MJ Rodriguez to Star Opposite Maya Rudolph in Apple TV+ Untitled Comedy Series

MJ Rodriguez is taking a bite of the Apple(TV+)

The 30-year-old part-Puerto Rican actress, currently appearing in the third and final season of FX’s Pose, will star alongside Maya Rudolph in Apple TV+’s untitled half-hour comedy series created by Emmy winners Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard.

MJ Rodriguez

Created and written by Yang and Hubbard, the series follows Molly (Rudolph), a woman whose seemingly perfect life is upended after her husband leaves her with nothing but $87 billion.

Rodriguez will play Sofia, the hard-working executive director of the non-profit funded by her absentee billionaire boss, Molly.

Yang and Hubbard executive produce alongside Rudolph through her production company, Animal Pictures, with the company’s Natasha Lyonne and Danielle Renfrew Behrens also executive producing.

Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, will serve as the studio.

Rodriguez stars as housemother Blanca in Ryan Murphy’s Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning series Pose.

Rodriguez made history in becoming the first trans woman to win Best Actress in Television for her role in Pose at the 2019 Imagen Awards. She was most recently nominated for a Critics Choice Television Award and an MTV Movie + TV Award, and she won two Gold Derby Awards for her performance as well.

On the film side, Rodriguez starred in indie film Saturday Church, which earned her a Tribeca Film Festival nomination for best actress.

Her other television credits include Nurse Jackie and Marvel’s Luke Cage

Phillip Garcia to Star in Greg Garcia’s IMDb TV Comedy Series “Sprung”

Phillip Garcia is getting sprung…

IMDb TV, Amazon’s free ad-supported streaming service, has given a formal series green light to Sprung, starring the Latino actor.

Phillip Garcia

The single-camera comedy hails from My Name Is Earl, Raising Hope and The Guest Book creator Greg Garcia, 3 Arts and Amazon Studios.

Sprung, centered on an unlikely group of formerly incarcerated people who band together to use their criminal expertise for good, will also star Garret Dillahunt and Illeana Douglas.

Sprung follows Jack (Dillahunt), a convicted criminal who is determined to change course and reclaim his lost years after serving more than two decades in prison. With no place to live post-release, and a global pandemic bringing the world to a virtual standstill, Jack moves in with his former cellmate Rooster (Phillip Garcia), Rooster’s mom Barb (Douglas), and Jack’s former prison girlfriend Gloria. Bound by their marred past and unusual living circumstances, they decide to start righting some of society’s wrongs, targeting those people selfishly taking advantage of others during the pandemic.

“I couldn’t be more excited to start working with this talented cast and I’m very grateful to 3 Arts, Amazon Studios and IMDb TV for helping me bring this idea to life,” said Garcia. “The support and creative partnership with the folks at IMDb TV has been amazing and working with Garret Dillahunt again is an absolute treat. With any luck we’ll create something entertaining that gives the audience a few laughs and makes their day a little brighter.”

In conjunction with the pickup of Sprung, Garcia’s Emmy-winning NBC series My Name is Earl will join the IMDb TV library on May 1.

“I’m so proud of this show. Greg Garcia is one of the most talented people I know, and I feel so lucky to be working with him again,” said Dillahunt. “The world really needs a good laugh – and we’ve been working hard to that end.”

Phillip Garcia had notable guest starring roles in Criminal Minds, S.W.A.T. and Station 19

Rita Moreno Among the “Cast” for This Year’s Academy Awards Show

Rita Moreno has a special date with Oscar…

The producers of this year’s 93rd annual Academy Awards have cast an ensemble of 15 stars to handle all the presenting duties, including the 89-year-old Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer.

Rita Moreno

Moreno, one of the few artists to have won all four major annual American entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award, is part of a “cast” that includes last year’s Oscar winners Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern.

It’s part of the producers’ pledge to do the entire broadcast as if it were a movie itself.

Last year’s Best Director winner, Bong Joon Ho, who made four trips to the stage for Parasite, is also part of this ensemble, presumably to present Best Director.

Other names announced — in alphabetical order — are Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston, Harrison Ford, Regina King, Marlee Matlin, Reese Witherspoon and Zendaya.

“In keeping with our awards-show-as-a-movie approach, we’ve assembled a truly stellar cast of stars,” said producers Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh. “There’s so much wattage here, sunglasses may be required.”

This idea of having a set group of presenters rotating in and out of the show is not new. When producer Gower Champion reimagined the 1969 Oscar show, he created what they called “Friends of Oscar,” with 10 stars exclusively serving as presenters (and no host). The format was then repeated successfully the next year, and has been tweaked occasionally over the decades — including for the innovative 2009 show produced by Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, which used combinations of five past winners each to present the acting awards.

Additional talent joining the April 25 live broadcast on ABC will be announced later.

FX Releases Trailer for Third & Final Season of Mj Rodriguez’s “Pose”

It’s a last hurrah for Mj Rodriguez

FX has released the first trailer for the third and final season of its groundbreaking series Pose, starring the 30-year-old part-Puerto Rican actress/singer.MJ Rodriguez

In less than two minutes, the clip serves up a lot of drama, tears, laughter, hope, love and sickening looks.

At the beginning of the trailer we see Emmy-winner Billy Porter reflect on ballroom culture and how it has changed and how it brought him so much life.

“Your life matters,” Rodriguez’s Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista tells him — a statement that has been a mantra of the entire series, which was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals.

Blanca now works at a hospital and the entire Pose crew talks about the legacy they want to leave behind and in turn.

“We are just gonna be ourselves and that’s it,” says Indya Moore’s Angel.

Set to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “A Deeper Love,” the clip features glimpses of scenes from the final season, which includes Porter, Rodriguez, Moore, Dominique Jackson, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Hailie Sahar, Angel Bismark Curiel, Dyllón Burnside, and Sandra Bernhard.

From AIDS activism to moments of heartwarming familial love to ballroom fierceness, the final season is set to bring it and we are here for it.

The final season of Pose debuts May 2.

Roadside Attractions Acquires North American Rights to Rita Moreno’s Documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It”

Rita Moreno is ready to bring her life story to America…

Roadside Attractions has acquired North American distribution rights to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It, about the 89-year-old Latina living legend.

Rita MorenoA release is planned for June 18.

Roadside’s deal excludes the television license to PBSAmerican Masters, which will present the exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere of the doc after it hits theaters.

In addition to Moreno, others featured in the Mariem Pérez Riera-directed doc include George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

The film covers Moreno’s 70-year-plus career rise and struggles, from her beginnings in poverty on a Puerto Rican farm to becoming a rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscars, Tony Awards) winner.

She’s the first Latina actress to win an Oscar (for her role as Anita in 1961’s West Side Story). Despite the win, studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent.

“Roadside Attractions, I’m so pleased for your commitment to my story and especially for making it available to a broader audience. Curtain Up!,” Moreno commented.

“Stars like Rita are few and far between, her showbiz story and personal remembrances resonate for a large, diverse audience, and the heights she continues to achieve are a true crowd pleasing uplift after the year we’ve all had,” said Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff.

“Rita is an incredible inspiration to so many, hers is a success story for all women who feel alone as they struggle to assert themselves with courage and bravery against heavy odds,” offered director Pérez Riera. “We are so thrilled to bring Rita to theaters for audiences to spend time with a woman who, when speaking about herself, speaks to and for a lot of us.”

“There were only a small group of distributors we hoped would take notice at Sundance. Roadside was at the top of that list,” said film’s producer, ACT III’s Brent Miller and EP Norman Lear. “We think we’re in great hands with Howard and Eric at the helm and couldn’t be more excited for the world to know the Rita we now know and love.”

American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramar Films are producers.

Ana Ortiz to Appear on Second Season of Netflix’s Comedy Series “Special”

It’s a special time for Ana Ortiz

The 50-year-old half-Puerto Rican actress has landed a recurring role on the second season of Netflix’s Emmy-nominated comedy series Special, created by and starring Ryan O’Connell.

Ana Ortiz

Ortiz joins a roster of cast newcomers that includes Charlie Barnett, Max Jenkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lauren Weedman, newcomer Buck Andrews, Anjali Bhimani, Ajay Mehta and Karan Soni.

Additionally, Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace) will appear in a guest-starring role.

Based on O’Connell’s part-memoir, part-manifesto I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, Special hails from Warner Bros. Television, Jim Parsons and Todd Spiewak’s That’s Wonderful Productions, Campfire and Stage 13.

The semi-autobiographical centers on a gay man with mild cerebral palsy, played by O’Connell, who decides to rewrite his identity as an accident victim and finally go after the life he wants. O’Connell also writes the series and executive produces.

The Season 2 logline: “Ryan really needs to get his shit together. It’s been two months and he still hasn’t spoken to Karen since their fight and he has a gnarly case of writer’s block that’s getting him in hot water with Olivia. Enter Tanner, a fun, flirty dance instructor who charms Ryan despite not being totally available. When his writer’s block eventually lifts, he’s inspired to write a longform piece about disability. From there, he begins a journey of self-discovery that creates unexpected complications in his relationship with Tanner. Meanwhile, Kim lets her guard down when she meets Harrison, a sensitive tech mogul with a humble background – but her insecurities and jealous tendencies continue to hamper her personal life and threaten to push Harrison away. With her spiraling credit card debt driving Kim even further towards rock bottom, she makes a hard choice to regain control of her finances and personal life. Since taking care of Ryan was her life’s purpose until their fight, Karen realizes that she needs to take an active approach to create a fulfilling life for herself – beyond just taking care of her ailing mother. Will she be content with continuing to clean up everyone else’s messes, or will Karen be able to lean into her newfound independence and create a life that centers around her own desires for once? This season is about our primary characters—Ryan, Karen and Kim—coming into their power and realizing they all deserve big gorgeous lives—whether society agrees or not, bitch!”

Ortiz plays Susan, Phil’s new girlfriend. Charming and outgoing, she empathizes with Karen’s struggle to parent Ryan, as she also has a strained relationship with her child.

In addition to O’Connell, Jessica Hecht and Punam Patel return as series regulars. Marla Mindelle, Gina Hughes and Patrick Fabian return as guest stars this season.

Special is created, written and executive produced by O’Connell.

Craig Johnson will direct episodes 205-208.

Fernando Meirelles Launching Slate of Environmental Films with UK Production Firm ‘Make Waves’

Fernando Meirelles is shining a spotlight on the environment…

The 65-year-old Brazilian Oscar-nominated film director, producer and screenwriter, best known for hit films The Two PopesThe Constant Gardener and City Of God, is launching a slate of environmental films in association with UK production firm Make Waves.

Fernando Meirelles

Four of the projects on the $20M documentary slate have already attracted talent and funding.

Meirelles himself will direct Soil, a feature-length documentary about the little-known microscopic world beneath our feet, which will reveal the revolutionary solutions that could help avert a planetary food crisis.

The “flagship” film on the slate is Blue Carbon, which will be directed by BAFTA and Emmy-winning filmmaker Nicolas Brown (Serengeti Rules). With 2021 Grammy-nominated DJ Jayda G as its protagonist, the feature will spotlight a movement to grow an ocean forest across the planet to help combat climate change. The film will weave together stories of ocean activists, scientists and frontline communities, and will feature music from Brazilian samba artist Seu Jorge (The Life Aquatic). The film’s development is being funded by HHMI/Tangled Bank Studios (The Serengeti Rules).

The Shackleton Solution will look at what iconic explorer Ernest Shackleton can teach the world about how to save a continent facing a catastrophe. It will draw parallels between Shackleton’s epic Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) and a planet on the cusp of imminent environmental emergency.

Also on the slate is Law Of The Land from filmmaker Coral Brown, which asks the fundamental question: what if nature, like corporations, had the same legal rights as you and me? The feature doc will follow grassroots lawyers and Indigenous communities as they take the battle for the Rights of Nature movement into the courtrooms and onto the streets.

The slate has been co-created by Meirelles, former UN environment diplomat/producer Alexander and Irish author Don Mullan, and BAFTA-winning producer Sarah Macdonald and former Director of BBC World News Sian Kevill, all of whom will serve as EPs on the slate. Two additional films are due to be added to the lineup later in 2021.

Meirelles, a passionate environmentalist, most recently teamed up with Make Waves, Asen and Mullan on green documentary The Great Green Wall, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival two years ago.

“There is nothing more urgent than the climate crisis,” says Meirelles. “Information is what can turn the tide. Our goal is to make films that not only inform, but that enchant and engage. For my grandchildren and the grandchildren of others, that will be the theme of my work until the day I die.”

Former BBC journalist Macdonald heads investigations and documentary specialist Make Waves with former BBC journalist and executive Kevill.

Rita Moreno to Take Part in Paley Center’s International Women’s Day Panel Discussion “Choosing to Challenge”

Rita Moreno is leading the way…

To commemorate International Women’s DayThe Paley Center for Media will host a quarterly series of conversations exploring the media’s role in providing a diverse and inclusive platform for women, with the 89-year-old Puerto Rican legendary actress among the women set to take part.

Rita Moreno

The series will kick off with its inaugural event on International Women’s Day, Monday, March 8 at 10:00 am ET/7:00 am PT on the Paley Center’s dedicated channel on Verizon Media’s Yahoo Entertainment.

Choosing to Challenge: How Women Are Leading the Way, will focus on women’s roles as leaders in our society and address some of the most significant issues facing all women, according to the organization.

In addition to Moreno, the panel will include Misty Copeland, ballerina, author, and philanthropist; Hon. Val Demings, U.S. Representative (FL-10); Cynthia Erivo, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and producer; Julie Foudy, espnW writer and soccer commentator, ESPN; Rita Moreno, actor and activist; Norah O’Donnell, anchor and managing editor, CBS Evening News; Phylicia Rashad, actor and director; and moderator Alicia Menendez, anchor, MSNBC’s American Voices with Alicia Menendez.

The series is made possible by support from John H. Josephson and Carolina F. Zapf.

“The Paley Center for Media is thrilled to present the first of a series of programs with influential women, who will share their experiences and raise awareness about the significant role the media can play in equality, opportunity, and representation to help create a more inclusive world,” said Maureen J. Reidy, the Paley Center’s President & CEO. “We are grateful to John H. Josephson and Carolina F. Zapf for their most generous support of this in-depth series, as well as Verizon’s continued commitment to providing a platform for diverse voices.”

“This PaleyImpact series will convene prominent women to discuss the media’s influence in amplifying women’s voices and the role it plays in helping to create a more gender equal world,” said Josephson and Zapf. “We are proud to support the Paley Center and we look forward to hearing the perspectives of the many distinguished women joining for this important series and to celebrate their numerous achievements and contributions to society.”

The quarterly series is part of The Paley Center for Media’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in media and entertainment. Similar programs have included the Paley Center’s series addressing antisemitism, racial justice and social equality, COVID-19, and celebrations of Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month.

America Ferrera to Make Feature Directorial Debut with “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” Film Adaptation

America Ferrera is headed behind the lens…

The 36-year-old Honduran American Emmy– and Golden Globe-winning actress will make her feature directorial debut with an adaptation of the New York Times bestselling novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by author Erika Sánchez, who will serve as a co-producer on the film.

America Ferrera

Anonymous Content and MACRO are producing the film, which will be released on Netflix.

Linda Yvette Chávez, the co-creator behind the Netflix and MACRO series, Gentefied, adapted the screenplay. Anonymous Content optioned the rights to the book under the company’s first-look deal with Aevitas Creative Management.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Released in 2017, the story follows Julia Reyes, the precocious and strong-willed teenaged daughter of first-generation Mexican immigrants. She often clashes with her more traditional parents, who wish she were more like her sister Olga, the platonic ideal of a Mexican daughter. However, when Olga is killed in a tragic accident, it is up to Julia to hold her family together.

“Years ago, I fell in love with Erika L. Sánchez’ stunning novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” said Ferrera. “The depth, wit and searing intelligence of her writing, and her young Latina heroine, struck me to my core and left me wanting so much more. I am truly honored and humbled to direct Linda Yvette Chávez’s beautifully adapted screenplay. The opportunity to direct the work of these two incredibly talented Latina writers is a dream come true. I can’t wait to share this film with the many fans of the novel, and to introduce this funny, profound, and resonant story to the world.”

Ferrera rose to acclaim as a headstrong young Latina in Real Women Have Curves. She would later go on to win an Emmy and Golden Globe for her role as Betty Suarez on the ABC series Ugly Betty, which ran for four seasons. She can currently be seen in the sixth and final season of the NBC comedy, Superstore.