“Away,” an original Netflix series that premieres on Sept. 4, stars Hilary Swank as an American astronaut who must leave her husband and teen daughter to command an international space crew embarking upon a treacherous, three year-long mission. There are six more characters in the credits, and I presume they are crew members. Two are Jewish: Josh Charles, 48 and Mark Ivanir, 51.
Charles, the co-star of hit TV drama “The Good Wife,” is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. He’s described himself as Jewish. In 2013, he wed Sophie Flack, now 38. Flack, whose mother is Jewish, is a retired New York City ballet member and a novelist. The couple has two children. Ivanir’s family left the Ukraine and settled in Israel when he was four. He’s worked steadily in mostly smallish film parts since 1988.
“Coastal Elites” is a new HBO film that premieres on Sept. 12. It is a satirical comedy about people in New York and Los Angeles who are coping with politics and the pandemic. The film was made “very carefully,” respecting all the COVID-19 protocols.
The screenplay is by Paul Rudnick, 67, a very funny and distinguished writer. The director, Jay Roach, 63 (“Austin Powers” movies and “The Fockers” films, as well as “Bombshell”) converted to Judaism shortly before he wed Susanna Hoffs, now 61, the lead singer of the popular band the Bangles, in 1986. The couple has two children.
The five Coastal co-stars include Bette Midler, 74, and Dan Levy, 36, the son of Eugene Levy, 73. Dan is now up for three 2020 Emmys: as the co-creator of “Schitt’s Creek”—a best TV comedy series nominee; for writing the show; and for best supporting actor, comedy.
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, 55, co-star in the fourth “Bill and Ted” movie (“Bill & Ted Face the Music”). It will be released via video-on-demand on Aug. 28 and centers on the pair who have 78-minutes to create a song that will save all life in the universe. By the way, Winter lived in St. Louis from 1970-78. His (Jewish) mother taught dance at Washington University.
It looks like Maya Rudolph, 48, will appear at least a couple of times on “Saturday Night Live” when the series resumes sometime this fall (no date set yet). Rudolph played Kamala Harris in three “SNL” debate skits last season. (She was recently nominated for a guest appearance Emmy for these skits). Last week, she told The Hollywood Reporter that “SNL” creator/producer Lorne Michaels, 75, all but said she’d be back: “He sent me a GIF of myself, as Kamala, in sunglasses, sipping a cocktail and saying, ‘Oh no.’”
Rudolph added that she doesn’t think that of her herself as an impressionist, but she has long noticed that when she quotes anyone, it somehow just comes out in their voice. She attributes this to being a good listener.
After the first skit, Harris sent out this tweet: “That girl being played by Maya Rudolph on SNL? That girl was me.” Rudolph told The Reporter: “It [the tweet] was really clever and great and, so I wrote her back. But I haven’t had the chance to meet her. I would love to.”
Rudolph is the secular daughter of African-American singer Minnie Riperton, who died when Rudolph was 7, and Dick Rudolph, now 74, a songwriter/producer. Her parents are best known for co-writing Riperton’s biggest hit: “Lovin You” (1975).
I have no doubt that Sean Penn, 60, will win the humanitarian award at a future Oscars ceremony. Almost quietly, he’s emerged as a master organizer of disaster relief. It began in 2005, with help for Hurricane Katrina victims. Then, in 2010, he founded and oversaw an organization (“CORE”) that did tremendous work to help Haitian earthquake victims. In 2012, CORE and Penn did the same for Pakistanis, following an earthquake there. Last March, CORE began free COVID-19 testing in California. Testing sites have expanded exponentially across the country (including Native American reservations). CORE works with local organizations and its reputation is so high that major foundations are now funding it. (I have to add that Penn, the secular son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, used connections in 2013 to facilitate the escape of a Jewish businessman being held in a Bolivian jail on dubious charges. Penn then took him to his Los Angeles home and helped nurse him to health).