Pop Culture Confidential

Pop Culture Confidential


Host Christina Jeurling Birro interviews the most innovative and influential people working in television, film, entertainment and pop culture. http://www.popcultureconfidential.com


Episode 73: Writer, Producer and Director – Paul Haggis  

Screenwriting, discipline and truths – just some of the topics we explore with this weeks guest. Screenwriter, Director and Producer Paul Haggis joins host Christina Jeurling Birro to talk about his celebrated career and unique life. Haggis moved to Los Angeles in the 1970’s with a love of classic cinema such as Godard and Bergman but when he started his writing career it was focused in the world of episodic television with shows such as The Love Boat and Different Strokes. By the 1980’s he was writing television classics like Thirty Something, LA Law and EZ Streets. This experience gave Haggis the opportunity to develop discipline, as well as quick and efficient writing. It also was a study in character morality, good and evil - the perfect preparation for his feature film career. Haggis wrote scripts for the Best Picture Oscar winning films Million Dollar Baby and Crash, for which he also won Best Original Screenplay. His career has also included Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Casino Royale, just to name a few. In 2009 Haggis very publicly renounced the Church of Scientology after having been a member for 35 years. His letter to the leaders of the church stated he could no longer "be a member of an organization where gay-bashing is tolerated".  On this episode Haggis shares his writing process, why the script for Crash was so controversial, his reasons for staying with Scientology, why he left, and much more!

Episode 72: Tony Hale – Star of Veep & Arrested Development  

From Buster on Arrested Development, to his Emmy winning role as the devoted body man to Selina Meyer on Veep – Tony Hale has already proven that he is one of our generation’s comedy greats. Host Christina Jeurling Birro is joined this week by Hale ahead of the upcoming sixth season premiere of Veep. In this political climate, what is better than the return of HBO’s hilarious political comedy Veep. Hale returns as Gary, the anxious and often-bullied body man to now ex-President Meyer, who is portrayed by the incredible Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Before Veep, Hale inhabited another anxious character – fan favorite Buster Bluth of Arrested Development. The show gave him the opportunity to work with Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman and legend Liza Minnelli who played his girlfriend. On this episode we find out how the recent U.S. election impacted the comedy in Veep, what Hale has learned from the comedy legends he’s worked with, his own experience with bullying and anxiety, and much more!

Episode 71: From Frasier, 24, Fargo and Legion - Jean Smart, TV Royalty  

With unforgettable performances in Frasier, 24, and now one of this seasons’ most acclaimed new series Legion - Jean Smart is television royalty with a career spanning three decades and three Emmy wins. Smart’s career includes the iconic CBS hit sitcom Designing Women. A show that featured intelligent women who were both sassy and sympathetic and who expressed differing views on women’s issues. For her unforgettable role on Frasier, Smart won an Emmy, and on 24 she was gripping as First Lady Martha Logan whose fragile mental state deteriorated during the season. Smart then joined the Noah Hawley show Fargo where she gave a fearless performance as Floyd, the matriarch of the crime family. Their collaboration didn’t end there and today Smart is one of the stars of the acclaimed FX series Legion with Noah Hawley as co-creator. Legion is loosely inspired by the X-Men comics and here Smart plays Melanie Bird, a questionable therapist who is the leader of a group of super mutants being chased by the government. The show delivers a hypnotic and visual world that explores themes much as mental health in an unexpected way. We are very happy to be joined by Jean Smart on this weeks episode and to get the opportunity to speak to her portraying so many strong women, how she chooses her roles, and so much more!

Episode 70: ‘Missing Richard Simmons’ with Dan Taberski  

Richard Simmons, workout and fitness guru, is a true American pop culture icon. One example of the empire he built is his workout video “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”, which sold millions of copies. Three years ago Simmons mysteriously disappeared from public life, including cutting off contact with most of the world. This week we speak to Dan Taberski about his search for answers that lead to the massive podcast hit “Missing Richard Simmons”. Taberski is a writer, director and former producer for “The Daily Show” who was a student at Simmons fitness class “Slimmons” in Beverly Hills. He became friends with Simmons and had discussed making a documentary about his life and work. So why does the most flamboyant and visible exercise evangelist suddenly disappear without alerting friends and colleagues? Dan Taberski talks to host Christina Jeurling Birro about the importance of Richard Simmons, the many thousands of people that Simmons so generously helped during his career and the theories to why he may have retreated for the public eye.

The stars of Orange is the New Black and Netflix Ted Sarandos  

Now that the film award season has come to a dramatic conclusion we are happy to turn our attention to the upcoming season of television. This week’s episode of Pop Culture Confidential covers the recent Netflix event in Berlin where they unveiled the upcoming lineup. Host Christina Jeurling Birro was thrilled to speak with two of the stars of Orange is the New Black – Kate Mulgrew who plays Red and two-time Emmy winner Uzo Aduba who plays Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren. We also speak to Netflix Chief Content Office Ted Sarandos who shares his journey with Netflix and the power of user data in creating original content including the hit House of Cards. It’s a very special ‘on location’ edition of Pop Culture Confidential where we dive into the recent and upcoming milestones for Litchfield Penitentiary, what it means to be Captain of a Starfleet ship, the Oscar win for White Helmets and how Netflix is supporting film distribution, and much more!

Episode 68: The 2017 Oscar Special  

The Academy Awards are upon us and this is the annual Pop Culture Confidential Oscar predictions show! We are joined again by Sasha Stone, journalist and founder of the website Awards Daily, who gives all the details of this years statistics, trends and controversies. Annually there are many big award shows during the season, from the Golden Globes to BAFTA, each giving us a hint at which film could take the top prizes at the Academy Awards. So you can imagine how excited we are that the big day is almost here with this years host Jimmy Kimmel. On this episode host Christina Jeurling Birro and Sasha Stone discuss how the preferential ballot system can affect the results, the industry buzz around the nominees – and maybe most importantly, which films we predict will win in all of the main categories!

Episode 67: Eugene Lee - Legendary SNL Production Designer  

For those who follow Pop Culture Confidential, you know that we LOVE Saturday Night Live (SNL) and refer often to how it has influenced pop culture over the decades. We are so excited to be joined this week by Eugene Lee, who has been the original Saturday Night Live production designer since the start of the show's first season in 1975. At 77, he is one of the only original crewmembers still working. The SNL set Lee designed has a true New York vibe with real bricks and a nod to Grand Central Station. Three Tony Awards, 12 Emmy nominations, and one Emmy win later, Lee continues to carry on his accomplished tradition in theater while also leading the "SNL" production-design team, week in and week out. Lee comes from the theater world and has worked on Wicked, Sweeney Todd and Candide. He is not slowing down, he has also designed the sets for Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, which show the variety of his work. Lee joined us from his home and workshop in Providence, Rhode Island where he is based. He commutes to New York every Wednesday to start the week at SNL, meeting with the directors and screenwriters to understand their vision for each skit that will come that week. He hand sketches each set and works up until the last minute before each show, perfecting what we at home see on screen. We discuss the wonderful legacy of Saturday Night Live, his work process and the joy he feels being such a part of the experience we have had watching SNL for the last forty years.

Episode 66: Colleen Atwood - Three-Time Oscar-Winning Costume Designer  

Scissor hands, face masks and apes – oh my! Three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood has dressed some of the most iconic characters on the big screen. This includes Hannibal Lecter, Edward Scissorhands, Roxie Hart – and all the characters in eleven Tim Burton films. Atwood has been very busy this past year with Huntsman: Winter’s War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, her most recent collaboration with Tim Burton Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, AND the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for which she has been nominated for an Academy Award. From fantasy to modern day, Atwood’s costumes are always rich in detail and a deep study of character that isn’t always obvious at first. For Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children we travel back to Wales during World War II to an orphanage full of ‘peculiar’ children with unique superpowers. The character of Miss Peregrine, played by Eva Green, has the ability to transform into a bird that is reflected in the characters signature blue coat with birdlike elements. Each of the children’s costumes also has custom elements to reflect their own special powers. We are honored to be joined by such a legend in her field and ask Atwood to share how she began her career, how she approaches each character, her response to being Oscar nominated (again) and much more!

Episode 65: Disney animation legends ride the waves with Moana  

Their legendary careers have included the animated classics The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog – and this year’s Oscar nominated Moana. Directors Ron Clements, John Musker and producer Osnat Shurer of Moana join us this week live in Stockholm to share their excitement of being nominated and journey they have taken to bring the story to the screen. Musker and Clements started their partnership early and their collective CV is like a map of our Disney movie childhood – starting with The Great Mouse Detective. When Disney merged with Pixar it ushered in a new era and Shurer shares with us how the culture shifted for both companies. Moana, or Vaiana, as it is named in many European countries, is already a huge box office success in the US for its incredible visuals and inspiring female protagonist who sets out on a mythical adventure across a series of islands in the South Pacific to find the shape shifting Demi-god Maui. Another reason the film is so popular? It’s wonderful soundtrack! One of it’s composers is Lin-Manuel Miranda started working with the film nearly three years ago before his rise to total stardom with Hamilton. Now he is Oscar nominated for ‘How Far I’ll Go’, which is one of the films hits. On this episode we hear how all three were involved in the research for the film, including their travels through the South Pacific, the challenges of creating their first CG feature film together and the excitement of being Oscar nominated!

Episode 64: Damien Chazelle & Mandy Moore – La La Land  

When we say La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is one of the most buzzed about films this awards season – we’re not kidding! The film won every in every category it was nominated for at this years Golden Globes, including for Best Film and Best Director. As the most awarded film in Globe history – the road to Oscar glory seems unstoppable. Host Christina Jeurling Birro is thrilled to speak to two of the films creative powerhouses – writer/director Damien Chazelle and award-winning choreographer Mandy Moore. The film is Chazelle’s ode to Hollywood and musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain – and to the city of Los Angeles with its freeways, sound stages and dreamers. It is the perfect showcase for the beautiful choreography of Mandy Moore. Director Damien Chazelle was only in his late 20’s when he burst on the scene with his movie Whiplash, which went on to win three Oscars. He shares with us his creative process, what it takes to make it in Hollywood, what it was like to work with the films stars and his upcoming projects. Over her career Mandy Moore become a bit of a legend in the dance community. She has choreographed for films like Silver Linings Playbook and TV’s Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. We speak to her about the La La Land’s amazing musical numbers and teaching Stone and Gosling to not only dance but rival the greats like Fred and Ginger.

Episode 63: Kirsten Johnson - Director of ‘Cameraperson'  

Veteran filmmaker and documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has spent the last 25 years capturing the often-harsh realities of humanity in some of cinemas most influential documentaries with directors such as Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), Laura Poitra (Citizenfour about Edward Snowden) and Kirby Dick (This Film is Not Yet Rated). Her latest documentary is a very personal exploration of her life behind the camera over her vast career and is on the 2017 Best Documentary Oscar shortlist. Cameraperson is like meditation or fragmented memories, a montage of footage with no voiceover that opens up all the questions Kirsten has asked herself during her career. The film moves between outtakes from documentaries she has shot intercut with private footage of her family including Kirsten’s twins and her mother. Through all of her footage, difficult and beautiful, you feel Kirsten Johnson’s warmth, empathy and her huge laugh fills the space. Host Christina Jeurling Birro has been a longtime follower of Kirsten’s work and was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with her about the ethics and moral choices faced when filming subjects, what is was like for her to relive the joys and the horrors she has seen, the power of the moving image and much more!

Episode 62: Hollywood Legend Roger Corman & Professor Lilly Goren  

We kick-off the New Year with a true Hollywood legend - Roger Corman, whose latest film Death Race 2050 is perfectly timed for the current political landscape. Then host Christina Jeurling Birro discusses politics and pop culture with author and political science Professor Lilly Goren, including how female presidents are depicted in film and TV, and how this might change after the recent U.S. presidential election results.

Episode 61: The Legacy of The Daily Show  

If you are a loyal listener of Pop Culture Confidential you know that we are huge fans of The Daily Show so we were very excited to speak to author Chris Smith who has arguably written THE definitive history of The Daily Show (The Book) that is now a New York Times Bestseller. To chronicle the shows astounding 17 years on Comedy Central Smith spoke to pretty much everyone involved with or adjacent to the show, including Jon Stewart who wrote the forward, Steven Colbert, Samantha Bee, Lewis Black, Steve Carell, John Oliver, writers, producers and more. The result is a very personal look at the shows evolution – from the early years with Craig Kilborn to Jon Stewart transforming the basic spoof-comedy show into a powerful, progressive and impactful voice in pop culture. Don’t miss this in-depth look at the impact of Jon Stewart, the process of making The Daily Show and much more! For those of you that want more episodes – we can recommend our previous interviews with The Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi and producer/director Mikes Kahn who is now working at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Episode 60: Oscar Predictions with Gregory Ellwood & Josefin Asplund star of Vikings  

We are very excited that awards season is finally here! We speak to writer Gregory Ellwood about where we are in the Oscar race, and we speak to the Josefin Asplund – star of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the new season of Vikings.

Episode 59: Steven Knight, Screenwriter of ‘Allied’  

A Canadian spy, a French resistance fighter, and a love story set in the Sahara desert? Academy-Award nominated screenwriter Steven Knight has spent thirty-odd years bringing the new blockbuster ‘Allied’ starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard to the big screen. In those thirty years Knight has been busy writing critically acclaimed films like ‘Dirty pretty Things’ for which he was Oscar nominated, Eastern Promises, Pawn Sacrifice, and the upcoming sequel to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ – just to name a few. Knight has also been busy with the hugely popular BBC/ Netflix TV series Peaky Blinders and the upcoming FX mini-series Taboo starring Tom Hardy. This week host Christina Jeurling Birro is joined by Steven Knight to discuss the decades long journey to making ‘Allied’ with director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump,” “Flight”), including the original inspiration for the plot. The World War II drama is inspired by the classic films like ‘Casablanca’ and tells the story of an intelligence officer and resistance fighter, who fall in love during a mission to kill a German official in 1942. They fall in love, have a child and settle down to a fairly normal life – until they are mortally set against each other when their identities are revealed. Knight also shares his journey as a screenwriter, how Brad Pitt inspired him to bring ‘Allied’ to the big screen, Peaky Blinders, his upcoming projects – and much more!

Episode 58: Dr. Jessica Coon ‘Arrival’ & Vinzenz Kiefer ‘Jason Bourne’  

Aliens, hackers and awesome prizes on this week’s episode! First we speak to Dr. Jessica Coon, a linguistic professor who was tapped by Hollywood to help Amy Adams communicate with aliens for the new blockbuster ‘Arrival’. We are also joined by German actor Vinzenz Kiefer, who took on Jason Bourne as hacker Christian Dassault.

Episode 57: Morgan Spurlock, director of “Rats”  

Disgusting vermin multiplying before our eyes, threatening to take over modern civilization. No, we are not referencing the recent US Presidential election but the unsettling new documentary “Rats” that takes us deep into the infestation of rats around the world. Our host Christina Jeurling Birro is joined this week by the films director Morgan Spurlock who also brought us Freakonomics, Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden and Oscar nominated Super Size Me for which he gained 25 pounds eating only McDonald’s for a month.

Episode 56: Star of Atlanta – Brian Tyree Henry  

Race, sexual politics, masculinity, friendship and parenthood – the new FX TV show Atlanta tackles all of these subjects with uncompromising honesty and humour. This week host Christina Jeurling Birro is joined by one of the shows stars - Brian Tyree Henry who gives a powerful performance on the show as Paper Boi, a rising-star of the Atlanta rap scene.

Episode 55: Joe Swanberg, creator of ‘Easy’ on Netflix  

This week host Christina Jeurling Birro is joined by Joe Swanberg – maybe one of the hardest working filmmakers in the indie world with 29 director credits to his name at the age of 35. His work has been at the center of the mumblecore film movement that has also included the Duplass brothers, Lena Dunham and many more. Often low budget, featuring naturalistic dialogue and relationship focused, his films like Digging for Fire, Happy Christmas and Drinking Buddies have attracted talent like Orlando Bloom, Anna Kendrick, Jack Johnson and Olivia Wilde. Swanberg has been called an American auteur and critics have compared him to Lars von Trier and even Ingmar Bergman. His latest project Easy, Netflix for which he is the creator, writer and director, is probably more mainstream than his previous work, but does not stray away from his usual themes. Each episode focuses on a different relationship and stars Marc Maron, Dave Franco, Malin Akerman, Orlando Bloom, Hannibal Buress, and many more. Don’t miss this portrait interview with Swanberg where he shares his work process, how he includes his own life and family into his films, what it’s like to punch a critic, why he hates movie awards - and much more!

Episode 54: 'Life, Animated' director Roger Ross Williams and The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang  

We are joined Oscar winning director Roger Ross Williams whose inspiring documentary 'Life, Animated' tells the story of Owen Suskind, an autistic boy whose family discovered he was communicating with them thru the Disney films he was watching and The Playlist's Jessica Kiang guides us through some of the biggest trends and controversies of the film season.

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