” the cast and crew shed more light behind the mysterious sinkhole in Hollywood.

The adventure series opens with fast-paced action when a massive sinkhole suddenly opens in the La Brea area of Los Angeles, pulling scores of people, plus cars and buildings, into its mysterious depths. Among those pulled in are Eve (played by Natalie Zea) and her son Josh (played by Jack Martin).

Shooting took place in both Melbourne, Australia, where VFX created realistic sets of the Wilshire Boulevard area, and in L.A. itself.

Series creator David Applebaum explains, “The origin of the idea was an image of a sinkhole opening up in the middle of Los Angeles and from there you start asking why does it open? Who falls in? Where do they go? We don’t yet know how deep it goes.”

Zea adds, “This family is pulled apart 50-50, one faction of the family is up in Los Angeles, the other faction is in the downstairs, as I call it.”

Martin, whose character is pulled into the primeval world of the “downstairs,” is among the group of strangers forced together after the disaster, trying to figure out where they are and how to get back home. He says of the series and sets, “It’s on a grand scale. Its adventurous and there are a lot of mysteries. Everything and anything can happen.”

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VFX shots reveal the before and after of adding the sinkhole effect to the scene.

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Andy Brown, who worked as lead VFX supervisor on the series says, he is most excited for audiences to see the sinkhole sequences “taking the characters back to a primeval world.” Brown explains that sequence was his toughest. “Creating a digital replica of a few city blocks stretching from the La Brea tar pits to the Petersen museum on Wilshire Boulevard and its destruction by a massive sinkhole [was a challenge]. The sequence involved shooting on a set of Wilshire Boulevard built in the Melbourne docklands, surrounded by a large green screen.” The team used drones and array cameras to shoot the stunts with cars and crowds. “An additional aerial plate shoot was shot in L.A. and an extensive lidar and texture shoot of the Miracle Mile block served as a base for our vfx work,” says Brown.

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Veronica St. Clair, who plays Riley Velez describes each episode as “its own mini-adventure film.”

In addition to set extensions and invisible VFX work used to enhance the story, Brown teases, “There are many dangerous creatures that the characters encounter as well as environments and time portals.”

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“La Brea” premieres Tuesday Sept. 28 on NBC at 9/8 p.m. Central.

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How we made Robin Hood: the cast and crew of the BBC series look back 15 years later

By: Alex Moreland

“It’s what you dream of as a kid,” says Jonas Armstrong of Robin Hood, “practicing how to fire bow and arrows, riding horses, doing stunts. Getting to play Robin Hood and the band of outlaws!”

Today – 5th October, 2021 – marks 15 years since the premiere of Robin Hood. The series, which aired on BBC One from 2006 to 2009, reinvented the legend of Robin Hood for a whole new era: it presented a much younger, more dynamic version than audiences had seen before.

Lead actors Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood), Lucy Griffiths (Marian) and Keith Allen (the Sheriff of Nottingham), as well as executive producers and co-creators Foz Allan and Dominic Minghella, look back on the series – explaining how they found their own distinct take on the myth, what it was like to film the show in Hungary, and more.

The series began life when Doctor Who first went into production. “I said to Greg Brenman, then Head of Drama at [production company] Tiger Aspect, if Doctor Who works they’re going to want more of these family dramas,” remembers Foz Allan. 

“Foz had been into the BBC and said – there was big excitement around Doctor Who on Saturday night – there should be room in the schedule for another show like it as well. They weren’t hugely interested!” says Dominic Minghella.

“But then Peter Fincham joined as controller of BBC One. He had young kids at the time, as did Foz and I, and arrived asking why isn’t there a Robin Hood on Saturday nights? That was where all the creative energy was focused, Saturday night,” continues Minghella. “They said to him ‘oh we’ve been talking about that actually’, and quickly called Foz.”

“I was in the middle of Doc Martin when Foz asked if I could do Robin Hood. It sounded like a great opportunity: it came at a time in my career where I realised I wanted to be a producer as well as a writer,” says Minghella, explaining what drew him to the show. “I didn’t have a burning ambition to retell the tale of Robin Hood, but Foz was somebody who was secure enough in his own production role to be willing to share it.”

“Dom was a very experienced writer, I was a very experienced producer, it felt like exactly the right meeting of minds to tell a well-known story in an exciting way,” says Allan.

“When it was go, it was really go really quick,” says Minghella. “I’d written one script, as a ‘here’s how I would do Robin Hood’. Everybody loved that, it was greenlit, and suddenly we were producing 13 episodes on a tight budget. It’s stressful, but the kind of stress you want.”

At this point, the casting process started – though not without some initial back-and-forth. “Often we were putting people forward who were over 30 and the BBC came back saying ‘it’s a show for young people, a lads and dads show, we want fresh young faces’. The average audience of BBC One was about 75 – ‘we need to bring it down to 69, can you please put some young people in your show?’” Minghella jokes.

“I did a first audition with Dominic, Foz, and Michelle Guish. I liked the scenes, I felt they could suit me,” remembers Lucy Griffiths, who played Marian in the first two series of Robin Hood. “That was the first of four auditions I did over two or three months. It was the longest audition process I’ve ever had! I think there was some concern about my age, because I was only 19, but in the end, they trusted me.”

“It was a good opportunity to find great people who were new, though. That cast was brilliant,” says Minghella. “Sam Troughton, my hero. Jonas, obviously, a proper cheeky chappy. Lovely Lucy, such poise for a 19-year-old. Will Beck, who’s the star of Casualty now. Harry Lloyd, Gordon Kennedy, Joe Armstrong, who is a class act, we had a fantastic cast.”

“I think Richard Armitage lied and said he was under 30, or maybe we lied, because I desperately wanted him. We had a little bit of a fight [with the BBC], and I’m really happy to have won that battle,” says Minghella, before doing an impression of Armitage in the first episode. “I’ve looked after your land, Locksley. Who do you think you are, Lord of the Dance?” 

“My agent phoned to say you’ve been offered the part of the Sheriff,” recalls Keith Allen. “No audition, no interview, nothing: you fly out to Budapest in four days. Obviously, the person who had been cast pulled out at the last moment and nobody else was available…”

“I didn’t have time to do any research, there wasn’t time to worry about past comparisons – it literally was off the plane, onto a horse, be entertaining.”

“Everyone was hearing about Robin Hood,” says Jonas Armstrong. “I was keen to get a meeting, maybe for Will Scarlet or Alan-a-Dale. I was 25! When my agent called to say ‘Jonas, you’ve got an audition for Robin Hood’, I thought okay cracking, who’s it for? My agent said “Robin Hood” – I laughed and said ‘no, who’s it for?’.

“Because I didn’t think I had a hope in it, I didn’t feel nervous. I wasn’t intimidated. I just went for it – and the next day, I flew off to India for six weeks to do [2006 series] Losing Gemma for ITV,” Armstrong added. “The BBC wanted to fly me back for screen tests, but ITV, understandably, wouldn’t allow me to mess around with their schedule. So that was my only audition – I was very fortunate I had such a good agent backing me, but the fact it was just the one is crazy when you think about it.”

“[When I first auditioned], I was working in a hotel as a waitress,” says Griffiths. “After series one, I was invited back to that hotel to be part of an evening celebrating current BBC shows while different companies come down and try to sell their new shows for next year.”

“I recognised the convention,” she continues, “and it turned out that I had been working at the hotel the year before when Dominic and Foz had been pitching the show with Tiger Aspect to the BBC. It was the same convention! That was a nice little full circle moment.”

Of course, the Robin Hood tradition dates back to the 1400s – the myth has been defined and redefined for hundreds of years, from the early ballads to Errol Flynn. How did this team make their version distinct? 

“I’d always wanted to do Robin Hood,” Foz Allan says. “The great thing about legends full stop is that they are completely adaptable to their time. That’s why they remain legends: you bring them back and back because they say something for you.”

“Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood represents the triumph of the individual over the Nazi horde,” Allan suggests. “An aging Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, tired and stuck in the woods asking what they’re doing – that’s America coming out of Vietnam. The 1980s one of my youth [ITV’s Robin of Sherwood] was devoutly and dedicatedly spiritual in the middle of Thatcherism, which was overtly profoundly materialistic. Today, you might do a kind of Brexit-fractured England – or you might do some plague stories.”

“I don’t think we had much of a conversation about any of the other ones, though,” says Allan. “We were very aware that a youth world was arriving, it was properly the end of the old world. We got into the sense of the team – when you’re young, your friendship group is the most important thing in your life.”

“Our ambition was to move away from men in tights, the slightly silly in a costume [Robin]. Not that we took ourselves too seriously: we wanted it to be more energised, more dynamic, but I always saw it as a comedy,” says Minghella. “I’m not sure other people necessarily did – people wanted it to be a little bit more serious, a little bit more earnest than I ever did – but I think when you’ve got Keith Allen as your Sheriff of Nottingham, obviously it’s a comedy!”

“I thought he should be cruel and occasionally funny,” agrees Allen. “I think what I’m most pleased about regarding Robin Hood is being remembered as a baddy who could make you laugh.”

“I never felt that we needed our political philosophy of taking from the rich to give to the poor,” continues Minghella. “I think if you were doing it now, you might have a really different attitude to the social story that is quintessentially Robin Hood. But I just wanted to have fun.”

Even as they forged their own path, though, Armstrong found the legend difficult to live up to at first. “I had a picture in my head of what Robin Hood looked like: six foot two, muscular, all these images came to my head,” explains Armstrong. “I felt a bit underconfident, because people have an idea of what Robin Hood should look like, or I had anyway. I think I was very self-conscious about that.”

“At the table read, in the Sheriff’s Great Hall – with all the executives from the BBC and BBC Worldwide, there were over 100 people – I convinced myself I was gonna get replaced. I was that nervous! But once the cameras started rolling, and I was surrounded by my fellow cast members, and especially the stunt team as well, I felt safe.

“After the first episode some critics were quite cruel, saying physically, I didn’t look like how Robin Hood ‘should’ look like. But that’s their opinion, so excuse my language but f**k them,” says Armstrong, explaining how “in the break between series, I worked with a trainer and put on about a stone and a half of muscle. I came back looking physically different, and I felt more at ease with myself.”

Though Robin Hood is famous for living in Sherwood Forest, the series didn’t shoot there. “I did a tour of Europe – Bucharest, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Ireland and England – looking for the right [location],” explains Foz Allan. “We knew that it’d be a big show – horses, fights, CGI, castles – so you’re looking for some studio space and some interesting woodlands. We built most of the houses and the castle interior. Frankly, it was cheaper to do it in Hungary.”

When the cast arrived in Hungary, production began with a rigorous training process to teach them how to be an outlaw. “It was very intense,” says Armstrong, “because we had to learn new skills – even though I’d had training at drama school with fighting and swordplay, this was different. It was unarmed combat, using a bow and arrow, different types of swords, horse riding, different stunts.”

“We had more flexibility with the stunt team than I think you would necessarily get in England,” says Griffiths. “Rules and regulations are there for a reason, but they are often a bit stifling as well.”

“The stunt team put us through our paces – in Hungary they don’t mess about,” agrees Armstrong. “There was no ‘oh we have to protect our actors’, they just said, look, this is what you have to do. We’re gonna make you do it. They were brilliant.”

“I never went to the Hood Camp,” says Allen, “as nearly all my scenes were shot in the castle – or occasionally on location overseeing the ransacking of villages.”

“It’s a big deal to take people away for that length of time, but still keep the enthusiasm up,” says Minghella. “It’s quite hard to be away from home, particularly for young people. You’ll know about the theft of our rushes that extended our stay, which was highly stressful.”

In August 2006, it was reported that four tapes of footage from the series had been stolen from the studio in Hungary – throwing schedules into disarray, risking missed production deadlines. (It was rumoured, though never confirmed, that a ransom had been issued for their return.) Ultimately, local police recovered the tapes by early September.

“The tapes were stolen. The tapes were returned. I think one guy went to prison for it,” says Foz Allan, still speaking carefully about what happened. “The tapes were buried in black plastic bags covered in cinnamon – the bad guys apparently believed that dogs couldn’t smell tape if cinnamon disguised the scent.”

“It wasn’t a publicity stunt, which was reported a lot of the time,” continues Allan. “It was very emotionally harrowing. Because we were the first High Definition show filmed outside of the UK for British television, we only had one High Definition machine – when the tapes disappeared, we hadn’t copied and duplicated as you normally would.”

“We were looking at getting everybody to reshoot significant amounts of what they’d done. It would’ve been difficult, and we wouldn’t have been able to deliver the show [in time]. It was a hit before it arrived, in the sense that BBC Worldwide had already sold it to quite a lot of territories – so not being able to meet those deadlines would have been emotionally distressing.”

Nonetheless, Armstrong remembers the production fondly. “There weren’t any fallouts between the cast, which is rare over a three-year period, filming that intensely. The friendships that were forged – without sounding cliché – became like a family. Because you are family, when you’re away from home over seven months at a time.”

At the end of the second series, Guy of Gisbourne kills Marian – was it Lucy Griffiths’ decision to leave the show? “It was an idea the writers had, and we spoke about together – they always wanted to be quite bold with the choices that they made, and it was a bold thing to kill your heroine!” says Griffiths of her departure. 

“Killing Marian was breaking that ‘they want to be together, but they can’t be together’ love jam,” explains Minghella, who wrote the series two finale. “For me, the triangle of Gisbourne, Marian and Robin was what I loved about the show, but I found myself writing its logical conclusion.”

“One of the reasons I knew the show was a big success – I think it sold to 140 or 150 territories, it did extraordinarily well worldwide – was I’d get emails out of the blue. ‘Dear Mr. Allen, why’d you kill Marian? Love, watcher from Chile’ – which is very satisfying!” says Foz Allen, laughing.

“I felt like – especially in the second series – I had given my all, and I had done what I went there to do, if that makes sense,” Griffiths says. “I felt ready and happy to leave. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be there! It’s just that I was happy and ready to do something else.”

Having killed Marian, Dominic Minghella began to consider leaving as well. “I was really proud of the end of season two – but I felt as though I’d done everything I could with the show.”

“I read once there had been some big fallout, but in fact Foz and I remain best mates, always trying to work together,” says Minghella. “I just didn’t know how to come out of the gates in season three with something new and exciting. If you can’t be brilliant, let someone else have a go at being brilliant, basically.”

Is there a danger a show like Robin Hood might start to feel repetitive? “If you look at something like CSI, for instance, the story each week is different, but the structure is the same,” suggests Foz Allan. “The reward for the audience is about character – if you’re enjoying Gisbourne and Robin’s banter, you look forward to that, and if you don’t get that there is a little bit of disappointment there.”

“You have to find a way to reward the right bit of the audience expectation,” he continues. “You look at something like Doc Martin, Silent Witness, or Doctor Who, people enjoy them for their familiarity. Always looking for episode 39 to be fresh is a mistake – looking for episode 39 to be enjoyable and emotionally rich is where we should be.”

Going into series three, Robin Hood introduced a number of new characters – new outlaws Tuck (David Harewood), Kate (Joanne Froggatt), and Archer (Clive Standen), as well as new villain Isabella (Lara Pulver) – as part of an effort to reinvent the show for its third year. There were even conversations about a potential fourth series, meaning its stars had to decide how much longer he wanted to stay in the part. 

“This was halfway through the third series, because obviously the writers would have to come to a finale,” remembers Armstrong. “I had long conversations with my agent: after three years, when Will Scarlett had gone, Djaq had gone, Marian had gone, and we knew that Keith and Richard were leaving, where’s it going to go?

“I’m sure that the writers would have managed to carry it on. But I just felt it was the right time for me to leave.”

“Sally [Wainwright, writer of Happy Valley and Gentleman Jack] was brought in to have a look at setting up a fourth series,” reveals Foz Allan. “If you change your Robin, you have to have a pretty radical solution to that, and that’s what Sally was working on.” Several of the new characters introduced that year were considered potential leads for a fourth series.

Ultimately, the BBC decided not to renew Robin Hood for a fourth series. Armstrong’s Robin Hood died in an emotional finale, protecting the people of Nottingham from Sheriff Vaiseyone last time – seeing a final vision of Marian as he drew his last breath. 

How do they all feel about it now, looking back?

“I’m immensely proud of it now,” says Minghella. “It’s never a good idea to look online and see what people are saying about where you’ve been, but I stumbled across several groups who follow Robin Hood and for a good chunk of people it’s still alive.”

“As Foz and I used to say, it’s for this generation, we want them to remember it and love it and own it as theirs,” he continues. “The love we put into it seems to be appreciated, which – having given years of your life to something, not seeing your family and your kids because you really wanted to create something that resonated – is just really, really gratifying.”

“The fact that we’re having this conversation 15 years on is very rewarding: television is and should be a disposable medium,” agrees Allan. “Getting something that’s remembered 15 years later is pretty good. [I’m also] proud of putting together a production model in Hungary – nowadays it’s quite regular to go abroad and shoot big shows, but then it was very much early days.”

“I love Budapest, it’s beautiful,” says Griffiths. “Because I’m not really a traveller, I would probably never have left Brighton – I’m very lucky that I was forced to! I was quite privileged to have that experience, to have learned [what I did] in a way that that I know not everyone else has.”

“[I’m pleased that] a lot of adults have fond memories of the show” says Keith Allen. “It was great family viewing. It was, for a lot of people, a shared experience with family, and that can be very comforting.”

“I’m proud that our stories are part of the legend of Robin Hood, and that we got to live that for three years,” says Armstrong. “And we did live it! And it was a beautiful thing.”

Robin Hood is available to watch on BritBox. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Drama hub for the latest news. 

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‘Traumatic’: Hamilton and Come From Away musical cast and crew stood down without pay

Sydney’s lockdown has forced prominent shows including Hamilton and Come From Away to stand down their casts and crews without pay for the duration, as Live Performance Australia continues their call for a business interruption fund to cover the performing arts.

While the Hamilton company can access their annual leave, even in advance of its accrual, the performers and crew of Come From Awayare worse off, having used up their entitlements during three earlier lockdowns: in Melbourne in March 2020 and February 2021, and in Brisbane in March 2021.

The CEO of peak body Live Performance Australia (LPA), Evelyn Richardson, said this is exactly what the industry has been warning against. “The reality is that this will happen again and again,” she told Guardian Australia. “We’ve been lobbying federal and state governments since early last year for exactly this scenario, so that a producer can get access to insurance underwriting and some kind of reimbursement.”

Without it, large-scale productions and live music tours become an unacceptable risk for producers, Richardson says – adding that despite New South Wales government assurances that the issue would be addressed in the wake of the cancellation of Byron Bay’s Bluesfest in 2020, no commitment has been forthcoming.

“There has never been a more urgent time for this [commitment to be made],” said Richardson. “It’s getting harder and harder for producers to have the confidence to keep investing.”

It’s a traumatic position to be in’

Hamilton’s producer Michael Cassel is currently in New Zealand, where he has been overseeing the opening of the Auckland production of The Lion King. Cassel’s production company is also behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which resumed performances on 26 June after a four-week hiatus brought about by Melbourne’s recent Covid-19 outbreak.

He said both Hamilton and Harry Potter are governed by an enterprise bargaining agreement, negotiated late last year, which includes a stand down provision. “When we are unable to work due to the pandemic and any lockdown implemented by government, everybody is stood down for the term.”

“We are helping out and doing the best we can,” Cassel said. “Our salary bill is substantial and there is no way to pay it when the show is not performing. If we didn’t do this, we’d have to close the show altogether.”

While the federal government’s Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (Rise) fund did help a number of shows reopen, “it wasn’t a bottomless pit”, said Cassel.

“At the time we were applying for Rise funding, none of us knew how much money we might need in the future. Jobkeeper helped, but that’s no longer available. It is a traumatic position to be in.”

Come from Away producer Rodney Rigby said he’s very aware of the financial hardship of a stand down decision. “Such action is only taken to protect the longevity of our production and the long-term employment of our company. We have supported our employees to the best of our capacity and will continue to do so wherever possible.”

‘The federal government must step up’

The lockdown continues to wreak havoc in the live performance sector more broadly. The remount season of Griffin theatre company’s Prima Facie at the Seymour Centre has been scratched, as has an upcoming production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, slated for the Old Fitzroy Theatre. All theatre in Sydney is paused until 9 July, when the lockdown period will be reviewed.

Any extension would put several major productions in jeopardy, including Opera Australia’s winter season, Sydney Theatre Company’s Triple X, Griffin Theatre’s premiere of Wherever She Wanders and Belvoir’s Miss Peony.

Director of Equity at the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA), Michelle Rae, said actors, musicians and stage crews are still doing it tough. “Australian arts and entertainment workers continue to be devastated by Covid yet support from the federal government is almost non-existent.

Support for live performance workers should not be reliant on the good will of the employer, she added. “The federal government must step up and support this industry. Even without the continuing lockdowns, many venues are not at full capacity and therefore many arts and entertainment workers are still not earning a living. MEAA is calling on the government to extend vital income support for our industries.”

Producers and theatre companies in locked down areas are anxiously eyeing not just the date they will be allowed to reopen, but also the possible conditions under which it can occur, which may include the re-imposition of social distancing rules in theatres, and caps on audience numbers.

Tight margins in musical theatre demand high audience capacities. Even at 85%, most musicals would fall short of their break-even point. Fifty per cent caps would be financially disastrous for commercial operations such as Hamilton.

“We’re looking at all the scenarios,” Cassel said. “It’s not just one rule we have to factor in. It might be 50% audiences or 60%, or [distancing of] four square metres. It’s hard to know. We have to wait for the facts otherwise we are jumping at shadows.”

Hamilton broke all Australian box office records before the show opened in Sydney in March. It is still the only production of the blockbuster Broadway show playing in the world. Come From Away played to strong houses in Brisbane and Melbourne before opening in Sydney.


Season 2

  • Octavia Spencer

    as Poppy Parnell

  • Kate Hudson

    as Micah Keith

  • Mekhi Phifer

    as Markus Killebrew

  • Christopher Backus

    as Holt Redding

  • Tracie Thoms

    as Desiree Scoville

  • Haneefah Wood

    as Cydie Scoville

  • David Lyons

    as Detective Aames

  • Merle Dandridge

    as Zarina Killebrew

  • Ron Cephas Jones

    as Leander “Shreve” Scoville

  • Katherine LaNasa

    as Noa Havilland

  • Mychala Faith Lee

    as Trini Killebrew

  • Michael Beach

    as Ingram Rhoades

  • Tami Roman

    as Lillian Scoville

Executive Producers
  • Nichelle Tramble Spellman
  • Octavia Spencer
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Lauren Neustadter
  • Peter Chernin
  • Jenno Topping
  • Mikkel Nørgaard

Season 1

  • Octavia Spencer

    as Poppy Parnell

    A journalist and podcaster who is driven by the truth and her own moral code to reopen the investigation around the murder of Chuck Buhrman — the case that made her a national sensation.

  • Aaron Paul

    as Warren Cave

    The convicted murderer of Chuck Buhrman; in prison since 1999 and accused of having stabbed his neighbor to death on Halloween night. The once shy and awkward teen establishes a cat-and-mouse relationship with Poppy.

  • Lizzy Caplan

    as Lanie Buhrman Dunn

    Still struggling with the violent death of her father from 1999, Lanie objects to the reopening of her father's murder case.

  • Lizzy Caplan

    as Josie Buhrman

    Like her twin sister Lanie, Josie has never quite recovered from her father's murder.

  • Elizabeth Perkins

    as Melanie Cave

    The stalwart mother of Warren. Her single-minded pursuit to free her son eclipses all else.

  • Michael Beach

    as Ingram Rhoades

    Poppy’s husband and her rock, a distinguished man who knows his own considerable worth. A strong and steady attorney who defied his elitist family to marry Poppy.

  • Mekhi Phifer

    as Markus Killebrew

    Poppy’s ex, a former ball player and a former detective in the Oakland Police Department. He jumps at the chance to help Poppy investigate the Chuck Buhrman murder.

  • Tracie Thoms

    as Desiree Scoville

    Poppy’s older sister and confidante; she is the family rock, and isn’t afraid to put Poppy in her place.

  • Haneefah Wood

    as Cydie Scoville

    Poppy's younger sister who enjoys her role as the baby of the family.

  • Ron Cephas Jones

    as Leander “Shreve” Scoville

    Head of the East Bay Capstones Motorcycle Club and a devout Catholic, Poppy’s father Shreve wields considerable influence both at home and in the community.

  • Nichelle Tramble Spellman
  • Nichelle Tramble Spellman
Executive Producers
  • Nichelle Tramble Spellman
  • Leonard Dick
  • Ben Watkins
  • Mikkel Nørgaard
  • Peter Chernin
  • Jenno Topping
  • Kristen Campo
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Lauren Neustadter
  • Victor Hsu
  • Octavia Spencer

Cast and crew today

‘Our Lady of 121st Street’ cast and crew shine, script falters

This Friday, the University of Iowa Theatre Department kicked off the return of in-person mainstage productions with a live performance of Our Lady of 121st Street. The play follows the stories of former students returning to Harlem for their teacher’s funeral.

While the script features a wide array of diverse characters, some of them are unfortunately reduced to tired stereotypes, taking away interest from those hoping for something more original than a series of tropes out of the show.

Although an angry Latina, a weed-smoking adulterous Black man, and a gullible neurodivergent person can be true to life, reusing those tropes time and time again perpetuates the idea that those traits are inherent to members of those backgrounds.

The playwright of the script, Stephen Adly Guirgis, seems well aware that the story is rife with stereotypes, seeing as one character’s entire arc is about embodying all the stereotypical traits of a gay man.

This character could have been used to deconstruct the effects of being stereotyped, but he was instead used to tell the same story of yet another fictional queer couple breaking up over one person wanting to be out of the closet and the other wanting to hide their queerness around old friends and family.

Another issue with the script is its odd narrative structure. With no satisfying conclusion to many plotlines, it felt like watching a TV show get canceled during its mid-season finale.

RELATED: UI Theatre’s mainstage season to open with Our Lady of 121st Street

Despite the issues with the script, the cast did an overall excellent job with what they were given.

UI graduate teaching assistant Monté J. Howell, who played Rooftop, added plenty of personality to the show from his boisterous laughter to the nuance he brought to his character’s self-reflective moments. UI graduate teaching assistant Sonya Madrigal, who played Norca, kept up a truly impressive level of energy throughout the performance and didn’t fall into becoming one-note as a character who is angry most of the time.

Hopefully, these talented actors will have more opportunities in the future to portray more nuanced characters. It’s clear the Theatre Department made an effort to find a play that called for diverse casting, but diverse casting alone doesn’t inherently represent diverse stories.

Watching performances like those onscreen is nice, but being able to watch it play out in person, knowing there were no do-overs if the performers messed up, is all the more impressive. The actors adjusted their performances to the audience’s reaction in real time, making the crowd feel like part of the show as well.

The technical team behind the show also did great work. The play didn’t require any major set changes because of the set’s three separate levels. On the bottom level, the set can function as a bar or a confessional box. The mid-level was used for the outside of the church, and the top-level hosted the display room for Sister Rose’s casket.

Some characters remained frozen in place as the lights went down on their scene, so their scene could be quickly resumed after a scene on a different level played out, which kept the show running seamlessly.

Metal windows hang in the background, creating the illusion of an apartment complex in Harlem. Brightly illuminated signs for the church and bar lit up during scenes that took place in those locations, adding extra atmospheric detail to the otherwise simple, yet effective bar and church setting.

The Theatre Department clearly has plenty of talent behind it, which could be better utilized with a better script. Despite its issues, Our Lady of 121st Street proved that acting and technical talent were not lost when live theater was not possible.

Anbe Vaa Serial - Episode 269 - 12th Oct 2021 - Virat - Delna Davis - Saregama TV Shows Tamil

The Today Show Crew's Cutest Family Photos

After the arrival of his second child, daughter Sybil, with wife Lindsay Czarniak in 2016, Melvin wrote a moving blog post for PEOPLE about the importance of paternity leave — and finding his place as a dad of two.

"I spend a lot of my time making sure our son knows there's enough love in this house for two children," he wrote of splitting time with Sybil, now 2, and son Del, now 5. "A friend who has twins admitted months ago one of her great fears was, 'Would I have enough to give to two children? How would I divide?' "

"There's no division — you multiply," he continued. "Sure I haven't changed as many diapers this time around or helped with as many newborn feeds, but I've discovered I'm valuable in a whole new way. I can piece together a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle with my eyes closed, rush to the grocery store to stock up on "yo yo" (A.K.A overpriced squeeze yogurts) and fruit snacks (overpriced gummy bunnies), negotiate nap times or night-nights and run a shuttle service for a 2-year-old whose play-date and school schedule rivals a cable and network news anchor's work day."


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Everything You Need to Know About Fisher-Price Cast & Play Crew

This article is a paid promotion sponsored by an SOB advertiser and designed to share valuable info with our readers.

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Calling all cute little boys and girls! 

Fisher-Price is currently seeking children 0-5 years old to join their Cast & Play Crew. This is a super unique opportunity for children and families in WNY to potentially be featured on Fisher-Price product packages, in product videos and ads, and participate in toy testing and in play groups. Children from birth to 6 months are in high demand.


If you’re ready to go behind the scenes at Fisher-Price, here’s everything you need to know:

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The Requirements 

The requirements  are simple. Fisher-Price is looking for kids that love to play, are between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, and live in the WNY area.  In addition to the above the New York State Department of Labor requires child models to have a valid NYS Child Performer Permit. This application process takes some time, so it’s best to plan ahead. 


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The Photo & Video Studio Details

After your child has been fully onboarded as a member of the Cast & Play Crew, you will be scheduled to bring them to the Fisher-Price East Aurora campus to play with all the toys while the studio captures the action. 

What’s in it for the kids? Being super cute is super hard work. That’s why all child models at Fisher-Price get paid, and those payments will be deposited directly into their bank accounts! When it comes to funding your kid’s bright future, it’s never too early to start. College savings, anyone? 

If you have a newborn or you’re expecting a little one soon, it’s the ideal time to look into Fisher-Price Cast & Play Crew. 

P.S. Fisher-Price is also looking for Moms and Dads to model too! No modeling experience necessary!

Learn More

If you’re interested in registering your kid for this awesome opportunity, head over to the Cast & Play Crew website for more information. 


This article is a paid promotion sponsored by an SOB advertiser and designed to share valuable info with our readers.


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