BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Actress Bonnie Hunt has seen one of her characters on TV turn into real life. Hunt has starred in three of her own television sitcoms and on the last one, “Life with Bonnie,” she played a talk-show host.
Life imitates art on Sept. 8 when Hunt actually heads up her own syndicated daytime talk show, coupled in many markets with “Ellen.”
The actress from such films as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Jumanji,” is also a writer and producer and has toyed with the idea of overseeing a talk show before. When Craig Kilborn vacated his late-night spot she was offered the gig, but turned it down.
“I was really thinking that I would probably fit better on daytime just because that’s when my mom watches,” she says. “And as long as my mom is still around, I still do stuff that pleases my mother. I think we all have a little bit of that in us.”
Several factors filtered into that decision. “I was at a different point in my life. I was getting divorced. My show was canceled. Sometimes it’s just personal. It’s just not the right timing. I don’t separate myself too much from my work. It’s really kind of part of my heart and my soul. So it - the timing just wasn’t right for me, and I was so grateful for the offer and the opportunity. But it just wasn’t the right timing.”
She has long been associated with David Letterman and when she told him she was thinking about hosting the daytimer, he said, “Are you sure you want to work that hard?”
She is. But she will be collaborating with longtime pal, Don Lake, whom she met when they did “Second City” improv back in her native Chicago.
“People really open up and enjoy talking with her,” says Lake, who also costarred on “Life with Bonnie.” “And Bonnie does honestly, genuinely enjoy people. I’ve met a lot of people in my life through Bonnie, just going for coffee or going to the grocery store. You learn a lot when people open up like that. That’s why it’s so fun to talk to anyone, whether it’s a celebrity or a bus driver or anyone, and Bonnie does find the story that everyone has and kind of celebrates it, as she does with her crew on everything she works on.”
“I find that I am interested in someone’s story,” agrees Hunt, 46, who started out as a nurse in a cancer ward. “Now, whether they’re great at delivering it or not in an entertaining way, well, that’s always a gamble. But like Johnny Carson, the first time I was on ‘Johnny Carson,’ I remember being so scared, but the minute he started talking to me, I felt a little more comfortable because I just knew he was going to take care of me,” she recalls.
“Hopefully I have learned something from watching him for so many years that I can offer that to a guest, some kind of comfort that we will be a show where they can come and feel safe and have a great time and perhaps reveal more than they anticipated just because they feel more natural because of the setting.”
This is not the first time that Fate has steered Hunt to new places. While she was still working as a nurse she had a patient who offered some sage advice. “Before I came to California he made me promise him I would go to L.A. and try being an actress. I said, ‘I can’t do that. I’d go there and fail and have to come back and beg for my nursing job and I’d be all humiliated.’ And he says, ‘Bonnie, I only have a few weeks to live, one of my biggest regrets is that I feared failure. So I want you to promise me that, after I’m gone, you’ll go to California and you’ll fail many times.’
“And we shook hands. And after he passed away, I gave my notice because I gave him my word, and I came out here, and I failed many times. I’ve learned from all of them and lived through all of them, and they’ve all made me better at what I do. That was a gift that man gave me, a real gift, and you should all give it to somebody else because you shouldn’t fear it.”
Writer Alan Ball, who created “Six Feet Under,” is back under HBO’s tent with his new vampire saga, “True Blood,” beginning Sept. 7. The show is based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels which Ball stumbled on by chance. “I was early for a dentist appointment. I was wasting time at Barnes & Noble, waiting for the time for me to go sit in the lobby. I saw a book, the first book in the series, ‘Dead Until Dark.’ The tagline was ‘Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend wasn’t such a good idea.’
“And I thought it was really funny. I bought the book. I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s the kind of book that you think, ‘I’m going to read one chapter before I go to bed,’ and you read seven. And about midway through the second book, I thought, ‘This might make a good television show because it’s got this great sort of - you just want more. You just want more of this world and these characters.’ And then I got in touch with (author) Charlaine (Harris). At the time, there was an option on the books for a movie. When that option - it was time for that option to run out, I had another conversation with her, and she decided to go in this direction.”
Everybody had to learn to ride a motorcycle for the new FX saga, “Sons of Anarchy,” which premieres on Wednesday. The show is about a cycle-riding family with Katey Sagal as the matriarch. Ron Perlman plays the founder of SAMCRO, an acronym for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original. But Perlman confesses he’s still having trouble learning to harness that Hog. “I think a bunch of us had to learn how to ride. I’m probably the biggest tinhorn of all. But, you know, it’s the magic of movies. We’ll figure out a way to sell it, I guess. It’s terrifying. I’m not going to lie to you,” he says.
Jamie Chung plays the derring-do “Samurai Girl” on ABC Family’s show which hits the airwaves on Friday. She says she had some Tae Kwan Do experience before she became Samurai Girl but had to quit when she sprained her finger. For the show she learned to hoist and wage combat with a heavy sword. “For the fight choreography when we started to learn the fights, we used wooden katanas, and then we moved to aluminum swords for safety,” she says. “And there’s always a prop sword, and whenever necessary, we used the real sword. But it was heavy, and these are the guns that I got because of them,” says Chung, flexing her biceps.