An enormous cast of A-List actors isn’t the only thing distinguishing the romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, which opens Feb. 12. “We had a green set,” says Ashton Kutcher, who plays a florist in the movie. “There was a lot of dedication on this movie to using solar panels and clean energy and recycling. The fact that the movie was shot in L.A. actually made that easier to make happen. I think that every opportunity we have in our industry to make what we’re doing a more environmentally conscious effort is a good thing.”

Green production elements also included reusable sets, hybrid and clean diesel vehicles, biodegradable plates and utensils at craft services, and personal stainless steel water bottles given to the cast and crew. “Every department was very proactive about coming back to us with ideas on what they could do, and we also had the strong backing of Warner Bros., which was key,” says Executive Producer Diana Pokorny. “It’s not only about making a difference now; it’s about creating technologies and methods that will continue to be improved upon for the next movie, and so on. It was exciting for everyone involved in the film because they could see the tangible differences they can make.”

Adds producer Mike Karz, “Everyone embraced it willingly, and we all found that it was actually not difficult to have a green set. And it’s just going to get easier and easier, which is a great sign for things to come.” Director Garry Marshall was 100 percent on board. “There are a lot of things wrong with our environment, so to go green seemed to me to be a very good thing. It’s not that big an effort,” he says. “If we could do it, others can do it.”


Cattle management might not seem like a subject for a TV movie, but Temple Grandin, about the life of an autistic woman who developed a more humane and efficient system for handling livestock because of her unique perception and ability to see in pictures, is surprisingly fascinating and absorbing. The HBO film, premiering Feb. 6, stars Claire Danes as Grandin, who fought the odds — and discrimination — to succeed, becoming a lecturer, author and professor at Colorado State University.

Danes (pictured right) met with Grandin, read her books and other texts about autism, many already on her bookshelf because her husband, Hugh Dancy, had played an autistic man in Adam six months before. “He was a great help,” she says. Although she was “terrified of failing or disappointing” Grandin, she relished playing a woman she calls a superstar and a pioneer. “I like playing characters that are dynamic and complex but really able to undergo some kind of change, transform, and that was certainly the case with Temple,” she notes.

As for working with cattle, “The scariest scene was lying prostrate on the ground with all of them circling me,” says Danes, but otherwise found the bovines “very passive. It was fascinating to learn about them and learn about the cattle industry at large.” Like Grandin, she is not a vegetarian. “It’s not a paradox to eat meat,” she believes. “You just have to treat the animals in a humane way and with respect while they’re alive.”


Australian actor Nicholas Bishop (pictured left) was surprised to discover that recycling isn’t compulsory here, like it is in Sydney. “You can get fined if you don’t,” points out Bishop, who not only recycles as a matter of course but buys organic food for his family and baby products for his kids, ages 3 and 10 months. Cast in Fox’s new series Past Life as a skeptical detective working with a shrink (Kelli Giddish) who uses past-life regression to solve reincarnation mysteries, Bishop — a 12-year veteran of Aussie film and TV, including three years on the series Home and Away — relocated to Atlanta for the series, where it is filmed a block away from MNN headquarters.

“Playing a New York homicide detective living in Atlanta with all these Southern accents, I’d turn up to work and didn’t know where I was half the time,” he laughs, although “the moment I step into makeup in the morning I start speaking American,” he adds. Born in England, he became interested in acting while living in Washington, D.C., when his father was stationed there and his parents took him to see his first Broadway show when he was 10. “I thought, ‘If that’s a job, I’ve got to have that.’ I loved the impact it was having on the audience.”

While he shares his character’s skepticism about reincarnation, he connected with the flawed character, a troubled widower with a drinking problem, and calls Past Life “the best job I’ve ever worked on.” He believes audiences may tune in for the procedural and supernatural elements, “but the human element is quite extraordinary and why you invest in this series.” It premieres Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. 


“We use our paper towels, recycle of course, and go to farmers markets,” says Nicole Ari Parker (pictured right) of the ABC legal series The Deep End. “My daughter Sophie has special dietary needs. She has spina bifida so it’s very important for her kidneys and digestive system that she eats organic.”

Parker, who is married to actor Boris Kodjoe and also mom to son Nicholas, 3, plays the law firm partner and wife of Billy Zane on the show, and researched her role by talking to female attorneys. “I learned so much about power and femininity and appropriate behavior in the courtroom, what wins and what doesn’t. It’s a distinct breed of human being that’s committed to the law and the legal system and finding out how to win,” she says, admitting, “I’m a little bit too emotional to be a lawyer. You steal my car, I’m gonna beat you up, and then call the police!”


It will be an environmental movie face-off at the Academy Awards, where both The Cove and Food, Inc. are nominated for Best Documentary Feature Oscars. As for other categories, the eco-themed box office titan Avatar is nominated for nine awards, including Best Picture. See who wins March 7 on ABC.


Tune in: CBS’ new reality series Undercover Boss, premiering Feb. 7 after the Super Bowl, sends incognito CEOs to work alongside their employees. First up, Waste Management President Larry O’Donnell hauls trash, cleans toilets, gets to know his workers, and revamps company policies as a result.

A pair of Manhattan pre-teens turn food detectives in the documentary What’s On Your Plate?, investigating the sources of what we eat — for better or worse, and how a diet based on organic, locally grown ingredients can both improve health and save the planet. It premieres Feb. 6 on Planet Green.

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City explores the future of transportation in the Michigan city as a template for what America’s transportation infrastructure might look like if we shift our emphasis away from cars and toward public systems. It debuts on PBS on Feb. 8.

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Additional photo credits: Claire Danes by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images; Nicholas Bishop by Jeremy Cowart/FOX; Nicole Ari Parker by Bob D'Amico/ABC. MNN homepage photo: Matt Carr/Getty Images