Actor, stand-up comic, filmmaker, pioneer podcaster—Kevin Pollak wears many hats, but he’s overwhelmed by the response he’s now enjoying for his supporting role on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. A natural comedian from childhood, he has parlayed his gift for mimicry (and solid acting instincts) into an enduring screen career. Leonard and Jessie are longtime fans and enjoyed spending time with him, even egging him on to do some of his uncanny impressions.
Greta Gerwig is riding high on the rave reviews and Oscar nominations for her heartfelt adaptation of Little Women (still playing in theaters). In the midst of awards-season chaos she found time to spend an hour with Leonard and Jessie, to talk about her ever-expanding career—which also includes being mother to an adorable toddler. For a high-profile actress and filmmaker she is refreshingly straightforward about her accomplishments, and extremely likable to boot.
The one and only Alice Maltin makes a long-awaited return to the podcast to share her thoughts about awards season and the past year in movies and television. She’s the real critic in the family—and still Leonard’s favorite moviegoing companion. Leonard and Jessie compare notes with her on films they’ve loved and TV shows that have captured their attention. They don’t always agree 100%, but that’s what makes for good conversation.
If you wonder how Netflix became the colossus it is today, meet Ted Sarandos, its chief content officer. He’s been there twenty years and set in place the machinery that’s attracted Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón, Eddie Murphy and other A-listers. Leonard and Jessie wanted to know more about the man behind the curtain and Ted traced his personal saga, from video store manager to the most powerful man in Hollywood. It’s quite a story!
Costume designer Sandy Powell has been nominated for 12 Oscars and won three. Christopher Peterson earned an Emmy nomination for Boardwalk Empire. Together they designed the clothing for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman—for the stars as well as the extras, covering several decades. Leonard and Jessie were fascinated to hear their experience on this massive endeavor and their impressions of Scorsese, who appreciates what the right wardrobe can do for his film—and his actors.
He’s played Mussolini and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. Paul Ben-Victor is one of those face-is-familiar actors who can embody any kind of character from a street hood to a cop. You can see him right now in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman or you may remember his recurring roles The Wire, Everybody Hates Chris, and Entourage. He’s not used to blowing his own horn, but Leonard and Jessie enjoyed coaxing anecdotes and observations from this lifelong performer who builds and rebuilds houses when he isn’t working on a film or TV show.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.
You’ve seen her in countless TV shows like The Mindy Project and Oscar-winning movies like Little Miss Sunshine and No Country for Old Men. Beth Grant’s acting teacher once described her as “the salt of the earth” and that’s exactly what she is. Her stories are candid and often hilarious, describing how she prepared for her first-ever sex scene and learned how to act in The Artist by watching Charlie Chaplin. Jessie and Leonard have wanted her as a guest since this podcast began and she was well worth waiting for.
An unparalleled force on the music scene, Diane Warren is the first songwriter in the history of Billboard magazine to have seven hits, all by different artists, on the singles chart at the same time. To list all of her accomplishments could fill a podcast in itself. Leonard and Jessie had fun talking with her about her approach to the art and craft of songwriting, how disappointing it is to lose an Oscar (she’s been nominated ten times—so far), and how keeping her eyes and ears open every day fuels her creative spirit. Along the way you’ll hear stories about everyone from Lady Gaga to Irving Berlin.
Having appeared in serious movies from Black Hawk Down to The Dark Knight and TV series like Prison Break, William Fichtner is enjoying the novelty of costarring in a popular sitcom like Mom. He’s also proud of the new movie he wrote, directed and stars in called Cold Brook, filmed on his home turf in upstate New York and now available for streaming online. Leonard and Jessie asked him to trace his journey from waiting tables to becoming a respected “working actor” and he willingly did just that.
Samm Levine is one of the smartest—and nicest—movie buffs we know. It’s been twenty years since Freaks & Geeks hit the airwaves and its reputation only grows—a testament to its creators and cast, including Samm. He’s proud of his work on that series, as well as his long run as sidekick to Kevin Pollak on his weekly chat show. Fans know about his encyclopedic knowledge of movies, which he puts to the test on such popular podcasts as Doug Loves Movies (where he brought Leonard for his first appearance) and Movie Trivia Shmoedown. But how many trivia aficionados can also say they were directed by Quentin Tarantino? Leonard and Jessie asked Samm to describe being on the set with Q and got an unforgettable response.
Omar Epps knew he wanted to work in the arts from the time he was a boy and landed his first movie job (in Juice, with Tupac Shakur) when he was just 17. Since then he’s built a reputation as a solid, soulful actor who can fill almost any role, be it a doctor or a prizefighter. His new horror film Trick is playing in theaters and on VOD and an outer space saga called 3022 is coming soon to theaters, on demand and digital November 22nd. Leonard and Jessie were impressed by his dedication to the art and craft of acting, and enjoyed talking to him about his life, his book (From Fatherless to Fatherhood) and such memorable movies as Love and Basketball.
Listen up, because Greg Proops talks a mile a minute and is never, ever dull. The quick-witted improv comedian and costar of Whose Line is it Anyway? also hosts a screening series in Los Angeles that takes full advantage of his love for vintage movies. Leonard and Jessie did their best to keep up with Greg when they weren’t laughing out loud.
With Ad Astra, writer-director James Gray has achieved the kind of box-office success his films deserve. He’s worked with Joaquin Phoenix four times, in such ambitious dramas as The Yards and We Own the Night. If you watch The Lost Kingdom of Z or Two Lovers you’ll see why he’s considered one of the finest talents working today. He’s also a movie buff of the highest order. Leonard and Jessie were mesmerized by his eloquence and grand ideas about the art of film in this compelling interview.
Yes, he’s a Mac. Justin Long is also a talented actor and a full-time cutup, as Leonard and Jessie learned when they recorded this episode before a live audience at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. He’s been in countless movies and TV shows, from Galaxy Quest to Idiocracy, lent his voice to Alvin (of Chipmunk fame) and a variety of characters on King of the Hill. He’s played George Harrison (in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) and worked for Kevin Smith. Each gig triggers a funny story in this especially lively episode.
This rugged Aussie has made a splash in such popular movies as Jack Reacher, A Good Day to Die Hard, the Divergent series, Terminator: Genysis, and Suicide Squad (as Captain Boomerang). But he’s a serious drama student who tackled Shakespeare’s Macbeth on stage in Melbourne not long ago. He’s also quite likable and willing to share his experiences working opposite some of the biggest names in show business. You can see his latest film, Semper Fi, on VOD right now. Leonard and Jessie were impressed with Jai and more than happy to spend an hour with him.
Seth Green is still young but he’s been a familiar face (and voice) for more than thirty years, believe it or not. He played a young Woody Allen in Radio Days and Dr. Evil’s son in the Austin Powers movies before winning a young generation of fans (like Jessie) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s voiced Chris Griffin on Family Guy and Leonardo on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and won three Emmy Awards for creating and producing the long-running animated series Robot Chicken. He has now made his feature directing debut with Changeland, which is now available on VOD. Leonard and Jessie were impressed with how young he was when he understood the business of show business—and pleased to see how much he still enjoys it.
William Sadler is one of those actors everyone knows even if they can’t quite think of his name. He’s played everything from the Grim Reaper in the BILL & TED movies (with a reunion film just completed) to the U.S. President in IRON MAN 3 (and AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.). He was a sheriff on ROSWELL and Tommy’s father on the last season of POWER. But many of his best stories come from his years of work on the stage—and they are hilarious. Leonard and Jessie enjoyed every minute they spent with him on stage at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
A versatile actor and filmmaker, Danny Huston is the son of the legendary John Huston and has wonderful stories to share. He’s built a considerable career of his own, with such films as Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, Children of Men, Marie Antoinette, 21 Grams, Birth, The Constant Gardener, and Wonder Woman to his credit. He’s also the star, writer and director of The Last Photograph, which is now available on VOD. Leonard and Jessie were utterly charmed by Danny and you will be, too.
Fred Willard is a man for all seasons. He’s been making people laugh from the time of Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan to the present day, now turning up regularly on Jimmy Kimmel Live playing everyone from the ghost of George Washington to Donald Trump’s father. He’s unforgettable in Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and other Christopher Guest movies and has earned Emmy nominations for recurring roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. Leonard and Jessie have known him and his family for years and cherish their friendship with one of the funniest men alive. Listen and you’ll learn about his approach to comedy and his laudable work ethic.
The man who changed television programming with his landmark PBS series The Civil War is back with Country Music, a captivating eight-part, 16-hour saga you don’t want to miss. Ken Burns has become America’s storyteller and we couldn’t ask for a more eloquent or passionate historian. Leonard and Jessie have known him for years on a social basis but this is the first time they’ve ever sat down for an hour of conversation about his magnificent work. It’s a treat to hear him speak on any subject that moves him.
A celebrated actor and man of the theater whose films include Amadeus, Shakespeare in Love, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, Simon Callow is also a master biographer, having written a great book about Charles Laughton and a magnum opus on Orson Welles which has extended to four volumes! And yes, he was also the bad guy in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Charming and witty, he regaled Leonard and Jessie with stories from his extensive career and will do the same for you.
Master cinematographer Caleb Deschanel earned the first of six Oscar nominations for The Black Stallion, and the latest just last year for the brilliant German film Never Look Away. Since then he’s ventured into the newest form of storytelling, virtual reality, to shoot The Lion King. But his best stories aren’t about craft—they’re about life lessons he’s learned since attending film school at USC with the likes of George Lucas. Leonard and Jessie sat spellbound as Caleb regaled them with priceless anecdotes: tune in and hear for yourself.
Jessie fell in love with Phil LaMarr during his long run on MADTV, but that’s just one of hundreds of credits on his resume. He’s a charter member of The Black Version, a hilarious show at Los Angeles’s Groundlings Theatre and one of the busiest voice actors around. You’ve heard him on The Family Guy, Futurama, DC Super Hero Girls, Bojack Horseman, and scores of other animated shows and movies. He’s also appeared onscreen in Veep, Get Shorty, and Pulp Fiction, to cite just a few highlights. He has great stories to share, and Leonard and Jessie were especially blown away by his uncanny impressions. Have you ever heard anyone imitate Chris Rock and Don Cheadle?
A born storyteller and natural entrepreneur, Ava DuVernay has achieved many milestones: the first black woman to be named Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival (for Middle of Nowhere), the first to have a feature nominated for Best Picture (Selma), and the first to pilot a big-budget blockbuster, A Wrinkle in Time. She created the hit series Queen Sugar and directed the powerful Netflix miniseries When They See Us. How she found time in her schedule to chat with Leonard and Jessie we’ll never know, but they discovered that aside from her great achievements, Ava is equally happy to talk about her early inspirations and lifelong love of movies.