PASADENA — The winter TV Critics tour is going on and I am halfway through the long process of watching cable and network programs you will see over the next six months. One of the great things about attending the tour — other than being as informed as possible on this ever-changing TV landscape — is the chance to catch up with the growing list of talent from the Fresno area who are working as actors, producers and even publicists.
I ran into Dot-Marie Jones at a party put on by the FOX network, where we talked about her future on "Glee." The rumor is that next year the show will shift completely to New York, which might make it hard for Jones to keep up her amazing work as Coach Beiste.
"People think I'm a regular on the show, but I'm just a guest star," Jones says. "This year, they promised me six episodes and I have done four. But I heard the rest of the episodes would take place in New York, so I don't know what's going to happen."
Jones should be made a series regular. Few actors have been able to take as limited time on screen as she gets and turn it into three Emmy nominations. She brings such heart and passion to the work she needs more "Glee" time.
Jones is honored to receive the Emmy nominations, but the real joy for her is how her work has touched people. A story line about spousal abuse sparked a flood of letters — many women saying they were moved to get out of an abusive relationship because of her character.
Talking about those letters makes Jones emotional. It's all part of her knowing that landing a role like this one doesn't come around too often. And that's why the former Fresno State athlete has taken the opportunity and made the most of it.
The sad thing is that she may never win an Emmy, at least as long as she's stuck in the guest comedy category. "Glee" is classified as a comedy, but the scenes Jones gets often are the most serious in the show.
Along with Jones, "Glee" also features Clovis' Chris Colfer. That's two strong actors from the area on one show.
It looks as if Clovis West graduate Michael J. Willett will join their ranks. He has been cast in the new MTV series "Faking It," which is set to debut April 22. The comedy looks at two female high school students who pretend to be lesbians so everyone will think they are cool. Willett plays a close friend of the pair.
Willett jokes that he wishes he had gone to a high school like in the one in the TV show because it's so overly progressive. He says he never had to worry about being in or out with the cool kids while in high school because he was friends with all different kinds of people.
Actors aren't the only Fresno-to-Hollywood connection.
In connection with the interviews for new shows on the online service Crackle, Clovis High and Fresno State graduate Erika Gutierrez handles publicity for the channel.
And then there's Chowchilla native Ronald D. Moore. He was at the tour to talk about his upcoming Starz series "Outlander." Moore showed up wearing a kilt made from the same material used to designate the clan in the show about a 20th century nurse who gets thrown back to 18th century Scotland.
There may have been another reason Moore showed up in the kilt.
"Terry is our costume designer. She also happens to be my wife. She went back and basically did research to discover that what we think of as tartans and kilts in the contemporary sense was really a reinvention that happened in the 19th century," Moore says. "There was this romantic period where people were looking back and reinventing the idea of what kilts were, but our show is set in the 18th century, and actually in those days, these are closer to the colors that they actually used because they didn't have access to the bright dyes of reds and pinks. And also if you're wearing red and pink in the forest you tend to stand out, so this is sort of closer to what they actually used."
This is just a sampling of the talent that proves it's really not that far from the central San Joaquin Valley to the streets of Hollywood. As the tour continues, the search for more local ties continues.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.