Every year for the Labor Day issue this reporter acknowledges the joy I have for being a journalist. I love my job. With a relentlessly positive attitude I interview VIPs, celebrities and otherwise normal people to share their stories.
It is a career I owe to my late husband, the remarkable Frank Barron, a longtime contributor to The Tolucan Times and former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, among many other credits. I was a publicist, proud to work with the great Gene Schwam at Hanson & Schwam Public Relations before I met Frank. But in 1980 after we got married, Frank encouraged me to follow in his footsteps and be a writer. That has let me put the spotlight on some pretty amazing people.
As a journalist, in addition to meeting interesting individuals from all walks of life at events and shows around town all year long, I am lucky to have the opportunity to chat with a variety of creative and famous individuals during the Television Critics Association’s press tours twice a year. I’ve been doing that for more than 35 years and I am still excited about asking questions that spark great replies…or even snarky ones from performers whose brilliant comedic ease is like fine wine and gets better with age.
A memorable moment from the most recent press tour came when John Cleese, 78, held court via satellite to promote his new comedy Hold the Sunset, premiering this fall on Britbox, the British BBC-ITV streaming service. The master of hilarity (as witnessed by Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fans) got in a few plugs for his Hold the Sunset series in which he plays a man who wants to marry his old flame Edith (Alison Steadman), but plans go awry when her adult son moves back with his mother. Cleese said, “I’m playing myself. My wife said it’s the first time that she’s seen me onscreen and recognized me because I just sit there making snarky remarks and hoping someone else will open the front door.”
I had to ask Cleese to reveal his greatest professional and personal accomplishments, and, of course, he gave the silliest deadpan response. He said, “My greatest professional accomplishment will be a movie I’m writing now. It’s a light comedy about cannibalism called ‘Yummy.’ My greatest personal accomplishment is to have established a really good relationship with our cats.”
Jane Fonda gave a glimpse of her funny side at press tour, on hand to talk about her documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, premiering Monday, September 24 on HBO. When asked why she married guys that were controlling, she quipped, “Well, they were all so brilliant and they could teach me things and take me farther than I had ever gone and — they weren’t boring.” Regarding her age Fonda is very comfortable, in fact she noted, “I’m 80 and a half. I’m proud. I never thought I’d live this long, so I feel kind of good about it.”
More humor came with my encounter with Nathan Fillion. As the titled crime-busting mystery author on Castle, Fillion showcased his comedic charm. Now in his new series The Rookie, premiering Tuesday, October 16 on ABC, we are going to see him as the oldest rookie cop with the LAPD.
What does Nathan at 47 find funny about the situation on and off camera? Fillion told me, “I think it’s really hard to make people laugh. I think it’s easier to let people laugh at you. The Rookie puts us as an audience in the very safe position of saying, ‘Thank God, I am not him going through that.’”
Nathan is playing a guy who gets out of breath after he runs after bad guys and has trouble climbing over a fence to catch them. That’s not acting, he admitted. “Six pounds of Epsom salt on that particular day of shooting, and bruises up and down my thighs. I’m at the point in my life where, if I can have a stunt guy run down the street for me, these knees will appreciate it. Kneeling is a stunt for me,” Fillion sort of joked.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.