'Hollywood notebook: 'Buckets' star has Fresno ties

The Fresno BeeJune 22, 2014 

One of the great things about my job is finding connections to Fresno in entertainment stories where no tie is expected. That happened recently when I was on the set of the new Disney XD series "Kirby Buckets."

I was there to interview the cast for a story promoting the launch of the show. You'll see those interviews later this year when the series is added to the cable channel's lineup.

The series follows 13-year-old Kirby Buckets whose dream is to become a famous animator. Drawings by Kirby come to animated life during the weird adventures by three best friends. The episode they worked on while I'm on the set has something to do with a torn and tattered stuffed frog.

During the introduction to the young cast — that includes Jacob Bertrand (Kirby), Cade Sutton (Eli), Mekai Curtis (Fish), Olivia Stuck (Dawn) and Tiffany Espensen (Belinda) — Jacob mention's that his grandfather, FranCisco Vargas, and great-grandmother Della Chacon, live in Fresno.

Along with the new Disney XD series, Jacob has been in the movie "Jinxed" and worked as a voice talent on "Bubble Guppies," "Rise of the Guardians" and "ParaNorman."

It's obvious where Jacob gets his talent. His grandfather is a well-known Fresno artist. The latest work by Vargas is a 125-foot mural on the Pacific Publishing Building, 1315 Van Ness Ave., that spells out the city's name in block letters in what appears to be a giant postage stamp. The letters contain images of local interest from Half Dome to William Saroyan.

Jacob's mother, Christina Vargas, attended Roosevelt High School.

The family — that also includes Jacob's dad, Scott, plus the actor's siblings, Jake and Makenna — often travel to Fresno for family visits.

Family research

All Christina Elmore, who plays Lt. Alisha Granderson on the new TNT drama "The Last Ship," had to do to research her role was attend a family dinner.

"I have a brother who was in the Navy and I asked him a lot of questions before I started this about what made him want to do it, how could he sign himself up for five years, six years not knowing what his life was going to look like? He was on a ship that we shot right next to and his life was this normal life. Every day he woke up, and he had a job to do," Elmore says. "He was a part of some crazy things that he wasn't even able to tell us about at one point."

"The Last Ship" is about a crew that escapes a global catastrophe that has nearly wiped out the world's population. The crew must find a way to stay alive while searching for a cure. The series airs on TNT.

The role has given the actress a better understanding of what people like her brother do.

"This is not, for them, an action-adventure show," Elmore says. "It's not a movie. It's life, and there are things that are happening, and people are actually working hard to save people, things that we don't know about. So that's been a real inspiration for me in seeing that, not only the guys on the ship, but personally someone in my family wake up and do their job and their job that is so much greater than themselves."

Finnigan sees appeal of "Tyrant"

Canadian actress Jennifer Finnigan stars in the new FX drama, "Tyrant," from Gideon Raff and Howard Gordon (best known for the series "Homeland"). She plays the wife of a man from a Middle Eastern country who reluctantly returns home to attend his nephew's wedding. The trip pulls the family back into the dark world of a country under tyrannical rule.

Finnigan's not had a problem starring in the complicated political thriller, despite having starred in several TV comedies over the years. She had only one hard thing to understand.

"I couldn't be more grateful to be doing something like this right now. I like to do drama and then the next one's a comedy and then the next one's a drama," Finnigan says. She pauses and very seriously adds, "It took a little bit of navigating my ego to wrap my head around being the mother of two grown-up children."

It's possible. The actress is 34, which means she would have had her children at a young age.

Finnigan's just happy to be part of a project that is so dark. Her character's been shielded from her husband's past. That gets even more complicated when the family arrives in the Middle East where she becomes a definite outsider.

"I love the journey of this woman or, at least, what I think will be her journey," Finnigan says. "I loved that it wasn't so much even who she was in the pilot but the potential of who she will be during the run of the series. I also love her story. I think it's relatable. I think that it's sort of this fantasy fulfillment of your life changing absolutely and completely and then it does."


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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