Considering that Davis Guggenheim’s last documentary was "An Inconvenient Truth," about global warming, it’s no surprise that his new film "Waiting for Superman" was an eco-friendly production, employing hybrid or flex fuel vehicles, buying carbon offsets for travel and other energy consumption, keeping communication paperless except for legal documents, installing power strips with nighttime cutoff switches and recycling everything possible including electronic waste.
Already garnering the same kind of Oscar buzz as "An Inconvenient Truth," the movie is about the shockingly sorry state of public education in America — inadequate schools, incompetent teachers, bureaucratic obstacles, and the children caught in the middle. “I hope people see it and say ‘This problem is bigger than I thought.’ It affects all of us. But it is possible to fix it,” says Guggenheim, who presents rays of hope in the form of charter schools that are achieving astonishing results, although with demand far exceeding openings it takes a lottery win to get in.
Movie participant, educator and Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada, a superhero to many families in his neighborhood because most of his students graduate high school and go on to college, believe the film will inspire conversation, outcry, and change. “I think there’s hope,” he says. So does producer Lesley Chilcott, who encourages the public to take action at WaitingforSuperman.com. “We know what works. We just need to take the best practices and put them together.”
“It was a very eco-friendly set,” says director Andy Fickman about his new movie "You Again," which followed green guidelines set by Disney and one more suggested by the cast. “It’s in their contracts that they get their own trailer, but they all said, ‘we don’t need that many trucks. Let’s hang together.’ So they all shared, reports Fickman. Sigourney Weaver, who stars alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman and Betty White in the comedy about what happens when past nemeses resurface and plan to marry into the family, conserves energy off-set as well. “I have solar power and I turn off all lights. Our house looks likes like a haunted house,” she says.
Weaver, last seen in "Avatar," jumped at the chance to play a “delicious character” in a light and fun film, especially in a female-centric ensemble that included “American treasure” White. “I love mixing it up genre-wise and I love coming in even for a small part. I think small parts are harder than the leading parts. You’ve got to really dial it in,” says the busy actress, who has roles of all sizes on tap including "Abduction" with Taylor Lautner, the vampire comedy "Vamps," the action film "The Cold Light of Day," a comedy with Kate Beckinsale, a possible third "Ghostbusters," and even though her character died, the "Avatar" sequel. “Anything can happen in science fiction,” she reminds.
Sela Ward (pictured right) is taking small steps toward being greener. “I haven’t gotten much farther than my organic garden and recycling. In terms of building with green materials, I’m not there yet,” says the actress, who grows chard, squash, tomatoes and herbs. She’s joining the cast of "CSI: New York" this season as Jo Danville, a DNA and psychology expert transplant from Washington, D.C., filling the spot vacated by Melina Kanakaredes’ Stella. “She’s tough, ballsy and fun,” Ward describes. “Her philosophy is that everybody is innocent until the science proves otherwise, and that will lead to conflict with other people.”
A fan of both the show, which has its seventh season premiere Sept. 24, and star Gary Sinise, Ward was getting “antsy” to return to work, now that her children are 12 and 16. “It’s an ensemble so I’ll be able to have a life and still see my kids,” she says. “It’s not all on my shoulders.”
Returning to CBS on a new night Sept. 23, "The Big Bang Theory" is a little greener this season with the addition of Mayim Bialik in a recurring role. An organics-buying vegan who makes her own cleaning products, Bialik joins a fairly green production, which already recycles its scripts and waste, as Amy Farrah Fowler, the love interest for Sheldon (Jim Parsons). In the premiere, she goes on an awkward date with non-driver Sheldon and Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who plays chauffeur. There’s also a hilarious running gag involving Howard (Simon Helberg) and a robot arm.
“I recycle. Even if there isn’t a recycling bin where I am I make sure to separate,” says Ben Rappaport of "Outsourced," the NBC sitcom set in a novelty item company’s India-based call center. As a Texas-born, Juilliard-trained New York stage actor in his first TV job in Hollywood, “The whole fish out of water situation, I could totally relate to Todd,” Rappaport says of his character, the newbie manager. His dad, a consultant in the plastics industry, was his muse in landing the audition. “I thought his passion and eternal optimism was something that really suited Todd, so I did my dad, and here I am." "Outsourced" premieres Sept. 23.
“On set we’re not allowed plastic water bottles, we all have water cans. I drive a hybrid. And I turn off the water when brushing my teeth,” says Dave Annable, who returns for the fifth season of the ABC series "Brothers & Sisters" on Sept. 26. His character Justin is back from Afghanistan and soon, minus a love interest — Emily VanCamp (Rebecca) leaves in episode 3. The premiere picks up year after the car crash that claimed Robert (Rob Lowe), and Tommy (Balthazar Getty) is also gone, but Gilles Marini (Luc) has been upgraded to regular and will become an underwear model, which doesn’t thrill girlfriend Sarah (Rachel Griffiths). “There will be tumultuous things because of what he’s doing,” says Marini. “It’s interesting how the relationship evolves.”
William Shatner (pictured left) says he’s been concerned about the environment for years. “Ever since I read Rachel Carlson fifty years ago I've been on that path and was mocked way back then for talking about the coming catastrophe. What I was saying then about electronics and our filmmaking, that's our virtue and our tragedy. We make too many tools.”
On a lighter note, Shatner stars in the CBS sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," based on the blog-turned-best seller. “I don’t Twitter. I can’t even remember my password name,” he says, though he appreciates the cyber-context of the show, which premieres Sept. 23. “There’s something there that intrigues people. I don't know what it is. But it’s what intrigued me.”
He differentiates his character Ed Goodson from the role that earned him Emmys on both "Boston Legal" and "The Practice," lawyer Denny Crane. For the latter, “fumbling for the thoughts was the way to go as he lurched into senility, but here, this guy is very much with it, and there's a snap to the way he speaks; that's the way the jokes work. So if I'm fumbling, it's not the character. It's me.”
Additional photo credits: Sela Ward by Cliff Lipson/CBS; William Shatner by Ron P. Jaffe/CBS.