Welcome to this week’s “Just for Variety.”
Addison Rae has a very personal reason for inviting fans to help her raise money for the American Cancer Society. Her maternal grandfather, Donald Easterling, is a survivor of kidney cancer. “A lot of my memories of him from when I was young was in the hospital,” the TikTok star tells me. “It was rough for my family to go through that. But luckily, my pawpaw is a very strong man who still to this day tries to do everything he did when he was 20 years old. He’s very inspiring.” The family spoke openly about his battle. “He’s a very quiet man so you know when he says a few words, they mean a lot,” Rae says. By donating $10 to the American Cancer Society, Rae’s fans can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles next month and attend the game with Rae. “I grew up in Louisiana, so football is pretty big there,” she says. “I was always a Saints fan, but then I moved to Shreveport when I was in high school so I became a Cowboys fan.” This will mark Rae’s first time attending the championship game. “It’s going to be lots of concession food and drinks,” she says.
As readers of “Just for Variety” know, I broke the news in September that Rae signed a multi-picture deal with Netflix after she made her acting debut in the streamer’s “He’s All That,” a gender-swapped remake of the 1999 teen rom-com “She’s All That.” She’s still reading scripts to find her follow-up project. “I want to show people I’m not just limited to one thing,” she said. “I want to play the bad guy but also the good guy. I eventually want something really deep and emotional and real as possible.”
She’s currently taking notes while bingeing “Breaking Bad.” “From the way it’s shot to the script to the acting, it’s all incredible,” Rae says. “After doing my film and experiencing that, I always watch things from a different perspective now. Being able to watch ‘Breaking Bad’ and also learn from it is something that I really enjoy.”
Murray Bartlett spent some of the pandemic driving with his boyfriend and their dog from their home in Provincetown, Mass., to Los Angeles. Why? I can exclusively reveal that the star of Mike White’s hit HBO series “White Lotus” has been on the West Coast filming Season 2 of “Physical,” the Apple TV Plus dramedy that stars Rose Byrne as a 1980s San Diego housewife who finds herself when she discovers aerobics. In other good news for Bartlett, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts tells me that the actor has received this year’s International Award for best actor in a series for his work as Armond, the resort manager on “The White Lotus.”
On this week’s “Just for Variety” podcast, Bartlett recalls filming two of his most memorable “White Lotus” scenes — when Armond falls off the wagon and is caught having sex with one of his young employees (Lukas Gage) in his office during a drug- and alcohol-fueled evening of debauchery and later defecating in a guest’s suitcase. “There’s an element of it that is always going to be weird and sort of slightly awkward, but Mike creates this incredible feeling of play on set, and we were having so much fun,” Bartlett says. “We were all throwing ourselves into the spirit of that, and so they weren’t that difficult to do, those scenes.”
Coming up on next week’s “Just for Variety” podcast, I sit down with Nicole Kidman to talk “Being the Ricardos,” “The Northman” and working with Jason Momoa!
Karen Pittman says she was a bit nervous when she first saw Jennifer Aniston on the set of “The Morning Show.” “I can say this now because I know her — she’s so friendly and sweet and kind of affectionate, but it’s not really what I was expecting,” says Pittman, who plays Mia Jordan on the Apple TV Plus series. “I was expecting the Jennifer Aniston that I read about in the news, and she was just so different from that. She’s very down-to-earth and very cool, earthy, feminine, mothering and nurturing.” Pittman also can be seen as Dr. Nya Wallace on HBO Max’s “And Just Like That.” “After I did the audition, I really did think I did not get it because every African American actress I knew that did not have a job at the time was auditioning for this iconic show, for the opportunity to tell a story with these writers,” she recalls. Her character struggles with fertility issues. “I thought that was important to show a woman who’s like super strong on one side, and then really, really vulnerable on the other side,” Pittman says. “We spend a lot of time hyping women of color as the strong Black woman, but I think it’s important in all of my characters to demonstrate the areas in which women of color are really, really quite vulnerable.”
Off camera, you can add Pittman to the list of celebrity fans of the Kardashians. “I’m a huge fan of Khloe and Kourtney. I’m so happy Kourtney has a man [Travis Barker] in her life,” she says. “I love the sisterhood. I love Kris Jenner because she’s a momager of life.” No surprise then that she’s looking forward to the reality TV family’s upcoming Hulu series. “I’m dying inside,” Pittman says. “I’m dying to see Kylie’s baby. They’re fun. That shit is entertaining, and during COVID we need some entertainment.”
Friday is the day for Ronen Rubinstein. The “9-1-1: Lone Star” actor’s band Nights in Stereo drops its debut single, “Open Door,” on Spotify. Congrats!
Get to know Abigail Cowen! She not only stars as Bloom on Netflix’s “Fate: The Winx Saga” but can now also be seen on the big screen in “Redeeming Love.” Cowen plays Angel, a prostitute in an 1850s gold rush town who gets the chance to start over with a young farmer (Tom Lewis). The film was much darker than I expected. “I was really shocked that the script went there and portrayed a lot of the abuse that Angel went through,” Cowen says. “It didn’t shy away from anything.” Former “Vampire Diaries” star Nina Dobrev plays Angel’s mom in several flashback scenes. “I watched more ‘Teen Wolf.’ I never really got into the ‘Vampire Diaries,’” Cowen says, laughing. “Sorry, Nina.” Cowen’s wish list of people she wants to work with? “Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone or Reese Witherspoon. I love them all,” she says, before adding with a laugh, “Yeah, I want to work with everyone.”
So happy to see that Searchlight Pictures has picked up “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” out of Sundance. You’ll probably hearing a lot from me about the Sophie Hyde-directed film that stars Emma Thompson as a retired school teacher who hires a sex worker (star-in-the-making Daryl McCormack) to help fulfill some sexual fantasies that she never allowed herself to explore with her late husband. The movie is sure to spark lots of conversations about women’s sexuality, marriage, death, religion and so much more. Check out my Sundance interview with Thompson, McCormack and Hyde above.