June 1, 2014

Hollywood Notebook: Howie Mandel praises Nick Cannon's role on 'America's Got Talent'

Howie Mandel says Nick Cannon has the toughest job on the NBC competition show "America's Got Talent."

Howie Mandel says Nick Cannon has the toughest job on the NBC competition show "America's Got Talent."

He's right. All the celebrity judges have to do is sit there, hit a button and offer up their critiques. It's Cannon who has to deal with the contestants — some so out there they can see the backside of the moon — whether they have advanced or been eliminated. Cannon's always been eager to interact with the contestants, but on this season he's doing even more. On one episode, he disguised himself as a mime and faced the unaware judges.

"I kind of empathize with a lot of the acts. I'm a cheerleader on the side of the stage. Whatever I can do to make them feel comfortable. They ask me, 'Can I bring this out? Can you help me?' I'm there. I never tell an act no," Cannon says. "Sometimes I should tell the acts no, but I don't."

The performer in Cannon sparks him to go on the stage when it looks like a contestant is having trouble. He feels compassion for those contestants because many of them have never been in front of a live audience, been on TV or faced a group of celebrity judges.

"So I try to lighten the moment a little bit and go out there, let them know it's not the end of the world," Cannon adds. "It's a little weird because it's like their personality's kind of quirky, but you don't want to make fun of them, but you also want to have fun with them. I think I do a pretty good job of getting out there."

Speak freely

If there's one thing an actor from another country needs to learn, it's how to do an American accent. It really wouldn't have changed anything if Aussie actor Simon Baker had used his natural accent when starring in "The Mentalist." But, film and TV show makers tend to make actors from abroad use an American accent.

To play King Stefan in "Maleficent," a film set in a fairy tale world, South African actor Sharlto Copley uses a Scottish accent. It's a decision he made. He's proud of his vocal work in the new feature film.

"I've always done accents and I have very distant Scottish relatives, not enough that they were in my life that I could be exposed to the accent. But, growing up in South Africa, we were exposed to a lot of British influence — UK, Irish, Scottish. And so I love all the dialects of that area," Copley says. "Choosing the accent is usually the first and most important part for me of a character. Because to me so much comes through in accent."

He didn't have to make any such changes when he starred in "District 9" as the film was set in South Africa. The biggest accent challenge he's faced is Murdock from 2010's "The A-Team," who's not only an American but one that is wild and crazy.

Dramatic change

Matt Bomer gets to play one of the best-dressed, most charming and worldly characters on TV in the USA Network series "White Collar." His role in the heart-breaking HBO film "The Normal Heart" couldn't be any different.

"The Normal Heart" is based on Larry Kramer's 1985 play about how an unknown disease that was ravaging the gay community in New York City was being ignored by everyone in charge. Bomer's character wages an emotional and physical battle against AIDS.

"I grew up in the Bible Belt, and there was no talk about it," says Bomer, a Missouri native. "This play was actually the first exposure I really had, a real understanding of the illness. I read it in the closet of my drama room when I was 14 years old — and the irony of that is not lost on me.

"I remember reading this play and seeing this neon blinking SOS and being terrified but also glad that I had some kind of understanding of what was going on. I did lose friends. I started working at the theater in Art Town in the mid-'90s, which was in some ways an especially difficult time in the epidemic, and that was my first sort of direct contact in losing friends and things like that. So I guess this story for me was always kind of the genesis of my understanding of what the disease was."

One big difference between the play and the cable movie is that the audience gets to see the dramatic physical change caused by the disease. Production shut down on the film to give Bomer time to lose weight. During the filming, Bomer lost 40 pounds.


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