Celebrity jews

TV catch-up

Ellen Barkin

The TNT series “Animal Kingdom” began on June 14, with new episodes airing at 10 p.m. Tuesdays along with many encore showings. This 10-episode show stars Ellen Barkin, 62, as the matriarch of the Codys, a crime family. Also airing on TNT is the third season of “Murder in the First” (began June 19, with new episodes at 10 p.m.). Taye Diggs, who was long married to Idina Menzel, 45 (they split in 2014), stars as a San Francisco detective who co-leads murder investigations with a partner. Each season covers one distinct investigation. This one begins with the murder of a star pro football player. Steven Weber, 55 (“Wings”), had a recurring role in the first season as Wilkerson, the driver and confidant of a rich guy suspected of murder, and he reprises that character this season.



At the movies

Gary Ross

“Free State of Jones,” opening Friday, June 24, is based on a fascinating true story: In 1864, Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey), a white farmer who lived in Jones County, Mississippi, led an armed revolt against the Confederacy backed by other local white farmers and slaves. Their rebellion created the so-called Free State of Jones. Knight continued his fight against injustice during and after Reconstruction and had two families — one with his first wife, who was white, and another with his second wife, who was black. The director and screenwriter is Gary Ross, 59 (“The Hunger Games,” “Seabiscuit”). The Smithsonian website has a great article about how Ross came to make the film and how he had to become an amateur historian to ensure the film’s veracity. The article also covers Knight’s life and how his many descendants form, to this day, a separate group in the county, not quite accepted by blacks or whites.




Brent Spiner

Also opening June 24 is “Independence Day: Resurgence,” a sequel to the 1996 megahit. Here, the bad aliens who almost conquered Earth are back, and as in the original, only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can save our blue planet. The new tribe member in “Resurgence” is Charlotte Gainsbourg, 44, playing a French scientist. Returnees include Jeff Goldblum, 63; as Jewish scientist David Levinson; Judd Hirsch as Levinson’s religious father; and Brent Spiner, 67, as Dr. Okun, a UFO scientist just about everyone thought was killed in the first film. Spiner told the website Collider that he was supposed to be declared dead in the original script, but that line was cut and allowed him to appear in the sequel. Spiner is best known for playing the android lieutenant-commander Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”


Like the original, the sequel was co-written and co-produced by Dean Devlin, 53, who once described himself as “a Filipino-Russian Jew with an Irish last name.” His late father, TV director Don Devlin, changed his last name from Siegel. Dean’s late mother, Pilar Seurat, played exotic Asian characters in the ’50s and ’60s. Dean is a practicing Jew who’s married to actress Lisa Brenner, 42 (born Lisa Goldstein). She had big parts on soap operas in the mid-’90s but now only takes an occasional TV guest role. The large amount of Jewish content in the original was mostly Devlin’s doing. However, he found out after the film’s release that in Lebanon, and maybe other Arab countries, two scenes were cut: Hirsch’s (kippah-wearing) character leading a Jewish prayer, and Arab and Israeli pilots joining forces against the invaders.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected]

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.