Got a call from a frantic fan of the new NBC drama “This Is Us” who was upset because she heard the show was ending. Rest assured, that’s not happening.
“This Is Us” is like many network programs that have come to a midseason finale. All that means is that it will be going off the air for a couple of months and will return with new episodes.
That made the caller happy as she’s a big fan of Justin Hartley. He plays Kevin, the acting member of the family. The caller has followed his career through “Emily Owens, M.D.,” “Revenge,” “Mistress” and “The Young and The Restless.”
My first chance to interview Hartley was for his role as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on “Smallville.” He was a great interview then and is equally as enjoyable when chatting about “Us.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
The Illinois native heard about the role through a friend who after reading the script told Hartley that it looked like the role of Kevin had been written for him by series creator Dan Fogelman.
Hartley had heard of Fogelman (who produced “Galavant” and “Pitch”). After hearing the role seemed meant for him, Hartley figured the audition process would be a breeze.
“I read it, and I thought, well, hell, I can do this. It’s very funny and very touching, and then every single other character and story in the script is just so … it’s so beautiful,” Hartley says. “The character development throughout, even the first episode, is just gorgeous writing, and then it just kept getting better and better and better.”
It wasn’t a complete breeze, but Hartley landed the role that he considers one of the best in his career.
This comes from an actor who, early in his career, starred in a short film playing the comic book hero Aquaman. The character was being considered for a new series, but the idea didn’t hold water.
ABC’s new hit drama, “Designated Survivor,” is another show with a midseason finale that will return with new episodes. There’s no way the network could end the show with the White House dealing with more problems in one episode than in a full season of “The West Wing.”
One reason for all of the multiple storylines is that “Designated Survivor” gets into more of the personal life of President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) than “West Wing’s” Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen).
A majority of the family stories in “Designated Survivor” revolve around Kirkman and his first lady, Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone). It’s a very different role from the time she spent playing Karen on “Californication.”
From the start, McElhone wanted her character and the rest of the Kirkman family to be an integral part of the series. That would include her character having a full career as a lawyer that has been worked into several plots.
“She also has her own career that maybe she ends up having to sacrifice, but there’s a whole conflict of interest in that storyline that I think a lot of women face, and maybe men today as well,” McElhone says. “I think it is interesting and dramatic and requires a lot of soul searching.
“I also think she’s invested and interested in his political life. They are political allies. They’ve maybe been to college together. They have a similar worldview. And perhaps she sees him becoming corrupted or not I don’t know which way the story is going to go.”
McElhone knows the political and family worlds are very different, but she is convinced they can easily dovetail together.
As for inspiration to play the role, McElhone has been impressed with actual First Lady Michelle Obama.
Getting animated: TBS has greenlit the new animated series, “Final Space,” an interstellar comedy created by Olan Rogers, for 2018.
No Year 2: Amazon has opted not to order a second season of “Good Girls Revolt.” The series, which debuted in October, deals with a group of women fighting sexual discrimination at a major publication in 1969. It’s being shopped to other outlets.