Hollywood Notebook: Dragons, sharks, aliens … oh my!

The Fresno BeeJune 15, 2014 

America Ferrera says she brings a physicality to her voice acting to match her role as the voice of Astrid in "How to Train Your Dragon 2'.


Jay Baruchel says his favorite scene in "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is where America Ferrera's character, the dragon-riding Astrid, does an impersonation of his character, Hiccup. It was the only time the actors worked together in the recording studio for the animated film. The rest of the time they were alone in the recording booth.

Ferrera always brings a lot of energy to every role, but animated productions force actors to use only their words to get across the humor or drama in a scene. No matter, says Ferrera — she's just as active as if she were doing live action.

"I have to get physical with it," Ferrera says during an interview in San Francisco. "Half of what Astrid does is jumping off of things, jumping on to other things and punching people. She's a really physical character, so I have to get down and dirty with her.

"She's exhausting. I'm always tired after an Astrid session. They save all of the loud stuff to the end to save my voice."

Working on the animated films is a good kind of exhausting because of the character. Ferrera say she's proud that both movies feature strong female characters. Astrid's just as strong in the sequel but the movie does allow her to show a softer side such as in the scenes where she mimics Hiccup.

"What I loved about this second one is that we got to explore the softer sides of this character. Her tender relationships with Hiccup and how much she loves Hiccup. What I love about their partnership is that they both have their strengths and they both have their weaknesses."

Hello chum

Mark McGrath has had the kind of career that's the envy of many. Not only has he found fame and fortune with the rock band Sugar Ray, he's also gone on to host a number of TV shows: "Extra," "Killer Karaoke" and "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" Hey, he was even named "Sexiest Rocker" of 1998 by People magazine.

That's why it's so weird to hear McGrath talking about his next project as if he had finally reached the peak of his career. No, he wasn't cast in the new "Star Wars" movie or picked to host the Grammys. What makes McGrath as giddy as a pre-teen at a One Direction concert is his appearance in "Sharknado 2: The Second One."

If the idea that they are making a sequel to the campy Syfy Channel film "Sharknado" makes you equally as giddy, mark your calendars for July 30. That's when a tornado full of sharks hits New York.

McGrath can't wait.

"I'm in a band. OK? I'm in this movie because I'm a fan. I feel like I won a contest, you know what I'm saying, to be in this movie. I was such a fan of the first one. I find myself in a cab on Broadway acting with Judd Hirsch. OK? Dreams can still happen. It happened for me in 'Sharknado 2,' " McGrath says.


The cab is on a New York street as the action moves across the country from the Los Angeles setting of the original film. McGrath suggests the simple fact the movie is set in the Big Apple is reason enough to believe this movie won't be bad.

He's kind of missing the point. The first film was so popular because it was bad. You can't have sharks flying through the air to kill people and remotely suggest this is a quality production. Fun? Absolutely. High quality? Not on your finning life.

Days of future future

Fans of the Syfy Channel series "Defiance" don't have much longer to wait for the launch of the second season. It's set to begin at 8 p.m. Thursday.

For those who missed the first season (and shame on you), the series is set in 2047 where Earth has changed dramatically after the arrival of a variety of alien races. The town of Defiance (previously St. Louis) is a place where humans and aliens live harmoniously together — most of the time.

The cast includes Grant Bowler, Stephanie Leonidas, Julie Benz, Graham Greene, Tony Curran and Jaime Murray.

Executive producer Kevin Murphy offers some insight into what will unfold during season two:

"We always wanted to take season one to sort of establish the town. What we're going to be seeing in season two, we'll be traveling to Angel Arc, which was formerly known as Los Angeles, and we'll be seeing what happened in L.A. We'll be visiting New York. And we'll also be visiting Chicago," Murphy says. "And we're going to find out more about what's going on in the world."

One big part of the series from the start has been the efforts to connect with fans that includes a video game version of the cable show. That connection grows this season.

"One of the things that is really fun in season two is I did a contest and people submitted their avatars, their game characters. And the finalists were submitted to me and I picked the one that I thought would make the most interesting character on 'Defiance,' and we cast it," Murphy says.

Look for the character to show up closer to the end of the second season.


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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