Kevin Brownlow is the superhero of film historians, with an Oscar to prove it. Now you can hear his “origin story.” Fifty years ago his book The Parade’s Gone By offered a vivid portrait of the silent film era and its glories, influencing a generation of movie buffs and scholars (including Leonard). He held Leonard and Jessie spellbound as he recalled his first encounters with this medium and how he tracked down actors and directors who were still alive to tell their stories. Kevin’s own career is the stuff of legend by now, and we’re delighted that he was willing to share some of his amazing adventures with us.
You probably know Kate Flannery as Meredith, the resident drunk who made a lasting impression over nine seasons on The Office, but she’s had the show-business bug all her life. She now tours the country with Jane Lynch, singing her heart out, and keeps her comedy chops honed in an act called The Lampshades. Leonard and Jessie were among the people she waited on at a popular Beverly Hills restaurant where she had the chance to observe good and bad behavior among the Hollywood elite. Kate’s got great stories—and a wonderful laugh.
Paula Poundstone is one of the funniest women on the planet, and a longtime favorite of Leonard’s. She’s heard regularly as a panelist on the popular NPR show Wait…Wait, Don’t Tell Me and now presides over her own very funny podcast quixotically called Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone (co-hosted by Adam Felber). Join us as she expounds on everyday matters, the wide net she casts on her new “comedy field guide to life” and—oh, yes—movies.
Heyyyy… it’s Henry Winkler, the nicest man in show business. He’ll always be remembered as the Fonz but he has a new feather in his cap: an Emmy Award (his first!) for playing Bill Hader’s acting teacher on the delightfully dark HBO comedy series Barry. Henry is also a masterful storyteller and held Leonard and Jessie in rapt attention, recalling early days working with Sylvester Stallone in The Lordz of Flatbush and, more recently, writing a series of popular children’s books about a boy with dyslexia (like Henry) named Hank Zipzer. He has a way of putting people at ease and this hour flies by.
Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley are an amazing show-business couple. She created the TV series My So-Called Life and wrote the book for the Broadway musical Wicked, just for starters. He’s acted in every medium known to mankind, was a favorite of director Robert Altman, created The Electric Company and is currently playing James Brolin’s “father from Hell” on the TV series Life in Pieces—in his 90th year. They’re wonderful to watch (and listen to) because they love and support each other so beautifully. Leonard and Jessie have been fans for years and are eager to share their infectious good spirits with all of you.
Marc Maron has nothing to prove as a stand-up comic or as a podcaster, but he’s still stretching his wings as an actor. He’s terrific in director Lynn Shelton’s entertaining new movie Sword of Trust, which just debuted at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. That’s where Leonard and Jessie talked to them both before an enthusiastic audience at Esther’s Follies. Lynn explains how she combines scripted material and improvisation. Marc is in top form and that’s about as good as it gets!
Fair warning: you’ll hear more f-bombs than usual in this episode.
Harvey Guillen is about to make waves! He’s one of the stars of What We do in the Shadows, the new FX series based on the hilarious Kiwi movie that debuts this weekend at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Jessie has known Harvey since they were teenagers. She and Leonard have watched with awe as he has built a solid career by a combination of talent and hard work. Hearing his story of starting from scratch as a kid and earning his success is positively inspiring.
You probably know him best as the star of TV’s Psych, or you’re watching him on the new series A Million Little Things. But James Roday has a solid background in theater and has earned his wings as a writer and director. His newest project is called Treehouse, a segment of Hulu’s horror anthology Into the Dark that debuts tonight. Leonard and Jessie were charmed by this quietly funny guy who is as thoughtful as he is talented.
This fast-paced episode might be titled “The Young Brad Bird Chronicles,” as the director of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Oscar nominee forThe Incredibles II tells us about his first visit to the Disney studio—at the age of 11. He returned three years later with a home-made animated cartoon, and eventually he was mentored there by legendary animator Milt Kahl. He wound up pitching ideas to Steven Spielberg and helping create the look of The Simpsons before moving to Pixar and beyond. Brad’s energy is infectious, and Leonard and Jessie can’t wait to share their conversation.
She is an actor, artist, writer and animator. He is an actor, comedian and writer. You may recognize Jonah Ray and Deanna Rooney from the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 revival. Los Angeles residents may know Jonah best as the longtime host (with Kumail Nanjiani) of The Meltdown, a weekly showcase that was home to every top stand up comedian in the country (and eventually became a tv show that aired on Comedy Central.) Together they make a fun and fascinating couple.
Dale Dickey is another of those valuable character actresses who makes every film and TV show better—like Leave No Trace, which reunited her with director Debra Granik, who cast her so memorably in Winter’s Bone opposite Jennifer Lawrence. You’ve seen her in Hell or High Water, Breaking Bad, True Blood, I Am the Night—any film or TV show that needs someone unquestionably real. Leonard and Jessie are fans and enjoyed getting to know Dale, who left Tennessee to make her way in show business. Her memory of meeting Jack Nicholson for the first time on the set of The Pledge is just one highlight.
Mitzi Gaynor was just a teenager when she came to Hollywood. She wound up starring with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, dancing with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, and headlining The Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles. Her movies include There’s No Business Like Show Business, Les Girls and South Pacific—and that’s just a fraction of her career. How many people can say they worked with Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein? Leonard and Jessie had great fun with this playful, ever-youthful woman who caught the tail end of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
He’s one of those actors you know and value even if you don’t know his name. Shea Whigham is an asset to every film and TV show he’s in, from Boardwalk Empire to True Detective, American Hustle to The Wolf of Wall Street. He’s not accustomed to talking about himself, but Leonard and Jessie are longtime fans and he obliged us with perceptive stories about breaking into show business and working with master filmmakers like Martin Scorsese. Once you get to know him you’ll want to watch how much he brings to such current films as The First Man and Vice.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the hottest team in Hollywood with Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse earning awards, box-office bucks and rave reviews. There’s even Oscar buzz surrounding their ground-breaking animated feature. But these longtime best friends have never rested on their laurels, from the moment they made their first short subjects in college through their baptism of fire as sitcom writers. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs established them in the animation world and The Lego Movie cemented their reputation as innovators who think WAY outside the box. Leonard and Jessie had a great time talking to this awesome duo.
Willem Dafoe is that rare actor who can appear in a blockbuster like Aquaman at the same time he’s starring in a cerebral biopic about Vincent Van Gogh, At Eternity’s Edge. He’s open to all kinds of experiences, contributing voices to Finding Nemo and The Fantastic Mr. Fox and working with a cast of first-time actors in last year’s knockout The Florida Project, which earned him his third Oscar nomination. Leonard and Jessie wondered what drew him to acting in the first place, and learned why he loves taking on challenges in his work. Listen along to one of the most compelling and versatile actors on the planet.
Creating, executive producing, and writing The Big Bang Theory would be enough for most people’s résumés, but Bill Prady is not a one-hit wonder. He spent many years working with the Muppets, and wrote their unforgettable Disney theme park attractions Muppet*Vision 3D and Honey I Shrunk the Audience. He also spent years writing and producing such shows as Caroline in the City, Dharma & Greg and Gilmore Girls. Beyond his credits, Bill is a pop culture guru and a delightful conversationalist, as Leonard and Jessie quickly discovered. No 3-D glasses are required to enjoy this episode.
Most Americans encountered British actor Ben Barnes for the first time as Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia series. He’s been working ever since, as viewers of The Punisher and Westworld can attest. What Leonard and Jessie didn’t know was that he’s a talented musician, which he tries to incorporate into his roles, and that he loves doing accents—rarely playing an Englishman. He’s intelligent, funny, forthcoming and a real charmer, as you’ll hear for yourself.
He gained fame for his stunt casting as the Winklevoss Twins in The Social Network, but he’s earned respect for his talent in such films as Nocturnal Animals, Call Me By Your Name, and Sorry to Bother You. He can currently be seen opposite Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex. But with all that, and a notable family history, Armie Hammer is charming, articulate, and cheerfully self-deprecating. Leonard and Jessie had fun talking to him at this year’s SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
At the age of 21, Chloe Grace Moretz is a show-business veteran, having worked professionally since the age of 5. When she was 19, she lost her sense of identity and walked away from her career, with the blessings of her business manager (who happens to be her brother). She is incredibly articulate, and doesn’t take herself or her profession too seriously… yet she can wax poetic about the many characters she’s played, in films like Kick-Ass, Hugo, Dark Shadows, Let Me In, and Carrie. You can see her now in Suspiria and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Leonard and Jessie interviewed her at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival and had a ball, hearing stories about Tim Burton, Julianne Moore, and Martin Scorsese, among others. We think you’ll enjoy listening in.
The little boy who scored such a success in the original Jurassic Park is all grown up now—and playing Freddie Mercury’s British bandmate John Deacon in Bohemian Rhapsody. Jurassic costar Richard Attenborough was so impressed with his young costar that he cast him in his moving drama Shadowlands. Director Steven Spielberg liked him so much that he wrote a letter of recommendation when Joe wanted to learn filmmaking at USC. Leonard and Jessie weren’t immune to his charms, either. He’s a bright young man who has his feet on the ground as he forges the next chapter of his rather remarkable career. He offers straight talk with a smile on his face, which is pretty hard to resist.
Most people remember Topher Grace from his star-making role on the popular comedy series That 70’s Show, but this year he showed us a darker side playing KKK kingpin David Duke in Spike Lee’s Blackklansman. Not that he hasn’t been serious before—in Traffic and Spider-man 3, to name just two examples. Leonard and Jessie were delighted to find an engaging interviewee with a wealth of experiences in show business—and a wonderful way of talking about them.
Angela Lansbury sailed away from war-torn England when she was 15, earned two Oscar nominations before she was 20, and is still going strong at the age of 93. She’s as bright and thoughtful as ever, discussing her amazing stage and screen career on both sides of the Pond. Whether you love her as Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, or as the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, you’ll be captivated by the conversation Leonard and Jessie had with Dame Angela in her Los Angeles home.
From college grad student to director of Creed and Black Panther in a short span of time, Ryan Coogler has kept his feet on the ground. He relies on his wife Zinzi Evans and former USC classmates who form the core of his working team. From his debut feature, Fruitvale Station, through his latest box-office smash, he has found ways to make each film personal to his own experience. Leonard and Jessie are unabashed boosters of this talented filmmaker and loved having a quiet, intimate conversation with him amidst award season tumult.
He’s won five Emmy Awards and is a longtime radio host and political pundit. But guess what? Dennis Miller is also a diehard film buff who revels in watching Turner Classic Movies. Jessie was blown away as Leonard and Dennis started comparing notes on favorite films and the people in them. He’s the same sharp-witted comic he’s always been, but this time the focus is on movies. Excelsior!
At 96 it’s fair to call Norman Lear a living legend. He gave birth to such TV series as All in the Family, Maude, and The Jeffersons. Instead of living in the past he’s reinventing it, supervising a reboot of One Day at a Time, just for starters. He’s worked in television since 1950, but no one seems to talk to him about the movies he wrote, produced, and/or directed, like Cold Turkey or those for which he was a midwife (like The Princess Bride). Leonard and Jessie relished spending time with this highly amusing, soft-spoken giant—even when he fielded a cell phone call from a political fundraiser in the midst of our interview!