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This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

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Talk all you want about methods and prep and training versus instinct and natural talent, but ultimately acting will always remain a bit of a mystery to most of us. Billy Crudup is a good example of why.

His shape-shifting physicality alone is pretty inexplicable. In a 2002 Broadway revival of The Elephant Man, he conveyed John Merrick’s monstrous deformities without makeup or prosthetics, relying on painful contortions of his body so believably that The New York Times’ Ben Brantley found him virtually unrecognizable. In one of his earliest leads, the 1998 biopic Without Limits, his gait so closely matched that of runner Steve Prefontaine that his scenes could be seamlessly intercut with archival film of the Olympian’s races. And then there was shamefully under-seen Stage Beauty, where he played a man playing a woman considered one of 17th-century London’s most ravishing actresses, a role Salon said he understood so well in his bones the performance actually read as a woman playing a man playing a woman.

And then there’s the mystery that transcends the physical, one we suspect is deliberate. Crudup’s characters hold something back, never completely knowable. And when you think about it, what’s more believable than a human who keeps at least some part of themselves hidden? More practically, it keeps us riveted. When an actor can go from charming to menacing to smarmy and back again, virtually without changing expression, we never feel quite safe looking away. The New York Times called it “kinky chameleonism,” and Vulture took note of it in a review of Spotlight. “Billy Crudup nearly stops the show as a super-smooth, super-friendly, 100 percent phony lawyer.” (We won’t argue with the show-stopping part, but read on for the real scoop behind the performance.)

All of which makes him an excellent actor, but a hard-to-place leading man. Hollywood needs a “type” to pin such roles on. But for most of his career, Crudup’s been okay with that. His acting experience was largely in theater at the University of North Carolina and then grad school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, but within two years of earning his MFA, he was getting film roles in indies like Sleepers and Inventing the Abbotts while turning down opportunities in more commercial projects like Titanic and Hulk. He inadvertently landed in a classic when Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous became an unexpected hit, playing rising rock star Russell Hammond. He needed some guitar lessons for the role, but the unforced charisma he brought to it is beyond teachable.

The downside of becoming a golden god is that it can blind folks to even better work in your archive, such as the aforementioned Stage Beauty. And Jesus’ Son, in which he played the drug-ridden, road-tripping FH. New York Magazine was one of many voices praising his work. “The great thing about FH is that though he’s a woozy drifter, his eyes, his face are always shockingly alive. Crudup has a great physicality, and he gives FH’s gangliness a loose-limbed lyricism.“ The performance almost made one major actress refuse to work with him on a subsequent film – she didn’t want someone she was convinced had to be a drug addict on her set. In 2014’s Rudderless, another under-seen and equally acclaimed performance, his subtlety hits hard. Variety wrote, “Crudup does a lot to keep things watchable, playing with a slightly acidic wryness that suggests the character’s humor has only been heightened by his grieving hopelessness.” A.V. Club and Rolling Stone were just happy to see him strap on a guitar again for the role.

His work in myriad supporting roles (including Big Fish, Jackie, 20th Century Women) is equally remarkable. But we’d venture that even if you’ve followed his work with the same enthusiasm we have, you still haven’t seen the half of it. Few actors at his level go as frequently and consistently between screen and stage. His theater credits number almost as many as his film roles and include a Tony win (among multiple nods). He’s a noted performer of Stoppard’s work, but our favorite pull-quote comes from Ben Brantley’s review of the comedically chilling The Pillowman: “Mr. Crudup’s finely chiseled features turn out to be ideal for registering the seductiveness, defensiveness and pure vanity of an artist.”

Whether or not Crudup would agree there’s mystery to what he does, he’s never been at pains to explain it. In many interviews, he comes across as a guy who just wants to be left alone to understand his characters and tell their stories as best and believably as he can, once telling The New York Times, “The truth is I don’t think actors should have to do anything but come in and act.” For the record, he loves what he does and feels grateful to do it, but you could understand his frustration with the entertainment press and its thirst for transparency. Do we really want to see the levers and pulleys behind a great performance, or would we rather sit back and enjoy being completely hypnotized by it? We’ll next have that pleasure when he shows up in Alien: Covenant, Justice League, and – after years of being pursued by TV casting directors – the new Netflix series Gypsy, opposite Naomi Watts.

Crudup says his hard-to-pin-down quality hasn’t always worked to his advantage in mainstream Hollywood, but then again, that’s never been exactly what he’s aimed for. And if flying below fame’s radar means occasionally having to reintroduce yourself to the business, so be it; he’s joked that his 50s will really be his decade. For the sake of our continued viewing pleasure, we hope he’s serious.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

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Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Guys like Chris Shiflett make you wonder if somehow you just are a musician before you ever pick up a six string and make the decision to become one. In fact, 35 years after getting his first guitar, the Foo Fighters lead guitarist and member/founder of multiple other bands still doesn’t think of music as a career. It’s just his life.

“My earliest memories are of my brothers’ records; all we wanted to do was listen to music and play music,” he told Consequence of Sound. “We never got into sports or really gave a fuck about going to school. My memories are of rock ‘n’ roll bands. I can’t really explain why that is, or what draws me to one sound, it’s just something…a passion.” Or possibly Ace Frehley, who Shiflett aspired to be from the get-go. He got that first guitar at 11 after a failed stab at piano and was in his first band by age 14.

Early brother-sponsored influences were Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Nugent, while grade school in the 80s introduced him to Stray Cats, Hanoi Rocks and David Bowie; but as a kid growing up in Santa Barbara, the only concerts he saw were the free ones played by punk bands in the local park. They made an impression. He joined punk outfit Legion of Doom and began opening for bands that came through town. He moved to San Francisco in the late ’90s to work for an independent punk record label and heard about an opening in one of its acts, No Use For a Name. He auditioned on a Thursday and was on tour as their lead guitarist the following Monday. The grit and schlep of life on the road made no impression. In a Metal Hammer interview, he said, “You’re so busy loving it, you don’t care. You’re never sitting there going, ‘I’m paying my dues, one day I’m going to be in a platinum-selling band.’ You’re just stoked that you’re on the road playing gigs.” By that time he was also playing gigs as part of punk cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

While Shiflett may not have been thinking about platinum selling-bands in 1999, a friend told him Guns N’ Roses were auditioning guitarists and encouraged him to try out. Instead he asked if his friend could get him an audition with another rock outfit also auditioning guitarists. His tryout for the Foo Fighters was nerve wracking, but front man Dave Grohl, who liked Shiflett’s history in the underground punk scene, hired him for their There Is Nothing Left to Lose tour, and he’s been with them ever since. In its review of his first studio album with the Foos, 2004’s Grammy-winning One By One, Rolling Stone wrote, “the band’s latest lead guitarist, Chris Shiflett, has traded distortion for clarity without losing any impact. Potent guitar riffs define every song on One by One.” On each subsequent album, Shiflett’s clean, melodic playing seems a perfect balance with Grohl’s straight rhythm and Pat Smear’s heavier hand.

For a guy who loves playing and touring, you’d think he’d hit the Jackpot of Rock in an outfit that offers more than enough of both. Nah – if you’ve read this far, you know better. In 2004, he got serious about writing his own songs and started what most press called a “side project,” the California power-pop group Jackson United, which put out two albums praised for their straight-up rock sensibility and Shiflett’s knowing way with a hook. Musoscribe wrote, “Jackson United strikes a perfect balance between grit/grime/grunge and spit-and-polish. On close listening, one finds that the multiple guitar lines are always doing something interesting, not merely bashing out the basic chords. There’s enough variety to keep things interesting, enough consistency to keep things cohesive.”

Whether or not he’d appreciate the comparison, Shiflett is like a frenetically curious beagle led around by his ear instead of his snout. When he found himself playing next to the funnel cake booth at Orange County’s 2008 Hootenanny festival, his fond but dormant attraction to Americana, old country, and twangy guitar by the likes of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and Willie Nelson was sparked. Within two years, he’d formed solo act Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants, releasing two albums of country covers before once again penning his own songs, this time in an effort to inject the genre’s sometimes down-and-out vibe with a bit of Saturday night swing. Early reviews of the eponymous single off his 2017 solo record West Coast Town (produced by the legendary Dave Cobb) indicate he’s succeeded. Rolling Stone wrote, “Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett flawlessly blends blue-collar country punk with a catchy Bakersfield bounce. Borrowing the rowdy swagger of Prison Bound-era Social Distortion and the SoCal sheen of Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam, Shiflett crafts a sound that is both geographically grounded and wholly his own. ‘West Coast Town’ authentically straddles the line between vintage country cool and the boundary-blurring spirit of modern Americana.”

Call it a side project if you will, but Shiflett’s no dabbler, and in his exploration of country, he invites us along for the ride. In 2013 he launched Walking the Floor, a weekly podcast featuring deep-dive interviews with legendary and current country musicians like Red Simpson, Dwight Yoakam, John Doe, Lucinda Williams, Brad Paisley and Cody Jinks. If the occasional boxer or filmmaker slips in, it’s simply because Shifflet is interested. In writing about the podcast, Pop Matters praised his natural curiosity. “That [Shiflett] comes from what is ostensibly the other side of the musical tracks leads to a fascinating dynamic once the mics are on. He may be a rock guitar hero to countless kids around the globe, but it’s evident that he holds the same admiration and appreciation of the artists he interviews…He allows his guests to tell their stories on their terms. What happens is frequently magical and always illuminating.”

When you’re part of a rock juggernaut like Foo Fighters, maybe it’s inevitable that some of your best and most passionate endeavors get labeled a side project. But if it means getting to do the only thing you’ve ever wanted to do, we’re guessing you’ll do it in small roadside bars or giant stadiums and be pretty happy in either place. Who wouldn’t be, when you’re having such a damned good time?

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Watching Elisabeth Moss as Mad Men’s sec-turned-exec Peggy Olson (as millions did for 88 addictive episodes) and in recent projects like Top of the Lake, High Rise and Queen of Earth, you’d be forgiven for assuming she’s a capital-S Serious or capital-M Method artist. Even director Jane Campion might’ve drawn the same conclusion from Moss’ Top of Lake audition tape. “It was remarkable…I just found myself really interested in watching this gentle, quiet, obviously interior performance. At the end of about six hours, I was still really interested. She’s a little bit like a Mona Lisa. There’s a lot that she’s not showing you.”

It’s an impression Moss sometimes wishes were true, but acknowledges that capital-C Class Clown is more apt. (That was, in fact, the title unanimously bestowed by her Mad Men cast mates). So much for our illusions. As she told The Guardian in 2016, “I wish I was super-serious, anguished. I see those actors and think, God, they are so cool and seem so interesting. I don’t take acting that seriously.” But she does it seriously. Tales from several sets support her seeming ability to perform the acting equivalent of doing zero to 60 for a scene without ever appearing to bear down on the gas. “I was shocked at how quickly she metabolized the material,” Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner once marveled. “She is that kind of actress where we don’t ever intellectually delve into what is going on with her character. It’s almost like it doesn’t pass through Elisabeth’s brain. It’s completely instinctive. She works hard, but I think she also works hard to hide it. Either that, or she’s an alien.” Weiner may deal in alternative facts, but we’re going with the former, which begs the unanswerable question, what is instinct anyway?

That’s probably not something an eight-year-old thinks much about. Moss just liked playing the TV roles she started getting at that age. But she also liked dancing, studying ballet seriously while being homeschooled as she pursued both. She earned her GED at 16 and decided acting offered the more physically enduring career option. She worked steadily in supporting film and TV parts like Girl, Interrupted and Picket Fences before being cast as first daughter Zoey Bartlet on West Wing. That led to Weiner’s casting her in Mad Men, which subsequently led to six Emmy nods and fame as an unintentional feminist icon.

As Peggy Olson grew in confidence and complexity, her character’s storyline grew more compelling, rivaling Don Draper’s for our interest. If making us believe and champion Peggy’s huge personal and professional transformation is an accomplishment, an even bigger one is emerging from a seven-season national TV phenomenon without being forever identified with or pigeonholed by it. But even before the show ended, Moss told The Telegraph UK, “I think it’s up to you as an actor to make choices that are different, to stretch your ability, to not get too comfortable doing something you know you can do. Of course, if you play one character for five years, people are going to think of you as that character. But you can break out of that.”

Can, and did. If viewers weren’t quite ready to move on, Moss was. She’s since chosen a string of largely independent projects that allow her to tell stories as diverse and interesting as the women in them. You’ll find virtually enslaved housewives (High Rise) single-minded detectives (Top Of Lake) and mourning, possibly unhinged vacationers (Queen Of Earth). Harder to find is a bad review. Just one of way too many to list is The New York Times’ take on the latter. “It is Ms. Moss, with her intimate expressivity, who annihilates you from first tear to last crushing laugh.” In addition to landing an emotional punch, she has a talent for landing herself in stories that regardless of time period or milieu are strikingly relevant to current times. None more so, unfortunately, than The Handmaid’s Tail, Hulu’s excellent and much buzzed-about adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel.

On the off chance you’re not convinced of her versatility – or guts – know that when Moss decided to try the stage for the first time in 18 years of acting, she did it on Broadway, in Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, no less. And there was The Heidi Chronicles. While you could argue there’s no one better suited to play its evolving, wisecracking proto-feminist lead, taking on an iconic 1989 role and making it resonate in 2015 is a gamble. It paid off with a Tony nod and raves from noted theater critic Charles Isherwood, who called Moss “a superb actor who possesses the unusual ability to project innocence and smarts at the same time.”

High praise, but as far as Moss is concerned, Get Him to the Greek is as valid a choice as the largely improvised indie The One I Love, if it makes her a better actor. Whether that’s possible is debatable, but what’s not is this: More than ever, we need stories about heroic, flawed and completely believable women, and few actors play them better.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
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The red carpet has always been a challenging place for Colin Hanks. The blinding white fusillade of incoming camera fire induces watering eyes and vertigo, and he finds the scrum and shouting of press, publicists and onlookers a bit disorienting. He’s not ungrateful to be there; it’s just that by nature, he’s a guy who learns and practices his craft calmly, consistently and without much fanfare. Maybe that’s why he’s kind of snuck up on us in plain sight, doing work that just gets better and more interesting as he goes along.

Hanks has always seen himself as more journeyman than star. “I was just more about [doing] the lunch-pail and-thermos-kind-of-work,” he once told Deadline. Indeed, he’s punched in regularly since grade school when he started doing class plays. He continued in high school and college at Loyola Marymount University, where he decided on an acting career basically by default – it was simply more fun than anything else he was doing at the time. He left college and began auditioning.

His first break was on the 1999 WB teen sci-fi drama Roswell, a role Hollywood lore has it that he landed without producers seeing his headshot or knowing his dad was a guy named Tom. His big break came two years later with the independent feature Orange County in a role that seemed perfect – a good, straight kid whose college dreams are thrown into chaos by the loony adults around him. Even as his perplexity and alarm increases, he remains an anchor for the more frenetic (i.e. Jack Black) actors around him. It was a performance that dismissed any claims of nepotism or entitlement. Roger Ebert’s review ran, “If your father is a famous actor, you may be able to get hired as an intern or an assistant still photographer, or get an acting job in a TV series. If you’re making a feature on your own, it’s because somebody with money thought you were right for the job. In this case, somebody was right.”

Too right, maybe. It begat job offers, but Hanks wasn’t much interested in trivial teen movies, or in repeating himself. As a result, offers slowed. It helps that he seems to possess a genetic immunity to angst. Sean McGinly, who directed Hanks in 2008’s The Great Buck Howard, recalled his sangfroid in the face of the pressures of the business. “He takes it all in stride. Colin is one of the more calm and un-neurotic actors I’ve come across, and he has a lot more reasons to be neurotic than many of my friends who are tortured actors.” Hanks put his head down, worked as often as he could, while carving his own path, which included a 2009 Broadway staging of Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations with Jane Fonda. The New York Times and The Washington Post larded reviews of his performance with “winning” and “charming,” and The Observer wrote, “Mr. Hanks quietly shines onstage, with a loose-limbed lanky warmth and comic timing that holds your gaze, even among an impressive cast. He’s clearly having a ball up there, and it is infectious.” How could a lifelong theater geek not be having a ball?

As Hanks once put it, “I’m not Captain America.” Knowing he wasn’t a tent-pole kind of guy, he looked for different, more interesting projects; increasingly, they seemed to be found on television There was his turn as a conflicted priest on Mad Men, and as a (way) against type psychotic killer on Dexter. And most notably, his reluctant policeman-turned-mailman Gus Grimley on FX’s Fargo, which earned high praise from both critics and series creator Noah Hawley. “Colin was born to play this role – it really shows what he is capable of. He’s got that impossible-to-quantify likability, but he’s never been put through his paces like this.” He received an Emmy nod for his trouble, demonstrating in the process a certain still, observational quality not always on display in the comedic panic and energy he’s been praised for in his CBS series Life In Pieces, now in its third season.

But as Hanks continued to evolve as a player in fictional stories, he become more interested in telling real ones. And he’s good at it. In his first documentary, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records, he set out to tell the story of the iconic retailer with all the passion of a music lover and pride of a Sacramento native. Getting financing on the heels of the 2008 financial collapse proved fruitless, so he did it himself through Kickstarter, ultimately the perfect way to make a film for and by the people whose lives the music mecca was such a big part of. Its warm critical reception went beyond the film and music press, Fast Company noting, “Hanks explores not just the cultural impact of Tower (and the record store as a business model), but also the impact that it had on the people involved. What could be a simple documentary retreading the well-told narratives about the cultural shifts that ended days of physical media, in Hanks’s hands, is a character study of people who built and transformed a culture – at least for a little while.”

That film took seven years to make. He had seven months and a skeleton crew to make his second. Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis is a chilling but ultimately uplifting account of the group’s return to Paris after the terrorist attack at the Bataclan Theater. Again, his storytelling was astute. Billboard wrote, “Hanks takes a deliberately non-fussy approach, utilizing close-ups to capture his subjects’ emotions; he lets the story unfold with the band’s own words, using no narration.”

If he seems to do his best work by stealth, don’t discount it. It would be pretty easy to bask in the family glow or constantly play the affable good guy; instead, he does what challenges and interests him, and does it his own way. In Hank’s case, it’s proving to be the best way.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
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When a 16-year old Ron Howard was hanging out on set with Henry Fonda (as one does), Fonda gave the young actor a bit of advice: If he loved acting, he should focus on theater, but, “If you love movies, become a director.” Ron Howard loved movies.

The Oklahoma-born son of two actors, his earliest memories are of memorizing dialog from his dad’s summer stock plays as a 3-year old. Walking unaware into an MGM kids’ casting call in 1959, Howard senior mentioned he had a son who was a fine actor. They called young Ronny in, had him do a scene, and asked his dad if he could do anything else. “I really don’t know if he can.” Ron Howard entered our living rooms a year later as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show, and didn’t leave for the next 25 years when Happy Days ended in 1984. That’s when we really saw what else he could do.

He started directing in 1977 by convincing producer Roger Corman to let him helm Grand Theft Auto (Howard agreed to act in Corman’s Eat My Dust! in exchange). Next came Night Shift, and then, at a point where most directors are still paying off film school debt, he delivered Splash, Cocoon and Parenthood. They were all charming, funny, well reviewed and commercially successful; and yet we still hadn’t seen the extent of what he could do as a director.

What Howard excels at is telling stories that tell us something about ourselves; real tales of real people – albeit writ large – whose lives and worlds double as themes he wants to explore: family, teamwork, hubris and adversity, to name a few. Another particular genius is his ability to translate those worlds visually, forging a direct connection from our eyeballs to our gut or heart, as the story demands. Consider a tale that takes place largely inside the head of a brilliant but unstable mathematician. In its review of A Beautiful Mind, The New York Times called his technique “as simple as it is inspired,” adding, “Mr. Howard has found an accessible cinematic way to present this insight: Schizophrenia does not announce itself as such to those it afflicts. Mr. Howard leads us into its infernal reality without posting a sign on the door.” The film, an unexpected success, earned him an Academy Award for Best Director.

When he took us into Formula One racing with Rush, a lot of people went along reluctantly, only to be surprised at how one tight shot of a violently vibrating tire could make their heart race as fast as the motor shaking it. That shot signaled danger more effectively than any deadly crash. Variety thought so, too. “To witness this level of storytelling skill (applied to a subject only a fraction of the public inherently finds interesting) is to marvel at not only what cinema can do when image, sound and score are so artfully combined to suggest vicarious experience, but also to realize how far Howard has come since his directorial debut.”

He was able to make equally dramatic cinema from two men sitting across from each other, talking. “You expect something dry, historical and probably contrived. But you get a delicious contest of wits, brilliant acting and a surprisingly gripping narrative,” said the Washington Post about Frost/Nixon. “Howard’s cinematic treatment deftly exploits very conventional narrative techniques without one ever being quite aware of them.”

But of course the film that feels closest to his core as a filmmaker is Apollo 13. It has it all: exploration, heroism, history and the compelling factor of being true. Noting that the subject matter demanded Howard’s reverential treatment, the Los Angeles Times called it his most impressive film to date in a 1995 review. “Howard’s willingness to be straight ahead with his directing, the film’s derring-do aspects have the advantage of showing the men simply being heroic as opposed to acting like heroes.”

If some critics have made cynical dismissals of a perceived gee-whiz, all-American, hero-worshipping aesthetic, Howard makes no apologies. “I’m drawn toward celebratory stories. I feel that they are every bit as valid and useful as the darker, cautionary tales. And my favorite thing is when the celebration is not up front and in your face, but something that evolves. It’s something you can understand, that flawed characters can be a part of moments that are worthy of celebration and respect.” That’s sounding pretty good to us these days.

Howard’s work continues to follow his fascinations, from the depths (In the Heart of the Sea) to music (Made in America, The Beatles: Eight Days a week) to boxing (Cinderella Man). We explore along with him again in National Geographic’s first-ever scripted series Genius. His new anthology drama chronicles the world’s most brilliant innovators, kicking off with the famous physicist Albert Einstein. In it, and all of his work, Howard approaches his subjects with eye of a historian, a fan, a geek, and a loving adherent to detail.

So, how to summarize the life’s work of someone whose 63-year career spans two Golden Ages of Television and some of the most acclaimed and successful movies of every genre? Fortunately we don’t have to; it’s still very much in progress.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
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If you’ve watched Veep’s depressing and hilarious press secretary Mike McLintock struggle to keep his administration out of hot water, it’s easy to see why Matt Walsh received an Emmy nod for his work on the show. But if that’s where you came into the picture, you’ve witnessed only the tip of a very funny iceberg.

Walsh is so connected in the comedy world he’s become a virtual Zelig of droll, double-take film and TV appearances; but any footprints he’s left on those projects will remain dwarfed by the crater-like impression he’s made as a founder of the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade. In that regard, he’s not only marked our modern comedy world, he’s literally helped create it.

Not that he had any idea he was doing something so influential when he, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Besser founded UCB in 1993. “We had no real plan, we were just doing shows and wanted a clubhouse.” Okay, it was a converted strip club, but never mind that – it became an iconic showcase, school and launch pad for ultra-talented, under-exposed performers like Aziz Ansari, Ellie Kemper, Nick Kroll, Ed Helms, Donald Glover and Kate McKinnon. Most of them have less than six degrees of separation from UCB and Walsh, making him sort of a Kevin Bacon of sketch and improv (or Kevin Beeken, for purveyors of inside jokes).

Though he was bitten by the funny bug in a variety show at his Chicago high school, Walsh graduated college as a psychology major and worked in an adolescent psych ward after graduation. But nights spent studying improv with Del Close convinced him he wasn’t long for the day job. He began making his name (and finding his voice) at the Improv Olympic in 1989, eventually meeting fellow comics that would become the UCB Founding Four. Walsh was so committed to the cause he left a prestigious gig with Second City to continue building the struggling troupe, using money from side jobs to stay afloat.

In 1998 UCB scored a three-year show on Comedy Central. Splitsider called The UCB Show “a show for comedy nerds, people who care about whether and why a sketch works with near-academic intensity.” It opened the floodgates to a parade of TV roles – on The Daily Show, Reno 911!, Party Down, Community, Parks and Recreation, to name a very few – and in movies like Drillbit Taylor, Step Brothers, Cyrus and 2016’s Ghostbusters. He’s also a consistent figure in Todd Phillips movies, where you’ll find him playing characters named Walsh, or ‘Valsh,’ as the situation demands.

Along the way, Walsh (the real one) also managed to write and direct several of his own projects, which are notable for being almost 100 percent improvised, and bold examples of alternative comedy. As an actor and writer on Players, he transformed loosely outlined situations and characters into surprisingly watchable TV, largely due to a cast of improv pros who knew how to lift and level the jokes. In its review of the pilot for his Dog Bites Man, IGN wrote, “If subsequent episodes of the show maintain this level of quality, this is going to be one of the best comedies on television. The chemistry of the cast is amazing, the writing is sharp and witty, and the timing is perfect.” On the big screen, he’s gathered improv cohorts for cult classics like High Road and Martin & Orloff, the latter in which he is Martin Flam, an advertising costume designer who is agonizing over the death of an actor dressed as an egg roll with no eye holes, who stumbled into the river and drowned. Guilt-stricken, he attempts suicide; the movie starts with Flam’s return home from the hospital as he cleans his own dried blood from the bathroom floor. If that intro alone has you sniggering to yourself, maybe you’ll sympathize with tech issues Walsh encounters in turning his friends loose in front of a lens. When the cameras keep shaking and lights start moving around because the crew can’t stop laughing, you’re in for a long day of shooting, but he loves every minute of it. In discussing High Road with Collider, Walsh cited Christopher Guest as inspiration. “He got to make four movies with his buddies. That alone is a huge success to me.”

If Veep is only now bringing him attention he’s more than merited all along, you get the feeling he’ll use it for the same purpose he always has – championing comics. He believes they have a harder job than they’re given credit for in comparison to their dramatic counterparts. “Comedians have to be relatable, so the pedestal gets smaller.” Hopefully not too small to accommodate a guy who truly deserves one.

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Freida Pinto didn’t rise to fame as much as she instantly found herself in its spotlight. It’s a story almost more Hollywood than Hollywood – kind of like the one in the small film that started it all. Set and filmed in India, Slumdog Millionaire emerged as a surprise sleeper, grossing nearly four hundred million dollars on a budget of only $15 million. It was the most successful film of 2008, winning eight of its ten Academy Award nominations. It was also the first film Pinto ever made. She had a mere 20 minutes of screen time (and no formal acting training) to convince viewers she was a girl worth crawling across the earth for. First she had to convince director Danny Boyle, sort of. He saw hundreds of girls on videotape, but “The first time I saw her audition, I remember thinking, ‘Well, that’s her.’” It was.

The ironic part was that it took a British filmmaker and an American studio to launch the career of someone who’d grown up in Mumbai, the capital of Bollywood, which regularly outpaces its U.S. industry counterpart in production spending, ticket sales – and competition for roles. The daughter of a banker and school principal who was never going to become either, Pinto was keen to act from an early age. Seeing her country’s pride in Sushmita Sen’s 1994 Miss Universe win, she wanted to inspire her nation’s admiration as well. She went to college (English literature, psychology, economics), but Charlize Theron put her over the edge. Watching 2003’s Monster, Pinto knew she had to find such transformational opportunities for herself. She modeled to finance auditions, scoring chewing gum and phone commercials and even a travel show for India’s Zee channel – while film rejections piled up.

What audition after audition couldn’t do for her in Bollywood, Slumdog did overnight. She quickly landed roles in films by some of the businesses’ most iconic directors, including Woody Allen, Michael Winterbottom and Terrence Malick. There’s your acting school right there. What seemed to elude them was knowing exactly what to do with her. Pinto’s roles in smaller movies (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Knight of Cups) and larger blockbusters (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Blunt Force Trauma) seemed underwritten and one-dimensional.

The exceptions were small, but revelatory films. In Trishna, the India-set adaptation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, we saw what Slumdog hinted at. “The movie is dominated by the performances of the beautiful Freida Pinto…and Riz Ahmed,” ran The Guardian’s review. “Both are actors with striking presences playing people uncertain of their identities, discontented with their lots and seething with doubts about their roles in evolving India.” As the lead in Julian Schnabel’s biographical, political Miral, she won praise for her performance as an orphaned Palestinian woman who grew up in a refugee camp in Israel, but its most profound effect on her was personal, as she told Interview in 2011. “There was a lot I had to learn, because all the news channels say is, ‘Israeli soldiers’ and ‘Palestinian terrorists’ — we’ve already compartmentalized them.” In describing the film, she said, “There are people who are trying to make a difference in a very civil manner, not just by picking up a gun. I felt that if I became part of this film and I gave it my all, that’s exactly what I would be doing…I knew the film was not going to be accepted too well, but I did it hoping that somewhere in the future it would be referred to as one of those films that started the conversation.”

She’s determined to continue it, spending half her time advocating for women and children around the globe, working with organizations like We Do It Together and Because I’m A Girl, and being a producer on the devastating and controversial India’s Daughter. “It’s definitely not a career decision. It’s more of a human decision.” That said, the career decisions are holding their own. She’s recently joined Idris Elba and Babou Ceesay in Showtime’s Guerrilla as a woman whose values are tested when she liberates a political prisoner in 1970s London. She’ll also appear in Love Sonia, a tough film about the global sex trafficking trade, and in next year’s Jungle Book: Origins, which is already giving off franchise whiffs.

If the business was unable to figure out her “place,” well, lucky her. When you belong nowhere, you can go anywhere, a feat few “ethnic” actresses manage to accomplish. She’s played women of all nationalities and religions; she’s been eye candy, heroine, muse and badass, all without ever being confined to a type. Perfect, for someone who’s said she rather enjoys being an outsider. “I don’t want to be fitted in somewhere. I fit into the world. I’m a human being before anything else.”

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Not everyone is born with a complete set of parts. Some people are missing a fifth toe or a sense of smell. Jenny Slate appears to have materialized with no discernable sense of shame or filter. That’s a drawback if you’re, say, a president, but a real plus if you’re a comedian. You can follow your uncensored brain out loud without much worry wherever it takes you; in Slate’s case, that’s places both wild and mundane, each fertile ground for amusement. “If your brain is going the way that my brain goes, everything is cast in a comedic light. Everything is funny and most people are really funny.” Her humor has less to do what’s going on around her than what’s going on inside her head, which seems like a very interesting place to be.

Slate’s comedy goggles were never rose-colored, though, and that’s likely what led to her breakout film role in 2014’s Obvious Child, “a comedy about abortion.” It followed the life of a young standup comic as she grapples with an unplanned pregnancy and eventual abortion, and was widely acclaimed, with Slate’s performance especially praised. If Slate’s balanced and relatable performance surprised critics and just about everyone else who saw it, they can’t be blamed. If they knew of her prior to that film, it was from sitcom appearances, comic voice work, Late Night sketches and Saturday Night Live, where (besides a famous f-bomb) she was best known for impressions (Hota Kotb, Lady Gaga, Kristen Stewart) and characters like Tina-Tina Cheneuse, home shopping purveyor of personalized doorbells, alarm clocks and car horns.

Dig into the toy box of any really funny person, and you’ll almost always find more than characters and jokes. Piled beneath them are smarts and curiosity, and often a middle child with a need for attention. Slate and her older and younger sisters were born in Milton, Massachusetts to poet/author Ron Slate and Nancy, a ceramicist. After graduating (as valedictorian, no less) from Milton Academy, she entered Columbia University as a literature major, where she met her other (comic) half, Gabe Liedman. In 2008 they launched Big Terrific with Max Silvestri, performing standup shows in the back bar of the Williamsburg record store Sound Fix. Over its seven-year run, it emerged as the best comedy show in the city, partly due to guests like Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, and Aziz Ansari, but mostly due its founders, whose comedy Vulture called “individually and consistently hilarious.” She followed that with her one-woman UCB show, Jenny Slate: Dead Millionaire.

The farther Slate’s imaginings stray from conventional comedy platforms, the more odd and wonderful they get. In 2013 there was her web series Catherine, which Hollywood.com tried valiantly to define. “Frightfully mundane – there’s no other way to aptly describe the kooky series besides smashing two opposing adjectives together and hoping it all makes sense. Catherine goes to work, talks to co-workers, orders bread and butter sandwiches, and… that’s pretty much it. But it’s oddly fascinating. It’s an odd experiment in comedy and tone…but paired with subtle musical cues, everything begins to feel really creepy, like something is seriously wrong with these people.”

And then, of course, there’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, a stop-motion film created in her apartment with director Dean Fleischer-Camp. Slate voices the anthropomorphic seashell, who despite being outfitted with a creepy single Oobi eye and a pair of miniature shoes, is absolutely adorable. In pseudo documentary style, Slate improvises Marcel’s dialog as he discusses his activities, hobbies, hopes, and disappointments. It won AFI Film Fest’s Best Animated Short and the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, not to mention tens of millions of views on YouTube. Studio offers rolled in, complete with merchandising opportunities, which Slate is tabling until marketers agree to make plush toys no larger than Marcel actually is (he’s quite tiny – what would you expect from a chap who wears a lentil for a hat?).

Last year she and her father co-authored About the House, sharing family memories, quirks, and confessions in a singular collection of stories, essays, and poems about their (possibly haunted) family home. She kicked off this year by playing a woman figuring out her family, her marriage and herself in Landline, which Collider called “a reminder that Slate should be leading way more movies by herself.” Coming up are Polka King with Jack Black and the more somber Gifted opposite Chris Evans. And that’s just this spring.

Maybe Slate moves so fast to keep up with her frenetic talents, or perhaps to keep anyone from putting too specific a finger on them. Or maybe it’s simpler. As Marcel says, “Really, what you just have to do is take a ride.” We call shotgun.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

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After being singled out by fate (and Brian De Palma) for a small part in a big video, it looked like Courteney Cox might be forever known as the Girl Who Danced with Bruce Springsteen. But those 30 some-odd seconds were an unimagined launch pad for the 20-year-old Birmingham native who abandoned architecture to pursue modeling and acting. The breaks followed quickly, first with commercials and soap operas, then parts on TV series like Misfits of Science, Family Ties and Seinfeld. Movies opened up next. Masters of the Universe, Mr. Destiny and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective were coveted opportunities for someone starting out, even if they did make more use of her looks than her talent and didn’t raise her profile as much as that of her male co-stars.

Returning to TV seemed like a good way to maintain visibility, so ten years after being The Boss’ most famous dance partner she auditioned for the role of Rachel Green on a new series called (among many other things at first) Friends. She was cast instead as Monica Geller, and along with the rest of the cast, became a pop culture phenomenon. Friends ran for ten seasons, had 62 primetime Emmy nods and hit the biggest mass entertainment sweet spot of the 90s. Did it continue to be popular in the aughts? Well, its series finale in 2004 had 52.5 million viewers in America alone. What’s more, it somehow continues to resonate. New York magazine noted last year that, “the central pleasure of watching Friends — the feeling of being cosseted in a familiar place, free of worries, surrounded by friends — has never been quite so longed-for as it is now.”

But Friends, and Cox’ part in it, was important in other ways. As co-star Lisa Kudrow told Vanity Fair in 2012, “Courteney was the best known of all of us, and she had guest starred on Seinfeld. She said, “Listen, I just did a Seinfeld, and they all help each other.” Several seasons later, the cast would become the first to use solidarity as leverage in salary negotiations. The show also gave Cox the long-awaited chance to prove that beautiful women could also be funny.

A ten-year reputation as one of the most likeable women ever on TV is something most actors would guard with their life when looking around for their next gig. Cox chose Dirt. USA Today wrote, “It’s brave of Cox to choose such an unsympathetic character for her post-Friends TV return.” Cox just thought playing a cynical tabloid editor would be a fun change of pace – if not a sort of meta-jab at the paparazzi that had become a permanent fixture in her life by then.

Bill Lawrence, who found her to be “comedically fearless” when he cast her in a three-episode arc on Scrubs, offered her the lead in Cougar Town. Her comic chops were in full evidence on screen, but a lot of the humor (and Cox’ is on the ironic side) stems just from her choice to do the show. A real life example of the media obsession with looks, aging, and how women deal with it, Cox made herself the primetime fictional subject of it as well. As the camera pans the show’s landscape of Botoxed, bleached, low-cut-spandex-clad 40-somethings in an opening episode, Cox, as Jules Cobb, says to a friend, “I know I’m one of them, I just don’t feel like one of them.” Off screen, she was honing her talents as a director on several episodes. Cox seems to have split vision – one eye trained on the job at hand, the other on what’s next.

While continuing to act in films, she also began directing them. There was Talhotblond, based on a real-life story about an internet obsession that leads to familial disconnection and eventually murder. The Huffington Post wrote, “Cox paces the film slowly, letting the jeopardy of the situation build. There are many close calls and Cox presents them in a way that makes this movie full of nerve-breaking suspense.” And in 2014, she made the black comedy Just Before I Go. The Los Angeles Times praised her juggling of genuine emotion and raunchy humor, noting, “Cox steers this tricky ship with a deft hand and a strong sense of timing, comic and otherwise.”

She’s also directed music videos, and has two new TV series in the works, both of which she is executive producing. While Cox has always denied she’s as OCD as her famous alter ego, there is a sense of restlessness about her. She seems perpetually dissatisfied in the best, self-challenging way. No doubt she’ll be indelibly (and deservedly) remembered as Monica, but what’s most exciting is everything she’s yet to be known for.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

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After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

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Hank Azaria’s relationship to the most iconic cartoon of a generation is a question of prepositions. He is indisputably on The Simpsons (his voice work on the show has won him four Emmys); also, he is The Simpsons – or at least a good percentage of the regulars that populate their world: Moe the Bartender, Apu the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, The Sea Captain, Carl Carlson, as well as a one-man army of walk-ons like Cletus Spuckler, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera, Lou, Snake Jailbird, Superintendent Chalmers, Disco Stu, Duffman and the Wiseguy.

A gifted mimic at five, Azaria had no idea his impressions were an unusual talent. “I just loved Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Then when I got old enough to realize it was all the same guy, Mel Blanc, I lost my mind.” Memorizing comedy routines he saw and doing funny voices remained a diversion while he was growing up in Queens, NY, but became an obsession once he did a high school play. He decided on acting and studied drama at Tufts University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Apparently not an optimist, he’s said he didn’t expect to be successful as a professional actor, but determined to hang on until he was 25 just so he wouldn’t regret not trying.

His path proceeded along the standard Hollywood lines – a move to L.A., work as a catering bartender and plenty of auditions. His debut was in the 1986 ABC series Bash, a one-line part he told all his friends about, only to discover it was cut. But a little humiliation is a small price to pay for a SAG card, right? Parts in sitcoms like Family Ties and Growing Pains followed, as did Hollywood Dog, his first-ever voice role. The pilot failed, but prompted a casting director to ask him to audition for Moe. Simpsons exec producer Matt Groening kept asking him back, a rogues gallery of voices was compiled, and a stable career was born.

Live action work picked up around the same time with recurring roles on Friends and Mad About You. A small part in Pretty Woman was his first feature film; subsequent roles soon became bigger and more diverse – Quiz Show, Along Came Polly, Dodgeball, Cradle Will Rock, Night At the Museum, Godzilla – but none more memorable than Agador – Spartacus – in The Birdcage. As a dialed-to-eleven Guatemalan houseboy, he made us laugh harder than the movie’s stars, comic icons Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

Every industry has a “guy” – the one you go to when you want the reliable best in the business, and Azaria became the go-to for making any line funny just by saying it. Playwright Jenelle Riley said, “[Azaria’s] appeal can best be summed up by, of all things, his hilarious cameo in the goofy comedy Dodgeball. As Patches O’Houlihan, he delivers a pitch-perfect performance in an instructional video in which he chain-smokes, encourages a child to pick on those weaker than him, and steals the film from a cast of comedic greats. It’s a wonderful, odd moment that could have failed miserably in the hands of a lesser actor, and he manages to pull it off with only seconds of dialogue…Pound for pound, Hank Azaria is the best actor working today.” Azaria humbly passes most of it off to “dumb celebrity impressions,” but that’s dismissing the work of a master mixologist. Patches O’Houlihan? “Essentially a bad Clark Gable impression, but I tried to add some young Rip Torn in it.” Moe? Al Pacino, with some gravel thrown in. Agador? Puerto Rican street queens, tempered with his grandmother. Apu? Peter Sellers in The Party. We’ll end the list there so as not to ruin a potentially amusing Azaria-watching parlor game for you.

Those indelible characters can make it easy to overlook Azaria’s fine dramatic work in series like Huff and Ray Donovan, and his touching AOL series Fatherhood. Variety called his Emmy-winning performance as Mitch Albom in Tuesdays with Morrie “the most layered and sensitive work of his career.” As it often happens, genius work in one arena overshadows equal work in another. As they say, it’s a blessing and a curse. In his new IFC dark comedy Brockmire, Azaria is a famed major league baseball announcer who suffers an embarrassing public meltdown live on the air and decides to reclaim his career in a small rust belt town calling games for a minor league team called the Morristown Frackers. So mostly, a blessing.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

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Maggie Siff was born and raised in the Bronx by a Jewish father and an Irish mother, but always felt more “culturally Jewish.” If that sometimes resulted in typecasting, she didn’t mind. In fact, when she was called to read for the part of Peggy Olson on Mad Men, she asked to read for department store heiress Rachel Menken Katz instead. She saw such women as intelligent, strong, direct – and still sensual. Smart choice. The role brought her to L.A., and changed her life and career.

After a year on Mad Men, she landed her first major TV role on Sons of Anarchy, another show that started off with a cult fan base (albeit of a slightly different ilk) and subsequently ballooned in popularity. She described her character, Tara Knowles-Teller, as “a bridge for the audience. She represents the person with the more normative job situation and a morality that people relate to more.” But as a doctor who tries – and dramatically fails – to extricate herself from the motorcycle club world of her husband, she also became half of a rivalry that divided viewers so strongly that Siff had to stop reading fan boards for a while. Though critics agreed she was one of the best actors on the show, her character was killed off in season six (hey, you’re lucky to last six seasons in television these days).

Around the same time, film work started coming along in smaller features like Michael Clayton, Push, Concussion and a brief but philosophical turn as Rabbi Zimmerman in the acclaimed Leaves of Grass. Recently the roles have gotten more complicated and meaningful, perhaps none more so than Anna Baskin, an exhausted, workaholic 40-something actress who abruptly flees a successful but intolerably boring TV role, returning to her past life in New York to reinvent herself in the indie A Woman, A Part. The Hollywood Reporter praised her handling of the tricky role, which intrigued Siff with its parallels to her own life and some issues she understood as an actor in L.A. “There is just an ocean of roles and scripts that you’re sort of reading through that are really trite and redundant. There are a lot of tropes for women you encounter over and over again, depending on your type,” she told IndieWire. When you read something that’s actually got depth and warmth and feels real, it almost feels like a shock to the system.”

By nature or will, Siff has held onto some principles that the business can loosen one’s grip on. She stays open to opportunities that surprise and mystify her; she’s her own devil’s advocate, analyzing her choices to make sure she’s taking parts for the right reasons. And, she looks for roles that allow her to bore into who she is versus how she looks. In a Huffington Post interview, she said, “I don’t want to just play a role that is subjugated to a small corner of a romantic nook of a world…I’m just looking for interesting, complicated, unusual roles.”

She’s hit the interesting-complicated-unusual trifecta with Showtime’s Billions. How else to describe Wendy Rhoades, a psychiatrist and motivational coach for hedge fund power players by day, and wife to a U.S. Attorney General by night. She’s a woman who enjoys not only dealing with huge egos, but more often than not, holding all the cards. Siff has said she likes playing the characters that can swim with the sharks, male or female. Watching Siff navigate those waters, it also appears she’s having some fun with the dialog which The Guardian called “so fast and so smart, it makes the characters in The West Wing sound monosyllabic.”

Not surprisingly, she’s eager to do more independent film and get her hands into other areas of the process. Sounds like another smart choice. As great as she is in Billions, we have a feeling that the projects that truly match her capabilities as an artist are still in front of her. So as they say in therapy, let’s explore that.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

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For a comedian of notoriously low-key style, Jerrod Carmichael knows how to make an entrance. His debut HBO comedy special, Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store, also happened to be his first-ever stand-up TV performance, and the first for which The Comedy Store’s legendary Original Room permitted cameras inside. Oh yeah, and it was directed by Spike Lee, and the DP was Matthew Libatique, who shot Black Swan and Iron Man. Carmichael was 26. His delivery is casual – he’s known to bring notebooks on stage and abandon lines mid-act if he decides they don’t work – but his jokes have all the languor of a heat-seeking missile. Some of them rattled even Lee, who suggested he not do his Trayvon Martin riff in the film – advice Carmichael politely declined to heed.

So how does a 20 year-old who never did standup before moving to L.A. from North Carolina command that kind of attention, not to mention his own network TV show a few years later? Out of context, it seems incredible. With some backstory, you might’ve seen it coming. Despite coming from a neighborhood that could be tough (two of his friends were murdered, some sold drugs) and low on access to cutting-edge entertainment, Carmichael was an autodidact, with parents who fostered debates about entertainment, religion and politics. The boys he hung out with did funny shows for girls in the neighborhood, and in school, he learned what it felt like to hold (if not win) a room. He also learned that his largely minority, under-funded school system wasn’t going to get him where he needed to be. In his mind, that was L.A., opening for guys like Louis C.K. Once he decided standup was an option, he figured that’s where he should be.

And that’s where he ended up, working small standup clubs and showcases. He got his big break playing Garf in Neighbors; when you nimbly steal scenes from Seth Rogen and Zac Efron in your first feature movie, people notice. For all the auditions that opened up for him, he walked out of quite a few. Carmichael seems artistically incapable of taking any roles that don’t feel right just to get his name out there.

It’s getting out there anyway, even if it doesn’t always go down easy. Chappelle Show creator Neal Brennan said, ‘‘at its best, Jerrod’s standup shows America/humanity at its worst — capitalist, cutthroat, cynical, narcissistic.’’ If his disarming, cheerful delivery adds to our discombobulation, it also powers the laughs – most of the time.

In a major 2016 profile, The New York Times Magazine wrote, “At work here is a fundamental reconsideration of a joke teller’s function: With Carmichael, the goal is not only to orchestrate a series of raucous eruptions — signaling, as they do, a simpatico mind meld with the audience — but to generate rifts of displeasure, confusion and anger too.” If his tendency to punch down induces some queasiness in his audience or provokes critics to label him a race-traitor, his intent is to rattle us out of our assumed worldview.

Following that line of thought, consider his new NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show, in which no topic is off limits for his fictional opinionated family, including Carmichael’s old-school father, Joe (David Alan Grier), his devoutly religious mother, Cynthia (Loretta Devine) and his progressive live-in girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West). Through each, Carmichael raises a skeptical eyebrow without ever telling us which view to take. And this is important. It’s a standard-format, prime time sitcom…for adults. We’re invited to a conversation instead of being cudgeled with one joke after another. Maybe that’s why the great Norman Lear himself is a fan. ‘‘Jerrod helps America look at itself in the mirror. He sees the foolishness of the human condition — he understands that there is humor to be found in the darkest of places.’’

As for Carmichael, “I think there’s a responsibility as an artist to try and push in the direction you think comedy should go. The biggest thing I could do for the art that I love is keeping it art: keeping it special, keeping it honest, keeping it truthful.” Whether we like it or not.

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