In Carol’s Second Act, premiering Thursday, Sept, 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton returns to CBS — home to her hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond — now playing a 50-year-old divorced mother and retired teacher who pursues her lifelong dream of being a doctor. But when Heaton was facing her own medical challenge, she looked to a Higher Power.
Asked about her own hospital experience at the recent TV Critics Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, Heaton recalled:
When I had my first child, it was ‑‑ I tried to do the whole “we’re going to do natural birth,” but I’m Irish Catholic, and we really believe in better living through chemistry. So I got that epidural right away, but I couldn’t get the baby out.
He was almost 10 pounds, so we had a C‑section, and they had to strap me down, and my arms were strapped down, and they cut me open, and they pulled Sam out, and everyone rushed to the end of the room, including my husband, to ooh and ahh over the baby, and I was still strapped down. The morphine was wearing off, and my jaw was starting to shake from the morphine wearing off.
And it was at a Catholic hospital, and I looked up, and there’s Jesus on the wall behind me with his arms out. I was like, “At least you know what I’m feeling right now!” So that was the older, wiser person that I saw at the hospital.
Heaton, a Catholic, is outspoken on Twitter and elsewhere about her faith and her pro-life views. While she describes herself as “judicious” about what she says, she has no plans to stop.
At the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I stood up for the voiceless and for the poor and the hungry.”
(L to R) Terrence Malick, Christian Bale/Wikimedia Commons
According to various reports, filmmaker Terrence Malick is working, at least in part in Italy, on a movie about the life of Christ … but no one knows quite what it will be.
Malick (IMDB page here) is known for an eclectic string of films, including the crime drama Badlands (1973); romantic drama Days of Heaven (1978); epic war film The Thin Red Line (1998); the experimental epic family drama The Tree of Life (2011), a deeply philosophical film that attracted praise from many Christians for its Biblical themes (and confusion from other quarters); the love story To the Wonder (2013); and 2015’s Knight of Cups, an experimental drama about a depressed screenwriter’s sojourn through Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The Tree of Lifeblends an impressionistic portrait of a Catholic family living in a suburb of Waco, Texas, in the 1950s (and glimpsed in later decades) with a majestic procession of images from distant galaxies to microscopic organisms, exploding volcanoes to wounded dinosaurs. There are also surreal images and flashes of magical realism. Some critics have felt that Malick would have done better to omit the IMAX eye candy and focus on the human story; others have argued that it’s the cosmic grandeur that works and the banal human story that bogs it down.
Most recently, Malick released A Hidden Life, a biopic of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer, husband and father, who was executed for refusing to fight on behalf of the Nazis during World War II. The Church beatified him in 2007.
Now, according to reports, Malick is tackling Christ. From Aleteia:
“What does Christ want from us?”
According to Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick posed this question to his fellow director in a letter after seeing Silence, the former’s long-awaited film about Jesuit missionaries in Japan.
The filmmaker has reportedly been shooting a new film titled The Last Planet, which “narrates various passages in the life of Christ, with the representation of evangelical parables.” One Italian website captured on-set images of “a man with a donkey” approaching “a sort of face in the sand” in the coastal town of Lazio, and quoted one person on set as saying that “the film is about humanity, starting from the Big Bang to the Apocalypse.” There are not a lot of other details available at this point, except that Malick has apparently been shooting around Rome as well as Iceland (a shooting location for The Tree of Life and Voyage of Time), and that actors Ben Kingsley and Björn Thors have been spotted on set.
FTP’s producer-at-large, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 graduate of USC’s film school, is a Malick fan and was very exited to hear the news. So, I threw a few questions his way about the enigmatic filmmaker, an Illinois native who attended an Episcopal boarding school, then Harvard, Oxford and the American Film Institute Conservancy.
What’s your personal history with the films of Terrence Malick?
KUNA: I saw my first Terrence Malick film, the WWII film The Thin Red Line (TRRL), while attending the University of Notre Dame. It was a life-changing experience, to say the least. I began thinking in more philosophical terms towards the end of college, as theology interested me more and more. One would think ND’s top-flight philosophy and theology departments would have activated that desire, but for me it was film.
According to reports, Malick is filming a life of Christ. What do you hope it might be?
KUNA: Given his propensity to explore creation, whether through Job’s tour of the cosmos in Tree of Life, or in the documentary Voyage of Time, my best guess is that he takes up Jesus Christ as the Alpha and Omega. We see Christ working His redemption through the beginning of the universe until its apocalyptic end.
Some mainstream filmmakers use Christian themes and imagery, even Bible stories, without being believers themselves. Where do you think Malick fits in this spectrum?
KUNA: If memory serves me, Malick comes from a Syrian Christian background. He is a believer, although I can’t attest to how much he practices. One of his actors Jim Caviezel (Pvt. Witt in TTRL) once said if St. Pope John Paul II had practiced filmmaking instead of writing philosophy while serving as pope, he would have been a director like Terrence Malick.
What could filmmakers striving to put a Christian message into their films learn from Malick?
KUNA: As impressionistic as his films come off as, each one, like a soundly crafted homily centers around one underlying dramatic question. So, there’s always some subtext a filmmaker, whether Christian or not, will layer on. Make the subtext about one thing, and then write your story around it.
What are your top five Malick films, and why?
KUNA: The Thin Red Line (TTRL) and Tree of Life rank as my top two Terrence Malick films. TTRL because it played such a big part in my journey to priesthood and religious life. Tree of Life wins out, however, because of its depiction of domestic life. I’ve never been near war nor do I ever want to experience it, so TTRL remains somewhat inaccessible in a good way.
To the Wonder sits at #3. It best represents my answer to an earlier question. The dramatic question at the center of the film is conveyed in a literal whisper as the Olga Kurylenko character, through voiceover, mentions her previous marriage in France was declared valid after she sought the annulment process. This means her current relationship with Ben Affleck’s character is irregular.
That the two try to personally affirm the relationship through a justice of peace (and later, a Protestant service) doesn’t quash the objective sacramental reality of her previous marriage. She gradually realizes this and ends the relationship. And as a viewer, I felt good about the breakup.
#4 is Knight of Cups because it’s the most impressionistic and non-linear of all of his films. Truly a work of art. Days of Heaven rounds out my top five. My dad and I watched that twenty years ago and we didn’t know what to think of it. It’s a very personal “like” for me. Most of my present conversations with my 84-year-old father mirror our “left speechless” moment after that film. He’s taught me everything he knows, so most days when I visit him and my mom, it goes, “You want the sports section, Dad? (He nods.) OK, good talk.”
If you could have an hour alone with Malick, what would you most want to know?
KUNA: I think his films should stand on their own, and in some ways, I would not want to receive his personal annotation. Too much film and TV are now litmus-tested as “relevant to the current situation we find ourselves in” … whatever that means. We’ve lost the sense of timeless art for the sake of art, of the Van Goghs who aren’t appreciated in the own time on earth, but nonetheless create art for people yet to be born. Malick is the embodiment of timeless art. So, I wouldn’t need an hour with him, but a mere minute to say, “Thank you.”
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.
Jim Caveizel is well-known for his strong Catholic faith and for his Hollywood success. But he wasn’t always devout, and success in acting is never guaranteed.
There was a point in the early ’90s when Caviezel’s life was really off-track. A chance encounter with Venerable Patrick Peyton, the Holy Cross priest who founded Family Theater Productions in Hollywood — who had a strong devotion to the Mother of God and was known as the “Rosary Priest” — helped bring him back to the Faith. Read more about that here.
The star of The Passion of the Christ, CBS’ Person of Interest and Paul, Apostle of Christ (along with Mel Gibson’s upcoming ThePassion sequel, The Resurrection of the Christ) continues to speak out about the power of Catholicism in his life.
Caviezel does so again, in a moving video recorded at the Eucharistic Holy Hour for World Peace Through the Mother of All Peoples in Amsterdam on June 1st, 2019 at the RAI Convention Center, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate posted it on June 5.
Among other things, he talks about Christ and Our Lady, how a rosary made a difference in him getting the first big role of his career, and the physical challenges of shooting The Passion.
Chrissy Metz in ‘Breakthrough’ (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment); ‘Breakthrough’ (Fathom Events)
If you’ve heard about the faith-related feature film Breakthrough or documentary Emanuel, but haven’t been able to watch either, you now have second chances to see both — one on DVD, and the other in theaters.
Breakthrough (coming to streaming and DVD in July)
Released in theaters in April, Breakthrough — based on the true story of a teen boy’s apparently miraculous recovery from drowning in icy water — is available for streaming on July 2, but it’s also coming to DVD. On July 16, the film, starring This Is Us star Chrissy Metz as fiercely faith-filled mother Joyce Smith, hits 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Among the bonus features are:
A Tapestry of Miracles: Making Breakthrough
Carry My Soul Phil Wickham deleted scene, and optional audio commentary by producer DeVon Franklin and director Roxann Dawson
From Franklin, on what he’d like people to take away:
The number one takeaway is that prayer works, love wins. Really when you think about it, it’s like why would Joyce pray that hard? ‘Cause of her love? I think that’s just so powerful. There’s so many films that celebrate superheroes that are great. Hey, those are billion dollar movies. But they’re all imagination; this is real. And what Joyce did is a real superhero doing a real superpower, which is faith and praying. So I really want people to take that away.
Metz on what she hopes people glean from the film:
That we’re stronger together than we are apart, and there’s all of these people on the planet to learn from, to teach, to learn, to grow, to evolve with each other, Otherwise there’d be one person on the planet. There’s a reason why we all look differently and like different things, come from different backgrounds, because we’re all here to teach each other, whether it’s empathy or tolerance or self-love in order to impart that on other people. So, I hope that that’s what people take away.
Click here for the DVD on Amazon.com; and here for the film’s official site.
Emanuel (hitting theaters in June)
Executive-produced by Christian NBA star Stephen Curry and actress Viola Davis, and co-produced by actress Mariska Hargitay and director Brian Ivie, Emanuel documents the aftermath of the June 17, 2015, racially-motivated mass shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina — nicknamed “Mother Emanuel.”
The film features interviews with witnesses, survivors and family members, along with the remarkable story of the strength and willingness to forgive shown by the church community.
Now, the film hits the big screen as a two-night Fathom Event on June 17 and 19. Along with individual tickets (click here to find participating theaters), group or whole-showing sales are available for churches and other organizations (click here for that).
From the website:
National headlines blazed the story: Churchgoers Gunned Down During Prayer Service in Charleston, South Carolina. After a 21-year-old white supremacist opened fire in the church, nine African Americans lay dead—leaving their families and the nation to grapple with this senseless act of terror.
Forty-eight hours later, in the midst of unspeakable grief and suffering, the families of the Emanuel Nine stood in court facing the killer … and offered words of forgiveness. Their demonstration of grace ushered the way for hope and healing across a city and the nation.
It’s the story that rocked a city and a nation as it happened … and in the days that followed. Marking the fourth anniversary of the event, executive producers Stephen Curry and Viola Davis, co-producer Mariska Hargitay, and director Brian Ivie (The Drop Box) present EMANUEL. The documentary powerfully weaves the history of race relations in Charleston, the significance and impact of Mother Emanuel Church, and the hope that somehow emerges in the aftermath.
Featuring intimate interviews with survivors and family members, EMANUEL is a poignant story of justice and faith, love and hate, examining the healing power of forgiveness. Marking the fourth anniversary, EMANUEL will be in movie theaters across the country for two nights only.
“The documentary highlights how a horrible tragedy can bring a community together, and spreads an important message about the power of forgiveness,” said Curry. “Stories like this are the reason we created Unanimous and entered the entertainment space. I hope the film inspires others like it does me.”
“We, along with the country, grieved each family’s loss,” add Davis and Tennon. “Yet, miraculously, from this devastation we witnessed tremendous benchmarks of humanity. The survivors found courage to love in the face of hate.”
A bit of laughter has gone out of the world, with the announcement of the death of Tim Conway at the age of 85 this morning, May 14, in the Los Angeles area.
A native of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (he has something to say about that in the video below), Conway volunteered for the Army and later pursued show business. He was beloved as a funnyman but also as star of such classic TV shows as McHale’s Navy and The Carol Burnett Show. For younger viewers, he was also the voice of Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob Squarepants and won Emmy awards for guest appearances on the sitcoms Coach and 30 Rock.
Conway is survived by his wife of 35 years, his stepdaughter, his six biological children and two granddaughters. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family would like donations to be made to The Lou Ruvo Brain Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The beloved actor is best known for his work on TheCarol Burnett Show, winning viewers over with characters like the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball, whose accent he has said was inspired by his Romanian mother. He was known to ad-lib his sketches — even surprising his scene partners — and won a Golden Globe Award for the series in 1976, along with Emmys in 1973, 1977 and 1978.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, to an Irish father and a Romanian mother, Conway was baptized into the Romanian Orthodox Church but converted to Catholicism for a girl while in college. Faith wasn’t almost foremost in his mind, though, until back spasms later in life led Conway to discover that a high-school football injury could have left him paralyzed … but didn’t.
That was a watershed moment for Tim, spiritually speaking. He writes, “Ever since that incident on the football field, which might have altered the course of my life, Jesus and I have stayed in constant touch. I never stop saying thank you.”
Though Tim, who converted to Catholicism in college because of a girl he liked, doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, his relationship with God remains important to him. He admits that his journey of faith hasn’t always been a straight line, but adds, “All straight lines get a little crooked from time to time, but I tried to maintain a decent life.”
In the same year, Conway went on Raymond Arroyo’s World Over show on EWTN to discuss his career and his memoir, What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life — and his conversion to Catholicism …
Here’s just a taste of Conway’s comic genius on The Carol Burnett Show, with co-star (and frequent victim of Conway’s efforts to crack him up) Harvey Korman:
Conway was married twice. Among his six biological children and one stepdaughter is Tim Conway Jr., who currently has a radio show on L.A. station KFI AM 640.
Here’s a clip of Conway Jr. as emcee of the Orange (County, California) Catholic Foundation’s 15th Annual Conference on Business & Ethics, from 2017, including a selfie with Bishop Vann of the Diocese of Orange — and showing the comic apple doesn’t fall far from the tree:
The broadcast networks have announced their plans for the fall, and there are a few shows of possible interest to people of faith. Just remember, a lot can change between a show being picked up and actually making it on the air.
Perfect Harmony (NBC)
Former West Wing star Bradley Whitford — who reportedly is involved with All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California — stars as former Princeton music professor who winds up working with a small-town church choir.
Carol’s Second Act (CBS)
After talking a break following the end of The Middle on ABC, Catholic star Patricia Heaton returns to her Everybody Loves Raymond home of CBS for a new multicamera comedy. She plays a retired teacher who, now that her children are grown, decides to become a doctor. Kyle MacLachlan also stars.
Patricia Heaton (right) in ‘Carol’s Second Act’/CBS
Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife) are behind this new drama, starring Katja Herbers (Westworld), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Aasif Mandvi and Michael Emerson (Lost, the upcoming The Name of the Rose). It’s described as a psychological thriller exploring the origins of evil and the (Catholics believe false) dichotomy between science and religion (some descriptions have Colter’s character as a “priest-in-training,” and the team working for the Catholic Church). The husband-and-wife duo bring their own theological perspectives, since Robert is Catholic, and Michelle is Jewish.
Filthy Rich (Fox)
Kim Cattrall headlines the cast of a show described as a soapy Southern Gothic family drama. When the patriarch (Gerald McRaney) of a Southern family, which got rich from creating a Christian TV network, dies in a plane crash, his stunned family learns that he fathered three children out of wedlock — and they’re all written into the will.
Also, just added today (May 14) …
United We Fall (ABC)
The multicamera comedy stars Will Sasso and Christina Vidal as parents of two young children dealing with overzealous extended families — including the Latina mother’s large Catholic one. Also starring are Jane Curtin and Jason Michael Snow.
Christina Vidal, Will Sasso in ‘United We Fall’/ABC
Also, among the shows axed was ABC’s Catholic-family comedy The Kids Are Alright, that our blogger Adrienne Thorne didn’t dislike.
But, in good news, NBC’s acclaimed family drama This Is Us was picked up for three more seasons. From Variety:
“In a television landscape with nearly 500 original scripted series, there are very few, if any, that have the critical and cultural impact of ‘This Is Us’ and we couldn’t be more proud to bring fans three more seasons of a show that so well represents the NBC brand,” said Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta, presidents of scripted programming for NBC Entertainment. “A huge thank you and congratulations to our executive producers, cast and crew who reach new heights every week with the show’s inventive and compelling storytelling.”