Hollywood Notebook: Producer high on Fresno's Gorham

The Fresno BeeJune 7, 2014 

During a recent chat with producer/director Doug Liman about his new feature film "Edge of Tomorrow," I took the opportunity to quiz him about Christopher Gorham, the Fresno native who stars in "Covert Affairs," one of the many TV series that Liman produces.

The director was happy to stop talking about Tom Cruise, alien invasions, time travel and all of the other elements in his new movie to heap high praise on Gorham.

"Chris is not only an extraordinary actor, but the care and love he has brought to the character of Auggie is amazing," Liman says.

On the USA Network series, Gorham plays a CIA agent who is blind. Liman was impressed by all of the preparation Gorham did in advance of the series launch, working with the blind to make sure he was playing his character just right.

Liman says that it's an extraordinary accomplishment how Gorham has been able to play a character who doesn't have his sight but never as if it is a disability.

"The ultimate dignity, respect and humor that he brings to Auggie is astounding. Show me any other leading man on a show who is completely blind but is not defined by his blindness. In the case of Auggie, you might just as well be talking about his differences being the color of his hair. A little credit for that goes to the writers, but mostly to Chris," Liman says.

The new season of "Covert Affairs" launches June 24.

Day by day

Back in 1995, Steven Bochco produced the series "Murder One" for ABC. The crime/legal drama was very different from the hit of the time, NBC's "Law & Order," where a case began and ended in one episode.

Instead, the entire season of "Murder One" was spent dealing with one case. The series had trouble hanging on to viewers who drifted away in the middle.

Now Bochco's back with "Murder in the First." It also covers one case over one season, but instead of trying to keep viewers interested for 23 episodes, there will only be 10 episodes in the new TNT series that launches tonight. Bochco says it's a better formula.

"You do get to the point where, over that many episodes, you are really struggling to make every hour sustain itself in the service of a single storyline. Ten episodes or 12 episodes seems to me to be an ideal length for this format," Bochco says.

"You can really serve the story, serve the characters, and it also gives us much more time to think about what we are doing and to craft our script."

Months before filming started on "Murder in the First," most of the scripts had been written.

Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson star in the series as homicide detectives investigating two murders. The mystery deepens when they find both murders have a common denominator in a Silicon Valley wunderkind.

'Maids' service

Susan Lucci spent more than 1,000 years (or at least it seemed that long) playing the devious Erica Kane on the ABC daytime drama "All My Children." You would think that after all those years of back-stabbing, betrayal, extramarital sex, weird relatives, crazed killers, dead husbands and all of the other countless plotlines of the show, Lucci would have wanted to do something completely different.

It doesn't pay to think when it comes to TV.

These days, you can find Lucci on "Devious Maids," the Lifetime series that deals with back-stabbing, betrayal, extramarital sex ...

She says she was willing to take on the role of Genevieve Delatour because of the writing by "Devious Maids" creator Marc Cherry — who knows a thing or two about developing twisted plotlines from eight years spent on his series "Desperate Housewives."

"I feel like such a lucky actress to receive this incredible material. I think of all of these characters, the takeaway I found is that no one — not the Beverly Hills household owners and not the beautiful, wonderful Latina maids — is defined by what they do or the size or the lack of size of their bank account," Lucci says. "There's humanity that cuts across all of those borders."

The big change from her last job is that each episode of "All My Children" was filmed in a day. Lucci could make eight episodes of the daytime drama while making one episode of the Lifetime series.

"I adored all of the opportunity I had to work on 'All My Children,' but just because of the volume we did every day, there was more of a rush to performance. So actors were rehearsing in the hair and makeup room, kind of screaming lines at each other or running down the hallway," Lucci says. "Whereas, this, there is really time allotted to the process, and I just love having that opportunity."

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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