Category Archives: features

Flashback: Patrick Stewart on Taking Over the Enterprise on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

In March 1988, the season one wrap party for Star Trek: The Next Generation was held at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, a landmark famous for its appearances in movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and, most recently, La La Land. Along with its stargazing capabilities, the observatory also provides one of the best vantage points of Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area. While speaking with ET, the perspective on Star Trek franchise creator Gene Roddenberry’s mind that night was a more personal one.

“The first year of the first generation of Star Trek, I had been fired,” said Roddenberry, standing in front of a banner that read: “Congrats on the First 26 Voyages,” noting the original series’ first season’s grand total of 26 hours of television. “And the first review we had of the show was: ‘Last night we had one of the worst things that had ever happened on TV in living color.’” The stark contrast between the inaugural seasons wasn’t lost on the legendary writer, who was now enjoying the success and critical acceptance of TNG, which premiered 30 years ago on Sept. 26, 1987.

“The way Paramount interested me in this one: They said it’s impossible to do again, at which point my ears perked up,” Roddenberry had said from his office on the Paramount backlot the previous year, five months before the series would debut.

After a string of successful films with the original cast, amassing a now-legendary fan base, Roddenberry was attempting to defy all expectations by creating a spin-off Star Trek series. Among the skeptics was Leonard Nimoy, who told him that “it would be difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice.” In order to pull off this endeavor, Roddenberry found someone whose artistic passion was also motivated by impossible odds. 

“Throughout my career, I had always been attracted, sometimes fatally, to the adventure that lies in a project,” Patrick Stewart said a few months before the show’s premiere. “And occasionally, I get into trouble. I hope not this time.”

While a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart had watched the original series by catching episodes after Saturday matinees of productions such as King Lear and Richard IV. Roddenberry had seemingly found the perfect actor in Stewart to portray Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who would need to withstand an onslaught of comparisons to William Shatner. Stewart’s introduction to American television had been preceded by decades of performing universally beloved works, often in theater companies with cherished histories and long-standing traditions. Being a professional new kid in town as well as a Star Trek fan, Stewart knew how to prepare audiences for an addition to the well-documented mythology.

MORE: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Cast Spill Secrets From Set

“I think they should look at this for the way it builds for what has gone before. All the foundations of Star Trek have been laid and they remain the same,” said Stewart.

“There are a lot of issues and challenges in the ’80s and ’90s at the end of the century that need talking about,” said Roddenberry, excited to continue doing what the original series had only been praised for in hindsight, using allegories to comment on social and cultural topics. He added, “And they need talking about in drama, because drama will move people, cause people to think much more than any straight show.” 

According to Roddenberry, he would ask his writers, “What bugs you? What bugs you most? The way prisons are run?” His follow-up was: “Well, if something bugs you that much, go invent a planet where it’s happening and write about that.”

With a two-hour premiere, the TNG pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” accomplished quite a bit. It managed to establish new characters, display a new range of special effects and assure fans this crew would go to the same lengths as their Enterprise ancestors to protect each other. They further paid tribute to the original series with a cameo from DeForest Kelley, reprising his role in a hundred years’ worth of old age makeup.

MORE: How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Plans to Push the Envelope

The episode also introduced Q, a villain who became the show’s perennial antagonist over its seven seasons. Played by John de Lancie, the seemingly invincible entity criticizes humankind’s flaws and history of destruction. That diatribe allows Picard to speak of how far humanity has come in the centuries that follow the audience’s present day, re-establishing that the series would continue to act as a vision of the future we can aspire toward.

“I think, as corny as it sounds, that the show is popular because it has a positive vision of what life might be like in the 24th century,” Jonathan Frakes said in 1990, just as the series was filming its 80th episode, surpassing the original series’ run of 79 episodes. Commander Riker himself went on to direct several episodes of the show, and most recently helmed an installment of the TNG-inspired FOX series The Orville.

Star Trek TNG

“It’s nice to have a positive role model to show people who are not just in conflict and violence all the time — that there are other ways of solving problems and I think this show does that very well,” Gates McFadden said in 1990.

“I think that, basically, human beings have a desire to dream, and it’s through those dreams that we really learn about ourselves,” said Levar Burton, who was on his third groundbreaking TV show after Roots and Reading Rainbow. “And this dream that Gene Roddenberry has dreamed has really taken on significant meaning for a lot of people.”

MORE: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s’ Michelle Yeoh Says Series Is ‘Empowering,’ ‘Racier’ Than Original

TNG’s representation of a progressive society eventually attracted guest stars such as Whoopi Goldberg, who knew firsthand the impact Star Trek’s trademark diversity has on society. “This is one of the few shows that take place in the future that I saw as kid where there were any black people. You know, Lieutenant Uhura was there,” Goldberg said on set in 1988, adding: “It’s very important that the future be hopeful, and that’s what this is.”

Part of TNG’s success can also be measured by the number of Star Trek franchises that followed (as well as the memes), all on account of Picard and company breaking new ground in Roddenberry’s beloved universe. Its impact has extended all the way to the recent premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, which continues the franchise’s tradition of reflecting our diverse society. 

“We’re doing our best to uphold the legacy that is Star Trek,” Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green said. Along with being the first black female lead of a Star Trek series, Martin-Green is proud of Discovery’s other diversity firsts, which include an Asian female captain and an openly gay character. “I think, if you wanna actualize anything, you have to be able to see it, so to show people what they really look like, to be an actual mirror to what our society looks like, is a really big deal.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation can be found on CBS All Access (along with Star Trek: Discovery and every Star Trek series) and on Hulu.

EXCLUSIVE: 'Vice Principals' Star Kimberly Hébert Gregory Reflects on Breakout Year

At the 69th Primetime Emmys, Sterling K. Brown took home his second consecutive Emmy, this time for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for This Is Us. It was another marker of success for the unofficial graduating class of actors — Brown, André Holland (The Knick and Moonlight), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta and This Is Us) and Kimberly Hébert Gregory — that starred in the 2009 Off-Broadway production of the Brothers/Sisters Plays by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Moonlight earlier this year. 

“Look at us now: an Oscar winner, two-time Emmy winner, and all of us working and winning at the same time,” Gregory tells ET. “I’m filled with joy, pride and humility. We came from a place of working in the theater and scraping just to get by. We all trained hard and studied at various schools, and I truly feel it’s a confluence of our ancestors that runs through us in this moment.”

For Gregory’s part, she’s enjoying a breakout year on TV thanks in large part to sharing the screen with Danny McBride and Walton Goggins as Dr. Belinda Brown on HBO’s Vice Principals, which recently returned for its second season. “What I love about Dr. Brown is she could care less! She knows who she is, and there are big parts of Kimberly that stand in that now,” Gregory says. “She has helped me to be confident in my life and my work.” Her confidence has also landed a series regular role on the upcoming ABC series Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which caps off a year of TV work that’s seen her in multiple episodes of everything from Better Call Saul to The Guest Book on TBS.

“If IMDB says it, then it must be true,” she says matter-of-factly of the fact that she’s played no fewer than five characters on five different major networks in 2017. “To let my mother tell it: When I was a child, I told her that I was going to win an Oscar. However, as I grew in my craft, I started out confident that I was going to do theater. Theater was my thing, and I was very happy to be doing it. So to be here, at this moment, is rather odd because up until four years ago, I was very happy to do the hustle of theater.” That hustle included a 2012 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

“I loved my character, Lottie, for the simple fact that I think she is such a relatable actress. Lynn wrote an actress role for an actress. It was an actress of color, of a certain size, at a certain time in history. So I really loved jumping into Lottie and I do feel like that character and that piece opened doors for me on-camera, which I was shocked by,” she revealed to Backstage.

Gregory, much like her former Brothers/Sisters co-stars, is now all over the screen, but she looks back on their time at The Public Theater in New York City with pride, saying that, at that time, it was the biggest opportunity for any one of them. Yet, there was so much “black excellence” in that room. 

Vice Principals

Gregory’s humility through all the success is what continues to shine brightest as she acknowledges the importance of black female representation onscreen and the visibility needed within the industry for all types of characters. “I remember, four years ago, being told by someone that I was too large for the camera—not in terms of size, but in reference to theatrical presence. However, Hollywood thought different and I landed my first role on Private Practice, which I didn’t know at the time was a Shonda Rhimes show.”

For Gregory, this point was important, as over the past few years there’s been an expansion of black women both in front of and behind the lens, with the likes of Rhimes and Ava DuVernay creating and producing TV. When talking about this idea, the actress makes reference to Empire star Jussie Smollett, who recently referred to black women as “the origin.”

“Being a black woman in this moment, I feel it is a great time to remind ourselves and the world [of our] black femininity and black womanhood,” Gregory says. “We are the origin. If you can’t respect and get into [it], you’re the problem. Let’s take up more space. Let’s remind people and remind everyone there is origin here.”

MORE: Breakout Star Lakeith Stanfield Talks ‘Atlanta’ and ‘Crown Heights’

Taking up more space is something the actress is passionate about, as she hopes to expand her career behind the scenes. “Writing is something I’m ready to explore; creating content that tells stories and more storytelling of people who are similar,” she says. “I foresee myself transitioning to producing and directing; it’s just in my personality to do so. It might be nice to have agency in the work that I’m creating in the future.”

Gregory is energized by having the opportunity to stand proud in her blackness and her womanhood, letting the world know it will have to deal with it. “Dr. Brown is a fully realized character as a black woman,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to see full black femininity. Let it love. Let it lose. Let it break but let it stand strong. Let it be hard but let it be soft.”

EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Eggold Talks Directorial Debut and Bittersweet Ride on ‘The Blacklist: Redemption’

While Ryan Eggold has made a name for himself as the charming star of The Blacklist and the short-lived spinoff, Redemption, the actor has recently been expanding his career behind the camera. The same week he returns to NBC’s spy thriller, he makes his feature directorial debut with Literally, Right Before Aaron.

Starring Justin Long and Cobie Smulders, Eggold’s new film tells the story of a heartbroken Adam (Long), who is invited to his ex-girlfriend Allison’s (Smulders) wedding. Adam, as it turns out, is the man Allison dated “literally right before” her fiancé Aaron (Ryan Hansen). As a writer and director, it is his attempt at one of the classic romantic comedies by the likes of Woody Allen, Mike Nichols and Nora Ephron, who all are referenced in the movie. Nichols’ films, Eggold notes, are all about people dealing with people, which is at the core of his story as Adam and Allison navigate a tumultuous friendship. 

If there’s one thing Eggold has gained from his experience behind the camera is that it’s made him a better collaborator. “I can say that for sure, and it’s made me understand the role of director more and appreciate it,” he says, adding that he’ll put more credence into a director’s note to him as an actor. 

Ultimately, he, as an actor, has full appreciation of the beast that goes into making a film or TV series, particularly The Blacklist, to which he returns when the series premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 27. Directing Literally, Right Before Aaron, which is in theaters and on demand Friday, Sept. 29, he’s previously said, reinforces the notion “that you’re not the most important thing on set.”

However, when it comes to the end of Redemption, which was built around his character, Tom Keen, it’s bittersweet. Having more input on his character and the show’s development, Eggold was invested in a way he wasn’t on the original series. “I felt like I had a little more of a role in this one,” he says, while admitting that some “episodes were really strong,” while “some of the episodes fell short for me for whatever reason.” If they had a second shot, he felt like they could have driven it more toward what was working. But at the end of the day, he says, “it was a great group of folks, so I was happy to work with them.” 

MORE: Why Ryan Eggold Was Initially Skeptical of ‘The Blacklist: Redemption’

And that same critical eye extends to his new film. The day after its premiere at Tribeca, Eggold was still making note of what worked with the audience and what didn’t, admitting that whole process was a very vulnerable experience. “It was deeply personal to me and I didn’t realize how much it was until I showed it to an audience for the first time,” he says, adding that during the first screening, “my butthole was clenched tighter than, you know, any drum I’ve ever seen.”

But at the end of the day, Eggold says “it’s very rewarding to tell a story, to say something. To try and say something about your own experience that ideally will be someone else’s experience because you’re a human being.”

FLASHBACK: 'The Ben Stiller Show' Turns 25! Why the Actor Laughed at Winning an Emmy for the Series

On Sept. 27, 1992, The Ben Stiller Show premiered on FOX, showcasing the titular star’s now well-known talent for emulating celebrities and crafting original characters. The sketch comedy series was abruptly canceled before its first season finished airing, but almost a year after it debuted, the show won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program. 

“We had no idea,” Stiller told ET backstage at the 45th Primetime Emmy Awards. Apparently, none of the show’s writers had attended the ceremony with the  notion they might beat out comedy institutions such as Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman. At some point leading up to the night, Stiller thought maybe he should put together a few words, just in case. “And then at the last minute, I thought, You know, I’m not gonna prepare a speech, because I’ll feel like such a jerk when I don’t win.”

Created by Stiller, Judd Apatow and Jeff Kahn, TBSS is considered by many critics to be a defining influence on modern sketch comedy. With featured players Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo and 2017 Emmy nominee Bob Odenkirk (for Better Call Saul), the series defied conventional satire by producing sketches that parodied both pop culture and traditional joke structures. Its approach is perhaps best encapsulated in the take-off of 90210, “Melrose Heights: 9121024026,” in which the high school clique ridicules a peer for potentially being a robot.

Standing alongside Stiller in the Emmy press room were several recognizable names in comedy, including Apatow, Odenkirk, David Cross, and Dino Stamatopoulos. After producing the short-lived Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, Apatow found success on TV a decade later with Girls, soon followed by Crashing and Love, which had TBSS writer Brent Forrester as a producer for its first two seasons. 

The Ben Stiller Show

“Seriously, I gotta say there were people out there who liked the show. I run into them in the street every once in a while,” Stiller told the press room, adding: “For the people who liked the show, this is nice. It kind of translated.”

Popular sketches from the series included parodies of Die Hard,Cops, TheLast of the Mohicans, and Cape Fear. Having already displayed his Tom Cruise impression in a parody of The Color of Money on SNL, two more sketches on TBSS solidified Stiller’s connection to the star that would culminate with Cruise’s appearance in 2008’s Tropic Thunder

“We all know exactly how great it would have been,” said Cross in the press room postmortem. His HBO sketch series with Odenkirk, Mr. Show with Bob and David, became one of the most significant collaborations of any of the TBSS writers. The pair last appeared together in the 2015 Netflix series With Bob and David, and will share screen time with Tom Hanks next year in The Post, a Steven Spielberg-directed film about the Pentagon Papers

Stiller closed their press room remarks with: “I just want to say, all of these guys work so hard and I’m so proud of everybody here.” Of course, their Emmy win was just the beginning of the writers’ karmic retribution. One of the show’s legacies (aside from our collective desire to murder Doug Szathkey) is the numerous careers in TV and movies from TBSS veterans in the 25 years since. 

As the group exited, Cross grabbed the final word: “Watch for our cable access show on channel three.”

The Ben Stiller Show is now streaming on Amazon.

11 New and Returning Podcasts and Audio Series We Can’t Wait to Listen to This Fall

With more podcasts to choose from than TV shows these days, it can be tough to figure out which one are worth a listen, especially when more and more keep debuting. Luckily, there are some fan favorites and newcomers creating their own unique, fun spaces this fall, and they’re definitely worth a listen.

Here are some of the pop culture podcasts we’re queueing our iTunes up for.

2017 Fall Preview: ET’s Look at Film, Music, TV and More! 

Queery With Cameron EspositoFeral AudioPremiered Aug. 5

Podcasts

Technically, this show was a summer return, but it’s still on our radar as a must-listen as new episodes continue to roll out. Comedian Cameron Esposito is a mainstay on the L.A. comedy scene, running a longtime show called Put Your Hands Together — which is, naturally, also recorded for a podcast — and she starred with her wife, Rhea Butcher, on the Seeso sitcom Take My Wife. Her bits have frequently hit on timely topics in the LGBTQ+ space, but Queery allows Esposito to extend upon these, fully honing in on important conversations as she chats with people about identity, personality and the shifting cultural attitudes toward gender, sexuality and civil rights. Butcher was Esposito’s first guest, and she’s also had Transparent creator Jill Soloway on, but her recent episode with Evan Rachel Wood on motherhood, pregnancy and surviving sexual assault is especially worth a listen.

2 Dope QueensWNYC StudiosPremiered Sept. 12

Podcasts

We can’t get enough of the banter between BFFs Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, and, luckily, they’re back for season four. The mid-September premiere of their podcast — a weekly comedic storytelling series recorded live from Brooklyn — kicked off with Williams getting starstruck meeting the premiere’s guest, Queen Latifah (can you blame her?), when the Girls Trip cast popped in for a visit, plus a play-by-play recall of how she met J.K. Rowling. Upcoming guests include LeVar Burton, Jo Firestone and Tegan and Sara, so expect the frank talk you’ve gotten used to on sex, romance, race, hair and Billy Joel, plus plenty more fodder when some of their funniest friends and peers stop by.

Who Shot Ya?Maximum FunPremiered Sept. 8

Podcasts

The premise of this new series is “a movie podcast that isn’t just a bunch of straight white dudes,” so we were sold from the get-go. Comedian Ricky Carmona, The Wrap critic Alonso Duralde and LA Weekly critic April Wolfe delve deep into the movies hitting theaters now, including news and reviews on the flicks plus some major insight, like when Jason Jones called in from Canada to talk hockey around the sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers. They’ve already covered It and mother!, which gives us agita just thinking about those thrillers, and the coming months will cover Blade Runner 2049, Suburbicon and Thor: Ragnarok. Spoiler alert: We’re tuning in.

2017 Fall Movie Preview: Superheroes and Spies, Bad Moms and Jedis, Oh My!

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s CourtAudiblePremiered Sept. 19

Podcasts

Midwest-raised Nick Offerman is the perfect man to give voice to Mark Twain in this Audible series based on the famous author’s inventive, darkly funny story about a New England mechanic who time travels to medieval England, where he tries to modernize Camelot. Offerman fits the bill as a straightforward gruff, but he also shines as he portrays a myriad of characters from the tale, including insane knights and Merlin. The Parks and Rec alum brings new life to the social and political satire Twain constructed, but we can’t say we’re surprised by that!

I Only Listen to the Mountain GoatsNight Vale PresentsPremiered Sept. 28

Podcasts

If you’re obsessed with Welcome to Night Vale, seeing the Night Vale Presents universe expand with quirky new series has been fun to watch. Though it doesn’t mean more Cecil or hailing the Glow Cloud, it does mean we get to dive even more into co-creator Joseph Fink’s creative, kind of out there brain. Admittedly, his latest nonfiction project, I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats sounds oddly specific — it’s Fink sitting in his basement with the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle having conversation about “songwriting, art and life.” Yes, they’re talking through Darnielle’s writing song by song, but it’s not just about his indie band or even just this one singer-songwriter and how much he’s inspired a megafan. Rather, it’s a deep dive into what it’s like to be in the brain of an artist, and it includes conversations with other celebs, including author John Green. It will also feature original covers by artists like Amanda Palmer, Andrew Bird and Laura Jane Grace recorded just for the podcast.

Heat RocksMaximum FunPremieres early October 

Podcasts

Ever wonder how other people were affected by the albums that shaped your life? That’s just what music writer Oliver Wang and music supervisor Morgan Rhodes will be digging into with celebrity guests — their heat rock, if you will — from genres like hip-hop, soul, dance, jazz and funk. Guests like Ann Powers, Jay Smooth and Shea Serrano will be on to talk about the EPs close to their hearts (Madonna’s Like a Prayer, Run-DMC’s Raising Hell and DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, respectively) and we expect plenty of new knowledge to drop from the rotating trios.

2017 Fall TV Preview: 7 Returning Favorites That Will Look Very Different This Year

The West Wing WeeklyRadiotopiaPremieres Oct. 4

Podcasts

This insanely popular show — hosted by Joshua Molina, the Scandal actor who appeared in four seasons of The West Wing, and Song Exploder’s Hrishikesh Hirway — breaks down Aaron Sorkin’s beloved D.C. drama. The guys just wrapped up season three with a guest star-heavy live show, but they’re only taking a minimal break before diving into the next round of episodes. Sorkin considered the 2002-2003 season a return to form in the series’ writing, but it’s also when we had to say goodbye to Rob Lowe’s Sam Seaborn, so there’s a whole lot to dish about when the guys officially return.

Deadly MannersAMC Networks and the Paragon CollectivePremieres Oct. 13 

Podcasts

Just in time for Halloween comes this new 10-part dark comedy, murder-mystery series set in the winter of 1954, when an annual family dinner party turns deadly. The series features an A-list voice cast including Kristen Bell, Anna Chlumsky, Denis O’Hare, RuPaul, 13 Reasons Why’s Alisha Boe and LeVar Burton, amongst others.

LoreAmazonPremieres Oct. 13

Podcasts

Aaron Mahnke’s popular biweekly podcast about dark, historical tales that fuel modern superstitions is getting the TV treatment with a new anthology series on Amazon. While several podcasts are reportedly being developed for the screen, this is the first major one to make the jump. The six-episode series will star Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Kristin Bauer von Straten (True Blood), Holland Roden (Teen Wolf) and Adam Goldberg (Fargo). Meanwhile, the podcast continues to produce new episodes.

Fall 2017’s Most Buzzworthy Books

What Really Happened?Seven Bucks ProductionPremieres Oct. 25

Podcasts

We’ve been fans of Andrew Jenks’ documentaries for a while now, so we can’t wait to see how the filmmaker digs into the premise of this podcast, which is exactly what the title sounds like: What really happened when Britney Spears hit her breaking point or Princess Diana died? Getting to the heart of stories that captured the public zeitgeist is what makes true crime stories so popular, but diving deep into pop culture mysteries via podcast isn’t nearly as common. As if we weren’t intrigued enough, the series is produced by the production company co-founded by Dwayne Johnson. If The Rock is in, so are we.

Raised by TelevisionEarwolfPremieres week of Nov. 6

Podcasts

Because this is a concept many of us kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s know very well, we’re pretty stoked that improvisers/actors/podcast veterans Lauren Lapkus (Orange Is the New Black) and Jon Gabrus (Adam Ruins Everything) are reminiscing about shows from those decades. Who doesn’t need a little nostalgia and humor in 2017?

Why Ashley Judd Said Yes to Playing the 'Unapologetic' New Boss on 'Berlin Station' (Exclusive)

Ashley Judd wanted to get back into the acting grind. The actress and political activist had been working off and on for the past several years, with key supporting roles in the Divergent trilogy and the Twin Peaks revival, but she had desires to return in front of the camera in a more significant way. Within three weeks of Judd articulating her wish, Berlin Station came calling.

“I have a really diverse life and I started to have a hankering to work,” the 49-year-old actress and political activist told ET during a recent sit-down in Beverly Hills, California. “My team came to me and said, ‘There’s this amazing show called Berlin Station. It’s a very strong ensemble cast. It films in Germany. The writing is superb. And they want you to play the boss.’” (Get an early first look at Judd’s debut above.)

Judd is one of two new additions, alongside Scream Queens’Keke Palmer, joining the CIA thriller’s sophomore season, which kicks off on EPIX later this month. (Fun fact: Producers watched Judd’s TED Talk in January about the online harassment of women, which prompted them to inquire about her interest in the show. “It delighted me!” she said with a smile.) In the series, Judd plays B.B. Yates, Berlin’s tenacious new station chief, who injects a distinct and welcomed energy to the world. Part of the appeal of Berlin Station, Judd noted, was also the importance placed on gender equality in all aspects of production.

“When I spoke with the executives, they expressed to me that they wanted to hire female directors and their goal was gender parity across the board — in the crew and on camera,” she shared. “They also said that, ‘Look, the world is diverse and our cast needs to be as well. We absolutely have to have a person of color, preferably a woman,’ and Keke Palmer fits that bill; she’s so talented and so spunky. Now, we have generations of women represented exactly as we have generations of women in this very world.”

RELATED: Richard Armitage Trades in British Period Dramas for CIA Conspiracies in ‘Berlin Station’

Judd pointed to Jessica Chastain’s remarks at the Cannes Film Festival in May, when the actress made light of her disappointment over the lack of respectful portrayals of women in the festival’s movie pool, as a recent example of the intensifying spotlight on an area Hollywood can do far better in. “At least we’re having the conversation,” Judd said, conceding that there’s still a lot more work to be done.

As Judd tells it, B.B. represents the modern woman — a strong female who’s “clever,” “unafraid to piss people off,” especially “the boys’ club,” and accomplished in her own right — and the actress made it clear, there’s a relief in not having to contextualize or justify her power. 

“I love that B.B. is an unapologetic leader, just a leader through and through [and] very ready to suit up and show up and say this is how it is,” Judd said, offering a glimpse into her character’s mindset, whom she modeled after former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “‘I don’t have to play any games in order to try to say, I’m the boss. I’m the woman, so I’m going to do this to make you feel more comfortable with the fact that I am your leader. I’m just your leader.’”

RELATED: Richard Jenkins Grills Richard Armitage Over His ‘Thomas Shaw’ Obsession on ‘Berlin Station’

As for why Judd put acting on the backburner in recent years, she cited her work with the Women Deliver Conference, the United Nations and other charitable and humanitarian organizations as fulfilling a personal directive to be a catalyst for change and empowerment.

“I do love it,” Judd said of acting, who has a small part in the upcoming movie, Trafficked (out Oct. 6). “The supporting roles have been suiting me, because I’ve been to India and Jordan and Eastern Ukraine and to Denmark for the Women Deliver Conference. I have all my work with the U.N. and [other non-governmental organizations], but I was ready to do a more sustained piece. Something like Berlin Station really fulfilled my wishes. Really strong actors. Superb writing. Meaningful plot. All of those things are important.”

Berlin Station premieres Sunday, Oct. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on EPIX.

Mike O’Malley Looks Back on Hosting ‘Nickelodeon’s GUTS’ 25 Years Later (Exclusive)

Some people might have forgotten that Mike O’Malley, who played Kurt Hummel’s dad and made you cry with his fatherly talks during six seasons of Gleeused to be a Nickelodeon game show host.

“I took the job very seriously,” O’Malley tells ET about hosting the ‘90s sports competition series GUTS, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. O’Malley, 50, was 24 years old when he landed the job. “I looked at the part like I was playing the role of an older brother. Like a cool camp counselor. I loved working with the kids.”

Each episode filmed on Stage 21 at Universal Studios Florida featured three teenage athletes competing against each other in four “extreme” versions of athletic events. In the final round, they raced up a “mountain” called the Aggro Crag, later renamed to Mega Crag. The show aired on Nickelodeon during a tween programming block that also included Legends of the Hidden Temple and Nick Arcade.

“[Nickelodeon] started making their own programing,” O’Malley recalls. “They didn’t have all the animated [shows]. A lot of their programming was kids’ game shows and sports action shows.”

O’Malley, who is from Boston, moved to New York after graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1988 to study acting. “I did an acting showcase where casting agents come. I met an agent there. About six months later, I got cast as a host of a show called Get the Picture. We did [about] 120 episodes of that quiz show. Then I started touring around the country with Nickelodeon.”

That’s when he met GUTS creator Albie Hecht, who offered him the hosting gig on the show. “It was a fun time at Nickelodeon. Geraldine Laybourne, who used to run Nickelodeon, would talk about [how the network was] a place where kids are in charge. And so the programming was about them and their own wish fulfillment.”

Former contestants on the show included stuntwoman Anna Mercedes Morris (who coincidentally worked on an episode of Glee as Lea Michele’s stunt double), MLS soccer star Bobby Boswell, Hamilton West End actor Gregory Haney and Backstreet Boy AJ McLean. “I don’t remember [McLean]. I remember Jana Helms, who actually now is sadly paralyzed.”

Helms was known on GUTS as Jana “The Warrior” Waring. “She was an unbelievable athlete,” O’Malley remembers.  Helms was part of the show’s second season one-hour special, Nickelodeon GUTS All-Stars, where three perfect-scoring players from the first season competed against each other. Five years later, while performing as a gymnast at Sea World in Orlando, she broke her neck and became paralyzed from the chest down. Helms is now married and living in Los Angeles.

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After GUTS, O’Malley went on to host his own show called The Mike O’Malley Show, which aired for two episodes before it was canceled in 1999. In 2000, he starred as Jimmy Hughes on the CBS comedy Yes, Dear for six seasons, and had a role as Stuart on My Name is Earl. On both those shows he worked with producer and writer Greg Garcia. O’Malley has also spent the past 15 years expanding his career offscreen, with writing credits on Shameless and as creator of Survivor’s Remorse on Starz. Most recently, he and Garcia teamed up to co-write Escape to Margaritaville, an original story with songs by Jimmy Buffett set for Broadway in February 2018.

As for GUTS, O’Malley, who still speaks passionately about the show that could be considered his breakthrough in the business, believes a reboot would do well on TV today. “I think they should do it again. Yes.”

Chrissie Fit Reveals the Moment She Realized Race Plays a Heavy Role in Hollywood: 'It's Not Fair' (Exclusive)

Chrissie Fit is recognizable to fans across the world for her portrayal of foreign exchange student Flo in Pitch Perfect 2, but like most Latina actresses, her road to success in Hollywood hasn’t been easy. 

The 33-year-old actress grew up in Miami Florida, surrounded by other Latinos, “so in school, we didn’t have the option of casting by race. It was just whoever could do the best job,” she explained to ET over the phone on Monday — but things quickly changed once she entered the big leagues. 

“I remember my first audition was for The Secret Garden, and I auditioned for Mary Lennox, which was like, the Caucasian, British actor, and the director was looking at me, like, perplexed. Like, ‘What the heck is this girl doing?’ And he really politely said, ‘That was great. Next season we’re doing the King and I, and I think you’re better suited for that,'” she recalled. 

“In that moment I realized, ‘Holy crap. This is how it’s going to be,”” she said. “I felt a sadness. ‘That’s not fair. It shouldn’t be that way.'”

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Fit’s rude awakening stung even more because it contradicted the lessons taught to her by her grandfather, who came to America from Cuba after Fidel Castro came into power. 

“I didn’t realize how much my American Dream was influenced by him,” she confessed. “[He and his family] didn’t know the language, and they only knew one person in the country, but my grandfather worked hard. He had two jobs and worked non-stop.” 

“He loved America so much. He would literally steal my history textbooks just to look at the pictures, and he would always say, ‘You can be or do anything here as long as you are determined, and you’ve worked hard for it,'” she continued. “My grandfather’s America was all that it was intended to be, land of the free, home of the brave, people are equal, and now it’s very divided and hard work doesn’t always get you to the finish line.” 

Inspired by actresses-turned-producers Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria, Fit channeled her frustrations into her writing, so she could one day be the person calling the shots, and creating her own opportunities. 

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“Jennifer Lopez is so successful and producing shows and movies, and Eva Longoria is doing the same, and she’s directing. You do have more power on the other side, and they’re kind of getting in shape with that idea,” Fit reasoned. “How about we get on the other side, where they’re making decisions, and that’s how we can influence and change our story. And not only make it a Latino film, just make it have Latinos in regular films that are mainstream, because we all have the same stories, no matter what our skin colors are.”

“We all love and get hurt and it’s all the same, just different appearances. I think [the industry] has changed, but there’s still work to be done,” she said, calling attention to how Pitch Perfect 2 has weaved her Latina character into the mainstream. “I think that’s part of what we need to do and just expand and make stories that are universal for everyone.”

“People want to hear our stories,” she insisted. “We just have to get it to them.” 

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Fit concluded with a message to fans, asking for their support in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“If there’s any way you can donate to Puerto Rico after the destruction and devastation left by hurricane Maria; please do so. You can either go to www.hispanicfederation.org or to www.unitedforpuertorico.com / www.unidosporpuertorico.com. Anything helps!”

Pitch Perfect 3 opens in theaters on Dec. 22. 

A Day in the Park With Derek Hough: His Fears, Passions and the Pressure to Get Engaged (Exclusive)

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to spend an entire day with someone like Derek Hough, the actor, choreographer and singer who became famous for his time as a professional dancer on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. I’ve interviewed him countless times on red carpets or inside industry events, but I never expected a day in the park with him to be so intimate or inspiring.

I recently joined the performer on a visit to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Porter, Indiana, along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Hough was there in celebration of the National Park Foundation’s “Find Your Park” initiative, a campaign to promote the lesser known parks across the country. We spent the day exploring the park, hiking sand dunes, sharing lots of laughs while kayaking and listening as the park rangers filled us in on some of the fascinating stories about the national lakeshore. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover a lot about Hough’s character.

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At any given moment during our outdoor adventure, Hough would stop what he was doing to make sure everyone in our group was doing OK, and he constantly tried to make others feel comfortable by lightening the mood. When one of the park rangers had us stop and smell a piece of a Sassafras branch, for instance, Hough joked he would “definitely wear” the citrusy scent as cologne. (In his defense it did smell amazing, but if I’m being completely honest, I can’t say I had the same initial reaction.)

But jokes aside, being in the park brought back a lot of fond memories for Hough, who grew up in Sandy, Utah, with an adventurous family — his mother and father, Marianne and Bruce, and four sisters, Sharee, Marabeth, Katherine and Julianne, who is also famous for her time as a professional dancer-turned-judge on the same reality dance competition show. Hough says he was one of those kids who was always outside. He was a Boy Scout and his dad was a scoutmaster, so they were always hiking, biking and going on family road trips.

“Being outside, being in nature, it just humbles me,” Hough says. “If you feel like life’s getting you down, something about nature just centers you, it grounds you.”

He’s right. From the peaceful sounds of the wetland birds chirping from the Great Marsh to the stunning sight of turquoise water at the top of Mount Baldy, being in such an alluring setting lets Hough open up more — at least more than any time we’ve talked in front of flashing cameras.

We start talking about age — he’s 32 — and the conversations dancers often have regarding when is the “right time” to retire. For many, that’s after high school. Others, college. But for people like Hough, who have turned the hobby into their profession, the thought of retirement is an admittedly scary idea, but one he “absolutely” thinks about. “That sort of fear is what drives me,” he says. “I use that fear to keep myself sharp and to keep myself in shape.”

By no means is Hough ready to take his final bow as a performer, however. He’s still in flawless shape and fully capable of dancing just as well as he did in his teen years, but like in any professional athletic endeavor, one serious injury — like the one to Hough’s ankle that sidelined him from competing on DWTS in 2015 — can easily end your career. That’s why in their 30s and 40s, many pro dancers start moving from center stage to a role behind the scenes that’s less tumultuous on the body.

“I want to keep pushing myself. I want to keep learning. I want to keep growing,” says Hough, who began his professional training at the age of 12 at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London, England, with Mark Ballas’ parents, Corky and Shirley. He’s spent nearly half his life dancing professionally, being linked to DWTS since 2007. In recent years, he’s expanded beyond dancing by acting on shows like Jane the Virgin and Nashville and playing Corny Collins in NBC’s live broadcast of Hairspray. He was even a brief HGTV star, flipping a house with Mark Ballas on Mark & Derek’s Excellent Flip. “I feel like if I’m learning, getting stronger, doing things I haven’t done in the past, learning different skills — like learning how to tap, for instance, or body percussion — whatever it might be, I want to do it.”

While joking that he was “a little sore” from our outdoor excursion, Hough says that the secret to an enduring career as a dancer is as simple as taking care of yourself. “As a dancer, [age] is something you have to be aware of. I think that can be a misconception, too, though, honestly,” he says. “In the sense that people go, ‘Oh, I’m getting older, I’m just naturally going to get more tired, I’m going to have less energy during the day, I’m going to be sore more often.’ And it’s like, ‘Yeah, if you don’t do anything to take care of yourself.'”

In fact, Hough revealed that he hopes to like to be like those “90-year-old women” who compete in Ironman competitions someday, similar to what Sister Madonna Buder does now. “I don’t ever want to surrender to that and be like, ‘Oh, I think I’m done now,'” he explains. “There’s still plenty of dancing to come, for sure. That’s part of who I am. It will never go away.”

We both agreed that staying active and eating healthy is a necessity in the dance industry, and, “if we’re not growing, we’re dying.” That’s when Derek reveals he’s trying to take his own advice by “adventuring out and trying new things,” including the projects he’s posted to social media, which he now luckily has the resources and time for.

Fans of Hough are likely familiar with his artsy videos, like a new piece called “Hold On,” which he teased on Instagram Stories with a photo of his face partially covered in blood a day before our trip. It features an original song he wrote five years ago, and the story he’s hoping to tell is one that’s close to his heart: that of mental illness and suicide prevention.

“It’s an important subject. It has been for a long time, but even more so now. I was inspired by the song and wanted to make something that was meaningful,” Derek says, revealing he plans to release a full video in November. “With these passion projects, it’s about serving. Being in the entertainment world and what we do, I couldn’t do it without an audience. Whether it be inspiring others to get outdoors with the National Park Service or bringing attention to important subjects, I honestly just want to be a servant and do what I can to help — to tell stories.”

These videos, along with the official video for Michael Bublé’s “I Believe in You,” have given Hough an opportunity to direct — yet, another expansion of his career behind the camera and an experience he simply describes as “vulnerable.”

“Some of these things are pretty heavy subjects, and pretty emotional,” Hough says of upcoming projects. “Certainly, I wanted them to be as real as possible and as raw as I can to sort of make an impact in some way. I’m pleased and I’m happy that people are still interested in and want to see that.”

With his passion projects in full swing and a second season as a judge on NBC’s World of Dance coming up, there’s no slowing down for Hough, who after our park adventure was immediately jumping on a plane to Toronto, Canada, to take part in a wheelchair rugby exhibition match at the Invictus Games following our time together at Dunes National Lakeshore.

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With a seemingly endless schedule of appearances and obligations, it’s any wonder how he manages to maintain his relationship with girlfriend Hayley Erbert (though he offers, “lots of Facetime”).

Hough and Erbert have been dating since 2015, and have practically been inseparable ever since, most recently stepping out — and packing on the PDA! — at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in September.

Considering that ongoing commitment to each other and that his younger sister, Julianne, recently tied the knot with her longtime boyfriend, Brooks Laich, in July, Hough reveals he doesn’t feel any pressure to get engaged. “Not at all, actually. [I grew] up in Utah, where it’s very common for somebody to get married at 22 or 23. I’m well past that, so I’ve gone beyond what I actually grew up knowing,” he says.

“If anything, it’s actually the opposite,” he continues. “It’s made me go, ‘You know what? I’ve seen Julianne’s love with Brooks’ — them together, seeing what they have — and it makes me want to make sure. I want to marry once. I want to be with that person that I love dearly. I want to get to know that person. I feel like if anything, it’s something that I don’t feel like should be rushed into doing at all.”

For now, Hough’s focused on what’s in front of him and taking life one step at a time — all while inspiring the rest of us to do the same.

Heather Graham Reflects on Her Career and Desire to Portray More 'Smart, Strong' Characters (Exclusive)

Growing up, Heather Graham was sure she wanted to be the next Meryl Streep.

“If someone made me cry, I thought that was the ultimate achievement,” the 47-year-old actress tells ET, laughing. “I just felt like, ‘I want to be in really depressing films that will win an Academy Award.’ And then I thought, ‘I don’t, really — I just want to laugh and find the humor in things.'” 

After starring in 1988’s teen adventure film License to Drive and Gus Van Sant’s acclaimed crime drama Drugstore Cowboy, released a year later — “It helped me feel like a legitimate actress,” she says — Graham became a bona fide dude-comedy staple, starring alongside some of the era’s most celebrated comedic actors: Vince Vaughn in 1996’s Swingers, Mike Myers in 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper in two of three Hangover films. She also earned major buzz for her role as porn starlet Rollergirl in 1997’s Boogie Nights and, that same year, opened Scream 2 as an actress playing Drew Barrymore’s iconic victim, Casey Becker, from the original Scream

Recently, Graham observed a career overview reel before her appearance at the San Diego International Film Festival on Oct. 5, when she will be awarded the Virtuoso Award for having “enriched our culture through exceptional accomplishments in the film industry.”

“I was watching it and was like, ‘This is so weird that that’s me in all these different times in my life,'” she says. “It’s just so strange. In some ways, I feel like I’m the exact same person, and then, in some ways, I feel so different. It’s like you’re looking at someone else, but you remember all those experiences.” 

One of the greatest and most influential, she says, was working with Steve Martin on Bowfinger. The 1999 satire swayed her serious-movie interests, because “I just started to respect comedians more than I did when I was a kid.”

When she first met Martin on the set of the film, Graham remembers being in awe of the comedic icon, whom she grew up watching onscreen and in his famous musical “King Tut” skit on Saturday Night Live. “I couldn’t believe this person was real, and then I’m in a movie with him,” she says. “I’d been looking up to him, so to go from this point where you’re just an audience member to working with [him was] so exciting.”

Influenced by Martin’s achievements as a writer and producer (he wrote Bowfinger), Graham is taking a more self-directed approach to her own career. “It’s inspiring to see him writing his own stuff,” she says. “He’s such a good writer. He didn’t sit around waiting for someone to give him a job. He wrote books and he wrote scripts, and he controls his own creativity.”

These days, partially because “there aren’t that many great parts for women, and it can be frustrating,” says Graham,  she now spends her time behind the camera, too. She wrote, produced and stars in her directorial debut, Half Magic, a Hollywood-inspired sex comedy reflecting her personal feelings about overcoming sex shame instituted by her own Catholic upbringing, as well as “what it’s like to be a woman in a business full of macho a**holes.” 

“I want to do more things I write and direct,” Graham says of her career moving forward. “I feel like I’m really smart, but I don’t often get those parts, and I think, sometimes, it’s because of how I look. But a very smart, strong character is something I want to play more because that’s who I am in life and that’s not how I’m always seen.”

There was, of course, Graham’s beloved, sexually empowered role, Felicity Shagwell in Austin Powers, but that was nearly 20 years ago. Now, the actress is portraying Judalon Smyth, the mistress of psychologist Dr. Oziel (Josh Charles) on the NBC miniseries Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. The role spoke to her “twisted sense of humor” for various reasons, particularly the fact that she actually refers to Oziel in the series as “Dr. Daddy.” “It’s really creepy, but also kind of hilarious,” she says. 

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But what was more appealing was Smyth’s brazen decision to report Erik and Lyle Menendez to the authorities despite Oziel’s threats. “She really stood up to him,” Graham says. “These other women were treated really badly by him, and they went on with their lives. But Judalon really got revenge on him. Then she detached herself and found a way to get her power back, so as a woman I got into that.”

Donning a brunette wig for the role, Graham as Judalon looks nothing like her usual self. With big glasses and, again, brown hair, the actress’s physical change for this year’s indie thriller Last Rampage was also dramatic. “The people who were releasing the movie didn’t recognize me in it,” Graham recalls. “They’re like, ‘Where is Heather Graham in this movie?'” 

In addition to her transformative film projects, Graham stars in the upcoming show Bliss, a double-life comedy series written and directed by Arrested Development alum David Cross and executive produced by Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe, Divorce) for the U.K. pay channel Sky.

Forging a new, autonomous path “took a long time,” but the change, she reveals, is refreshing. “When you’re an actor and you get a job that you actually would want to watch, you’re like, ‘Ah, thank God,'” Graham says. “I’m doing something that I actually like, that I actually would want to watch.”