When Movie Stars Invade Press Tour

JuliaRobertsAs high-quality as television has been over the past decade or more, there are still moments when movie stars can still cause their own commotion by their mere presence.

It’s been happening at the TV Critics Association summer press tour in recent days, with a pair of box office stars appearing on behalf of impending streaming series on two different services.

First, it was Julia Roberts appearing for “Homecoming,” an intriguing new half-hour drama series on Amazon Prime about a woman who interviews soldiers returning from the war.

The other was Michael Douglas, the longtime star, who is paired with Alan Arkin in an upcoming Netflix comedy by Chuck Lorre about two cranky old men in Hollywood called “The Kominsky Method.”

For the stars, however, the move from movies to TV doesn’t seem as monumental as it may look from the outside.

“I guess I didn’t really think of it as small screen / big screen [thing],” Roberts said in a session. “My television is very big.”

Rather, Roberts said, she was interested in working with creator Sam Esmail of Mr. Robot fame, who created the show, based on a popular podcast. She said she also liked the extended length of the narrative.

“We were so excited to collaborate on this and what we could do with it and just what you can do with more time to shoot and more time to unravel things for people,” she said. “It seemed like a great opportunity.”

As for the movie and TV divide, “I don’t think there is a distinction in our minds,” Esmail said.

“There isn’t,” Roberts agreed. “Everything is so good. The bar is so high. And I mean for me, it’s nice to bring something into people’s homes. We’re like a delivery service. We’re delivering entertainment right to your doorstep.”

She was referring to the chief aspect of the company with which she was working, free package delivery.

If Roberts’ brilliant smile isn’t enough of a Hollywood indicator, there is also pairing her with Dermot Mulroney as love interest in a series that also stars Bobby Cannavale, Shea Whigham and Stephan James, reuniting them for a third time, though Roberts noted “we weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend the first time. We were best friends.”

Indeed, it was the 1997 “My Best Friend’s Wife.”

“Then he was my sister’s boyfriend in ‘August: Osage County,’” Roberts said, referring to the 2013 drama.

“Fiancé,” Mulroney corrected her.

“Fiancé,” Roberts said. “And finally, my boyfriend. It only took 30 years.”

michael-douglasIn Douglas’ case, the longtime actor, now 73, said “The Kominsky Method” was “a chance to play some comedy, which I don’t normally get a chance to do that often.”

After a lifetime in movies, he said it was also appealing to work “in a format like, with Netflix, streaming, where there are no commercials and it’s like a 25 to 35-minute movie — no time limits, language [restrictions], and all of that.”

It was a great contrast, he said from his appearances in both “Ant-Man” movies, or what he called  “green screen movies, which I’d never done in my life before, and now having a chance to do a series like this with Chuck and Alan has been really a treat.”

Douglas said he never worked with Arkin, but “I learned a lot from him in the time we were together — just about comedic timing and sense and he’s got certain philosophies that were really, really helpful.”

As for the content, “We talk a lot about prostates on this show,” Lorre says.

More seriously, he added that he wanted to reflect “what I’m living, which is getting older:  entropy and the dissolution of form, the decay of the flesh. And it has to be funny, otherwise it’s heartbreaking. And there’s loss of loved ones and how it affects your relationships and friendship and how you respond to a culture that feels like it’s moving away from you. So that was the impetus for the show, to do all that and hopefully — and have some comedy involved.”

“Homecoming” starts Nov. 2 on Amazon Prime. “The Komisky Method” debuts Nov. 16 on Netflix.


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