alexa Blackbook: Small Screen Sirens

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Jade Eshete, Age 27


For her first big TV outing, Brooklyn-born Jade Eshete is joining Elijah Wood on “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” an adaptation of a time-traveling ghost story by Douglas Adams (of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame). The series is unlike any other on TV, and returns to BBC America for a second season this fall.


When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

I started out as a structural engineer in New York City, working on schools and subways, before I made that frightful, but extremely gratifying transition to acting in my mid-20s.

Describe your character on “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.”

Farah is a total badass and completely unaware of how amazing she is. She’s the muscle of the detective agency, supercompetent, highly trained and a little OCD. Maybe … a lot OCD?

Why should we watch?

It takes the screw-ups, the weirdos, the unpopular and showcases them. They are the lead characters of this show — not the quirky sidekicks — and I find that exhilarating.

What’s something no one knows about you?

I am that random person unabashedly dancing to a Drake and Rihanna playlist on the subway.

Who inspires you?

I used to have a board in my bedroom with things and people that motivated me to get out of bed in the morning: Cicely Tyson, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Liya Kebede, Solange, Angela Bassett, Taraji P. Henson, Prince, my dream house, fashion … and friends.


Jude Demorest, Age 25


A native of Detroit, Demorest got her start in church — a fertile training ground for song and dance. No wonder director Lee Daniels plucked the musician to lead his new girl-group saga, “Star,” in which Demorest headlines as a street-wise girl looking for her big break.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

At age 5, I played a girl who couldn’t speak in a church play. I told my mother, “In my next play, I’m gonna talk!” And I did!

Describe your character on “Star.”

Star grew up in the foster system, but it didn’t dull her dreams; it gave her the strength to pursue them at all costs. She is the female embodiment of “hurt people hurt people.”

Why should we watch?

It’s a glimpse into pockets of our society you haven’t seen on prime-time TV before. And it’s got musical numbers!

What’s something no one knows about you?

In my first year at college to study political science, I got a call from a music producer in the middle of a final, so I left to meet him. It led to my first record deal.

Favorite item in your wardrobe?

A $1 T-shirt I bought when I was 13 years old that says “Motor City.” I’ve worn it so much it’s entirely see-through, but I will never get rid of it.

Secret to being fulfilled?

The great, late [record exec] Chris Lighty told me, “Don’t compete, just create.” Never compare yourself to anyone. You are perfectly, uniquely enough.


Natalie Alyn Lind, Age 18


At only 18 years old, Lind has racked up more roles than actors twice her age, including on ABC’s ’80s period sitcom, “The Goldbergs,” and Fox’s “Gotham.” Next up: Fox’s X-Men spinoff, “The Gifted.”

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

Before I could walk. My father [producer John Lind] cast me in a film at the age of 1, and it took off from there.

Describe your character on “The Gifted.”

On the outside, she has this girl-next-door facade, all very perfect — daughter, sister, student — but in fact, she’s a mutant.

Why should we watch?

The show represents a lot of what’s happening in America today, but with a twist: mutants!

What’s something no one knows about you?

I have been in parkour training for three months — everything you see on the show we’re actually doing. And I’m in heels the entire time. My calf muscles have definitely toned up!

Secret to being fulfilled?

A supportive family. Being able to have parents who let me fulfill my dreams is incredible. I’m the oldest of three and my younger sisters are also actors. It’s been so cool to go through this industry with them by my side.


Nathalie Kelley, Age 32


IF you didn’t catch Peruvian-born Kelley on ABC’s “Body of Proof” or the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” you have another chance with this fall’s reboot of uber-’80s soap “Dynasty,” hopefully replete with the catfights that made the original so enjoyable. Kelley stars as Cristal, a Latina woman marrying into the famous Carrington oil family.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

I had just finished watching Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” and could not stop crying. My mother thought it was because they die at the end, but it was actually because, for the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do. I was 12.

Describe your character on “Dynasty.”

Cristal leads as warm and loving, but like any Latina she is feisty when crossed!

Why should we watch?

It’s fun, but we also touch on a lot of socially relevant issues like fracking and immigration — so it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure.

What’s something no one knows about you?

My dad trained me and my brother to memorize complicated equations when we were 5 to impress friends at dinner parties. Much to his disappointment, I flunked math in high school.

Go-to show or movie to cheer yourself up?

Is it weird that it is “The Constant Gardener?” Director Fernando Meirelles shows how politics and themes of social justice can intersect with amazing filmmaking.

Who inspires you right now?

Gandhi and MLK. It sounds trite, but love is really the answer.


Jessica Paré, Age 36


BEFORE her breakout role as Megan Draper on “Mad Men,” Montreal-born Jessica Paré had accumulated an eclectic resume of roles, from Napoleon’s mistress to a pop singer-turned-vampire. This fall, she returns in CBS’s much-hyped “SEAL Team,” about a unit of the elite military force.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

My dad [a drama teacher in Montreal] played Prospero in “The Tempest” when I was 11 or 12, and I loved running lines with him.

Describe your character on “SEAL Team.”

Amanda Ellis is a CIA analyst who is always watching, threading a narrative together from multiple sources. She’s mysterious.

Why should we watch?

We’re trying to offer a unique perspective, exploring the human lives of the oft-mythologized Tier One operators. Action and feelings, you guys!

What’s something no one knows about you?

I was going to say the fact that I always take my pants off in my trailer at lunch, but I just found out that it’s an open secret. Which makes me feel weird.

Favorite item in your wardrobe?

A 1940s black velvet dinner jacket that belonged to my grandmother. Close second are the Megan Draper dresses that managed to make their way to me.

Secret to being fulfilled?

Lowering your standards. That sounds depressing, but I mean it in the best way. We just can’t be at 100 percent all of the time, so holding oneself to the highest standards 100 percent of the time is going to leave you falling short.

Who inspires you right now?

Angela Davis, Alicia Garza, Issa Rae, Iggy Pop and all of my castmates, but particularly Toni Trucks.


Margarita Levieva, Age 37


A Russian-born gymnast who moved to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, at the age of 11, Levieva studied economics at NYU before launching her acting career, notably landing a role in the 2009 Jesse Eisenberg- and Kristen Stewart-helmed film, “Adventureland” a few years later. Having burnished her credentials with recurring roles on ABC’s “Revenge” and NBC’s “The Blacklist,” she now turns up on David Simon’s hotly tipped HBO drama, “The Deuce,” starring 
James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

When I was 5 years old I saw Maya Plisetskaya dance the Black Swan in “Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi Ballet. There was no human on that stage. Just an extraordinary, powerful, graceful swan. That kind of transformation moved me deeply and I knew that I wanted to be a performer.

Describe your character on “The Deuce.”

Abby is young, fierce, intelligent and curious. In the first season, she’s hungry to find her own voice. She’s tired of the status quo and is searching for her place in this wild, potent time in NYC history.

Why should we watch? 

It’s David Simon. Early 1970s. The beginning of the porn industry in NYC. Need I say more?

Go-to show or movie to cheer yourself up?

“The Golden Girls” — works every time.

Favorite item in your wardrobe?

An old worn-out cashmere sweater that my dad bought for me in Paris, before he passed away.

Secret to being fulfilled?

It’s simple and a bit Hallmark-y, but doing things I love with people I love.

Who inspires you right now?

People over 90 falling in love.


Jade Esthete Photo by: Taylor Jewell, Hair & Makeup: T. Cooper using Ecru New York, Location: Sofitel New York 45 W. 44th St. New York, NY

Margarita Levieva Photo by: Matt Doyle, Stylist: Danielle Nachmani at The Wall Group, Hair Stylist: Brian Magallones at Tracey Mattingly, Makeup Artist: Nina Park at The Wall Group, Location: Dream Midtown

Jessica Pare Photo: Cliff Lispn/CBS

Other Photos by: Bjorn Iooss/Trunk Archive, Kenneth Willardt/Trunk Archive, Jean-Claude Vorgreak.

In Bed With Netflix and Armond White

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Foreplay: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Gen X moviegoers have an ongoing debate over which film is the best John Hughes teen movie or who is the most identifiable Hughes movie character. But Ferris Bueller always comes out on top. The story of a whip-smart high school student playing hooky behind the backs of his suburban Chicago parents strikes an irresistible chord of rebellion in everyone who beholds his antics. Hughes kept the sarcasm coming, along with the rebellious sneaks’ fear of being found-out. Above all, Hughes celebrated the All-American thrill of FREEDOM—those carefree opportunities to do whatever you pleased before the soul-deadening obligations of adulthood reared their stop signs. Let eggheads boast about J.D. Salinger preventing Hollywood from ever filming Catcher in the Rye. Fueller Bueller would kick Holden Caulfield butt, then bounce from backyard to backyard like in John Cheever’s classic short story “The Swimmer.” Plus, it’s the greatest role of Matthew Broderick’s career.

Press Play: Gentlemens Agreement (1947)

Is this 1947 Best Picture Oscar winner merely a solemn lecture on the inhumanity of ethnic prejudice? No, it’s also one of the most elegant, sly and subtly sexy melodramas in Hollywood history. Gregory Peck plays a crusading journalist pretending to be Jewish in order to expose bigotry in high place. He falls in love with a tradition-bound Wasp aristocrat (Dorothy Maguire) while he is pursued by a chic urban career woman (Celeste Holm). John Garfield plays Peck’s Jewish best friend. Romantic tension only intensifies the moral issues. This is the quietest movie that the legendary Elia Kazan ever directed. Kazan and his cast knew how to underplay for maximum effect. (Peck and Maguire have a knock-down drag-out fight while whispering!) Everyone who watches this groundbreaking film comes away wanting to be glamorous and open-minded, too.

Playtime: Patton (1970)

This is the vehicle that won George C. Scott the Best Actor Oscar that he famously refused. (Goldie Hawn was the flabbergasted presenter.) The film could also be called “Irascible” which fits the character Scott portrayed: General George S. Patton commanded the U.S. Seventh Army during World War II, defying his superiors yet winning the war of weapons and wills. The unforgettable opening scene shows Patton giving a lecture to troops (to us). He is an icon of indomitable, profane American heroism and, harsh as he is, he’s funny and likable–talking tough in front of the largest America flag ever to stretch from one side of the silver screen to the other. That image—along with Scott’s gruff, macho delivery—is unforgettable. Director Franklin Schaffner scales the rest of the movie BIG. It’s to match Patton and Scott’s egos.

Watch the Intense Trailer for Will Smith’s ‘Collateral Beauty’

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The trailer for Will Smith’s new drama, Collateral Beauty, has arrived, and between the mournful piano in the background and dramatic shots of dominoes cascading along a tabletop, we’ve got serious chills.

The film follows Howard Inlet, who, after losing his child, begins writing letters to the universe, begging for answers and an escape. The world responds in the best way we can think of, by sending such divine creatures as Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley to aid in the process of his grief. The movie is directed by David Frankel and the cast rounded out by such stars as Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, and Michael Peña.

In the video, Smith twirls his deceased child around at a park, stands solemnly in an elevator, and yells at Keira Knightley. If this isn’t Oscar fodder, we don’t know what is.

Collateral Beauty comes to theaters December 16.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers Rocks as Joe Strummer in Clash Film ‘London Town’

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The little punk inside our hearts is rocking out to the first trailer for London Town. The Clash-inspired film is a coming-of-age story about a young boy who receives a tape of “White Riot” in the mail from his long lost mother. The film depicts the rise of punk against the social and political backdrop of the UK in the late ‘70s.

Daniel Huttlestone gives a charming performance as a teenage boy at the dawn of the ‘80s while Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the second coming of Joe Strummer. The film features music be Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Toots and the Maytals, Willie Williams, Stiff Little Fingers, and of course, The Clash.

London Town opens in theaters and on iTunes and VOD on October 7. Watch the trailer below:

Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a Fashion Noir Thrill Ride

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Tom Ford’s highly anticipated sophomore go at filmmaking has finally culminated in a chic noir thriller. Seven years after his beautiful film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 gay novel, A Single Man, the fashion icon returns to film as writer and director of Nocturnal Animals. This one stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal as a divorced couple discovering each other’s dark secrets.

As is standard for a critically acclaimed box office attraction, a teaser for the film’s teaser has recently been released. Although it’s just an announcement prefacing the actual teaser trailer which should be online today, it’s enough to have us hooked on the stylishly seductive world that Tom Ford has created.

Check out the first sneak peek of Nocturnal Animals below:

An Inner Child’s Guide to Roald Dahl’s Best Films for His 100th Birthday

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Growing up, Roald Dahl’s books and movies were some of our favorites. Witches and peaches and everything in between, he had a way with imagination even as an adult. From ages 1 to 100, we can appreciate the treasured classics he created.

Today would be the children’s book author’s 100th birthday. Make it a marathon and celebrate with these four classics:

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Willy Wonka 3

What child hasn’t watched this one in awe? An excursion through a factory of magic candy is the ultimate fantasy. We all wished for a golden ticket in our candy bar wrapper long before we checked the mail for our invitation to Hogwarts. And while the Tim Burton remake with Johnny Depp was a success, there’s no denying that Gene Wilder was born to play the part of Willy Wonka.

The Witches (1990)

Witches 5

This one was slightly darker. It almost scarred us for life when we realized Anjelica Huston could ever be anything other than a supermodel. Another cautionary tale of chocolate, the thought of turning into mice was almost enough to swear it off for good… almost. It also featured Jane Horrocks before Absolutely Fabulous as a witch with a heart of gold.

Matilda (1996)

Matilda 2

This was basically the prequel to Carrie but with a much happier ending. Instead of burning down a school gym, she just puts some adults in their place and makes everyone happier. She also has fun with Cheerios in one of the best scenes from our childhood. It’s safe to say that most of us walked around pretending to have developed telekinesis after seeing this one.

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Giant Peach

Another tale of neglectful adults, another Absolutely Fabulous cameo. If you ever wanted to run away as a child, this film made you want to run away in a giant peach with a ragtag gang of insects. It was the ultimate adventure with amazing animation while the world was still in awe of Toy Story.

Natasha Lyonne is So Mom in Carrie Brownstein’s Kenzo Film

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Social media has taken over most of our lives but not quite like this. Carrie Brownstein’s new short film for Kenzo, The Realest Real depicts an all too literal version of social media in which your followers actually follow you around. Better yet, your social media fantasies can actually become reality.

In the fashion short, a young woman’s Instagram comment is taken a bit too seriously when Natasha Lyonne becomes her mom. Who wouldn’t want the indie actress as their matriarch? But perhaps the fantasy of Natasha is much better.

Watch The Realest Real below:

JT LeRoy: History’s Most Offensive Drag Act

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“The transgender community wants to lynch you!” That provocative warning is blurted out on one of the many phone calls that writer Laura Albert secretly recorded while committing her infamous hoax as JT LeRoy. And no wonder. When Albert’s fraud was finally exposed (after she wrecked the credibility of several publications, book companies, a film studio—plus many gullible readers) the reaction was justifiably angry and strong—though it’s largely forgotten by now. (Editor’s Note: BlackBook was among the publications duped by Albert)

The new doc Author: The JT LeRoy Story brings back Albert’s hoax but leaves out the warning and the anger. It’s a peculiar and unacceptable attempt to rehabilitate a con-artist who exploited queer experience in order to fulfill the celebrity ambitions that began in creative writing classes and personal journals then morphed into active, visual deceptions: As Albert took on a pen name, her sister-in-law played the part in shadowy public appearances. On screen, Albert narrates her saga directly to the camera wearing punkish, sluttish leather as if auditioning to play a dominatrix.

Writer-director Jeff Feuerzeig tries hiding Albert’s dishonesty first by following her misleading guises and fanciful evasions instead of insisting on a fact-based biographical account. Feuerzeig is complicit in accepting Albert’s fantasies about adolescent identity, sexual dysfunction, gender confusion and emotional abuse. This routine has become the basis of many queer social appeals and political movements but the JT LeRoy figure was unserious about them.

Never an activist, always a fame-whore, Albert became the pet of allies in journalism and publishing who were susceptible to lurid tales about sex, transgression, and self-pity disguised as civil rights.

Posing in her writing as “a blond, blue-eyed boy that a man would love and want to fuck,” JT LeRoy made fools out of celebrities (from Dennis Cooper and Debbie Harry to Bono, Courtney Love, Billy Corgan, and numerous publishing industry mavens). Above all, she cheated anyone who wanted to believe, empathize and defend queer social casualties. This should make gay people think twice about having their struggles turned into fodder for politicians or any kind of media or “artistic” exploitation. The days of inspiration by the likes of Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg are over.

Feuerzeig joins Albert’s irresponsible enablers when his doc perpetuates confusion, at times by pretending that JT LeRoy (and other alter-egos) are real; he lets Albert read her fiction-as-autobiography in a phony Southern accent; or intercuts footage of her misadventures as if seeking to find comedy in a labyrinth of lies. He fails to investigate the subplot of sister-in-libel Savannah Knoops sexing both actor Michael Pitt and actress Asia Argento (who comply with the ruse), treating the low-life scam as if it’s a normal part of showbiz corruption or a transgender remake of Zelig—Woody Allen’s 1983 satire about a man who “wanted to assimilate like crazy.”

By indulging Albert’s sociopathic behavior, the doc makers are party to the most complicated misunderstandings of queer; indulging the most sordid, pathetic, self-serving behavior like Michael Moore, one of the defrauded celebs, collaborating with Maury Povich. I was writing at New York Press when one of the JT LeRoy career stunts became a cover story (a mash-note about actor Michael Pitt headlined “Pillow Lips” describing Albert’s entry into gay filmmaker Gus Van Sant’s clique). It’s bad enough that Albert deceived a reputable alternative press outlet, reducing it to what used to be called “the gutter press.” Anyone victimized by one of Albert’s salacious fantasies might be personally offended at how protective the doc is for allowing her continued self-justification: She alternately switches guises and perspectives throughout this screen test. It becomes a “scream test” when, as a final insult, Albert claims she has suffered body shaming and then blames her crimes on being molested by “Uncle George.”

Albert, Feuerzeig, and “JT LeRoy” contribute to the oppression that queer people suffer, reducing them to the most pathetic stereotypes. They make a mockery out of the travails of queer life yet still want to be pitied and envied as if their pretense was legitimate. More people than “the transgender community” should be enraged by this doc. It is a drag in the old-fashioned sense.

Author: The JT Leroy Story is out in theaters and available on demand now.

Elisabeth Moss & Boyd Holbrook are On the Run in ‘The Free World’

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After years of serving as Don Draper’s secretary, Elisabeth Moss is proving herself as a leading lady. The indie actress has found success in films like The One I Love and High-Rise. Her latest role is that of a housewife on the run in The Free World.

When a recently released convict (Boyd Holbrook) attempts to get his life back together, he comes across a bruised and battered woman (Moss). After learning that she may have killed her abusive husband, he risks his freedom to help her outrun the law.

The Free World premieres September 23. Watch the trailer below: