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HomeColumnsEnd of Week Production NotesEnd of Week Production Notes 8/13/21: Jeopardy! Picks New Hosts, Colin Firth...

End of Week Production Notes 8/13/21: Jeopardy! Picks New Hosts, Colin Firth Struck by COVID, and More News


It’s Friday the 13th, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s column filled with all bad news… at least, let’s hope not.

Mike RIchards on Jeopardy!

Hopefully, you’ve read Neil Turitz‘s “The Accidental Turitz” column with his thoughts on the search for a new host for Jeopardy! after the tragic death last year of Alex Trebek. Little did we know when we posted the column, that we would get word of a new host (or rather hosts) for the show literally minutes afterwards. Indeed, Executive Producer Mike Richards has taken over the duties, and will become the new host of the show. On top of that, Mayim Bialik, another one of the guest hosts from the last six months, will be hosting a number of Jeopardy! spin-offs and prime-time specials. As Neil predicted, vocal fans of LeVar Burton taking over the hosting duties full-time were not happy, although to be fair, how many of the people being vocal about their disgust actually watched the show regularly in the first place?

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Colin Firth
Colin Firth (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Oh, well. I may have spoken too soon above. Roger Friedman at Showbiz411 reports that HBO’s Atlanta production for the limited series The Staircase has been struck by COVID. In fact, it’s the series star, Colin Firth, who has tested positive for the Delta variant of COVID, despite being vaccinated. The production is shooting around the actor’s isolation and recovery with co-stars Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Dane DeHaan. It’s based on the true story of a man accused of killing his wife by pushing her down the stairs, and it’s based on the Netflix docuseries of the same name.

WarnerMedia is the latest corporation to set a COVID vaccine requirement for its US employees with offices planning to reopen after Labor Day on September 6 as originally planned. Unlike NBCUniversal, which has been hit by three separate outbreaks as cases rise in California, Warner Media’s main offices are in New York City, although CEO Jason Kilar does not have any high expectations for many to return to in-office work on that date, as he released a letter to the company’s staff,  saying that offices are available to those who “would like to use them.”

Team –

This email is a follow-up on John Stankey’s recent note to communicate two pieces of information:

Generally speaking, vaccinations will be required in order to return to a WarnerMedia office/work location. There are caveats to this of course (see below), but this is the expectation going forward for the vast majority of our team that will be working in a WarnerMedia office/location.

Many of our U.S. office locations will be open and available for fully vaccinated team member use starting September 6. Broadly speaking, there is no expectation that team members return to the office on that date. But we want you to be aware that our U.S. offices will be open and available (and regularly cleaned and serviced) for those teams and/or those individuals that are fully vaccinated and would like to use them.
I am including a note from Jim Cummings below which shares context, further details and caveats.

Many thanks and please, if you have not already, get vaccinated.


Cummings is the EVP and Chief Human Resource at Warners, and his statement began,

First, as we start to officially reopen our offices in September, we’re going to require proof of vaccination to enter a WarnerMedia office building. Clearly, this will need to reflect what’s possible based on local laws and regulations, as well as vaccine availability. Put differently, we’ll require it where we can, and when vaccines are widely available to all adults. Right now, this applies to all U.S.-based office locations and will be effective September 6. We’re reviewing legal and other issues for all locales outside the U.S. where we have major offices, so please know that we’ll follow up with all of you who aren’t in the U.S. when we have more details. And we’ll also be working with our labor partners to determine how we can address this issue for those employees who are represented by various unions. Again, more to come.

Cummings’ statement went on to more specifics, but this seems to be par for the course at the studios, although some studios and other companies have already pushed back the planned reopening of their offices until October or even to 2022. It just proves that the rise in COVID cases in California is creating continued concern.

Emily Blunt
Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise (Disney)

Clearly, Emily Blunt enjoyed working with Dwayne Johnson on Disney’s Jungle Cruise enough that she’s teaming with his production bannerSeven Bucks Productions, on a new movie for Amazon Studios about Kate Warne, the trailblazing female Pinkerton Detective Agency sleuth. Written by Gustin Nash (Youth in Revolt), the film will be produced by Seven Bucks’ Hiram Garcia and Dany Garcia, in co-production with Blunt’s Ledbury Productions and Kristina Sorensen Productions. Blunt and Sorensen are producing and Nash is an executive producer.

Searchlight Pictures announced this week that Andrew Ahn‘s rom-com feature film, Fire Island, is going into production in New York, Brooklyn, and Fire Island Pines with the full cast announced, which will include Joel Kim Booster, recent Emmy nominee Bowen Yang, and Margaret Cho.  Inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a screenplay by Booster, it centers around two best friends who set out to have a legendary week-long summer vacation with the help of cheap rosé and a cadre of eclectic friends. The movie will shoot throughout August and September with plans to stream exclusively on Disney’s DTC as a Hulu Original in the U.S. and internationally on Disney+ as a Star Original in 2022.

Producers Tony Hernandez, John Hodges, and Brooke Posch have assembled a filmmaking team that includes Production Designer Katie Hickman (Tallulah); Director of Photography Felipe Vara de Rey (Long Weekend); Costume Designer David Tabbert (Martha Marcy May Marlene); Hair Department Head Amber Jasmin Morrow (Ben is Back); Makeup Head Rashida Bolden (Zola); Editor Brian Kates (Private Life), and Casting Director Jessica Munks (Straight Up).

“I’m thrilled to be working with the immensely talented cast and crew of Fire Island, a film that celebrates chosen family with so much heart and humor,” said Ahn in a statement. “I’m eager for audiences to experience the magic of Fire Island, from dancing in your underwear with your best friends to falling in love.”

Deadline reports that Lil Rel Howery and Josh Brener (Silicon ValleyMythic Quest) will headline the new comedy, Bromates, executive produced by Snoop Dogg‘s Snoopadelic Films banner. Written and directed by Court Crandall (Old School), it revolves around two best friends who break up with their girlfriends at the same time, subsequently deciding to move in with each other. The cast also includes Taryn Manning, Marla GibbsBrendan ScannellAsif Ali, Jessica Lowe, Flula Borg, Ken Davitan, and Jamie BrewerChristopher Kemper of Palmetto Clean Technology co-wrote and financed the film, producing with Darius FilmsNicholas Tabarrok and Snoop Dog’s Snoopadelic Films.

Last Airbender
The Cast of Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender

Netflix announced the cast and creative team behind their planned live-action, Avatar: The Last Airbender series, based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series with Albert Kim (Sleepy Hollow) serving as showrunner and exec. producer along with exec. producers Dan LinLindsey LiberatoreMichael Goi, and Co-Executive Producer Roseanne Liang. The cast includes Gordon Cormier as 12-year-old Aang, “a fearless and fun-loving twelve-year-old who just happens to be the Avatar, master of all four elements and the keeper of balance and peace in the world. An airbending prodigy, Aang is a reluctant hero, struggling to deal with the burden of his duties while still holding on to his adventurous and playful nature.”

Kiawentiio will play 14-year-old Katara, “a determined and hopeful waterbender, the last in her small village. Though only fourteen, she’s already endured great personal tragedy, which has held her back from rising to her true potential, though it’s never dimmed her warm and caring spirit.”

Ian Ousley will play 16-year-old Sokka, “Katara’s sardonic and resourceful 16-year-old brother. Outwardly confident, even brash, he takes his responsibility as the leader of his tribe seriously, despite his inner doubts over his warrior skills… doubts that he masks with his wit and deadpan sense of humor.”

and Dallas Liu will play 17-year-old Zuko, “a skilled firebender and the intense and guarded Crown Prince of the Fire Nation. Currently roaming the world in exile, he’s on an obsessive quest to capture the Avatar because he believes that is the only way to reclaim his life and live up to the demands of his cruel and controlling father, the Fire Lord.”

A lot of upcoming movies are starting to get dated for the fall, while a few releases are being redated, and on the latter end is Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which has moved out of September and pushed three weeks back onto October 15. It’s a much busier month than its original placement, but there’s the question of whether Sony will release Hotel Transylvania: Transformia theatrically or sell to a streamer as they did with the recent Vivo.

Lin-Manuel Mirada‘s Netflix film, Tick, Tick… Boom!, starring Andrew Garfield, will open this year’s AFI Fest 2021 on November 10 and will then get a limited theatrical release before streaming on Netflix. Meanwhile, Tom Hanks‘s sci-fi film Finch (previously called Bios) will also be released via Apple TV+ on November 5 — Apple Studios even released the first image for the movie, which you can see below.

Finch (Apple Studios)

Earlier this week, we reported on Daniella Pineda being cast in Gerard Butler‘s The Plane, and now the cast has been filled up as it’s currently filming in Puerto Rico with Remi Adekele, Haleigh Hekking, Lilly Krug, Joey Slotnick, and Oliver Trevena joining the cast.

The Paramount+ Original Film Jerry and Marge Go Large, starring Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening, has added more cast, including Uly Schlesinger, Michael McKean (Better Call Saul), Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect), Ann Harada (Schmigadoon!) and Devyn McDowell (Annette). Others previously cast include Larry Wilmore, Rainn Wilson and Jake McDorman. The movie is based on the true story of a Michigan couple (Cranston, Bening) who help revitalize their community after winning the Massachusetts lottery. Academy Award winner David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) is directing from a script by Brad Copeland (Arrested Development) and filming is already underway in Georgia.

Keep tabs on all the projects being announced and updated by subscribing to our updated Production Listings, now available for as low as 68 cents per day.

Matt Lopez‘s Latinx family drama, Promised Land, has received a series order from ABC, the second drama to be picked up by the network for the 2021-22 season after Queens. Written and EP’ed by Lopez and directed by Michael Cuesta, the “generation-spanning” drama about two Latinx families vying for money and power in California’s Sonoma Valley*, stars John Ortiz as the Sandoval patriarch and Christina Ochoa as his eldest daughter. The series also stars Cecilia Suárez as Lettie Sandoval, Augusto Aguilera as Mateo, Mariel Molino as Camila Sandoval, Tonatiuh as Antonio Sandoval, Andres Velez as Carlos, Katya Martín as Juana and Rolando Chusan as Billy. (*Sounds a bit like a new take on Dynasty with a fully Latinx cast, no?)

On the other hand, the fairytale drama pilot, Epic, exec. produced by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, the creators of Once Upon a Time, is not going forward at ABC. ABC also passed on pilots for TriageDark Horse, and the Kevin Costner-EP’ed National Parks InvestigationEpic was written by Brigitte Hales (also from Once Upon a Time) and directed by James Griffiths, a romantic anthology starring Brittany O’GradySarah Hyland, and Eleanor Fanyinka.

Kate Burton
Kate Burton on Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

Another ABC drama that has had an enormously successful run on the network is Grey’s Anatomy, and it was announced this week that Kate Burton would be returning to the show for Season 18 as Dr. Ellis Grey, the mother of Ellen Pompeo‘s Meredith Grey.

Another semi-minor news tidbit is that Amazon Studios is moving production of its Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK for its second season, with filming to begin in 2022.

Billy Zane has been cast in Will Forte‘s 8-episode MacGruber series for Peacock, along with Joseph Lee Anderson (Young Rock) and Timothy V. Murphy (Westworld). Zane will play one of MacGruber’s mortal enemies, Brigadier Commander Enos Queeth, who“has resurfaced to carry out a heinous plot to destroy the world, and in the process, claim his revenge against MacGruber.” Anderson will play Major Harold Kernst, who is the right-hand man of Laurence Fishburne‘s character, General Fasoose, while Murphy reprises his role of henchman, Constantine Bach, from the 2010 film. Previously announced cast members include Kristen Wiig as Vicki St. Elmo and Ryan Phillippe as Dixon Piper, both returning for the series after appearing in the film.

Modern Family Co-Creator Steve Levitan‘s new Hulu comedy pilot, Reboot, was just announced last week with stars Keegan-Michael Key and Johnny Knoxville, but Calum Worthy is reported to star as a lead in said pilot. Worthy has experience as a child actor since the age of 9 on the BBC mini-series, I Was a Rat, and he previously appeared in the Hulu limited series, The Act. Worthy will play Zack, a former child actor from the family sitcom, Step Right Up, which is being reunited for a reboot despite their dysfunctions. Zack is a “hyphenate movie star/hip hop artist, who covers his insecurities with a false bravado.”

Our first trailer for the day is from RLJfilms, and it’s Japanese auteur Sion Sono‘s wacky action-comedy, Prisoners of the Ghostland, starring Nicolas Cage, who is riding high from the acclaim he received for his performance in the recent NEON release, Pig.  It costars Sofia BoutellaBill Mosley, Nick Cassavetes, and Tak Sakaguchi, and it will be released in theaters, on-demand, and digitally on Sept. 17. The plot is, “In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber is sprung from jail by a wealthy warlord, The Governor, whose adopted granddaughter has run away. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within five days if he doesn’t find the missing girl, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman — and his own path to redemption.”

I guess we’re staying relatively indie, as Vertical Entertainment released the first trailer for Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.‘s Wild Indian, starring Michael Greyes, which debuted at Sundance earlier this year, and co-stars Chaske SpencerJesse Eisenberg, and Kate Bosworth. The plot for the film released on Sept 3 is:  “Decades after covering up his classmate’s murder, Michael (Michael Greyeyes) has moved on from his reservation and fractured past. When a man who shares his violent secret seeks vengeance, Michael goes to great lengths to protect his new life with his wife (Kate Bosworth) and boss (Jesse Eisenberg) from the demons of his past.”

Everyone, have a great weekend — some of the movies out only in theaters this weekend, include the horror sequel, Don’t Breathe 2; the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson; and Ryan Reynolds‘ video game action-comedy, Free Guy.

There may or may not be an Over the Weekend on Monday, but if not, any important news will be incorporated into next week’s Hump Day News Update on Wednesday.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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