It’s been a tough time in Hollywood and beyond as the Writers Guild strike shut down production of just about every kind of entertainment — and lots of parties and events, too. Canceled/postponed celebrations included the MTV Movie & TV Awards, the 49th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to Nicole Kidman, the Critics Choice Inaugural Celebration of LGBTQ+ Cinema & Television and many others.
But music festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival marked the early beginning of summer fest season and Netflix helped launch Pride Month early with a huge “All Out” celebration in West Hollywood. Meanwhile, “The Little Mermaid” swam into Hollywood for a lavish premiere and SeriesFest: Chapter 9 took over Denver. So all is not lost in the world of Parties & Premieres, but we sure hope that Hollywood writers get the raises they deserve and go back to work very soon.
“The Little Mermaid”
The Dolby Theatre, Hollywood
Under the sea and back to Hollywood in a whole new way! At the world premiere of Walt Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” a crowd of excited fans helped make the atmosphere electric, cheering on the stars and their friends who walked the blue carpet. Adorned with shimmering seashell decorations and with the sounds of Caribbean music filling the air, the joyful feeling immersed everyone in the world of the film.
“The Little Mermaid” herself, Halle Bailey, wowed in a shimmery sea-blue gown that evoked Ariel, while Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Art Malik, Awkwafina and director Rob Marshall gathered for the celebration.
TheWrap caught up with Melissa McCarthy (who plays the much-loved musical’s iconic octopus villain Ursula), to discuss the backlash that African-American star Bailey experienced when cast as Ariel, who is white in the animated classic. “We are spinning in this world where what we don’t see in the mirror is somehow scary to us and it’s insane,” McCarthy said. “It gets us nowhere. It damages our children. If you look out and say, ‘what don’t I know and how lucky I am to get to know it and expand my world,’ we would all be such better people.”
Latino Oscar winner Javier Bardem, who plays Ariel’s father King Triton in the film, also had some words to those who were giving Halle backlash for being a “Little Mermaid” who is not light-skinned. “Do kids care? Do children care? NO, it’s all the parents’ own B.S. and it’s the worst education you can give to your kids,” he told us.
Throughout the film, the audience cheered, cried and sang along to the classic songs from the original animated version, as well as the new additions written for the live-action adaptation. Halle Bailey’s performance as Ariel was particularly praised, with her powerful vocals and emotional portrayal of the character winning over the hearts of the audience. The film opens in theaters May 26. – Elijah Gil
“Ted Lasso” Day
Goya Studios, Los Angeles
The co-creators and co-stars of “Ted Lasso,” Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt, as well as many of the rest of the cast of the Apple TV+ comedy hit show turned up at a “For Your Consideration” Emmy Awards red-carpet bash promoting the show’s third season, marking the beginning of campaigning for golden statues as the Emmy voting approaches. Nomination-round voting begins June 15.
The event took place at Apple TV+’s Goya Studio space, which was decorated with posters of the team rosters and (of course) some yellow “Believe” signs, along with mannequins decked out in costumes from the third season. Brett Goldstein, who portrays coach and former player Roy Kent, walked the carpet last and shared plenty of inside secrets with us.
Cristo Fernández, Kola Bokinni, James Lance, Phil Dunster, Jeremy Swift, Annette Badland and Billy Harris reunited and checked in with each other, giving big hugs and posing for lots of photo ops. When TheWrap asked Kola Bokinni about the end of the third season, he wouldn’t reveal much, simply saying, “It’s quite a ride, hold on!”
Phil Dunster made eyes at Brendan Hunt when they were shoulder-to-shoulder doing interviews on the carpet, as Hunt stood up for the Writers Guild members. “It’s time to time to share the pie,” he avowed when we asked his thoughts about the current writers’ strike. Not too surprising, that, since Hunt is a card-carrying member of the WGA himself. – Dessi Gomez
“Emily in Paris”
Directors Guild of America, Los Angeles
Netflix pulled out all the frills and ruffles for its “Emily in Paris” Emmy Awards FYC screening and panel at the Directors Guild of America theater to a crowded house. But as “Emily” star Lily Collins and costume designer Marylin Fitoussi took the stage to discuss last season’s fabulous fashions and juiciest moments, there was a notable empty chair, set for creator Darren Star, whose absence was felt as he skipped the event on the first day of the WGA strike.
Collins teased that the upcoming fourth season will be filled with “more fashion, more drama and more laughs” when it picks up from a “messy” season 3 finale.
“We leave every season, I feel like, with major crossroads, emotionally and physically,” Collins mused, following the screening of the last two episodes of Season 3. “I love this season! We got to really highlight the other actors more — you get that with each season.”
Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, who plays Sylvie in the Paris-set comedy, also made an appearance before the reception began, complete with French-inspired hors d’oeuvres and drinks, making it a very bonne nuit in the City of Angels. - Loree Seitz
SeriesFest: Season 9
Various Venues, Denver
The writer’s strike was a hot topic of conversation throughout SeriesFest: Season 9, the six-day annual festival held in Denver that brings together artists at the forefront of episodic storytelling. “Obviously, I stand with the writers and the WGA. It’s unfortunate that it has to come to this,” Chelsea Handler, who headlined the closing night of SeriesFest at Red Rocks Amphitheatre as part of her “Little Big Bitch” comedy tour, told TheWrap. “The trickle-down economics don’t necessarily work. So I think it’s the only fair thing to do, and hopefully it’ll be over sooner than later.”
“One Tree Hill” star James Lafferty, who was promoting the second season of his project “Everyone Is Doing Great” alongside co-creator Stephen Colletti (you probably remember him from “Laguna Beach”), also spoke up about his support of the WGA. “It’s a really tricky time. Everyone hopes that it gets resolved quickly, but I think also everybody realizes that this is a time of incredibly rapid change.”
During a State of the Industry panel moderated by TheWrap’s Adam Chitwood, SAG-AFTRA executive director and chief negotiation officer Duncan Crabtree-Ireland revealed that his guild and the DGA are eager to join the strike when their contracts are up on June 30, and their “no-strike contract clause” is invalidated. While the WGA contract expired on May 1, according to Crabtree-Ireland, “It’s not a coincidence that those three union’s contracts expire within 60 days of each other.”
While the group from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” – Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey and Tom Campbell – canceled their SeriesFest appearances due to the strike, the festival organizers made sure to keep the spirits up. During the world premiere of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: Season 8,” they rounded up local Denver drag queens for a drag show instead of doing a Q&A with the show’s executive producers.
“We had such an incredible time at SeriesFest: Season 9 hosting six full days of screenings and incredibly insightful conversations with thought leaders from all over the landscape,” SeriesFest co-founder and CEO Randi Kleiner told TheWrap. “While there understandably were some cancelations, the energy and celebration was the best it’s ever been! We look forward to continuing to elevate opportunities for the creative community who are so very near and dear to our hearts.”
Of course, the other major event of the week, the royal coronation, was another topic attendees at SeriesFest were eager to discuss. “I was watching this thing and thinking, ‘this is bat shit!’ . . . it was like Monty Python,” said actor Paul Giamatti during a live recording his podcast “Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma.”
Between SeriesFest, the writer’s strike and the coronation it was a busy week for everyone! – Emily Vogel
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Fair Grounds Race Course, New Orleans
How do you know that festival season is upon us? If Coachella wasn’t a good sign, then the big daddy of them all, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival returning to its traditional end-of-April, beginning-of-May two-weekend spots on the calendar make it perfectly clear.
With its 14 stages of music presented over seven days, Jazz Fest draws nearly half a million attendees, including people like Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush, who brought the “Today” show to join in the celebration, and musicians known the world over.
Lizzo wowed the first day’s massive crowd, after celebrating her 35th birthday the day before with a meal at classic French Quarter eatery Tujague’s (it’s been on Decatur Street since 1856), while Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame did the same wowing of the fest audience with Alison Krauss. Then Plant shocked his fans by turning up at tiny Preservation Hall in the Quarter to do a surprise late-night performance at that legendary music club’s “Midnight Preserves,” their special Jazz Fest-only concert series.
Saturday saw Ed Sheeran fight off the rain with a heartfelt performance and Sunday brought the sublime Tedeschi Trucks Band on one side of the racetrack oval and Kenny Loggins on the other, a tough choice for many festers.
The second weekend of Jazz Fest lasts for four days, bringing a classic combo of huge music stars to the big stages (think Santana, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock), along with a wide sampling of local favorites like Tab Benoit, Irma Thomas and Jon Batiste, whose 11 Grammy nominations (and five wins) in 2022 made him the latest NOLA star to make music for the world.
Batiste did a rousing show that included the St. Augustine High School band, one of the country’s legendary marching bands; and, local that he is, he then turned up at the Maple Leaf Bar Uptown to do a surprise show late at night. And on Sunday’s final set, always closed by Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Batiste turned up again to play with his old friend Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty).
Tom Jones thrilled the crowd on Sunday, too, while Dead and Company with John Mayer waited out the torrential downpour on Saturday to play a full set that gave the wet-to-the-bone festgoers happy smiles as the sun finally showed up.
Other top acts turned up on second weekend as well, ranging from Oscar winner H.E.R. to Terence Blanchard, Kane Brown, Ludacris and lots more, with the Congo Square Stage as well as the blues, jazz and gospel tents packing people in. And as the sun set on a beautiful last Sunday of the 2023 Jazz Fest, the conversations among the vast crowds jostling out of the Fair Grounds Race Track were all about coming back next year to do it again – as well as which summer-season music festival was the next stop on their bucket lists.
The Creative Coalition’s Right to Bear Arts Delegation and Gala
U.S. Capitol Building and Madison Hotel, Washington, D.C.
A host of committed actors headed to Washington, D.C., with a two-pronged plan. Led by Tim Daly, the president of The Creative Coalition, the delegation went to Capitol Hill to advocate with government officials for national funding for the arts. Spending the day on the Hill was an enlightening experience for the group, made up of plenty of well-known faces including Cobie Smulders, Yvette Nicole Brown, Clark Gregg, Wendie Malick, Jason Isaacs, Judy Gold, BD Wong, Billy Eichner and more.
“The good that The Creative Coalition does for the arts can’t be quantified and I was honored to be a part of this year’s delegation. Getting to walk the halls of Congress was delightfully overwhelming in every way,” Yvette Nicole Brown said after a full day of meetings.
That led into the evening’s The Creative Coalition’s Right to Bear Arts Gala, attended by the delegation as well as plenty of D.C. movers and shakers who are dedicated to the idea that the arts should always be supported, as a fundamental part of life for everyone.
Tim Daly, who has been one of the leaders of The Creative Coalition for many years, knows we all have to keep trying, even when disgraced Fox News hosts express dislike for arts funding. “When I was interviewed by Tucker Carlson, he told me that he liked arts, but didn’t think they deserved federal funding. He said he loved fishing and thought it would be ridiculous for his hobby to be funded by the government,” Daly recalled.
“The next day I was in Idaho’s Republican representative Mike Simpson’s office,” he continued. “He said, ‘Saw you on Tucker last night. Great job. But why didn’t you tell him the federal budget for fish and wildlife is four billion dollars, while the National Endowment for the Arts is only around $200 million? The feds DO fund fishing.'”
Changing those perceptions is part of The Creative Coalition’s goals on Capitol Hill, and they plan to keep the pressure on both U.S. senators and House representatives to make sure the arts gets even more funding.
However, Jason Isaacs knows that they are in a never-ending battle. “The only value to celebrity’s hollow crown is when you can use it as a force for good,” he commented. “The Creative Coalition leveraged our firepower superbly to get access to people who were willing to listen and I think they did. I think they heard the stories we told and understood the absolute spiritual, social and economic necessity of subsidizing arts and providing access for everyone. If they didn’t they were great liars. Oh wait . . .!”
“Hairspray” Theater Opening
Dolby Theatre, Hollywood
Over 420 performances into her show-stopping turn as Edna in the national tour for “Hairspray,” Nina West’s opening night in Los Angeles attracted a bevy of fellow “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum — and many others — to the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Everyone from Lance Bass to “Russian Doll” breakout Charlie Barnett and “Queer Eye” handyman Bobby Berk were spotted in the packed-to-the-brim crowd, many of whom were heard singing and toe-tapping along to musical theater classics like “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “Good Morning Baltimore.”
The fuchsia carpet with an eye-popping step and repeat also had drag queens Shangela, Kornbread, Trixie Mattel, Raja, Eureka O’Hara, Scarlet Envy, Morgan Mcmichaels, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Angeria Paris Vanmichaels, Mariah Paris Balenciaga, Monet X Change and more, all strutting their stuff for the flashing bulbs.
The night’s standout moment, though, came at the Roosevelt Hotel-hosted afterparty where the original Tracy Turnblad from John Waters’ 1988 classic movie, Ricki Lake, turned it out with Nina and the touring company’s own Tracy, Niki Metcalf. – Benjamin Lindsay
Netflix All Out: A Night of Pride Party
Heart, West Hollywood
Netflix hosted a grand celebration of its LGBTQ+ family (and shows) to kick off Pride Month early at Heart in West Hollywood, one of that town’s hottest nightclubs. The event was a perfect blend of live performances, dancing and pure joy, which made for an unforgettable experience. Guests included “The Queer Eye Fab 5” stars – Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo and Tan France – and the cast from “The Ultimatum: Queer Love.” That show’s host JoAnna Garcia Swisher also joined the party and added to the excitement by giving everyone a sneak-peek clip from that upcoming reality series.
The celebration was a tribute to the diversity and richness of the LGBTQ+ community and the different Netflix shows that showcase their stories. Drag Queen Alaska emceed the festivities and gave fans a treat with over-the-top jokes that ignited the fuel of laughter and celebration within the LGBTQ+ community.
The culinary delights were another highlight of the celebration. The chefs presented a range of dishes that showcased the diversity of the community which included LGBTQ+ themed cocktails with rainbow colors on the brim of each themed drink. Netflix stand-up comedy favorites Hannah Gadsby and Fortune Feimster turned out to sample the fare, as did Lee Rodriguez, Chrishell Stause and many others.
“The Queer Eye Fab 5,” who are known for their advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, were in high spirits as they took the mic, then got serious and spoke about the current attacks on LGBTQ+ rights throughout the country. They also reminded the crowd that shows like theirs help to promote acceptance and understanding of the community.
With all the live performances, dancing, face painting, dangling mermen/mermaids and massive amounts of glitter, the evening was a night to remember and a perfect opportunity for people to come together, share stories and experiences, and celebrate their pride. – Elijah Gil
Please send all party/events invites to Jenny.Peters@TheWrap.com