The Spanish-style courtyard apartment building looks pretty much the same as it did in the original 1990s series, but there’s something different about the new Melrose Place: it’s eco-friendly. Disposable water bottles are banned from the set. “You’ve got to bring your canteen and fill it up,” says Executive Producer Darren Swimmer. “We turn our scripts back in and recycle them. The sides that are printed out are double sided,” adds Katie Cassidy, who plays the resident vixen, a scheming, bisexual publicist named Ella.
Not allowed to watch the original Melrose, Cassidy is relishing her role in the reboot, which unfolds through flashbacks as the murder of returning character Sydney (Laura Leighton) sets the story in motion in the Sept. 8 premiere on the CW. “Ella’s funny, she’s a smartass, she knows what she wants and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it,” characterizes Cassidy, the daughter of David Cassidy, now back to blonde after a brunette turn as the murdered bride in Harper’s Island. She’ll also be seen in the upcoming Fencewalker and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, due out in April.
Melrose newcomer Michael Rady (Greek, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) takes the water conservation mandate home with him. “I don’t let the faucet run when I’m washing the dishes. In my shower, I’d like to put a button that would stop the water while you lather and shampoo. So much water is wasted,” he notes. “That’s my big green idea.” Rady puts premium gas in his car “because it burns more efficiently,” and plans to get a hybrid next. He’s getting married next spring, and plans to install solar panels and a sustainable garden in his house, the latter with sustainable plants and a low-water-usage system.
Thomas Calabro, reprising his role as Michael Mancini in the Melrose update, is equally eco-conscious. “I carry my own bag to the grocery store. I bike around when I can. I use the plastic bag that the bread came in to pick up the dog’s poop rather than buy bags. Instead of buying the plastic bottles, I buy Gatorade mix and mix it myself,” he enumerates.
While Melrose 2.0 has “the high stakes drama of the old show, a lot of romantic triangles and people trying to get their own way,” Calabro says. The new version is “stylistically very different -- it’s darker, very cinematic. We start off with a big bang, but that’s the backdrop for the storylines we have going forward. It’s relatable and real.” Also continuing in his recurring role as Rebecca’s senator dad on Greek (he’ll appear in the season’s second episode on Sept.7), Calabro will be seen in the movie Locker 13, an ensemble anthology with a mysterious storage locker as the common thread. It’s due in theaters Dec. 30.
While she still drives a big car -- she has three kids and her lease isn’t up yet -- Katey Sagal (from Married with Children fame) offsets that energy usage by using CFL lightbulbs at home, recycling, and reducing her use of plastic. “I have a water bottle I carry with me,” says Sagal, who returns to FX Sept. 8 in the drama Sons of Anarchy. This season, there will be some female bonding in the high-testosterone show as Gemma and Tara grow close following a shocking incident involving Gemma. “It was well choreographed, but still intense,” Sagal remembers the scene, noting that the experience “contributes to the emotional arc of the entire season.”
“I recycle. I have a Lexus hybrid. I ride my bicycle everywhere. We’re very environmentally conscious,” says supermodel Elle Macpherson, who also plants trees with her air miles. These days the London-based frequent flier is accumulating a lot of the latter crossing the Atlantic to New York, where she’s shooting The Beautiful Life, playing modeling agency chief Claudia Foster on the CW series, premiering Sept. 9 at 9 p.m. What lured her back to American TV for the first time since her Friends guest arc in 2000? “I’m building a brand in the U.K. and Australia with my intimates and body products and having exposure in America is smart business for me,” she explains. “It’s very fortuitous that they came to me with this project. From an emotional and career perspective it’s a wonderful opportunity,” says Macpherson, who still models for Revlon and other brands. “It’s still very much a part of my daily life.”
The Beautiful Life also stars Sara Paxton, who plays Raina, the new “it girl” model with a secret. “Her major obstacle is her family -- she has a really dark past,” says Paxton, hinting at possible mob connections. The L.A. native has found it easier to live green now that she has moved to New York for the show. “I’m really excited because my new building has recycling and separates everything. My building in L.A. didn’t do that. I did it by myself,” she explains. She has also discovered public transportation. “I’m a subway expert now,” she laughs.
This month the Documentary Channel will premiere four films under the umbrella of The Water Project, all of them designed to bring awareness to the worldwide water crisis. First up is The Water Project: Bahrain, which explores how overdevelopment and dredging have depleted the kingdom’s water resources. It debuts Sept. 7 at 9 p.m. Subsequent Water Project docs will air at the same time on consecutive Mondays, focusing on Columbia on Sept. 14, India on Sept. 21, and South Africa on Sept. 28
From wood-fueled trucks to an air-powered motorbike, a cow manure-powered farm, and boats that run on solar power, Dick Strawbridge and Jem Stansfield tackle eco-friendly construction projects on the eight-episode series Planet Mechanics, launching on Planet Green Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. Following at 7 p.m. is Cool Fuel, which takes adventurer Shaun Murphy on a 16,000-mile cross-country eco-trip that will play out over six episodes -- he’ll travel in vehicles using only alternative energy sources such as electricity, solar power, bio-diesel, corn and hemp.
Additional photo credits: Katey Sagal by Mike Muller/FX; Elle Macpherson by Takashi Seida/The CW.