‘Glee’ Actress Jessalyn Gilsig Makes History With ‘Vikings’ & ‘Somewhere Slow’

“If I was a Viking, I would never survive. I’d be dead by nine years old,” says Jessalyn Gilsig, the actress who plays the quietly powerful Siggy in the History Channel’s first-ever scripted series, Vikings, opposite Gabriel Byrne. So perhaps it’s best that the viciously primitive, seafaring lifestyle of the Viking world is confined to the TV screen – a place Gilsig has found herself consistently, in roles on hit shows like Glee, Boston Public, and Nip/Tuck.

While her characters have ranged from unpredictable and fiery, to still and insightful, the Montreal native has discovered one common thread that unites them all: love. "They’re women who are really driven – for better or worse – by love and the difficulty of making the best decisions.” Siggy, who’s the Earl’s (Byrne’s) insightful and observant wife, acts as moral compass and motivator to her reigning husband.

But this year, with the debut of Somewhere Slow – an indie film hitting festivals nationwide this spring – Gilsig leaps into unprecedented roles in front of and behind the camera, with her premiere as both the star and a producer. The film follows Anna Thompson, an unhappy skin care sales rep who gets mixed up in a convenience store robbery and makes the split-second decision to walk out of her life and start anew. The film, written and directed by Jeremy O’Keefe, also stars Robert Forster (The Descendants) and David Costabile (Breaking Bad).  

“I never thought I’d get to play Anna,” she says. “I thought she should be played by a bigger star. But when they cast me, I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, then I need to take the risk with you and come on as a producer.’ And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

And the hardest too. Gilsig quickly learned the tremendous work behind not just screenplay development, but also film production – finding a composer, casting, mixing – which actors on set and in a trailer are rarely exposed to.

“I never knew how the room got dressed before with chairs and tables, how actors were scheduled to get there,” she says. “I learned never to ask for a bottle of water again.”

Gilsig’s newfound love of production has trickled into her writing as well. During her breaks on set, she works on several different scripts at a time, and also makes time for one of her greatest passions: painting. On her personal tumblr, you can find artwork inspired by Vikings, her daily musings, and various female body types. In fact, though she wasn’t in the film, Gilsig created all of the paintings by Patricia Clarkson’s artistic character in the 2003 movie The Station Agent.

“Conventionally, it’s considered a joke to want to be an actor,” she says. “So I’ve always been a little bit embarrassed about painting. But I’m realizing you can be creative in whatever material of the moment.”

With such temporal thinking, perhaps Gilsig relates a bit more to her Somewhere Slow character – who lives the fantasy of stepping out of her life and reinventing herself – than first perceived…

“Sometimes I imagine myself pouring coffee at truck stops across the country, living another life,” she says. “And I still like that idea.”

Check out Somewhere Slow and Jessalyn’s sketches. Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Photo: Udo Spreitzenbarth.

Ryan Murphy Brings ‘Provocative’ Series to HBO

Ryan Murphy, who is currently represented on television with three scripted shows (American Horror Story, Glee, and The New Normal), is added an HBO series to his roster. Open, which is described as "a modern, provocative exploration of human sexuality and relationships," has gotten a pilot order from the network. Collaborating with Dexter co-executive producer Lauren Gussis. This will be his second project with the cable network, as his adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is also being produced by HBO

Deadline gives some details about the show:

Open revolves around five lead characters, including a married couple of thirtysomethings, the husband’s male co-worker and a woman in her 40s who is a yoga professional. Murphy said he had been bouncing ideas about a show exploring human relationships when Dante Di Loreto of his company, Ryan Murphy Prods, heard about Gussis working on a similar project and put them together. “She was great fresh voice and energy,” Murphy said about combining his efforts with Gussis. The two worked on the script in December, marking the first time Murphy had written a project on spec instead of selling a pitch. As for the spec landing at HBO: “I’m thrilled about it,” Murphy said, noting his great relationship with Lombardo through Normal Heart and calling HBO a perfect home for Open. “They have great projects, and this is really an adult show that is very frank in its depiction of sex.” But that depiction never feels gratuitous, 20th TV chairman Newman adds. “It is a very honest exploration of relationships and intimacy, and the sex feels organic to the subject matter,” he said.

"That depiction never feels gratuitious." Considering Murphy is responsible for a serial killer who targets plastic surgeons on Nip/Tuck, a ghost rapist on American Horror Story, and all of that Autotuning on Glee, I’m already giving this project a side-eye. But hey, at least HBO’s relaxed standards means there will be more naked people. Silver lining!

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The Lesson Learned From Jonathan Coulton and ‘Glee’

Perhaps you’re a fan of young adults, roughly between the ages of 16 and 32, banding together and singing popular songs in the style of whatever you’d call it when you put Broadway cast albums through Autotune and added subpar Dr. Luke production. Or maybe you like it when middle-aged dudes take their music to the internet because no one was remotely interested in giving them a record deal until they proved that their brand of safe, acoustic, joke rock could thrive after a cover of a rap song brought them attention. Either way, you have terrible taste, no matter which side of the Jonathan Coulton vs. Glee war you are on. The rest of us will be listening to the actual "Baby Got Back" like normal people.

[Get all the background you need over at Splitsider. They keep it pretty short.]

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‘Glee’ Star Mark Salling Comments on Sexual Battery Charges on SAG Red Carpet

Last night I was watching E!’s coverage of the SAG Awards red carpet because, what, like I’m better than that? While I was paying attention to both the TV and my real friends who were in the room and, honestly, giving much more accurate fashion commentary than Giuliana Rancic, I caught about half of the interaction between E! correspondent Ross Mathews and Glee actor Mark Salling, who awkwardly began talking about Salling’s name popping up on gossip websites. Not being in the loop (I try my best to ignore everyone associated with Glee, apparently somewhat successfully!), I learned that they were discussing the sexual assault charges brought against him by his ex-girlfriend. 

The red carpet at the SAG Awards is totally the most appopriate place to talk about your legal troubles. Why would you rather want to mention your TV show or even which song on Taylor Swift’s last album is your favorite? Yes, the fact that your ex is currently suing you is definitely better red carpet small talk. 

"You hear about fraudulent lawsuits all the time," Salling said. "Until it happens to you, you really don’t grasp what it does, not to just you, but to your family, and you want the legal process to happen as fast as possible, but just…It takes time. I just want the chance to defend myself—and I will, vigorously." 

"It’s the first time for me," he added, when Mathews asked what it’s like to all of a sudden be called upon to defend himself in that manner. "You kind of have to learn as you go, but like with anything else, you have to stay positive and count on the people that actually do know you and love you, and that you love, as well."

And that’s the perfect way to go into an award show. "How’d you get your SAG card?" "Oh, I asked a celebrity about his alleged sexual misbehavior. On camera!!!"

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Mark Salling From ‘Glee’ Accused Of Sexual Battery, Sex Without A Condom

Here’s more than you want to know about the penis of someone who is on Glee: actor Mark Salling, who plays Puck, is being sued for sexual battery for forcing ex-girlfriend Roxanne Gorzela to have sex without a condom.

As per TMZ, Gorzela claims in March 2011 she consented to have sex with Salling, 30, but requested to use a condom. She claims Salling pushed himself into her vagina anyway; she protested and he pulled out, but then he allegedly pushed himself in again. 

After the incident, Gorzela called and texted Salling, asking if he had any STDs. He reportedly ignored her. So on March 25, Gorzela showed up at his house to ask him and he allegedly shoved her to the ground, causing her to hit her head. She filed a police report at the time and TMZ posted a photo of bruises on her legs that presumably were taken after the incident.

On Friday, Gorzela filed a sexual battery and assault lawsuit against Salling, accusing him of "intentional affliction of emotional distress and negligence." His publicist has fired back by impugning the accuser’s character, saying "It’s the textbook case of a disgruntled girl looking to cash in on a TV star’s success." Klassy.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

NPR Claims It’s All Sunshine and Roses Now That There Are Gay Men on TV

Any article that starts with, "The pop culture gay flavor of the minute? White gay dads," will likely have me digging my fingernails into my palms by the time I scroll down to the bottom of the page. Ta da! Congrats, NPR, because you managed to incite my first internet-based rage of 2013!

In an article accompanying a story that ran this morning on the air, NPR writer Neda Ulaby discovers that our television sets are blowin’ up with friendly, proud, and out gay men who are showing the world how it can get better, or something. Yes, on Modern Family and The New Normal, there are white dudes who have sex with each other (but not onscreen, because ewwwww) and procreating with the help of, I dunno, white women and Asian adoption agencies. Breaking news, gang!

It’s a mini-boomlet, says real-life white gay dad and sociology professor Joshua Gamson. Not too long ago, he says, pop culture once mainly defined gay men as promiscuous and deviant, rather than monogamous and devoted to their families.

"It does seem like a strong counterstereotype of how gay men have been portrayed over the past, whatever, 50 years," he said.

A boomlet! Cute! The article also mentions, obviously, Will & Grace, whose creator, Max Mutchnik, also created the similarly gay-themed (and immediately cancelled) Partners. And, obviously, there’s the king of Gay TV, Ryan Murphy, who is responsible for Glee (gay teenagers!), The New Normal (gays who love NeNe Leakes!), and American Horror Story (murdered lesbians! a male ghost in a pleather body suit who rapes and kills a gay couple!). Sure, there’s also Max on Happy Endings, the lovably sarcastic and dumpy gay guy, but even his romantic prospects are hardly ever the focus of an episode (I say that regretfully, because I do love that show).

To give some balance to this piece, After Ellen‘s Trish Bendix gives some solid points about the representation of queer women on television: 

"Well, actually, there have been a lot of women of color, which has been great," said Trish Bendix, who runs a website called After Ellen that tracks lesbian representation on television. She rattled off at least a half-dozen shows with nonwhite queer female characters: White CollarThe Good WifeUnderemployedPretty Little LiarsGrey’s AnatomyGlee.

But too often, says Bendix, these are small roles played by exoticized, slinky femmes. "Like, ‘the other’ is always going to be the other," she observed ruefully. "So we’ll just pile all that otherness on the one person."

It’s true, though. After we’re done compiling lists of all the gay men on TV, can we narrow down which ones are not white? Because, let’s be honest, the modern definition of "gay" seems to be "white man who lives in the city and shops with all of his disposable income." And on top of that, do any of those men have personalities that don’t fit into a masculine-feminine binary? Because, you see, all gay men are either super queeny or straight acting, if The New Normal is to be believed. Or, perhaps even worse, any gay man who does not seem to be floating on Cloud Nine is, in turn, doomed, or perhaps evil, as one can see from any queer character on American Horror Story or Thomas from Downton Abbey, who is brought up at the end of the NPR article as a "character [who] once might have been seen as a homophobic stereotype [but now] blends into an ever-expanding universe." (Lemme know if that universe ever expands to include some queers who aren’t trying to screw over everyone they encounter.)

The point is this: we’ve come a long way in terms of the way gay men are represented on television. But we’ve only made it half way. Should we have congratulated the people behind Soap for creating the first regular gay character on a sitcom, or do you think we’re allowed to acknowledge the borderline homophobic humor surrounding the man’s (played by a straight guy, naturally) decision to "become straight" by pursuing a sex-change? Looking back on it, that was kind of screwed up, huh?

Hopefully in another twenty years or so we’ll have progressed to a place where we’re not just patting ourselves on the back for putting gay men on TV and saying, "Good work, everyone! Now, to collect the checks!" Because there’s a larger world of queer people out there who are still not represented, and its clear that there’s little to no interest in those who don’t fit into the whitewashed gay world that’s being packaged for middle America, just slightly and cheekily enough not to rock any boats. 

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GLAAD Study: Representation Of LGBT Characters On TV Is Best Its Ever Been

Finally! Some good news! The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s annual study of LGBT characters on primetime TV is out. Gay, lesbian, bi and trans characters have been the most visible they’ve ever been.

Where We Are On TV studied characters on scripted shows on the upcoming 2012-2013 season for both network (ABC, NBC, CBS, The CW, and FOX) and mainstream cable. The numbers may not sound like much, seeing as LGBT folks represent a meager 4.4% of scripted series regulars on broadcast TV. But they are indeed the highest number ever recorded by GLAAD:  2011 saw 2.9%, 2010 saw 3.9%, 2009 saw 3%, 2008 saw 2.6%, and 2007 saw 1.1%. Put another way, compared with 2007, LGBT characters saw a 400% increase on the broadcast networks — but it’s still an unacceptably small percentage of all characters overall.  As for mainstream cable, the networks studied reached a new high of 61 LGBT characters total.

ABC and Showtime came out on top as the channels from their respective categories with the best respresentation. But FOX — yes, really, FOX — had the most inclusive show on broadcast TV because it airs Glee. Over at HBO, True Blood was the most inclusive show in mainstream cable. 

You can read the full, data-filled study in a PDF over at GLAAD’s web site, which is packed to the gills with information about ethnic/racial presentation, gender identity, LGBT people of color, and people with disabilities amongst the characters studied as well. It’s more data than your brain might want to process, but the tl;dr? Things are getting better.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr.

Non-Comprehensive Or Even Remotely Accurate Predictions For This Season of ‘Glee’

Everyone’s favorite erotic Tumblr slash-fic inspiration—er, show about show choir—returns to FOX tonight. After a season full of after-school-special moments about the dangers of texting while driving; a weird, offensive episode about the importance of not being racist; a character’s suicide attempt being reduced to a subplot and a pair of sweet, redemptive moments in the form of an Adele mash-up and an actually nuanced and well-done and maybe sort of realistic? episode about losing your virginity and West Side StorySeason Four will begin with a lot of unanswered questions and two different timelines, one in Ohio and one in New York.

We know so far that Rachel (Lea Michele) is trying to make it in the big city at Apparently The Only Musical Theatre School in the Country, NYADA, where she has trouble adjusting and clashes with her dance instructor, played by Special Guest Star Kate Hudson. We know that Puck’s little brother is joining the Glee Club, Kurt becomes a Vogue intern under the direction of Sarah Jessica Parker, Sue has a kid now because of reasons and what, Puck’s little brother is joining the New Directions and Ryan Murphy’s new Super Best Friend NeNe Leakes is coming back. Here are my probably inaccurate and definitely not comprehensive predictions of other things that will happen this season. 

  • At least one Fame reference in the first episode.
  • Kate Hudson will be surprisingly fun to watch and bring back that nice, refreshing dose of pure evil that made the show so fun to watch in its early days.
  • Sue Sylvester refers to Tina Cohen-Chang as “Gangnam Style” in the first episode, because offensive is Sue’s shtick, or something and this would be offensive AND topical! 
  • Kurt and Blaine break up because long distance/that smarmy Sebastian guy. Kurt takes the news particularly hard, and in the midst of an alcohol-fueled spiral, sings The Smiths’ “There Is A Light (That Never Goes Out).” 
  • Following said breakup, Rachel, Kurt and recurring plot snag Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff) start a romantic relationship. (YOU’RE WELCOME, TUMBLR.)
  • Kristin Chenoweth comes back and destroys Mr. Schue’s engagement to Emma. Sadly, she fails, and there’s a terrible after-school special sequence about it.
  • Rachel moves to Brooklyn; pals around with Surprise Guest Star Zosia Mamet. Word "hipster" thrown about way too casually. 
  • Following week is a Very Special Episode about the dangers of cocaine. 
  • Sue Sylvester gets embroiled in a scandal when the weird, unnecessary kid with the gossip blog catches her putting her new infant child atop the pyramid.
  • Ryan Murphy completely abandons the show to immerse himself in his new gift-wrapped turd The New Normal and wins all the GLAAD awards.
  • Darren Criss performs a highly inappropriate but somewhat tolerable routine to Prince’s “Darling Nikki” at some point and everyone is still shocked that you can say “masturbating” in primetime.
  • The show finally, finally stops trying to make us care about anything happening in the life of Finn Hudson and ships him off to Afghanistan.
  • A spinoff launches starring Rachel’s dads and it is infinitely better than The New Normal if only by virtue of national treasure Jeff Goldblum.
  • I get frustrated with everything five minutes into the first episode, switch to whiskey and put the likely equally disappointing Bears-Packers game on instead. FOOTBALL. 

‘Glee’ to Make “Call Me Maybe” Even More Insufferable

Trekkies. Star Wars fans. Cookie Monster. Barack Obama. Swimmers. Guys in drag. CorgisRandom tweens. Nobody can get enough of Carly Rae Jepsen’s "Call Me Maybe," and we, as a nation of idiiots, can’t get enough of people who can’t get enough of it. And now, of course, Glee is set to add their own overly autotuned version into the mix, as is their way. (Yes, I’m referring to Glee as a group of people. A group of terrible, terrible people.)

As Entertainment Weekly reports, the upcoming season premiere will feature the poppy pop hit. The episode will be called "The New Rachel," and I assume that it’ll be about the robot doppelganger of Lea Michelle coming to murder the rest of the cast except for Jane Lynch, who in this scenario I will allow to be left unscathed and dignified as long as we never make mention of Ryan Murphy’s exercise in ruining musical theater ever again.