Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Return Of Lauren Ambrose

I was an eager participant on Fox's conference call Wednesday with "The Return Of Jezebel James" star, Lauren Ambrose. (Someone at the network must know that redheads are my kryptonite.)

The series, which debuts Friday at 8 p.m., marks the return of "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino to network TV and has generated a lot of buzz.

It also marks the return of Ambrose, who earned two Emmy nominations as Claire Fisher on "Six Feet Under."

Ambrose, who spent the summer performing Shakespeare, seems pleased with her new show.

"The project seemed interesting," she said. "I had never done anything like it. When I did (Six Feet Under), that would be a two-week shoot. ... It was like shooting an indy movie. (Jezebel James) is a multi-camera thing. It's a whole different world. You rehearse all week, then you get ready to put a one-act play for an audience. It seemed like an interesting challenge."

Ambrose plays Coco, a free spirit living on someone's couch with no job or prospects. Her sister, Sarah (Parker Posey) is a highly successful New York children's book editor who discovers she can't have children. So she approaches Coco to be her surrogate. And Jezebel James? She was Coco's imaginary childhood friend, who later formed the basis of a successful book Sarah published.

The cast includes Dianne Wiest, Scott Cohen, Ron McLarty and Michael Arden.

Though some might see similarities between Coco and Claire, Ambrose said the two are completely different.

"Similarities? I see a similarity in that I'm playing both characters," she said with a laugh. "I see them as pretty different. Claire was a kid, a teenager trying to figure out who she is. (Coco) is a fully formed adult, even though she is kind of a mess."

Sherman-Palladino became famous for her fast-paced dialogue on "Gilmore Girls," and Ambrose admitted it took some getting used to.

"It was definitely a dense script I was handed," she said. "The pilot was something like 60 pages for a half-hour show. It forced us to act fast and talk quickly and be quite facile. That's (Sherman-Palladino's) whole thing."

Ambrose said the show is shot on the same sound stage as "The Cosby Show" was, and filmed in the same studio as Marx Brothers films. She hopes to tap into that classic appeal.

"It's good, old-fashioned entertainment," she said. "It's old-fashioned show biz. It's a little scary to me, which is something I like."

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: After a brief hiatus, "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) returns by bringing back former co-star Sam Jones III as Pete Ross, Clark's best friend. Pete is addicted to kryptonite-laced chewing gum (stick to redheads, Pete), giving him elastic powers. (In the original comics, Jimmy Olsen was the one who became Elastic Lad.) The CW and Stride Gum are also doing a tie-in in which fans can help create an original "Smallville" comic based upon the episode. Visit for more information. The show is followed by a new episode of "Reaper" at 9 p.m.

Of course, a little gem of a show called "Lost" (ABC, 9 p.m.) is new. Not to spoil anything, but supposedly we learn who the rest of the Oceanic Six are, someone dies and someone else returns. It's followed by a new "Eli Stone."

Did anyone else sing "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead" last week when Omarosa was booted off "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) after her crushing defeat with the art gallery challenge? That was schadenfreude, folks. It's followed by a new "Lipstick Jungle" at 10 p.m.


zodin2008 said...

I was not a "Gilmore" watcher and I grew tired of "Six Feet" during its run, so I can't say I am on board for "Jezebel" tonight but I am pleased to hear you got to talk with Lauren Ambrose.

But I am far more interested in your 'real love', Elizabeth Mitchell, who of course is on the best show on Television, "Lost".

I am pleased they finally found a part for Sam Jones III to make his long awaited return to "Smallville". His character was way underused when they had him on the show and from what I hear, Jones was understandably bitter about it. I am happy to hear there's mended fences so Jones can be back on for at least 1 night.

Phillip Ramati said...

I'll gladly speak to Elizabeth Mitchell any time ABC wants to set it up for me!

Jezebel James hasn't gotten great early reviews, and Fox isn't helping it by cutting its initial order from 13 to 7 and putting it on Friday nights. But Ambrose is a terrific actress and fun to talk to. (And the Claire-oriented ending of Six Feet Under was one of the five best TV endings, ever).

I can't say I've missed Pete Ross on Smallville, but it should be interesting to see him return.

Jonathan said...

Whether it's the writer's faults or the actor's, I always found Pete to be one of the most annoying characters on television. However, it will be interesting to see why they are bringing him back.

Never watched "Gilmore Girls;" keep meaning to netflix the first season, and then forget about it. But this show doesn't look to promising no matter how much I enjoy both leads.

I'm with you on the redheads, Phil. Fake or Real; it's all good.

Phillip Ramati said...

Pete was pretty annoying, but then he was never given much to do other than cover for Clark or get rescued by Clark. The large cast didn't help the writers develop Pete to be very interesting. And, cutting Pete gave them the room to make Erica Durrance a full-time cast member, definitely a right move.

Jonathan said...

Yes, redheads and Erica Durrance; actually that would be a wonderful title for a show.