With pilot season in full swing and upfronts just around the corner, Fox execs took a night off from working on their upcoming TV slates to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s “Taste for a Cure” fundraiser.
Guests including Matt Bomer and Fox TV Group toppers Gary Newman and Dana Walden flocked to the Beverly Wilshire Friday night to support the JCCC’s cancer research efforts and honor David Madden, Fox Broadcasting’s president of entertainment, with the 2015 Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award.
Madden, who has been in his current role at Fox since August, noted that although pilot season is always hectic and he is still working on the fall lineup, he is proud of the progress the network has made over the last year.
“We walked into a network that had some shows that were working, but a number of problem areas,” Madden told Variety. “We’ve helped a couple of them with the new shows. Having said that, we wanted to build on our strength in both drama and comedy.”
Several members of the Fox family joined Madden to support the cause including “New Girl” actor Max Greenfield, who took on hosting duties for the evening.
UTA managing director Jay Sures, who lost his father to cancer, also took the stage to share his hope that the devastating disease will one day be a thing of the past.
“As much as I love being with all of you here, my hope is that in 20 years, in 2035, we’re here opening the cancer museum on UCLA’s campus to remember those who were touched by cancer in some shape or form, but now remember it as something we conquered many years ago,” Sures said. “We’ve all been touched by cancer. Whether it’s a family member, a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a friend, a co-worker, or perhaps even yourself, we all have a story and we all have an experience to share.”
Following a live auction, Bomer introduced the man of the hour, explaining to the audience that Madden is like “an amazing Irish father.”
“And by that I don’t mean a heavy drinker with a short temper,” Bomer joked. “I mean he’s warm, compassionate, caring and loyal.”
During his acceptance speech, Madden discussed his recent visit to the JCCC and how moved he was by the scientists’ work and vision.
“One of our television pilots is set 50 years in the future, and that show was on my mind, so I asked one of the scientists to speculate on life expectancy 50 years from now,” Madden told the audience. “I was secretly hoping he’d say ‘Oh sure, you’ll live to be 200.’ He didn’t say that. Instead, he replied, ‘Well, we’re really not working on people living longer. We’re working on people living better.’ What an eloquent goal.”
Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on Fox’s breakout hit “Empire,” served as the night’s musical guest and also took a moment to share his own connection to the cause, having lost his father to cancer on the day that “Empire” debuted.
“Tonight is the first time that I’ve been anywhere with people that are actually searching and finding cures, so I thank you and I’m sure that my dad thanks you,” Smollett said before performing two songs to close out the night.
Throughout the Italian-themed event, guests dined on a selection of charcuterie and cheeses and a sampling of Far Niente wines, followed by an assortment of desserts including pinenut caramel tartlets and Sicilian pistachio cannolis.