Co-host of The View and star of the new Lifetime comedy Sherri, Sherri Shepherd became eco-conscious out of necessity. Her son Jeffrey, now 4 years old, was a preemie, “and a lot of household products trigger his asthma, so we use a lot of green products,” she explains. “And I’m trying to teach Jeffrey about recycling,” she adds, noting that the Sherri set also recycles to cut down on paper usage.
The largely autobiographical sitcom stars Shepherd as a legal secretary -- a job she held for eight years at a Beverly Hills firm while trying to break into showbiz -- whose cheating husband (played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner) got the other woman pregnant. Sherri is now a single mom, trying to move on with the help of her co-worker pals and starting to date (Michael Boatman plays her pediatrician love interest). Having her own show is new for Shepherd. “I was always secondary, a best friend or wife -- you give the zinger and you leave,” says the veteran of nine sitcoms. “In this show I have long monologues. It’s a lot but I’m not complaining. Now I get to kiss all these men!,” she laughs, finding playing a version of herself “very cathartic for me in the healing process.”
After shooting the pilot in L.A. over the summer, Lifetime, which had snapped up the series when the CW opted out, moved production to New York to accommodate Shepherd’s View schedule. Two shows, standup gigs, and parenting her son are a lot to juggle, she admits, especially since she now has a book to promote: Permission Slips: Every Woman’s Guide to Giving Herself a Break. “It’s a bunch of funny stories from my life,” including an arrest for speeding that landed her in jail for eight days. It hits stores the same day as Sherri premieres, Oct. 5. A new episode airs at 7 p.m. every day that week before it moves to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Oct. 13, airing weekly thereafter.
As the host of Food Network’s Good Eats and The Next Iron Chef, premiering Oct. 4, Alton Brown (pictured right) has a platform for his mission to increase the consumption of sustainable seafood, and he’s not afraid to use it. Brown, who “was raised on equal portions of Julia Child and Jacques Cousteau” and considered becoming an oceanographer before culinary school beckoned, is a spokesman for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and believes we need to “diversify the portfolio” of the fish we eat. “We need to eat lower on the food chain, like sardines. Unlike the big carnivores that are slow to mature, they don’t have the buildup of mercury and other heavy metals in their bodies because they mature quickly and die quickly,” he explains, adding that education and awareness is the fist step, in order to get the public to care. “Unfortunately, people think the ocean will take care of itself, but statistics show that’s not true. And it’s not just a matter of over-fishing. Resources are divided accordingly, toward providing more and cheaper salmon and tuna and very few other fish. You have to choose your battles, but this is mine, and it’s something you’ll see emphasized on Good Eats in the next year and a half.”
Brown, whose diet is “80 percent vegetarian,” also emphasizes the importance of diversification and seasonality when it comes to choosing vegetables, and though he’s not optimistic that Americans will adopt a seasonal diet in his lifetime, “That doesn’t mean I’ll stop talking about it.” He has reduced his own carbon footprint by turning off room lights, recycling, composting, getting rid of surplus refrigerators, piloting a propeller plane instead of a jet, and boiling cooking water in an electric kettle “because it’s so much faster and uses much less energy.” He also avoids restaurants whenever possible, deeming going out to eat “a terrible waste of energy.” When traveling, he brings his own food -- yes, sustainable fish. Reveals Brown, “I keep cans of sardines in my suitcase.”
Although a table held piles of plastic water bottles during interviews on the set of Eastwick at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, “We’re trying to get rid of these,” said Paul Gross, who plays the devilish Darryl Van Horne, nodding at the bottles. “We just got [reusable] Eastwick water bottles so we don’t accumulate so much plastic,” added Lindsay Price (Joanna). According to Gross, the production is also saving trees by reducing the amount of paperwork generated. And the town of Eastwick itself is recycled: Sharp-eyed viewers might recognize the town square from its previous incarnations as Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow and before that, the set of The Dukes of Hazzard.
Price, who’s been decorating her L.A. home -- having relocated from the New York location of her last series Lipstick Jungle -- chose organic fabrics and recycled wood. “I think 70 percent of the materials I chose were reclaimed,” she said. In the series, about a trio of modern-day witches in a New England town, Price’s newspaper reporter character has the power to make men do her bidding, something she wouldn’t care to actually be able to do “because then they wouldn’t have free will, and that’s no fun.” She’d rather be able to fly or teleport. It’s green,” she pointed out.
Even more powerful is Gross’ mysterious newcomer Van Horne, and the Canadian import is enjoying his omnipotence. “Everything is under his control and jurisdiction. He’s in the background orchestrating events. You can get away with murder both as a character and an actor,” he said.
And while she has no powers (at least not yet), Sara Rue (pictured above left with Price) is enjoying her role as Penny, Joanna’s BFF. The actress, best known for Less Than Perfect, has discovered the downside of one aspect of green living. She planted a vegetable garden and successfully grew herbs and tomatoes, but the veggies attracted rodents. “I was in bed one night and my cat dropped a live rat on me,” she shuddered. “I totally flipped out and ran out of the room.”
“I don’t use any chemical cleaners, we change our air and water filters a lot, we eat organic,” enumerates Amy Brenneman (pictured right), who also has a vegetable garden at home. At Private Practice, the third season of which premieres on ABC Oct. 1, life is a bit more chaotic. The first episode picks up where the cliffhanger in which Brenneman’s pregnant Violet was menaced by a knife-wielding baby stealer left off, and she’ll be dealing with the aftermath of that trauma this season.
For Audra McDonald, a big believer in supporting local farmers with her food buying, there’s plenty of upheaval as well, as this season she moves to the rival medical practice downstairs and has to figure out shifting relationships with her old colleagues. “I think everyone is at a crossroads, trying to figure out something,” she says of the overall mood. “It’s time to grow up.” Look for a guest appearance from Grey’s Anatomy’s Chandra Wilson in episode three.
“I love Vancouver where we shoot. It is the greenest city I’ve ever lived in. They have recycle bins on the street,” marvels David Blue, who relocated to the Canadian city to shoot the drama Stargate Universe, in which the Ugly Betty alumnus brings “the lighthearted side of things to a really intense situation.” Not surprisingly, the set is also green. “We recycle our scripts, separate all the trash,” adds cast-mate Ming-Na (ER), who also recycles at home and grows vegetables in her garden when she’s in L.A. with her family. Her character Camile, a strong woman who happens to be gay, “gave me a really great perspective about what it’s like working in a very male-dominated environment,” she notes.
Also starring in the series, premiering on Syfy Oct. 2, is Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver, Courage Under Fire), a big believer in organic foods. Fortunately for the father of four daughters, the youngest about to turn 2, “A lot of the baby products out there are organic,” he says, “and are much more geared to being green these days.”
“I just had my bike shipped out here from New York. I’m about to threaten every driver in L.A.,” declares Lindsey Broad, who joins the cast of Til Death this season as the daughter of Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher. “I’ve just got to figure out how not to get hit.” It’s a long ride from her home in Los Feliz on Los Angeles’ east side to the set in Culver City, but she’s willing to chance it if she has a late call, for the exercise and energy-saving factors. Otherwise, she’s conscious about turning off lights at home. “It’s a lot easier now than it used to be to be eco-friendly because of the consciousness everybody has about it,” says the actress, whose character is “mind-numbingly in love with this dirty hippie” (Timm Sharp) in the show, which returns to Fox Oct. 2.
Additional photo credits: Alton Brown courtesy of the Food Network; Rue and Price by Gerri Miller; Amy Brenneman by Nikki Nelson/WENN; Lou Diamon Phillips by Art Streiber/SyFy.