Why am I saying ‘Who’s ready?’ three times?: An oral history of SpongeBob SquarePants


For two decades, he’s lived in a pineapple under the sea, absorbent and yellow and porous, whose nautical nonsense we’ll always wish for more of. Created by Stephen Hillenburg, who died last November after battling ALS, SpongeBob SquarePants launched on Nickelodeon in 1999 as a surreal fever-dream cartoon that appealed to adult fans of comedy as much as the kids who grew up singing the theme song. In the years since, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon, having spawned a Broadway musical, multiple movies, and some of the internet’s very best memes. (Who among us can look at a jar of mayonnaise without wondering if it’s an instrument?)

On a sunny June afternoon at Nickelodeon’s studios in Burbank — where the original SpongeBob cast was working on the partially live-action special SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout (July 12 at 7 p.m.) — EW sat down with the gang to discuss the series’ origins, development, and legacy. Are ya ready, kids?

The Beginning

TOM KENNY (SpongeBob): I’d worked with [Stephen Hillenburg] on Rocko’s Modern Life [as the voice of Heffer and other characters]. So this was the easiest job I ever got: There was no audition, there was no callback, there was no “It’s down to you and two other guys.” Though I did hear that there was a push to have Fred Savage play SpongeBob.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE (Sandy): I remember during the audition, it was in a conference room, which was awkward to me. [They] left the microphone on the table — we weren’t in a booth. [It was] awkward and weird. I had never done that. There’s the mic and there’s Steve. And there was a fly flying around. I’m watching the fly, trying to do it, and it landed on the paper I had. And I [slams on the table] killed it. I never kill anything! I always catch things and put them outside, and I totally panicked.

KENNY: Did you suck in that dead fly’s life force and channel it into your audition?

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: Oh my God, I don’t know. But when I left, I was like, “There’s no way.”

MR. LAWRENCE (Plankton): But that’s Sandy! That’s a Sandy moment.

KENNY: The last day of that fly’s life was the first day of the rest of your life.


MR. LAWRENCE (Plankton): I was also friends with Steve from Rocko; we were directors on that show together. When he was working on the SpongeBob pilot, I came in and he said, “You’re going to be somebody on the show.” I actually read for SpongeBob with Plankton’s voice. I was like [does Plankton’s voice], “I’m ready! I’m ready, Gary!” But I read all the pages like that. All I know is they kept listening to the tape while they were making the pilot. I felt like I was in the room because they’d always say they played it; when the network had just come in, or when they were down in the dumps for some reason, they’d play the tape and listen to this stupid thing. It sounded so stupid. It did not work at all.

VINCENT WALLER (co-executive producer): Steve mentioned on more than one occasion about Doug auditioning for SpongeBob with Plankton’s voice. He definitely loved that.

RODGER BUMPASS (Squidward): I just looked at [the script] and said, “[Squidward] has got this big ol’ honking nose, he must have some nasality quality to him. He’s a little sarcastic. It was a match made in heaven with my personality.

KENNY: I felt like I just got [SpongeBob]. Steve did such a good job with it. Everything was right there. You go, “Oh, I know this guy. I can embody this guy.” I feel like there’s some shared DNA between me and this character. We’ve all felt that way. That’s part of Steve’s brilliance. He seemed to be pretty sure of his decisions once he made them, and couldn’t be dissuaded.

BILL FAGERBAKKE (Patrick): Recording [the pilot], I thought it was a dopey preschool kids’ show. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get most of the jokes. “Why am I saying ‘Who’s ready?’ three times? Okay, it’s for 4-year-olds.” Then when I finally saw it, my head blew up. It was so delightful.

BUMPASS: I played the pilot for my family. I looked back 11 minutes into the thing, and my father was asleep.

FAGERBAKKE: Along with thinking it was for 4-year-olds, we were recording with helium for the sound of the anchovies. I thought, “This is the weirdest $600 I ever made.”

Character Development

CLANCY BROWN (Mr. Krabs): The first time I read [for Mr. Krabs] for Steve, he told me to riff. I was just doing some pirate voice. I said, “Steve, you’re the director, right?” He said, “Yeah.” “Then direct me.”

BUMPASS: I remember one of our first episodes, I heard [Tom changing his voice as] SpongeBob. All of a sudden we had the latitude to do other voices — the “Krusty Krab Pizza” thing. I’m sitting there, and I didn’t know anything about the show, like, “What’s he doing? He’s totally out of character!” I didn’t realize [SpongeBob] had that latitude to be anything he wanted to be.

KENNY: It’s hard to riff when you don’t know the character yet, or it’s your first brush with the character. But now, Clancy riffs as Krabs all the time.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: I was always terrified [of improvising]. It took me a while to get comfortable because I felt like [you guys] were all so much more established. I was amazed.

BUMPASS: When we first started I was very monotone. Then we had this scene [in season 3’s “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV”] with the utility belt and it zapped me, and I had to do a sequence of screams. Each scream had to be a different type of a scream. There, they learned I could scream, so now, every episode they make me scream. [Laughs] But that’s how it expanded. Now [Squidward] is more me than anything else.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: I can’t remember the first time that Sandy got angry. But I know there’s something about her being mad that became a thing.

WALLER: It was when they were messing with Texas!

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: Right! That’s where my personal life and Sandy [merged] also. When I was younger and I’d get really angry, people would laugh, and I’d be like, “I’m mad!” It’s the same with Sandy.

MR. LAWRENCE: We still try to [record together] as much as we can. What’s great to see every so often is when we roll down the road and there’s a lot of jokes happening because we’re laughing at something we’re saying, and it suggests something. Sometimes something comes out of that, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it makes the whole process fun to go through. It’s jazz riffing. I like watching it and I like doing it.

WALLER: That’s where some beautiful invention comes from that’s not in the script.

KENNY: And a conviviality. It feels like a workplace. It’s funny. I used to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show when I was a kid, and I’d go, “Wow, that’s what I want to do. I want the kind of job where you’re just hanging around with funny people.” This is as close to that.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: But we were unique. A lot of shows don’t record like that.

BROWN: I love stuff [like “My leg!”] that comes out of left field.

MR. LAWRENCE: It was one of those ad-libs where we’re trying to get the last word, going back and forth. I know Roger does it all the time. We all do it because it’s so stupid.

KENNY: The voice-director just needs people to go “Agh! Oop! Blargh!” Like, “We’re still alive under this rubble, kids.” It was kind of like that. “Give me my legs!”

MR. LAWRENCE: It just came down to a silence, and I just let it go a little bit longer, and popped out, “My leg!” We all laughed and started doing it more. It became a joke for us to do it. Nobody’s writing “My leg!” in there!

KENNY: It was never intended to be a meme.

Creative Control

WALLER: [I was there] from season 1 to season 2, then I went away for 3, and then came back on 4, after the movie. I was on Ren & Stimpy previous…. This was the first time collaborating with someone in the same room over one piece, rather than doing one thing and having someone come in and tear you a new one and rewrite it. But it was all fun.

KENNY: So you would say it was a more collaborative process than on other shows you’d worked on?

WALLER: Yes, much more collaborative. From beginning to end, rather than when you’re done, everybody comes in and collaborates.

MARC CECCARELLI (co-executive producer): The idea of writing in a storyboard phase had fallen out of favor in television animation. The reason they brought it back for [Ren & Stimpy], and the reason it’s so appealing for SpongeBob, is because it’s a much more visual way of writing the story. It’s one thing to write a visual gag in text.

KENNY: One picture is worth a thousand words, right? “His tongue unrolls like a staircase. His eyes bug out and hit the wall.”

BUMPASS: It’s one of the things that makes this show special because it deals with animation and cartoon-ism the way it used to be. Unlike, say, King of the Hill, which should’ve been a live-action show.

MR. LAWRENCE: We often will base a whole show on just some visual we really want to see; something we start drawing, like, “I’ve got to see that.” It doesn’t happen every time, but sometimes a whole episode will form out of a visual where we go, “That’s gotta happen.”

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: As an actor, it’s a lot more fun being able to get the board. I mean, that’s huge.

BUMPASS: [This is] the first show I was ever involved with where they gave us the storyboards in advance. It helps you so much to see what that gag is.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: Right! You know, and it’s amazing. You can see Sandy’s jumping off an enormous mountain instead of a little mountain. You can’t see that in a written script.

KENNY: Steve built a great foundation for this house. I think about that all the time, how much he knew what it was going to be. He was also really good at digging in his heels, usually in a very gentle, friendly way, and picking his battles and fighting bad ideas from non-creative people. He was good at that.

BROWN: Different milieu, though, right? Nickelodeon was its own thing back then.

KENNY: I guess everything was a different milieu back then. I always say with Rocko, the inmates were running the asylum to a pretty crazy degree. As long as they delivered the product and there weren’t any big content problems, you kind of are just left alone to make your quilt.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: Lot of creative freedom. And now…

KENNY: It’s a little less so now. It’s a double-edged sword: If something gets gigantic, there is a lot more at stake. A lot more eyeballs. That’s what I give [the writers] a lot of credit for, still having that subversive [quality]. SpongeBob still feels like a subversive show, even though it’s kind of the most mainstream show of all.

CECCARELLI: We’ve been grandfathered in and protected by the fact that the show was so good and successful from the beginning. They don’t really mess with us so much, content-wise, even to this day.

BROWN: I also think it’s because nobody really knows how to f— with it.

Guest-Star Parade

BROWN: The stunt-casting sessions are always strange. You never know when somebody comes in what they’re going to be like. We’ve got our thing, but then you add somebody in who’s a stunt.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: Early on, didn’t it make Steve crazy? Everyone called him wanting to be on his show and he didn’t want them.

BUMPASS: Bruce Willis wanted to be on.

FAGERBAKKE: We’re not accustomed to it. It’s not like in every episode there’s a wacky guest.

KENNY: [Speaking] as the voice director, it’s interesting too, because it’s a little bit like celebrity roulette. “Wheel of Celebrities!” You had to give them almost a tutorial. Many of them have seen SpongeBob, but even if they have, you have to go, “Whatever you think you’re going to do, go bigger.” It’s a heightened reality. You probably won’t be too big. And if you are, we’ll tell you. But you probably won’t.

BROWN: Did you ever have to tell someone to pull back?


BROWN: Dennis Quaid came in pretty hot.

KENNY: That’s true.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: I like when Ernest Borgnine [Mermaid Man] was in and he just kept going and going. We all just hung out and waited until he was done.

KENNY: Same with Tim Conway [Barnacle Boy]. It was the first thing they’d done together since McHale’s Navy, so that was fun to watch.

MR. LAWRENCE: It was arresting. For me, it was like if someone squeezed in your stomach. You’re seeing these two guys in that room. Just like, wow.

FAGERBAKKE: Jon Hamm was awesome. He clearly was enjoying himself.

KENNY: He actually stayed after he was done recording. We were like, “Okay, that’s it, Jon.” He goes, “You mind if I stay?”

MR. LAWRENCE: I remember Scarlett Johansson coming into the first movie we did [released in 2004]. She was so excited. We all got into the booth, and we were all there at the same time. She had her headphones on, ready to do her line, but as soon as we started talking…she looked like she was watching a pinball machine. She got to her line and she said, “I don’t know if I can do that.” You could see she was scared. Just the intimidation of watching us all do it at once, up front. And then: She was great!

Pushing the Boundaries

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: I think my new favorite [installment] is going to be [SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout]. It was so much fun for us to do something so wild.

MR. LAWRENCE: We keep surprising. We’re trying to keep a surprise going with things. And…it’s going to be hard to surprise people after this one.

KENNY: It’s like being married for a long time. You’re like, “We’ve gotta spice things up! Here, put this on! Dress like me!”

MR. LAWRENCE: Like we just did an episode about “My leg!” recently. The idea was “How much can we abuse the audience in repeating a line over and over again?” [Laughs] There was something to creating a new structure to that, so it would hold that joke for 11 minutes.

CECCARELLI: Personally I like the two stop-motion specials we did. Back when I was 10 years old, I wanted to be Ray Harryhausen. That was my entry point into this fantasy world.

FAGERBAKKE: And that’s probably the only chance you’ll ever get to do stop-motion animation. It doesn’t happen very often.

KENNY: I love those episodes, too, because it’s kind of imperfect. It’s skittery. Like the 1933 King Kong versus some CGI, “Oh, okay, there’s Jack Black standing in front of a green screen.” There’s an imperfection to that the 2D version of SpongeBob has too. You can see people’s thumbprints. In the stop-motion and the 2D version of it, it’s imperfect. I went to Pixar once, and they had this giant bank of computers. I was just like, “That’s to make sure [for] this character, every hair flows like real hair.” I like imperfection. I like records with bad notes, where the drummer misses a beat. Spongebob has still got that.

FAGERBAKKE: The discovery of the show, the nature of the show, I had no idea [when I first was cast], and I was very surprised until I saw it.

KENNY: SpongeBob is one of the last remaining super-visual cartoons. There’s just not a whole lot of shows like that anymore. In some ways, I feel like I’m working in this time-machine job. Like working on a radio show or Looney Tunes. It’s pretty cool that we’re still able to be employed as milkmen in 2019.

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Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Idris Elba gear up for Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw


Dwayne Johnson has arrived on the set of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw with an arsenal of ways to insult Jason Statham. It’s January, and the pair are both speckled in mud and fake blood, perched on a sunny cliff above the Pacific Ocean in Kauai, Hawaii. They’re about to shoot a rare scene where nothing gets blown up, punched, or run over. The script already calls for Johnson’s Luke Hobbs to declare that he sees Statham’s Deckard Shaw as his diminutive sidekick: the Robin to his Batman, the Mini-Me to his Dr. Evil.

But when the Rock hops out of his truck — he prefers to drive himself to set, listening to chill Hawaiian radio on the way — the first thing he does is run over to Statham and start suggesting fresh one-liners they can hurl at each other (including one impressive Of Mice and Men reference). Huddling under a shady tree, the two soon work out a new bad-mouthing rhythm with writer-producer Chris Morgan, and when the cameras roll, they lay into each other with quips about their characters’ height, strength, appearance, intelligence, and lack of friends. Finally, when Shaw grumbles, “I’ll sidekick you right in the mouth,” director David Leitch calls “Cut!” and Johnson and Statham immediately abandon their scowls for grins.

“Jason loves to come to set extremely prepared, lines locked in,” Johnson, 47, says later, driving his black pickup back to base camp (and slamming on the brakes to avoid the occasional wild pig by the side of the road). “I do too, but then I also come [as] a massive pain-in-the-ass headache for Jason because I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ve got this other idea! Take what you learned and throw it out the window! So how about we do this…’ ”

“I think me and Dwayne share a very similar sense of humor,” Statham, 51, adds later by phone. “The only difference in us is the amount of weight he pushes when he’s doing a bench press.”

The first Fast & Furious spin-off has been a long time coming. Ever since the original sped into theaters in 2001, the eight-part franchise has evolved from street-racing saga to explosive, globe-trotting spectacle, led by Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his merry band of car-loving misfits. The plotlines have gone from successfully stealing VHS players to taking down international terrorists, with the films raking in more than $5 billion worldwide combined and becoming Universal’s highest-grossing franchise of all time.

The crew has amassed new allies and enemies along the way, with Johnson signing on as Hobbs — first an enemy, later an ally — in 2011’s Fast Five. As the near-invincible DSS agent, Johnson has been thrown through glass windows, survived fiery car crashes, and gone toe-to-toe with psychopathic assassins, always pulling through to pummel another henchman and deliver some more quips. (In a squad of memorable characters, Hobbs is perhaps the most quotable.)

There were discussions of spinning off the character as early as 2011, but plans didn’t shift into gear until after the introduction of Statham’s rogue British agent Shaw in 2013’s Fast & Furious 6. Shaw joined the Fast narrative as a vengeful villain, before teaming up with Hobbs to stop a nuclear attack in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious. Yes, he incurred fans’ wrath when he killed beloved racer Han (Sung Kang), but he sort of redeemed himself by hijacking a plane to rescue Dom’s kidnapped baby (as one does).

“I think Shaw was sort of misunderstood when he first came on to the screen in the early Fast & Furiouses, and as we start to unravel what he’s all about, we come to understand that he really isn’t a villain,” Statham says. “But you don’t need to get on the wrong side of him. He’s very resourceful, and he’s quite an intense character.”

Over the course of multiple movies, Hobbs and Shaw evolved from nemeses to begrudgingly tolerant colleagues, becoming fan favorites in the process. (It turns out people really like watching Statham and the Rock beat up bad guys — and each other.) So, the studio gave the green light for a stand-alone Hobbs-and-Shaw movie in 2017, eventually bringing aboard longtime Fast writer Morgan and Deadpool 2 director David Leitch. Hobbs & Shaw forces the two characters to join forces in order to stop a looming biological threat, journeying from Shaw’s native London to Hobbs’ homeland of Samoa.

“The other movies were great, and I loved creating the character of Hobbs,” Johnson says. “Eventually, for me personally, I needed more juice. I needed to sink my teeth into something that allowed the character to grow and expand and showcase more layers.”

Hobbs & Shaw is the first Fast to turn off the main road, and the filmmakers say their biggest challenge was creating a movie that felt true to the franchise while still injecting fresh elements. “What we wanted to do was still be able to lean into the spectacle and the action that you’re used to with that universe,” producer Hiram Garcia explains. “But we wanted to turn up a little bit of the humor, the banter, the buddy-cop dynamic that sometimes we can’t get in Fast because there’s so many characters in play.” The real test is whether audiences will be willing to follow them down that track.

Seeing as both Hobbs and Shaw have filled the antagonist role in past Fast & Furious films, this outing needed a foe who was big enough, bad enough, and threatening enough to unite these two frenemies. Enter Idris Elba’s Brixton, a cyber-engineered baddie who’s eager to get his hands on a globe-threatening virus.

“I’ve been a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise, as is everyone,” Elba tells EW in his trailer, where he’s clad in an all-black, all-leather costume, trying to cool off between scenes. “It’s sort of the ultimate escapism. And I love cars. I’m a bit of a motorhead. And then, of course, I get to play this really complex bad guy.”

Brixton is a former British agent who’s been cut open and stitched back together with Terminator-esque technology, making him nearly indestructible. (The tech in the Fast & Furious world has come a long way since the first movie.) In a franchise about machines, Brixton is part machine himself — basically the Six Million Dollar Man, if Lee Majors’ Steve Austin was a homicidal British terrorist with a shape-shifting motorcycle he could summon on command.

“You kind of almost want to like him, but he’s on the wrong side of the law all the time,” says Elba, no stranger to playing sympathetic criminals, like his breakout role as The Wire’s Stringer Bell. “For me, the most complex [character] to play is someone that’s hideous and violent but has qualities that make you go, ‘Oh! He could be a nice guy if only he wouldn’t shoot so many people!’”

To bring down Brixton, Hobbs and Shaw turn to what Johnson calls “the F-word” of the Fast franchise: family. Even though there are no Torettos on hand to offer platitudes about how “you don’t turn your back on family,” Hobbs & Shaw is still big on hereditary ties. “It’s become kind of a joke that every time someone [in a Fast movie] says ‘family,’ there’s a drinking game and you drink,” Morgan says with a laugh. “We’re aware of it.”

Hobbs & Shaw introduces a few new relatives: On the Shaw side, The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby joins as Deckard’s sister, Hattie. Meanwhile, Helen Mirren returns as the elegant Shaw family matriarch. (“She played the Queen once, so it’s a weird relationship,” Kirby jokes.) Hattie is an elite MI6 agent who’s been tracking Brixton and is just as deadly as her brother — joining a long line of badass Fast women that includes Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and Gal Gadot.

“She’s an amazing fighter,” says Kirby, who previously starred in Mission: Impossible — Fallout. “I just feel like it’s really important nowadays for these kinds of movies to make sure the women are as capable as the men. Often the men are saving the women or doing the fights while the women watch on, or they’re at home. A film like this is a responsibility to kind of subvert that, really, and make sure that Hattie doesn’t get saved by the guys.”

The battle against Brixton also brings Hobbs and Shaw to Samoa, where Hobbs reunites with his mother and four brothers, who run an illegal chop shop–turned–legitimate family business. For Johnson, who is half black and half Samoan, exploring Hobbs’ heritage was a chance to introduce audiences to his own; he’s particularly proud of a scene where Hobbs leads a pre-battle performance of the Siva Tau, a Samoan war dance. “On a personal level, it’s just so gratifying,” he says, “because for the first time ever in the history of Hollywood, we’re showcasing my culture. So there’s a tremendous amount of pride.”

Hobbs & Shaw also adds a new Fast family member behind the camera: David Leitch. After making his directorial debut with Chad Stahelski on John Wick, the former stuntman helmed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. (He also has a long history with Statham: They grappled on screen in 2011’s The Mechanic, ending with the British actor chucking Leitch through a bus window.) For Hobbs, Leitch’s goal was to add even wilder stunts to a franchise that’s already raced submarines and dropped cars from an airplane. That meant amping up the hand-to-hand combat: One scene follows Hobbs and Shaw as they search for information on Brixton, each taking out a separate room of disposable bad guys, with Shaw nimbly outfoxing his opponents as Hobbs just clobbers them upside the head. “Shaw’s like a precision driver, and he’s very purposeful, [with] minimal movements,” Leitch explains. “He’s a guy with a forward-thinking plan. And then you have Dwayne’s character, Hobbs, who’s a man of brute force and muscle.”

For the actors, that meant brushing up on their fight choreography. “It’s been more fights than I’ve ever done,” says Elba, whose previous action track record includes Pacific Rim and the Thor films. “I come from a martial-arts background, so it’s great to be able to do all this. Brixton is extremely strong, so I get to do all these incredible fight sequences and just take out, like, 12 men by myself.”

Adds Kirby: “I’ve learned so much. If I was to go and do another Mission or something, I know that I’d be able to bring what I’ve learned from Dave and carry it on. Do not approach me in the street!”

But it’s not all punches and kicks. No Fast movie is complete without some high-speed car chases and bonkers road maneuvers, and Hobbs & Shaw contains several — including one sequence where our heroes use a truck to lasso a helicopter out of the sky. And when EW visited the set, Leitch and his team shot a scene where the Hobbs family holds off Brixton’s advancing mercenaries by rigging a perimeter of old junker cars to explode. (There are a lot of explosions in this movie.) “We’re grounded in the way that Fast is grounded, but I think as the movies progressed, they were allowed to have a little bit more fun with themselves, in terms of this heightened world,” Leitch says.

It’s a world that just keeps growing in all directions. The main Fast & Furious franchise has a ninth and 10th film in the works, while Fast & Furious: Spy Racers, an animated TV show about Dominic Toretto’s cousin, is coming to Netflix this year. There’s also been talk of another spin-off movie, this one focusing on the women of Fast. “If I’m looking down the road, the roads always connect,” Morgan teases.

In the meantime, Hobbs and Shaw have a world to save — and some insults to exchange. Says Statham with a laugh: “Anything fast and smelling of petrol seems to flick the switch.”

For more on Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it now! Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.  

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See the Hobbs & Shaw trailer

Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw get their own “Fast & Furious” spin-off.

Who killed the Masked Marvel?


It was a sunny Sunday afternoon around 5 p.m. on Sept. 12, 1943, in Venice, Calif., when 12-year-old Lorraine Smith happened to look out her window and notice something peculiar. There below was a burgundy Austin sports car heading east on Washington Boulevard. But something was off. The car was bumping and bouncing across the road that runs parallel to her home, narrowly avoiding crashing into a telephone pole before jumping the curb and finally landing in a bean field. Grabbing her telescope for a closer look, the young girl noticed something else: The man behind the wheel was nearly naked. And then things got really weird.

Wearing only blue bathing suit trunks, the driver opened the car door and stumbled about 15 feet before falling to the ground, covered in blood. A man named Wayne Powell, who had witnessed the crash, rushed to the scene. “Help me, please help me!” cried the bloody, half-naked driver while writhing between beanstalks. Powell told him to lie still and save his energy. “Who did this?” Powell asked. The driver could not answer. Ten minutes later, he was dead.

The scene — complete with a steering wheel soaked in blood and bloody handprints on the driver’s-side window — sounds like something that would come straight out of a pulpy 1940s film serial. Which makes the fact that the victim was the star of just such a project all the more eerie.

Twenty-nine-year-old David Bacon was not just an actor; he was the Masked Marvel! A mild-mannered insurance inspector moonlighting as a World War II superhero taking on an evil Axis enemy hell-bent on sabotaging America’s war industry, the Masked Marvel was the seemingly infallible star of a 12-episode serial bearing his name. “When the Masked Marvel goes after a man, he’s finished,” proclaimed one baddie. “The Marvel learns everything and strikes from nowhere!”

But the man behind the mask was struck down himself just two weeks after filming had completed in a mystery that, more than 75 years later, still bursts with intrigue and has yet to be solved. Why did Bacon write a new will shortly before his death? What’s that about a diary written in a secret code? Who was the unidentified “angry” man seen at a Bacon-rented apartment? How come police ruled out a person who confessed to the crime not once, but twice? So many questions remain unanswered, including the biggest one of all: Who killed the Masked Marvel?

Gaspar Griswold Bacon Jr. was born in 1914 to a prominent Boston family that traced its roots to Plymouth Rock. Bacon’s grandfather attended Harvard with Teddy Roosevelt and served as Roosevelt’s secretary of state and ambassador to France; his father was president of the Massachusetts State Senate and a lieutenant governor for the state. After graduating from Deerfield Academy prep school, Bacon — who would later change his stage name to David — attended Harvard, writing and starring in productions of the famed Hasty Pudding club and acting alongside then-president Franklin Roosevelt’s youngest son, John.

The actor’s big break in Hollywood came while playing a doomed nephew of Benedict Arnold trying to redeem his family’s name in 1942’s Ten Gentlemen From West Point. Though Bacon was far from top billing and was appearing only in his first film, everyone on set — including headliners George Montgomery and Maureen O’Hara — referred to Bacon as “our star,” The Boston Globe reported. “He’s really terrific,” director Henry Hathaway told the Globe. “Half the time he drove us nuts, with muttering his lines between takes, brooding over his method.”

Tall, dark, and handsome, Bacon was described as the next Henry Fonda, and with Hollywood in the midst of a leading-man shortage at the time, the fresh-faced actor hoped to fill the void and start his path toward stardom. “In Hollywood, the greatest sin is to be unnoticed,” wrote Hollywood reporter Mayme Ober Peak. “Such means death to a player’s career. Not so with David Bacon, who is now not only noticed, but well remembered.”

Bacon landed roles in five movies altogether before scoring what he hoped would be his breakthrough in The Masked Marvel. The 12-episode Republic Studios serial was an action spectacular that also served as era-typical wartime propaganda. The hero was trying to take down Japanese spy and saboteur Mura Sukima, a cringeworthy villain notorious for blowing things up in the hope of hampering Allied forces and causing the United States’ war production “to break down.” The big twist (and one that Republic had used in The Lone Ranger) was that neither the characters nor the viewers knew the identity of the titular star until the very last scene of the series, when unassuming insurance agent Bob Barton (played by Bacon) took off his mask to reveal himself as the mysterious crime-fighting hero. Two weeks after filming that scene, Bacon would be dead.

While the Masked Marvel character protected people from harm, those actually appearing in the films were considerably less fortunate. The role of Bob Barton was considered cursed even before Bacon’s untimely demise. In fact, Bacon only got the role after four other actors were injured. Another time, during the filming of a particularly intense fight scene, every single actor participating was hurt except Bacon. “I better look out or something might happen to me,” the actor was heard joking while leaving the set. “I’ll probably get hurt going home in my car tonight.”

And then there is this: David was not the only actor with the last name of Bacon playing an insurance agent in The Masked Marvel who perished prematurely. Rod Bacon (no relation), who played Jim Arnold in the serial, died five years later in 1948 at the age of 33.

The circumstances surrounding David Bacon’s death form a case that even the Masked Marvel would have had trouble cracking. The weekend of his murder began with a dinner party. Bacon and his pregnant wife, smoky-voiced singer Greta Keller, hosted a soiree that included cocktails for 150 guests followed by a sit-down supper for 50 at Castle Hill, their home in the Hollywood Hills. Keller, who liked to joke that she sang in four languages but cooked in 14, made a traditional Viennese dish, beuschel with dumplings. The next evening, Bacon returned the favor by serving his gourmet-chef wife his two signature dishes: omelets and Jell-O. “He loved Jell-O and I hated it, but I always had to eat it anyway,” Keller wrote later in notes for her biography.

Sunday morning, Sept. 12, was a hot, muggy day. Over breakfast with his wife, Bacon suggested that they go to the beach. Keller wanted to go with him, but because she was in the second trimester of a difficult pregnancy, her doctor advised her to stay home and rest, so the couple instead spent the afternoon writing letters, eventually lying down together to take a nap. When Keller woke up, her husband was gone. She would never see him alive again.

Nobody knows exactly where Bacon went that afternoon, whom he was with, or why anyone would want to murder him. Money was likely not a motive, since Bacon was still wearing a valuable ring and had $13 (along with his Screen Actors Guild card) in his wallet when he died. Inside the vehicle, there was a blood-soaked bathrobe, but it didn’t have a knife hole, so detectives deduced that Bacon wasn’t wearing it at the time he was murdered; he was just sitting on top of it.

And this is where the questions — and contradictions — begin. After the autopsy, medical examiner Frank Webb surmised that Bacon was stabbed with a stiletto while he was leaning forward — possibly releasing the parking brake — but there were no signs of a struggle. When the police dusted the car for fingerprints, they all came back as belonging to Bacon.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses to the crash told the police varying stories. A gas-station attendant about half a mile away said he saw both a man and a woman in the car with Bacon. A woman who lived across the street from the crash, however, told police that she definitely saw a dark-haired man in the passenger seat. Because of the angle of the knife wound, Webb theorized that the killer was left-handed and not very tall. He said because of the way the knife punctured Bacon’s lung, Bacon could have driven 20 minutes before he died, giving his assailant plenty of time to bail out before the crash.

Almost every day, newspapers across the country reported a new twist or piece of baffling information emerging in the murder investigation — twists like Bacon’s encrypted diary that Keller gave to the police. It seemed to be written in a secret code, mirroring a coded diary that Bacon’s character had examined in an episode of The Masked Marvel. Even odder, shortly before Bacon died, the roof of his Cadillac convertible had been shredded — it appeared to have been slashed with a knife. Keller told police that her husband never gave her a straight story about what had happened. One day he said he was in the car while someone knifed it; another time he said it happened while he was at the studio. Regardless, Bacon traded the vehicle for a used Rolls-Royce and the small British-made Austin sports car that later became a murder scene. Was he trying to hide from someone who knew his ride?

Just days after his death, Bacon’s cousin uncovered and filed a will that Bacon had handwritten three months before the crash. Dated June 14, the will was written in pencil on a piece of onionskin paper; it left everything to Bacon’s wife. Keller later explained in notes for her biography that Bacon refused to come to bed one evening, even though he had to get up to film early the next morning. He told her he was jumping off a second-story building during filming and he wanted a will just in case something went wrong. But was that the real reason? Did the 29-year-old know his life was in danger?

And then there was the apartment. Police discovered that Bacon had rented a small studio apartment in Laurel Canyon a few weeks before his death. The key in his wallet when he died fit the lock. Keller said she helped her husband pick the apartment, then they advertised in the paper for a carpenter to help Bacon execute plans to expand their home in exchange for a place to live. But who lived there? All police found inside the apartment were dirty dishes, coffee, spaghetti, and some books.

An upstairs neighbor, actor Leslie Denison, informed investigators that he never noticed anyone in the apartment — except for the day of the murder. “Someone was there on Sunday,” Denison said. Meanwhile, landlord Charles Hendricks told police that he was driving by the building two days before Bacon died and saw a light on, so he stopped to collect the $20 for rent. Bacon said he didn’t have the cash on him but promised to leave it in the landlord’s mailbox the next morning, which he did. But Bacon was not alone.

“There was another man with Mr. Bacon,” Hendricks said at the coroner’s inquest. “He was dark and slight, foreign-looking, and his face was flushed like he was angry. All the time I was there, he never spoke a word, nor did Mr. Bacon introduce me to him.” The police announced that they were searching for the individual Bacon’s landlord had met. “This man should have come forward by now with an explanation, unless he has left town,” Capt. Thad Brown of the Los Angeles Police Department’s homicide squad told reporters.

Unfortunately, this was just one more wild chase on the trail of false leads and, well, dead ends. But while the “angry” apartment person of interest never turned up, others did, including one hospital orderly who knew the identity of Bacon’s killer. Or so he claimed.

On Sept. 21, 1943, 22-year-old Blakely Clifford Patterson gave an exclusive interview to the Los Angeles Examiner, saying he knew exactly who’d murdered his good friend Bacon. And he believed he was next. “I have a feeling that if this man is still in Los Angeles, he’ll get me too — that my days are numbered,” fretted Patterson. “He might kill me to silence me.” A hospital orderly who had recently moved to Hollywood, Patterson said he first encountered Bacon at the beach and they became fast friends. He recalled that one day he and Bacon met with the mystery man at a downtown hotel. “This man seemed to be very angry at David,” Patterson said.

Patterson told reporters that Bacon phoned him in a panic around 11 a.m. on the morning of the murder, saying that the man had written a threatening letter demanding money. “He seemed puzzled and nervous, and didn’t know what to make of it,” Patterson said. Bacon begged Patterson to go with him to the beach to meet the man, but Patterson responded that he couldn’t because he had to work. The actor promised to call the next morning, but he was killed later that day.

Any hope by detectives that a key witness was about to blow the case wide open was dashed when they finally interviewed Patterson and asked him to describe his good friend David Bacon. He couldn’t. Patterson recanted his story, telling police that he’d made the whole thing up, admitting that he had never even met the deceased. “I thought I could get into the movies if I had my picture in the paper,” Patterson was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. He was arrested and charged with making false police reports, and spent 10 days in jail before returning to his hometown of Hibbing, Minn., on judge’s orders.

Charles R. While also claimed to know who’d killed Bacon — himself. The 23-year-old confessed to the murder of the Masked Marvel, but police let him go after questioning, saying that they didn’t believe he, like Patterson, had ever met Bacon. But While was not done. A month later, he was arrested after attacking a neighbor with a butcher knife, and during his time in custody, While told a Santa Monica police officer that he had murdered the actor. When detectives questioned While a second time the next morning, he said he was drunk and denied his previous confession. Due to the amount of discrepancies, he was once again cleared.

The police, however, had their own suspect. Examining a blue crewneck sweater that was placed under Bacon’s head, taken from the car in the bean field before he died, detectives noted that there was no way it would have fit the 6-foot-2-inch actor. “It is much too small,” Captain Brown told reporters. Police sent the sweater to the crime lab and found blond hairs around the collar and three small feathers that appeared as if they might have belonged to a seagull.

Law enforcement determined that the sweater looked like the kind sailors wore, so they started questioning Army-Navy stores along the coast in an attempt to find the owner. “It is logical to assume that whoever stabbed Bacon departed so hastily, he left his sweater behind,” Brown told reporters. Police searched for a man who was about 5 foot 8 and blond, weighing around 140 pounds. “We are convinced the sweater belongs to Bacon’s assailant,” the LAPD’s Det. Lieut. Harry Fremont said.

And they were convinced that they’d found their man when police arrested 20-year-old Navy deserter Glenn Erwin Shaum for the crime. Shaum had been hired by Bacon as a gardener two weeks before the murder. However, the actor then canceled the job days before his death. But there was a problem: Shaum had an alibi. The deserter couldn’t have murdered Bacon because he’d spent all day Sunday with his wife, which witnesses confirmed. No other leads or suspects were ever made public. “The workaday cops were baffled,” The Boston Globe reported days after Bacon’s death. “Detectives who studied reports and questioned everybody who ever knew Bacon admitted they were certain of nothing.”

Perhaps that is because the investigation was somewhat botched. Police made one critical error, admitting to reporters that Bacon’s body was embalmed before officers examined it or ran any forensic tests. Officers weren’t sure if Bacon was murdered by a close friend or a complete stranger. They even theorized a hitchhiker could be responsible since the actor was known to often give pedestrians rides. “It was like the Jack the Ripper murders,” says film historian Greg Mank, who included a chapter about Bacon in his book about Bacon’s costar Laird Creger. “Somebody got away with killing somebody with a knife in broad daylight.”

Still, 76 years later, the case is not closed. “It is an open case,” a spokesperson for the LAPD tells Entertainment Weekly. “At this time, [we] are not commenting any further.”

The tragedy of Bacon’s murder extended well past the bean field in which his car — and life — came to a screeching halt. Bacon’s widow, Grace Keller, struggled with the loss of her husband. “I cannot find peace,” she said in the days after his killing. Less than two weeks after her husband’s death, the pregnant Keller lost their baby. “I wanted to die,” she wrote in the notes for her biography. “I kept thinking I should be dead, not him.” Bacon’s widow never stopped trying to solve her husband’s murder.

After the miscarriage, Keller invited detectives to her hospital room and suggested where they should look and whom to call. “I said, ‘I’ll give up my fortune, I want to find the killer,’” she wrote. “I called the detectives one or two times. I said, ‘Look there, look there’…. They said, ‘Do you know something?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’”

Keller even went so far as to hire a New York law firm to investigate the stabbing, but they never solved the case. “I can’t rest until I find the murderer,” she told a reporter who met her at a nightclub in St. Moritz, Switzerland, about nine years after her husband’s death. “David was just a big, lovable kid. Nobody could help liking him. And how could anybody kill him?” Keller spent the rest of her life wondering who did it. “I have had the feeling that [it was] somebody from his former life,” she mused. “Someone who had a kind of power over him.”

Keller never remarried. And most of the relationships she had were with men who either looked like Bacon or somehow reminded her of him, says Wolfgang Nebmaier, who was in a relationship with Keller from 1973 until she died of liver cancer in November 1977. “Greta was absolutely gaga about the man,” says Nebmaier, who is working on a book about Keller’s life called Chanteuse. The singer never quit searching for her husband’s killer, but she never found an answer. And she never watched The Masked Marvel. “I think I would not have survived seeing him before me on the screen, and not in reality anymore,” she said.

Bacon’s other family members never gave interviews about his murder. They never even spoke of it to one another. Seventy-six years after the killing, Bacon’s niece, Marsha Bacon Martin, says that all she knows about her “Uncle Gappy” is that he was very handsome, very talented, and very charming. “Nobody talked about him,” says the 71-year-old Martin. “He was kind of an enigma.” In fact, Martin has never seen any of Bacon’s movies and only learned her uncle was murdered when she recently Googled him. “I’m very curious,” she says. “You probably know more than I do.” When Bacon’s life came to a tragic end in that Venice bean field on Sept. 12, 1943, his final feature film was playing in theaters. The title: Someone to Remember.

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Ad Nausem II to feature over 500 vintage newspaper ads for 90s and 00s horror movies — first look


EW can exclusively reveal that journalist Michael Gingold has written a sequel to last year’s Ad Nauseum, which collected together vintage newspaper ads for ’80s horror movies.

The new book is titled Ad Nauseam II: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1990s and 2000s and will feature over 500 ads from Gingold’s personal archive. The book highlights the many trends in ’90s and ’00s horror cinema, as well as the rising careers of key filmmakers such as Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, James Wan, and Rob Zombie. The movies featured in Ad Nauseum II include Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview With The Vampire, Saw, Final Destination, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, The Blair Witch Project, and Paranormal Activity.

“The response to the first Ad Nauseam was thrilling and gratifying,” said Gingold, in a statement. “We heard from so many people who also collected movie newspaper ads as kids — and as adults — and shared the love of this lost pop-cultural art form. And since I had so many more ads still lurking in my archives, it seemed natural to continue this particular history of horror through the 1990s and 2000s.”

Ad Nauseum II is a 1984 Publishing title presented by Toronto-based horror periodical, Rue Morgue. The book will be published on Sept. 24 and is now available to pre-order.

Last week, EW broke the news that Gingold has compiled a book of ads for sci-fi films called Ad Astra: 20 Years of Newspaper Ads for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films. Ad Astra will be published Sept. 10, via 1984 Publishing.

Gingold is a longtime writer and editor at the horror magazine, Fangoria. He also contributes to Rue Morgue, Birth.Movies.Death, and Scream.

Exclusively see the cover of Ad Nauseum II below.

Andy Murray wins Queens doubles title with Feliciano Lopez


Highlights: Andy Murray Murray & Feliciano Lopez win ‘fairytale’ Queen’s doubles title

Andy Murray’s dream comeback from potentially career-ending hip surgery ended with a fairytale triumph with playing partner Feliciano Lopez in the doubles at Queen’s.

Briton Murray and Spain’s Lopez beat Briton Joe Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 10-5.

The Scot, 32, thought he might not play again before having his hip resurfaced in January but is now “pain free”.

Lopez, 37, added the doubles to the singles title he won earlier on Sunday.

Left-hander Lopez, who beat France’s Gilles Simon in three sets, is the first man since Australia’s Mark Philippoussis in 1997 to win both the singles and doubles titles at Queen’s in the same year.

Murray, who had not won a doubles title since 2011, described ending his comeback tournament with victory as “brilliant”.

“I’ve enjoyed it, I felt very relaxed at the beginning of the week, then I started getting more nervous as the week continued and my competitive instincts were kicking in,” he said.

To loud cheers from the crowd, he added: “My hip felt great, there was no pain.”

Lopez said he never expected to win both the singles and doubles titles.

“It happens maybe once in a lifetime, with how difficult it is to win the singles, I cannot believe I won both,” he told BBC Sport.

Tears to grins in five months – Murray’s dream return

Former world number one Murray could not have dreamed for a smoother return to the sport which he thought he might have to quit this summer because of chronic hip pain that had not been cured by previous surgery.

Five months ago he broke into tears during a news conference at the Australian Open when he laid bare the extent of his fears about an injury that had left him unable to put on his shoes and socks without pain.

That was a stark contrast to the beaming grin stretched across his face at Queen’s, when he and Lopez sealed victory with their second of five match points.

When a return from Salisbury sailed wide, Murray leapt into the air in celebration as almost all of the centre court crowd also rose to their feet to mark a victory many probably thought they would not see.

During his return to action this week, Murray has shown a sharpness which has surprised many.

The three-time Grand Slam champion’s shot-making, less surprisingly, has not diminished and neither has the fierce will-to-win.

This was exemplified in the first set tie-break, which came after Murray and Lopez had saved a set point at 5-4 down.

A brutal first serve down the middle from the Scot was hit long and followed up by a sharp, trademark cry of “Let’s go!” for a set point of their own.

That was claimed when Ram guided a volley wide – putting Murray and Lopez, who had not played together before this week, halfway to an extraordinary triumph.

Andy Murray holds his back in pain
Murray returned after almost a year out with a hip injury at Queen’s in 2018. His comeback ended in a narrow defeat by Nick Kyrgios in the singles, but the Scot was visibly struggling with back pain

Lopez spends eight hours on court in 24 hours

Murray and Lopez’s success was made even more extraordinary by the exertions of the 37-year-old Spaniard.

After needing two hours and 49 minutes to see off Simon in the singles final, it meant he had spent almost eight hours on court over the previous 24 hours by the time they faced Salisbury and Ram.

Lopez put in a five-hour stint on Saturday when his singles semi-final win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime, which he only started shortly after 16:00 BST, was followed by two doubles matches with Murray.

The pair only needed 13 minutes to wrap up victory over Dan Evans and Ken Skupski in the conclusion of their quarter-final and then beat third seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers, with the Spaniard finally finishing for the day at nearly 21:00 BST.

The left-hander returned to court with Murray little over an hour after lifting the singles trophy.

During two changeovers in the first set, Lopez stayed on his feet as he seemingly looked to manage a back problem.

Yet it was the Spaniard who somehow mustered the energy to turn the final-set champions tie-break in their favour.

He whacked a clean forehand winner for 5-4, followed that up with an ace, another forehand winner and a net volley.

Another inside forehand winner left Murray serving for the match.

The first of their five match points was saved when Ram finally beat Murray with a forehand winner down the line.

But a wide forehand from Salisbury handed them a victory that meant Lopez became the first player since Australian Mark Philippoussis in 1997 to win the singles and doubles titles here.

“I’m so happy to have this man playing with me,” Lopez said. “We’re so happy that you’re back on a tennis court.”


BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Lopez frequently stayed on his feet at the change of ends: wary of the pounding his 37-year-old legs had taken over 15 hours on court.

Having won a third-set tie-break to beat Gilles Simon in the singles final, he hit five winners in a row to turn the deciding 10-point tie-break out of Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram’s reach.

Murray has looked in terrific shape all week, and his desire to win as strong as ever: he says he got more nervous as the week progressed, and the prize loomed larger.

He now heads to Eastbourne in search of more success with a different partner – the Brazilian Marcelo Melo.

Angel cast and creators reunite for 20th anniversary of beloved vampire drama series


In the City of Angels, the sun is shining brightly on Good Friday. But beyond a heavy black door, away from harsh light, vampires, demons, and a rogue demon hunter or two gather in the darkness of an abandoned warehouse.

Okay, so the Hollywood studio that’s serving as the location for EW’s Angel reunion shoot isn’t actually a warehouse, nor a meeting place for the undead. Rather, the cast of the WB drama is very human, and expressing very human levels of excitement at being together again, 20 years after their show debuted.

“It’s good to see everybody!” says David Boreanaz, 50, the show’s titular vampire who, upon arrival, immediately makes a beeline for the dressing room to find his costars. Spotting Charisma Carpenter (shallow cheerleader-turned-champion Cordelia) and Amy Acker (shy Texan physicist Winifred “Fred” Burkle) in makeup chairs, he plops himself on the counter and sits, legs swinging giddily, catching up with them while they’re curled and coiffed. “Look at that smile,” he says, gesturing to Carpenter with affection. “We just picked up where we were last time we talked to each other.” Speaking of picking up, Acker, 42, enjoyed the series’ experience so much, she has already declared she’d be ready for a revival, which would be season 6. “Every show should be this fun,” she says. “We were so spoiled.”

Angel premiered on The WB on Oct. 5, 1999, as a spin-off of creator Joss Whedon’s original vampire series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and furthered the story of a bloodsucker whom the Romany cursed with a soul as punishment for a century of mass murder. Leaving Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sunnydale behind, Angel arrived in Los Angeles to continue his quest for redemption by helping the helpless, one at a time. Over the course of five seasons (all of which are available to stream on Hulu), Angel was aided by fellow Buffy expats Cordelia Chase (Carpenter), Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), and James Marsters (Spike), and new allies Fred (Acker) and vampire hunter Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), among other humans and demons along the way until The WB abruptly canceled the show in 2004. (We will get to that unmerciful killing later.)

Angel was the brain spawn of Whedon and Buffy writer David Greenwalt, who’d been the one to pen the first kiss between the Slayer and her vampire-with-a soul boo Angel. “It all made sense on paper,” says Whedon, 55. “But until you have a show, you don’t have a show.” The duo began carving out a heavier series than Buffy — for a minute it even got too dark and the network had to intervene — that would explore a different message from Buffy’s what-kind-of-person-will-you-be? themes. Instead, it would focus on the idea of dealing with the consequences of your actions. “We thought, let’s do a noir thing that’s about addiction and redemption, and we’ll put them in L.A.,” says Greenwalt. “The stories will be darker and, more important, he’ll be darker.” What they ended up with certainly had intense moments, but also plenty of humor and heart, too.

Life Beyond the Breakup

Spoiler alert from almost two decades ago: Buffy and Angel’s love didn’t last for all undead eternity. Still, Whedon wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Boreanaz’s thoughtful portrayal of the damned creature who was so damn easy to love. Although Angel premiered alongside Buffy’s fourth season, the heavens opened and the idea for a spin-off actually struck Whedon during the parent show’s second season when Whedon saw Boreanaz play a female role in an episode during which Buffy and Angel are possessed by a high school student and teacher, respectively. “I watched David very emotionally, unabashedly, and poetically playing a woman, and in that moment was like, ‘This guy can anchor a show,’ ” he says.

Whedon pitched Greenwalt the idea of taking the brooding, cursed-with-a-conscience vampire to L.A. with a mission to save others in return for ultimate absolution. “We started talking in terms of redemption,” says Whedon. “We realized, while Buffy is about the hero’s journey — that ‘becoming the person you are’ that happens in adolescence — Angel is about dealing with the person you’ve been.” Or, as co-creator Greenwalt, 69, puts it: “Buffy has this wonderful purpose and fights evil, but still wants to go to the prom and get the right dress. Angel is a much darker and, in a sense, more complex character.”

Even with a lead who inspires confidence and a complicated character to explore, spin-offs can be risky (see: Party of Five’s Time of Your Life, Dawson’s Creek’s Young Americans). Plus, snatching the love interest from a successful show could anger fans. But for Whedon, keeping the character on the original series was a potential death sentence — even for an undead vamp. “Buffy is a show about the experience of life,” he explains. “And the experience of life where you go to college and your high school boyfriend sticks around? That show is only about how terrible that year is, and then it stops.” The new series targeted an older (though not quite as old as its protagonist), relatively untapped demographic. “Angel is the oldest guy to ever be on The WB,” jokes Greenwalt (whom the cast affectionately dubbed “Greenie”). “He’s, like, 228 years old, right? Where Buffy is a high school metaphor, there’s not a lot of great metaphors for your 20s. They’re really kind of wasted years when you just look good and young.” Telling a postgrad narrative, the co-creators felt, allowed them to reach more people.

That’s not to say grown-up Angel didn’t have its share of teething problems. When the network saw the script for episode two, they balked. “They completely freaked out and they were right because in our effort to go dark, we went a little too dark,” says Greenwalt of a scene in which Angel lets a girl die and then licks her blood up off the ground. “If you’re gonna go that dark, you have to earn it. So, we shut down for a few weeks, revamped some things and we were off and running.”

Convening the Coven

As it turns out, when Whedon wants to tell you something important, he invites you to eat. Initially, when Boreanaz received the lunch invite, he panicked, thinking he was being fired. But when the actual conversation transpired, all the actor could think about was the Irish. In the midst of shooting a Buffy scene that flashed back to the 18th century, Boreanaz showed up to lunch in his ponytailed wig, preoccupied with the brogue he was trying to perfect. “I think we started talking about the Grateful Dead,” remembers Boreanaz. “Then he’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re thinking about spinning your character off.’ And I’m like, ‘All right,’ but I’m concerned about my accent that I’m supposed to do in the scene.” Says Whedon with a laugh, “David’s not a great squealer; the word confetti doesn’t come to mind.”

Apt, since Boreanaz’s Angel loved a good brood as much as a pint of body-temp blood. But Greenwalt realized a sulking lead can make an audience grow somber too, so he came up with a way to add some, um, charisma to the series. “Immediately after I said yes, I said we have to bring Charisma Carpenter to the show because we need to brighten the darkness of Angel,” says Greenwalt. Agrees Carpenter, 48, “When you bring a big bright smile to this dismal, dark thing, it provides a conflict or contrast that makes it interesting.”

Enter Cordelia: the sharp-tongued, Sunnydale High May Queen who heads to L.A. with the hopes of becoming a star. But, as the series repeatedly reminds us, in L.A. big dreams can pretty quickly become real nightmares, and before long Cordy joins Angel to help the helpless and her empty checking account. “We sat Charisma down and she was pretty excited, but she was like, ‘If it flops, can I go back to Buffy?’” says Greenwalt, who assured Carpenter she could. While Whedon believes Carpenter was right to ask that question, he was also seeing potential for the character beyond a bright spot in a dark room. In Cordelia, he found he had an opportunity to tell an origin story, something he had to skip with Gellar as Buffy. “You get to watch her go from somebody who is completely shallow and self-involved to somebody who is a hero,” he says.

When the show premiered, the original main trio was rounded out by Irish actor and Roseanne alum Glenn Quinn, who played Doyle, a lovable half-demon cursed with visions of people in danger, whom Angel could then save. After nine episodes, Quinn’s character was written out and a self-proclaimed rogue demon hunter, Denisof’s Wesley, entered the fray instead. He wasn’t quite as rogue as he claimed to be, nor was he unfamiliar, having appeared in season 3 of Buffy. “I commend this gentleman because he had to come into a situation,” says Boreanaz of Denisof. “Obviously it was a great character, but he filled that missing hole.”

As is his style, Whedon invited Denisof (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) to breakfast. “We came up with this summer of rebellion that Wesley had had and then he arrives on a motorcycle with big ideas of himself,’” says Denisof of the character-building discussion with Whedon. “Other than fitting him in, there wasn’t really a plan, long-term, for him, but it ended up being an extraordinary roller coaster.” Part of that bumpy ride included a seasons-spanning love triangle with the introduction of timid Fred (Acker, who joined the show in the second season) and vampire hunter Charles Gunn (Richards, who came aboard toward the end of the first).

Both Richards and Acker were relatively new to the industry when they auditioned for their parts, and both took unorthodox routes to landing them. His hair dyed red in a bid to show The WB he wasn’t “too clean-cut for the role,” Richards (who can be seen next this fall on Council of Dads) walked into his audition channeling advice to investigate the opposite of what your character’s saying that he’d garnered from an episode of Inside the Actors Studio with Meryl Streep. “I remember feeling really good about it, and then Joss just looks at me and goes, ‘My wife’s hair is that color,’ ” says Richards, laughing. When Whedon came across Acker in the audition room, it was more of a hair-blown-back-in-awe experience. “Amy walked in the door as I was handing her photo to [producer] Marti Noxon, and it flew out of my hand and hit Marti in the face,” says the co-creator. “That was about as suave as I got. She was just the most captivating human I’d ever seen.”

The Road to Redemption

Angel found its rhythm and tone, paying homage to classic film noir and mixing genres along the way. “Credit to the writers and showrunners, they were very brave about creating a heady cocktail of drama and humor,” says Denisof. Whedon sums it up best: “It’s apocalyptic goofy noir.” From the darkest scenes (such as Angel attempting to kill Wesley as he lay in a hospital bed) to the most ridiculous (a spell turning Angel into a Muppet comes to mind), there was no denying it was unique television. And for a show pegged on such a bleak premise, there were lots of laughs both on and off camera — and karaoke, thanks to the introduction of an all-singing, aura-reading demon named Lorne, played by Andy Hallett, who passed away in 2009 (see sidebar, previous page). Plus, Boreanaz was a total prankster on set. “There was almost no take that didn’t end with all of us just laughing because David had started something,” says Denisof. Adds Carpenter, “But then he’d be able to stop, and three hours later, we’re still laughing!”

Though there continued to be the occasional crossover with the show that sired it (and a couple more Buffy alums joining the show, like Mercedes McNab’s Harmony), Angel evolved into its own beast, often maintaining the case-of-the-week, procedural element but also introducing larger, season-spanning narrative arcs. For more than 100 episodes, Angel battled on, gradually coming to terms with the truth that evil will always exist, it’s how you confront it that matters. “There’s a wonderful power in genre [television],” muses Greenwalt. “You can do deeper, more emotional metaphors, and yet people still feel slightly removed from the issues because they say, ‘Oh, that’s fantasy.’” Some of those more emotional moments included a story arc where Angel and the vampire who sired him, Darla (Julie Benz), have a son. After some accelerated aging in a hell dimension, Angel’s now-teenage son Connor was played by Mad Men‘s Vincent Kartheiser. “For Angel to have a son, I mean that just opened up so much,” says Greenwalt. “It was just great for him to have to go through even more living hell.”

At the reunion shoot, the cast discusses favorite episodes. On a show with so many offbeat and daring turns, it’s hard to narrow them down, but one adventure does keep coming up: the trip to a demon dimension called Pylea, only accessible by passing through a mystical portal. “We drove a car through the entrance of Paramount studios!” exclaims Boreanaz. Since Pylea wasn’t Earth, vampires could stand in sunlight without combusting. Suddenly a cast that was largely confined to night shoots — “Sixteen-hour days in a stinky alley with people yelling at you to let them sleep!” recalls Carpenter fondly — could film in daylight. “You’d have thought we’d be happy, but it happened to come during a heat wave,” says Denisof. “It was sweltering and we were all in our brooding, dark clothes.” A much-needed distraction during shooting came in the form of Whedon going undercover as a green horned demon and performing a dance number that lasted a good few minutes more than he expected. “I didn’t have four minutes of a dance made up, and I was terribly out of shape,” says Whedon with a laugh.

Those were the lighter days. When Angel had to revert to his soulless demon counterpart Angelus, things grew more uncomfortable. Embracing the dark headspace necessary to pull off the depraved demon was actually the lesser of two evils for Boreanaz; the literal headspace was worse — namely a risen brow and fangs. “This was before easy CGI effects, so all of that was real and it was a long, uncomfortable process,” says Denisof of the vampire makeup. “We were all pretty sensitive to what David had to go through when he was in Angelus mode.” As soon as they yelled cut, Boreanaz would immediately rip the brow piece from his face, so fast that one time a chunk hit James Marsters (fellow vamp Spike) in the face. A dark look passes over Boreanaz’s own human brow as he casts his mind back to the experience. Still, from behind the camera, Whedon was a fan of the Angelus turns. “It’s always fun to have an electric character,” he says. “He inevitably ends up being an empowering figure because he sees through you and being able to face him means that you’re stronger.”

Going Down Swinging

Heading into the fifth season, the cast and crew initially expected there to be a sixth, but when cancellation news hit during production, story lines that had the potential to run for years suddenly had to be wrapped up in half a season. That included an arc with Marsters, who had just joined the show as Buffy veteran vamp Spike (see sidebar, next page), filling the space left by Cordelia’s departure. Marsters, 56, describes the dynamic as “the college friend who comes over to stay with you and he swears to God it’s for just one week, but he will not get off the couch and never leaves.” Though there was much more to explore in Angel’s new foil, Whedon (Greenwalt had departed the series by this point but remained a consulting producer) made the most of the episodes he had. “It’s very important to me that something goes out as strong as it can be,” says Whedon, who went on to write and direct The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. “And there was enough time for us to take it where we thought it should go.”

In a show where death is tantalizingly dangled in front of the characters in most episodes, it was time to make good on those threats. Once again, Whedon invited a cast member to eat with him. This time, it was Acker. “We sat down at coffee and he said, ‘I just wanted you to know, I’m killing Fred,’” says Acker (Person of Interest, The Gifted). “And he waited, really a long time before he said, ‘You’re still gonna be on the show.’” Laughs Whedon, “I took my moment, I’m not going to lie.” Acker later told Whedon it was the second part of the sentence that terrified her more. When Whedon said she’d still be on the show, he meant as a blue demon named Illyria, who takes over Fred’s body, killing her in the process. Whedon gave Acker some scenes for her new character to mull over, then invited her and Denisof to his house to run through them. The creator landed on Illyria’s hue then and there, by utilizing a multi-colored lightening function in his kitchen to flick through different shades. “He got to the blue lights and he was like, ‘Yeah, this is it,’” recalls Acker.

While Fred lived on in a certain respect, by the series finale, Wesley’s fate was sealed. In the ultimate showdown with the Circle of the Black Thorn (a secret society of the most despicable harbingers of the apocalypse), the former Watcher meets his end in the arms of the women he loved, thanks to Illyria transforming herself back into Fred for those dying moments. “I still get feelings about that scene,” says Denisof. “It was saying goodbye to a lot of things all at once. I remember on the day it was hard to keep it simple — be in the scene and not have the end of the show, the end of the character and the end of an era all coming into it. I can’t say it didn’t.” As for the fate of the rest of the Angel Investigations team? Well…

When the series finale aired in May 2004, audiences were split on the seemingly open ending. The episode’s last scene sees a secret society of apocalypse harbingers opening the gateways to hell right into Los Angeles. The remaining members of the group look on as thousands of demons, creatures, and giants crawl onto the streets. As a dragon flies overhead, Angel turns to them and says, “Personally, I kinda want to slay the dragon. Let’s go to work.” Cut to black.

Whedon knows what you’re thinking, but doesn’t agree. “That ain’t a cliff,” he says. “I understand why people would want closure, but for me, that would be like adding a cliff note to the end. What I always wanted to say is, trying to become worthy of the life that you have is a life’s work. The fight is for always.” And that’s the series’ true message: The pursuit is never-ending. “I always hope that people feel the difficulty and possibility of redemption within the show,” says Whedon. “The price will always be high,” he continues, but if — as Angel says — we’re willing to “do the work, it will always be worth it.” It certainly was for Boreanaz. “I’m so proud of what we all accomplished,” he says. “There’s such strength in all of these characters; they struggle and they do find redemption somehow.”

Watch the full episode of Entertainment Weekly Cast Reunions: Angel streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

To read more from our exclusive Angel cast reunion, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, purchase a special limited edition cover featuring David Boreanaz (available online only), or collect both! And don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.  

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Complete Coverage

Inside the most radical reality show transformation ever: The redemption of Colin and Christie


When Colin Guinn and Christie Woods played season 5 of The Amazing Race back in 2004, the couple was known for being intense competitors — too intense. While they dominated the season, taking first place on six different legs and finishing in second overall, they were known even more for their explosive arguments and antics.

Colin cemented his place as one of reality television’s major early villains. There was the time he relentlessly cursed out an ox. There was the other time he almost got arrested because he refused to pay a $100 taxi fare. Viewers saw him arguing with other teams and berating his girlfriend. It was a bad all-around look. And Christie had her moments as well, at one point blocking an airport door so that little person Charla Baklayan Faddoul could not pass, and another time imploring a driver to run people over so they could get to their destination faster.

The couple (who had only been dating for a year when they appeared on the show) just gave off a very negative toxic energy — arguing constantly with each other and their fellow teams — and many viewers assumed the pair would break up shortly after filming.

Fast forward 15 years and the story could not be more surprising. Not only are 38-year-old Colin and 40-year-old Christie actually still together as life partners, but they have two sons (12-year-old Achilles and 7-year-old-Cruz). And the most surprising thing of all has been their return appearance on the current season of The Amazing Race (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS). Gone are the angry outbursts. Arguments are nowhere to be seen. Whether they are in first or last place during a leg, the scowls of season 5 have been replaced by smiles in season 31. Win or lose, they actually seem to be…gulp!…enjoying themselves. And enjoying the teams they are competing against. And enjoying the locals they encounter along the way. Ladies and gentlemen, as impossible as it may seem, Colin and Christie actually seem to be enjoying life!

Put bluntly, the couple is completely unrecognizable. I mean, who IN A MILLION YEARS would have thought Colin would be the one trying to diffuse tension between two other teams by saying, “I have a suggestion: I think we should all hold hands and literally just feel the love in the universe and, like, you’ll feel it come into this group,” as he did during a leg in Switzerland? In the least Colin 1.0 move ever, he then actually got them to do it!

What is behind this radical transformation? How does one of reality television’s seemingly most dysfunctional couples get to the point where they are now offering a free relationship advice video series? We spoke to Colin and Christie to get their perspective on what they learned from their last volatile appearance, how they have changed as both people and players, and what it’s like to become the most unlikely of fan favorites. It is one of the most honest and raw self-examinations you will ever find, and from subjects you never would have expected.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start by going back to season 5. On one hand, you all were dominating the game, coming in first on six different legs. On the other hand, all that relationship dysfunction was airing on national television for everyone to see on a weekly basis. Tell me about the experience of watching that all play back on TV.

COLIN GUINN: I think, overall, I was naturally a very positive person, and I think most people would describe me that way. But obviously, when you go into the race, it tests all of your resilience, and so whatever’s there is going to come out, and you’re going to get triggered, and however you respond when you get triggered is going to be evident.

In some of the times when I lose my cool, and kind of fly off the handle, I remember feeling like, “Oh, man. I’m totally justified right now, and this is like a ‘poor me’ situation, and it’s going to be so obvious that I’m just defending myself, or Christie’s coming down on me too hard,” whatever it was. I remember feeling that in the moment, and then, six months later when you’re viewing a window into yourself, and into how you’re relating, and how you are handling your emotions, or whatever — from that place of watching it, I wasn’t in that triggered state, and it was so clear and so obvious to just how little awareness I had of my own emotional state, and my own poor me, defensiveness, victim mentality. It was a very eye-opening experience like, “Oh, wow, bro. No, you don’t look like you are right at all.”

What an amazing gift to be able to see that, pretty early in our relationship, like, okay, I at least know that I got a lot of work to do because that was really surprising to see that.

CHRISTIE WOODS: You’re sleep-deprived, you’re hungry, you’re tired, and you’re in The Hunger Games. There are traumas living in the body, and certain things can trigger that, and if you don’t have the tools or the resources to be able to handle those mental, emotional, physical triggers, then in the moment you’re going to lose it. This happens in relationships all the time. We kind of get into this blame game where we still feel justified in the moment, and the reality is we just are unable to really see our part in the play.

So, the biggest difference was getting a window into that, and then that really set us on a trajectory of really looking at ourselves, and set us on a healing path. What are the traumas in our body that we can start to learn how to regulate so that, even in your everyday life — when you’re sitting in traffic, or something happens at work that’s out of your control, or your kids do something — how do I learn to manage that in a way that I can actually flow through life with more ease and grace versus every time something difficult pops up in my purview, I lose it? Now, it’s actually becoming dysfunctional in my relationship.

Colin, we saw you cursing out an ox, we saw you cursing at Christie, we saw you sniping at other teams, we saw you arguing over cabs, we saw you almost get arrested over refusing to pay a taxi fare. What was the hardest thing for you to see?

COLIN GUINN: The taxi incident for sure. The ox is just funny because I was getting pulled around by that thing, I think they said for 56 minutes or something like that. They make it seem like we were there for 10 or 15 minutes, but that ox just whipped my butt. That, to me, I think is just funny to see me having a temper tantrum.

CHRISTIE WOODS: To be fair though, when we first watched it back, at least for me anyway, it was very difficult. It was very difficult to watch back all of those incidents, including unpacking it. All of that was very difficult to watch, and, in fact, we did not watch our season of The Amazing Race for 15 years. We watched Race for the first time in 15 years a year ago with our kids. We were looking at family shows, what could we watch as a family. Amazing Race came up and we realized, “Oh, they’ve never seen our season.” So, we decided to watch it. We knew things had really shifted because we were able to watch all of it and really laugh and enjoy and go, “Oh, wow. Those are different people.” I didn’t realize how much had shifted. But that one incident that was still difficult to watch.

COLIN GUINN: Oh, but also to see what an amazing experience that was.

CHRISTIE WOODS: Yeah, it was.

COLIN GUINN: Which was hard for us the first time because we were so overcome with shame around how we looked or rage at the other, whatever. The taxi incident where I was being a whiny, ego baby — I do think I had a point. Look, why are you driving so much slower than all these other cars? We need to get there in second place if we are paying you $100 because we left in second place. Then, to discover he is actually on a donut.

So, yes, did I have a reason to be like, “Hey, man. That was irresponsible. Whatever.” But, then, what happened from there is my ego just fully takes over and is like, “No freaking way. I’m only going to pay you $50!” I’m just totally lost in ego and so attached to just being right and winning. I’m so attached to that instead of just realizing even if I were to save the $50, it would probably hinder our legs so much because of this pent-up, negative energy that I have now brought into our existence versus just parting with the $50 and staying in a good, positive place. It would have been way more beneficial than just having an extra $50.

I was so attached to getting my way and proving my point. My ego just couldn’t stand that. When I tossed the $100 in the air, I knew right when I did that: “No, bro, that was too far.” That is so bad. Even watching that now, I can have forgiveness for myself and see I was a different person back then. I had a lot less perspective and awareness. It’s still like, “Oh man, that’s bad.”

CHRISTIE WOODS: We’re humans here and this guy is a cab driver in Africa. He wants to be a part of this whole experience. He may or may not be able to afford to have an actual tire on his car, much less a spare tire. This $50 is really going to go a long way for him. In the broader perspective of it, we’re really privileged that we get to be on a show like this traveling around the world. At the end of the day, we got on the last flight, but it’s not a make or break type of situation. We just didn’t have that level of awareness at that time like we do now.

There was one moment where one of the other competitors, Kim, said “Colin is so abusive and belligerent towards Christie. She is constantly living in stress.” I want to know from both of you, and Christie, I’ll start with you: What did it feel like to hear that and other comments I’m sure you heard from other people?

CHRISTIE WOODS: The most difficult part for me wasn’t necessarily on the race, because overall our relationship was not like that. Colin could get easily triggered and would go into this space of feeling so right and justified expressing himself in that way — it was definitely highlighted on the show, but that was a small part of the actual race itself. The hardest part was when we got home and watching it back. I was in pharmaceutical sales. I would have my doctors call me back and talk to me about being in an abusive relationship. “You’ve got to get out of it.” I realized the more I would try and explain, “Hey, this is one-dimensional perspective of the overall relationship,” the more I sounded like I was in an abusive relationship. [Laughs] Then, I just stopped saying anything but, “Oh, thanks for worrying about me. I appreciate the sentiment.”

Colin did sleep on the couch the entire show because it brought back the anger because I had done television before and I knew. By about the fourth episode in, I looked at Colin and said while we were filming, “You know you’re the villain of the show?” He was blown away, couldn’t even imagine it. On the Egypt leg, for example, this is a leg where we got 12 hours ahead of the next team and did some of the most brilliant racing in Amazing Race history and during that three-day leg there was a 10-minute argument that we got into.

And, of course, they are going to use that.

CHRISTIE WOODS: That was the only thing that was really being asked from the storytellers. I was trying to show him. I said, “Look, this is the storyline. This is where it is going. This is what’s getting highlighted. They’re filming everything, but there’s only so much they can show on television. So, be aware of that.” We were very generous in the way that we collaborated this time around. We did that in season 5 as well. I said, “That’s not our story. That’s not what they’re going to show. Please be aware.” The angry part of it was the lack of trust he had in my ability to see that. It was anger at this ridiculousness. We weren’t living the 45-minutes of the show when we were doing season 5, we were living the full 24/7, which for the most part was the most brilliant experience and adventure we had ever been on.

It turned into this very dark, ugly experience as it was being played. Everything that was shown did happen and I now have my client who thinks I’m in an abusive relationship. It was just more of an anger of, “Can you see your part in the play? Can you understand how you’re contributing to this chaos?” That was really the frustration at my level from me. It took a couple of years for both of us to start to wake up and actually we’re both part of this.

So when did that happen?

CHRISTIE WOODS: It was probably about seven years ago where we started deep diving into a lot of self-healing practices and started getting those “Ah-ha” moments of, “Oh wow,” in the moment, not just after the fact when I’m watching myself on television, but in the moment I’m not able to take inventory of this argument or this difference and realize how I’m contributing to this chaos. But yeah, at the time, it was very hurtful because I know Colin could be a very loving individual, and I knew that he had no idea how hurtful what he was saying and doing was to myself or the people around him.

Colin, I want to get your reaction to that too. It’s one thing to say, “Oh this guy’s kind of being a jerk and yelling at people.” But when people are then worrying that you’re being abusive to your girlfriend, that is something else entirely. What that was like to hear those things?

COLIN GUINN: I think there was a part of me, especially at that time, that really wanted to lean on, “Oh, well, it’s the editing and they’re making it look so much worse than it was.” Which, yes, they definitely heightened it and exemplified the ammunition I gave them. But I think it was years later watching at this perspective. At that perspective, I couldn’t even bring myself to fully see how I was really being abusive to Christie, at least verbally and energetically. I had such a self-righteous rightness. “You have wronged me by not supporting me and not wanting to pay this guy his money.” I was blasting so much emotional poison at her.

At that time, when we were watching the race, I couldn’t even let myself fully recognize that. My ego had to try to blame the editing as much as possible. From this place, I can look at it and go, “Yeah, I was really lost in my ego and I was very unaware. I was spewing emotional poison all over the person I love the most in this world.” It was really tough to have that realization. That was maybe years after the show to have that realization. When you get that visibility into how the dark side of yourself shows up into the world and the shadow aspects of yourself, it’s a really painful experience that feels like death. I remember just weeping with the realization that, “Oh, s— I really show up like that often.”

That’s not how I want to see myself, but that is what I’m doing when I get completely lost and lose my temper. It was really difficult to see. But then, once you see it and you have the difficult moment, that’s where I was able to, eventually, forgive myself for those things realizing that it was not done it vain. It was just done in unconsciousness. That’s where I started having a whole new perspective in my day-to-day life as well.

That’s really interesting to hear you guys say that in terms of the change that it was not right after the show aired and that it was actually a few years afterwards that you really started to take a harder look at this and the excuses started to drop off. What was the impetus for this change that you guys started undertaking a few years ago? Was there anything specific that occurred or is just more maturity, growth, and evolution?

CHRISTIE WOODS: I think the relationship hit a peak low point. Our house had flooded. We had to move out and stay in a hotel while all kinds of construction happened. Colin was traveling a lot all over in Europe. I’m in this hotel with the boys by myself. They’re bouncing off the wall. For me, I need my home. I need that. That’s the grounded, rootedness of me. Not having that took the tension in the relationship where I was no longer resilient enough.

Keep in mind, our everyday life is not the triggered Colin that you see on The Amazing Race. And at the same time, there was still very much a sort of level one — if you want to take a Tony Robbins-esque perspective — relationship where it’s always tit for tat. What have you done for me lately? The blame game. I’m right, you’re wrong. A score keeping, level of relationship where the vast majority of relationships end up just before they get a divorce.

So then what happened?

CHRISTIE WOODS: I got to this place, I call it my dark night of the soul where I just said, “You know what? I’m done. I’m absolutely just done.” It’s sort of like if you’re in a relationship you’re all tensed up in the body and nervous system. When you finally have that resolve that it’s over, you just relax. It was like I was breathing for the first time in years. In the process of that breath, there was a flood of consciousness and higher awareness that was able to come into my body where it set me on a trajectory of synchronicities.

When I had said, “I’m done,” this new level of awareness entered. I almost instantly had a clarity of also being able to see my part in the play. I could also get lost in my own ego, get triggered, get really pent up. I could see that. Within a day, I wanted to get certified in life coaching. I started deep diving into the practices that go along with that. We were actually in couple’s therapy at the time and it wasn’t helping. We would be in a great space. We would go to couple’s therapy and we would leave fighting because we drudged up all the negative things that had happened over the week. I started bringing in those practices to myself individually, which also included practicing meditation. That was also a big part of this shift for me.

I started including those practices with Colin inside of our relationship. I could see myself transforming. Even the way I would respond to him and he began to see that as well. Colin could experience the shift in me and the shift in me was inspiring a shift in him. We also, outside of that, had the opportunity to go to Peru and drink Ayahuasca plant medicine, which can open you up and have the healing capacity that’s used in the spirituality of that culture. That really shifted a lot, too. At this point, where we’re at cuts to now deep practices, tantra, quantum visualization, and what we would call sex magic and working with energy, really understanding the world, ourselves, our relationship to the world at a higher level than just three dimensional space and time in which we live every day. Anytime something is happening, you have this ability to see from higher perspective.

I’m curious then about the decision to come back and do The Amazing Race again and what that decision was like for you all. Were you like, “Okay, let’s have some talks about how to cope better with the stress of the race and make sure we stay composed while television cameras are on us.” Were you worried after doing all this work and that going on The Amazing Race could bring back those old demons? Or, did you want to conquer those demons by doing this?

COLIN GUINN: You know what, I love it. You’re hitting all the nails on the head of what our experience has been like. That’s really what it was. We watched the race for the first time in 14 years with our kids. We had this different level of perspective around it. We realized what a beautiful experience it was and started dreaming into, “Man, what would it be like if we went and did it again from this new place of awareness and perspective? This new feeling of love, collaboration and quantum visualization.” What would happen? What a great way to put all this stuff to the test. It would be an amazing experiment.

We did a bunch of visualization, meditation, and all this stuff. We ended up sending a text. We’re thinking, “Maybe we’ll get back on the show five years from now.” Turns out, three weeks later, our casting director that we texted was like, “Actually, we’re casting for an all-stars right now. Are you guys really interested because we leave in three or four weeks?”

We both looked at each other and were like, “Oh my god. That was fast.” There was a lot of fear in me that I would feel creep up. It would be like, “What if I haven’t really transformed and I just built this beautiful, easy life for myself.” There were these doubts I would have in myself like, “Have I really done the work and transformed? Or, is my life just easier and more comfortable now? What am I going to be like when I’m not controlling my own reality anymore and I’m not going to have everything set the way I want it to be set in my life? I don’t get to wake up and do my exercises, meditation, and have a great job. I’m going to be waking up in their reality, sleep deprived, jet lagged, fighting for my survival in this game racing for a million dollars with other teams out to get us.” That’s a situation where I don’t have total control.

So those fears popped up. I used to question myself through this process going, “Did you really change who you were and your external reality changed around you to reflect that? Or, did you get lucky in business and your external reality got much more comfortable, changed around you and then you wanted to latch onto this higher consciousness message?” I would think, “Man, if that was the case, then what’s going to happen if I’m in this reality and I start losing, demons come up.” Those channels are always there if we tune to them. Just because you work through them once doesn’t mean they’re gone forever.

Am I going to be able to put those tools that we picked up along the way to use to keep me in a place of perspective, love and awareness of the situation from a higher level than what my ego wants in this given moment, which is to win. So, yeah I did worry.

Also, the thought of, if we go back on this thing and we’re talking about this sense of love, gratitude, appreciation and collaboration over competition. I was like, “What if we go, have that message, then get eliminated in the second or third leg because we’re all lovey-dovey meditator, Team Zen like “Oh well. We lost, it’s all good.” And people are like, ‘Well, last time, you won six legs and you almost won the whole thing. This time you got eliminated in the third leg so I’m not so sure I want all that zen in my life.” I was just kind of like, there’s a great chance to put it all to the test and let’s see what happens.

CHRISTIE WOODS: I just want to say, also, that the race is really f—ing fun. We wanted to do it again because at this point when you start to get out of the trudge of being in that right or wrong level of consciousness, you start realizing just how fun life is in general, right? So, when you think about the opportunity to race around the world, whether you win the million dollars or not, that’s really fun. So, we want to do that again if we have the opportunity to do it. Then, at the same time, it’s an opportunity to show us how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

Were there any moments while filming this current season where either of you came close to losing your temper?

CHRISTIE WOODS: Yeah, there were little arguments here and there. It’s interesting because on season 5, every argument was highlighted. That was our storyline. This particular season we’ve had little arguments and I’ve thought, “For sure. They’re going to be shown.” And then they weren’t part of our story. So, in this case, there’s editing on both sides. That’s reality television. There’s a story that’s being told. Were we thrown out of alignment at times? The first time I think it happened, and they did show the extra scene, was in Uganda when we were doing the challenge where we had to stack the sticks.

Right, I remember that one.

CHRISTIE WOODS: We were doing the bikes back and forth. So, that was a situation where Colin was grating on my nerves excessively: “Push it straight. Push it straight.” I’m like, “Lord have mercy if you yell that to me again.” I’m breathing. I’m doing the best I can, but I am about to lose it. When you’re doing that, there’s an ability to stay aware in the moment. Like, for me, okay, I can’t address this right now because I’m in the middle of a challenge. But, afterwards, in the cab, I mentioned, “Hey, tone it down. That’s not going to work. It’s counterproductive.”

I thought it was beautiful moment. Colin had the ability to really take that in, see it, understand my perspective and go, “Yeah, you’re right.” And then, it’s beautiful because there are other times when it starts to get really stressful, but you realize that if I’m going to be at you, whether that’s me to him or him to me, that it’s not really in service to us doing the best we can in this given moment so let’s not do that and have faith that the other person is doing the best they can and trust that.

I think the scene from this season that jumps out the most is the one where there was a lot of drama on the train after Rachel told Nicole and Victor about people wanting to U-Turn them. So everyone is all tense, and Colin, you then had everyone hold hands to “feel the love in the universe.” What do you think Colin from season 5 would have thought of that?

COLIN GUINN: I would’ve been like, “Yeah, bro, you just keep bringing the love and universe in and I’m going to be whupping your ass over here. Keep closing your eyes and meditating, I’m over here looking at my map so I can beat you the next chance I get.” Yeah, for sure.

There was even a big part of me through this journey of gaining awareness where I felt like, “Oh no, if I become all conscious, does that mean I’m going to lose my competitive edge and not ‘win’ in life anymore because I love winning and doing my best?” That was always an underlying fear in how deep do I want to go down this path?

CHRISTIE WOODS: For us, we know the best way to get out of the vortex of being caught up in that type of drama is to just go inward, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. It doesn’t even have to be like feel the love of the universe, it’s just take a few deep breaths. At that point, the other teams had started looking at us and trusting that, “You know, whatever they’re doing, I want a little piece of that, so if this is what they would do if they were caught up in this drama, I’m willing to go there and give it a little try.”

What is it like having people watch you on TV and actually be rooting for you this time?

COLIN GUINN: It’s super refreshing. It’s definitely a new and different experience. It feels good when people are blasting positivity and love energy your way. It feels a lot better than when people are blasting negativity and you’re the reflection of all the parts of themselves they don’t like. They’re blasting that at you. But when you can be the reflection of all the stuff they love about themselves and they’re blasting positivity at you, it feels awesome. So, yeah, it feels great.

Okay, final question: Have you ever checked your luggage again since flight 848 on the season 5 finale?

COLIN GUINN: That’s funny. I generally don’t check luggage. It’s funny that you say that. Christie has a major fear every time she checks her bag that they’re going to lose her bag and that there’s going to be some issue. I wonder if some of it stems from that. They make it seem like the checked luggage had something to do with us not being able to get on the other flight. Ultimately, that wasn’t the thing. The flat tire on the way to the finish line where we sat on the freeway for 25 minutes was significantly worse, which just was not shown.

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Dan Levy dishes on Schitts Creeks final season, LGBTQ representation, and drag queens


Dan Levy isn’t a great drinker.

“I’m a terrible drinker,” corrects the writer and actor, who can be seen in Entertainment Weekly‘s LGBTQ special issue. “I order cosmos. I mix and match. I don’t know what goes with what. Everyone says, ‘You can’t drink wine and liquor.’ I do…within reason, obviously.”

Doing things within reason isn’t something Schitt’s Creek fans are used to seeing from Levy. The 35-year-old co-created and stars on the CBC/Pop TV series, which centers on the ridiculously wealthy, cosmopolitan Rose family—businessman Johnny (co-creator and Levy’s father, Eugene Levy); former soap star Moira (Catherine O’Hara); and their socialite kids, David (Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy)—who lose their fortune and move to the small town of Schitt’s Creek.

Sliding into a booth at the Black Cat, his favorite spot in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood, Levy discusses writing David as pansexual, why he’s ending the series after next year’s season 6, and what it was like being raised by his American Pie dad—all over a trio of seemingly mismatched cocktails. (A Negroni, a Moscow Mule, and a whiskey on the rocks, to be exact.)

Robert Trachtenberg for EW

Where did you get the idea for Schitt’s Creek?
Honestly, and this is the drink kicking in, it came from being a terrible auditioner. I’d been working at MTV [in Canada as a host of The Hills’ after-show and others] for about seven years and came to L.A. to try and act. I’ve always been a pretty ambitious person and thought, “If I’m not going to get [a job] in an audition room, I’m going to get it a different way.” So I started to brainstorm ideas for a television show. I had avoided going to my dad for help over the course of my short career out of fear of the nepotism headline. But I felt like this premise had to be explored through a comedic lens that was slightly more specialized, the kind he and Christopher Guest had done writing the mockumentaries [like 2000’s Best in Show]. We started to explore the show and very quickly realized there was something there we wanted to say.

Where did the title come from?
The name came from my dad, who’d had a very funny conversation with one of his friends. I think it was one of those boozy conversations you have over a dinner where they started talking about a town where there would be, like, Schitt Hardware and Schitt whatever it is. And he thought, “What if [the Roses] bought the town because of its funny, terrible name?” And that really stuck with us. A lot of networks were suggesting, “Why don’t you change it to Up a Creek?” or other plays on the name, but that was never really what we wanted.

You identify as a gay man but decided your character would identify as pansexual. Why was that important to you?
When you break down a character, certain things just appear. And there’s something exciting about exploring things that haven’t necessarily been represented on television before. But I knew we never wanted it to be a “teachable moment.” We made a conscious choice that his sexuality would never be in danger—that the town was going to be completely accepting of everybody. I wanted to show a projection of our own world that was kinder, show how much people can grow and the capacity with which people can love when they are not fearing for their lives. We never really tackle politics on the show, but in a way, that was the political stand I took.

What fan feedback do you get about David’s relationship with Patrick [Noah Reid]?
A lot of straight people have told me they were surprised to realize they had certain beliefs that they now see, by way of watching the show, were not good or helpful or constructive. But getting to interact with my [LGBTQ] community—and hear how the show has made a positive impact or changed the conversation with their family—has been remarkable. I’m proud that we’ve put something out into the world that seems to be effecting change in a good way.

Robert Trachtenberg for EW

The show has been on CBC and Pop TV since 2015, and in 2017 past seasons became available on Netflix. When did you realize the show’s fandom was reaching a fever pitch?
I guess it was this year, or maybe around season 4 [in 2018]. The show has been well-known in Canada for some time, but it’s only been in the last little while that I’ve been walking down the street in the U.S. and people have come up and said either “I love your show” or “Thank you.” I never know what to say. “Um…you’re welcome?” But, I think because we’re Canadian, it all comes with a grain of salt and we all know it could go away tomorrow. We’re still just that little team up in Canada just trying to get a show made.

So why make season 6 the end?
I had always known that that was the case. In fact, I had thought it was going to be five. Then we were given the opportunity to do two more seasons, and I thought, “Okay, I can tell the end of this story in 28 episodes.” I feel really confident that we’ve really mined everything we could. But the world doesn’t explode at the end of it. If there is something that comes up down the line that feels compelling enough to bring our troupe back together and continue to tell a story, so be it. I’m not one to lay down the iron fist and say, “This is it forever.” This is just it for now.

Robert Trachtenberg for EW

What’s your craziest fan experience?
I love how much drag culture has embraced Moira Rose. We did a live show in Washington and a local bar had this night called “The Night of a Thousand Moiras.” They were all going to see us live and had shown up in drag as Moira. We ended up surprising them and guest-judging their drag show. That was really fun.

And you have some celebrity fans.
You get Carol Burnett saying she’s binge-watching your show and that she loves it; if I do nothing else in this life, I’ve done something right. And Mariah Carey has tweeted [about the show]. I mean, I had posters of her on my walls in high school. It’s wild.

You’ve said you’re not a baker, so why sign on to host the first two seasons of The Great Canadian Baking Show?
I was in the thick of binging The Great British Baking Show and I tweeted and said, “If it ever comes to Canada, I would love to throw my hat in the ring as a host.” And then I woke up the next morning to 50 text messages and emails saying “It is coming to Canada, would you like to host it?” And then two weeks later, I had signed on. I’m not doing [the upcoming third season] because we couldn’t make it work with my schedule, but I love the purity to the show. Everyone’s competing for a cake plate. The simplicity of that was so wonderful that I wanted to be a part of it.

What was it like growing up with a father who became America’s dad with 1999’s American Pie?
I wish I was more confident back then because I really would’ve owned it, but I was insecure and I didn’t like the attention. I was dressed to go to the premiere of American Pie and a friend of mine had seen a sneak preview and was like, “Do not see that with your parents.” And I backed out. Having that movie come out while I was in high school, I got a lot of idiots saying, “Ooh. Is that a story about your life?” And in my mind, I was like, “I would kill to have a life that’s interesting enough to turn into a movie. No, thank you… and no, I didn’t f— a pie.”

Robert Trachtenberg for EW

Celebrate 50 years of gay pride with Entertainment Weekly’s special LGBTQ double issue, on stands now. You can buy all six covers now, or purchase your individual favorites featuring Anderson Cooper, Wilson Cruz, Melissa Etheridge, Neil Patrick Harris, Janet Mock, and Ruby Rose. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW. And if you want to get involved in LGBTQ causes, donate to The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, a non-profit that seeks to eliminate the social intolerance affecting members of the LGBTQ community.

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Complete Coverage

Ghostbusters at 35: Ernie Hudson on Winston Zeddemores proud legacy as a black movie hero


He wasn’t on the poster, and he wasn’t in a lot of the merchandise. At times, he felt painfully overlooked.

But in the 35 years since the debut of Ghostbusters, Ernie Hudson realized that his character of fearless and unflappable Winston Zeddemore was seen in places where it really mattered.

“I get a lot of — not just black kids — but a lot of minority kids who will come up to me and go, ‘Oh, we’re so thankful because it was the first big blockbuster movie and there was a black character and he didn’t embarrass us,’” the 73-year-old actor tells EW. “Just having him be there and be one of the guys, that meant a lot to them … I get that a lot.”

We’re in the midst of a Ghostbusters revival. A new steelbook 4K Ultra HD disc debuts next week with both the 1984 film and its 1989 sequel, a new film is coming next summer from Up in the Air and Juno director Jason Reitman, and Hudson and co-star Dan Aykroyd will be among those appearing live at Ghostbusters Fan Fest this Saturday on the Sony Pictures lot.

In the era of cinematic representation, with a new push for diversity in front of and behind the camera, and the overdue acknowledgment from studio gatekeepers that all fans deserve to see themselves onscreen, Winston Zeddemore stands as an early point of pride.

Hudson especially cherishes one chance encounter with a young African-American who was a fellow actor. “I saw Denzel after the movie came out,” Hudson says. “I ran into him at a bank and he said, ‘Wow, man, I really loved the character and you didn’t embarrass me.’ And I knew exactly what he meant because a lot of times, you go, ‘Oh, okay, here’s a black guy. Here we go…’”

Embarrass. That’s a loaded word. “A big Twinkie,” as Winston himself might intone gravely.

Hudson said to look at it not from today’s perspective, but from the vantage of a person of color coming out of the 1970s.

“Okay, you had the ‘black movies.’ Those movies, they weren’t mainstream, they weren’t movies that a lot of people would see, the blaxploitation films,” Hudson says, noting that those movies often had African-American characters who were strong, brave, and aspirational.

“But in the big films, the blockbuster adventure movies, a lot of times if there is a black character, it’s really the cartoon,” Hudson adds. “He’s doing something that makes people kind of cringe. ‘Okay, you’re representing us in a way.’ And nobody should have to represent [everyone], but they see that, and this is going to be a reflection on me.”

Hudson says he didn’t set out to defy that trope. “I didn’t think about that when I played the character,” he said. “It wasn’t about trying not to be something. It was just about trying to be true.”

He credits Aykroyd, co-star and co-writer Harold Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman with crafting a role that wasn’t demeaning. It was Hudson’s job to bring Winston to life, give him heart and charm, and keep the other three weirdos grounded.

Part of the enduring appeal of Ghostbusters is that they’re a blue-collar crew, working stiffs, and that element comes alive the minute Winston joins the team.

Cleaning Up the Town

Ramis’ Egon Spengler was the brains, Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz was the oddball, and Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman was the wiseass. But Winston was the tough guy, the brave one, the Ghostbuster who brought a dose of much-needed common sense: “When someone asks you if you’re a god … you say ‘YES!’”

Hudson is the first to admit he’s not a comedian, and co-starring as a relative unknown alongside icons of Saturday Night Live and SCTV cast a big shadow. “When you’re working with Dan and Bill, you’re not going to be funny so you can forget that,” he says.

But Winston isn’t necessarily the straight man. He gets some of the funniest and most quotable lines in the movie, including wheeling around a mayor’s office full of less-than-diverse city officials and delivering the classic double entendre: “Since I’ve joined these men, I’ve seen s—t that’ll turn you white!”

Hudson is proud that Winston could be funny without being a joke, without being the stereotypical black character who looks weak or silly while being panicked by ghosts. “It makes you feel like people are laughing down at you, as opposed to you’re a part of it and they’re laughing with you,” Hudson says. “When I think on Winston, he wasn’t that. And I didn’t really see any reason for him to be that.”

Hudson shares some qualities with his Ghostbusters alter-ego — they’re both humble, dependable, and there to get the job done. A more ego-driven performer might have made Winston a caricature in a bid to upstage the others. “Sometimes I think people do it because they’re fighting for screen time,” Hudson says. “If that guy’s funny, I’m going to do something really [over the top] to be funnier.”

Like anyone who does good work, you hope people notice on their own. You hope that work is recognized and celebrated. Ghostbusters was a major breakthrough for the Yale Drama School-trained actor, but there were agonizing times when he felt pushed aside, too.

The Invisible Man

“When the movie was introduced, it wasn’t actually introduced with me starring along with the other guys. It was the guys, and then I just happen to be sort of [around] … The big poster on Sunset Boulevard, there were three guys.”

It got better with Ghostbusters II in 1989, which featured him prominently in the advertising and one-sheets, and Hudson recognized that back in 1984 he wasn’t well-known enough for studio marketers to place front and center. But it still hurt.

“When the movie came out, of course, it was huge so the studios would scramble and they called me and asked would I do a signing at Bullock’s Department Store or someplace,” he recalled. “I would go there and of course, I’m signing the posters that I’m not on, the photos that I’m not in.” He sighs. “If you know that you’re not going to be able to get Bill and Danny to do some of this stuff, at least be aware. Send a photo that I’m in, at least.”

What bothers him now is that the snubs still happen. “I like to think I’ve sort of gotten past this but on the 30th anniversary when it had a run in theaters, there was a theater in Chicago that invited me to come back and introduce the movie,” Hudson recalls. “I flew back to Chicago and I get to the theater and it’s big posters of the three guys. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is 30 years later and you can’t…?’ It’s like, ‘Really?’”

Bill Nation/Sygma via Getty Images

At times, it’s almost surreal.

“Some of it, I actually laugh at,” he says, recalling an appearance on The Today Show, where he played a game of Ghostbusters trivia with Al Roker. His prize: a bag of Ghostbusters stuff. “I thought, ‘Oh, well that’s kind of cool,’” Hudson recalls. “In the bag, they had a couple of toys of Bill Murray’s character and Danny’s character. My character wasn’t in there. That’s okay… But then they had a t-shirt.”

Hudson still can’t believe it. “I lift the t-shirt up and it’s four Ghostbusters … but it’s Danny Aykroyd twice!”


Like …. Seriously?

“I swear to God, the t-shirt’s out there,” Hudson says. “They put him on there twice. I thought, okay this is national TV. Don’t say anything. So I didn’t say anything, but you kind of go away thinking, ‘What the f—k was that about?’”

The counterbalance is the reaction he’s gotten from African-American kids over the years, who saw Winston not just as a cool and funny character, but as a decent guy, a protector, a hero.

“A lot of white kids will come and say they identified with the Winston character,” he adds. “A lot of times their parents didn’t understand why that character as opposed to the others, but I think it is he’s just a very down to Earth guy. ‘What’s the job?’ You commit to it. It’s kind of my own philosophy in life, I guess.”

Winston Lives!

Another racial stereotype that Ghostbusters defied — the black guy survives.

In many horror movies or adventure films of that time, Hudson notes, “If you have any significant role in the movie as the African-American, you’re going to die. That’s something to marginalize you, to keep you from being considered complete. There’s going to be a boulder, it’s going to roll down off the mountain as you’re walking by. There’s going to be a lion that’ll jump out. As soon as [a black character] pops up, you go, ‘Okay, when is he going to die? I know he’s going to die.’ Winston didn’t die and that was a pleasant surprise for a lot of people.”

It’s a safe bet that Winston still endures today. As the new Ghostbusters movie goes into production this summer, there’s a chance we might see him again.

“I love the franchise, I’d love to be a part of it. In spite of all those things, I really love all the guys and if it doesn’t happen, it won’t be because of a lack of willingness on my part,” Hudson says.

“I’m like everybody else,” the actor adds, keeping a tight lip on the secretive project. “I’m waiting to see what happens.”

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Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon revisit their lesbian neo-noir Bound


Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly aren’t fans of watching themselves on screen — but they’ll make an exception for their 1996 film, Bound. 

The Matrix masterminds the Wachowskis made their directorial debut with this noir about two women — femme fatale Violet (Jennifer Tilly) and ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) — who fall in love and team up to steal $2 million from Violet’s mobster boyfriend, Caesar (Joe Pantoliano).

Bound only made $3.8 million domestically upon its release, but it quickly became a cult classic in the gay community — long before each of the Wachowskis came out as transgender — and it catapulted the siblings to the highest echelons of directors.

We got Gershon, 57, and Tilly, 60 back together at Bibo Ergo Sum, a swanky bar with all the art deco vibes befitting these two femme fatales. There, the actresses vamped it up for a photo shoot, including recreating the iconic Sophia Loren-Jayne Mansfield shot, and had the time of their lives reminiscing as they rewatched the movie together. The enduring warmth of their friendship and their outrageous, heartfelt memories left us fit to be tied.

In the first scene, Violet and Corky share a sultry glance in an elevator, and a palpable connection is born — in fact, it’s still present today in their offscreen friendship.

Gina Gershon (Corky): My agents didn’t want me to do it. Literally, I was told, “You are ruining your career doing this movie. We will not let you do this movie.” I never get to play the hero and to get the chick. I mean, it’s the typical part that I’ve watched my whole life, and it’s never been a woman. I left my agents over it.
Jennifer Tilly (Violet): I wanted my hair to have a violet sheen, so it’s black but if you see it in the correct light, it’s very dark. I got this nail polish. It had just come out, and I went into Chanel and they said, “Oh, we only have one bottle. We’re saving it [for] somebody, but they were supposed to pick it up yesterday. We’re going to sell it to you.” It was called “Vamp.” All my makeup is like shades of violet, like my lipstick is purple-y.
Gershon: I was coming right off of Showgirls, and I was so ultra femme in that. [I cut] all my nails and my hair off, and I started boxing. I had been dancing for five months, so I was so floaty and I wanted to be in my body more like a boxer…Marlon Brando, Monty Clift, Robert Mitchum. I went to all those guys. There’s a certain quietness. I wanted to be like all the guys I project [my ideas of heroism and masculinity] on to.
Tilly: It was a classic film noir, except instead of the lead being a male, it was Corky. A studio offered the [Wachowskis] a lot more money to make the movie, but they said that they had to make Corky a man.
Gershon: As soon as I met Jen, I thought, “Oh my God, all I have to do is watch her.” She was so amusing and so fun. It’s just so easy to watch her, like her butt and her legs. It made my job easy to kind of objectify her. We liked each other as soon as we met.
Tilly: Once they got the two of us in the room, I thought, “This is a girl that I can really see being in a relationship with.”
Gershon: You’re the really, truly the only real actress I’ve stayed friends with…

Rattled by her attraction to Violet, Corky goes to a lesbian bar to try to pick up a date as a distraction. It fails though, and Corky stews at home alone while playing her Jew’s Harp.

Tilly: This scene here it was all [advisor and feminist sex writer] Susie Bright’s friends. That’s why the bar scene is so authentic — it’s all lesbians.
Gershon: Susie Bright, she was supposed to take me around. The Wachowskis thought it was important that I meet her. She was an authority figure, and [a writer] in the lesbian community. I was really excited to talk to her.
Tilly: I never met her. She was pretty much advising Gina. And the thing is, Gina’s character is a lot more hardcore lesbian than Violet.
Gershon: We [Gershon and Bright] were going to go cruising around San Francisco. When I got there she couldn’t do it, so she pointed me in the right direction to go to certain bars [on my own]. I just went out and felt the vibe and met people. I actually had a really fun night [Laughs]. I’m definitely not talking about what happened. Just that I felt a lot more confident by the time I got back to L.A.
Tilly: She’d come in and she’d be like, “Uh, you know, we need to come up with a new pick-up line. I tried that pick-up line on some chick last night, it didn’t work.”
Gershon: I just thought I’d be inspired. I certainly was inspired with tattoos and stuff. I ended up choosing my own tattoos and where I wanted them and all that stuff.
Tilly: Somebody said, “Oh, you know, females don’t have any sex organs.” [Susie] goes, “Yes we do; it’s called a hand.” So they did do a lot of shots of hands.
Gershon: I really liked the hip [tattoo] that wrapped around my hip and crept up. You saw the top of it coming out of my pants sometimes. I thought that was really sexy. I had seen that on some girl at a bar, and I was like, “Oh that’s hot.”
Tilly: That’s also her Jew’s Harp.
Gershon: I’m always trying to get my Jew’s Harp in anything! It was the only movie I’ve ever actually had it in there…I needed something in my hands, and I liked the idea of when she’s thinking about the plan, to have something in my hand.

Violet asks Corky, who is at the apartment complex doing plumbing work, to help her fetch an earring she dropped down the sink. It turns out to be a seduction ploy and the two share a steamy first kiss.

Gershon: I’m doing the pipes. I was a little paranoid. I’m definitely not good at any of that stuff, so I just needed to be convincing…I kind of got into it. It’s so dirty and messy, and you’re shoving this thing in the plug. It was fun. I just wanted to look cool, like I knew what I was doing. I liked all the physical activity. It just made me feel like I was doing all the things that I wish I knew in real life. I remember my mom said, “You’re a really good actress.” I asked, “Why?” She said, “Because I believed the plumbing stuff.”
Tilly: Look at this, we’re like equals. You know I’m full of s–t; I know that you know I’m full of s–t. We both know what you’re here for.
Gershon: Look at your body. Honestly, whenever I wasn’t sure of what I was doing I would just stare at your chest.
Tilly: Method actor. [Laughs] The Wachowskis wanted [an] extreme close-up of our lips. We finished shooting the scene, and the Wachowskis had to get a special camera that cost an extra $10,000. The dailies were coming in looking so good, [producer Dino De Laurentiis] finally got [it for them]. So, we went back and shot that — just a close up on our lips. We were a little nervous. I remember Gina was like, “The camera’s going to look up my nose!” But it’s such a beautiful shot.
Gershon: I’m so comfortable feeling your boobs.
Tilly: This scene where I take her finger — I just thought, “Oh, [I’ll] put it in my mouth!” I improvised that. She’s like, “Oh, where’s this finger going? Oh, it’s not going south, it’s going north. Ok, now it’s going south.”

Later that night, Violet comes to Corky’s truck to apologize for all the things she “didn’t do” to Corky that afternoon, and they kiss again.

Gershon: “I hate women who apologize for sex” That’s a truthful line. I do hate women who apologize for sex. Why should they be like, “Oh my God, I’m sorry I really like this.” I thought it was a very smart line, because it was truthful, you know?
Tilly: [Of all our romantic scenes together, we filmed this kissing scene first.] I had never kissed a girl before, onscreen or off. And I was a little bit nervous.
Gershon: I brought her tequila and chocolate before our first scene that we were fooling around.
Tilly: I was in my trailer like “an actress prepares,” and I hear, “Knock-knock, I got tequila and chocolate.”
Gershon: I said, “Here’s your preparation.”
Tilly: We actually had to reshoot that scene, but they said, “Not because you girls were drinking.” There was a problem with the camera work.

They go back to Corky’s apartment and have sex.

Tilly: A lot of times, as a young actress in Hollywood, you read the love scene, and it seems like the writer is just getting himself off. Like writing three pages of porn. When you’re reading this, it was very matter of fact.
Gershon: [The Wachowskis] knew every angle, every cut. They came from doing graphic novels so they really had it in their heads.
Tilly: They didn’t want it to be a man’s version. There’s a male version of what lesbians are, and you see it in the soft-core porn movies all the time. They really wanted to get it right. They wanted to be very respectful of the lesbian community. They wanted it to be very, very authentic and raw, not pornographic. Although it was pornographic because we’re hot. [Laughs]
Gershon: It was like the four of us having sex. It was like: “Foot! Wall! Head!” It was so choreographed. The camera [is] moving around, and you have one wall go up, another wall went down.
Tilly: They wanted to do it in one long continuous shot. They had guys pulling at the walls. It was like a ballet between the Wachowskis, the crew, [and us]. [They’d be] yelling through the megaphone, “Breast!” and then we knew the breast was in frame.
Gershon: I knew I had to curl [my toes] on cue. I think it could have been a little bit more connected to an orgasm or to a sexual feeling. I felt it was more a mechanical thing. [But] it was very fluid. No pun intended.
Tilly: Gina is like the coolest person to ever do a love scene with. She was playful. I would be like, “Can you put your hand here so my cellulite doesn’t show? Can you prop my breast to make it look a little more plump?”
Gershon: In between takes, we’d talk about shoe [shopping], and we were laughing so hard.
Tilly: Gina had weights on the set, so before a scene she would work out [with] weights to make her muscles [bigger].
Gershon: Every guy actor I’ve ever seen on set does pushups and stuff if he doesn’t have his shirt on. I was like, “Oh this is what the dudes do, so this is what I’m going to do,” because it kind of pumps your arms up. It’s all very macho too. You know Corky had a lot of armor on, she was very protective of herself. The more I could feel that, the better I felt as Corky.
Tilly: We had a lot of problems. We almost got a NC-17.
Gershon: There was one take that all four of us were like, “That’s the one.” It was like a real love scene. You didn’t see a boob. You didn’t see anything; it was all suggested. It really played on our face more than anything.
Tilly: You can see my fingers on her crotch. You see nothing; you see a hand!
Gershon: It was the emotionality.
Tilly: [The rating board] said, “It looks like they’re really doing it.” And the [Wachowskis] go, “Let me get this straight. If the girls weren’t such good actresses, you wouldn’t have a problem?” They were embarrassed, and they said, “Yes.”
Gershon: God forbid we have these two women actually in love. We had to go with the “f—ing” scene. In the “f—ing” scene, they were really going at it, and it wasn’t as emotional. They were okay with that, which is bulls–t.
Tilly: The Wachowskis said, “It’s homophobia, pure and simple.” The shot that we used was so much more elegant. This one’s a lot more graphic. They sprayed more sweat on us. In the last part of the scene, my boob accidentally fell into frame, like, “I want to be on camera too!”

After making a connection, Violet floats the idea of stealing $2 million from her mobster boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), which he has left drying all over the apartment after a job gone wrong doused the money in blood. The scene cuts between Violet and Corky as they plot and the action of their plan unfolding in real time.

Tilly: There was a scene where Corky’s putting in all her little burglar tools [in her ears], and they intercut it with me putting on my lipstick and my mascara. The Wachowskis said, “Those are your tools. Those are Violet’s tools and [those are] Corky’s tools. This is how Corky gets by, by stealing, and this is how Violet gets by, by painting her face.”…Afterwards, they sold all the stuff. You go over to Joey’s house, and it’s like the set. He even bought the wallpaper and put it in the hallways.

Violet convinces Caesar that fellow mobster Johnnie (Christopher Meloni) stole the $2 million, leading to a sudden bloodbath in their apartment, as he kills both Johnnie and mob boss Gino (Richard C. Sarafian). 

Tilly: There was also another shot that they wanted — when the head of the mafia gets shot, they said they wanted him to fall like a mighty oak in the forest. The stunt person said, “Nobody can fall that way, it’s too dangerous.” They had to get another $20,000 dollars from Dino De Laurentiis. They created this machine that was like a lever. So, they put him on the machine and then the lever went backward so when he falls, he falls straight back…Christopher Meloni and everyone, they’re shooting [the place] up, the [Wachowskis] wanted me to duck behind the bar. And I thought, “Oh, here’s where she can show ice water doesn’t run in [her] veins.” So I was going to do a thing like, “Oh she’s remembering when she was three and her mother shot her dad.” I thought This is a really good time for me to lose it. Like, “Oh my God, oh my God!” And they peak behind the bar, and they go, “What the f–k? Jennifer, what are you doing?” And I’m like, “Oh, I feel like I should be very upset here!” And they go, “No. Everything’s going according to plan. You planned it. You’re waiting for it to be over so you can move on to the next step of your plan.”

After Caesar murders his associates, including a mob boss, he realizes Violet has two-timed him and finds Corky next door. They fight; he ties Corky up and dumps her in the closet. But eventually, in the most metaphorical shot, she busts out, and the trio face-off in a final showdown, which Violet ends by shooting Caesar in cold blood.

Tilly: You’ve got to really adore your costar and have a good relationship and a trusting relationship because it’s a really violent scene…[Gina] sprained her wrist or finger or something like that. But you got to go for broke. You can’t be precious, you know? You’re doing fight scenes. You kind of have to go for it.
Gershon: I definitely got whacked, and it hurt, but it was an annoying thing because I was just like, “I just need some ice.” But then there’s all this brouhaha on the set with insurance. They’re like, “Oh no, you have to go check it at the hospital.” I didn’t want to leave the set. It definitely hurt, but it would have been fine with ice. I didn’t need stitches or anything. I guess they needed to check that I didn’t break anything, which I didn’t. I just felt really guilty having to leave the set, and I was like, “We don’t have time for me to leave the set right now.” You’re bound to get a little bruised here and there. Not a big deal.
Tilly: Oh! She explodes out of the closet!
Gershon: I kick out the closet door. It was symbolic for so many women. The whole idea of coming out of the closet. It was very satisfying and very heartwarming. Many girls have come up and said that it helped them come out. It helped change their lives, and that’s really meaningful.
Tilly: [The moment where I kill Caesar], they were saying like, “This is a Terminator, ‘I’ll be back’ moment.” Caesar goes, “You don’t want to hurt me. I know you don’t.” And she goes, “Caesar, you don’t know s–t.” They consciously put that in to be like an “I’ll be back” moment and they said, “That’s the Terminator moment when she says that.” It’s also really interesting in terms of some of the underlying themes that men think they know what women want.

Violet and Corky’s plot succeeds, and they ride off into the sunset together in the brand new red truck Corky bought with their money. All to the tune of Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady.”

Tilly: That was my dress. Those are my earrings. That’s my watch. I wore pretty much all my own clothes…After the movie, I gave some of the clothes to my sister. The dress, in the last scene, she shows up wearing it [one time] and I’m like, “You know how many lesbians would love to get their hands on that dress. That’s an artifact! It should be in a museum!” She’s like, “It’s my favorite dress!”
Gershon: I love the end. I get the chick. I get a car. I get the money. You know what I mean? I was like a real hero. It’s not often, especially at that point, that the women get to be heroes. Those are always the guy’s part. I was just psyched. I’m like, “Hey, I got my girl. I’ve got a new car. We’re gonna go off into the sunset.” It was very satisfying.
Tilly: When Gina goes, “Beep-beep” [and we see her new car]. In the audience, everyone laughs. I’m like, “Why is everyone laughing?” And they’re like, “That’s what every guy does when they get some money; they buy a red truck.”
Gershon: I was pushing Sinatra, “The Best Is Yet to Come”. I was hearing that in my head, and I think they were toying with that, but then this is what they went with which was great. I mean you can’t go wrong with Tom Jones.
Tilly: We had to reshoot the last scene too because, when they were driving away, you could see palm trees reflected in the windshield.
Gershon: We always joked about what happens with the sequel. I think they had to split up when the mob was on them, and Violet ends up with some other rich guy at some point. Corky had to leave in order to protect Violet. They struggle, but I think they always come through, you know?
Tilly: Everyone’s positive that they’re so in love, and they’re going to live happily ever after, but I really think in Violet’s nature, she’s a predator. I do not think it’s going to end well. Violet’s in love with Corky, but she’s very damaged and I just don’t think it’s going to be like one of those, “50 years ago, we met cute,” you know?
Gershon: I’m really proud of this movie, probably more than any other film I’ve done. These women are sexy and they’re smart. They outsmart the bad guys. And they’re funny and witty. They were into each other; they didn’t need a man to help them. That was all a combination no one had really seen before. These parts weren’t around a lot.
Tilly: I did have so many girls come up to me — and so many drag queens saying their drag name was Violet. It really made me feel, in a weird way, like I had a responsibility when all these girls would come up to me and say that they came out of the closet and realized they were gay after they saw this film.
Gershon: [When we were making it], I kept thinking, “What do you guys, [the Wachowskis] know about being women? How did you write this thing?” And little did I know, at the time, they were really feeling something. They really were feeling bound up inside. So, it became that the metaphor had a deeper meaning. It wasn’t like, “Oh, aren’t they clever writers.” I thought, “Wow, they were going through this, and the world didn’t know.”

Editor’s Note: EW interviewed Gershon for this story prior to news breaking that she will star in Woody Allen’s next movie.

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