Zac Efron falls ill while filming reality show Killing Zac Efron

US actor hit by suspected typhoid while filming survival TV series in Papua New Guinea

The American actor Zac Efron has confirmed he recently fell ill while filming a survival reality TV show in Papua New Guinea.

Australian media had reported that Efron, 32, was flown by helicopter for treatment in Australia after contracting a bacterial infection, possibly typhoid, while shooting the Killing Zac Efron series.

In a post on Monday on his official Twitter account, accompanied by a photograph of him in Papua New Guinea, Efron said he was back home for the holidays with my friends and family.

Very thankful to everyone who has reached out, his post said. I did get sick in Papua New Guinea but I bounced back quick and finished an amazing 3 weeks in PNG

Glenn McKay, a doctor with the Medical Rescue Group, told the Daily Telegraph on Sunday he could not discuss confidential patient information, but could confirm that Medical Rescue retrieved a US citizen in his 30s from PNG to Brisbane recently for medical attention.

The newspaper reported that doctors allowed Efron to fly home to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.

Typhoid fever is transmitted by contaminated food and water, and kills 216,000 to 600,000 people worldwide each year.

Killing Zac Efron is billed as an adventure series in which the star ventures deep into the jungles of a remote, dangerous island to carve his own name in expedition history.

The series was commissioned by the short content platform Quibi, which is scheduled to launch in April.

Efron had previously posted images on social media showing him in a canoe on PNGs Sepik River and travelling to Yanchan Village to see a traditional skin-cutting ceremony.

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Sesame Street takes on opioids crisis as muppet’s mother battles addiction

Creators introduce bright-green Karli: Nothing else out there addresses substance abuse for young kids from their perspective

Sesame Street is taking a new step to help American kids navigate the thornier parts of life in America: the opioids crisis.

Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmos whose mother is battling addiction.

Sesame Street creators said they turned to the issue of addiction since data shows 5.7m children under the age of 11 live in households with a parent with substance use disorder. Americas opioid crisis has grown steadily worse in recent years. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 10.3 million people misused opioid prescriptions last year, and an average of 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses.

Theres nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective, said Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop. Its also a chance to model to adults a way to explain what theyre going through to kids and to offer simple strategies to cope.

Jaana,
Jaana, standing left, and Sam Woodbury, from Irvine, California, and their daughters Salia, 10, seated right, and Kya, 6, with Karli and the puppeteer Haley Jenkins in New York. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

Even a parent at their most vulnerable at the worst of their struggle can take one thing away when they watch it with their kids, then that serves the purpose, Einhorn said.

The initiative is part of Sesame Street in Communities resources, which offer online child activities and assistance to parents.

This summer in Manhattan, puppeteers, producers and show creators crammed into a small studio in the not-for-profit organizations Manhattan headquarters to tape some of the upcoming segments on addiction.

Karli, voiced and manipulated by the puppeteer Haley Jenkins, was joined by a young girl whose parents are in recovery.

Hi, its me, Karli. Im here with my friend Salia. Both of our parents have had the same problem addiction, Karli told the camera.

My mom and dad told me that addiction is a sickness, said 10-year-old Salia Woodbury.

Yeah, a sickness that makes people feel like they have to take drugs or drink alcohol to feel OK. My mom was having a hard time with addiction and I felt like my family was the only one going through it. But now Ive met so many other kids like us. It makes me feel like were not alone, the puppet continued.

Right, were not alone, Salia responded. And its OK to open up to people about our feelings.

In the segment, Karli and Salia each hold up hand-drawn pictures of flowers, with multiple petals representing big feelings like anger, sadness and happiness. They offer ways to feel better, including art and breathing exercises.

The segment leans on carefully considered language. Creators prefer addiction to substance abuse and recovery to sobriety because those terms are clearer to children. Despite the subject, the mood was light in the room, largely thanks to Jenkins calm and empathic manner.

I know it feels awkward because people dont normally have conversations standing shoulder-to-shoulder, she told Salia between takes. This is weird, but trust me, it looks good.

Production
Production members clap for Salia Woodbury, left, on the set with Karli and Jenkins. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

Karli had already been introduced as a puppet in foster care earlier this year but viewers now will understand why her mother had to go away for a while.

The introduction of her backstory follows other attempts by entertainment companies to explore the issues of addiction, including The Connors on ABC and Euphoria on HBO. Substance and prescription abuse has claimed the lives of prominent entertainment figures recently as well, including the rappers Mac Miller and Lil Peep.

The online-only segments with Karli and Salia are augmented with ones that feature Elmos dad, Louie, explaining that addiction is a sickness, and Karli telling Elmo and Chris about her moms special adult meetings and her own kids ones.

The childrens therapist Jerry Moe, the national director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Childrens Program, helped craft the segments and resources, saying he was grateful to help since there has been a paucity of resources for the preschool age-group.

These boys and girls are the first to get hurt and, unfortunately, the last to get help, he said. For them to see Karli and learn that its not their fault and this stuff is hard to talk about and its OK to have these feelings, thats important. And that theres hope.

Sesame Street has a long history of masterfully tackling sensitive issues. The show broached the subject of death in 1982, after one of its stars, Mr Hooper, passed away. The show has also touched on racism and adoption and introduced a muppet on the autistic spectrum during its 50-year run.

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Buffing up Bond: when it’s time to send for the script doctor

As Phoebe Waller-Bridge puts a spring in Bond 25s step, we salute the craft of Hollywoods rewrite maestros, from Carrie Fisher to Quentin Tarantino

Script doctors are the well-remunerated but mostly unsung heroes of the film world, usually brought in to pep up lacklustre dialogue, help nail that difficult third act and generally give the movie an extra touch of class. Recruited from the ranks of established/hot writers, the gig can be seen as a lucrative payday, with little opprobrium attached if the picture is a flop and high praise if it is seen as having benefited from their input.

In the words of rewrite king Tom Mankiewicz (The Spy Who Loved Me, The Deep, The Eagle has Landed, Goonies, Gremlins etc): Its one of the few times when the writer has a certain control over a film, because youre coming in when the people on the film are at their most insecure, after all, if youre there, theyve had to admit that they needed someone there to help them out … Youre coming in like Jack Palance in Shane. Youre the hired gun. Everyone is waiting for a revelation. Youre supposed to bring better parts for the actors, better scenes for the director. And sometimes, everyone likes it, not because its necessarily better, but just because its different.

Bond
Bond fixtures writers Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

In the case of Bond 25, the addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the scriptwriters room should be accounted a blessing, especially if the pedestrian team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade remain on board. The duo have been a fixture of Bond movies since 1999s The World Is Not Enough, usually with a co-writer such as Paul Haggis to brush up the dialogue and plotting. Left to their own devices they almost managed to sink the franchise with the uninspiring CGI-fest that was Die Another Day (2002).

But to be fair, writing Bond scripts, although a nice earner, didnt really bring out the best of either Roald Dahl (You Only Live Twice, 1967) or Flashman writer George MacDonald Fraser (Octopussy, 1983).

Other writers have managed to stamp some of their personality on the mainstream fare on which they were asked to sprinkle their particular brands of fairy dust. Quentin Tarantino punched up a couple of scenes in Tony Scotts submarine actioner Crimson Tide (1995) with Silver Surfer and Star Trek pop culture references, although to some viewers they appeared somewhat jarring in context.

Warp
Warp factor Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide, with added Star Trek dialogue by Quentin Tarantino. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Hunter (Denzel Washington): Star Trek! The USS Enterprise? All right, now you remember when the Klingons were gonna blow up the Enterprise and Captain Kirk calls down to Scotty, he says: Scotty, I gotta have more power-

Vossler (Lillo Brancato Jr): He needs more, more warp speed, yeah.

Hunter: Warp speed, exactly. Now Im Captain Kirk, youre Scotty, I need more power. Im telling you if you do not get this radio up, a billion people are gonna die; now its all up to you, I know its a shitty deal but you got it, can you handle it?

Stellan
Black humour Stellan Skarsgrd, Jean Reno, Robert De Niro and Natascha McElhone in Ronin. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features

Under the pseudonym Richard Weisz, playwright David Mamets major contributions to 1998s Ronin elevated the movie with some trademark jet black humour. An example:

Spence (Sean Bean): You ever kill anybody?
Sam (Robert De Niro): Hurt somebodys feelings once.

And:

Sam: So, howd you get started in this business?
Deirdre (Natascha McElhone): A wealthy scoundrel seduced and betrayed me.
Sam: Same with me. How about that?

And:

Spence: You worried about saving your own skin?
Sam: Yeah, I am. It covers my body.

Nice
Nice work Carrie Fisher. Photograph: Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The late Carrie Fisher was said to be the most sought-after script doctor in Hollywood, chalking up an extensive list of well-paid rewrite gigs, including Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), Lethal Weapon III (1992) and The Wedding Singer (1998). Hardly arthouse classics, but again, nice work if you can get it.

Some writers have found the role of script doctor a way of filling in time when they suffer from writers block or cant get their own projects off the ground. Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The Social Network) said: I did it because I was just going through a period where I was having a very difficult time coming up with my own ideas. I was climbing the walls. So I did what is called the production polish, where you are brought into the last two weeks on something that you are not emotionally invested in. Basically, they just wanted some snappy dialogue for Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage [in 1996s The Rock].

Snappy
Snappy dialogue Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When talking to Mark Lawson in 2010, the playwright Tom Stoppard was upfront in his motivations for indulging in his furtive-sounding once-a-year script polishes: The second reason for doing it is that you get to work with people you admire. The first reason, of course, is that its overpaid.

But others have found the role of script doctor dispiriting, despite the financial rewards, with Joss Whedon (Serenity, The Avengers) commenting: I refer to myself as the worlds highest-paid stenographer. This is a situation Ive been in a bunch of times.

The saddest case may possibly that of the scriptwriting legend Robert Towne (The Last Detail, Chinatown, Shampoo) whose post-70s career mainly consists of script polishes (sometimes uncredited) and the first two Mission: Impossible movies.

So, Phoebe what price Hollywood?

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Now Apocalypse: Gregg Araki lands on TV with a queer, sex-positive comedy

The director of Mysterious Skin and Nowhere has crafted a new series filled with millennials dealing with online dating, social media and sex

At the end of the first episode of Gregg Arakis new television show, the raunchy, drug and snark-infested LA jamboree Now Apocalypse, the protagonist Ulysses, played with perpetual weed-induced bemusement by Avan Jogia, turns around to expose the trendy neon text on the back of his denim jacket. I have seen the future, it says, a riff of sorts on the famous jean jacket worn at a 1988 Aids demonstration by the artist David Wojnarowicz, who died from complications related to the disease just weeks before the release of Arakis seminal, brazenly queer Aids-era road movie, The Living End. With that film in which Thelma and Louise are replaced by a pair of handsome, rabble-rousing HIV-positive men and the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy that followed, Araki himself appears to have seen the future, or perhaps even engineered it.

A part of the New Queer Cinema movement that included directors like Todd Haynes, Isaac Julien, and Gus Van Sant, Arakis worlds are populated by the young, hot, sexually fluid and existentially worrisome. They are nihilistic, rudderless men and women who anxiously invoke thoughts of suicide or nuclear catastrophe and are slaves to their whims, be they casual sex, acid trips or violence, especially toward what one character in the new series calls the miserable capitalist patriarchy. Gritty, colorful, and militant, Arakis low-budget work in the 90s operated in but still outside of that decades indie boom; the director deployed his guerrilla film-making tactics and genuine iconoclasm in service of a decidedly queer, zany and sexed-up vision of life on the post-Reagan, post-Aids fringes.

If The Living End and Nowhere, the cinematic mescaline cocktail that closes Arakis Teen Apocalypse Trilogy, emerged from the spirit of political rebellion and postmodernist norm-busting that defined queer culture and the new queer cinema of the 80s and 90s, Now Apocalypse is a similarly audacious but somewhat more mainstream distillation of Arakis favorite themes.

Its characters are millennials, not Gen-Xers, and as such they came of age in the time of the internet, global capitalism, political conspiracy, legal weed and general overexposure. Free love is less potentially fatal, and the inherent art and subterfuge of text messaging is a given. Instagram has made art and photography obsolete, one says; another describes Tinder as dicks flying at me 24/7. In the spirit of Arakis cheeky absurdism, some of them have downright Dickensian names: the aforementioned Ulysses, plus Barnabas, Severin and Jethro, each of whom traffic in comic hyperbole.

The show, all 10 episodes of which were written and directed by Araki and co-written on spec by the Vogue sex-advice columnist Karley Sciortino, follows a group of friends not unlike those of the directors past work, specifically Nowhere and 2010s Kaboom, of which Now Apocalypse plays like a fleshed-out, episodic counterpart. Both of those films featured protagonists like Ulysses: young, horny, bisexual drifters beset by paranoid navel-gazing. Ulie, like James Duvals character in Nowhere, has apocalyptic visions of some sort of reptilian alien, almost always seen mid-coitus. Smith, of Kaboom, has similar premonitions, but of kidnappers wearing animal masks.

Surrounding Ulysses is a typically Arakian band of millennial misfits. One standout is Kelli Berglunds Carly, an acid-tongued aspiring actor who pays the rent by webcamming with sad old men, and whose collection of dildos and ball-gags is compared to a nuclear weapons stockpile. Ford (Beau Mirchoff), Ulyssess roommate, is a more generously rendered version of the straight beefcake Chris Zylka played in Kaboom; hes a naf, too earnest for this cynical world, who cant ejaculate without saying I love you and breaks down in Circle Jerk, a sexuality support group for straight dudes. His partner Severin, played by Roxane Mesquida (who played a lesbian witch in Kaboom), is an unfeeling astrobiologist whose cryptic work may be surfacing in Ulyssess increasingly bizarro alien dreams.

Avan
Avan Jogia and Kelli Berglund. Photograph: Katrina Marcinowski

Alongside them all are the familiar inhabitants of Arakis vibrant southern California wastelands: the sleazy gay film producer; the ridiculous, BDSM-fearing alpha male; the Antifa activist with plans to blow up a Bank of America; and the flaky dating-app prospect (Tyler Posey), with whom Ulysses shares a literally cosmic orgasm in an alleyway.

As immediately recognizable as the ideas in Now Apocalypse will be to any Araki fan and indeed the director has recycled his favorite tropes for three decades, the heedful bisexual protagonist and the swole, simple-minded straight roomie among them television gives them room to breathe. His films, which typically run 80-something minutes, can feel like fever dreams, paroxysms of color, sex and general punkery that require more development.

On television, however, and with the assistance of Starz, a network thats embraced a certain strain of hypersexual melodrama, Arakis irreverent vision feels somewhat mainstream, even a little sanitized. The California of Now Apocalypse is cleaner and less grungy than Nowhere or The Living End, and more like that of its fellow sex-positive, prestige television counterparts Insecure and Looking. Of course, were it not for a trailblazer like Araki, the diverse, quirky, and considerably more permissive TV firmament into which Now Apocalypse is entering might not exist. Perhaps he did see the future.

  • Now Apocalypse starts in the US on Starz on 10 March with a UK date to be announced

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The Keepers: ‘I’ve dealt with survivors and they’re sickened by the church’s response’

Ryan Whites Netflix documentary set out to investigate the murder of a nun in Baltimore and unearthed 25 years of child abuse and collusion

On the day The Keepers was released on Netflix, the archdiocese of Baltimore tweeted that although it did not deny allegations of child abuse against Father Joseph Maskell, a priest who worked in the city for decades, the premise and conclusion of Ryan Whites documentary series were wrong. The account @archbalt included, bizarrely, a clipart picture of a checklist, and a hashtag, #TheKeepersUntold. It has continued to use this hashtag, along with another, #TheKeepersTruth, since the series came out.

Its easy to see why this astonishingly powerful seven-parter has led to what White, over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, calls a church in defensive attack mode. The Keepers initially begins as a Making a Murderer or The Jinx-style true-crime whodunnit, promising an investigation into the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a Baltimore nun and teacher. But it quickly reveals itself to be much bigger, and more far-reaching, than that, exposing decades of child abuse within institutions across Baltimore, from the church to the police force, and distressingly, the extent to which they colluded in silencing the victims and covering up such horrific crimes. As youve seen now, on paper especially, its a pretty unbelievable story. Its captivating, for sure, White says.

Watch the trailer for The Keepers.

Whites previous work includes Serena and The Case Against 8. He came to the story through a personal connection: both his aunt and mother went to Archbishop Keough high school, where Maskell and Cesnik taught and where much of the abuse documented in the film was alleged to have taken place. Whites aunt was a student of Cesniks and he says that there had always been local interest in the Sister Cathy story. In particular, he and his family had been intrigued by the identity of Jane Doe, an anonymous former Keogh student whose allegations of abuse against Maskell resulted in a 1994 court case, in which she sued Maskell and the archdiocese of Baltimore for covering up the abuse. Doe claimed that Cesnik had discovered what was going on in the school, and that Maskell had taken her to Cesniks dead body as a warning against speaking out. The case was dismissed.

People like my aunt and my mom had always wondered, White explains. In 2014, Tom Nugent, an investigative journalist who appears in the series, published a blog in which Jane Doe revealed her identity. She was Jean Wehner, a classmate of Whites aunt. Thats when they found out their friend was Jane Doe. His mother said Wehner had a story to tell and, curiosity piqued, White flew from Los Angeles to Baltimore and spent five hours at her house. On the way back, my producer and I both agreed right away that if she wanted to do something, we wanted to be her partners in it. I felt like she was a person who was incredibly honest and raw, and once Im drawn to a person like that, thats when I know its the starting point of a documentary.

Jean
Not-so-silent witness … Jean Wehner, AKA Jane Doe. Photograph: Netflix

During the course of the series, we hear that Wehner only began to remember the abuse that had taken place many years later, and this notion of repressed memory memories that have been blocked out by trauma, only to later re-emerge was given as the reason for the 1994 lawsuit being dismissed. White acknowledges that it was initially a foreign concept to him. I wondered if you could really witness and experience something that gruesome, and not know you had lived it. Im not a psychologist, so I cant get into the science, but I will say that now Ive made The Keepers, I cannot tell you how many people in my life have come forward with the same stories.

Wehner, he says, is a prime example of that. She was the first person ever to come forward publicly with an allegation against Father Maskell and shes been corroborated by dozens, if not hundreds. People can prove that it happened to them, and they are telling us that there were certain parts of their lives where they werent aware of it.

White spent three years making The Keepers, and it took over his life. He assumed naively, he says now that once the series was out there, that would be an end to it. I guess I kind of fooled myself into thinking the day it was released was the day Id be able to look up and see the world again, he laughs, wryly. Instead, it got more personal when it came out, and it got even more nauseating. I was unprepared for the type of personal reaction that people would have to it. His email inbox regularly fills with people asking him to investigate their own stories of abuse, or asking him to put them in touch with Wehner. Eventually, the production team sought professional help from NGOs and non-profit organisations specialising in working with survivors. I know that I cant be that for all of these strangers out there in the world, he says, so its about getting them the resources they need as soon as possible.

Baltimore
The accused … Baltimore priest Joseph Maskell. Photograph: Netflix

The Keepers is harrowing, documenting awful violence and abuse. I recently heard someone describe it as brilliant, and follow that immediately with dont watch it. White was well aware of its potential impact. We knew we had found something very sad, but also very powerful, that could lead to a lot of change, he says. The sheer scope of the story The Keepers ends up telling a cover-up of child abuse on a mass scale within the Catholic church; a new Spotlight, of sorts became frightening to him.

Ill say it, I was afraid, says White. I was afraid many times during filming. I was probably afraid through the entire filming. You always had the sense that we were rooting around in something people didnt want us rooting around in. It was definitely the most uncomfortable Ive been in my film-making career.

White says, though, that its important to realise the experience was not all doom and gloom. Jean is probably one of the most fun people Ive ever met in my life, he says. She and I can drink wine all day long. Indeed, one of the series most memorable scenes is also one of its few instances of humour. When Wehner is told that the church had known about earlier abuse allegations against Father Maskell, she half-laughs, and finally yells: Those fuckers!

The
Question time … the Keepers director Ryan White with survivor Jean Wehner. Photograph: Noam Galai/Getty

Its an incredible moment of catharsis. It was one of the few moments where anger overcame Jean, and she was willing to show it, says White. She and I keep laughing so hard, because that clip has gone viral. I was like: Jean, who would have thought you dropping the F-bomb would be all over the internet? Because shes a grandma, you know? Thats not Jean. Thats whats been done to her. Thats what all of this horrible trauma has caused.

Although the initial premise of The Keepers appears to be Who killed Sister Cathy?, its really Wehners story, and it ends when it does, with no solid conclusions, says White, because Wehner felt as if she had said all she could say at this time. We dont have that neat, The Jinx-style ending [in which the suspected murderer is caught on-mic apparently confessing to his crimes] where somebody confesses they killed Sister Cathy, but it felt like Jeans journey was wrapping up, so we said: Lets release this to the world, and see how the world reacts, even though there arent neat endings to the true-crime part.

The world has certainly reacted. One consequence of true-crime dramas such as Serial and Making a Murderer is that they tend to turn their army of viewers and listeners into amateur sleuths. Is it ethical to place real crimes in the hands of an audience? White has not had time to really fall into the Reddit rabbit hole yet, he says, and understands that its a tricky area. The way I really justify it is that The Keepers is a story about women being silenced, right? he says. All of the women Ive worked with, all of the survivors that I became so close with, over the last three years, are proud of the product. They feel its finally giving them a voice. Those are the people who matter the most. If there are other people being held to a flame in some way because of their failures, thats what accountability is.

He sounds truly astonished that it has taken this long. Maskell died a free man under the care of the archdiocese [in 2001]. If people have to finally answer the tough questions, or the institutions in power have the public questioning them at this point, then Im learning to be comfortable with the fact that thats what should have happened long ago.

The response of the archdiocese of Baltimore has been surprising, to say the least. People in churches and schools in Baltimore started sending us literature that the archdiocese was sending out, on how to tell people what we got wrong. The documentary wasnt even out. I just found it incredibly disappointing. The @archbalt account retweeted a message that called the series fiction, a spokesperson subsequently admitting that this was bad judgment. Theyre trying to re-message. Theyve lost. Its too late now, says White. All I know is that Ive dealt with between 35 and 40 survivors and theyve all been sickened at the archdioceses responses. Ive spent way too much time on phone calls with people I worked with in tears, because this institution continues to torture them, and I dont understand why.

What makes this all the more disappointing for White is that he was raised in the church and his own experience was positive. I wasnt a practising Catholic, I had wandered away from the church in my 20s but still had fondness for it. And now? I wont be a part of that church again. My faith has been shattered. Does he think the cover-up goes all the way to the top? The only responses weve seen to our documentary are from the archdiocese of Baltimore. What is the Vatican response? I dont know how high it goes, I wont even speculate on that, but I would like to hear from the Catholic church that reigns over the archdiocese of Baltimore, why they havent made a response to it. Incidentally, shortly after I spoke with White, the popes chief financial adviser, Cardinal George Pell, announced that he would take a leave of absence following multiple accusations of historical sex crimes.

Sister
The victim … Sister Cathy Cesnik with her father, Joseph. Photograph: Netflix

As for the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, White says he has his own theory about who did it, and believes Maskell was certainly involved. Since the documentary came out, Maskells body has been exhumed to allow DNA testing on evidence found at the murder scene. There was no match. White says nobody really believed they would find evidence of Maskells presence at the murder scene, but it does show that the police are taking it seriously, and spending time and money on trying to crack the case. So, are we any closer to knowing who killed Sister Cathy?

What The Keepers has done is blown the lid off of Baltimore, really shaken the branches of information, and I think people are seeing things, remembering things that they didnt even know played a role in this, says White. So, I think we are closer. Whether that means we ever solve it and someone goes to jail, I cant guarantee that. But the amount of information and progress weve seen just in the weeks since it came out, says to me that this cold case can still be solved.

The Keepers is available now on Netflix

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Janeane Garofalo is a tiny thing, but the air around her crackles

I think about all Garofalos combined experience on screen and stage, and smile at how lucky I am to have seen her in the flesh

One of my favourite romantic comedies was released all the way back in 1996, and while it rarely makes it on to the best-of lists, trust me, The Truth About Cats & Dogs isup there with the greatest. Its avery loose play on Cyrano De Bergerac, except in this version aman falls in love with the face andbody of one woman and the voice of another. That other woman is Janeane Garofalo.

As ateen and even now Iconnected instinctively and intensely with hercharacter: acharming, funny, insecure feministradio host. Ihave followed Garofalos career ever since, but herlower profile in recent years means I havent dedicated much brain space to her.

Last week, I went to see her in theBroadway revival of Scott McPhersons family drama-comedy Marvins Room. My findings are asfollows: Janeane Garofalo on stage is just as potent as she is on screen. Her character, Lee, is one oflifes strivers: a bit broken and brittle, a little tart, but possessed ofan iron will to have survived thusfar.

I dont go to the theatre as often asI would like 15 months of living in New York has seen only four visits but every time I am stunned by the intimacy of it. Garofalos a tiny thing, still, but the air around her crackles.

Afterwards, I spent hours looking up YouTube clips. Shes done so much! (Please watch The Truth About Cats & Dogs and Romy And Micheles High School Reunion immediately.) I thought about all Garofalos combined experience on screen and stage, and smiled at how lucky I am to have seen her in the flesh. It was a smug smile, yes.

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It was a gnarly ride: Australian Eamon Farren on his surprise Twin Peaks role

Jump on a plane and come to this forest, David Lynch said. Farren had no idea his character would become one of Lynchs most terrifying creations

As one of the most memorable new cast members in one of the most acclaimed television series of the year, Australian actor Eamon Farren has good reason to sound as excited as he does down the line from Los Angeles.

Last week, critic Matt Zoller Seitz claimed Twin Peaks: The Return which is only eight episodes into its 18-part season as the best TV series of 2017, even if the ten remaining episodes of this show consisted of a black screen with a timecode at the bottom. And no new character in the show has generated as much discussion as Farrens Richard Horne, who quickly became one of the most powerful embodiments of evil in the shows history. Its certainly a long way from his last on-screen outing, as a French lounge singer in Australian indie film Girl Asleep.

In December 2015 I was doing a play at the Sydney Theatre Company with Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh called The Present, Farren says. Id just finished a matinee show, I went outside, and there was a message on my phone from my agent saying that David [Lynch, director] had got in touch, and if I wanted to do it there was a role in the new Twin Peaks for me. And I was like, Uhhh I think yes, we will do that!

Farren never asked why he was cast in the series, he says. But I did a film with [Lynchs] daughter Jennifer called Chained, and I assume that he saw that.

As fans of the show know, Lynch is reticent to provide easy answers. Later, I had a quick chat with David, and he said, Do you have any questions? and I said, I have a million questions. First of all, can you tell me who Im playing? He said, No buddy. Just jump on a plane and come to this forest and make a cool thing with some cool people.

With secrecy surrounding the project from the very beginning, Farren was unable to share this news with anyone else for 18 months, until Lynch released the 217-long cast list.

Farren had little conversation about his character with Lynch or the shows co-writer Mark Frost and to this day has no idea which episodes he will be appearing in until they air. Richard Horne was written as a throwback to 50s noir, with no discussions about backstory or motivation. The tight timeframe meant Farrens research was limited to binge-watching the first two seasons before arriving on set.

It was a pretty gnarly ride, he laughs. But I wouldnt have it any other way. I closed the show on a Saturday night and arrived in Seattle on the next Sunday and we started shooting. I went into it really super-fresh and that was the perfect way to do it.

Its no exaggeration to say Farrens character, Richard Horne, has been blessed with one of the most chilling introductions in TV history. Within hours of his first scene being aired, his transition from ice-cool rebel to menacing sexual predator and later to an out-of-his-depth drug dealer was being likened to another of Lynchs most terrifying creations: Dennis Hoppers iconic Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.

In my first episode there was some pretty horrific stuff, says Farren. In the second ep, yeah he gets thrown into a whole different context. I think thats the beauty of what Lynch does with character: he really lets you have a bit of carrot, and then he subverts the whole thing. Thats why his characters endure because they pivot, theyre surprising, theyre like humans. Thats whats fun to play about those people.

Eamon
To prepare, Farren binge-watched the first two seasons of Twin Peaks. I went into it really super-fresh, and that was the perfect way to do it. Photograph: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

David creates a really great culture on set, Farren says. Everyone really wants to be there, and there is this sense of shared ownership. The difference between David and a lot of other artistic people is that hes completely attuned to his vision, and because hes so committed he can welcome everyone into the making process. As an actor, to walk in there and feel that kind of trust from him, but also have the trust in him that he knows absolutely where everything is going, thats a really cool experience.

Farren is unable to share what little he knows about the future of the series, and is reluctant to offer theories about his character or the show. I wouldnt touch that with a ten-foot pole. I just sit down on Sunday night and I wonder if Ill be in this episode thats just the selfish actor, he says, laughing.

But then I start watching it and I get absorbed by this crazy, beautiful artistic piece of art. I love it. I like the fact that David crafts something, gives you little slices and then says, You have to experience this, but also engage with it as opposed to letting it wash over you.

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