The ABC miniseries “When We Rise” chronicles the personal and political struggles of a family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. civil rights movement. The four-part production wraps up Friday night with an episode that chiefly focuses on the battle over the right to marry.
The first part of the episode has “NCIS” star Pauley Perrette playing Fresno gay-rights activist Robin McGehee at a Meet in the Middle rally. McGehee was the driving force behind Meet in The Middle for Equality, a rally held in Fresno in 2009 to overturn Proposition 8, the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriages. She spent $15,000 of her own money on the rally.
A mention of the credit card debt she incurred to make the rally happen gets a laugh from McGehee.
“I just paid them off,” McGehee says.
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In the miniseries, McGehee is shown pitching the idea of a rally in Fresno. She had argued Prop. 8 opponents made a big mistake by focusing their efforts on Los Angeles and San Francisco and ignoring places such as Fresno. Almost 69 percent of Fresno County voters supported Prop. 8.
Perrette plays McGehee in two other scenes including a march in Washington, D.C., and at the rally in Fresno.
One of the speakers at the local rally was Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the script for “When We Rise” based on the book by Cleve Jones. McGehee was asked to look at the script to make sure it was correct in a logistical and historical context. It wasn’t until a few months later she learned that Perrette was in the running to play her in the miniseries.
“I didn’t know who she was because I don’t watch a lot of television,” McGehee says. She was even more uncertain about Perrette after seeing her work on “NCIS” where Perrette’s hair is raven black. A blond wig made all the difference.
McGehee, a Mississippi native, came to Fresno as a college student because she expected to find tolerance in California. What she found, she said in a 2009 Fresno Bee article, was that Fresno was a lot like her hometown of Jackson.
Along with being portrayed by Perrette, McGehee worked as an extra during scenes filmed in San Francisco. She didn’t get any money for being portrayed in the movie but did get paid for being an extra.
McGehee, who teaches communications at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, has been watching the miniseries as it has been airing since Monday. She’s happy with how the production has shown the struggles families face when there is not a clear understanding of sexuality and that people can make a difference politically if they organize.
Oh, yes he has
During my interview with Ed Asner last week during his visit to Madera as the special guest for the screening of “Titanic: Sinking the Myths,” the former “Lou Grant” star could not recall ever visiting Fresno.
Fresno’s Penny Raven has a better memory than Asner. She says the Emmy-winning actor was in town years ago when Chris Petersen was running for Fresno City Council and was holding a fundraiser at the Fresno Fairgrounds. Asner was the special guest.
Raven attended the event, which didn’t draw a big crowd.
“ I knew that Vonnie and Ed Sturgeon were having the weekend-long telethon for MDA at Channel 47. So I called her and asked if we could bring Ed for a surprise guest spot,” Raven says. “She readily agreed.”
Asner made an appearance and plea for MDA donations before leaving town on a private plane.
Before he left the area this time, Asner talked about the recent death of Mary Tyler Moore. He said the woman he worked with when he starred on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” had started to change years ago because of lingering illness.
“I have been grieving for her for years,” Asner said.
Readers have been asking what happened to Jessica Peres at ABC30. She is now the public information officer for the Fresno United School District, replacing Jed Chernabaeff, who took the job as public information officer for Ventura County.
Peres had been with KFSN (Channel 30.1) since 2006.
As the South Valley Reporter for KFSN, Peres covered Kings and Tulare counties. She had been a fill-in anchor since 2008.
Technical questions: Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC) is hosting the Alliance for Community Media (ACM) West Regional Conference & Trade Show at the DoubleTree by Hilton on March 8-10.
The Alliance represents over 3,000 public, education and government media centers throughout the country. There will be panel discussions on a variety of media topics and a trade show featuring video production equipment from 15 companies including Sony, JVC and others.
The public is welcome to attend as passes to the trade show are free. Passes to the conference are available for purchase at acmwest.org.
Special guest: Arts Visalia is holding a “Lunch with Dave Williams” at 11:30 a.m. March 4 at The Vintage Press Restaurant, 216 N. Willis St., Visalia. Williams is a storyboard animator at the Disney Studios. His credits include “The Lion Guard,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” and “Phineas and Ferb.”
Tickets are $25 and available at http://www.depotvisalia.com/reservations-arts-lunch.html.