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How ‘Walking Dead’ Gave New Life to its Nastiest Nightmare(s)


How 'Walking Dead' Gave New Life to its Nastiest Nightmare(s)

Here's Negan!

[Warning: this story contains spoilers for season eight, episode five of AMC's The Walking Dead, "The Big Scary U," as well as major spoilers from the comic books on which the show is based.]

Given its premise, AMC's The Walking Dead is a series steeped in impossibilities — and with its latest episode, it just began a story most people would have found impossible beforehand: Negan's redemption.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan's smirking psychopath stood front and center over the course of "The Big Scary U," an episode that saw Negan and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) working to find some common ground so they could fight their way out of a deadly situation, trapped inside a trailer and surrounded from the outside by countless walkers.

During their time together, Gabriel decided that the reason for his own continued survival was to take Negan's confession. Naturally, Negan isn't a man who feels he has much to fess up to, not even the deaths of Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun). According to the man himself, Negan killed "the widow's husband and the ginger," but it's Rick (Andrew Lincoln) who got them killed — and that's the worse of the two sins. Your mileage may vary on that particular point.

Instead, Negan finds something else to confess: the guilt he carries over the death of his wife, killed after the apocalypse began. It's a quiet moment of emotionality from the show's most menacing monster, and an incredibly rare one at that. One can count the number of times The Walking Dead has presented Negan in an emotionally vulnerable and sympathetic light on the stump of a hand Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) was left with once upon a time, or comic book Rick if you prefer. But Negan's confession is enough to move Gabriel into finally teaming up with the Savior, even if he's not entirely convinced that the man has been redeemed yet.

"I think it may have changed somewhat," Gilliam tells THR about whether or not Gabriel's time with Negan has impacted his view of the Saviors' leader. "I think he has a better understanding of what Negan means as a leader to his group, and what his idea of leading is, and what his ideas of redemption are. I think he has a little bit more respect for him. But at the same time, I think he still sees him as a psychopath who kills people with a baseball bat."

The newly introduced Negan backstory owes roots to the Walking Dead comic books created by Robert Kirkman, who explored the villain's origin in a one-shot called "Here's Negan." The story Negan tells to Gabriel mirrors the content of that comic, even if the comic itself wasn't brought to life on the screen. Beyond the one-off tale, Negan's history is explored in the proper Walking Dead comic book during a battle between Alexandria and the Whisperers, a group of enemies who walk among the walkers and wear rotting skin suits as disguises. That story takes place years in the future, as teased in the 100th episode of the AMC series — a time period where Negan very much still exists, and even fights on Rick and company's behalf.

"That story works best when Negan has been around for many years," Kirkman previously told THR about whether or not The Walking Dead would ever explore Negan's backstory. "I'm not going to go on record to say that Negan lasts as long in the show as he does in the comic. You never know. But if we do get to that point, it'd be nice to see that story adapted. I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan with a burning fury of a thousand suns and I would love to see him tell that story and see the character go through those paces. It's a great way to get more context into who this guy is. It'd be neat but there are no plans as of yet."

Looks like those plans have finally come to pass, if only through Jeffrey Dean Morgan's monologue.

Should we count this as the beginning of the Negan redemption arc? Not so fast. There was another nod to the comics in this past episode that could give Negan new life as a monster. In order to escape the trailer, Negan and Gabriel cover themselves in zombie guts and gore. Negan openly wonders if you can get sick from coming into contact with the infected viscera — something that should attract viewers' attention, as the episode ends with Gabriel sweating profusely, as though he's suffered a zombie bite.

We never saw Gabriel sustain any such wound, but if he's sick because of prolonged exposure to walker blood, it would line up with the act of germ warfare Negan and the Saviors wage on the Alexandrians in the comic books' original version of "All-Out War." There, Negan's soldiers dip their bullets and weapons in zombie fluids, which they use to infect their enemies. Indeed, Dwight (Austin Amelio) even shoots Rick with what appears to be an infected arrow, though we later come to learn that the arrow wasn't infected at all; thanks for staying on the right side of things, Dwight!

Given its central role in the end of "All-Out War," one imagines the germ warfare assault will remain intact for the Walking Dead TV series — quite possibly utilized by Eugene (Josh McDermitt), the man who discovers the sick Gabriel at the end of "The Big Scary U." In other words, even if it looks like Negan is currently in line for some redemption, it's still worth fearing the King of the Saviors.

Follow for theories, deep dives, interviews and more all season long.

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‘SMILF’ Creator Frankie Shaw on Tackling Sexual Assault and Objectification


'SMILF' Creator Frankie Shaw on Tackling Sexual Assault and Objectification

Shaw talks to THR about how her Showtime series will confront sexual abuse, empowering women, and the movement of support for the now-canceled Amazon series 'Good Girls Revolt.'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Half a Sheet Cake & a Blue-Raspberry Slushie" episode of Showtime's SMILF.]

In its first three episodes, Frankie Shaw's rookie Showtime comedy SMILF has tackled the struggles of single parenthood, eating disorders and now sexual assault. In the final moments of the Sunday's installment, single mom Bridgette Bird is groped by her date, a man she met via Craigslist ad, prompting her to punch him in the face.

Creator, exec producer and star Shaw spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about Bridgette's reaction, the increasing awareness about sexual harassment in Hollywood and the online (and studio) support to bring back Good Girls Revolt, the canceled Amazon series on which Shaw starred before SMILF.

Was Bridgette's response to the man's actions a reflex or was it wish fulfillment, in a way?

I think a lot of times the normal response to assault and trauma is either to freeze or dissociate, or tell yourself it's not happening. I wrote a few different versions of the ending, one of them being that she just breaks down crying. So it is what you would think one would do, and wish fulfillment being that you're standing up to yourself in a very specific, intelligible way, and getting a little bit of revenge. So yes, I would say that it was just, in a way, what everyone wants to do. I remember being on the subway in New York City and some man grabbed me, grabbed my genitals, and I froze up, and then just got off on the next stop. And I wish I'd just clocked his face.

It's shocking for somebody to violate your body, and that's what it is. We just happen to be in a time where now, people are understanding it. We've just lived with it as something that could potentially happen without consequence forever. I was talking to someone recently [and said] 'What if we walk around in a world in which we are not in danger of being victimized?' Only now have I actually thought, 'Oh, do people think there'll be consequences?' I mean at least in this part of the world.

What do you think about the fact that, especially in Hollywood, people are finally being called out on their behavior and this episode is airing right in the middle of it?

This whole show, there's undertones of — in the first episode Bridgette says she's sexually abused, and now we're talking about sexual harassment, and the finale deals with her father. It's definitely one of the themes of the show, and it always was. This was written before the current explosion of the #MeToo. I remember during the pilot testing, you go to the Valley and you watch these random people turn the dials when they like something and when they don't. I was so nervous in the pilot when Bridgette says, 'Oh, I was sexually abused by my Dad.' I was like, 'Oh, we're going to lose everyone. This is where people are going to tap out.' And they didn't. It stayed up. And I said, 'Oh, OK, interesting.'

The thing about this subject for so long, especially child [abuse] … it's the darkest parts of our society and hard to face. We shove it under the rug, because … what does it say about humanity when people can do this? In terms of the timing, it's pretty incredible. All of these people are coming together and sharing their stories. So, rather than the show existing as an anomaly [and addressing] it, now it's just in a culture that's ready and willing to talk about these things.

The other thing about it that I was interested in is how — and you see it in these people that are coming out and trying to apologize — is that for so long there's a cognitive dissonance between objectifying women and men, and, like, being a man in the world. It's sort of part of the culture, an accepted part. People who would cross the line wouldn't really know it was wrong, maybe. I'm not sure. That's what it seems by some of the behavior, you would think. What I wanted to show in this episode, too, is that this is just a nice, normal guy behaving the way in which culture said is OK to behave, and was OK for so long without consequences for men — but it's really not. And also the duality of the idea of prostitution and how you can have like, 'I have this fantasy of it,' [like in the episode where Bridgette fantasizes about people worshiping her vagina], but in reality, your humanity is taken away with any type of selling yourself as commodity.

It's also juxtaposed in the episode where Bridgette's friend is also selling herself to men by eating for them on a website, but not sexually, and she feels very empowered by what she's doing.

I think it's a false idea to be empowered within the systemic sexism. I guess the system of the patriarchy — I hate using that word, but I don't know what else to say — so, it's like she's existing in this society that will objectify her for money, but she doesn't actually have to cross the line of sex. I guess my point was we're all complicit. We're making the most of it.

Like, 'If it's going to be here and bring us down, we might as well see how we could use it to our advantage.'

I think that's the old argument. There's still plenty of women surviving off of men objectifying them, and that's the best they think they can do, and there's no judging that. I do feel like it's false empowerment, and real empowerment is to not partake. What can you say about how the repercussions of this whole incident will have on Bridgette moving forward? It's sort of sad because in the next episode she's really down and out and looks for a way to deal. And there's not really a way to deal except for talking about it in the community and not trying to go into the darker ways you can deal with assault, which is self-abuse. We're sort of building toward an end of the season line where she has the courage to approach her dad. And so perhaps this experience, enough is enough, she's willing to call out names.

The episode also shows Nelson (Samara Weaving), Bridgette's ex's new girlfriend, also being verbally assaulted by this athlete she's trying to interview. Is that something you're going to explore more as well?

That was taken from the Cam Newton interview. It's a heightened reality where these three characters are using their body, or getting used, to make money. It was like sort of like her [being] discredited. Like, her worth is only based on her looks in the scene. It is something we do [touch on] for a little bit and will in the future. Her character was like a journalist that I was reading about in Chicago who sold herself as a date for the Super Bowl, and that was her break as a journalist. And then she sort of had an awakening of how she used her body to get ahead and now she's not anymore, and so that's her going to be an essential part of Nelson's storyline, for sure. Brandin Cooks, wide receiver for the New England Patriots, is in the cold open. He was totally game and excited to make fun of Cam Newton.

One really unique aspect of the show is the very respectful relationship between Bridgette, her ex, Rafi, and his new girlfriend, Nelson. Why was it important to build the relationship in that way?

That's sort of reflective of my relationship with my son's dad. But it was really important to show the complexities of raising a child in two households, when you both want the best for your kid but you might not always share the same values. It was really important there was no catty jealousy with the new girlfriend, and that it was deeper than that. Really, it's hard to raise a child even when you are with the person. But then there's so much that goes into control, and you really have to let go of that when your kid is also going to someone else's house.

Aside from Bridgette confronting her father, what else can you say about what's coming up?

Episode four is a really fun gender-bender episode. What would it be like to be a guy? Or, really, what would it be like to have a penis? Five is total departure from our world. There's a German movie called Run, Lola, Run that I love and that we did our own version of. That was about forgiveness and sort of a Sliding Doors-type episode using the structure of Run, Lola, Run. And then we go into Bridgette following her basketball dreams in six, which — it was fun just to write about sports and explore that theme. I sort of took her out of being an actress and followed more of her basketball aspirations.

Changing subjects, have you seen the movement of fans of Good Girls Revolt trying to get Amazon to pick it back up or find a new home for the show?

I've heard that. I've been talking to Dana Calvo, the creator, and there seems to be a really strong desire from the fans. There's been a big 'bring back Good Girls Revolt' hashtag movement. It would be so incredible. I mean, Dana and [exec producer] Darlene [Hunt] poured their hearts into that show. It would be so amazing to come back. I feel like that show was a casualty of Roy Price's misogyny.

SMILF airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

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‘Walking Dead’: Will Father Gabriel Die? Star Seth Gilliam Weighs In


'Walking Dead': Will Father Gabriel Die? Star Seth Gilliam Weighs In

"You should feel as nervous as you feel," the actor tells The Hollywood Reporter about what's next for the 'Walking Dead' holy man.

[Warning: this story contains spoilers for season eight, episode five of AMC's The Walking Dead, "The Big Scary U," as well as some major spoilers from the comics on which the show is based.]

First, it was Morales. Then it was Eric. Then it was virtually the entire Kingdom's forces, Shiva the tiger included. Now, is the next major Walking Dead casualty all but officially locked and loaded?

It certainly looks like a grim future for Father Gabriel, the priest played by Seth Gilliam since season five of the AMC zombie series. Over the course of "The Big Scary U," Gilliam's Gabriel and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan were locked together in an enclosed trailer, surrounded from the outside by walkers, left to size each other up. Eventually forming a reluctant alliance, Gabriel and Negan chopped up some zombies, covered themselves in guts (the second time we've seen Gabriel participate in this trick), fight through the herd, and make it safely back to the Sanctuary…

…except they may not have made it back safely, at least not in Gabriel's case. In the final scene of the episode, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) visits a freshly imprisoned Gabriel, who is convulsing in his cell, covered in sweat, filled with nervous energy. We never see the man sustain a bite from one of the walkers, but there are few other explanations for his condition. Indeed, it may be the start of a germ warfare storyline seen in the comic books' "All-Out War" arc.

For more on Gabriel's fate, The Hollywood Reporter turned to Seth Gilliam himself, who was understandably cryptic when it came to the holy man's potential death. Beyond the character's urgent situation, Gilliam weighed in on Gabriel's interactions with Negan, the nauseating process involved in getting covered in guts, the character's fate in the comic books (major spoilers ahead in that regard), and more.

How nervous should we be for Father Gabriel right now?

Oh… (Big laugh.) I think you should feel as nervous as you feel!

What went through your mind when you read the final moment in the script?

I thought, "Oh, wow. It just never ends for this poor guy."

Clearly, you're not confirming or denying that Gabriel is doomed. What can you say about what's next, and the journey we're on with Father Gabriel?

It's a journey of self-discovery. That's about as much as I can say without ruining it.

Fair enough. This episode focuses largely on Gabriel and Negan, still trapped with walkers all around them. Given the enclosed space, did it almost feel like performing a play?

You know, it really was kind of like it was a play. We were in a tight space, closed quarters. It was almost like a small theater in a sense, with a lot of emotion going back and forth between Jeffrey and I. It was like having a great front row seat to a fun performance. I was really excited to have a chance to be a part of this scene and for Gabriel and Negan to do some soul-searching — to see if this guy even has one. It turns out that he does. Of all the characters, Gabriel was probably the one best-suited for the job. If anybody else had stepped into that trailer, Negan would probably have brought Lucille upon them right off the bat. I think he's taken aback by someone like Father Gabriel. What's this guy trying to do, with the whole priest thing in the middle of the zombie apocalypse?

Does Gabriel's opinion of Negan change from where the episode begins to where it ends?

I think it may have. I think it may have changed somewhat. I think he has a better understand of what Negan means as a leader to his group, and what his idea of leading is, and what his ideas of redemption are. I think he has a little bit more respect for him. But at the same time, I think he still sees him as a psychopath who kills people with a baseball bat.

What about the opinion of Gabriel himself? During his first season, he was one of the most loathed characters on this show. Have you sensed a change of the tide?

I do feel like the tide has changed somewhat! I think people have a little bit more of an understanding of what makes Gabriel tick. It wasn't so evident before. There's lots of distrust. Apparently, there was some idea that Gabriel is a mole. That was one of the fan theories floating around for a while, that he and Negan were working together. I found that interesting. I thought by this point Gabriel had proven his loyalty to Rick's group. There's something about a man of the cloth [in this context] that might be a little bit suspicious to people, that leads to some question.

Once upon a time, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) anointed Eugene a "stage two badass." Do you think Gabriel has reached that level yet?

(Big laugh.) You know, I don't know! He does seem a little more capable of shooting a walker in the face. But a stage two badass? A stage two badass might have taken a run at Negan as soon as he got in the trailer!

Well, Gabriel did take a shot!

He did take a shot. He has to earn the chance to get Negan to turn his back on him, to make him think he's not a threat. But a stage two badass would have come into the trailer and just rushed Negan.

If Gabriel isn't a stage two badass, he's at least able to withstand a punch from Negan to the face. Were there any close calls, shooting that with Jeffrey?

No, Jeffrey is very much a professional. (Laughs.) I felt the wind a couple of times, but that's about as close as it got. It was fun! I really hope people get a little bit of a chuckle, that we get some laughs out of the audience. That's what we were looking for. We're looking to bring some humor out of this dire situation.

Did you enjoy getting back into the guts-camouflage?

The guts thing always grosses me out. I don't know what they make it with, man, but it's so gross to the touch, to the feel, to the look. It's that bizarre part of going on a rollercoaster where you have this fear of sickness, but you get on it because you think the adrenaline is going to take over at the moment you're going to puke… and then you still get there and feel, "Why am I doing this?" That's what the guts feels like.

What does it smell like? Hopefully better than it's supposed to smell on the show.

You know, it smells a little… sweet? (Laughs.) It's just gelatinous enough looking where you might want to taste it. And then that makes you feel even sicker!

Negan and Gabriel fight through an ocean of walkers. How do you get yourself revved up for the intensity of such a scene?

There's a claustrophobic feeling that you have from being penned in with lots of people. I imagine it's what it might be like when you're in one of those English football stadiums and a fight breaks out, and you can't get to the exit, and you're penned in with all of these people. So it's very claustrophobic. It got my heart racing. And the makeup is really superb, you know? It's really freakish to see so many different stages of death. The art design really does help. It's not like holding an empty hand and pretending you're peeling an orange, like in acting class. It's right there in front of you. There's a lot of visual stimulation to go along with the claustrophobic feeling. That does the trick for me.

What was involved in making you look so sick, quite possibly infected, at the end of the episode?

We worked [with the makeup department] through some varying shades of green, and undertones for my skin, to make me look sickly. There were lots of sprayed water bottles and maybe even a little bit of gel so there's a bit of a sheen. The rest is just shaking like a leaf and trying to make myself as ill as possible for 30 seconds.

When we first met Gabriel, his greatest sin was that he had locked his flock out of his church, because he was so afraid to die. The possibility is now on the table that Gabriel's death might be imminent. What do you think his philosophy toward death is now based on what it was back then?

I think now, he's dying for a cause. He's faced his fears. He's been given a second chance by god to do so. At this point, Gabriel would be kind of okay with what he's done, with as far as he's come, and being able to have some kind of retribution — making up for that horrible moment where he failed himself and he failed god.

One of the big themes of the season is whether or not mercy can prevail over wrath. What has that been like to play out?

It's been a powerful theme this season for pretty much all of the characters, but I don't think it's so much of a struggle for Gabriel. I think he's committed to doing what he needs to do to make [the war between Alexandria and the Saviors] end. He's always going to lean toward the side of mercy as opposed to wrath. He's someone you can always count on going in that direction.

How versed in the comics are you? Do you read the source material to see what's ahead for Gabriel?

I don't. Someone showed me how Gabriel is killed off. They were very excited, because it took a couple of pages to do it. I looked at it and went, "Okay, that's pretty cool." The whole hanging upside down, screaming thing, and being gutted or slit open down to the bone. It seemed pretty grisly. Aside from that comic book and the issue where Gabriel was introduced and stepped out of the woods to ask if they had a moment to talk about God, I haven't read any of the comics. I couldn't catch up at this point, and if I did, I don't know if I would be influenced to try to change my performance, and if that would ring hollow, because it's not the guy I've started to create. I don't know if I would get attached to material that's not going to happen and build resentment against the writing team because of it. (Laughs.) I'd rather not question any of that stuff. Sometime in the future, when this is all distant past, I think I'll sit back and read them all to see what it's all about.

When that person showed you the image of Gabriel hanging upside down, did you have a fearful vision of the future? "Please don't put me in a harness…"

Well, the first thing I thought was, how long can my voice hold out? (Laughs.) Because he's screaming quite a bit! That became kind of a challenge: "I think I could probably do that for about six hours!" Aside from that, I tried to put it out of my head.

For a show like Walking Dead, where the likelihood of dying eventually is pretty high, is there a readiness to playing out those scenes — that when you get to your death, you're going to give it your all?

I really think so. I think everybody comes onto this show knowing that this isn't going to be M.A.S.H., you know what I mean? You're not going to be on the show for 20 years. You're most likely going to die. I think everyone wants to give as good of a death as you possibly can. It really is part of the package.

If this is the end of the line for Gabriel, what has the Walking Dead experience meant to you?

It's been a really wild ride. I've never had the interactions that I've had with fans outside of Walking Dead as I've had these past few years, the level of passion that they have for the show — the grand scope of the show and the level of excitement people have around each episode that comes out is really kind of thrilling.

Follow for interviews, theories, deep dives and more all season long.

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‘Last Man On Earth’ Stars on Family, Feminism and (Literally) Breaking the Glass Ceiling


'Last Man On Earth' Stars on Family, Feminism and (Literally) Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Show creator Will Forte and star Kristen Schaal, who also directed this week's episode, break down Tandy's newfound feminism and Carol's growing family.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for season four, episode seven of The Last Man On Earth, "Gender Friender."]

"Well behaved Tandys seldom make herstory."

This catchphrase begins Tandy's (Will Forte) quest to become a feminist in the latest episode of Last Man On Earth, after finding himself surrounded by strong women once his twins are born.

Following the addition to Last Man on Earth's baby brood, the group, now installed in a home in Mexico formerly owned by a cartel boss, becomes restless. While Tandy gets to know the new babies, Carol (Kristen Schaal) feels left out of her growing family when Erica (Cleopatra Coleman) and Gail (Mary Steenburgen) decide to get married. Tandy officiates the wedding, where he literally breaks a glass ceiling to express his support in women breaking glass ceilings in a more general sense.

Despite Tandy's protests that he is "super pro-lady," Carol, Erica and the appearance of the new babies convince him to change his ways, starting with his male-dominated language habits that include calling everyone "guys." His promise: "What's got two thumbs and a deep respect for gender equality? This gal."

Meanwhile, Carol spends the episode upset with her "officially notarized" mother Gail, who seems to be spending more time with the unofficial-but-loved Dawn, Erica's daughter.

The turbulent episode for Carol also marked Schaal's directing debut on the show. The actress told THR that she especially liked directing Tandy's story arc in this episode because his mission toward feminism is "coming from him really trying to do the right thing, but it’s just so over the top that it’s a little bit wrong."

"With everything, I think Tandy has the best intentions, stumbles around, and we’ve found that as long as his heart is in the right place, people will begrudgingly go with him," Forte said. "So he’ll still stumble through his version of being the best person he can be, but it’s certainly not without minor and major obstacles along the way."

Richard Blomquist, the episode's writer and Schaal's husband, told THR about the origins behind the episode's focus on language habits: “Misogyny is hardwired into the way we talk. Mankind. History. Broccoli. Why not 'sister-ccoli'?" said Blomquist. "It seemed like a perfect opportunity to use Tandy's dumb wordplay powers to affect positive change."

Forte said he thinks this feminist change will last for Tandy too. "If we go 10 seasons, hopefully I will never say 'guys' again, I’ll only say 'gals.' I do think in a macro way it changes him as a person. I hope it will stick."

Schaal spoke with The Hollywood Reporter below about directing her first episode, Tandy becoming a feminist and Carol's possible "unraveling."

So let's start with you going behind the camera for the first time on this show. How long have you wanted to direct an episode?

I decided around season two that maybe I’d like to direct an episode, which was really scary to say out loud, but then I was like "if it scares you, do it more," so I started saying it more. And I started shadowing directors in season two and season three, so after that I wore Will [Forte] down and he said I could direct.

Did this episode in particular stand out to you?

What I really needed was an episode after a hiatus week so I could prep for it. But the fact that [my husband] Rich wrote it, I don’t know if that was an accident or on purpose, but I was really happy that we got to work together.

What about Tandy becoming a feminist? Why do you think that's an especially important story here?

I think it’s a really good highlight of Tandy, because it’s one of those jokes that I appreciate because it’s coming from him really trying to do the right thing, but it’s just so over the top that it’s a little bit wrong. But it’s coming from a sweet place that allows all the jokes to work.

I do agree with the idea though. We do say “guys” all the time, it is a really male-dominated language. I like hearing Tandy say “gals,” and now in the episodes, my ear’s really tuned in in case he slips in a “guys” in improv or something, I want him to stick with it.

Walk me through going behind the camera as well as playing Carol for this episode – did you encounter any challenges you didn't expect?

The thing that’s scariest for directing for the first time is that you don’t have anything to compare your ideas to. I never directed before, so I was learning, but the best start is I had a great team with me. And I had Rich there and Will there and he oversees everything, it’s very much his show. Another thing that stood out for me was how good the cast is, which is absolutely fantastic, and I know they’re great to work with but it’s different studying them behind the monitor and watching them trying different things. My admiration for them just grew even more. They all had my back. Everyone on the show wanted me to succeed so it just couldn’t be a better environment for me to try it out.

I would say, directing myself … I don’t enjoy that. It’s funny because there are so many projects you see people directing themselves as the lead, and when I watch it, I’m like “why would you do that to yourself?” That part I did not like.

Would you do it again?

Oh yeah, if we get a season five, I would definitely want to direct another one for sure. I would like less Carol in the episode, though. She could maybe be off taking a nap or something.

It was so great to get to work with a team I’ve become so close to because it’s become a show I know really well. The whole thing was a real eye opener for me and it made me appreciate the show even more — all the hard work that goes into it.

What do you think the future has in store for Carol? Now that she has a growing family and a somewhat stable home, do you think she's happy?

Well, she finally got what she wanted. Since the first episode, you see her and this is her goal, and so now she has her goal. It should be interesting to see what that goal actually means now that it’s been realized. Is this what she really needs? It’s so interesting, I wonder if it’s going to make her unravel a bit.

The Last Man on Earth
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‘Outlander’ Producer on Claire’s “Rock Star Move” and That Missed Connection


'Outlander' Producer on Claire's "Rock Star Move" and That Missed Connection

"Where [Claire] ends up and what she has to go through … she may regret that jump," executive producer Toni Graphia tells THR of that cliffhanger.

[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Outlander, "Heaven and Earth."]

Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is out of the frying pan and into the fire on Starz's Outlander. Or rather, make that out of the infested plague ship and into the ocean.

After getting abducted to try and cure a ship filled with men battling typhoid fever, Claire got to work during Sunday's installment of the Starz genre drama and found the source of the infection. But when she learned that as soon as the ship would dock in Jamaica, the men would use her as bait to arrest Jamie (Sam Heughan) — who was also sailing toward Jamaica to reunite with his wife — Claire knew she couldn't let that happen. With the help of a new friend on board, Claire jumped off the ship and into the ocean with only a barrel to hold on to with the hopes that the current would bring her to shore.

Meanwhile, back on the Artemis, Jamie attempted to go after Claire but ended up being thrown in the brig. He tried to bribe Fergus (Cesar Domboy) and convince other sailors to commit mutiny by offering his blessing for Fergus and Marsali's (Lauren Lyle) proposed marriage. By the end of the episode, Fergus and Marsali convinced the captain to let Jamie out of his cell to lend a hand on deck, and he gave them his blessing anyway, seeing how Fergus proved his love and devotion for Marsali.

"We knew Jamie must be going nuts trying to get to her, and the challenge for us in the writers room was we wanted to see what Jamie was doing, and honestly, what can he do?" exec producer Tony Graphia tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He's a hero, so he'd do something right? He would climb up over the railing with a knife in his teeth and rescue her. But we realized he really couldn't do that. He's outnumbered on this ship, it's someone else's ship with another captain. And that ship would never catch up to this military ship. How do you make a story out of that?"

That's how they decided to get Jamie thrown into a cell for the majority of the episode. "We came up with this story where Jamie flips out and tries to do all these things and gets himself thrown in the brig," Graphia says. "Our hero that we imagine would have jumped off the boat and swam after Claire is now locked up. For him, we made drama out of inaction instead of action."

That allowed the heart of the story to become centered on emotion instead of high-stakes action, something that the Outlander team always tries to find ways to incorporate into its adventurous plot.

"That's why we called [the episode] 'Heaven and Earth,' because it's the essence of the episode — you would move heaven and earth for the one you love, and Jamie and Fergus both proved that," Graphia says. "And sometimes moving heaven and earth means not moving heaven and earth; sometimes it means doing the smart thing and showing the things you won't do for them."

When it came time to break this new storyline, the Outlander producers did not seek out Gabaldon's advice in advance.

"She reads all the scripts and gives her input, and often we take her notes because we greatly respect her and she knows the material of course better than anyone," she says of the author, who serves as a consultant on the show. "She always adds something, but when we're first breaking the stories, if they're different from the book we don't consult her up front about them."

Sunday's episode did, however, make one key change to the story that even diehard book readers would likely only notice after the fact: Claire did not come face-to-face with Jamie's former companion Lord John Grey (David Berry) while he was on board the Porpoise.

"We did make the choice to not meet Lord John on the boat," Graphia says. "Sometimes when we have to fit these stories into an hour, we have to be selective in what we portray because Voyager is such a dense book. If we feel as if there's not enough room to do it justice, we come up with a different plan of how to do that particular story point."

She confirms that they "do have a plan for Lord John down the road," though she wouldn't reveal in what capacity as to not spoil the story arc.

"As everyone suspects, we will see Lord John again but there is a different plan for him than what happens on the ship [in the book]," Graphia teases. "And because we made the decision to have Jamie tell Claire about [his son] Willie [Clark Butler] in the reunion episode, we had that struggle early on about how much Jamie tells her when. So since Claire already knew about Willie, it would have been weird for her to run into John on the ship. That figured into our decision."

By the end of the episode, Jamie is out of his cell on the Artemis and Claire has successfully escaped the Porpoise. But their journey back to each other will not be an easy one. Thankfully Claire is the kind of woman who doesn't back down from a challenge, as was showcased in her work on board the Porpoise saving the lives of the men who kidnapped her.

"I loved how even though Claire thinks she may have lost Jamie, she doesn't slow down and she keeps kicking ass and saving a whole ship full of guys, hundreds of guys," Graphia says. "She doesn't just fall apart because she misses her man. That's why we love Claire, and that's what makes her a true heroine."

As for ending the hour on that cliffhanger with Claire alone in the middle of the ocean, Graphia laughs.

"Claire jumping off the ship into the dark, that was everyone's favorite part of the book. We knew we had to do that," she says. "We had to show that. It's such a rock star move. It's a superhero move. We loved leaving the episode with Claire in the middle of a dark ocean, floating, with nothing. Where she ends up and what she has to go through, the next episode will entail some favorite book moments plus a new story, just like this episode. She may regret that jump."

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.

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Al Franken Cut From PBS’ David Letterman Tribute Amid Groping Claim


Al Franken Cut From PBS' David Letterman Tribute Amid Groping Claim

Sen. Al Franken

"PBS and WETA, the producing station, felt that the inclusion of Sen. Franken in the broadcast at this time would distract from the show's purpose as a celebration of American humor."

Al Franken has been edited out PBS' upcoming broadcast of David Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize amid sexual harassment allegations.

The Democratic senator from Minnesota last week was accused of sexual harassment by TV host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden.

The special is scheduled to air nationally Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

"PBS will air an updated David Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize on Monday," the network on Sunday told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. "Sen. Al Franken participated in the event, but will not appear substantially in the PBS program. PBS and WETA, the producing station, felt that the inclusion of Sen. Franken in the broadcast at this time would distract from the show's purpose as a celebration of American humor. Every year, this program is edited for both length and content to keep it entertaining and focused on its intended purpose as a celebration of American humor."

During the event, held last month at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the comedian-turned-senator thanked Letterman for a post-retirement series of videos that he and Letterman recorded together designed to raise awareness on climate change.

On Thursday, Tweeden, an anchor on McIntyre in the Morning, wrote in a first-person essay on the website for KABC talk radio that Franken kissed and groped her without her consent in 2006. Late-night hosts criticized Franken for his lewd gestures in a picture Tweeden shared that shows the senator posing with his hands over her chest during a USO tour to entertain troops in the Middle East.

Shortly after Tweeden's post, Franken released a statement through his press office, extending his "sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."

Franken then released a lengthier second statement where he asked for an ethics investigation and vowed to cooperate.

"The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women," Franken began. "There's more I want to say, but the first and most important thing — and if it's the only thing you care to hear, that's fine — is: I'm sorry."

David Letterman
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‘Punisher’: How Season 1 of Marvel’s Most Violent Netflix Series Plays Out


'Punisher': How Season 1 of Marvel's Most Violent Netflix Series Plays Out

Spoiler alert!

[Warning: This story contains full spoilers for the first season of Marvel's The Punisher.]

"I'm scared."

Who would have predicted such an honest confession from Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), the man known throughout the Marvel Universe as the Punisher? After spending 13 episodes killing any and every person involved in the deaths of his family, Castle finally walks away from the first season of his very own Netflix series a free man — but that freedom comes at the cost of taking a long look in the mirror.

During the course of The Punisher's first season, Castle finds himself swiftly drawn back into a life of vigilantism, on the hunt for the final people involved in murdering his family. As it turns out, there are plenty of men responsible for their grisly deaths, a scope far beyond Clancy Brown's Schoonover, the man Frank killed at the end of Daredevil season two — people who Frank was once closely aligned with during his time as a Marine, serving a black-ops unit that was secretly funded through an illicit drug trade. The top two enemies on the board: Rawlins, alias "Agent Orange," an unfeeling high-level spook played by The Sopranos and 24 veteran Paul Schulze; and Billy Russo, a name recognizable to fans of The Punisher comics, played by Westworld star Ben Barnes.

Russo, who has become the founder of a security firm called Anvil since his time at war (a project also funded because of his association with the heroin ring), is best known to Marvel readers as Jigsaw, one of the most iconic Punisher villains in his rogues gallery. (Indeed, he was previously portrayed by The Wire actor Dominic West in Punisher: War Zone.) In the Netflix series, Castle and Russo were as close as brothers during their time at war, with Frank having no idea about Billy's involvement in the conspiracy until it's almost too late. When Frank learns that Billy, a close family friend, is linked with the people who killed his wife and children, the quest for vengeance becomes all the more personal.

The series takes a momentary detour toward the beginning of the final stretch, away from Frank's hunt for Agent Orange, and focusing instead on another character who had been slowly boiling over in his own storyline: Lewis Wilson (Daniel Webber), a former soldier suffering from PTSD, who becomes a one-man army in a rampage against the people of New York City. Frank goes after Lewis due to the killer's association with Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), another of Frank's friends from his time at war, and the only one who remains a true Castle ally. In the process, Frank learns about Billy's affiliation with the men who killed his family, a development that leaves him thoroughly devastated.

Eventually, Frank violently murders Rawlins and his men, paving the way for a final confrontation with Russo. In the final episode of the season, they duke it out at the same merry-go-round where Frank's family was killed — a location selected by Russo, knowing it would be emotionally triggering for his trigger-happy opponent. In the end, despite sustaining multiple injuries (and it's worth noting that Frank's healing factor gives Wolverine a run for his money; seriously, is there anyone else in the Marvel Universe who bounces back from mortal wounds like Bernthal's Castle?), Frank grinds Russo's face into a mirror, disfiguring his old friend, and putting him on the path toward one day becoming Jigsaw.

Because Frank and his ally David "Micro" Lieberman (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) successfully dismantled this corrupt corner of the CIA, both men are eventually pardoned by the authorities, and are allowed to resume their lives. But what is freedom to a man like Frank Castle? It's a question that's thrown his way by CIA director Marion James (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and he apparently delivers the answer in the final scene of the season, in which Frank joins Curtis to sit among fellow veterans and opens up about his own trauma.

"As long as I was at war, I never thought about what happened next and what I was going to do when it was over," he says. "But I guess that's it, you know? I think that might be the hardest part, the silence. The silence when the gunfire ends. How do you live in that? I guess that's what you're trying to figure out. That's what you guys are doing. You're working on it. I respect that. If you're going to look at yourself, really look in the mirror, you have to really admit who you are, and not just to yourself. To everybody else. First time in as long as I can remember that I don't have a war to fight. I guess, if I'm going to be honest, I'm scared."

In revealing the truth about his fear of living a life without the pursuit of vengeance in his heart, Frank finally takes a long look at the man he's been seeing in his own reflection all season long — but given the Jigsaw teaser of an ending for Russo, Frank will likely go up against the man whose face was torn to shreds in a mirror sooner than later.

What did you think of how the first season of Marvel's The Punisher played out? Let us know in the comments section below, and stay tuned for more coverage of the season.

The Punisher
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