TIME movies

Viola Davis: ‘The Opportunities in Film are Still Few and Far Between’

Viola Davis
Viola Davis Danny Moloshok—Invision/AP

The actress talks about filming in Asia with her co-star Chris Hemsworth

In addition to leading ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder (which returns Jan. 29), Viola Davis also stars opposite Chris Hemsworth in the new action-thriller, Blackhat, now in theaters. In the film, Davis plays Carol Barrett, an FBI agent who teams up with an incarcerated hacker (Hemsworth) to hunt down a dangerous international cybercrime ring.

TIME caught up with the actress to talk her Facebook habits, her research for the role and how she’s staying relevant in Hollywood.

TIME: After starring in a movie about cybercrime and hacking, what was your reaction to the big Sony hack?
Viola Davis: I have to say, I was not surprised! Because of my experience in the film, I knew how vulnerable we are to cyber attacks. I’m so careful with what I put out there on Facebook and my emails. I’m so careful before I press that send button. I know how accessible our information is and how we could be easily shut down just as a country. I had an expert come to my house and just walk me through what they do when they hack a computer and how they problem-solve. Your computer basically is you!

You mentioned Facebook — is that an official actress Facebook, or a secret one for friends and family?
No, I just have one. I don’t have any secret ones. I’m not that sophisticated to have a secret one! I probably should have a secret one. I should probably have a secret name when I check into hotels, but I dont. I just have one email and one Facebook. People will go, “Is that your Facebook page? Or is someone handling it for you?” I always say, “No, it’s me!”

What else did you do to prepare?
I literally flew to D.C. to meet with Michele Leonhart, who’s the head of the DEA. I sat with her for an afternoon, so I did all of that. I learned a little bit of Mandarin, which was terrifying.

Do you still to practice it?
Oh my God, no. Literally once I learned my three sentences, that was it! I couldn’t do anymore.

Parts of Blackhat were shot in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur — what was it like being there with that cast?
I was blown away. I was just transported into a completely different way of life — the smells, the sounds, the pace, the people, the landscapes, the mountains and the harbor. Shooting in Kowloon can’t be explained unless you’re there. It was great being with that cast there because it was just such a special cast that was willing to sacrifice comfort, that’s for sure. There are no trailers in China! It was mostly 100 degrees with 200 percent humidity. No trailers, no air conditioning. You were really thrust in the midst of the cities. Asia’s just a completely different world, that’s all I can say. I absolutely loved it.

You’ve been offered no shortage of roles as a government employee or agent. What made this one different?
Working with [director] Michael Mann and working in a movie that was international. I need television because the opportunities in film are still few and far between. You always have to look for reasons to stay relevant. You always have to look for reasons to be international. That international market means everything in terms of relevancy. Working with Michael Mann and Chris Hemsworth? Being one of the leads in an international movie? All of that helps JuVee Productions, which is me and my husband’s production company. We have so many exciting projects coming out. I do so many roles for so many different reasons now. There are a lot of different reasons I did it.

TIME Television

Review: The Best and Worst of the New Amazon Pilot Season

Amazon Prime Video's The Man in the High Castle David Berg / Amazon

No Transparent here, but could I interest you in a Nazi-occupied 1962 America?

Following up its Golden Globes coup with Transparent–and whatever exactly it’s going to be doing with Woody Allen–on Thursday Amazon Video released its latest crop of pilots for viewers to watch and rate: 13 adult and kids’ shows in all.

This doesn’t entirely kill the old system of network (or in this case e-commerce) executives ordering a bunch of pilots and choosing which will live or die. The viewer vote isn’t binding–and good thing it isn’t, since voters last year gave Transparent the lowest rating of any show in its group. But it does mean that you now have a voice in the process just like idiot critics like me.

That said, you may not to want to spend several hours of your day helping pick new product for Jeff Bezos, so I watched the pilots for you. (Or rather, everything except the kids’ shows–I do this for a living and even I don’t have that much time on my hands.) In alphabetical order:

* Cocked. This family drama, about brothers reuniting to save a troubled family gun business, plays very, very broad. (One sibling is played by Jason Lee, with only a little more subtlety than he gave his character in My Name Is Earl.) But I’m intrigued by the exploration of the gun subculture and the dynamic of the liberal black sheep (Sam Trammell) being drawn back into a family and life he rejected. Done right, it could be a kind of .44-caliber Big Love.

* Down Dog. My love for Paget Brewster is vocal and enduring, but she’s only a supporting player in this comedy about a handsome dimwit yoga instructor (Josh Casaubon), who, after breaking up with his partner/girlfriend (Brewster), must learn to run the business himself. It feels a little like HBO’s Hung with pigeon poses instead of prostitution, and the pilot didn’t do much to make me care what happens to the protagonist.

* Mad Dogs. Based on a successful British series and produced by The Shield‘s Shawn Ryan–with a cast including Ben Chaplin, Michael Imperioli, Romany Malco, Steve Zahn, and Billy Zane–this dark-comic hour about a group of middle-aged friends running into underworld trouble in Belize looked great. But its midlife-crisis themes are tired, uninvolving and depressing. It’s tense and well-executed, though; the pilot did everything right except make me watch more.

* The Man in the High Castle. This alternate-history drama from The X-Files‘ Frank Spotnitz (based on a Philip K. Dick novel) imagines a year 1962 in which the Axis won WWII, and the U.S. is partitioned between Germany and Japan. The dialogue and war-movie-villain types run to cliché, and the production looks less like premium cable than a Syfy show. But the idea is gripping, there’s already the sense that the creators have thoroughly imagined a dystopian world, and scenes in the pilot are genuinely chilling. With improved execution, this could become a must-watch.

* The New Yorker Presents. This mostly-nonfiction series anthologizes short films based on the work of the storied magazine, and, it’s well, anthological. A Shouts-and-Murmurs-y short written by Simon Rich works better than most of the fantasies in Rich’s Man Seeking Woman. An interview with artist Marina Abramovic by Ariel Levy is thoought provoking (but could use a little more Abramovic and a little less Levy). There’s a smart, playful Jonathan Demme documentary on biologist Tyrone Hayes. And there are cartoons, which are–they’re cartoons, and don’t gain much from translation to a new medium. A poem is read. Cool jazz plays over the credits. A little precious but nicely made, and it will probably make you feel smarter.

* Point of Honor. This Civil War drama, from Lost‘s Carlton Cuse and Randall Wallace, was originally developed for ABC. And you can see why it didn’t get any farther: it has ambitions of subtlety and historical sweep–a wealthy Virginia family frees its slaves, yet vows to defend the Confederacy–but the clumsy pilot mainly offers cotton-pickin’ melodrama.

* Salem Rogers. I wanted to like this one, if only because it’s the only pilot of this class that aims at being flat-out, in-your-face, ha-ha funny. (Not to mention the only one built around a female star.) But Salem–starring Leslie Bibb as a former supermodel fresh out of rehab but totally unrepentant (and unrehabbed)–chased me off. Full of insult humor and acting out, it plays a little like a Ryan Murphy comedy, except–I can’t believe I’m saying this–Ryan Murphy would have made this more sophisticated.

In part, the question here is not how much you like these shows, but what are they worth to you? The decision on a streaming series is a different one than for a broadcast or basic-cable show. There, you’re just deciding whether to flip the dial to a channel you already have and spend a few minutes of your time. As with Netflix, watching Amazon’s shows requires paying up for a subscription ($99 a year for Prime, though the pilots are free), so cold economics suggest a higher bar. (It’s also comparable to premium cable, as is the content–in particular, there are nude female bodies splayed all over these pilots. Again, not the kids’ pilots.)

Transparent was a pilot that I would have bought a subscription to watch off the bat. None of these are yet, though The Man in the High Castle, and maybe Cocked, could become one. But you can watch the current pilot season for yourself. As Amazon has proven, it’s a big market, and no two customers are alike.

TIME Television

Here’s How You Can Help Choose Amazon’s Next Shows

Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Home Screen Amazon

Amazon launched 13 new television pilots

Amazon launched 13 new television pilots via the company’s website Thursday, and which ones will get full runs may be partially up to you. The company offers free viewing of the programs and encouraging customers to tell the company which shows they think should receive a full season run.

“We are working with great storytellers on some fascinating ideas for the year’s first pilot season,” said Amazon Studios vice-president Roy Price in a press release. “We look forward to seeing our customers’ response to these new projects.”

This year’s set of pilots includes a diverse group of comedies, dramas, shows for children and a documentary series. The talent for the shows includes marquee names such as Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott, The X-Files producer Frank Spotnitz and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. A full season of Woody Allen’s Untitled Woody Allen Project received the green light without a pilot.

Amazon made its first foray into original content in 2013 with shows like Alpha House. Just days ago, the studio won a best television series Golden Globe for the show Transparent.


Why I Won’t Be Binge-Watching Anything This Season

Kristin van Ogtrop was named Managing Editor of Real Simple magazine in 2003.

Whatever happened to anticipation?

What do Stanford University, marshmallows, Scandal and your BMI have in common? So much more than you can imagine.

One of my biggest regrets about 2014 is that I did not try harder to prove to my fellow man that people who fail to binge-watch Scandal are actually interesting human beings who do in fact participate in the culture, albeit in their own stunted, old-school way.

Am I feeling defensive? Maybe a bit. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to explain that I don’t binge-watch television: not Homeland, not Girls, not House of Cards. I did enjoy one short phase of binge-watching Arrested Development some years ago, until my son told his fifth-grade teacher that it was his favorite show. She was aghast, and thus ended that little era of wholesome family fun in my household.

Now that it’s January, a new TV season is upon us and bingeing is on everybody’s mind. Either you binge-ate over the holidays or you are about to binge-watch a favorite series now that you’ve finished eating. And I am growing more and more convinced that I just don’t belong in this country–nay, in the modern world.

There are four reasons not to binge-watch. The first is my mother, a retired registered dietitian who raised me to believe in the golden mean. Ergo, no bingeing. The second is my friends who, postbinge, look scarily like they’ve come off a long bender. Except when they go on a real (i.e. alcohol-fueled) bender, they meet interesting characters in bars or fall off curbs and get ankle casts that their more abstemious friends can sign. A TV bender is just extremely boring for everybody else. I mean, if I’ve never watched Luther, giving me 56 hours of plot summary is not going to make me start. And the third reason is the people I gave birth to. Bingeing on a show, you see, requires a gigantic time commitment, which is impossible for me since whenever I sit down to watch TV, a telepathic signal alerts the rest of the household that Mom is relaxing and before I can even pick up the remote, some child is demanding to be fed, paid his allowance or driven to GameStop.

The last reason is James Taylor. Every year at this time, I remember these lyrics from his song “Secret O’ Life”: “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” But when you are binge-watching Orange Is the New Black, you don’t notice the passage of time until the credits roll on the final episode and you’ve lost all feeling in your legs. Then you have two choices: you can resume your (sadder, not nearly as exciting) real life, or you can start over, which is why my 16-year-old son is now on his third viewing of every episode ever made (208, for the record) of How I Met Your Mother. And no, this doesn’t get in the way of schoolwork one single bit.

What ever happened to anticipation? (James, Carly: Weigh in here.) If the millions of people who listened to the Serial podcast last year taught us anything, it is that there are some appointment programs that are actually worth waiting for. Such as–middle-class cliché alert!–Downton Abbey. Besides a cup of coffee to start the morning and a glass of wine to end the day, the fact that I can look forward to Downton Abbey every Sunday is about the only thing that gets me out of bed in the winter. Apologies to my husband and kids, and all my friends who wrongly assume I love them more than I love the Dowager Countess.

Still, there is this nagging sense of inadequacy when I don’t binge-watch seven episodes in a row like the rest of the world. Maybe I just don’t fit in. And so I ask myself–as one must whenever one is feeling like a misfit–is there some way in which my inadequacy actually makes me … superior?

And in this case, there is! Think for a minute about the slightly sadistic but totally scientific Stanford marshmallow experiment of the 1960s and ’70s. In the experiment, young children were told they could have one marshmallow immediately or two if they waited 15 minutes. Researchers later tracked the lives of the children in the study, and those who were able to wait for the second marshmallow–and were therefore capable of delayed gratification–grew up to have higher SAT scores and lower BMIs! And a greater sense of self-worth, which naturally follows, because higher SAT scores + lower BMI = superior human being.

So my reluctance to binge-watch actually has nothing to do with my mother, or James Taylor, or the fact that Season 5 of Downton Abbey comes only in weekly installments. No, no, no. The reason for my lifestyle choice is much more nuanced than that. After all, I know it would only take me about seven clicks of a mouse to find out what happens on Downton Abbey this season. But that immediate gratification would raise my BMI and maybe even retroactively lower my SAT scores. And as much as I love the Dowager Countess, I’m just not sure she’s worth it.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Television

Now There’s a Netflix for Science Fans

The service will be available on all Internet devices as well as Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast

Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks is launching a streaming service for science enthusiasts.

The service is called CuriosityStream and hits on March 18, Deadline reports.

Costing $2.99 a month for standard video and $9.99 a month for high-definition viewing, it will provide access to science and nature material from BBC Worldwide, Terra Noa, Japanese channel NHK and France’s ZED. There will also be original programming, including interviews with prominent thinkers.

“For consumers, our aim is to provide the first and best on-demand video streaming destination that aggregates and curates the world’s best factual content,” said Hendricks, who retired from Discovery Communications last May.


TIME Television

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Abbi and Ilana from Broad City

Broad City Season 2 Premiere Party
Actresses/writers Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson attend The Broad City Season 2 Premiere Party on January 7, 2015 in New York City. (Stephen Lovekin--Getty Images for Comedy Central) Stephen Lovekin—Getty Images for Comedy Central

Soulstice is a real place ... Kinda

Broad City returned to Comedy Central Wednesday night, which means it’s time to snuggle up under your Bed, Bath & Beyond blanket and obsessively Google Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Even though you’re practically their best friend already, here are 8 things you didn’t know about Abbi and Ilana:

1. Before she was famous, Abbi Jacobson used to hand out flyers for Equinox gym outside Grand Central Terminal, which was the inspiration for Abbi’s job at the gym on the show. “I didn’t even get paid, it was just a membership,” she says. “But at the time I was like ‘this is amazing!'” Jacobson says Soulstice is inspired by Equinox, especially the bathroom with all the Keihl’s products.

2. Jacobson and Glazer met in an independent practice group while taking Upright Citizens Brigade improv classes, but neither of them ever made it onto the super-competitive teams.

3. The pair started making the Broad City web series because of someone else’s bad attitude. Jacobson had been working with another UCB performer on a sketch show, and after they got some bad notes her partner wanted to give up the whole project. When Jacobson told Glazer, she suggested they make something together instead. “We have these similar fundamental values, and one of them is like ‘f*ck you mister, never give up!’” Glazer says. “So I was like, ‘why don’t you work with me? Let’s make something together.'”

4. Glazer has no patience for bickering, which is why the two rarely fight on the show. “We back our episodes so heavily with comedy, it would be such a waste of time and boring if they fought, or if it was about fighting,” she says. “It’s so not fun. The whole show, we love it being a fun ride, a Broad City ride.”

5. Jacobson actually went to art school, and before Broad City she thought she would be an illustrator, just like her character on the show. “My whole family are all visual artists, and I was like ‘I can do this, I did that in high school, you just do it by yourself and it’s just done,'” she says. “So it just felt like an easier thing to do, which is crazy because being a visual artist is so hard.”

6. They have a “just do it” attitude when it comes to comedy. “When I was coming up, I would talk a lot about stuff I wanted to do, and even now I talk about stuff I want to do, and then I’m like ‘stop. Just start doing it,’” Jacobson says. “You’re waiting for someone to be like ‘you’re funny, you’re on a [UCB] team.’ No, you have to do stuff to like find how youre funny. I find young people talk about what they want to do, which is great because you get to form the words, but its also like: you gotta just get in there.”

7. They love working together, but they’re working on some separate projects as well. Each is tinkering with a movie script.

8. Questlove was an early fan of their web show and was kind of annoyed when everyone else started watching it. “Initially I felt like, ‘ah man, my little secret’s going to be exposed!” he says.

Check out the profile of Abbi and Ilana in this week’s magazine to learn more.

TIME Television

VH1 Is About to Air 40 Years’ Worth of Saturday Night Live Episodes

Saturday Night Live
NBC—NBC via Getty Images

Prepare for 19 back-to-back days of SNL, beginning Jan. 28

To celebrate Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary, VH1 Classic is preparing to air the longest SNL marathon — or any TV marathon, for that matter — in history.

Beginning Jan. 28, the Viacom-owned network will air 433 hours’ worth of episodes, starting with season 39 and working back toward the very first episode, hosted by George Carlin in 1975. The marathon will run until Feb. 15, leading up to NBC’s three-hour anniversary special that night.

The marathon will not include every single episode, because some are simply too difficult to clear for issues like music rights, Variety reports. Plus, the network would not be able to fit all the hundreds and hundreds of episodes in the allotted time.

The previous record for longest TV marathon was held by FXX for its 12-day run of The Simpsons, but alas, VH1 Classic is about to top that.

Check out the full schedule, and get your cowbells ready.




TIME Television

John Carpenter’s Escape From New York Getting Rebooted by Fox

Escape from New York
Kurt Russell in Escape from New York Embassy Pictures

Snake Plissken will ride again — hopefully

Dust off your eye patch, find your machete and get ready to Escape From New York again. Fox has just landed the rights to reboot John Carpenter’s cult classic film and transform it into a new franchise for the dystopia-hungry masses.

The 1981 film, which was written, directed and scored by Carpenter, was set in 1997 and starred Kurt Russell as special forces veteran Snake Plissken, who is sent into the maximum security prison formerly known as the island of Manhattan to rescue the President after Air Force One is hijacked and crashed into the wasteland.

Fox acquired the rights from StudioCanal after what was reportedly a very long and competitive bidding process. But they aren’t the first film company to try and revamp the film — both New Line and Silver Pictures have attempted this in the past.

While the Hollywood rumor mill has been working overtime on this project, including some intriguing ideas about casting Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnam, The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal, or former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens in the lead as Snake Plissken, Deadline reports that the project is starting from scratch.

Not that Fox will be entering the gang-filled Manhattan prison entirely alone. While the project is still in the very early stages of development, Carpenter is supposed to be on board as an executive producer who will “exert creative influence” over the project.

The success of films like The Hunger Games and Divergent show that audiences are always eager to enter dystopian futures (so long as they can leave again when the film is over). The re-boot of the Escape from New York franchise that presumably includes Carpenter’s 1996 sequel Escape From L.A., which was set in 2013, could translate to big box office returns for Fox, presuming they can get it off the ground.


TIME Television

You Can Go See Game of Thrones at These IMAX Theaters

This image released by HBO shows Kit Harington in a scene from "Game of Thrones."
This image released by HBO shows Kit Harington in a scene from "Game of Thrones." Helen Sloan—AP

Tickets go on sale this Friday, Jan. 16

IMAX is pushing back its Game of Thrones plans. Why? To make the release even bigger.

Now the acclaimed fantasy hit will come to IMAX theaters on Jan. 29, one week later than originally announced. But Thrones will also be in about 200 theaters instead of the originally planned 150. The change was “prompted by extraordinary consumer response that drove online mentions for IMAX to record heights, will allow for an expanded domestic roll-out,” the theater company said.

More news: IMAX has released its full list of theaters getting the presentation of HBO’s acclaimed fantasy hit (so at least now you’ll know how far you have to go to see it!).

Thrones will screen in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York, San Antonio, Seattle, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and other cities. The presentation includes the final two episodes of season four —”The Watchers on the Wall” and the Emmy-nominated “The Children”— as well as an exclusive trailer previewing the upcoming fifth season, which gets underway April 12. Thrones will still screen for just one week.

Game of Thrones has the honor of being the first TV series to ever receive a run in the super-sized cinema format. The episodes will be digitally re-mastered to be compatible with the plus-sized IMAX format.

The full list of theaters is available on the IMAX site here. Tickets go on sale Friday, Jan. 16.

UPDATE: IMAX’s website has apparently partly crashed due to “heavy traffic” according to a message on the GoT page.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

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