It’s great news for an actor when he or she has one box-office hit.
Imagine how Jeffrey Wright must feel now as he has two of the biggest movies in theaters and, if things had gone differently, could have been in three of the top four.
Wright plays Beetee in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” a movie that has taken in more than $200 million at the box office. The weekend that his “The Good Dinosaur” opened, it took in more than $55 million. Wright’s the voice of Poppa, the dad dinosaur in the animated movie.
The triple hit would have occurred if he had been asked to again play Felix Leiter in “Spectre,” which has already taken in more than $180 million. Wright played the character in “Quantum of Solace.”
Wright is happy with being able to entertain so many moviegoers with two movies.
“What I think I appreciate about these two pictures is that they appeal to a younger audience, which is something that my work hasn’t always done,” Wright tells me during an interview in Hollywood to talk about “The Good Dinosaur.” “Now that I have kids, that has become more of a consideration for me, so that I can curry favors from them and their friends.
“Maybe they will tend to listen to me a little more because I am in ‘Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Hunger Games.’ ”
The Washington, D.C., native got his acting start in off-Broadway productions and later won a Tony for his work in “Angels in America.” His first appearance in a feature film came in 1990 with “Presumed Innocent.” Since then, he’s been in “Ali,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Lady in the Water,” “W.” and “The Ides of March.” You won’t see a lot of youngsters lining up to see those films.
Next up for him is the TV series “Westworld,” based on the 1973 film.
There haven’t been a lot of voice roles for Wright, and he doesn’t walk around all day thinking about how a dinosaur would speak. He found the vocal pattern for his “Good Dinosaur” role by listening to the director.
“Peter (Sohn) had a very specific idea in mind of how my character should speak,” Wright says. “He had me watch a documentary about ‘The Horse Whisperer.’
“So I understood that he wanted my version of Middle America, farm-grounded voice. There has to be a level of trust between him and us as voice actors because he knows so much more.”
It’s only been a couple of months since “FABlife” launched and brought Tyra Banks back to daytime talk TV. But Banks has left the show, leaving Chrissy Teigen, Joe Zee, Lauren Makk and Leah Ashley to handle hosting duties.
Banks said when she announced her departure that she wanted to spend more time on her cosmetic line.
That’s a nice excuse, but I’m not buying it. Banks spent years hosting “America’s Next Top Model,” and she had plenty of time to work on other projects.
We are talking about a woman with more energy than a roomful of honeybees. She doesn’t come across as the kind of person who gets overwhelmed by multitasking.
It gets even fishier looking back at what she told TV critics when the show was about to go on the air. Banks had balked at returning to daytime TV because of the stress. But she got a pitch from Lisa Hackner, who had worked with Tyra on “The Tyra Show.”
“In that meeting, it was everything that I could ever dream of. And she was telling me what she sees for this show. At the time, it was unnamed. And she pulled me back in. She pulled me back in, and so I said, ‘I have to do this’ because I’m always about things that are first, unique or best,” Tyra says. “We had discussions about the challenges of daytime and where daytime is now, what we need to do to shake it up, and they are so open and collaborative.
“And I was, like, it’s time.”
Now, it’s time to go. It may have been a conflict with her business interests. It might have been that she just got tired of looking at all the yellow on the set. It may have been an internal spat.
The bottom line is the show has lost a big draw. What happens next will make the difference between staying “FAB” or falling flat.
Casting a Light
Judith Light has faced a lot of interesting roles in her more than 35 years as an actress. You can’t work in daytime TV as long as she did and not see a wide variety of storylines.
Her role of Shelly Pfefferman on the the Amazon series “Transparent” has given her as many acting challenges as any work she has done to date. She plays the ex-wife of Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), a transgender person who finally opens up to his family about always thinking of himself as a woman.
“I think what the show does that’s so genius is that it asks the question and poses the question that everybody out there has. And what it does is it shows you that you don’t fall in love with a gender. You fall in love with a person, fall in love with this other human being,” Light says. “And so what you get to see is two people who have always loved each other and deeply cared about each other and are deeply connected to each other.
“What we’re learning about through the whole show is what is gender identity? It poses the question. It opens the conversation.”
The second season is airing on the streaming service. No matter what happens in upcoming season, Light knows the one thing that won’t change is that her character loves the person who was once Mort and now is Maura.
Coming back: The CBS comedies “Mike & Molly” and “The Odd Couple” will return to the network lineup in 2016. “Mike & Molly” returns at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 6, while “The Odd Couple” is back starting 8:30 p.m. April 7.
Cast news: ABC Family’s “Famous in Love,” based on the novel by Rebecca Serle, will star Bella Thorne as Paige, an ordinary college student who gets her big break after auditioning for the starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster. Joining Thorne is Carter Jenkins (“The Following”), Jesse Henderson (“Finding Carter”) and Keith Powers (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Recovery Road”).