Interviews
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/CBS.


By Fred Schruers

After talking a bit with the buoyant and witty Jenny Lumet, co-creator of the upcoming Clarice, you'd hardly call her a malcontent. But she does issue the occasional warning: "I'm the feminist chick you want to sit next to at dinner—just not for too long."

That said, her brand of spiky energy can prove very useful. When writer-director Alex Kurtzman brought her on to collaborate with him on the 2017 Tom Cruise–starring iteration of The Mummy, her take was to make the key villain female. Through a rocky ride of later revisions and a shaky reception, the gender change survived as a smart call.

A stark black and white portrait of Clarice showrunner and producer Jenny Lumet

Clarice showrunner and producer Jenny Lumet.

Photo Credit: Amanda Guinzburg/CBS.

Et voilà, here comes another feminist chick ready to do battle—for much higher, if fictional, stakes. Lumet (also executive producer on Star Trek: Discovery) and Kurtzman have a project they dreamed up in the service of a shared passion—the saga of fledgling FBI investigator Clarice Starling , as chronicled in the bestselling novels of Thomas Harris and brought memorably to the big screen by Jonathan Demme in The Silence of the Lambs.

The series will zoom in on Clarice's life a few months after the events of the film. As much as she loved the movie, Lumet always wondered where the "Attagirl!" was for the heroine. "The guys around her, and the villain, got so much exploration," she says, "and I thought, Yeah, she's the one who's actually victorious—Persephone marched down into Hades and slew all the dragons."

Lucca de Oliveira as Tomas Esquivel and Rebecca Breeds as Clarice Starling in Clarice.

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/CBS.

Lumet remembers signal moments in the Demme gem—encounters with bug experts, local cops, the weaselly Dr. Chilton, even her bureau boss—where the female neophyte agent from rural West Virginia must take command of the hunt. "That part is the negotiation that every female on the planet has to go through every five minutes—the [cultural] code switch. As an African American, a woman, I know about that," says Lumet, who has a prestigious pedigree as the daughter of esteemed director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of showbiz icon Lena Horne.

Rebecca Breeds in Clarice

Rebecca Breeds plays the titular role in Clarice.

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/CBS.

The Clarice team has assembled a writers room comprising young White, Asian, and African American writers to bring forth the unknown patches in Clarice's story, which Harris himself granted leave to explore. "I want to know what she's been thinking ," says Lumet, "what she's been doing , what she learns."

Clarice executive producer Alex Kurtzman

Clarice executive producer Alex Kurtzman.

Photo Credit: James Dimmock/CBS.

The series will in effect thank Hannibal Lecter for his service but embark with new villains and a credo, says Lumet, "that horror is more horrible when it could happen to you," using new evildoers "who are grounded, and they're deep."

The story of African American fellow Agent Ardelia Mapp gets the weight and service it deserves. Clarice, says Lumet, "is not a show about, 'I'm going to shoot this guy and go have a drink.' She's a woman who saves women. And what I most appreciate about her is that she keeps refusing to be put in a box."

Sneak Peek: Watch The Official Clarice Trailer

Originally published in Watch Magazine, November-December 2020.

Clarice premieres Feb. 11 at 10/9c on CBS and CBS All Access.

Dress by Gucci. Sandals by Steve Madden. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.


By Lisa Kennedy

When Tichina Arnold hopped on the video call, she was in a parking structure in Century City messing with a boot. No, not a DMV boot, but an orthopedic one. Social media followers of Arnold (and you are legion) know that the star—who gives such verve to Tina Butler on the hit sitcom The Neighborhood —has been recovering from foot surgery. (Her path to healing gets a nod at the start of Season 3.) "Hold on one second, one second—I'm getting the boot," she shouts to someone honking for no good reason. She waves said boot. "I never thought I'd be so excited about a goddamn boot," says Arnold, adding with a laugh, "I'm trying to get my sexy back, or at least half of my sexy back."

Arnold, 51, has spent more than 30 years working in television and film. The Queens, New York native started acting at 11 and hasn't had many lulls since. She did soaps (Ryan's Hope), sang and danced (Little Shop of Horrors), and played pivotal roles in two popular comedies that were part of the surge in Black television programming: first as Pam, Tisha Campbell's bestie on Martin, and a few years later as mom Rochelle on Chris Rock's critically appreciated Everybody Hates Chris.

Now she's bringing no small amount of smarts and sparkle opposite another comedy luminary. Cedric the Entertainer (an executive producer on The Neighborhood) portrays Calvin Butler, who's vexed—and over time kind of charmed—when small-towners Dave and Gemma Johnson (Max Greenfield and Beth Behrs) and their young son settle next door in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

The Neighborhood airs on Mondays at 8/7c on CBS and streams CBS All Access.

Tichina Arnold on the cover WATCH Magazine

Top by Balenciaga. Pants by Halston. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

How long have you been in L.A. now?

I've been here since 1991. I moved here right before I did Martin and ended up staying.

To say the least. You've been doing television for nearly 30 years. What's changed for you and what's changed in television?

A lot has changed in the industry, period. Television definitely became more open, more racy, a little more real. If we did Martin now and we were able to say what we wanted to say, it would be a completely different show. Back then we had a censor, this guy named … what was his name? He used to come and count the "damns," count the "hells."

Tichina Arnold in a vibrant vintage dress

Gown, vintage. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

What drew you to The Neighborhood?

What attracted me initially were two things: being able to work with Cedric and, I've been on great shows, but this was a wonderful opportunity to finally be on a major network. CBS didn't have a whole lot of Black folk, so I was happy that CBS was being a lot more open to having more color on the network. That, to me, showed television was definitely changing. It's not just a Black show. You have a lot of inclusivity. So I was like, "Yeah, I want to be part of this."

It's crazy you haven't worked with Cedric before.

It's bananas. We have all the same friends.

The Neighborhood has such sweet cast chemistry. Is it as good as it seems?

Everybody is just really good. Everybody's like their characters. Creator Jim Reynolds had Tina all mapped out. But when I came and read for the role, he saw other things. So I'm appreciative of that, because Black women, we're not just one thing. We have so many facets to us. Every time I open the script, there's always something new about Tina that I learn, which is fun. Jim will ask me, "Tichina, do Black women do this?" And I'll tell him abso-frigging-lutely-not. You see her flaws, and Cedric makes sure of it.

Tichina Arnold in a courtyard wearing a vibrant dress

Robe by Camilla and Marc. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

Where do you overlap with Tina?

You know, most women, we want to keep our youth as much as we can. I knew then, when I played on Everybody Hates Chris, that once you play a mother, you will always be a mother. Goddammit. [Laughs.] OK, this is the first time I'm a mother of grown sons—one got a beard. Omigod. I just have to accept that. But it's television, and I can be whatever I want to be. I'm 51 and a lot of my friends had kids by the time they were 17. So you have a lot of Black mothers who look like they are 25 or 30, but they're 50. Snoop made a post that was hysterical. He posted this little girl, and it said something like, "Yeah, I'm really 42." Like "Black don't crack."

Did Cedric help you figure it out?

He's very hands-on. So he said, "Look I want you to be comfortable, but we're parents … You still smoking." Cedric's really good at being this amazing Black man on camera as well as off. Cedric's always been such a wonderful human being, and the show has that temperature. The show has that texture to it because he is a good leader. He is a good leading man. He's smart. He's respectful. He has a lot of empathy for people. He knows how to communicate. He never raises his voice. This show could not have come at a better time.

Tichina Arnold sitting in a window sill

Robe by Camilla and Marc. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

Could you expand on that? I can think of all kinds of reasons, but as my dad said, "You know what 'assume' spells?"

Well, a lot of negativity has been stirred up—and this negativity is nothing new. This is what we as Black people have been dealing with, and I always speak from the Black perspective because that's what I am. And I think this show created a wonderful platform to start dialogue. This show displays our differences. It happens at the table reads all the time: We'll be sitting at the table, and a Black joke will happen, and Beth and Max will go, "What?!" because everybody Black in the room laughs. But it happened with me, too. In the script someone says, "Hey, I'm going out for a froyo." I was like, "Sorry guys, what's a froyo?" The point is, whether we're White, Black, we have different ways of communicating with each other. So what I love about being on the show is that we continue communication.

The first episode of the third season addressed Black Lives Matter. Some people who love the show have said they'll stop watching. What is that?

Guess what, sometimes when the truth is told, it's uncomfortable. This is part of change. It's a natural human instinct; you don't want to be uncomfortable. But it's what we do with our being uncomfortable. I'm happy that we have a platform. We deal with real topics. This is not fantasy. I think it's wonderful we've tapped into Black Lives Matter. Just add "too" behind it. We matter, too. For me to be on a show that's on CBS, and CBS is able to say Black lives matter, that's change. And it's change for the better.

I'm grateful that I can be a part of a body of work that understands me as a Black woman in America and that actually displays me as a Black woman in America. We have a long way to go in understanding each other, and The Neighborhood really addresses that. And we do it off-camera as well. So Beth and I always talk about that. She's like, "What can I do as a White woman?" And I said the fact that you asked allows me to share my story with you. Now, I need to hear your story. What makes you uncomfortable? What do you want to learn? What do you want to know? Trust me, I ask questions. You learn till the day you die. That's what matters to me.

Tichina Arnold posing on stairs

Dress by Gucci. Sandals by Steve Madden. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

So, where did you get that perspective? Life? Family? You grew up in the church, and that seems to feed your understanding of the world, and you still have a compassionate way of expressing that.

That's a nice way of putting it.

No, really. You and [your sister] Zenay were on Beth's Harmonics with Beth Behrs podcast, and she said she considered herself a "lapsed Catholic." One of you said about church that we go to meet God by ourselves. Such a great insight.

I get it from my parents. Both of my parents are givers. My mother will give the shirt off her back and so will my dad. They've just always been that way, and we came up really staunch Christians. Me being in show business, I was kind of the heathen. [Laughs.]

Did you know at 11 that you were going to want to keep doing this?

I didn't know anything else. I did shows for free. I did it because I loved it. Not until I got to L.A. and I had to start paying rent did that change. I was like, "Omigod, I got to depend upon this?!" Prior to that, I was just doing what I love doing.

Tichina Arnold on a bed wearing a sparkly dress

Dress by Zadig & Voltaire. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

How do you protect that relationship to what you love?

Well, I've been at a point where I didn't have two nickels to rub together, and still I turned down work because I did not believe in what that piece of work was. I didn't want to wake up every day doing that.

Do you have any episodes of The Neighborhood that you loved or that you thought, I nailed that?

Now you're asking me to tap into my menopause problem—let me think. I have moments. I laugh at moments, not episodes. But I don't think I've ever said Oh, I nailed anything. I'm not interested in watching myself. The one time somebody made me watch Hope & Redemption: The Lena Baker Story [2008], we watched it in my agent's office. And I forgot that I was watching myself.

Now that was weird. It freaked me out. I said, "Wow, God gave you exactly what you wanted." I did a film with absolutely no comedy in the character whatsoever. I kept saying, I just want to do a dramatic role. I want to see if I can do it. So here I played a real woman who walked this earth, to be the first woman executed in the state of Georgia. Just reading and watching and hearing about her life. I was like, how can I do this woman justice? So after I watched the movie, I felt grateful that I was able to fool myself. Because I forgot that I was watching myself. I felt like I did it; I reached a goal.

Tichina Arnold in a white pants suit

Top by Balenciaga. Pants by Halston. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

So do you have some rules for yourself about how you engage on social media?

I do. I don't reply to people. You reply to one, you have to reply to all. I make it a point that if I am joking about something, I'm not being insensitive. It's like sending text messages: A lot of stuff could be misread. That's what happens with Twitter all the time. What I do is, I never have a cocktail and tweet. And if I know that it's really, really socially edgy, I'll ask my sister, "Should I?"

Speaking of Zenay, who's also your manager, what were you two like as little kids?

We were opposites but the same. She was a lefty. I'm a righty. But she insists on sitting on the side where our arms knock. Constant fights. I tortured her. She used to think she would go down the drain. We would take baths together, so I'd push her toward it. My parents taught us that all we have is each other. So even to this day, we are very good with separating our business relationship from our sisterhood.

Tichina Arnold in a white top

Top by Balenciaga. Pants by Halston. Jewelry by Dana Campbell.

Photography by Kwaku Alston. Styled by Dana Campbell.

So how do you get 2 million–plus Instagram followers?

That came from me trying not to lose my mind. Because I used to fight with my daughter [Alijah, age 16] every morning. By the time she was 3, we were in the car all the time and she didn't want to be in the seat. Here I am a single mom and I'd start singing. She loves dancing and I wanted her to sing. We started singing in the car. I posted: "For all you parents out there that had a hard time getting your kid up this morning, this is for you. You're not alone."

I had grandmothers hitting me, aunts hitting me, single dads hitting me. We all really do go through the same things, right?Different times, different places, different levels, different households. I never ever mind sharing my pain as long as I've learned from that pain. So now I can tell you what that pain feels like, but I can also tell you what I learned.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Kwaku Alston

STYLED BY: Dana Campbell

HAIR: Robbi Rogers

MAKEUP: @bethcarterbeauty using MAC

Originally published in Watch Magazine, November-December 2020.

The Neighborhood airs on Mondays at 8/7c on CBS and streams CBS All Access.

Photo Credit: JSquared Photography/Contour by Getty Images.


As told to David Hochman

What's funny about Aasif Mandvi's role on Evil is that the role isn't meant to be funny. Mandvi was a comedy guy before playing tech whiz Ben Shakir on the supernatural drama.

He made his name in theater, having won an Obie Award for his one-man show Sakina's Restaurant and playing the lead character in the Pulitzer prize–winning play Disgraced. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart put him on the map as a comedian; he went on to create and star in the Peabody Award–winning web series Halal in the Family, which logged more than 500 million media impressions within days of its announcement. With guffaws or without, Mandvi is a serious force.

Evil returns for Season 2. Catch up now on CBS All Access and Netflix.

\u200bAasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir in CBS drama series Evil.

Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir in CBS drama series Evil.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS.

3:30 A.M. My dreams are like vivid TV shows. I always remember the one where Barry Manilow was chasing me with a chainsaw. I'll wake up sometimes and think, "I should pitch this as a series."

6:45 A.M. My wife, Shaifali, and I welcomed our son into the world on March 14. Ishan arrived the exact moment the world locked down and everybody started quarantining inside. He wakes us up early and keeps us busy. Have we missed anything?

Aasif Mandvi's wife Shaifali holds their newborn son Ishan.

Aasif Mandvi's wife, Shaifali, and son, Ishan.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aasif Mandvi.

9 A.M. I don't really eat breakfast. I've been doing intermittent fasting for years. It's great for my metabolism and general health. So I'll have coffee to get things started and I'm fine until lunch.

10:30 A.M. We live in Manhattan. Evil shoots in Brooklyn. We're working on getting back to a normal shooting schedule. I click into that group energy and am loving playing a character like Ben, who's so different from me. He's a MacGyver type who fixes everything. My wife finds that super sexy. I'll say, "You know that's me, right?" She'll say, "Yeah, great, can you put that bassinet together?"

\u200bThe cast of Evil posing in front of a Manhattan skyline photo backdrop

The cast of Evil at the CBS Upfront event in May 2019.

Photo Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews.

NOON: I'm doing a few voiceover parts for animated projects, including making a movie called Blazing Samurai, which is based on Blazing Saddles but with cats and dogs. It all works out nicely when you're stuck at home. They send over recording equipment and I do my best to talk over the crying baby in the other room.

1 P.M. I'm very fortunate that Shaifali is an amazing cook and actually enjoys cooking. We eat healthy. We stay away from fried foods and sugar, but she makes great concoctions with ground beef and eggplant. I'm Indian, so I always put spices all over everything.

Rustic grilled eggplant dishes and hummus and ground white pepper.

Aasif Mandvi's healthy diet includes fresh foods and spices.

Photo Credit: Enrique Díaz/Getty images.

2:15 P.M. After the gyms closed this year, I ordered dumb-bells and a medicine ball and one of those big bouncy balls to work out at home. We have a little backyard and a trainer comes in. We wear masks. I do pushups and lift things and sweat.

3:30 P.M. The Evil cast has a text chain. It gets pretty funny at times. We're constantly ribbing each other. I keep making fun of Kurt Fuller, who plays Dr. Boggs, by telling him that [actor] Richard Kind is going to take his part on the show.

An assortment of dum-bbells, kettle-bells and a modern medicine ball.

"After the gyms closed this year, I ordered dumb-bells and a medicine ball and one of those big bouncy balls to work out at home."

Photo Credit: mmjimenez/Getty Images.

5 P.M. I'm finding my superpowers as a father. One thing I can do is make the baby fly. Maybe all new dads do this. You put the kid on your forearm and run him around the house. He really seems to like it.

6 P.M. When you're a new parent, it's an accomplishment if you can just sit down together with your wife at the dinner table and have a coherent conversation and not have drool all over you.

7:15 P.M. A few times a week, we do Zooms with friends of ours who have kids. It's weird because we used to love to go out to places. Now you don't do that. So what we look forward to is looking at tiny windows on a screen with our friends' faces.

\u200bAasif Mandvi holds his sleeping newborn son.

Aasif Mandvi holds his sleeping newborn son.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aasif Mandvi.

8:30 P.M. Once Ishan goes to bed, we try to have some adult time. We love watching Mindy Kaling's series Never Have I Ever. I like documentaries, including the Hillary doc and the one on Bill Gates. I love to learn about people and ideas way outside my everyday reality.

10 P.M. Meditation is really helpful when you want to shut the day off. I've been trying to stay in the moment, even with the world as crazy as it is and being sleep-deprived as a new parent. The Mindfulness App reminds me to be here, now, and not take life for granted.

11:15 P.M. We usually get a few minutes of quiet and then drift off to sleep. Honestly, the way our lives are now, you never know when you're going to hear the baby scream at some odd hour—or when Barry Manilow is going to show up looking like a killer.

Originally published in Watch Magazine, November-December 2020.

Evil returns for Season 2. Catch up now on CBS All Access and Netflix.

Photo Credit: Maarten De Boer/The Licensing Project.


By Brantley Bardin

Who knew that in 2020 we were so gonna need something called B Positive?" asks Annaleigh Ashford, who stars in the new Chuck Lorre–produced sitcom bearing that moniker. "At first, I thought, 'That's an OK title,'" the Denver-born, Tony Award–winning actress exclaims with a laugh, "but now I'm, like, 'That's deep!'" B Positive is the tale of a newly divorced therapist (Thomas Middleditch) who is in need of a kidney donor with the titular blood type. Ashford plays Gina, a high school acquaintance who turns out to be a weed-smoking , pratfall-prone, madcap kook of a match. "They're an odd couple pairing but a match in life, too," says Ashford. "He needs a kidney and a friend, and she needs accountability and a friend. See, she likes to partake in the party too much and put all the 'things' in her face— so he tries to keep the things out of her face so he can get her kidney!"

Best known to TV audiences as Masters of Sex's sassy lesbian prostitute turned receptionist Betty DiMello, Ashford is a triple-threat star on Broadway whom The New York Times has called "a sly comic genius." "But I've been waiting my whole life to get to make people laugh on Thursday nights in a Chuck Lorre show on CBS," confesses Ashford. "So I really hope people will think I'm funny!

Originally published in Watch Magazine, November-December 2020.

B Positive airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

The cast of TV show B Positive

Pictured (L-R): Top: Kether Donohue as Gabby and Terrence Terrell as Eli. Bottom: Sara Rue as Julia, Annaleigh Ashford as Gina, Thomas Middleditch as Drew, and Izzy G. as Maddie of CBS sitcom B Positive.

Photo Credit: Robert Voets/CBS.

Oh, they will, honey. And they can get a head start by checking out your hilarious Instagram account, which serves up heaps of Miss Piggy, Dolly Parton, and wigs. You even have a weekly Instagram cooking "show" called "WW Wednesdays With Wigs."

Yes! I'm an ambassador for WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. It's the easiest way to feel body positive in myself. And I love big hair, wigs, Dolly Parton, the Muppets, and rainbows, hence my Instagram contents. See, in my mind, everybody has a rainbow coming out of their butt when they fart. [Laughs] That's sort of "Annaleigh Ashford" in a nutshell.

Ha! In every post and interview I've seen or read with you, you are the epitome of positivity. What's your secret?

It's a struggle, obviously, at this time, but I think it's always been my goal to be a Positive Patty. And I think I'm in a moment of being a sort of shepherd for those who don't have the practice of looking ahead with bright eyes. Because as an artist, you have to have that to believe something is coming.

You've said you knew you wanted to perform since you were in the womb. But as the daughter of an elementary school gym teacher, you tried to be a jock for her until second grade when ...

... On the first day of second grade, my mom enrolled me in Kit Andree's Dance & Performing Arts Center in Denver, and my life was changed. Miss Kit, my voice teacher, was 4-foot-11, wore 5-inch Lucite platforms, big ol' false eyelashes, a rhinestone headband, and taught me age-inappropriate songs like "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret. We were soulmates!

\u200bThomas Middleditch and Annaleigh Ashford  in B Positive.

Thomas Middleditch as Drew and Annaleigh Ashford as Gina in B Positive.

Photo Credit: Robert Voets/CBS.

And by 9 you were performing in Denver professionally—

Yes, in the musical Ruthless, where my grandmother was played by a drag queen, fore-shadowing a career in which I knew I'd be arm-in-arm with drag queens!

Yep, such as your Tony-nominated role as Lauren in 2013's super-smash Kinky Boots, with Billy Porter. Then you won the Tony for the 2014 revival of You Can't Take It with You opposite James Earl Jones, and then wowed again in 2017's revival of Sunday in the Park with George opposite Jake Gyllenhaal. Tell us, do you still get starstruck?

Oh, yeah! Like I've met Angela Lansbury multiple times, and I can never get through it without crying.

Annaleigh Ashford and cast performing onstae in the broadway musical Kinky Boots.

Billy Porter, Annaleigh Ashford, and cast performing in the 'Kinky Boots' Broadway Sneak Peek at Al Hirschfeld Theatre on February 28, 2013.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images.

Adorable. You've been wed to actor Joe Tapper for seven years. What works about you two?

We both have sensibilities that are very childlike; like, we love roller coasters and theme parks to the degree that Joe proposed to me at Six Flags in New Jersey in a really funny, not glamorous way at all. I mean, I had very ugly shorts on, but ... it was just perfect for us! [Laughs]

Joe Tapper and wife Annaleigh Ashford.

Joe Tapper and wife Annaleigh Ashford.

Photo Credit: Bruce Glikas/WireImage.

And now y'all have a 4-year-old son, Jack.

Yes, and Jack has changed my perspective, soul, spirit, and acting choices. And also my free-time schedule. [Laughs] But it's all for the better.

Or for the positive!

Yes, and I hope people will tune in to B Positive so they can have a half-hour break from this world. It's going to be a joyful show and a much-needed respite for people who need to check out!

Originally published in Watch Magazine, November-December 2020.

B Positive airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

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