Tim Curry on new 'Rocky Horror,' Cookie on 'Empire' fashion
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- A roundup of news from the Television Critics Association summer meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.
CURRY ON FRANK-N-FURTER
Tim Curry's participation in Fox TV's "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" helped erode fan resistance to a remake of the 1975 cult film, producer Lou Adler said.
"As you can imagine, when we announced we were doing this there was a tremendous backlash from fans who have been with us for 40 years," said Adler, who was behind both the big-screen original and the Fox version airing in October.
"That all loosened up," he said, when Curry signed on to the role of Narrator. The actor played scientist and transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the film.
"You really made the difference," director-choreographer Kenny Ortega told Curry during a Q&A about the project.
"It was a blessing. I loved being there," Curry replied. Asked how he felt about Frank-N-Furter being his most enduring role, his reply was droll.
"That's not much I can do about it, really," he said.
The lovefest resumed when producers discussed the performance of Laverne Cox ("Orange is the New Black") as the new Frank-N-Furter. Cox didn't participate in the panel.
"She had so much to give to it," Ortega, also a producer on the project, said of Cox, citing her depth of talent, life experience and "incredible respect" for the movie. He recalled the first day of rehearsal for the cast album, when Cox performed "Sweet, Sweet Transvestite" with Curry, who uses a wheelchair, sitting alongside the pianist.
When she finished, Ortega said, Curry was the first to respond, shouting "bravo!"
HENSON WORKS IT
Viewers may pay a lot of attention to what Taraji P. Henson wears as Cookie on Fox's "Empire," but guess who doesn't? Taraji P. Henson.
"It's not my job," Henson told TV critics Monday at a bi-annual press event.
She added that some actresses get caught up with what their character would and would not wear, but she's personally too busy paying attention to her lines.
That's not to say that some outfits have caused her to have colorful commentary.
"I remember one outfit I looked like I had aluminum foil on," another time "a sushi roll," and then there was a time she wore what resembled "fur noodles." But, in the end, she's fine with what's picked for her.
"I'm not the costumer. I tell them bring it to me, I'll put it on and make it work."
Executive Producer Ilene Chaiken teased Taye Digg's arc in season three, saying he enters the show interacting with Jussie Smollett's Jamal, but he quickly becomes "all about Cookie."
Also teased, a possible spinoff on Cookie. First, she'd logically have to separate herself from her on again, off again love, Luscious. That, Chaiken says, she will try to do in season three.
"Empire" returns for its third season on Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.
THE TALKS ARE OUT THERE
Significant talks are underway with "The X-Files" stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny and creator Chris Carter for more of the drama series, Fox's entertainment president said.
"Schedules are hard, but we are working hard to get this done and we would love to get another season out soon," programming chief David Madden said.
Fox touted the 16 million viewers who watched each of the six episodes that brought the 1993-2002 sci-fi series back to this year.
But what about the mixed reviews it got, reporters asked Madden and Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group. Because the series had been off the air for so long, it faced the challenge of filling in its larger "mythology" and fast-forwarding the characters' lives, Walden said.
"Going forward, there won't be the same obligation to reset the series," she said.
Walden disputed the characterization of how the show was received, saying it earned glowing reviews as well as negative ones. The chatter on Fox's social media platforms was overwhelmingly positive, she added.
Fox's new series, "The Exorcist" isn't just an opportunity to tell a demonic horror story. It's also providing an opportunity for diversity in television.
One of the series' stars is Mexican actor Alfonso Herrera, who plays a priest on the show.
"I'm very, very happy to portray a Mexican ... who is not just a guy with a sombrero and a mustache," the actor told journalists Monday at a bi-annual press event for TV Critics.
The cast includes Alan Ruck, Ben Daniels and Geena Davis.
Davis, who spends much of her time advocating for a larger female presence in film and television, particularly in media aimed at children, joked that she hasn't had to "bust" the crew on anything.
"Half of our writers' room is women, which is very exciting and unfortunately unusual. There are more female important characters than male in the story, also. We have two female directors of our 10, which I'm excited about."
"The Exorcist" premieres Sept. 23 on Fox.
THE WIND-UP, THE 'PITCH'
An upcoming Fox drama about the first woman to play Major League Baseball is not merely about baseball, said its co-creator and co-executive producer, Dan Fogelman.
"It's a show that takes place in the world of baseball," he said. "It's about this young woman coming of age with the lens of the world watching her."
Fogelman doesn't believe that "Pitch" is based in folklore either, but more a precursor to when women do play pro sports with men.
"I think this is going to happen in modern lifetime. The human anatomy makes it a challenge," he said, "It's addressed in the pilot. I think the right young woman is going to come along."
Fox also draws upon the network's partnership with the real MLB when it is time to play ball, to keep the games looking as realistic as possible.
Series lead Kylie Bunbury spent two-and-a-half months learning to pitch prior to filming and her efforts have paid off.
"The girl can pitch now," said another co-executive producer, Paris Barclay. "Now she's pitching, and she's got a little heat and she's got great form."
JAKE, MEET JESS
Worlds are colliding on Fox as Andy Samberg's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" character Jake is about to meet Jess from "New Girl," played by Zooey Deschanel.
The network said characters from "New Girl" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" will cross over in back-to-back episodes airing Oct. 11.
The only plot detail revealed is that the "New Girl" gang will head to New York, where they meet the crew from the "Nine-Nine" precinct.
This isn't the first series combo event for the network. Last season "Bones" and "Sleepy Hollow" also crossed over, to ratings success.
"New Girl" premieres its sixth season, and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" debuts season four Sept. 20 on Fox.
'SIMPSONS' TIMES TWO
"The Simpsons" is doubling down with an hourlong episode in January.
It will be the first time the half-hour animated series has expanded to a full hour, Fox said.
Al Jean, executive producer of the series that revels in daring humor, included a political shot in announcing the episode.
"I just pray it won't be the last thing people see before a Trump inauguration," Jean said in a statement.
Taraji P. Henson, who plays Cookie on Fox's "Empire," and Keegan-Michael Key will guest star. Henson voices Praline, the former wife of a music mogul who has conned Mr. Burns into bankruptcy. Key voices a rapper, Jazzy James, who joins with Praline, Homer and Bart to help Mr. Burns seek revenge.
The airdate for the episode, titled "The Great Phatsby," a play on the classic "The Great Gatsby," was not announced. "The Simpsons" begins its 28th season on Sept. 25, and will reach its 600-episode milestone Oct. 16.
An upcoming Sunday night on Fox in September will be Amy Schumer night.
The comedian will voice characters on "The Simpsons," ''Bob's Burgers" and "Family Guy" on the episodes airing Sept. 25, Fox said.
In each show, she plays someone different.
Fox said Schumer has already recorded her appearances and completed them in one session.
Network chairman Dana Walden said the idea was to have the same actor bring a "connective tissue throughout the night."
A DATE FOR CAREY
After two seasons of teasing viewers about whether it would happen, Mariah Carey has set a date to guest star on Fox's "Empire."
Carey will appear on the Oct. 5 episode, the network said.
She will play a superstar singer named Kitty, who collaborates with Jussie Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, on a new song. Lyon has a creative block until Kitty helps him deal with some personal issues to make the song work.
"Mariah loves the show" and has long made a point of sharing her passion for it when they have met at events, said Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group.
Carey filmed the episodes last week, Walden said.
Other guest stars confirmed for season three, which debuts Sept. 21, include actor Taye Diggs and rapper French Montana.