Celebrity Jews: At The Movies & In TV

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red carpet at the Oscars

AT THE MOVIES

Rachel Morrison, one of many Jewish celebrities
Rachel Morrison

A reliable source just told me about a notable Jewish Oscar nominee not in my recent coverage: Rachel Morrison, 39, the first woman in Oscar history to be nominated for the (best) cinematographer Oscar. Morrison was nominated for shooting Mudbound. She is almost a cinch for another Oscar nomination next year: She was the cinematographer for this year’s mega-mega hit Black Panther. Morrison didn’t have an easy childhood. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Rachel was 4 and died when she was 14. She told Time that she turned to photography and home movies to capture her childhood’s fleeting happy moments and freeze them in time.

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Morrison said that it took her shooting 11 indie films until she was given a chance to shoot a “studio” movie. Men, she said, usually got a studio “gig” after two or three good indie films. But there’s progress, she says. Women she’s mentored now get a studio gig sooner, like the men. Her breakthrough film was Fruitvale Station (2013), a hit indie film directed by African-American Ryan Coogler. He had another hit with Creed and had the “juice” to make Black Panther and to hire Morrison to shoot a big-budget comic-based spectacular. Morrison is the first woman to be the cinematographer on this type of film. There’s a very good interview with Morrison on the Time magazine website. It includes a brief video with pics of her family. Google: Time Rachel Morrison Firsts.

TV DOINGS

Josh Radnor, one of many Jewish celebrities
Josh Radnor

On March 13, NBC premiered Rise, a musical drama based on the non-fiction book Drama High (2013) by Michael Sokolove, 61. He grew up in Levittown, Pa., a blue-collar community that has long been in an economic slump. But it has had at least one great thing going for it: Lou Volpe, a now-retired teacher who ran, for 45 years, a nationally acclaimed theater program. Josh Radnor, 43, stars in Rise, playing a character that’s based on Volpe. Radnor, the former star of How I Met Your Mother, is a practicing Jew and a practicing musician. He’s now playing in a band with Australian Jewish musician Ben Lee, 39.

Henry Winkler, one of many Jewish celebrities
Henry Winkler

 Also starting March 13 was the ABC series For the People. It focuses on new lawyers working for the prosecution and the defense as they litigate criminal cases before the federal court in New York City. Ben Rappaport, 32, plays a newly minted assistant U.S. attorney. Ben Shenkman, 49, plays the head of the federal prosecution unit. Rappaport, a handsome fellow who grew up in a religious home in Houston, has appeared in a few recurring TV roles (including The Good Wife). Shenkman was a regular on the TBS comedy Royal Pains (Dr. Sacani) and Emmy-nominated for his performance in the HBO production of Angels in America. (Both Rise and For the People air at 10 p.m.)

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The HBO series, Barry, stars Bill Hader as a low-rent hitman who moves to Los Angeles and finds a new outlook on life by getting involved in the L.A. community theater scene. Co-stars include Henry Winkler, 72, Canadian actress Sarah Goldberg, 32, and Glenn Fleshler, 49 (starts March 25).